The eighth match game between Magnus Carlsen, playing white, and Viswanathan Anand ended in a draw after 33 moves. The Norwegian challenger switched to 1.e4 and the World Champion defended with the same line that his opponent has been using: the Berlin variation of the Ruy Lopez. Not much happened in this game and the players even played a few more moves after a dead drawn pawn ending had been reached. The score in the in World Championship match Chennai is 5-3 in favor of Carlsen.
More and more journalists have arrived in Chennai — several chess media as well as Norwegian mainstream media had apparently decided to cover the second half of the match. Unfortunately for them, that second half might not be all too exciting. Both games 7 and 8 were drawn without any fireworks, today's game being the most insipid so far. Carlsen's two-point lead is still there. The gap with the desired 6.5 points, however, is getting smaller and smaller.
On Tuesday the game did start with a surprise: after trying 1.Nf3 (twice) and 1.c4 (once), Carlsen switched to a third opening move: 1.e4. Taken aback, Anand spent 1.5 minutes pondering his reply.
“In general in the match you shouldn't be surprised... well, I had not prioritized 1.e4,” said the World Champion at the press conference.
The Indian chose 1...e5, and before we knew it yet another Berlin variation of the Ruy Lopez had appeared on the board, but this time with the challenger behind the white pieces. Less of a surprise was Carlsen's 5.Re1, which suited him perfectly in this match situation: White has a tiny edge and can try increasing it without running any risk.
From a historical perspective this was interesting because the last time the position after 5.Re1 had appeared on the board in a World Championship was during the very first: it was played in six games between Wilhelm Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort, in the USA back in 1886. From a chess perpective, today's game wasn't very interesting though.
Anand played what is known as the theoretically most solid way to play for Black; a setup with which many grandmasters managed to draw without much effort. On move 25 Carlsen liquidated to a pawn ending and there the players played five more insignificant moves, before they agreed to a draw.
After the game ended, the journalists and photographers needed to wait for almost twenty minutes for the press conference to start, because the players first had to attend a doping
Based on Carlsen's casual remarks at the press conference (e.g. summarizing the game as “He played the Berlin, I played the most solid line, yadayadayada, let's go to the doping control”) some journalists were speculating that the Norwegian might have needed a drink to perform the test.
Commentators Lawrence Trent and Tania Sachdev saw a conspiracy by the organizers: Anand could still keep his title a
fter Carlsen would be prosecuted for underage drinking! However, this wouldn't work as the legal drinking age in Tamil Nadu is 21.
About thinking for a while on his first move, Anand said: “
I didn't really know what his intentions were. I mean, even the Sicilian, if you want to play a dry system, they're available. It's not like there were clear options there. I thought a little bit and I decided to go for this. Of course the match situation speaks for itself and it's my job to liven it up. I guess I'll try in the next game.”
Whereas many of his colleague grandmasters criticised his opening today on Twitter, Anand said: “
I'm quite happy with my opening preparation.” What is clear is that he'll need to give whatever it takes to try and play for a win on Thursday. “I get a kind of a bonus evening before the rest day so I'll try and prepare something for the next one.”
Carlsen had no reason to complain. “
I didn't particularly mind a draw, as was evident from my play. I was just hoping to set him one or two traps and if not then just to shut it down.” And that's what he did. World Championship 2013