An abrupt end to the match that seemed to be heading for a final showdown in game 12.
Another Berlin endgame today, both players’ strategy was obvious – Carlsen wanted to apply some safe pressure, Anand wanted to soak it up and survive in order to give himself a last chance in the last game.
Anand used another line in the Berlin today, the line that Kramnik used in his match with Kasparov, 9…Bd7 and they followed along the first game of that match until Anand showed the better understanding theory has provided for these positions in the last 14 years – black doesn’t need to prevent Nd5 as people thought back in 2000. Carlsen didn’t achieve anything as black had the perfect Berlin wall set up, but when he semi-blundered 23…b5 things heated up.
All of a sudden Anand had to give up on his initial plan for this game as now he was given a chance to strike and not wait for game 12. I think this change confused him as he lost his inner calm, he admitted at the press conference that he wasn’t thinking clearly around the moment of his mistake. I’ve experienced similar loss of clarity after a sudden change on the board – when you play a strong opponent and suddenly you’re given a chance to take over the initiative after defending for quite some time (and in Anand’s case defending not only in the game, but in the match as well) the desire to immediately cash in on the given opportunity and get rid of the tension is a very big temptation. And succumbing to it is very often the wrong decision and it was wrong today as well. Anand called it “a bad gamble” and a “nervous decision,” words that I see as confirmation of what I described.
Anand proved a worthy challenger and must feel much better than last year, because he played so much better, but also he must be feeling much worse too because he himself was the reason for today’s loss – nobody forced him to play 27…Rb4, he overreacted and cracked under pressure. He could have drawn this game and play the last one, he could have stuck to his plan and then put Carlsen under the extreme pressure of the last game. But he didn’t and that feeling is gnawing on his soul.
Carlsen generally played well, sub-optimal in my opinion, but his usual standard is so high that even with sub-optimal play he was more than capable to dominate the match and win it. He now has time until 2016 to enjoy chess and improve even more.
Here’s today’s game with some instructional notes on the Berlin endgame, plus download of all the games of the match with my comments.