NOVEMBER 6 — Magnus Carlsen will defend his title against Viswanathan Anand in the World Championship match to be played in Sochi from November 7-28, 2014.
Russia is a Mecca for top-level chess; one of the few places in the world where chess is held in the highest regard and from the time of the Soviet Union a brilliant organiser of world championship matches so there is no doubt at all the event will meet the highest standards possible.
Furthermore, given the current geo-political challenges resulting from the conflict in Ukraine and subsequently Russian President Vladimir Putin agreeing to a desperate FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's request to underwrite the match in the lead-up to the FIDE elections last August, we can be even surer that this match will become a showcase to help legitimise both of them.
There is a lot, however, to be concerned about; some which directly concern the result of the match but perhaps more pertinently, the future of world chess.
First, of course, is the fact that no one wanted the match.
Well, it was not so long ago that Anand lost his title to Carlsen in Chennai in the 2013 World Championship Match sanctioned and underwritten by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram ("Amma" or "Mother" as the former Bollywood star is popularly known locally) who has since been jailed for corruption.
And it is also well known that FIDE has been at war with Norway Chess since it announced support for Gary Kasparov in the FIDE election leading up to the Tromso Olympiad.
This put Carlsen in a difficult position as he clearly hoped for Kasparov to win and the match organised elsewhere but he was forced to subsequently agree to defend his title in Sochi, given a very short deadline imposed, on the threat of forfeit.
This occurred while he was playing in the Sinquefield Cup (ironically organised and sponsored by American billionaire Rex Sinquefield who was the treasurer on the Kasparov ticket) which was billed as the strongest such event in history.
Second, Kasparov has told Carlsen privately (and given the nature of the man, also in public) his reservations about whether the match would be fair which has of course gotten the now standard FIDE reaction, "Bullshit." This time via its highly controversial appointed FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer.
I personally do not think Carlsen or his team would allow the match to deteriorate to that level and Anand, even though clearly a much more acceptable champion to FIDE and Russia, is also known for his fair mindedness and correct behaviour even if admittedly it will be hard for him to consciously refuse to accept some psychological advantages. For sure that kind of pressure will be applied to Carlsen.
The bottomline is that Russia has too big a stake and too much respect for the game they want to own to mess it up and there is great of respect for both Carlsen and Anand.
During the Anand-Carlsen match last year, I was a guest of AICF (India Chess Federation), and it was particularly interesting to see how Carlsen's team managed to completely shield him from any possible distraction by successfully creating an environment where he was happy and relaxed and could just give all his focus to playing.
I am curious that in his position now as champion as opposed to challenger (although a big favourite then as is now) and playing in Sochi, Russia, if it will be possible to do the same but then again it might actually be even easier! (On Twitter I read that knowing how much Carlsen enjoys physical activity and in particular soccer, they have arranged games for him against local teams!)
Third is the fact that the prize fund is now half of what it was in Anand-Carlsen match held in India! But I suppose that is better than no World Championship match as in the case presently for the women although I do expect China will do it to save face or some Middle East country like Iran will agree or one of the nine Emirates will eventually be persuaded to help.
I see the inability of FIDE to attract sponsorship to be its biggest problem. Not many know that FIDE actually came into being to take control of the World Chess Championship on the death of holder Alexander Alekhine in the days when the title was practically private property.
Despite FIDE entering into numerous commercial partnerships with various entities over the years that have become defunct i.e. FIDE Commerce, Global Chess, Chess Lane and most recently, the controversial Agon which has failed to raise any money and whose ultimate ownership has been questioned (see http://www.chess.com/news/deal-between-paulson--ilymzhinov-revealed-in-yet-another-leaked-document-6252). Yet Agon, which apparently gets royalties despite its complete failure, is now joined for Sochi 2014 by another new and equally opaque and mysterious company World Chess Events Corporation as organiser (http://www.sochi2014.fide.com/organizers/).
Now to no one’s very big surprise it has emerged that amongst the sponsors are Russian state owned oil giant Gazprom, a company under sanctions from both the EU and USA, a matter that is causing some alarm within the Norwegian camp.
Magnus Carlsen remains the highest ranked player in history at 2863, a comfortable 34-point margin ahead of the man a year younger he had long identified as one of his likely future challengers, Fabiano Caruana at 2829 (who in fact was the runaway winner of the Sinquefield Cup), while Anand who has played well recently after several years of indifferent play has now moved up back to 2792, a rating currently good enough for sixth place.
Without exception, the ratings favourite has always triumphed as has usually been the younger man (except in the case of Mikhail Botvinnik who won every rematch after losing his title!) so it is hard to say if Carlsen's less than recent stellar results (do we expect too much?) or Anand's apparent revival (are we hoping too much?) will change these facts too much.
But there is no doubt that Anand is much better prepared this time and it will be easier psychologically as he has nothing to lose and it will be Carlsen who will be the one under pressure.
I have known Anand since he was 14, he has been a friend for a long time. Not many today know that after he created records for Asia by winning the World Junior Championship and soon after became India's first grandmaster, he helped repay a long friendship started even earlier with his elders in the Madras chess community when he was just a promising young player amongst many, by being the guest of honour at the Selangor Open sponsored by Royal Selangor Pewter which I helped organise that year and so making it very special for Malaysian chess.
So my sympathies are with the "old man" but objectively the match is still Carlsen's to lose.
Like all chess enthusiasts world wide who will follow the match online, we want the best match that is possible and two great players at their best, and so I wish that Anand will play without the obvious "fear" he had in Chennai because then he clearly did not believe he had a chance and that should Carlsen, as most expect, ultimately emerge as the winner, it would be because he had to show his full class and to publicly acknowledge that it was with Anand's help he won because he had to bring his game to an even higher level than we have seen before.
Here is a great effort by Anand where he outplayed his young opponent considered to be one of the new hopes of Russian chess. Anand emerged as the surprise and yet completely convincing winner of the candidates which he only decided to play in late in the day and which qualified him for a rematch against Carlsen.
The notes are by GM Lubomir Kavalek/Huffington Post and in a winning position the exhausted (and pragmatic) Anand agreed a draw as the result was sufficient for him. Will late tiredness be a factor in the coming match?
Anand,Viswanathan — Andreikin,Dmitry
FIDE Candidates, Khanty-Mansiysk 2014
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5
The light bishops are often exchanged in the Capablanca variation of the Caro-Kann and the player who controls the light squares usually gets the upper hand.
5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 e6
The old matadors, such as Capablanca, Flohr, Botvinnik or Petrosian, played 7...Nd7, not allowing the knight leap to e5.
8.Ne5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 Nd7 11.f4
White can now support the advanced knight.
11...Bb4+ 12.c3 Be7 13.Bd2 Ngf6 14.0-0-0 0-0 15.Qf3
More exciting than 15.Ne4 Nxe4 16.Qxe4 Nxe5 17.fxe5 Qd5 Anand-Carlsen, World championship match 2013.
Controlling the light squares, white is ready for any action in the center.
The legendary Bent Larsen would have approved. He played the rook pawn move in similar positions, for example against Karpov in Amsterdam 1980. There are other choices:
A. 16...b5 17.c5 gives white a free attack on the kingside.
B. 16...c5?! the usual counterpunch runs here into Sergei Movsesian's tricky idea: 17.d5! exd5 (17...Nxe5? 18.fxe5 Qxe5 19.Bf4 and the black queen is caught in the middle of the board.)
18.Nf5 and now:
b1)18...Bd8 19.Qg3 Nh5 20.Nxh6+ Kh7 21.Qd3+ f5 22.Nhf7!?Nxe5 23.Nxe5 dxc4 24.Qf3 Nf6 25.Bc3 with powerful attack.
b2)18...Rfe8 19.Qg3 Nh5 20.Nxh6+ Kf8 (20...Kh7 21.Qd3+ Kxh6 22.Ng4#) 21.Qf3 Bf6 22.Qxh5 Nxe5 23.fxe5 Rxe5 24.Nf5 wins.
17.Bc3?! b5!? (17...Bb4 is possible) 18.Qxc6 Qxc6 19.Nxc6 Bd6 20.Ne5 bxc4 is good for black.
17...Rad8 18.Bc1 a4
This novelty was approved by a majority of chess engines. Black wants to establish some squares for his pieces on the kingside. Black still had time to improve his defense: 18...Rfe8 19.Ne2 c5 (19...h5 20.Ng3 c5!?) 20.g4 with sharp play.]
19.Rhe1 a3 20.b3 Bb4 21.Re3 c5!?
It was possible to wait with 21...Rfe8 but Andreikin got tired doing nothing. The game gains speed.
22.d5 exd5 23.cxd5
Vishy makes a practical decision. The computers suggest 23.Nf5 dxc4 (23...d4 24.Re2 Kh7 25.g4±) and now:
A. 24.Rxd7!? Rxd7 25.Qg3 Ne8 26.Nxc4 Qd8 (26...f6 27.Qg6 Qd8 28.Nxh6+ Kh8 29.Nf5 Kg8 30.Nb6! Qxb6 31.Rxe8Â±) 27.Rxe8 Qf6 28.Re5 with white's edge.
B. 24.Nxc4 Kh7 25.Re7 Rde8 and black can hold.
23...Nb6 24.Red3 Qc8?
Too slow. White now has the advantage. Black had better choices.
White gets a small edge after 24...c4 25.bxc4 Nxc4 26.Nxc4 Qxc4 27.Rd4 Qc3 28.d6.
However, the engines show that after 24...Nbxd5 25.Rxd5 Nxd5 26.Rxd5 Rxd5 27.Qxd5 Rd8 black may equalize.
Black is having a hard time. 25...c4? is also pointless: 26.bxc4 Nxc4 (26...Rfe8 27.Rb3 Bc5 28.Rb5+-) 27.Rd4! b5 28.Nc6 wins.
Anand is winning. The black king does not have enough defenders.
Black also has problems after 26...Qf5 27.g4 Qh7 28.Qxb7+-; or 26...Qe6 27.Nxf6+ Qxf6 28.Qxb7+-.
The knight exchange does not spoil the win, but
27.d7! was much stronger, for example:
A. 27...Nbxd7 28.Nxf6+ Rxf6 29.Nxd7+-;
B. 27...Nfxd7 28.Qg4 g6 29.Nxf7! Kxf7 30.f5 Rc6 31.fxg6+ Kg8 (31...Rxg6 32.Rf1+) 32.Qf4 Rxg6 33.Rd6+-;
C. 27...Qc7 28.f5! and now:
c1) 28...Qxe5 29.Re3! wins.
c2) 28...c4 29.Nxc4 Rc6 (29...Nxc4 30.fxe6+-) 30.Bf4+-;
c3) 28...Rxe5 29.Nxf6+ gxf6 (29...Kh8 30.Bxh6! gxh6 31.Qf4 Kg7 32.Nh5+ Kh7 33.Qg3+-) 30.Bxh6, threatening 31.Qg4+.
The pawn has a grip on black's position.
Anand is making it more complicated, since white should win after
29.Ng4! Rc6 (29...Rg6 30.f5 Rxg4 31.Qxg4+-) 30.f5!, for example 30...Qb8 31.f6!; or 30...c4 31.Bf4+-; or 30...Rxd7 31.f6! Rxd3 32.Nxh6+!; or 30...h5 31.Bf4 hxg4 32.Qe4! wins.
The next sequence is rather forced.
29...c4 30.Rg3 g6 31.h5 cxb3 32.Rxb3 Na4 33.hxg6 fxg6 34.Rxb4 Nc3+ 35.Kc2!
Walking into discovered checks is the right solution. After 35.Ka1? Nxd1 36.Rc4 Qd6 37.Qf3 Rxd7! (37...Qxe5+? 38.fxe5 Rxf3 39.Rc8! Rff8 40.Rxd8 Rxd8 41.e6+-) 38.Qb3 Rff7 39.Bxa3 Qd5 the chances are equal.
There is no profitable check, so black takes care of the square c4.
In the heat of battle, Anand was not sure about the following variations:
A. 36.Bd2! Nxa2+ 37.Kb1 Nxb4 (37...Nc3+ 38.Ka1+-) 38.Bxb4 a2+ 39.Kb2+-;
B. 36.Rc4 bxc4 37.Kxc3 Qa5+ 38.Kxc4 Qa4+ 39.Kc3+-
But both lines win.
Again 37.Bd2! was more powerful, for example 37...Nc5+ 38.Kxa3 and now:
A. 38...Nxd7 39.Kb2 Rd6 40.Bc3 Nxe5 41.Bxe5 Rd2+ 42.Rxd2 Rxd2+ 43.Ka1+-
B. 38...Ra6+ 39.Kb2 Nd3+ (39...Qa5 40.a4! Nxa4+ 41.Kc2 Qc7+ (41...Nc5 42.Bc3+-) 42.Kb1 Nc3+ 43.Bxc3 Qxc3 44.Rb2+-) 40.Kb1! wins, but not 40.Nxd3? Rxa2+ 41.Kxa2 Qc2+ 42.Nb2 Ra8+ 43.Ra4 Rxa4 mate.
Vishy is still on the winning path. He could have even sacrificed a rook: 38.Kxa3 Qa5+ 39.Kb2 Qxb4+ 40.Ka1 Ra6 41.Qd5+ Ne6 (41...Kh8 42.Bb2 Nb3+ 43.Kb1+-) 42.Bb2 and white should win.
After 38...Na6+ 39.Kb1 Nxb4 40.Qb3+ wins.
The computers point out a fancy win 39.Rc4! bxc4 but are not sure which choice is the best now:
A. 40.Qxa3! the simplest 40...Nc5 (40...Ra8 41.Qe7 Qd8 42.Ba3+-) 41.Rd5 Nb7 42.Qc3 Nc5 (42...Rd6 43.Rxd6 Nxd6 44.Qg3 Rxd7 (44...g5 45.Qg4!) 45.Nxd7 Qxd7 46.Qxg6+ Kf8 47.Qxh6++-) 43.Ng4+-;
B. 40.Qd5+ Kh7 41.Ng4 Qb6 (41...Rff8 42.Bxa3) 42.Nxf6+ Qxf6 43.Qe5 Qxe5 (43...Qf7 44.Qb5 Nb2 45.Qd5; 43...Qf5+ 44.Qxf5 gxf5 45.Bxa3 Nb6 46.Bc5 Nxd7 47.Be7 Ra8 48.Rxd7 Rxa2+ 49.Kc3 Rxg2 50.Bf8++-) 44.fxe5 Nc5 45.Bxa3+-;
a) 40...Kh7 41.Be7 Qb8 42.Qa3+- Qb7 43.Bxd8 Qe4+ 44.Kc1 Qxf4+ 45.Kb1 Qf5+ 46.Nd3 cxd3 47.Qxa4 (47.Bxf6? d2+ 48.Ka1 Qxf6+ 49.Kb1 Qf5+=) 47...Rd6 48.Ba5 Rxd7 49.Bc3+-;
b) 40...Qb6 41.Qd5+ Kh7 42.Rd4!+-;
c) 40...Re6 41.Qd5 Qb6 42.Qxc4 winning material.
The alternative 39.Kd2 Qd6+ 40.Nd3 is not easy to choose before the time control, but it should win, too:
a) 40...Rf7!? - best - 41.Bxa3 (41.Ke1 Rfxd7 42.Rd2 Qc7±) 41...Rfxd7 42.Rb3 +-
b) 40...Qxd7 41.Bxa3 Nb6 42.Bb2 Rd6 43.Rb3 Nc4+ 44.Kc1+-
c) 40...Rxd7 41.Bxa3 Nb2 42.Rxb2 Qxa3 43.Kc1 Rfd6 44.Nf2+-
39...Nc5+ 40.Kc2 Na4+
The time control is over and all options in move 39 are still available to Anand. But human mind has its limits and a draw suited the Indian GM just fine.