So the match is all square after four rounds and most likely the edge goes to Anand at this stage. Despite the two players saying that everything was all even between them. This hardly seems credible really. Anand has managed to come back straight away after a very painful loss and difficult first game struggle, and then get a win against Carslen for the first time since 2010 and the first ever in their two matches so far. This has got to give Anand a boost, and his confidence must be growing now.
However it needed to, as the first two games were simply not impressive and he was being outplayed relatively easily. Now things have changed and this huge win has saved him from what could have been a downward spiral of unstoppable proportions. Now that he has struck back, he then consolidated further with a pretty comfortable but well earned draw in game four, but what now?
Well that is the key question, while I don’t think Anand can, or will, win this match, there is now a window of opportunity for Anand. All he need do is keeping holding Carlsen at bay with Black and try put real pressure on him as White. If he can do that for another 4 games then there is even the chance of him causing a huge upset and causing a crisis within Carlsen himself.
On the other hand, one of the great strengths of the world champion is that he is very objective and self critical so with that kind of self awareness I think it likely that he will simply address the problems he has, fix them and then go back to dominating Anand. Today I think we will see another 1D4 from Anand and probably an offer of a Nimzo Indian which Anand will again decline and Carlsen might well play a Queens Indian. Hard to tell really but it is vital that Carslen not lose, and this fact alone could put huge pressure on him.
He may well just be content to make an easy draw, which would be a very sound plan, as he gets two White’s in a row after this game. I think the match at the moment is surprisingly well balanced and while I think Anand has a slight edge overall he almost has to win to keep that edge. A loss and he is again in potentially serious trouble and a draw will give the edge back to Carlsen who could then build on this and create a new momentum in his favor. If I had to predict, I would say it will be a draw today.
So my guess was right! A Queens Indian but with the twist that Carlsen is the first to deviate with a slight surprise. His move 7…c6 is not played so much and I suspect that we will be more in Carlsen’s preparation today. I am thinking that Carlsen will draw pretty easily today now.
Anand – Carlsen Game 5 position after 7…c6
So after some thought Anand played the most natural looking 8 e4 and then after 8…d5 9 exd5 which seems a bit odd or at least less common than 9 cxd5, black replied with 9…cxd5 10 Ne5 0-0 11 0-0 Nc6 and we already have what I think is a critical moment in the game. I simply do not like this for White and feel it is already equal and pretty sterile at that. Seems a little strange the way Anand has played this. I think this is heading for a draw already. White has got nothing from the opening and does not even look like he tried for much.
Anand – Carlsen Game 5 Position after 11…Nc6
Yes an odd game from Anand as this looks like it will fizzle out into a very sterile position which offers few chances for either side really. After 12 cxd5 Nxe5 we seen the funny in-between move 13 d6 which was countered by the simple and calm 13…Nc6.
There follows 14 dxe7 Qxe7 and after 15 Bg5 h6 white tried 16 d5 and Black just played 16…Na5 and then Anand thought for a while before playing the perfectly safe 17 Bxf6 Qxf6 and we are left with Anand again having a think about how to proceed further as his opening advantage hopes dissipate further.
Anand – Carlsen Game 5 Position after 17…Qxf6
No surprise then that Anand took on e6 but this just confirms that he has nothing from the opening and the game is headed towards a draw. This is a small victory for Calsen, not so much just because he got a draw with Black easily but because of the message he is sending. Namely that he can out prepare Anand and diffuse any threats or hopes Anand might have for an opening edge if he wants. Carlsen was bitten once but not again! Now Anand will have to face Carlsen as Black twice in a row which will be a tough test.
This games is all but over. In fact Carlsen played the most natural 18…Qxe6 which according to the engine is the weaker of the possible replies. It seems 18…Bxg2 was the simplest way for Black to play, based on the idea that after 19 exf7 check 19…Qxf7 20 Kxg2 Nc4! Gives black more than enough counter-player for the pawn to be equal. Carlsen played the human move which I think is still fine, as after 19 Re1 Qf6 I still don’t see any real threats or way to an advantage for White. I assume 20 Bxb7 Nxb7 will follow but how then to proceed?
Anand – Carlsen game 5 Position after the variation 20 Bxb7 Nb7
So this line surely would have seen Carlsen secure a draw as Black using less than 15 minutes on the clock? That would be a minor victory. This game would not be of any further interest really and the only thing hard to figure out is how do they actually end the game and make the draw?
Instead Anand played 20 Nd5! which actually does force Black to be careful. Carlsen still plays it safe and solid by taking on d5 with 20…Bxd5 Then I assume 21 Bxd5 Rad8 22 Qf3 When I still don’t see any real problems for Black. Best then might be 22…Qxf3 23 Bxf3 Nc4! 24 b3 Nd2 25 Bg2 Rd7
Wow! Carlsen has just played 22…Qxb2 and now after 23 Rad1 I think we have a game again. Black will now come under pressure and have to play really well to defend the position. This game just came alive!
Anand – Carlsen Game 5 Position after 23 Rad1
Carlsen has now played 23…Qf6 (23…Rd7 was an option? – one line being 24 Qf5 Rc7 25 Be4 G6 26 Qf4 Rfc8 27 Qxh6 Qf6, though it is easy to understand why Black would be nervous of this variation.) and the ending after 24 Qxf6 gxf6 25 Re7 Kg7 26 Ra7 Nc6 looks like Black might well be able to hold it.
Critical moment was perhaps back at move 26 when White could have improved with either 26 Kg2 or 26 Rc7 both of which seem to keep the pressure up on Black.
Anand -Carlsen Game 5 White to play
Instead what was played was 26 Ra7 Nc6 27 Rb7 Nb4 28 Bb3 Rxd1 29 Bxd1 Nxa2 30 Rxb6 Nc3 31 Bf3 f5 32 Kg2 Rd8 33 Rc6 Ne4 34 Bxe4 fxe4 and the rest was trivial. Overall this was a pretty boring game, at least compared to the games so far.
A great result for Carlsen as I thought he was almost in a bit of trouble. Anand may come to regret not pushing a bit more on move 26. Now Carlsen has White twice which will be a big chance for Carlsen. The impression from the press conference afterwards was that Anand was content enough to know he is playing well enough to cause Carlsen problems and if he had a few more games like the one today an odd win would not be at all surprising.
For Carlsen it appeared he is mindful that he has his work cut out and is determined to go for it now that he has those two White’s in a row. I sense a hint of frustration and he may even be putting himself under pressure with a strong desire and expectation of being able to push ahead with a win from one of the next two games.
The match is still very much a contest and already Anand is doing better than I had thought would be the case. With each round that goes by that he can stay on level terms his chances start to increase.