Title Fight: Viswanathan Anand's Houdini act

ChessIn what was perhaps the game of the championship so far, Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand settled for a draw after 64 moves (PTI)

There is little by way of conventional action in chess and when a game goes on for close to six hours as Wednesday's did, the (rare and tenacious) fan usually flips between several sources of information to get a feel of the pulse of the game: the body language of the players on the live feed, time left on the players' clocks, commentators' analyses, engines that evaluate each position, opinion of Grandmasters on Twitter and so on. Midway through game four, most of these indicators predicted that Viswanathan Anand was in big trouble.

As with his first white game, Anand began with 1. e4 but Carlsen replied with the hyper-solid Berlin defence. The danger in dealing with the Berlin is that in trying to get through black's strong defences, white often ends up over-extending his position and ends up worse off than before. Anand sacrificed a pawn (allowing 18... Bxa2) and in return, was ahead in development, though it was difficult to see how exactly he could make this count. Carlsen's rooks and light squared bishop found themselves in their starting squares well into the middle game and white had a passed pawn on the e file. The window was fast closing on Anand though and Carlsen was already getting his pieces out of the bind. A pawn push (a5) and a pawn break (g6) threatened to open up the files for his rooks and let them loose. Carlsen had, in chess talk, almost digested the offered pawn.

Chess engines said Anand was close to losing. Boris Gelfand, commenting for a Russian website, said only a 'miracle' could save Anand. "What to do now? No more active play Anand is on the verge of losing," tweeted local GM SP Sethuraman. Jon Ludvig Hammer, widely recognised to be Carlsen's second, made a direct reference to a game for the first time since the match started. "Guts (Bxa2), calculation (a5) and technique (g6). Game on, Vishy!" he tweeted.

... contd.

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