Home / Industry / Media /  Viswanathan Anand says ‘midly surprised’ by Magnus Carlsen’s opening moves in Game 2

Chennai: A circumspect Viswanathan Anand, the world chess champion, avoided complications in the second game of his title defence against Norwegian challenger Magnus Carlsen and settled for another quick draw to go into the first rest day of the 20-day championship with scores tied at 1-1.

With the first two games ending in uninspiring draws, Anand’s chances of defending his title against the world’s highest rated chess player and the outright favourite to win has improved slightly in the eyes of British bookmakers—the only ones closely following the match.

Playing white on Sunday, which is considered a small advantage at this level of competitive chess, Anand said he was “mildly surprised" by Carlsen’s choice of opening moves. Sensing that his opponent was better prepared in the line of play, he decided to avoid complications.

The safer path that Anand chose led to a sterile position within a few moves. The game ended in a 25-move draw when the players repeated moves, indicating they weren’t willing to take any chances. “There was nothing to play for," Carlsen said, describing the closing position.

The second game of the 12-game match ended in a little over an hour, quicker than the first on Saturday, which ended in about 90 minutes. Even on Saturday, Anand, playing with black pices, chose not probe from a slightly advantageous position and settled for a draw in only 16 moves.

Anand had said on Saturday that he was happy with the “comfortable draw" because he couldn’t see anything “substantial" to pursue. Playing black, Anand has lost twice against Carlsen—the world’s highest rated player and the favourite to win this match—in the past 13 months.

Carlsen, who wasn’t happy to be held to an easy draw playing white, said that from early in the game none of his options “looked particularly promising". “But it’s a long match, so it doesn’t matter," Carlsen added, addressing the media jointly with Anand on Saturday.

The two players used the same words to describe the first two games—“settling in". Technically, one needs only one win to claim the title, said V. Saravanan, an International Master from Chennai. “So, what’s the hurry?" The first to score 6.5 points wins the match. A win yields a point; a draw, half.

Besides the spectators, who turned up at the venue expecting to see fireworks from the first day, only the so-called seconds—or the players assisting the contenders with their homework—could be ruing the quick draws this weekend. They typically get to sleep while the players are out playing, but the two games lasted only a little over two-and-a-half hours.

Anand’s seconds are camping with him at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Chennai, where the match is being played. It is not known whether Carlsen’s seconds are in Chennai at all. His manager Espen Agdestein said in an interview last week that they could be staying at any hotel in Chennai or not at all, assisting Carlsen from a remote location.

Carlsen, 22, was accompanied by his parents and two younger sisters, apart from his manager, a chef, a doctor and a personal security guard. His sisters and mother have returned to Norway, and his elder sister was on her way to Chennai, his father Henrik Carlsen said on Sunday, adding that he is going to stay on till the end of the match.

After Sunday’s draw, Ladbrokes, a UK-based bookmaker, revised the odds for an Anand win from 5/2 at the beginning of the event, to 9/4 at the end of game 2. Likewise, the odds for a Carlsen win were also reset from 2/7 to 1/3. This means somebody betting on an Anand win now will earn nine pounds as against ten pounds previously from four pounds wagered if he retains the world title.

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