Chennai: If ever there was relief and tension writ simultaneously on Viswanathan Anandâ€™s face, this was it, at the end of the not-very-thrilling seventh game. It ended in a draw by repetition in 32 moves.
Relieved because it ended Anandâ€™s two-game losing streak against Magnus Carlsen; in chess losing two games in a row is as bad as five or six or whatever in most other sports. And tense, because thereâ€™s only five more games left in which to make up for the two losses he suffered in the fifth and sixth games.
Anand was candid to admit that.
The path that he chose on Monday evening was neither less travelled nor uncharted.
â€œI chose a line that both of us have played quite a bit in the past. He went for this bishop move and then we have this slow manoeuvring game. White has two plans, a break on king side or play on the flank. â€˜ f4â€™ was not so good as black is basically preparing to play this knight manoeuvre,â€ he said.
â€œI thought Iâ€™ll be able to press a little bit, itâ€™s not huge, but somehow I was not able to make it happen.â€
On any other day that observation may have passed without a second thought. Not this one, because time is running out.
One of the very few times a player has come back from a two-game deficit in a World Championship match has, ironically, been against Anand himself. That happened in 1994, at Sanghi Nagar, when Anand after being 3-1 ahead allowed Gata Kamsky to catch up and then lost in the tiebreaker.
Further, on most occasions comebacks have usually come from challengers and not champions.
Carlsen, meanwhile, continued to enjoy his two-point lead after the deadlock.
The Norwegian now needs just two points in the next five games to become the next world champion.
How did Carlsen feel about the draw? â€œI have the lead, I won my last game with black, so this suited me just fine,â€ he said.
As for the game, Carlsen agreed with Anand. â€œNot so much more to say, we both have played this line, there are many different plans of course.â€
What of the next few days? â€œI will definitely keep trying. The last two games were unpleasant, there is no getting around that, we played a game today and we will continue to do so,â€ said Anand.
But Carlsen did add something more revealing. â€œI think there are some psychological aspects. The outcome of Game Five influenced the next game, I think thatâ€™s unavoidable, you just try to move on as quickly as possible, but itâ€™s not so easy in a match.â€