Thursday, November 7, 2013

Anand has left no stone unturned

Pioneer meets prodigy in battle of masterminds
By R Srinivasa Raghavan - CHENNAI 
Published: 07th November 2013 12:48 PM 
Last Updated: 07th November 2013 12:48 PM 

The World Chess Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, which is starting here on Saturday, has created a buzz that has not been witnessed since the Kasparov-Karpov duels in the 80s.

Despite Sachin Tendulkar closing in on his milestone and farewell Test, chess is getting an equal share of coverage in the media with India’s most popular sport, which shows the growth of the game in the country and the impact of Anand’s five world titles.

Having won world titles in Tehran, Mexico City, Bonn, Sofia and Moscow, Anand will be eyeing his sixth title against Carlsen, who is the most talked about and most successful tournament player from the time he became the youngest world No 1 in 2010.

World title matches are getting tougher and tougher for Anand but his hunger remains undiminished. The Indian will face twin challenges – home expectations and an in-form Carlsen, who has accomplished much more than most of the former world champions at 22. Anand knows how to deal with pressure, having battled the likes of Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov but needs to raise his level to turn the tables on the Norwegian in the 12-game match.

Anand is the only top 10 player to have a better head-to-head record against Carlsen (6 wins, 3 losses, 20 draws). After losing four games, Carlsen beat Anand for the first time in 2009. However, Anand outwitted him twice in 2010 to gain ascendancy in one-on-one confrontations. With Carlsen’s rating soaring higher and higher, the Norwegian has had the better of Anand twice in the last five encounters, his victory in the Tal Memorial being quite impressive.

It has been a mixed year for Anand. Except for his last tournament in Moscow, Anand’s performances in Wijk Aan Zee (joint third), Baden Baden (first), Paris/St Petersburg (third) showed he is on the right track. Carlsen started the year with a bang, winning in Wijk Aan Zee. He followed it up by winning the Candidates and became the challenger to Anand.

Despite apparently having no shortcomings, Carslen showed mental fragility for the first time in the closing stages of the Candidates. Losing to Vassily Ivanchuk and Peter Svidler almost proved costly but Vladimir Kramnik’s loss in the final game and a better tie-break helped him cross the line. His third success came in the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis, which was his last event before the big match. 

Preparation has been the key for Anand’s success in world title matches. He has left no stone unturned working quietly for close to four months with his team of seconds in Bad Soden, which is close to Frankfurt. Chess has been interspersed with physical workouts and swimming. Carlsen doesn’t want to tweak his approach too much, which has worked wonders for him in tournaments. The Norwegian believes he can replicate the same approach in matches successfully. 

Carlsen, who trained in Muscat to get acclimatised to the conditions in Chennai, doesn’t underestimate the value of preparation, but believes he can outwit any opponent with his skills. The general perception of Carlsen being the favourite because of the huge difference in ratings holds some value, but once the match starts, the player who imposes himself on the game and holds his nerve will be the gainer.

Hyatt Regency will have the honour of hosting the prestigious match. DD Sports will show the match live. There will be plenty of chess literature on the web, with the official website streaming the match live. The organisers have gone all out to celebrate the big occasion, conducting tournaments for amateurs as well as strong players.

Chennai becoming the venue was possible thanks to the initiative of Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa, who sanctioned `29 crores for the match. Impressed with the quick response, FIDE kept their promise and allotted the match to the city without any bid.


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