The expression said it all. Tired and somewhat lost, that’s how world champion Magnus Carlsen looked, both during and after Game 8. After all, it’s not everyday that one plays a marathon six-and-a-half-hours of nerve-wracking and brain fuzzing chess against one of the best theoreticians in the game, a certain Viswanathan Anand.
So despite being almost half his age, Carlsen, with all his energy and ability in driving opponents up against the wall by squeezing them dry before he plucks them like deadwood, was clearly out of sorts when the game started. A few moves into the game, Carlsen fell asleep, eyes closed, slouched in his chair, and the pen caught in mid-air.
Whether it was to unsettle the five-time former world champion is anybody’s guess, but Carlsen admitted at the post-match press conference that he was not feeling in good shape. “I was not in the best of shape at the start,” Carlsen replied to a question before adding “I felt I managed to be fresher as the game progressed.”
His opponent would agree. If he had hoped to catch Carlsen off guard, that was not to be as the Norwegian looked better prepared, despite the fatigue. With the game heading for a bishop and knight ending, Anand’s hopes of securing a vital point and levelling the series looked bleak as Carlsen played a good line.
At the end Anand admitted he didn’t get much from the Queen’s gambit opening.
“But there’s still some games left to play,” the Indian said, the disappointment pretty evident despite his best efforts to maintain a certain amount of nonchalance. What must be gnawing Anand is the fact that despite not feeling in great shape, Carlsen had managed to pull off a quick draw with relative ease. Carlsen said he was happy with the opening, but admitted it was a bit risky for black. “But once I got Vishy’s rook there was just very little for white to do,” was his assessment.
There were some talks at the post-match conference of Anand’s long-time former second Peter Heine Nielsen playing a crucial role in getting Carlsen to prepare better to counter the Indian’s opening. The Norwegian didn’t comment much but admitted that his seconds are doing a good job. With four games remaining and the scores 4.5-3.5, the players have a rest day on Wednesday. Carlsen acknowledged the importance of rest days. “As the match progresses the free days become more and more valuable,” the 23-year-old said.
For Anand, he needs to find that last ounce of inspiration and innovation if he is to reclaim his crown.