Halfway lead in Sochi match!
This time the players offered energetic fights and exhilarating excitement from day1.
Magnus felt slightly uncomfortable in the early middle game against the innocent-looking Bd2 variation in the Grunfeld. The white bishop on h3 paralyzed black, and Magnus had to find several precise defensive moves. Anand let him slip and the slightly better ending for black was nothing but harmless. Magnus achieved a significant edge, but instead of the probably winning Re3 he went for Re2. He had missed Anand’s only defence (Qh1), leaving both players fairly satisfied with the outcome of the first game.
Game 2 was a treat for the spectators. After achieving a fairly equal but playable position Magnus launched a formidable kingside attack. Anand’s defensive moves where not always the best, and in due time Magnus could convert the attack into dominance of the open e-file supported by the white f5-pawn. Anand blundered in a difficult position and Magnus got an early match lead.
Anand hit back immediately and impressively after being close to winning out of the opening in game 3.
In the next two games, white was pressing. Magnus drifted a bit in game 4 and Anand escaped by finding some only-moves in the queen ending.
Magnus was in trouble in game 5 but surprisingly Anand decided to force a draw instead of trying to push to benefit from the destroyed pawn structure of white.
Game 6 has already received a lot of publicity due to the mutual blunders. The rest of the game is worth a closer look. Magnus got the opportunity to demonstrate how to exploit the initiative with a nice rook lift to d3 and pressure in the g- and h-files. As warranted by the general game development (outside the blunders), Magnus won his second white game in the match to catch the lead 3.5 – 2.5 at the halfway mark!
Calling the hotel, the food and the playing venue in Chennai high class is an understatement. The Radisson Blu Paradise hotel we are staying at in Sochi is also very good. In addition to the usual amenities, the spa and the outdoor sports facilities are splendid. Coupled with close to 20oC in the sun at noon, Magnus and his team are enjoying the days in Sochi!
The match is covered extensively in Norwegian media, including live coverage in main channel NRK1 and VGTV, and the coverage is also impressive in many other countries.
Towards the end of the match we expect more journalists and visitors from Magnus’s main sponsors.
Hopefully the basketball session today is a good preparation for the important game 7 tomorrow. Colors are reversed halfway in the match, so that Magnus has the white pieces once again in game 7.