Anand wins right to face Carlsen

Mar 31, 2014, 1:55 PM |

I followed the Candidate's Tournament with much interest, to see who won the right to face Magnus Carlsen for the title.  It was a little shocking to see Anand win, especially after his complete defeat against Carlsen the first go around (Chennai 2013).

While this was a dominating defeat by Anand over the rest of the challengers in the field, I think Anand fans should worry about the way it all happened.  The first match against Carlsen played out in a very interesting way, which I think is lost a little bit to history, which only tends to consider the final score.  Anand scored a draw in the first four games.  After the fourth game, the commentary was mixed.  While many still thought Carlsen was ahead, and Anand would be punished for his passive choices during the first four game.  However, many people thought that Carlsen was going to start pressing due to his failure to break through.  In these situations, the challenger is under pressure to score the win.

Now, as it turns out, Anand's strategy crumbled around him.  Anand had some good positions in the first four games, and neglected to push forward towards achieving wins.  He thought, like many others, that Carlsen had to force his way to winning the championship, and he was, in some sense, right.  Carlsen did force his way right through, leading to a relatively easy champsionship with a score of +3.

Now, Anand has his own +3 victory over a field of ultra-GMs.  His strategy that didn't work for Carlsen worked for this field.  He didn't press his advantages, he waited for clear positions to press for wins.  The running theme of commentary of Anand draws was that he could have pressed without risk, but the tournament situation didn't warrant it.  Well, his rematch against Carlsen will warrant it.  It took until Game 11 of that match for Anand to really fight, and that game was a classic. 

The passive strategy worked well for Anand in the candidates, but won't work against Magnus.  I felt that Anand was mentally defeated after game 6 of the last match.  The only question is, can he reach the mental space where he is capable of challenging Carlsen?  To this point, he hasn't proved himself capable.