Yesterday’s game, even though the least interesting for the spectators, saw match strategy enter a more mature phase. Anand seemed to be saying to Carlsen that he can no longer count on any more unforced errors from him and that from now on the battle for the World Title is going to be fought inch by inch…
Carlsen started with 1.e4, the same as what brought him success in game 2, but this time Anand played the Sicilian Defence, considered a more active choice, showing that he was not unwilling to take the gloves off should Carlsen want to mix it up. The Norwegian played the quiet 3.g3 sideline, one that is growing in popularity amongst some of the world’s elite, especially Mickey Adams and Maxim Vachier-LaGrave:
Position after 3.g3:
This variation is a hybrid of the King’s Indian Attack where White more often than not foregoes playing d3 in favour of opening the centre with a direct d4. The results have been quite promising for White. Carlsen had actually played this once before, against Radjabov in 2009 (the game ended in a draw after a full fight), so this was not a real surprise for Anand, who actually played an important innovation on move 9:
Position after 9…Bg4!?:
I can not find this natural move in my database, so it is probably new. Usually Black castles on move 9 and then 10.h3 (most frequently played) cuts out this possibility. Possibly this was the extent of Carlsen’s theoretical preparation in this variation…in any case Carlsen, in the livefeed, began to look slightly uncomfortable here. After several minutes thought, he played the natural 10.Qd3 and Anand played 10…Qd7!?, once more preventing White’s h3:
After this last move, Carlsen thought for some 7 minutes. The first few minutes he seemed somewhat restless, moving noticeably in his chair and even swivelling the chair from side to side for a brief time. Finally, Carlsen was able to calm down and concentrate. His next move was somewhat of a surprise for the commentators, 11.Nd2, instead of the natural Knight move to c3:
Position before Carlsen moved his Knight to d2:
After the game, at the press conference, Carlsen criticized his play rather harshly, and I think this moment in the game might be one of the moves he is referring to. In my opinion, the only active way to play the position is by putting the Knight on c3. Ofcourse, what to do afterwards–especially where to play the Queen Rook–is not evident or easy to answer.
Carlsen’s plan (with 11.Nd2) is easy enough to fathom, typical of thousands of games of the French Tarrasch: one Knight on d4, the other on f3 or b3, and the pawn on c3. Another reason he might have chosen to put his Knight on d2 was that Carlsen sensed that Vishy was actually well prepared for the Knight on c3, and that he wanted to avoid finding himself being ‘out-prepared’ again, especially after his 3rd game defeat (right from the opening).
In any case, Carlsen’s 11th move did not put any pressure on Anand, who simply continued to develop his pieces unhampered. The position after 14 moves is curious:
Possibly not liking his position, Carlsen played 15.Qf1!?, stubbornly trying to get in the h3 move! To be sure, few grandmasters would be happy with this retreat…
But not all…(!)
The truth, in my opinion, is that Carlsen’s opening play was pretty lame and uninspiring. Within a few moves, if anyone had the more pleasant position, it was Anand…
POSITION BEFORE BLACK’S 19th MOVE:
INSTEAD, Anand decided to take absolutely no risks–to play safely– and limited himself to exchange pieces. Despite later having a microscopic edge, Carlsen had to agree to a draw after 47 moves. The reader can find the game moves on any number of websites.