The World Chess Championship in Sochi is through the halfway mark. With 6 games played and another 6 remaining, the Champion leads the Challenger by one full point. But that is not all. When the match resumes on Monday, Carlsen will play with whites again and that makes him a huge favorite at Sochi. But in game 6 on Saturday, it could have been very different if Anand had noticed a big blunder by Carlsen. If Anand had cashed on that crucial opportunity, he would have ended up a winner with blacks. Well, that didn’t happen as Carlsen rode his luck and marched away to an advantageous position. When Anand found what he had done, he was psychologically shattered and the game became a burden for him. He had no option but to go through with the motions until the end came in a puddle of defeat for the veteran Indian challenger.
Just as in the Game 4, Carlsen began by e4 or his king’s pawn going two squares up. Anand responded with c5 yet again exactly as in Game 4. The guys thus began another Sicilian opening. The next move from Carlsen was Nf3 to which Anand played e6. Next when Carlsen played d4, he lost his pawn but retaliated by using his knight to take Anand’s pawn and Anand played a6. Both players kept up their defenses and nothing untoward happened until move 11, which appeared as a rather unknown position in chess theory. But it became clear that Anand was not playing for a draw even if he had the black pieces. The game showed Anand’s thorough preparation with the idea of springing a surprise on Carlsen. The pace slowed down by move 15 but there were no risks for Carlsen yet. On his part Anand was protecting himself adequately. Some more pieces came off the board but the game looked harmless for the players until move 25.
Then came the dreadful move no.26 from Carlsen, as he committed himself to a dangerous position by playing Kd2. Unfortunately, a veteran like Anand failed to spot that. If he had; Carlsen might have resigned on the spot, or at best, after a couple of more moves. This was the turning point of Game 6. Because after realizing his error, Anand played the rest of the game in a misty haze. His mind appeared to be weighed down by the missed opportunity that would have changed the course of the entire tournament. For Anand’s worldwide fans, the only solace was that Magnus Carlsen was also capable of making blundering moves. But the end result was against Anand as Carlsen capitalized on a rather quick and faulty response from Anand against the Kd2.
After blowing up that golden chance, the rest of the game became a slow death march for Anand. Suddenly, the game became unpleasant for onlookers as a single move turned a top-class contest into a drab. For the uninitiated, Kd2 means that Carlsen moved his king one square: from c1 to d2. Just before that, until the 25th move, the pieces on the board showed both players essentially even with a tense struggle ahead. On the g- and h-files, rooks were against rooks and the black knight unable to do much. But Anand’s sole concern was the fate of his lone pawn on h-file. If Anand had spotted Carlsen’s blunder, he would have taken the pawn on e5 and attacked the white rook on g4. He might have lost some pieces in the exchange but the mathematically the exchange would have been in his favor. But all that is now speculation. Many top-level chess games have seen catastrophes flowing out of seemingly innocuous moves that develop into monumental blunders.
The game ended with Anand’s defeat and commentators called it as a gift of the match to Carlsen from Anand. As a matter of fact, Anand played a bit too early. If he had taken a little time, he would certainly have seen Carlsen’s error. But not spotting the error, Anand allowed the entire game to turn on its head.
But the tactical genius Anand moved his pawn on the a-file one square forward to eliminate the a2 pawn with the hope of stopping Carlsen from promoting his pawn to queen. It was a wrong move, from where Anand’s game began to fall apart and he resigned after 38 moves.
As a matter of fact, Carlsen should consider himself lucky that he stole the match from Anand. But to his credit, he has now put Anand under some severe stress that could tell on the Indian challenger in coming Games. Sunday is the day of rest. Anand may spend a lot of his time in ruing his loss but the best course for him should be to pull himself together.