Magnus Carlsen Wins Dramatic Game 6 In Sochi World Championship

Magnus Carlsen Wins Dramatic Game 6 In Sochi World Championship

| 182 | Chess Event Coverage

On Saturday Magnus Carlsen won a dramatic sixth game at the world championship match in Sochi, Russia. In a better ending he blundered, but Viswanathan Anand did not see it.

The score is 3.5-2.5; game seven will be played on Monday at 3 p.m. Sochi time (noon GMT, 7 a.m. EST).

Deviating from his previous white game, Carlsen went for an Open Sicilian this time and Anand had prepared the Kan variation: 2...e6 and 4...a6. The queens were traded at an early stage and White kept an opening advantage.

On move 26 Carlsen blundered, but Anand didn't see 26...Nxe5! and did something else instead. Both players instantly saw this possibility after they had moved, and it seems that Anand didn't fully recover from this blow in the remainder of the game.

The Sochi Media Center. | Photo Mike Klein.

At the start of what would be a dramatic day in Sochi, Anand was facing the tough task of holding two black games in a row. The reason for the color switch is so there won't be one player playing with White (or Black) after each rest day.

Realizing he would have two Whites in the middle of the match, last week at the opening ceremony Carlsen stated that he was happy with the drawing of lots.

But things were looking bright for the challenger: unlike in Chennai he had managed to beat his rival, drew his next black game with accurate play and then pressed for a while with the white pieces on Friday. If anyone was having a psychological advantage in the match, it was him. 

But all that would change on Saturday.

Game 6 Video: Press Conference Highlights

In another Sicilian, Carlsen did not go for 3.g3 like in his previous white game. This time he played the Open Sicilian.

With 2...e6 Black is still flexible; these days the Taimanov variation is quite topical, but Black can do lots of things — even the Sveshnikov, Boris Gelfand's choice in 2012, is still possible.

Instead, Anand went for another little pawn move: 4...a6. Russian commentators will call it the Kan variation, after the Russian master Ilya Abramovich Kan (1909-1978), while Western theoreticians will point out that Louis Paulsen (1833-1891) already played it a century earlier.

A Sicilian Kan this time. | Photo Mike Klein.

21st century commentators were surprised by Anand's choice, even though the Indian played it a month ago in a rapid game against Sergey Fedorchuk in Corsica, and also in February in a Bundesliga game.

Carlsen's way of handling the opening was typical: he went for a line that quickly leads to a slightly better ending. We've seen that before!

Some very young spectators in the playing hall today! | Photo Mike Klein.

Then Carlsen pushed his h-pawn up the board, castled queenside and started a rook switch Rd1-d3-g3. An excellent plan, which put his opponent under some pressure. Around that time, other GMs watching the game online did not mince words about Anand's opening choice.

It wasn't that bad for Black, though. Anand quickly found a good defensive setup with rooks on h8 and g8, and a knight on f8, preparing ...g6. It was an indirect way of defending his kingside, and it worked tactically. So far so good for the Indian fans! 

Both players made a few “small” moves that improved their position: Anand on the queenside, Carlsen on the kingside.

For a moment the world champ hesitated somewhat: he put his bishop on d1, which seemed like a useful move, but on the very next move he put it back. And then... and then.

Carlsen decided that he wanted his king on the other side of the board, and so he moved it one square in that direction. However, that happened to be a forbidden square! The move allowed a devastating tactic for Black.

A slip of the finger for Carlsen. | Photo Mike Klein.

The Twitter-sphere went wild.

Here's the video footage from the tournament website of this moment: 

Notice how Carlsen writes down his move Kd2: first the ‘K’ and the ‘d’, but only six seconds later the ‘2’. That must have been the moment when he saw 26...Nxe5.

Carlsen spent 63 seconds on 26.Kd2, and 60 seconds later Anand responded with 26...a4. Many chess amateurs will recognize what Svidler noted: “As usual the one move you make instantly in the game is the one you should have been thinking about.”

At the press conference Carlsen would confirm that he saw it immediately after he made his move. And... that he was “extremely lucky.” Because Anand didn't see it! The Indian GM only spent one minute on the clock there, and pushed his a-pawn one square further.

Anand misses a great chance. | Photo Mike Klein.

“The thing is, when you're not expecting a gift, sometimes you just don't take it. I had the same problem, as soon as I played 26...a4 I saw it. Because I was looking for this ...a5, ...a4 counterplay, I thought it would be helpful do this and I was just very focused on that,” explained a devastated Anand at the press conference.

“Even if the position is still holdable you just feel horrible when this happens. It's much better not to understand what happened,” said Svidler. “He needs to calm down and forget about it,” said Guramishvili. Svidler: “That is very, very true.”

However, Anand was visibly upset and couldn't get himself together for the remainder. In an ending with slim chances for a draw, he went down rather quickly. A knockout.

Game 6 annotated by GM Dejan Bojkov

Blunders in a world championship are not uncommon. The biggest blunder is probably 32.Bb4 in Chigorin-Steinitz, game 23, 1892 where Chigorin could level the match, but instead allowed a mate in two.

The most famous example is 29...Bxh2 in Spassky-Fischer, game 1, 1972 where Fischer got his bishop trapped. (By the way, don't miss this new theory on what happened there.)

The 14th world champion, Vladimir Kramnik, joined the commentary for a while, and called today's battle “a very strange game,” adding: “I guess they're both so nervous.”

About the blunder he said: “I didn't have many opportunities to win [a world championship game] in one move, but I when I did I wasn't missing them.”

Kramnik: “A very strange game.” | Photo Mike Klein.

After his predictions beforehand the 13th world champion has been silent about the match so far, but today he sent several tweets. Here are three:

Logically, most questions at the press conference were about the blunder. For example, whether it influenced the rest of their play.

Carlsen: “For me, yes, you can see my play was not that confident. I didn't feel I found the right setup. I went back and forth with the king and so on. So yeah, it affected me to some extent.” 

Anand: “Given the way I played the rest of the game, probably.”

Carlsen and Anand at the press conference.

The Norwegian described what he was feeling during that moment: “It's just the same at any level, it's just a feeling of complete panic. Sometimes you're very, very lucky and you get away with it... As Vishy said, the position is sort of stably better for White and you don't expect such things to happen.

“I'm relieved. I'm massively relieved. So, usually you feel happy when you win. Today it's mostly a relief. Today it was a good game to some point. When you get such a gift, you just feel massively relieved.

“I don't think I kept my poker face at all [laughs].”

Instead of Kd2, he would have played Kd1 to get the same position.

“There is no direct win by any means," said Carlsen, "but there are very few moves that completely spoil my position. Basically it's just Kd2.

“Regardless of what happened in the game, a point is a point. I think after the free day we'll both have settled down and will play at the more normal level...Going forward, I don't know if the way this happened it going to make much of a difference.”

Carlsen answering questions in Norwegian | Photo Mike Klein.

Carlsen-Anand 2014 | Score

# Name Rtg Perf G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 G06 G07 G08 G09 G10 G11 G12 Pts
1 Carlsen 2863 2851 ½ 1 0 ½ ½ 1 3.5/5
2 Anand 2792 2804 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 0 2.5/5 Coverage of the World Championship is providing daily “recap” shows after each round! This is the ONLY place (that we know of) offering in-depth, SportsCenter-style breakdowns of what happened in the games. 

Not able to watch the games live? Don't worry, you won't miss anything with's highlights showsStay tuned to the calendar page for updates as we assign many of our great broadcasters to daily shows. is also hosting highlights shows on the rest days from Sochi, with top GMs such as GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Hikaru Nakamura.

Look for more updates on the calendar or follow @chesscomtv on Twitter!

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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