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November 14, 2013

Drawing out the opponent into a draw

The World Chess Championship began Nov. 9 in India. Reigning champion Vishy Anand of India is defending his title against wonderkid Magnus Carlsen of Norway. The tournament is a 12-game match that is to conclude Nov. 28, unless tiebreaker games must be played.

The first four games of the match have been draws. However, Carlsen was on the ropes in the third game, and, conversely, Anand was on the ropes in the fourth game.

In the first game of the match Anand, who had the black pieces, sought to avoid any risk of finding himself on the ropes and forced a draw by repetition.

This week’s position shows that critical juncture from game one. Please try to find how Anand forced a draw by a repetition of moves.

Anand was concerned about what Carlsen may have prepared. In this sense a draw could be considered a win. Instead of advancing his b7 pawn to b5, which is objectively the best move, Anand opted to move his knight to a5, attacking white’s queen. The only two squares that white’s queen can safely retreat to and still defend its knight on c3 are a3 or b2.

It doesn’t matter which square the white queen chooses because black’s a5 knight hops back to c4 and again attacks white’s queen.

Carlsen moved his queen to a3, and Anand moved his knight on a5 to c4. After the players repeated this sequence three times, the game was automatically a draw.

The game schedule is one game per day with a break every third day. Because they are being played on the other side of the world, the games start before sunrise in the U.S.

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