The kid gloves are off! After two quick draws Game 3 of the World Championship match developed into a real fight. Vishy Anand seized the initiative but may later have missed a gilt-edged chance to take the lead. After the game ended in another draw Magnus Carlsen admitted he was “just happy to survive”. In exclusive analysis for chess24 Jan Gustafsson looks back on a near miss.
The frustration of chess fans had been building, as it always does following cautious draws at the start of a match. Some question the match system, some question the players, and the post-game press conferences focus all that frustration on the players, however much their teams try to shield them from the outside world.
So there was relief all round when the match sparked into life. Even Carlsen, who otherwise had a difficult day, saw the positives:
I think it was good to get the match going a little bit. Maybe both of us were still a bit nervous today.
German grandmaster and chess24 co-founder Jan Gustafsson looks back on the day’s events and reflects on two different approaches to chess:
1. ♘f3 Here we go again.
1... d5 The first game went well for Vishy, so he also sees no reason to change his opening. Carlsen repeating 1. Nf3 is actually more of a surprise than Vishy sticking to his guns.At the risk of being overly general, this match represents a clash of generations not only in terms of age, but also in terms of the approach to chess openings. I'd claim Anand is a member of the "have a repertoire, know stuff deeply" school, other prominent members of which include Kramnik, Gelfand, Topalov, Aronian and Leko. Of course that doesn't mean those guys play the same stuff every game... we all remember Anand coming up with 1. d4 against Kramnik. It's more of a scientific mindset that puts an emphasis on computer-assisted opening preparation, knowing your territory and trying to find ideas within it that give you an edge over your opponent.
Carlsen, on the other hand, is the most prominent figure of the "let's play chess" school. Their emphasis is more on making smart practical choices where they don't run into their opponent's preparation and try to delay the real battle until the middlegame. Other guys with a similar approach include Nakamura and arguably Caruana. In order to make that work, those guys have to be more universal and comfortable in an "I don't know this stuff, but neither do you" situation.
Game 1 was a victory for the old school in that sense (Anand outprepared Carlsen), while Game 2 was a victory for the Carlsen approach (I surprised you and you didn't dare to go for the most critical line). Those were only moral victories, of course, as both games were drawn. Back to this one!
2. g3 g6 3. c4 Here comes the deviation from Game 1, which saw 3. Bg2. 3. c4 is considered the other principled way of stopping Black from playing Bg7 and e5 undisturbed. This is also well-known and could hardly have surprised Anand, especially after facing the same line in the first game... which in turn surprises me. Shouldn't Carlsen try to surprise Anand, or does he have a surprise prepared in this very line?
3... dxc4! The way to go. Black gains some time by forcing White to recapture the pawn. He wants to go for a setup involving Nc6, e5, Nge7, h6 and 0-0, with a comfortable position.
6... e5! Didn't work. The reason to refrain from this would be the sneaky 7. Nxe5, but that backfires.
10. ♗d2 ♘d4⁈ I don't like this move. While Nd4 is an absolutely common idea in this structure - forcing White to take to get rid of the centralised knight, and allowing you to gain space by recapturing with the pawn - why not grab a tempo by attacking the queen first?
10... ♗e6 looks stronger and more natural to me, e.g. 11. ♕a4 (or 11. ♕c5 ♘d4! 12. ♘xe5⁈ b6! 13. ♕a3 ♗xe5 14. ♗xa8 ♕xa8 15. ♕xe7 ♘xe2+! 16. ♘xe2 ♕f3! A fairly irrelevant line, but it is pretty.) 11... ♘d4 12. ♖ac1 c6 13. ♕a3 b6 14. ♖fe1 ♖c8 and Black is ok.
13. ♗b4? This looks like nerves to me. Carlsen hasn't yet hit his usual level in this match. While Bb4, pinning the knight and targeting the dark squares, makes sense in general, the timing is off. The correct move order was
13. ♕c1! turning the tables on Black's hopes of gaining time with the inevitable Be6. Now Black has to lose a move with 13... ♔h7 and after 14. ♗b4 Black can't untangle himself as he does in the game. White retains some pressure. Carlsen in the press conference: "I missed something simple."
14... ♗d5! Covering everything and planning to continue with b6 and c5. Black is better.
15. a4! This move has been criticised, but I like it. Carlsen makes the best of a bad situation, anticipating b6 and trying to generate counterplay with his a-pawn.
15... b6 All according to plan, but there's a lot to be said for starting with
16. ♗xe7 Not pleasant, but it had to be done before c5 shut the bishop out.
Other rook placements were also possible. To me, placing the rooks correctly on the 1st or 8th ranks actually is
rocket science theoretical physics (rocket science is out, according to The Big Bang Theory...), so I wouldn't dare to suggest alternatives.
19. axb6 axb6 20. ♕f4 ♖d8 21. h4 After the early inaccuracies the game has proceeded logically. Carlsen has made all the best moves for a while now according to my Houdini, but Anand still has the easier game with his two bishops and extra space.
22... ♗e5 23. ♕g4 h5 24. ♕h3 ♗e6 25. ♕h1 A rather curious queen journey, and this Bg2-Qh1 "battery" isn't something you see every day. In return for its awkward position, however, the queen has forced h5, which weakens the g5-square and provides a destination for the knight.
25... c5 26. ♘e4 ♔g7 27. ♘g5 b5! Showing Carlsen he's not out of the woods even if he manages to exchange off his knight. Black will maintain an edge in the resulting opposite-coloured bishops middlegame due to the passive white queen and his rolling pawns on the queenside. Carlsen might have counted on
28. e3⁈ Not a good move, objectively speaking. It does, however, change the course of a game that wasn't going well, leading to fresh (luxury) problems for Anand.
b) 31. ♗d5 ♗d4 32. ♖xe6 fxe6 33. ♖xe6 ♕f8! 34. ♕g2 ♖dd6!∓ None of this is trivial, but I can't shake the feeling that Vishy is capable of calculating this and just decided to trust Magnus on this one. The match will tell if this missed chance proves costly...
30. ♖e2 Now the worst is over for White. He's still in trouble, but the opposite-coloured bishops combined with the weakening of the black king should provide enough counterplay to make a draw.
39... ♕d4 40. ♗xb5 ♕f6 41. ♕b7+ ♗e7 42. ♔g2 g5 43. hxg5 ♕xg5 44. ♗c4 h4 45. ♕c7 hxg3 46. ♕xg3 e5 47. ♔f3 ♕xg3+ 48. fxg3 ♗c5 49. ♔e4 ♗d4 50. ♔f5 ♗f2 51. ♔xe5 ♗xg3+ A tough day at the office for Magnus. We'll see if holding this dicey game helps him to find confidence and regain his usual strength. His opening plans with White have failed to impress so far. As for Vishy, the openings went great, but he missed chances to go for a win in both his games with Black. Stay tuned!
The psychological warfare is intense in matches. If Anand
had won it would have crowned a confident start and surely given a huge boost
to his self-belief. After Carlsen escaped, however, and could even afford the
luxury of refusing his opponent’s draw offer in the latter stages, he clearly had
the upper hand in the press conference.
If Anand wasn’t trying to lull his opponent into a
false sense of security he’d clearly underestimated his chances, and gave less than
convincing explanations for why he avoided the sharpest lines.
On not playing 29...Bxb2:
I thought White had full compensation and I didn’t really see the point of going for that. I might have been mistaken, but I simply felt that White had enough play for the pawn.
On not pressing his opponent with 37...Bd4:
I saw I could play 37...Bd4 and normally this is what I would have done, but I simply didn’t see anything anyway with something like 38.Qe2. I didn’t see any progress, so I was just swapping down with 37...Rd8.
On not playing ...Rf8 on move 33 or 34:
It’s not clear to me I’m better and I didn’t want to make it too tactical…
Anand was also sceptical about his best play in the game. About the excellent 27...b5, which Carlsen admitted he'd underestimated, Vishy made the strange statement:
I decided just to go for the opposite-coloured bishops with b5 and c4, and I think I have enough counterplay...
Was that just a slip of the tongue, or did the reigning World Champion really think he was the one struggling to equalise at that stage of the game?
Carlsen, on the other hand, was his usual robust self.
The other story of the day was the presence of a player who also never suffered from a lack of self-belief - former World Champion and FIDE presidential candidate Garry Kasparov. He swept into Chennai yesterday and immediately made himself the centre of attention by complaining about a lack of an official welcome or invitation to the press room. Whatever the truth of that - it looked very much like a storm in a teacup, and bemused officials were left pointing out there was no game on Monday - Garry was in the audience today:
GM Parmarijan Negi added a footnote to that photo:
Kasparov was impressed by today's game and in general by Anand's opening play so far in the match, though he had an explanation for why Vishy had struggled to press for more despite being better with the black pieces in Games 1 and 3:
The presence of Kasparov was perceived as a challenge to Anand - Kasparov had worked with Carlsen in the past, had offered to work for Boris Gelfand before his match with Anand in 2012 (apparently upset that Vishy had refused to support his aims in chess politics) and had been highly critical of both players during that match.
This time Anand was ready, though, and gave his best response of the press conference to a rather strange question:
Journalist: Mr Kasparov is here - what do you think about that? He’s in the building! Are you intimidated?
Anand: Is he now like Elvis? It’s good that he’s here to watch.
So a quarter of the match is over and the players remain level at 1.5:1.5. You can replay all the day's action, with commentary from Lawrence Trent, Tania Sachdev and co., on the event's YouTube channel:
Will tomorrow’s game provide the first decisive result? Don’t miss it!
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