Magnus Carlsen of Norway retained his World Champion’s crown on Sunday. In the 27th move of Game 11 of World Chess Championship in Sochi, Viswanathan Anand boldly sacrificed his rook in a desperate bid for victory. But the maneuver boomeranged on him, as 18 moves later, the 44-year old Indian challenger got up and offered his hand to the reigning champion in resignation. Anand was playing for victory and his options were limited but regardless, his idea of sacrificing the rook was a gross overestimation of his own position. Carlsen gladly grabbed the opportunity with both his hands, because afterwards, Anand found it difficult to support his Black pieces on the board. It was like presenting Carlsen with the simple task of reducing the number of black pieces and driving the Indian challenger towards a zone of great danger. Pretty soon, Anand realized the folly of his bold move and offered to resign.
In repeating the victory, the Norwegian champion affirmed his status as the world’s best chess player. In Chennai last year, Carlsen had literally run through Anand’s defenses to clinch the World Title for the first time. While the Chennai victory was achieved in just 10 Games, it wasn’t all that simple for Carlsen at Sochi. Regardless, the Norwegian put the final stamp of his authority in the championship with a Game still left. In this year’s matches, Carlsen’s fantastic ability to continuously maintain pressure came to the fore in Game 7, when playing with White pieces, he exhibited a will to win even when the position on the board indicated a drawn Game. Carlsen had one knight, two pawns and a rook as against Anand’s four pawns and rook. But Carlsen kept looking for winning ideas even as the Game stretched to nearly 7 hours to finally end in a draw after 122 moves.
The 11th Game on Sunday started with another Berlin Defense. Onlookers termed the start as YABB, an acronym for Yet Another Boring Berlin. But die-hard chess lovers recalled the famous match victory for Kramnik against Kasparov in the 2000 World Chess Championship at London, which had begun with the Berlin Defense. After trailing by one full point for some time, Anand wanted a victory at any cost to stay in the championship on level terms. He had only two options; go for a draw with Black Pieces in Game 11 and then win on Monday’s Game 12 by pressurizing Carlsen with Whites. That would have taken the match to the tie-break but no such thing happened. The 11th Game was unusual and a bit complicated and looked like Anand would go for a draw now. But when Anand pressed for attack, he left everyone wondering about his Game against a formidable foe. Anand might have been emboldened by his position during move nos. 18 to 23, when he appeared to have a slight edge. But instead of exercising restraint, the Indian challenger’s decision to force the issue, all of a sudden, by playing b5 to Carlsen’s Nef6 was like playing in the hands of the champion. Then Carlsen made an excellent 26th move by playing Kf3. It supported his center very well and even Anand appreciated it in his press conference later. But when Anand played Rb4 in move 27, Carlsen got an upper hand. Later, Carlsen said that he felt empowered from then onwards. He got a chance to free himself from a few restrictions that Anand had been causing. Once Carlsen moved his bishop from e6, he was able to invade with the rook. Things kept deteriorating for Anand from here onwards and he resigned after move 45.
In the end, it was a victory by two points at 6½-4½ and Carlsen showed why he is the world champion by winning three Games in the 11-Game encounter. Anand had managed one win in Game 3 and every other Game ended in a draw. Anand readily admitted to Carlsen’s superiority but he too didn’t play that badly in Sochi. Though the championship has ended in Carlsen’s favor, the talking point would always be Carlsen’s unexpected blunder in Game 6 that Anand failed to notice. It could easily have been a totally different championship match otherwise. However, there is no denying the fact that Carlsen proved to be a tenacious, precise, and an extremely ferocious competitor.
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