Sofia: Viswanathan Anand held his nerve and focus way better than his opponent Veselin Topalov here Tuesday to win the 12th and final game to retain his World Chess Championships title.
The 40-year-old Indian beat local man from Bulgaria in the closing game with black pieces to emerge a 6.5-5.5 winner and seal his place as one of the dominant players of his era.
Anand first won the world title in 2000 and held it till 2002 when the chess world was still split. He became the undisputed World champion in 2007 and then retained the title in 2008 when he beat Vladimir Kramnik. This time around he beat Topalov to cement his place among one of the games` all-time greats.
Anand, who travelled more than 40 hours by road to reach the venue as flights in Europe were suspended due to the volcanic ash from Iceland, lost the first game. He, however, quickly hit back with wins in the second and third game.
Anand held his lead past the midway stage of the match, before Topalov caught up with Anand in eighth game to equalize the match scores. In game nine Anand had his chances but failed to find the crucial win. Then again in game 11, both players had a nail-biting clash before sending the match into the 12th and final game.
The game began with Topalov having the advantage of white pieces, but Anand, who is considered one of the most aggressive players in world chess, held his own and found the winning route with black pieces as his opponent blundered in crucial stages.
The game started with a Queen`s Gambit Declined Lasker Variation, a solid but not very commonly used at this level. This variation saw a lot of exchanges but with Topalov going for a win, the game became very sharp. However with 32...fxe4 Topalov blundered horribly and from there on he was a slide.
There was a time when Anand seemed to have let the Bulgarian back in the game, but in the endgame Anand once again held supreme.
The line used by Anand with black was not the most popular one, but clearly the Indian wanted to have it as a surprise weapon and also because it is reasonably safe opening for black and difficult for white to force a win. A draw would send the match into the rapid games, where Anand would have the edge.
Anand`s place was to have a symmetrical pawn structure while white had space advantage. Topalov was able to avoid the symmetrical pawn structure, but Anand continued to find a defence for his `under attack` c5 pawn.
By this time it was clear that Anand was prepared to play a practical and safe line and avoid taking any chances and get Topalov to play the sharp lines and try for a win, though they were slim, if not negligible at all times.
Into the mid game, Anand continued to hold his c5 pawn and yet put pressure on the Kingside of Topalov.
It was around the 30th move that Anand sneaked ahead in a manner of speaking. He developed a strong attack and from there on he kept his focus and nerves.
By move 35, Anand knew he had a great chance of a win. And then Topalov made some bad moves to give Anand a decisive edge.
Anand did sense a winning route but it was not all that easy and then Topalov made the biggest blunder on move 38 with his Qf1 which opened the h1 - a8 diagonal. Anand found the right move 38...Rxg4+ and from there on Topalov`s only hope was a bigger blunder from Anand.
Anand for a brief moment seemed to have given Topalov a lease of life, but it was only a mirage of sorts. Anand still had a chance to win and Topalov clung on a straw and then finally gave in on move 57 as he had no chance of saving the game and Anand had plenty of time to wrap the issue.