Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand of India slipped down the championship leaderboard after his defeat against USA’s Hikaru Nakamura on Friday. With two rounds left, the Indian ace will have to win both his matches if he has any ambition of challenging Norway’s reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen. Anand had done well in the 11th round, when he had got the better of Chess World Cup champion and current leader Sergey Karjakin of Russia. But since Karjakin upstaged Bulgarian Veselin Topalov in his own 12th-round match, Anand’s victory chances have become bleak. At the end of the latest matches in Moscow, Anand is virtually at the third place with 6.5 points and Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana jointly share the top spot with 7 points each. In the 13th round, Anand plays against Netherlands’ Anish Giri, while in the last round, his opponent will be Peter Svidler of Russia. Because both opponents have their own stakes in the tournament, Vishy Anand’s comeback is being looked upon as a herculean task.
When Anand beat tournament leader Sergey Karjakin in the 11th round on Thursday, he jumped to the joint top spot with USA’s Fabiano Caruana while Karjakin was pushed down. But another American Hikaru Nakamura has upset Anand’s applecart by inflicting a quick defeat on the Indian in 12th round. Nakamura himself has had a lousy tournament but by defeating Anand, the American has allowed his compatriot Caruana and Russian Sergey Karjakin to take the leadership status with 7 points each to Anand’s 6.5. In the past too, Nakamura has proved to be a tough opponent for Anand and on Friday, the American gave another proof of reading through Anand’s mind in inflicting a defeat in 26 moves.
Anand played with Black pieces against Nakamura in the 12th Round but the seasoned Indian succumbed to a trap laid by the dicey American. It looked as if Nakamura had come prepared as he enticed Anand into saving his bishop from a threat by White’s pawn in move no.11. This proved to a costly mistake because by the 15th move, Anand had slipped further and found it difficult to build a resourceful defense. The Indian’s risky advance on the kingside proved to be his undoing and he resigned after move no.26. In Round 10, Anand had lost to Caruana under nearly similar circumstances since that game also had an English opening.
Anand’s loss coupled with Sergey Karjakin’s victory against Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov has changed the championship leaderboard. Now Caruana and Karjakin stay atop with 7 points each. Karjakin had white pieces and he played strongly against Topalov. The Bulgarian took unnecessary risks and Karjakin duly capitalized in winning after 35 moves.
Anand’s next game will be against Anish Giri, who has drawn all his 12 games so far. The Dutchman, therefore, looks impregnable playing with great resolve. Anand will have the advantage of White pieces but he needs to do something special against Giri. In the last Round of the tournament, Anand will come face-to-face against another Russian Peter Svidler. Though one of Anand’s tournament victories has come against Svidler, it will not be easy this time since the Russian has the advantage of playing with White pieces.