Viswanathan Anand’s knightmare,Magnus Carlsen’s dream

Viswanathan Anand’s knightmare,Magnus Carlsen’s dream

Carlsen a draw away from world title after a desperate Vishy,going for kill,makes a suicidal move.

“You come at the king,you best not miss” – Omar Little,The Wire

Desperate men don’t bother with niceties,and at the start of the ninth game,Viswanathan Anand was a very desperate man. Needing two wins in the last four games to square the match,Anand played like he would not settle for anything less than checkmating Magnus Carlsen.

Gathering his king side pawns,Anand hurled them against the castled black king.

Of course,you do not expect the World No. 1 to kick back and watch as his house burns down. Carlsen responded by rolling his queen side pawns down the board. And so,the sides lined up,each with a simple,brutal idea in mind. If Carlsen broke through,his pawn would promote to a queen,handing him a humongous material advantage. If Anand broke through,Carlsen’s king would be checkmated,and the game would be over despite the multiple queens on the Norwegian’s side.


The game was seemingly destined for a result,but right through the game,it was unclear with whom exactly the advantage lay,if indeed there was an advantage at all. In fact,ignoring mounting evidence of an imminent showdown,chess engines suggested the position was near equal.

On the board,Carlsen’s b pawn continued on a lone and resolute march. It was now just a square away from queening. Anand calmly ignored that side of the board and had his queen and rook joined his pawns in attack. He was threatening checkmate in a move or two.

A 40-minute move

On the brink of resolution,there was even a Hollywood pause. Anand had a 40-minute think and adding to the tension,time was becoming a factor. (Anand would be asked about this in the press conference. “Did you try to calculate all the complicated variations till the end somehow,and was it possible?” “No I was thinking what to eat tonight,” he dead panned as a very slow grin spread across Carlsen’s face.)

Through all this,there was a queasy feeling among Anand’s fans. It was understandable that the defending champion’s approach would be borderline reckless but it seemed a little worrisome that Carlsen would go down the same road. Did he know something that Anand did not? Also,there was the computer’s refusal to acknowledge any one side’s domination. Most online engines,Houdini,Stockfish and Komodo among them,seemed to be of the opinion that the attacks,primitive and vigorous as they were,could cancel each other out.

Back in the game,Anand allowed Carlsen’s pawn to queen and suddenly there were three queens on the board. The pawn graduated to a queen with check,but there wouldn’t be a series of attacks on Anand’s king. The champion’s idea was to block the checks out and continue with his attack. Carlsen’s plan was to use his promoted queen as a kind of a suicide bomber to blow a hole through white’s attack.

Suddenly,Anand found that black’s defences would hold,at least for a little longer than he had assumed they would. The ‘killer pass’ just would not materialise. But somehow,somewhere,an idea suggested itself to him. “Thing is I had been calculating for 40 minutes (a couple of moves back) but I couldn’t see a way forward. But then I suddenly saw that the knight is coming to e7 and for a moment I got excited. I had missed that the knight had just moved and wasn’t covering h4 anymore. As soon as I put the knight on f1 I knew what I had done,” he later explained.

Own goal

What he had done was undo all the good work in a single move and the uneasiness of his fans would turn to horror. The knight that Anand wanted to re-route to deliver the killer blow was covering an important square. When it came back to block the check,black’s promoted queen could take out white’s rook and with it Anand’s attack. After the oversight,Carlsen’s king would be safe and what was more,he would be up by a lot of material. Anand resigned immediately after the blunder.

With just three games left,Carlsen now needs just a draw to be crowned the youngest World Champion at 22,a record he will share with Garry Kasparov. Anand,though,would have to be satisfied that he gave it his all,at least in this game. “I was glad I did it (playing an attacking game). I still think this was the right choice and there were no regrets about that,” he said.

Game 9

White: Viswanathan Anand

Black: Magnus Carlsen

Nimzo-Indian Defence,Samisch variation,E25

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 d5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. cxd5 exd5 8.e3 c4 9. Ne2 Nc6 10. g4 O-O 11. Bg2 Na5 12. O-O Nb3 13. Ra2 b5 14. Ng3 a5 15. g5 Ne8 16. e4 Nxc1 17. Qxc1 Ra6 18. e5 Nc7 19. f4 b4 20. axb4 axb4 21. Rxa6 Nxa6 22. f5 b3 23. Qf4 Nc7 24. f6 g6 25. Qh4 Ne8 26. Qh6 b2 27. Rf4 b1=Q+ 28. Nf1 Qe1 0-1.

Scores: Anand 3-6 carlsen