Sinquefield Cup 2017: Viswanathan Anand earns tough draw against World Champion Magnus Carlsen

Anand missed a better defence on the 38th move and blundered a pawn on the 40th move, landing himself into difficulties. However, pulling himself together and putting up his most stoic foot forward, he defended stubbornly to steer the game into a rook ending where he was down a pawn but the game being theoretically drawn.

V Saravanan August 05, 2017 16:03:08 IST
Sinquefield Cup 2017: Viswanathan Anand earns tough draw against World Champion Magnus Carlsen

Viswanathan Anand faced a tough challenge when he made a simple oversight and lost a pawn on the 40th move, but still defended precisely to force a draw in a rook endgame after a five-and-a-half-hour defence against reigning World Champion and long-time rival, Magnus Carlsen. Though all the games ended in a draw, it was a day of tough defences all around, almost all of them well-fought.

For Anand, his much-awaited clash against Carlsen went sedately, as he surprisingly faced the Graz Variation of the Ruy Lopez Opening, which Carlsen has employed only rarely in the past. Anand is a connoisseur of the variation and has always played the sharpest continuations starting with 7.a4 in this particular position.

Sinquefield Cup 2017 Viswanathan Anand earns tough draw against World Champion Magnus Carlsen

Viswanathan Anand had to dig hard and defend doggedly against Magnus Carlsen. Image courtesy: Lennart Ootes

But after thinking for a few minutes and acting practically, he chose the sedate 7.Nc3 thus avoiding sharp lines and refusing to be drawn into a theoretical battle against an assumingly well-prepared opponent. This may be a good psychological ploy decided at the spur of the moment, but the downside being the game going into well-known structures of a quiet Ruy Lopez. As a result, Carlsen had achieved a satisfactory equality by the 17th move.

Having played each other a whopping 57 times in classical form of chess including two World Championship matches — not counting the rapid and blitz encounters — it is not a secret that both the adversaries know each other thoroughly. So, when Carlsen started regrouping his pieces by the 20th move, there was no doubt that Anand was looking at a long and precise defence and the psychological edge had passed over to Carlsen. Fancying Carlsen’s chances in his favourite type of position, Russian Grandmaster Teimour Radjabov even tweeted:

However, Anand decided to dig deep and started defending precisely. By the 27th move, the game further simplified into an ending with two rooks and a bishop each, but Carlsen’s manoeuvres became more subtle in what is possibly his biggest strength in chess — patiently targeting opponent’s weaknesses and bringing about a stage where he is forced to defend long without much margin of error.

As the game approached the time control, Anand missed a better defence on the 38th move and blundered a pawn on the 40th move, landing himself into difficulties. However, pulling himself together and putting up his most stoic foot forward, he defended stubbornly to steer the game into a rook ending where he was down a pawn but the game being theoretically drawn. The game ended on the 66th move.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Peter Svidler played the most tactical encounter of the day where Svidler was forced to give up a pawn on the 21st move to strive for complications. Though the resultant major pieces endgame looked better for Vachier-Lagrave, Svidler’s resourceful defence crowned by the shot 32...d5! allowed him to escape with a draw.

Even losing the first two games in roller-coaster games, Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi found enough courage to play a bold and wild game from the black side of a Closed Sicilian game against American Fabiano Caruana. Though Caruana seemed to have his chances, Nepomniachtchi’s ingenuity to create complications was rewarded with a draw by the 38th move.

The all-American clash between Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura had the latter forced to defend a pawn down ending for a long time, though ending in a draw ultimately after 69 moves. Probably disheartened by tough losses in the previous round, Karjakin and Aronian drew their game in just 23 moves.

Results (3rd Round):

Viswanathan Anand (1) ½ - ½ Magnus Carlsen (1½)

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (1½) ½ - ½ Peter Svidler (½)

Fabiano Caruana (1½) ½ - ½ Ian Nepomniachtchi (0)

Wesley So (1) ½ - ½ Hikaru Nakamura (1)

Sergey Karjakin (1) ½ - ½ Levon Aronian (1)

Points position after 2 rounds:

 1: Carlsen, Caruana & Vachier-Lagrave:2 points each

4: Anand, So, Aronian, Karjakin & Nakamura: 1½  each

9: Svidler: 1

10: Nepomniachtchi: ½

V Saravanan is an International Master and author for ChessBase India

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