Let’s be honest about this. Anand hasn’t really done anything spectacular since 2010 with his victory over Topalov, then Gelfand in 2012. Other than that, Anand was pretty much non-existent in competitive play last year. Yes, he’s now a new father, so his focus naturally shifted from chess and more to his family, but his “Heavy Weight” Chess title is at stake with the 2013 World Championship looming later this year. Magnus will most likely clobber his comrades in the upcoming Candidates Tournament, so sitting back is not an option for Anand unless, that is, he wants to lose his World Championship “belt.”
In December 2012, an article was published on Chessbase about Anand’s full comeback to steady chess play in 2013. Between December (the article’s publication) and July, he has 7 tournaments (6 now that TATA is over); that’s approximately one tournament per month. Though he shouldn’t burn himself out before October-November (the time of the Championship match), he needs to stay mentally vigilante over his chess play till then, considering it’s possibly his biggest test ever.
I’ve previously criticized Anand about this and have heard him called “Drawanand” (and other variations of that name) in certain circles on Chess.com. He drew every game but two to Gelfand in the 12-game 2012 title match, then beat him in the rapid playoff. He drew a lot of his games in the TATA tourney as well. I personally don’t think he’ll be able to do that if Magnus, or even Aronian, advances to compete in this year’s World Championship. Of course, there are other threats with the likes of players such as Kramnik, Svidler, Grischuk and Gelfand, but Magnus sure to be in it this year changes things dramatically. (Magnus wasn’t in the last Candidates tourney because of his tournament boycott.)
Though Anand said he’ll be comfortable returning to a more active schedule, which includes a World Title match, my opinion is he should’ve gotten more active much sooner. Now, I know I’m not an expert on all things chess-related, and have never claimed to be, so perhaps I’m not giving him enough credit. Anand is currently ranked 6th in the world on the FIDE list, and placed 3rd in the recent TATA Super Tourney, behind Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian. All I know is Carlsen has his eyes on the Championship and Vishy is going to have to do whatever it takes to keep it.
But what happens if he ultimately loses his title? Will he remain competitive and try to reclaim the seat on his 6-year Championship throne, or will he retire, opting to spend time with his family, watching his child grow up? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, contemplating possible forks in the road is fun to do.
Until next time everyone—thanks for reading. Any comments or opinions are welcome—just please keep them friendly.