World champion Viswanathan Anand got an easy draw with black as challenger Magnus Carlsen continued his march towards the throne after the end of the eighth game of the World Chess Championship, in Chennai, on Tuesday.
The morale-boosting draw, the first since the opening game of the match, is likely to help Anand psychologically before the home stretch, but the fact remains that the defending champion still has a lot to catch up.
For the record, Carlsen now leads 5-3, just three draws or 1.5 points shy of winning his maiden world title, with four games still to come in the 12-games match.
The eighth game was over in just 75 minutes, after 33 moves, giving the indication that defending champion Anand might be crawling back after some tough games and tougher defenses he has had to put in.
From Carlsen's perspective, the draw took the Norwegian a step closer in his quest.
It turned out to be an opening surprise from Carlsen when he pushed the King pawn two squares after settling behind the white pieces in the eighth game.
Anand chose the Berlin defense, an opening used by Carlsen himself in the match on as many as three occasions and it was evident that the Norwegian did not have an ace up his sleeve.
Not going for the main lines, Carlsen decided to try his luck in one of the extensively analysed, but relatively less-played position and found Anand adequately prepared.
It was on the seventh move that the first exchange took place, a pair of knights changing hands and five moves later a pair of rooks flew off the board as well.
While Anand's form has deserted him in equal positions earlier in the match, there was no problem this time around as Carlsen did not get even a glimpse of complications running for him. The pieces got exchanged at regular intervals and the players arrived a queen rook and minor piece endgame by the 21st move itself.
With the pawn structure absolutely similar, there was no chance to fight for an advantage and Carlsen confirmed this by going for a tactical trick that led to force exchange of the remaining three pieces.
What remained was a king and pawns endgame on board after 28 moves and five moves later the peace was signed when both queen and king side became impregnable for either side.
Anand summed up his play in the post match conference, "Given the match situation I am expected to liven things up, I will try to do it in the next game," he said.
The ninth game on Thursday now will be most crucial for Anand. The local star will get white pieces after a rest day and a victory can still keep him in the hunt to defend his title.
MOVES, Game 8:
1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. Bb5 Nf6, 4. O-O Nxe4, 5. Re1 Nd6, 6. Nxe5 Be7, 7. Bf1 Nxe5, 8. Rxe5 O-O, 9. d4 Bf6, 10. Re1 Re8, 11. c3 Rxe1, 12. Qxe1 Ne8, 13. Bf4 d5, 14. Bd3 g6, 15. Nd2 Ng7, 16. Qe2 c6, 17. Re1 Bf5, 18. Bxf5 Nxf5, 19. Nf3 Ng7, 20. Be5 Ne6, 21. Bxf6 Qxf6, 22. Ne5 Re8, 23. Ng4 Qd8, 24. Qe5 Ng7, 25. Qxe8+ Nxe8, 26. Rxe8+ Qxe8, 27. Nf6+ Kf8, 28. Nxe8 Kxe8, 29. f4 f5, 30. Kf2 b5, 31. b4 Kf7, 32. h3 h6, 33. h4 h5
Image: Viswanathan Anand
Photograph: FIDE World Chess Championship