Having awakened with a headache Saturday morning the last thing I wanted to do was look at a computer screen. Because light and sound caused pain I stayed in a quiet, dark room most of the day. After taking a handful of 81 mg aspirin, and several naps, the pain diminished to a point nearing evening where it was possible to crank-up Toby and watch a replay of the sixth game of the WC match. As I watched, and listened to the commentary of GM Peter Svidler, and the incessant giggling and tittering of Sopiko, which grates on the nerves like someone scratching a blackboard with fingernails, a decision was made to take a break. Upon resumption of the coverage it was blatantly obvious by the demeanor of Peter that something dramatic had happened, but what? Rather than informing we viewers of exactly what had transpired, Svid “drug it out,” as we say in the South, until I was screaming at the screen, “Get on with it!” Finally, the blunder by the World Champion was shown. It was what Yasser Seirawan would call a “howler.” It was the kind of blunder one would expect from someone rated in the triple digits. When that was followed by a blunder by the former World Champion I yelled, “Oh Nooooooooooooo!!!” This was like watching a game between GCA VP Ben Johnson and USCF board member Alan Priest, both of whom sport triple-digit ratings.
As if it were not bad enough to break away from the action at what turned out to be the most critical part of the game, and possibly the match, the people in charge of the “live” coverage did NOT continue filming, but also took a break. This is absurd! Upon resumption of the coverage all we were left with is the description of GM Sivdler. This is reminiscent of the now infamous “Heidi game,” as it is called. “The Heidi Game or Heidi Bowl was an American football game played on November 17, 1968. The home team, the Oakland Raiders, defeated the New York Jets, 43–32. The game is remembered for its exciting finish, as Oakland scored two touchdowns in the final minute to overcome a 32–29 New York lead. It came to be known as the Heidi Game because the NBC Television Network controversially broke away from the game, with the Jets still winning, to air the 1968 television film Heidi at 7 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidi_Game) The blunders on the board were nothing compared to the decision made by someone producing coverage of the game.
When teaching children to play chess one of the things I have said is, “You must be present to win.” I tell the children that in Las Vegas if one enters a drawing the rules state “you must be present to win.” If your name is called and you are not there, another name will be drawn. “You snooze, you lose,” I say in hopes this will stay with the children. I add that it is imperative they stay focused at whatever is is they are doing and “be present.”
The blunder Viswanathan Anand made is the same kind of move all players have made; he moved too quickly. Peter Svidler said, “If Vishy had taken thirty seconds to look at the position he would not have played that move,” adding, “It is always the quick move that kills you,” or some such. I know that is true from first-hand experience. Vishy was so focused on his plan he neglected to ask himself how the position had changed after the blunder made by Magnus.
I have taught the children what I call the “cardinal” rules of chess. 1) Why did my opponent make that move? 2) What move do I want, or need, to make? 3) Am I leaving anything en prise? Anand obviously did not ask himself any questions, much to his regret. Vishy was so “not there” that he did not watch Magnus play one of the worse moves ever made in a match for the championship of the world. Vishy was not present and did not win.
But what about Magnus Carlsen? He violated cardinal rule number three. I am having trouble getting my mind around the fact that Magnus did not even ask himself the question, “If I play my King to d2, how will my opponent respond?” These are the best players in the world and both drifted away at the same moment. This is INCREDIBLE! This type of double-blunder has happened previously in the games of Magnus. The Legendary Georgia Ironman mentioned the back to back “red moves” (Chessbomb displays the move in red if it is what GM Yassser Seiriwan would call a “howler”) played by Magnus and Levon Aronian recently, adding, “Somehow it is always the opponent of Magnus who makes the second “howler.” Maybe they just do not expect Magnus to make a mistake.” Maybe so, but a wise man always expects the unexpected.
It was so bad during the press conference the moderator, Anastasiya Karlovich, said, “Are there any questions not about the move Kd2?” Everyone wanted to know how Magnus could have played such a horrible move. He had no explanation. It is more than a little obvious things are not right with team Carlsen. This is the main reason I thought Vishy would win the match. Magnus has not played well since winning the title, and his poor play has continued. Vishy had not played particularly well in the year(s) leading up to the first match. Some thought he may “get it together,” but I was not inclined to believe it possible to reverse such poor play, which proved to be the case.
How much did the fact that Magnus would play White two games in a row during the middle of the match factor into the game? I recall reading about a group of mathematicians who “proved” it is much more fair during a shootout in football that the team who goes second will also have the third attempt, and then revert to alternating. This would seem to be inherently better than to have one player play the White pieces twice in the middle of a World Championship match. Who thought of, and implemented this ridiculous format? Could it have been the FIDE ETs”? Back in the day games were played every other day, but now it is two games and then a break. Things were better “back in the day.”
Most have wondered how Vishy will respond to such an oversight, forgetting that Magnus is the one who made one of the worst blunders ever made in a WC match. Magnus has to know that he missed his chance to put the hammer down in the first game by playing 42…Re3. If he had won that game, and also won the second, as he did, the match would have been all over but the shouting. He knows he has only himself to blame for being in a contest. He also knows that even with a win in the first game the match could now be tied, if Vishy had won the most recent game. He also knows it is possible that Vishy could very well be leading the match at the halfway point. Vishy is not the only one seeing ghosts at this point in the match.
I have no idea what to expect tomorrow; probably more of the same. I do, though, expect the players to take a page out of the book of former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura (http://www.ora.tv/offthegrid) and “stay vigilant.” Although down, I still have faith in Viswanathan Anand, and expect him to win the match.