Sochi World Chess ChampionshipThe 10th Game was the seventh draw in the ongoing World Chess Championship match at the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. Game 2 and 6 have been won by Magnus Carlsen and Game 3 by Anand. In the drawn Games, there have been some close calls and some anxious moments but no clear position for either contender. After he got away with that sixth Game blunder and converted it to his victory, Carlsen is comfortable with the way the tournament is going. If he is able to manage draws in the remaining two Games as well, he will be crowned the World Chess Champion once again. For Anand, the missed opportunity in the same Game 6 has become an unhealed wound and nothing less than a victory will work for him. And the win will only bring him back to contention because he would require another win to regain the World Champion’s tag that he lost in Chennai last year. Friday’s Game 10 lasted 32 moves before the players called agreed for a draw. The only notable feature of the Game was Anand succeeding in converting his White pawn to the queen. But the Indian challenger lost the additional White queen immediately with Carlsen giving up his knight in exchange.

Playing with White Pieces, Anand opened with his queen’s pawn going two squares up or d4, to which Carlsen responded with Nf6. In just a couple of moves, the board began showing the well-known Gruenfeld Indian Defense. Lot of onlookers were surprised by Carlsen’s choice of Gruenfeld defense since everyone expected the champion to take the no-loss strategy. But Carlsen probably included this element of surprise to confuse Anand. At the end of the 11th move, both Anand and Carlsen castled their kings and now every piece on the board was ready to come to the center.

On 15th move, Anand exchanged his knight for Carlsen’s knight and five moves later, the two players exchanged their queens as well. It was Anand’s initiative that drove the world champion into deep thoughts. He finally played Bd4 on his 19th move that cut off the white rook’s support to its pawn on d file. Now, both players were left with two rooks, two bishops, one knight and five pawns. Anand held his pawn on d5 square while Carlsen had one on c4. It appeared that Carlsen had a more favorable pawn structure on his queen and king sides. In the next move, Anand took Carlsen’s bishop with his knight and Carlsen retaliated by taking the enemy knight out of the board. Now Anand was pressed for time. He had consumed too much time by the time the 24th move ended and therefore the Indian was required to make his next 16 moves in the remaining 24 minutes. It was a bad 24th move from Anand, where played Rd2 because that would not control the open e file. On his part, Carlsen, completely controlled the e file with Re8. With Anand failing to control the e file, he also failed to create any complications for Carlsen and looked like settling for a draw. After a couple of moves, the players exchanged their black bishops and though Anand queened his d pawn, he lost it instantly to Carlsen’s knight. The Game was going nowhere with two rooks and four pawns each and a draw was agreed upon after Anand made his 32nd move.

At the end of Game 10, Carlsen leads 5½-4½, needing just one more point to retain his title. With 11th Game coming up on Sunday, Anand has to strike back soon to be able to have any chance in the championship. Two more draws will be a loss for Anand and he know that well. For Carlsen, the situation is cozy. But there have been precedents in World championship matches, when the winner was decided in the last games. Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik had beaten Peter Leko in the 2004 match while Gary Kasparov had done the same against Anatoly Karpov 27 years ago. Therefore, while the dice is loaded in favor of Magnus Carlsen, Anand still has a chance to come back in the reckoning. Only time will tell that.