Monday, November 3

Preview of Carlsen vs Anand II

Carlsen and Anand before Game 1 of 2013 match. Credit: A. Karlovich

Exactly one year ago, the chess world became captivated by a Battle for the Ages in Chennai, India.  A young lad from Norway, just 22 years old, dared to challenge the reigning champion, a veteran with two decades of experience among the chess elite.  Alas, the champion capitulated on home turf, scoring nary a victory in a result as shocking as the meteoric rating gains already achieved by the Norwegian.  Meet Magnus Carlsen, the 16th World Champion.

Magnus Carlsen - the World Champion!
Much changed over the past year.  Carlsen earned a record rating of 2882 in May, but his recent results have proven modest by his lofty standards.  Indeed, he awkwardly found himself looking up to a peer!  Not only did Fabiano Caruana exceed the performance of the World #1, but he inched within 24 points of the top ratingDoes Carlsen hear the increasingly loud steps of his pursuers?  

On the other hand, the 15th World Champion Vishy Anand recovered from a slump in 2012-13 to gain 20 rating points this year.  Most importantly, he dominated the Candidates Tournament in April to become the official challenger.  In better form and no longer feeling pressure to defend the world title at home, the Tiger from Madras can compete with renewed vigor!

Artist rendering of venue in Sochi 2014.
While accounts of the first Carlsen vs Anand match describe a lopsided victory achieved through endurance and endgame technique, the storyline could have been very different had Anand seized opportunities in the first three games.  The veteran equalized easily with black in Game 1, and then found himself with the advantage in both Games 2 and 3.  The materialistic 29... Bxb2 in Game 3 should have been sufficient to take an early lead.  Alas, Anand was too timid, under too much pressure, and too respectful of his opponent.  Consecutive defeats in Game 5 and Game 6 sealed the Indian champion's fate.

The Rematch kicks off this Saturday, November 8, on neutral ground in Sochi, Russia.  The first to score 6.5 wins; there will be a rapidplay tiebreaker in case of a tie after 12 games.  The venue is the ultra modern Media Center of the 2014 Winter Olympics, and the organizers promise live coverage comparable to the recent Sinquefield Cup and Tromsø Olympiad.  Rounds begin at 3pm Moscow time, which converts to 4am in San Francisco.  Wake up to watch the critical 3rd and 4th hours of play while enjoying breakfast!         
Official website =

Who will win the Rematch in SochiPlease vote in the unscientific poll at the upper right side of this blog.  Select the victor as well as the margin of victory.

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