Defending champion Viswanathan Anand gave Norwegian challenger Magnus Carlsen a scare despite playing with black pieces even though the third game in the World Chess Championship ended in a long-grinding draw in Chennai on Tuesday.
The third game today turned out to be a hard-fought affair lasting 51 moves after a rather sedate start that had seen the first two games ending in draws without any real excitement.
Midway into the third game, Anand appeared to have seized the initiative with some 'spot on' manoeuvres, but world No 1 Carlsen saved the situation with his counter play.
Later, at the post-game conference, Carlsen conceded that he felt "scary" though he averted the danger.
"I was worse, and then I probably made it more worse. I missed some simple things in the middle game, maybe I had enough play and it was not a disaster but it was scary," Carlsen said.
After the third draw on the trot, the deadlock continues with none of the two rivals refusing to blink so far, but what happened at the Hyatt today was probably a clear indication that a rough battle is now shaping up.
The scores stand at 1.5 points for both players and the five-time champion Anand will have the advantage of playing with white pieces in the fourth game on Wednesday.
Carlsen showed his intentions of a bloody battle when, contrary to the popular belief, repeated the Reti opening.
"I was expecting that Carlsen would jump from one opening to another," said Grandmaster R B Ramesh, who is a part of the live commentary team.
As is typical of the Reti opening, the changes to several set ups is possible. Carlsen went for a position akin to the English opening that was more of a Sicilian Dragon with colours reversed.
The Middle game took a major turn when Carlsen deviated his attention to the King side by a queen sortie but Anand was alert enough.
With some 'spot on' manoeuvres, the Indian ace then seized the initiative pushing the white queen to the edge of the board only to see Carlsen avert the danger with his counter play.
As the game progressed, Carlsen got back in his groove and got his counter play in form of a thematic central break through. Thereafter, the Norwegian was pretty much at ease as the game quickly changed shape once again.
Anand knew there was sufficient play for both sides when he allowed liquidation to a position that had Bishops of opposite colours. The Indian had a small weakness on the king side that could be easily covered.
"Obviously for black what he is getting is the two Bishops, if I can role my queen side pawns down I would be better," Anand noted in the post-game chat.
Anand won a pawn in the small tactical battle that ensued but it was not enough. Carlsen was quick to launch some threats and the Indian decided to go for further liquidation by trading the last pair of rooks on the 37th move.
Carlsen accepted the exchange offer and won the pawn with his next few precise moves and after that it was a completely drawn position on the board.
However, the players continued the battle almost till the last nail. It was just the two Bishops remaining on board when the players signed the truce after 51 moves.
In the fourth game tomorrow, Anand will get his second white in the 12-game match that has Rs 14 crore as the prize fund.
If it was tennis, it's advantage Anand for now.
Image: Viswanathan Anand
Photograph: Kent Skibstad/NTB Scanpix/Reuters