Yesterday once more

Magnus CarlsenViswanathan Anand of India and Magnus Carlsen of Norway during their second match at FIDE World Chess Championship in Chennai on Sunday. PTI Photo

If Viswanathan Anand used his control of the tempo of the game with black pieces to force a draw in game one, Magnus Carlsen employed a surprise choice of opening to return the favour in game two on Sunday. Like on Saturday, the second game ended early as well, with the players splitting points after 25 moves, having used up just 67 minutes on the clock to leave the 12-game series tied at one point each.

Anand has not lost to Carlsen with white pieces in classical games so far but has found it difficult to achieve a breakthrough against the Norwegian in recent times, having gone without a win against the challenger for almost three years now.

Statistically, then, it wasn't much of a surprise that the game ended in a draw but nonetheless, a clearer picture of what opening complexes the players have spent time analysing and are likely to employ, emerged. Anand reverted to the king pawn opening (1. e4), something he hasn't done this early in any of his three title defences since the World Chess Championship 2008 against Vladimir Kramnik.

Semi-open response

Theoretically, 1. e4 represents the best way to get Carlsen into sharp positions early, an area the 22-year old hasn't been tested in too often. Carlsen did not opt for the Petroff or Berlin defences, both ultra-defensive options for black, which have neutralised the king pawn opening effectively in championship matches before. He replied instead with c6, the Caro Kann. Retrospectively, this seemed an ideal choice for Carlsen, who is not strong in opening preparation but instead relies on his positional sense through the middle and end games to gain advantage. This 'semi-open' system has the reputation for solidity at the start, with a pawn structure that is supposed to give black an edge in the endgame, and also provides some room for middle game tactics.

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