Candidates Champion To Challenge Carlsen Again
Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand has come back with a big bang winning three off 14 rounds with nine draws and has geared up to challenge Magnus Carlsen of Norway in the next world championship match to be held this November. The Khanty Mansiysk World Chess Candidates 2014 has seen a rebirth of Viswanathan Anand. In the eyes of many, the Indian Grandmaster was a lost force after losing his world title in the match against Carlsen. In that match, Vishy was simply unable to force the pace against the Norwegian wizard who almost played with a computer-like precision through the game.
Anand seemed a little lost perhaps even pissed. It seemed to rob him of his enthusiasm for the sport itself. A break followed—not a very long one—before he turned up in London to play the Classic. But the results weren’t very kind to him; he seemed beatable. He bowed out in the quarters at London and finished dead last in the Zurich Challenge (Classic) and in third place in the Blitz section of the Zurich Challenge. Vishy Anand was superb against Topalov. So as the draw from the Candidates 2014—a tournament that decides the next challenger to Carlsen’s crown—was announced, Anand was given no chance.
He was thought to be vulnerable and many experts reckoned that he would be targeted by the others. However, Anand has been stunning since the start. He has played with the kind of freedom that brought back memories of his best form. He started off with a win against favourite and top seed Levon Aronian. Aronian then said that he often doesn’t start very well in tournaments, so it was dismissed as an aberration.
Anand took advantage of some inaccurate play by Aronian which was a Marshall style Ruy Lopez where Anand eventually got a very nasty initiative. Aronian knew he was in for quite bad trouble and he played few bad moves and gave a lead to Vishy.
He then played an easy Draw with black in the second round against Veselin Topalov.
Playing at his best Anand with blacks systematically outplayed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and forced him to resign after move 30 in two and half hours. Anand played a Slav set-up against White’s Catalan approach. Anand was happy and said: “An attempt to punish Black but I think it doesn’t work tactically. White’s king is very weak, as we saw in the game,” Afterwards the 44-year-old Indian, the oldest competitor, hasn’t put a foot wrong. He played five straight draws before beating Veselin Topalov in Round 9. Anand overcame a slow start to punish Topalov for a faulty plan. Facing Sicilian Najdorf, Anand took time to settle down. Further simplification of the position did not brighten his prospects and a draw looked the most likely result. But Topalov made decisive errors that gave Anand an opportunity to seize control and he effectively ended Topalov’s resistance in 52 moves. He then draw all the remaining five rounds.
He was only in trouble against Karjakin Sergey in round 13 which was a game that started with him being the one with it all to lose, later when defending the pressure also settled on Karjakin who suddenly had chances to win the event himself. Karjakin eventually allowed a forced draw in 91 moves when he thought it was a winning try. The draw helped Anand reach eight points and he benefitted from the biggest upset in the tournament when top seed Levon Aronian of Armenia lost to lowest ranked Dmitry Andreikin of Russia.
After the match a too tired but pleased Anand said: “I was pleasantly surprised how I played. Before the tournament, I did not know what to expect. But it went ridiculously well. To win this tournament is incredibly important. It’s a very, very strong field. Very happy with my results, obviously. Today was close, one day when I was shaky, and perhaps, under the circumstances, I should not whinge too much.”
The final day saw the coronation of Vishy Anand as the winner of the Candidates tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk and a surprise second place finisher in Sergey Karjakin who came right from the basement to almost topple him. The tournament victory gives Anand winner’s cheque of 135,000 Euros (a little over Rs. 1 crore) and the right to a match against Magnus Carlsen of Norway who dethroned the Indian champion at Chennai in November last year. By becoming the challenger, Anand also becomes the first player to be in the world title matches eight times and winning in all three formats—knockout, double-round robin and match-play.
The performance has also led former chess world champion Garry Kasparov to come out and praise Anand. “As an retiree, always good to see the oldest player in the field doing well! Those who said Anand should retire should be embarrassed,” said Kasparov. Even Magnus Carlsen, commented on the tournament website: “I think he’s played very well. He hasn’t made many mistakes. He’s been rock solid in the openings and played consistently.”
Anand himself said: “Today it was funny. For the whole tournament I was only watching Levon, because he was the closest, but then a few days ago I realised that both Sergey and Peter have this possibility to beat me, win another game, and tiebreak.
Then I realised that even with a one-point lead the last two rounds were going to be very, very difficult. This is what happened today.”
Vishy’s play has been solid but the most noticeable change from his match against Carlsen is how he managed to control the openings again. In nine consecutive games, he has managed to emerge from the openings with very playable positions. And when he does have the edge, he has been very precise. It’s almost like he has taken the lessons learned during the Carlsen defeat to heart and emerged an even better player.
By Sorabh Aggarwal