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    Entries in 2014 World Championship (36)

    Friday
    Nov072014

    Carlsen vs. Anand: Prediction Time

    The match starts on Saturday, so let's start making predictions. Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand will play 12 games, just like last year, followed by rapid and even blitz games if they finish the classical games tied 6-6. The schedule is also the same as before: one player has White the first day and Black the next day, then they take a day off, and the pattern is repeated until the end. With two exceptions: after game 6 the order is reversed (thus the players will repeat the same colors in games 6 and 7), and there's an additional rest day between the 11th and 12 games of the match (assuming it gets that far).

    Last year Carlsen won 6.5-3.5, winning games 5, 6 and 9 (the first two by superior endgame technique, the last on a blunder in a complicated middlegame). But what say you about this year?

    Here's my two cents. First, Anand comes into the match in better form and with more confidence. He also has a better idea of what strategies are more and less likely to succeed. I expect him to play more aggressively when he has an advantage or is fighting for one, and to play more actively when defending.

    I think Carlsen doesn't need to change much from last year in terms of his general game plan (prevent Anand from having active options and grind away), but I suspect he'll have prepared some more dangerous opening ideas than last year. Last year he used the white pieces more or less to "get the ball in play", but a whole year later, with Peter Heine Nielsen on his team and without having had to spend some opening capital on an event like the Candidates, I expect he'll have some more tricky tries. Ultimately though, he probably won't change too much, as the evidence points to his general superiority over Anand. As long as he can hold his own in the opening, he can expect to be the overall favorite in the remaining stages of the game.

    Opening predictions: If Anand plays 1.e4 Carlsen will go for the Berlin. Unless Anand has something great there, look for him to either play 1.d4 (as in game 9, which was surely the right approach) or perhaps 1.e4 while avoiding the Ruy, e.g. with the Scotch. (The former is likelier, but one never knows!) When Carlsen is White, look for him to continue his usual strategy of going hit-and-run, switching from one variation to another and majoring on moves like 1.Nf3 and 1.c4.

    Prediction: Carlsen will win, but if Anand can win first I think it will be close - maybe he'll only lose by a game or two. If Carlsen wins first, I think he'll win by three points, plus-or-minus one. I think Carlsen is simply too strong and the energy difference is too great between the young (23 year old) and athletic champion and his not so athletic middle-aged (44 year old) challenger. I'm rooting for Anand (age solidarity!), but unless he can strike with some awesomely good opening preparation (as he did against Kramnik in 2008) I'm not optimistic.

    Monday
    Nov032014

    Peter Heine Nielsen: I'm Partly to Blame for Anand's Failures

    Peter Heine Nielsen is a strong Danish grandmaster who for years was one of Viswanathan Anand's seconds and is now in the Magnus Carlsen camp. In this article (HT: Nosherwan Minwalla) he takes part of the blame for Anand's decline over the past few years, though the nature of his supposed fault isn't made entirely clear. Was it that he recommended sticking to the status quo (in terms of openings, general approach and/or style, etc.) to such an extent that it led to Anand's stagnating as a player? Ultimately a mature player is responsible for his own results, but Anand can hope to have learned the right lessons over the past year while hoping that whatever it was that Nielsen did wrong, he has done wrong with Carlsen as well.

    Sunday
    Oct262014

    The 2014 World Championship Match Site

    ...is here.

    Thursday
    Oct232014

    Yet Another Anand Interview

    A little perspective on the ex-champ, challenger's mindset, here.

    HT: Srinivasan Ramiah.

    Sunday
    Oct192014

    The Anand-Carlsen Rematch: A Reader Writes

    "MK" writes in with the following questions and comments; my replies are interspersed:

    1) Betting odds show that you should bet on Carlsen - if you believe Carlsen has more than 77% chance of winning.   If you believe Anand has more than 28% chance of winning, you should bet on Anand (odds offered are 45/17 - i.e. you bet 17 and casino puts in 45 for a total pot of 62). Who would you bet on?

    I'm not interested in promoting gambling, nor would I want anyone to lose money by following my guesses! So no answer here. (One comment though: I assume the odds you give add up to more 100% because of the house's take.)

    2) Whats your advice to Anand (or what do you expect Anand to change)

    I would expect more games like games 3 and 9, where Anand puts pressure on Carlsen. Moreover, Anand should play forever when he has a small advantage - primarily for psychological reasons, but also because Carlsen is a bully on the chessboard, and doesn't like to defend. Carlsen is great in endings where he can push, but has lost plenty of endings when he has had to defend. He's an incredible player, but he's human.

    a) Last WCC Anand played a little scared or maybe we should call it cautious  (i.e. he didnt push when he had a marginal advantage whereas Carlsen played till the very end when Carlsen had a marginal advantage) (another example is he played the Berlin defence late in the match despite being  he was 2 games down.  Do you think Anand needs to push more and believe in himself and be more optimistic? 

    Yes to both comments.

    b) Do you think Anand showed a better approach during the Candidates?  I thought he did but his unwillingness to work out a win against Andreikin disappointed me a little.

    I'm not really bothered by the Andreikin game, because at that point in the event the a loss would have been more harmful than a win would have been beneficial, in both cases relative to a draw. But there were a couple of other games earlier in the event where I did have some of the disappointment you're alluding to. He did play well there, but I think what we might call his "cynical minimalism" is just never going to work against Carlsen, even if it does against everyone else in the world.

    c) Last WCC, Anand lost a game or two in the end game.  Do you think his endgame technique needs to be sharpened and that he should expect Carlsen to continue pushing even in equal situations till bare kings

    There's only so much sharpening he can do. I think in the endgame he will always be Carlsen's inferior - that's the strongest aspect of Carlsen's game - but he must avoid playing "Neville Chamberlain chess" at all costs. Carlsen will never give him peace or be satisfied with small concessions; he'll greedily take those gifts and then beat his opponent over the head with them. Game 3 last year was an example of this that Anand didn't seem to learn from at all. Anand had been better and missed some great opportunities to win. At some point he gave up trying to win, but rather than offering a draw from a position of strength he gave away the rest of his advantage as if to lay down his arms, and only then offered a draw. At this point Carlsen no longer had any need to shake hands, and managed to put some slight pressure on Anand for the next dozen moves or so. It's not that Anand was in any trouble, but there was absolutely no reason for him to take up the role of supplicant, forfeiting the psychological advantage he had enjoyed all game long.

    d)  Related to C above what does Anand need to do to improve his stamina in the 3rd / 4th / 5th hour of the game

    Whatever physical exercise his doctor recommends, plus long training sessions simulating the kinds of pressure Carlsen will put him under.

    e) Anand was fidgety / nervous in the last WCC.   I think he needs to focus on his diet and workouts and also maybe spend time with his wife/son before each game to lower his stress levels.

    Agreed. And at a bare minimum, he should find some way to hide his nervousness during the game - the way his fingers trembled looked awful, and must have boosted Carlsen's confidence while doing nothing for his own.

    f) if Carlsen lost, would he be very demoralized so much so that his performance in the next Candidates matches will be materially adversely impacted?

    Doubtful. He's young and resilient, and there will be plenty of time between a hypothetical loss here and the next Candidates. The latter event won't occur until late 2015 or early 2016.

    g) If Anand won, I think it might be the greatest achievement of his career.

    Agreed!

    Sunday
    Oct192014

    Viswanathan Anand Interviews

    Here and here, with a hat tip for both to Srini Ramiah. The ex-champ seems to have a good mindset going into the rematch, so we can at least hope for a more competitive battle this time around.

    Thursday
    Oct162014

    A Short Carlsen Interview

    The world championship rematch between the current chess king, Magnus Carlsen, and his dethroned predecessor, Viswanathan Anand, is coming up in about three weeks. So it's time to put the match back on our radar screens, and we'll begin with this link to a Carlsen interview.

    A little tease, which was first given me by the person who told me about the article, Jaideep Unudurti. Carlsen compares himself a bit to both Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov, which is understandable, but he also compares himself to another U.S. player. Guess who, then check out the interview to see if you were right.

    Sunday
    Sep072014

    Match On! Carlsen Signs The Contract

    After weeks of drama and delay, Magnus Carlsen was facing a deadline - today: sign the contract for the world championship match against Viswanathan Anand, slated to begin in two months in Sochi, Russia, or be forfeited and replaced. Carlsen signed.

    Sunday
    Aug312014

    Barden on the Carlsen-FIDE Controversy

    Here. (HT: Marc Beishon) Not much if any new information there, but his opinion that Magnus Carlsen's potential abdication is a lose-lose for both sides seems to me spot on.

    Saturday
    Aug302014

    Carlsen's Contract Deadline Extended to September 7

    It still isn't as long a delay as Magnus Carlsen's manager Espen Agdestein wants, as it coincides with the duration of the Sinquefield Cup and must therefore weigh on him and take his attentional resources, but it at least gives him another week to decide. More here. (HT: Thomas Richter)