Story behind Magnus Carlsen beating Viswanathan Anand in 10 moves at Casablanca Chess | Chess News

Magnus Carlsen defeated Viswanathan Anand in just 10 moves in their first clash at the Casablanca chess event on Saturday. The event, which was held over the weekend, was debuting the unique Casablanca chess variant. Carlsen won the two-day exhibition event while USA’s World No 3 Hikaru Nakamura ended second and GM Viswanathan Anand finished third. The fourth player in the event, Africa’s Bassem Amin, ended last in the four-player contest.

Before we get to how Anand lost in 10 moves, we must first understand how Casablanca chess variant works. The Casablanca chess variant format has been designed in a way to honour the rich history of chess, by picking up a historical game at a mid-way point. Basically, players are transported back into history and have to rely on their memory and instincts to find their way out through the maze.

In the Casablanca chess variant, over two days, the four grandmasters had to battle their way out from the middlegame of six such games in the rapid time control. Players only learnt the positions that they would be starting from minutes before the game started. While the repository of historical games had been handpicked by Grandmasters Hicham Hamdouchi and Laurent Fressinet, the games that the GMs would play in a round would be picked by different people.

For example, the opening round clash where Anand lost to Carlsen was selected by the broadcast commentators, grandmasters Jan Gustafsson and Daniel Naroditsky. They had been given three options to pick from: the Chigorin-Steinitz game from 1889, a Lasker vs Tarrasch clash from 1908, and Rubtsova vs Bykova encounter in 1958.

Here are the three options that could have been picked for the Carlsen vs Anand game 1

Gustafsson and Naroditsky picked the 1889 clash between Wilhelm Steinitz and Mikhail Chigorin as they clashed in Havana for the World Chess Championship.

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It must be noted that Carlsen and Anand started the 1989 World Chess Championship game from the 11th move as per the Casablanca chess variant format.

Carlsen chose 11. Na3 instead of the move Steinitz originally played: 11. dxe5. Remarkably, the world no 1 said that he knew the historical game that was being played. “I was just thinking this smells of Steinitz to high heaven,” Carlsen remarked afterwards. The Norwegian started to smile broadly as soon as he glanced at the sheet informing him the first 10 moves of the game.

Meanwhile, five-time world champion Anand’s queen chose a bold path. But found itself trapped. Carlsen, playing with white, claimed victory in 10 moves.

Anand on Casablanca chess variant being a tricky format

While the game is deemed to be equal when it starts, Bassem lent some context: “The starting position may appear equal, but as black, you’re on the defensive side, and one wrong move can destroy everything.”

Anand summed up his first impression of the variant by pointing out that having just a handful of minutes to learn the position and then to play in rapid format was tricky.

“I liked the idea [of the Casablanca chess variant], but I haven’t given it much thought. It just seemed like something fun. The position from the first game is challenging to grasp in rapid play. And having only two minutes before the start is very little to think of anything. It feels like being thrown into the deep end every time. Let’s see if it gets better!”

The world champion duo then again met for another game on the second day of the event on Sunday. This time the game ended in a draw after a spectacular rook sacrifice from Carlsen.

The rook sacrifice from Carlsen against Anand which led to a draw at Casablanca Chess

The position for this game between Anand and Carlsen was selected by Women Grandmasters Dana Reizniece-Ozola (Deputy Chair of the FIDE Management Board) and Anna Burtasova (Casablanca Chess Press Officer). Their three options were Botvinnik-Tal 1960, Alekhine-Euwe 1935, and Ju-Goryachkina 2020. Dana and Anna chose a second position, describing it as “dynamic with chances for both sides, perfect for spectators.”

The original game, Game 3 from the 1935 World Championship match, was won by Alekhine in 41 moves. It derived from the double-edged Winawer Variation in the French Defense. The game continued 9.Ne2 Nbd7 10.Ng3 Rg6.

Anand and Carlsen followed the original game for two moves before Carlsen deviated with 10…Qa5. Despite an initial advantage for White, the game soon balanced out. Carlsen then forced a draw by sacrificing his rook on g2.

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