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Don't have very good idea who the favourite was before these old tournaments but think that in 2005 the two biggest favourites were Anand and Leko.
Topalov had a great 2005, he for example shared first with Kasparov in Linares after beating him (while Leko drew all his games), won also Sofia clearly after beating both Anand and Kramnik, and shared second in Dortmund (ahead of Kramnik and Leko, after beating the latter). But Leko had also done fairly well, winning Wijk in the beginning of the year.
The betting site Betsson ranked Anand and Topalov as the top two, but Leko wasn't far behind:
With hindsight it's easy to imagine Topalov as being ranked further ahead of Leko than he was, since he soon would be #1, while Leko never reached top 3 and was already fading, but that was difficult to know at the time.
I wonder whatever happened to Leko. Lack of motivation, other interests? At his peak he seemed to be among top 4 in the world very close to the level of Kasparov, Kramnik and Anand and of course he is younger than all of them. Somehow he seemd to decline really fast after 2005 or so and nowadays he is nowhere near the elite whereas many of the older guys are still there.
Shakaati- What you say leads more generally to a question that interests me a lot. Or 2 related ones.
What allows some players to stay at the top for decades while some last for far less time?
A couple of the top players around in the 80's,Lev Psakhis and Andrei Sokolov only stayed there for a year or so.
Kasparov talks about this in his books. He says you have to have a work ethic and be able to identify and improve on your own weaknesses.
I would add you need good health to stay strong as you age. I mean both keep yourself fit and by luck or good management avoid serious illnesses.
The other question is why do some players very strong as juniors go on to be top players and others just don't. Judith Polgar was as strong as Kasparov, Kramnik or Fisher as a junior, but hardly got any better after around age 15. Mecking and Pomar were also incredibly strong young, but achieved comparatively little, especially Pomar.
On Leko, he had a problem all his career with a lack of ambition- in the sense of being too often satisfied with a draw. Maybe [I don't claim to be an expert on Leko's career] he was not good enough at adressing his weaknesses to stay at the top long.
It must have been hard to lose that last game to Kramnik in 2004 - to be so close to the classical World Title and have it snatched from your grasp. And then he took a nine month break in 2010.
Leko was severely criticised for not even trying to win a game where he was a pawn up late in the match.
Its extremely puzzling.
I think Leko was helped a bit by the fact that Kasparov and Anand didn't play the Dortmund Candidates in 2002. He had really bad results against both, and I doubt he ever would have reached a title match if they had been present. Then he played Kramnik in the middle of his weak period around 2004-05. Otherwise Leko reminds a bit of Radjabov the last years. Careful, rather draws than taking risks, peaking just outside top three, and slow but steady decline in results. It looked as if both would be top five players for a decade but then the fire just went out somehow.
-Pacifique- I'm finding it difficult [as I believe almost anyone would] to understand how a player who is beaten by '6' games has given an 'even' match. Alekhine's 'crushing' win over Euwe is made even more impressive when one considers how far positional and defensive play had come. I appreciate the fact that your last remarks dealt with what I said instead of just dismissing me, but I hope you can understand that I see nothing in the 6 game spread that smacks of levelness. 6 games is 6 games. If there is some extenuating circumstance which caused this discrepancy I have not heard it.
I am very aware that 'most' grandmasters believed that Capablanca would easily defeat Alekhine since I believe he had a 7-0 record against him in tournament play before being doubled up by Alekhine. If 'most' grandmasters agree with you I have not heard that and I would be very interested in hearing them explain away such a demolishing defeat. Again, I appreciate you taking my comments seriously enough to answer them, but I would be lying if I said I believed that Euwe was ever really in Alekhine's class. Grandmaster's opinion's were reduced by 'you' as subjective. The 1937 score stands as a testament that cannot be evaluated away.
IM Silman (true Alekhine`s admirer) on Alekhine - Euwe 1937 match in his chess.com blog:
The battle was hard fought, but Alekhine was two up with five games to go. Such a lead is pretty much decisive, and Euwe collapsed losing four games and drawing one. The final six game difference makes the match seem one-sided, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Comparing Anand and Kramnik, the former has done much better in the World Championship cycles where both have been playing. In the 1994-95 cycle Anand won the Candidates while Kramnik was eliminated by Kamsky, in 2007 Anand won the World Championship clearly, as well as the match against Kramnik a year later. Also this time Anand won, well ahead of Kramnik. So Kramnik has never finished ahead of Anand in a cycle where both have been playing, and never won a qualification for a title match like Anand did in 1994-95 (PCA), 1997-98 (FIDE) and this time (unified). So maybe one shouldn't have been so surprised about Anand's result, but I didn't think he would finish in the top half this time.
A single tournament is little better than a dice roll between players of this calibre.
But in any case I am happy for Anand. I think he will work on his endgames and be better prepared for Carlsen. It will be a great rematch.
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