It’s already looking ominous. It took Magnus Carlsen five games to take the lead in Chennai, but he’s already the front-runner in Sochi after a display of finesse and power that had Vishy Anand on the rack long before he blundered all his hopes away in a single move. The only comfort, perhaps, is that the Indian former World Champion still has no less than ten games remaining to put things right.
The full day's live commentary with Peter Svidler and Sopiko Guramishvili can be replayed below:
We mentioned the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in our Game 1 report, and it was tempting fate for Anand to play the Berlin the next day. Even though Carlsen himself admitted his 4.d3 wasn't “a true Berlin”, one of his seconds, Peter Heine Nielsen, felt confident enough of the outcome to tweet during the game:
That recalled fellow Carlsen second Jon Ludvig Hammer’s tweet during Game 4 in Chennai, which somewhat backfired!
For a while it seemed the story might be repeated in Game 2
in Sochi, since just when things were looking hopeless Anand rustled up the
kind of counterplay that was always his speciality. But we’re on an accelerated
timetable in Sochi, and it just wasn’t to be.
Spanish IM David Martinez takes us through the game:
4. d3 Carlsen has no great desire to play the ending with White.
6... O-O 7. ♗xc6 Carlsen has come prepared with "his type" of preparation. The positions he steers towards are not necessarily better for him but he has clearer plans and the chance to improve his position more easily...
10. ♘c4 The knight feels very comfortable here since there's no bishop on e6.
10... ♗b6 It's not clear that Black would be in time after
12... ♘xb6 would leave the a5-pawn weak for life - White would have no trouble ganging up against it.
13. d4 Perhaps the critical moment in the game.
13... ♕c7⁈ It's difficult to criticise such a natural move, but from this point on it's easier to play White! During the live commentary Peter Svidler proposed starting action in the centre immediately with
13... c5 and I also think this would have been the right approach. Below are notes from a minute or two of Peter's five-hour commentary. They strike me as a fine example of the incredibly high level he maintains:
I was wondering about this move. It looks a bit weird but I was very attracted to the idea because I felt Black can try and solve all his problems straightaway without waiting for White to find some kind of a setup to cause problems.
I think Black is fully prepared to start counterplay connected with f5. Also the structure on the queenside is such that although optically the pawn on b6 could be termed a backward pawn which might become weak, White needs a lot of time before he can even try attacking it.
14. ♖a3! There's no mistaking Carlsen's aggressive intentions in this game.
Anand has no way to combat the white plan so he sets up his pieces as best he can in order to reduce the consequences. One of the keys to the enormous strength of Carlsen is how he manages to pose serious problems to his opponent without, apparently, doing anything spectacular. It seems simple!
15. dxe5 Clarifying the structure in order to be able to attack more easily on the kingside.
20. ♗h6⁉ gxh6 21. ♖xg6+ hxg6 22. ♕xg6+ ♔f8 23. ♕xf6+ ♕f7 (23... ♗f7 would be met by 24. f4 and the e-pawn (or the f-pawn become an e-pawn) would deliver the final blow.) 24. ♕xh6+ ♔e8 25. ♕h8+ ♕f8 26. ♕xe5 with a very entertaining but unnecessary position.
20... ♗xf5 Anand aleviates the pressure by accepting a strategically inferior position - but one without any mates on the horizon!
20... ♔h8 is the inhuman move suggested by the engines after "thinking" a while! 21. ♖xg6 (21. ♕f3 , followed by h5, would be the less concrete but equally dangerous option. h5 is about to come!) 21... ♕f7 Black's idea - but not an easy one to come up with!
a) 22. ♘xg7 miraculously doesn't win: 22... ♕xg6 23. ♕xg6 hxg6 24. ♘xe6 ♖d6 and the knight is trapped! 25. ♘c7 (25. ♘g5 fxg5 26. ♗xg5 with a complex ending. The kingside pawns are mobile, but an exchange is an exchange!) 25... ♖c8 26. ♘a6 ♖a8 Draw. Although it seems as though Black could try and play for a win he can't - any attempt to trap the knight would give White time to rescue it: (26... ♖d7 27. b4 )
b) 22. ♖h6 gxh6 23. ♕xf7 ♗xf7 24. ♗xh6 White has a pawn for the exchange with f6 liable to fall, and I think this ending is easier to play for him - nevertheless, this is a much better option for Black than the one in the game!
21. exf5 ♘f4 22. ♗xf4 exf4 23. ♖c3 All the white pieces are better than their black counterparts and f4 is also weak. The conversion certainly isn't easy, however, since the d-file can provide counterplay at an opportune moment.
24... h6 may have been a better option.
25. ♖a3 , with the idea of Ra1-e1, is the machine's suggestion to prevent a piece coming to d1. Too creative, wouldn't you say?
28. ♕e2 It may have been easier to play
28. ♕f3 to at some point capture the pawn on f4.
28... b5 Looking for counterplay!
29. b3 bxa4 30. bxa4 Carlsen doesn't want to deviate from his goal - entering on the seventh rank - even if it means damaging his pawn structure. Anand seeks counterplay along the newly-opened avenue.
Perhaps a task for the next generation?
32. f3 would have given Black fewer options.
34... ♕d2 35. ♕xf3 ♕xc2 Black is still alive and kicking. 36. ♔g2 Defending f2 in order to free up the queen, which forces 36... ♔h8 with the idea of defending g7 in the most ugly manner possible with Rg8. Although the black position is very passive at least it's not losing in any concrete manner and there would have been a lot of work ahead before Magnus could notch up the point.
Afterwards there was no mistaking the balance of power.
Anand was understandably terse in the post-game press conference. Asked if he would change his approach after only two games he replied:
If you mean play a better game than today, then certainly yes.
That was also the message when he was asked about the blunder that abruptly ended the contest:
It’s a pity as I almost got back into the game, but what can you do – you have to go to the next game.
Carlsen talked about the game and his plans with the supreme confidence and matter-of-factness we’ve come to expect from the World Champion and World no. 1. For instance:
In general if I feel that my position is better I will play on against any opponent, of any age, with any colour.
The most interesting responses, though, were about older members of the audience. Asked about the 77-year-old 10th World Chess Champion Boris Spassky he began with a faux pas that he rescued with aplomb:
I saw there was an older man with white hair, but I didn’t know that it was him... I think he would have liked the game. I don’t know if you asked him? He was probably the most universal player of his time. In his prime he could play successfully in any type of position and it all came very naturally to him.
There was a hint of steel when it was mentioned that his
father Henrik Carlsen had said this win was a Father’s Day gift to him:
No, I’ve played mostly for myself throughout my career, but if he thinks so then good for him.
Magnus was very happy with his gift to himself!
So Vishy is already playing catch-up, and will be looking to hit back with the white pieces in Game 3.
The action resumes at 13:00 CET on Tuesday 11 November.
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