Viswanathan, an end?
The most decisive moment of the World Championship arrived without fanfare or theatre. Magnus Carlsen took a giant step towards the title not through a crushing attack or a strong novelty but when a tiring Viswanathan Anand blundered in the fifth hour of game six. The back-to-back victories put Carlsen ahead 4-2 at the halfway stage, leaving Anand with the improbable task of winning half of the remaining six games to retain the title that has been his since 2008.
Carlsen's stamina and superior endgame technique give him something to play for even in positions that are considered drawn or holdable. Anand defended accurately for long stretches but once more, as in game five, faltered late in the game. Mistakes in endgames prove decisive for the same reason that a drop or a misfield at the end of a chase costs the fielding team dear. There is simply very little time to recover. With the game so near its conclusion, there are no small mistakes. An inaccuracy that puts a piece even a square away from its optimal post during the endgame might mean it is too far away to prevent a pawn from queening.
Game six simplified into a rook and pawn endgame, the type of position that is known to be so drawish that, on air, GM Abhijeet Gupta advised youngsters to trade into this kind of an endgame if they found themselves down by a pawn to assure themselves of the half-point. The game dragged on, and from Carlsen's perspective, it made sense. He was a pawn up and was in no danger of losing. In any case, he was unlikely to make a mistake in an area of the game he was exceedingly familiar with. The longer each game lasted, the more it favoured the younger Norwegian. On the other hand, Anand, who had sat at the board for more than four hours for four successive games, and who hadn't slept the night (this was not much of a surprise; Anand had said in an interview that he spent a sleepless night after losing a game to Boris Gelfand in the last championship match too), and was defending an inferior position, was far likelier to err.