After the epic 122-move seventh Game, the Champion and Challenger played the eighth Game on November 18, 2014. Since Anand played with Whites, most of his well-wishers expected him to force a win to come at level terms with Carlsen. After all, it is usual in chess at any level that most times, players tend to play for a win with Whites and for a draw with Blacks. If one followed that logic, the Game 8 of the World Championship match turned out to be a success for Magnus Carlsen. The champion had the Black pieces and he insisted on repeating the Queens Gambit Declined as he did in game 3. This time Carlsen was quite well prepared and he forced an easy draw. With only four games remaining now, Carlsen sits pretty with the score reading of 4½- 3½ in his favor. Outwardly, the Game 8 was not as exciting as the previous Games. It was far too short of the marathon 7th Game, it didn’t have the blunders of Game 6 and it didn’t lead to crushing defeats as in Games 2 and 3. However, the Game 8 had at least one amazing moment that should appeal to the imagination of the chess amateurs. For the more serious-minded, the Game 8 also pointed to a new direction in one of the most famous and popular opening at Grandmaster level in the game of chess.
Vishy Anand opened yet again with d4, the “Queen’s Pawn” move and Carlsen expectedly responded with Nf6. Next moves were; Anand c4, Carlen e6; Anand Nf3, Carlsen d5; Anand Nc3, Carlsen e7. The moves looked like repetitions from Game 3 but this time Carlsen was far better prepared and he stuck to the old classical line. It was, therefore, QGD once again. Several familiar moves were seen but Carlsen played with a faith that somewhere along the line, he could neutralize White’s advantage by playing accurately. On his part, Anand needed to be careful and ensure that he did not make a false move to jeopardize his own position.
In the game of chess, queens and bishops usually like to work in tandem at certain points. This affords them long open diagonals on the board in order to exploit their power of moving as many spaces as they want. The situation after move 17 was something like this- Having placed his queen on the c2 square and maneuvered the bishop to b1, Anand empowered his queen and bishop. In the game’s parlance it is called the b1-h7 diagonal and if the black is not contesting, the situation allows the queen to come all the way across the board in a single move and check the black king by landing on h7. The advantage for the white here is; the black king cannot capture the white queen because the bishop is backing up the attack. In such a scenario, Black’s king goes to g8 square and white delivers the mate with the queen by moving to h8. There is no escape for the black king.
The above scenario assumed that Black was not contesting. But in Game 8, Black was very much in the contest. The Black could contest h7 square with the knight on f6. This was a classic checkmating problem for white against a castled black king, which was defended by a knight on f6: What were Anand’s options? He could take the knight with the bishop on g4. And he did that but when Carlsen took back with his own bishop, he exposed the flaw in a white checkmating formulation. Now the black king can get to e7 square and evade mate. Anand attacked the black bishop by bringing his knight to e4 but the black bishop retreated and Anand ended up by blocking his queen’s access to the h7 square. It was here that the charm went out of Game 8.
It never looked like that something crazy would happen at any time. Both Carlsen and Anand were too tired after previous day’s Game that at times, Carlsen actually looked too languid and sapped of energy. After a few more moves, the position was; Carlsen had a rook on e8 to give his king some breathing space and a bishop on e7 that allowed him to exercise control of f6 square. As a matter of fact, Carlsen had used the opening to locate these pieces to counter the mating threat on h7 and h8. If Carlsen’s rook and bishop had been elsewhere, White could have launched its attack. This showed that Carlsen was also concerned about the wisdom of opening theory, rather than always working on the grueling endgames. Carlsen’s preparation came handy in driving Anand to run out of his resources in game 8 and the two players decided to call it a draw in the end.
After Wednesday’s rest day, the players would come out again on Thursday, with Anand playing with Black pieces.
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