Saturday, June 2

Anand Retains World Title

World Champion Anand is honored by FIDE President Ilyzhuminov. (Daily Mail)
The 15th World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand of India successfully defended the crown in a wild rapid time control playoff.  While Anand won the four game series by an undefeated score of 2.5-1.5, the Israeli challenger Boris Gelfand had chances to be victorious in as many as three games.  All told, the combatants played 16 total games, but only three proved decisive to determine a champion.

Players shake hands at end of rapid game 4. (IBN)
Unlike the classical (slow) games, the rapid contests (G/25 + 10 sec/move increment) provided plenty of fireworks.  Anand defended carefully with black in the first contest, and then gained an advantage with the white pieces in the second game.  Amazingly, Gelfand managed to survive into a drawn ending.  However, he had used up all of his time in the middlegame, and finally cracked while playing on the 10 second increment.  Gelfand's best chance to recover from defeat came right away in the third round.  On move 26, Nxe4 either wins the bishop on b8 outright, or gives black a decisive knight outpost on d6.  The Israeli also missed a technical win right at the very end.  Needing to win with black in the final game, Gelfand earned a tiny middlegame edge, but could not make headway against accurate defense by Anand.

In short, the match was decided by the rapid time control.  Of course, any win is always a win.  However, I expected more from the reigning champion against a significantly lower rated challenger.

The following list includes all classical World Chess Champions in history.  Except for two cases where the title was temporarily vacated, each champion defeated his immediate predecessor in a match.
  • #1 Wilhelm Steinitz (1886)
  • #2 Emmanuel Lasker (1894)
  • #3 Jose Raul Capablanca (1921)
  • #4 Alexander Alekhine (1927)
  • #5 Max Euwe (1935)
  • repeat by Alekhine (1937)
  • vacant after Alekhine's death (1946)
  • #6 Mikhail Botvinnik (1948)
  • #7 Vasily Smyslov (1957)
  • repeat by Botvinnik (1958)
  • #8 Mikhail Tal (1960)
  • repeat by Botvinnik (1961)
  • #9 Tigran Petrosian (1963)
  • #10 Boris Spassky (1969)
  • #11 Bobby Fischer (1972)
  • vacant after refusal to defend (1975)
  • #12 Anatoly Karpov (1975)
  • #13 Garry Kasparov (1985)
  • #14 Vladimir Kramnik (2000)
  • #15 Viswanathan Anand (2007)

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