Carlsen-Anand 2014 – Game 11

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.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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  • Nov 24,2014 at 9:25 pm

    Alex, that's right, creativity is still possible on every level but the highest. The top players are victim of the system that favors rating and tournament results (everything should be quantified nowadays — rating is everything!) and ignores creativity, imagination, risk ("Creativity takes courage," — Matisse). In fact, things we praise most in life can't be quantified, like love, friendship, or joy we feel when going over Tal's games or in Simagin's "curved rifle" playing style (, back then when chess was treated like an art, and not philistine collecting points…

  • Nov 24,2014 at 7:51 pm

    Thanks guys, I appreciate it.

    Momir, generally you're right, chess has changed by leaps and bounds since the times of Tal and Bronstein. Speaking of creativity, it is still largely present and possible on every level except of the highest.

    The highest level has way too much computer preparation, but it's not only the preparation – the players today are so used to working with a comp that the comp's way of playing, cold, precise, emotionless, creeps into their way of thinking and almost all of them look alike – style as such is slowly but surely being extinguished. Bear in mind that I'm not saying this is goor or bad, I'm just observing what's happening.

    Carlsen on the other hand can be said to be more creative than the others, paradoxical as it may sound. What I have in mind here is his approach to the opening preparation, going his own way, looking for something interesting earlier on and introducing some fresh air. But once the opening is over, he becomes the best of the cyborgs – he has managed to blend the computer into his own understanding and character better than the others, that's why he's dominating.

    Chess is game of precision. That is why the lure of the perfect play, the perfect calculation, the strongest move is the surest way to success. You may bluff once or twice, but it guarantees no results, the strongest move does. No wonder the kids are going for the 100% guarantee! That's how and why chess has changed. There is beauty in the perfect chess, the strongest move, although sometimes it does look a bit too perfect for me – some computer games (the epitomy of perfection) last over 200 moves…

  • Anonymous
    Nov 24,2014 at 6:28 pm

    Great coverage. Thanks a lot.

  • Nov 24,2014 at 6:24 pm

    Alex, thanks for your covering the match and great insights you've made for us.

    There is one thing I'd like to ask here. Can you do us, the readers of your blog, a favor and give your view of the status of modern chess.

    It seems to me there is no more inventive and original creations like in the era of Tal and co. when chess still was a lively game. But the era of automation has changed everything and brought us in a cold and liveless chess place. The legendary David Bronstein even proclaimed chess no more a game as we knew it (

    Some GMs are of the view Carlsen doesn't actually play chess ( In an interview after the 2013 match Anand put it this way, "Carlsen just stayed the same," and "playing Carlsen was like playing a human computer," which doesn't imply Carlsen's a creative and original player.

    And what about Carlsen himself saying "flashes of true inspiration are very hard to come by, it doesn’t happen very often, at least not with me."

    What is your view on this? And thanks

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