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    Entries in 2013 World Championship (32)

    Wednesday
    Dec042013

    A Good, Long Interview With Anand About The Match And His Future

    A brief summary and the video here; a transcript here.

    Friday
    Nov222013

    World Championship, Game 10: Carlsen Becomes World Champion After A Long Draw

    Magnus Carlsen is the new world chess champion, achieving this final landmark eight days shy of his 23rd birthday. With a 6-3 lead coming into game 10 he only needed a draw to win the best-of-12 match against (now former world champion) Viswanathan Anand, and he succeeded.

    Some thought Anand would be amenable to a short draw, but to his credit he played a full game. He tried to liven things up with a Sicilian (no Berlin, to the relief of many spectators), but Carlsen kept the position quiet and controlled, and at one moment had good winning chances. Anand's 28...Qg5 was a serious error, but after 29.e5 Ne8 Carlsen let him off the hook with 30.exd6; instead, something like 30.Nc3 Rc6 31.f4 Qd8 32.Na4 would have left Anand with an absolutely miserable position and probably still another loss.

    After the exchange of errors Carlsen maintained a slight pull, but used it to swap almost everything off and reach a drawn knight ending. It turned into a queen ending that was drawn as well, and when (almost) all the pieces came off after 65 moves the players finally called it a day. (The game, with my brief comments, can be replayed here.)

    Carlsen has now reached the summit, becoming the second-youngest world champion in history (Garry Kasparov was a younger 22-year-old when he won the title; third-oldest if one counts Ruslan Ponomariov's FIDE knockout championship win in 2002 when he was 18 years old). He is already the highest-rated player of all time, so what's left? Hopefully he can remain motivated to keep improving, and for that matter hopefully the chase pack will close on him to help force him to keep getting better.

    For the almost 44-year-old Anand, it remains to be seen if he will put in the time and energy it will take to successfully fight in the next Candidates tournament this coming March. Will he start to fade, becoming just one of the super-GMs, or does he have the ambition to regain his title? We'll get a first glimpse of his form and ambition next month, as he is among the participants in the next edition of the London Chess Classic.

    In the meantime, congratulations to Magnus Carlsen!

    Thursday
    Nov212013

    World Championship, Game 9: Anand Blunders; Carlsen Leads 6-3

    It was the most exciting game of the match by far. Viswanathan Anand had enough of the Berlin and switched to 1.d4. Magnus Carlsen played the Nimzo-Indian, and when the champ replied with the aggressive 4.f3 it was already clear that there would be no quiet positional battles. The Neo-Saemisch, like its older brother with 4.a3, aims to build a big pawn center and then use that space advantage for the sake of a kingside attack. Black gets a queenside majority which he should try to use while slowing the enemy attack as much as possible, and the race is on.

    White's attacking chances were very real, and if Anand had played this sort of chess the whole match it might have turned out very differently. As far as I can tell at this point, the chances were generally level throughout the game up until the last move, but there are many crazy lines and White in particular had a wide variety of ways to prosecute his attack. What is clear is that Anand's 28th move was an outright blunder - a very simple oversight, really - and it turned what was still an unclear position into one that was dead lost for White.

    With that, the match is as good as over. Carlsen needs just one draw in the last three games to clinch the title, and he will have the white pieces in game 10 tomorrow. I would be surprised if that game goes more than two hours; in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it's over in less than an hour. It would be nice if Anand surprised us with his psychological resilience and fighting spirit, but with a 3-point deficit I think he'll give in to the inevitable pretty quickly. We'll see; meanwhile, here is today's game, with light notes.

    Tuesday
    Nov192013

    World Championship, Game 8: Call Off The Dogs; Send In The Puppies!

    Today's game wasn't terribly impressive, to put it mildly, but apparently both players got what they were looking for. Magnus Carlsen varied from his previous games with White and played 1.e4, and Viswanathan Anand played...the Berlin Defense. Had Carlsen headed for the ending it might have been interesting, and even 4.d3 can give Black some chances for a full game - if that's what Anand was after - but 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 is a super-safe approach. Black needs to exercise a little caution, and if he does that the result is a very level position. Anand did his job, while Carlsen played immediately throughout, swapped all the pieces, and in a dead drawn pawn ending 33 moves in the players called it a day. (The game can be replayed here, with my light notes.)

    So Anand appears to be putting all his eggs in one basket, and will give it a go with White in round 9 on Thursday, after the rest day.

    Monday
    Nov182013

    World Championship, Game 7: An Easy Draw For Carlsen

    For the third time in four games with Black, Magnus Carlsen chose the Berlin Defense, and Viswanathan Anand has tried a different approach each time. In game 4 Anand went for the Berlin ending, but got in trouble and had to fight for a long time before achieving a draw. In game 6 he played 4.d3 and handled it like a regular Closed Ruy; he lost, but the position was very equal in late middlegame and there was some thought that 11.Bxe6 might have promised a slight edge.

    This time Anand repeated 4.d3 but then met 4...Bc5 with 5.Bxc6 dxc6 6.d3, a slow approach both he and Carlsen have used on several occasions. White fixes the central structure to neutralize Black's bishop pair, aiming for central play later on (generally involving f2-f4). Carlsen met this with the rare 6...Bg4, preparing to give up his good, "extra" bishop. Whatever faults the idea might have in the abstract didn't amount to much in the context of the game, as Carlsen was able to neutralize both the standard f4 plan, which didn't happen, and a second idea of h4-h5xg6 and Rh7, which Anand chose. Carlsen swapped off the invading rooks, and in the queen and knight ending that arose the players were satisfied with a repetition and a quick draw. (32 moves and about 2 hours.)

    Carlsen leads 4.5-2.5 and needs two points from the last five games to win the match. He will have the white pieces in game eight tomorrow. Will he play with a willingness to take a draw and run out the clock, or will he press in an effort to put the match away for good? We'll see; meanwhile, here (with light notes) is game 7.

    Saturday
    Nov162013

    World Championship, Game 6: Carlsen Wins Again

    In games 1 and 2 of the world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and his challenger Magnus Carlsen, the players were warming up. In games 3 and 4, the match heated up, with both players having a game to press and a game to defend. Finally, in games 5 and 6, the match exploded and maybe came to a de facto end.

    Just as in game 5, small concessions and errors by the champion allowed Carlsen to press and press, and while Anand was on verge of a draw he never quite managed to find the final path to safety. As a result, Carlsen won his second straight game, has taken a 4-2 lead, and unless Anand can regain - or maybe just gain - some confidence and get the kind of position he likes he has little chance of saving his title. The only other hope is that Carlsen will crack up, but that seems unlikely unless Anand can first stop his own bleeding. For the sake of the match's drama and for Anand's legacy I hope it happens, but right now he's in danger of getting routed.

    On to specifics about the game. Carlsen repeated the Berlin Defense, which served him very well in game 4, but this time Anand avoided the "endgame" with 4.d3. Anand's 10.Bg5 was a new move, but Carlsen found a nice way to neutralize the pin with the Breyer-like Nc6-b8-d7 maneuver on moves 13 and 14. The game appeared headed for a draw, and had Anand played something like 23.Qe2 a handshake might have been forthcoming. Instead he played 23.Qg4?!, and after 23...Bxe3 24.fxe3 Qe7 25.Rf1 c5 26.Kh2 c4! White's center was a bit weak, and it was evident that Carlsen would once again get to play on for a long time, and for only two results.

    From here Anand made a couple of unnecessary concessions: 30.Qf5?! (rather than 30.d5), which allowed Black to open the e-file under favorable conditions, and the pawn sac/blunder 38.Qg3 (Carlsen wasn't sure which it was during the press conference, and Anand didn't bother to clarify the matter for the record). Even so, just as in yesterday's game, Anand entered the second time control with a position that was inferior but still well within the margin of a draw.

    As usual, though, Carlsen kept looking for ideas, and his great idea to sac the c-pawn to further activate his king and to create a passed f-pawn bore fruit. With 60.b4! (a move Anand dismissively rejected in the press conference - something he has made a habit of doing in this match and just about always mistakenly) White still could have held the draw. His 60.Ra4? sealed his fate. It would have sufficed to draw if he could have removed his own b- and c-pawns from the board, but he couldn't advance them in time and lost. (The game, with a few comments, can be replayed here; subscribers stay tuned later this afternoon.)

    One last comment on the game for now, and it's that Anand seems to be suffering from a home-field disadvantage. Where in other countries he could go out in public unrecognized and without being mobbed, his freedom is constrained in India. The local journalists are asking him questions that are often either impolitic or foolish, and his patience is speedily diminishing, and today's presser finished with him suggesting that the questioner must not understand English. The burden of being the hometown hero seems to be weighing heavily on him. Maybe he should go out in public and experience some love from the fans to buoy his spirits, as the bunker mentality approach of "me against the world" doesn't appear to be working.

    Any thoughts from my readers on the scene?

    Friday
    Nov152013

    World Championship, Game 5: Carlsen Wins, Leads 3-2

    And now the match is truly afoot. After draws in the first four games, Magnus Carlsen drew first blood, gradually outplaying Viswanathan Anand in a superior rook ending until the champion fatally faltered.

    The opening was a practical success for Carlsen, giving him the sort of scenario in which he has no peer: a risk-free position with a slight technical plus. On this occasion, he was initially unable to find the most effective plan, and Anand was up to the challenge and obtained active counterplay. He managed to obtain dynamic equality, but around the time of the first time control made decisions that led to his needing to hold a pawn down rook and bishop ending in the second time control. Here Anand struggled, and the game was finally lost for good after 51...Ke6? - 51...Re2 was the only hope.

    Carlsen finaly got the sort of game he wanted, and while Anand came close to a draw he was unable to finish the job, and thus trails in the match. Anand and his fans need not panic, however, as he was also down a point to Boris Gelfand in the last match and to Veselin Topalov in the match before that. In fact, it is almost a commonplace for the first player to lead in a world championship match to go on to lose that lead (and sometimes to fall behind and then regain the lead as well). It happened to Boris Spassky in 1969, Bobby Fischer in 1972, to first Anatoly Karpov and then Garry Kasparov and then Karpov again in 1985 (and there were plenty more flip-flops in their other matches as well), to Kasparov against Anand in 1995, to Vladimir Kramnik and then Peter Leko in 2004, to Kramnik and then Topalov in 2006, and so on. Obviously it doesn't mean that it's better to lose first, only that losing first isn't a death sentence in a match - unless of course it happens in the last game of the contest.

    The game can be replayed here, with light and provisional comments.

    Wednesday
    Nov132013

    Nakamura: Anand Is Now The Favorite

    Or at least that's what Hikaru Nakamura thought when this interview was made, which seems to be after game 3 (HT: Ross Hytnen). Given the way Nakamura closes  the interview, it's possible that he would no longer subscribe to the conclusion in the title:

    I think if Carlsen does not win tomorrow or at least show some sort of advantage, then the rest of the match will be in Anand's favour. While it is hard to pick a winner, I think that at the moment, Anand is a small favourite.

    It seems that there are a number of other interesting match-related articles on that website, so while you're there check out the links to the right and below the article too.

     

    Wednesday
    Nov132013

    World Championship, Game 4: Carlsen Comes Close, But It's Another Draw

    The match is heating up! Game 4 was the best of the bunch so far, an exciting struggle that saw Magnus Carlsen come very close to taking the lead. Viswanathan Anand had White, and in keeping with match "tradition" got nothing or even less than nothing from the opening. Carlsen played the Berlin Defense, and Anand found it necessary to sac the a2 pawn to obtain any sort of play at all.

    Objectively his compensation was inadequate, but from here the game got good and very exciting. Anand sacrificed a second pawn and headed for lines where even more sacrifices were possible. Carlsen missed a number of unobvious opportunities (...a6 on moves 27 and 28, 36...Rd8!) and as a result Anand's dynamic defense was rewarded: he achieved equality at the end of the first time control.

    Unfortunately for the champion, he jumped back into the frying pan immediately after the time control with 41.Kc3. 41.Ke3 instead would have sharpened the struggle, but Anand was apparently satisfied with a draw and thought his move was the most effective way to achieve it. What Anand underestimated was just how many tricks Carlsen could come up with to keep the play going, and in the end Anand had to really sweat it out in the second time control to save the draw. The third time control would have no further adventures, and the draw was finally agreed, keeping the match level at 2-2.

    Tomorrow (Thursday) is a rest day, and game 5 is on Friday. The game can be replayed here with light notes (subscribers have been sent full analysis and a video - it's not too late to sign up!), and the website's commentary can be viewed below.

    Tuesday
    Nov122013

    World Championship, Game 3: Anand Comes Close, But It's Another Draw

    After a pair of uninspiring draws, the world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and challenger Magnus Carlsen finally heated up.

    Carlsen again played 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3, but after 2...g6 varied from game 1 with 3.c4. The game left theory fairly early, but the position-type was not especially unusual. Carlsen seemed to lose the thread somewhat with 13.Bb4, and he was soon under enduring pressure from the champion. It's not clear that Anand was ever winning, but he may have had some better chances on moves 29 and 34 with ...Bxb2 and ...Rf8, respectively.

    The game was drawn shortly after the first time control and raises the question as to which player is or ought to be more dissatisfied: Carlsen for having two inferior positions straight out of the opening with White, or Anand for failing to convert those advantages into full points (especially in today's game).

    Game 4 will be tomorrow; meanwhile, you can replay game 3 (with my light notes) here. (More detailed notes and a video will be available to subscribers later today.)