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Thursday, November 13, 2014

World Chess Match Game 4: Carlsen - Anand Sweat Out a Draw

Hello chess blog friends, Game 4 at the World Chess Championship 2014 in Sochi - Magnus Carlsen vs Viswanathan Anand - ended in a draw. It was a tenacious game where both the players explored the depth of each other's chess expertise so much so that the audience went home a satisfied and exhausted despite the draw!

We have this entertaining overview of Game 4 from the official website by Vladimir Barsky. You can replay the game with Chess King - your partner in super-strong chess learning and training.

Pillow fight on a minefield“Vishy looks bored, I think he wants to play a pillow fight with Akhil”, – joked in his twitter grandmaster Anish Giri while the fourth game was nearing its peaceful conclusion, but Carlsen kept looking for microscopic chances to continue the struggle. Recently the former world champion said in an interview about playing with his baby son, and the young Dutchman referred to it.

The second half of the fourth game also looks like a pillow fight, especially after Carlsen blundered (according to him) 24…Be5 followed by trading the dark-squared bishops. However, pay attention to Anand's confession: “The position was very complex, but I was not worried at any particular moment, except when I had to find 41...Qd2.” It means the game remained reasonably tense until the very end, and only when Black avoided the last mine, Magnus resigned himself to a draw and soon gave the perpetual.

Such quiet and seemingly undistinguished games often contain many hidden nuances. That's why it is always interesting to listen to a professional, who often encountered both participants at the board – Peter Svidler.

“A very curious game, and the opening choice is quite curious from both sides. Not that Vishy never played the Paulsen, but recently he tends to play the Najdorf. It means 2…e6 3.g3already tells us that both players did a lot of work before the match, and neither wants to give the other one an easy life. 3.g3 suggests that Magnus expected 2…е6. 3.g3 occurs at the high level with certain frequency, but this is of course not the most popular line. Vishy reacted in a cunning way, and I am pleased to have guessed some of his moves right during the live commentary. Black's idea is to play Bg4 and Qd7 before castling, which makes it is hard to chase the g4-bishop away. I like this idea. The game proceeded to an unclear position that looked quite playable for Black. I didn't see any reasons to strive to equalize it. Maybe my assessment was wrong, or maybe Vishy resigned himself to the force of habit, but he recaptured on d5 with the bishop instead of the pawn. I wasn't even sure who stands better after 21…cxd5. Maybe there were tactical reasons for 21…Bxd5, but I didn't see any during the game.

After 22.Rxe8+ Rxe8 23.Qd3 Black's position turned to be somewhat unpleasant. Not bad, but playing White was clearly more comfortable, and Black could never get any counterplay. Vishy was forced to play defensively, but he always was and still is an outstanding defender. All his decisions (and you have to make decisions against Magnus, there is never an automatic draw against him) were very reasonable. When the queen endgame arose, I told Sopiko, let's have a coffee break, and the game might be over by the time we finish. But actually if Black responded to 41.Qxf7 with 41…Qc3+, his position after 42.Ke4 could become extremely unpleasant. In a way Vishy was lucky to pass the time control already, so he had time to dig into the position and realize all the problems behind the most natural response. After 41…Qd2!Black seems to hold.”

A curious game indeed. For me the most interesting part is 21.cxd5 Bxd5. One could keep the bishop on е4 and live behind it like behind a wall, but Anand obviously had other thoughts.21…Bxd5 is an attempt to make a draw, so he clearly didn't like his position. Maybe there were other reasons, which I cannot guess.

At the press conference Magnus Carlsen said the last two games have been bad and he has to improve. Answering the question about the difference between Chennai and this match, the World Champion made a joke: “In Chennai after four games the score was 2-2, here also the score is 2-2, so there is no difference!”

Be there for the live broadcast of Game 5 on Friday in Sochi at the official website. Viswanathan Anand plays with White.

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