Carlsen-Anand, World Chess Championship 2014: My tip
The build-up for the world championship rematch is reaching fever point. Magnus Carlsen, the undisputed world number one, and reigning classical (as well as blitz and rapid, by the way) world champion. Vishy Anand, the three-times champion, coming off the back of his best six months of tournament chess in several years.
Magnus, the young, hip, fresh new face of modern chess. From oil-rich Norway, the 23 year old has very much been enjoying his crown and all the attention it garners: Taking the celebrity kick-off in a real Madrid match (locker-room photos with Cristiano, Zidane and Gareth Bale); starring one again in a G-Star Raw catalogue; celebrity games with Bill Gates and Stephen Colbert; featured in Cosmopolitan's "Sexiest Men of 2013"; starting his own company "Play Magnus"; a very public spat with FIDE, numerous interviews, a couple of biographies and, possibly, an acting cameo in Christopher Nolan's upcoming epic Interstellar. He's been busy.
Vishy, the 'veteran' at the ripe old age of 44. The husband, the father, the inspiration to tens of millions of aspiring chess players from developing countries, and to hundreds of millions of Indians in general. The unassuming gentleman; the humble champion. Politically neutral, publicly conservative, competitively interminable. A doyen of six(ish) world championship matches, and one of the most accomplished match-players in modern chess.
With such a contrast, coupled with the attention from the last match between these two, it's no surprise that people are getting excited. Pre-match articles are being written everywhere, with opinions by grandmaster commentators being thrown around all over the place (e.g. see here. By the way, despite the fact that Chessdom is one of the few chess websites I haven't worked for, I have to say that it is a really excellent website, especially for following live chess with analysis).
The general consensus among grandmasters and other experts seems to be that, although Magnus is to be favoured, we can expect a much closer match than the 6½–3½ drubbing last time around. The theories go like this:
- Anand is a better learner from match experience, and will come with more aggressive, smarter opening preparation
- Magnus now has the pressure to retain his title, whereas Anand has the luxury of being 'only' the challenger
- Magnus has had an uncharacteristic form slump (and rating drop) over the past few months; Anand is in superb tournament form
The one sole GM-dissident seems to be Levon Aronian, who thinks that Carlsen will probably win before the full twelve games (as in 2013). He thinks that Magnus is just too strong at pure playing strength and, moreover, has a clear psychological edge over Vishy.
And now for my tip (if this is what you were after in reading this, well done in making it this far). Despite the very fair arguments above, and despite the fact that I highly admire what Vishy has done/is doing for chess in developing countries, I'm firmly of Lev's opinion. I see Magnus as an overwhelming favourite to win the match. I'm not so sure that the match will be won before round 12, but I feel that Magnus will likely be leading going into rounds 11 and 12.
Having said that, there are plenty of things to get excited about. I agree with the sentiment of others that Vishy is likely to bring some stimulating new opening ideas from his home kitchen, so I'm looking forward to the theoretical goodies. Moreover, a FIDE World Championship match in Sochi (Norwegian and Russian chess federations aren't on the best of terms these days), between these two great rivals ("I am not his friend" - Vishy) has all the ingredients of a controversy or two. It's been eight years since the infamous Toiletgate world championship, and the public wants drama. Bring on Saturday!
(...and now some shameless self-promotion. I'll be doing live video commentary with American GM Larry Christiansen for Game 9 on Thursday 20 November on the Internet Chess Club's ChessFM. I'll also be doing one recap show for Chess.com; details to follow. More importantly, perhaps, is that super-GM Hikaru Nakamura will also be commentating for both sites: Game 4 for ICC, and the rest day on November 13 for Chess.com . I can't wait to see what he's got to say!)