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FIDE World Chess Championship: Topalov holds Anand in Game 11, match remains tied with 1 to go

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The eleventh and penultimate game of the World Chess Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov started with the champion surprising the challenger by opting to open with The English Opening, bishop file pawn to c4. Each of the ten games in this match began with the players opening with the queen pawn to d4. At 5-5 any player that wanted to win during regulation play needed a win and a draw.

Topalov opted to respond to it with e5, the reverse Sicilian; e5 leads to a situation where white has black's position in the Sicilian, and hence the situation is popularly known as the reverse Sicilian Dragon. The early game was a peaceful passage of play, with barely any exchanges between the players.

The Bulgarian was the first to spend some time looking for an opportunity, as Anand certainly had this one prepared with his team. He spent a significant amount of time calculating the impact of his 11th move, before finally deviating from the book (Qd7) to opt for Qe8. There were two possible motives behind the change, one to deprive Anand the comfort of his preparation and two and more importantly - clear the rook to move the queen to the kingside for an attack.

Anand though continued with his prepared path, following Ne4 with Nc5 forcing black to exchange a bishop. The middle game was invested in developing the centre, with black building its position around the knight.

Topalov had a relatively weak pawn at b7, and the champion made an advance getting his rook to b1. The challenger simply countered this ploy by using his bishop to reside at a2, forcing Anand to retreat the rook to c1.

On the 21st move when Anand played Rd2, Topalov had the opportunity to trade one of the white bishops; in a moment that was viewed with some intrigue before being dismissed as yet another safe move, Topalov ignored the bishop to play h6. These were tense times, with each player approaching the game under intense pressure. Safety has turned into the primary theme, with both players intent on attaining a two result situation.

The game was turning into an even battle of position play that had nothing in it for either player. Topalov expressed his desire to find a win on the 33rd move, when he chose to play the bishop instead of the rook. In opting for Be6 instead of Rc8, he was trying to keep the pieces in play, to avoid attrition and the increasing chances for a draw.

The queens remained on the board, unlike the previous games when they were exchanged in a hurry, till the 37th move when they were finally taken off the squares.

Anand spiced the game a little on his 49th move, when he offered to give up a pawn to create some volatility in the field. It was a risky move, but then the players were playing so safe, no risk would have been enough to entice an error. Anand did leverage the move to create some pressure with an attack from the kingside, but Topalov was careful to avoid any harmful skirmish.

The players finally reached a situation of a dead drawn game on the 65th move. Topalov did enjoy the advantage of an extra pawn, was not allowed to build on it as Anand's repeated checks forced a tame end.

There is only one game left now in this titanic struggle, with Topalov playing white on the morrow. Though that should mean a slight edge to the challenger, there is hardly a square that separates these two experienced grandmasters. In all likelihood we can expect to see these players deciding this title fight in the breakers on the 13th of May. Unless one of them stumbles under the weight of expectation and pressure in the twelfth game on Tuesday. The players have a day to rest to prepare their game for one final assault against each other.

Scores: Anand 5.5 - 5.5 Topalov

Moves: Access a visual representation of the entire match here.

Story so far (Anand - Topalov): Game 1 (0-1), Game 2 (1-1), Game 3 (1.5-1.5), Game 4 (2.5-1.5), Game 5 (3-2), Game 6 (3.5-2.5), Game 7 (4-3), Game 8 (4-4), Game 9 (4.5-4.5) & Game 10 (5-5)

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