Blood from stone. Slow strangulation. Positional mastery. Journalists were left reaching for the dominant cliches in trying to describe Magnus Carlsens ability to squeeze a win out of passive,quasi-drawn positions after the challenger broke the deadlock at the World Championship with a win in game five against Viswanathan Anand.
Almost all the details of the win came from the Carlsen manual an opening choice that avoided theoretical battles,long-drawn positional struggles in the middlegame,and an endgame that required extremely precise defending under pressure over improbably long stretches. Before the match began,it was understood that the nature of the game would have a big bearing on who among Anand or Carlsen would have the better chances of winning it. Anand is better at handling shorter,double-edged games while Carlsen is more at home in longer games involving passive positions. Until Friday,the games had either been short and passive (games one and two) or long and dynamic (three and four),and the players had been unable to break through. Game five,though,was played on Carlsens terms and Anand paid the price for his strategic naivety.
Carlsen began with 1. c4 (English opening),a variation from 1. Nf3 (the Reti system),which he had employed with white in games one and three. It may have been a different choice of opening,but was still principled. Carlsen had been looking to avoid the traditional king (1. e4) and queen pawn (1. d4) openings against Anand and the flank attack of the English system in game five was consistent with what he had tried earlier.
Further,unlike the 1. e4 and 1. d4 systems,1. c4 has not been as extensively studied over the years and the fact that it allows for transpositions (again,like the Reti complex) meant it required a lot of over-the-board decision making,annulling Anands experience in the more traditional opening systems. Here,the opening transposed to a Queens Gambit Semi-Slav structure.
At the end of the opening phase,Carlsen came out with a minimal advantage; the position may even have been level. Still,it was a success for Carlsen in the sense that the middle game it led up to was exactly the kind he thrives in. Black had a few static weaknesses — four pawn islands as compared to whites three and a weaker light-squared bishop. Carlsen brought his forces to bear on these pressure points,but Anand continued to hold,mainly because of the mobility of his rooks and,more crucially,his king,in a position that was fast simplifying into an endgame.
Anand took the game past the first time control of 40 moves and with another hour added to the players clocks,he looked to have done enough to hold on for the draw. It may have been the pressure of having to play accurately move after move,or the fact that he had sat at the board for close to 11 hours in the previous two games,but Anands play began to get ragged at this stage. The first mistake came in the 45th move (45. … Rc1+),putting Carlsen a pawn up. Even after this slip-up,Anand could have gotten out of jail had he found the right continuations in the endgame,but again he erred.
At move 56,Anand had to choose between two options. He could either track down whites advanced e pawn with his king to prevent it from queening or push up the board to support his c pawns advance. In retreating to chase after whites e pawn,Anand lost his final drawing chance. Though this description of event puts Anand in control of his destiny in the game,it should be said that this kind of choice is impossible to make,especially in the fifth hour of the game. Carlsen is an expert in the latter stages of the game,playing on the tiring minds of his opponents by setting up such tricky choices. After drawing forth the error,he converted with customary accuracy,and Anand resigned when he knew his rook would be unable to stop one of whites flanking pawns from queening.
Anand now has seven games to make up lost ground. There are a couple of facts he would remind himself about. Anand lost the first decisive game in the title bouts against Veselin Topalov (2010) and Boris Gelfand (2012),but came back to win both the matches. Also,Anand will have two whites in a row,in games six and seven.
Game Five: White: Magnus Carlsen; Black: Viswanathan Anand; Queens Gambit,Semi-Slav D31
1. c4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 c6 4. e4 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Bb4+ 6. Nc3 c5 7. a3 Ba5 8. Nf3 Nf6 9. Be3 Nc6 10. Qd3 cxd4 11. Nxd4 Ng4 12. O-O-O Nxe3 13. fxe3 Bc7 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Qxd8+ Bxd8 16. Be2 Ke7 17. Bf3 Bd7 18. Ne4 Bb6 19. c5 f5 20. cxb6 fxe4 21. b7 Rab8 22. Bxe4 Rxb7 23. Rhf1 Rb5 24. Rf4 g5 25. Rf3 h5 26. Rdf1 Be8 27. Bc2 Rc5 28. Rf6 h4 29. e4 a5 30. Kd2 Rb5 31. b3 Bh5 32. Kc3 Rc5+ 33. Kb2 Rd8 34. R1f2 Rd4 35. Rh6 Bd1 36. Bb1 Rb5 37. Kc3 c5 38. Rb2 e5 39. Rg6 a4 40. Rxg5 Rxb3+ 41. Rxb3 Bxb3 42. Rxe5+ Kd6 43. Rh5 Rd1 44. e5+ Kd5 45. Bh7 Rc1+ 46. Kb2 Rg1 47. Bg8+ Kc6 48. Rh6+ Kd7 49. Bxb3 axb3 50. Kxb3 Rxg2 51. Rxh4 Ke6 52. a4 Kxe5 53. a5 Kd6 54. Rh7 Kd5 55. a6 c4+ 56. Kc3 Ra2 57. a7 Kc5 58. h4 Kd5 1-0.
Game six: live on DD Sports at 3 pm
A fighting game,a bit messy at times
Having just been beaten in game five,a shaken Viswanathan Anand didnt seem in the mood for detailed post-game analysis in the press conference. He provided a curious moment when he picked out 34… Rd4 as the move that might have cost him the game,despite the fact that it had been deemed a sound move by chess engines.Excerpts.
On the game
Carlsen: It was a relatively interesting opening. I got something out of it then I misplayed it a little bit but was worried even that I was worse (out of the opening). At this point (early middle game) I did not think too much in terms of winning chances. The critical moment came after the first time control. It turned out to be a little more difficult to hold (for Anand) than I thought. When we got this rook ending,it was very very difficult and I felt I had it under control.
Anand: I think 34…Rd4 looked strong,but turned out to be the mistake. It was decisive.
On the 45th move
Anand: It is possible (that Ra1 was better). I somehow missed it … The rook ending was very difficult. I thought I had some kind of counterplay but it just did not materialise.
on Importance of win
Carlsen: It feels good to break the deadlock. It was a fighting game,a bit messy at times. But I got there in the end. I am happy about that. We have had quite a few draws. It is not as if who wins first wins the match. It is a long match but it is defenitely a good start. He has two whites now in his next two games and he will have his chance to make his moves as well.