AnandIn a sudden turnaround, Indian challenger Vishy Anand roared back into reckoning in Game 3 at Sochi’s World Chess Championship with an emphatic victory over titleholder Magnus Carlsen. The match is now tied at 1½-1½ and 9 games remain in the championship. Playing with white, it was a must-win situation for Anand or else, his challenge would have become weaker with any other result. It was also Anand’s first triumph over Carlsen after a long while.

The Game 3 began with Anand getting aggressive for a change. He used his thorough knowledge of the chess theory against a strong opponent, who has taken the chess world by a storm in recent times. The emphatic way, in which Carlsen robbed Anand of the World Champion’s title last year at Chennai has not been lost on the followers of the game. Unlike Anand and other elite players of past generation, Carlsen hasn’t studied the game openings so deeply. The Norwegian relies on attaining a balanced position in the first 15-20 moves and then dominates the opponents. At 23 years of age, Magnus Carlsen has already become a legend in grinding his opponents in grueling endgames. The game’s avid followers refer Carlsen’s method as his “Torture Chamber”. Anand must have spent some of the rest day time in studying this and therefore in Game 3, the Indian created his own version of the torture chamber and Carlsen was finally sucked into its bottomless pool.

Just as in Game 1, Anand began with d4 or moving his queen’s pawn 2 squares up. This time, Carlsen responded instantly by moving his Knight to f6. Anand’s next move was playing another pawn to c4 and now he had two pawns in the center. Carlsen moved his pawn to d5. It was the world famous Queen’s Gambit. If Carlsen had taken the Anand’s pawn at c4, it would have been called accepting the queen’s gambit. But Carlsen declined the queen’s gambit.

After the queen’s gambit was off, the game went into a sophisticated muddle of mind-wrecking complexity. With world’s two top players on the board, it was a fascinating watch for the onlookers. After move 10, it was difficult to imagine as what was going in the players’ minds. Anand sat serenely, as if he had the whole thing already worked out. Carlsen, on the other hand, looked totally bewildered. It was like his brain was churning with possibilities that could follow a declined queen’s gambit. Anand pushed his c-pawn all the way to Carlsen’s seventh rank, just one step from promoting it to a queen. He defended it in such a way that Carlsen’s queen was tied down for the entire game. If a player is not able to move his queen, the opponent can exercise ferocious control on proceedings. This was precisely what Anand did. Earlier, Carlsen looked stable but when Anand placed his Knight on g5, Carlsen spent so much time that recovery for him became untenable. With less than a minute left on his clock, Carlsen gave up.

It doesn’t mean Carlsen was short of options or his memory failed him. No. that is not the case because, Carlsen uses his memory as a weapon and everyone knows about it. The credit goes squarely to Anand for his deep preparations in rolling out an attack. The Indian played his game at the highest level in a process of laying out issues in front of Carlsen and then solving one complex problem after another with eyes firmly on the clock. For Carlsen, it was not Anand’s knight on g5 that doomed him but the enormous time that he consumed on pondering on several options in drawing the game.

Anand did what a true champion does. With sound tactics and dynamic chess, he came back into the match against all expectations. After a draw and a bad loss in Game 2, the Indian was really threatened. With a two point deficit, he would have found it too difficult to make up even with 9 games remaining. Now, however, he is on level terms with the champion.