Anand-Carlsen 0-1 in One-Game Match

Anand did try hard, to be honest (like Mc Murphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest did). In just one single game of the match though (and perhaps the most uneventful one in the history of World chess championships) which elicited the bored and tired chess public to shout, “Thank God, the first fighting game in the match!” and “A good fight in Chennai finally.”[4]

So the 2013 Chess World Championship match came down to a one-game “match.”[1] A dull and boring event has given the challenger a two-point lead. He was a little bit nervous in the beginning and perhaps not quite ready for this big occasion; he still felt vulnerable; but after game three and four he managed to settle in; he realized he didn’t have to do differently from what he usually did. And that was the turning point.[3] He went on with his solid (and uninteresting for us) play which gave him two wins after Anand made mistakes in Game 5 and Game 6. Anand’s problem was not just the score, but his play as well.

Thus, Anand found himself in a situation where he “needed to change the course of the match rather drastically.”[2] “Still I think I had to do this. This was the correct choice. I had no regrets for this.” As always in sport and elsewhere, “you don’t get what you deserve, only what you earn. The champion needed a big change in spirit and quality to keep it close.”[4]

Farit, Razlet, Разлет после большого взрыва

Anand’s hopes finally abruptly disappeared in Game 9 (Dispersion after the Big Bang, art by Farit)

The interesting question would be what has brought the actors in this situation? Every war is a struggle of wills and strategies. What was the strategy of the two contestants with which they entered the arena?

First, let’s hear what Anand himself had to say about his strategy: “At the start of the match I thought my chances depended on my ability to last long games without making a lot of mistakes… I had a feeling that this match will be about execution. I had any strategy I wanted. Executing it, holding at the board, seeing it through was its all about… I was simply unable to execute my strategy.”

Why wasn’t he able to execute his strategy? Because Carlsen, with all his skill and tenacity, used the supreme law of strategy – to fight the opponent’s strategy. It looks that Carlsen was happy to play very solid position with no weaknesses. Basically, he thought as long as there was no risk he should win the title. He is a “combination of Karpov and Fischer; he gets his positions and then never lets go of that bulldog bite; exhausting for opponents.”[4]

“The problem is that Anand is much older and secondly, Carlsen loves long slow games (play to your strengths!)… Carlsen is playing quite well. I just simply do not understand why Anand is playing to his weaknesses and Carlsen’s strength,” tweeted the American GM and World’s #4 Hikaru Nakamura.[5]

Farit, A hanging pause, Повисшая пауза

Anand spent half an hour on his 23rd move (A hanging pause, art by Farit)

So “in a match with your back to the wall, you have to try something,” Nakamura tweeted[5]. And Anand did try, only once. Here is the critical position from Game 9 (the commentary by GM Alexey Dreev, on the Russian Chess-news, and GM Kasparov [4]; you may use the game-replayer below).

Anand gained some advantage out of the opening, manly because Carlsen hurried to trade his knight (16…Nxc1?!).

The next to err was Anand, 20.axb4? which helped Carlsen defend successfully (20.f5! was necessary).

Anand played faster than Carlsen and had more time on the clock. But he apparently made the fatal mistake in the match when he wasted nearly half an hour for his 23rd move. He chose 23.Qf4 when 23.h4! deserved attention with the idea to push pawns to h5 and f6. As Kasparov pointed out, White should have kept tension: 23.h4 Nc7 24.Qa3.

Then, experiencing shortage of time on his clock, he made a grave mistake:


Anand-Carlsen Game 10 after 26...b2

Anand-Carlsen, Game 9, position after 26…b2


Anand rushed the attack, looking for a concrete finish but an objective evaluation of the position would probably provide an approximate equality – real battle was still ahead. White should have kept tension. Instead of going for a quick finish, it was necessary to play positionally here. 26.Ne2 keeps possibilities open, as well as on the previous move, as it gives Black more chances to make an error under pressure; 26.Ne2 was the last best winning chance for White. Anand felt he had a good position and something must be there, but when there was no clear path his confidence dropped, concentration failed, and he made a blunder[4])

27…b1=Q+ 28.Nf1?

Capitulation. Anand originally intended to play 28.Bf1, but he then realized it wouldn’t lead him to such a promising position after: 28…Qd1 29.Rh4 Qh5 30.Nxh5 gxh5 31.Rxh5 (can’t play 31.Bh3 Bxh3 32.Rxh3 Qb6 33.Rxh5 Qb1+ 34.Kf2 Qg6) 31…Bf5 32.Bh3 Bg6 33.e6 Nxf6 34.gxf6 Qxf6.

In fact, there was the stronger 32.g6! in that line (instead of 32.Bh3), which brings equality: 32…Bxg6 33.Rg5.

Anand decided to block the check with his knight, counting on 28…Qd1 29.Rh4 Qh5 30.Rxh5 gxh5 31.Ne3! and the knight is aiming at e7, 31…Be6 32.Bxd5 Qxd5 33.Nxd5 Bxd5 34.Qxh5. But, unexpectedly for him, there was a huge surprise!

28…Qe1 0-1

It’s quite uncommon to win a world championship without moving the queen the entire game!

Anand tried. As the ever-competitive McMurphy in One flew over the cuckoo’s nest did by trying to lift the steel panel; he tried hard having to admit it, walking out the door, “But I tried, didn’t I? Goddamnit, at least I did that!”

Anand did try, once. But was unable to lift the Magnus of steel. So he had to walk out of the Chennai arena handing over the baton to the next generation. Carlsen is seen as the poster boy for a new era in chess, which has long been stuck with an image that was anything but creativity and imagination.

“He has the ability to reach an audience that has previously been shut off to chess. That is a wonderful thing for the game,” said Kasparov. “He is a great looking guy and he has the personality and charisma to appeal to a very broad audience. This is a great time for him – and a great time for chess.” put WGM Jennifer Shahade.

Will he be able to infuse life into the game which has begun growing increasingly boring in the last decades? It remains to be seen. But if you ask me, his style of no risk and no weaknesses is a far cry from Tal and Co.


1.  The original meaning of the word “match” is to place (one) in conflict with (another)” and dates from c. 1400

2. The game 9 press conference

3. Carlsen at the game 10 press conference

4. GM Kasparov on his @Kasparov63 Twitter account.

5. GM Hikaru Nakamura on Twitter (@GMHikaru).

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