In part I we saw Vishy Anand winning the Candidates 2014, qualifying for the revenge match with Magnus Carlsen.
But what difference does that make to the World Champion? He continued his winning ways. In April 2014, a strong tournament was held in Shamkir, in the memory of Vugar Gashimov. Carlsen showed his class and won the tournament with a score of 6.5/10. One point ahead of the rest. Everything looks absolutely normal until you get to know that Magnus lost back to back games in round five and six against Caruana and Radjabov respectively. The first defeats for Carlsen in classical chess since he became World Champion.
Clear first at Shamkir but two losses always leave a bad taste behind (Picture: Ahmed Mukhtar)
Carlsen vs the Man in Red
In May 2014, Magnus played a very special game: Magnus vs Norway. The man in the red costume executed the moves on behalf of the entire nation. Magnus' opponents included three grandmasters: Simen Adgestein, Jon Ludvig Hammer and Leif Erlend Johannessen. They would suggest the moves and for which the people of Norway would vote online. Magnus had one minute per move, his opponents five. And there was one more twist: The three grandmasters could consult Houdini three times during the game. And this rule stopped Magnus from winning the game. The game ended in a fighting draw! Daniel King annotated the game in a video presentation which you can find here.
Piscopo vs Anand
Meanwhile, and in the Porto Vecchio region of Corsica in France, Vishy also played exhibition matches: Against IM Pierliugi Piscopo from Italy and against French IM Michael Massoni. Anand played four games in all: two against each of the opponent. He won three games but Piscopo was able to hold him to a draw. One can understand the Italian player when he said after the game, "This is the happiest moment of my chess career!"
The next tournament on the agenda of World Champion Carlsen was the No Logo Norway Chess Tournament 2014. Following tradition the tournament began with a blitz tournament. Magnus was in sublime form and scored 7.5/9 without losing a single game to win the event. There seemed to be no doubt that Magnus, who was winning one tournament after another, would also win the classical event. But Sergey Karjakin had other intentions.
Two of the best talents of our generation battling it out with each other (picture from the official website)
Even though Magnus was unbeaten with a score of 5.5/9 this was only good for the second spot as Karjakin took the top honours with 6.0/9. After two losses in the Gashimov Memorial and a second place in the Norway Chess Tournament 2014, Carlsen suddenly looked very human!
The World Rapid- and Blitz-Championships took place in Dubai in June 2014. The field was particularly interesting as nearly all the top players in the world had come to win a world title. Apart from Carlsen and Anand, there were Aronian, Grischuk, Caruana, Nakamura, Karjakin, Mamedyarov, Vachier-Lagrave, Svidler, and many more. The rapid-event was a 15 round affair, lasting three days with five rounds per day. After the first two days – that is after ten rounds – Magnus was in the lead with 8/10. But in the twelfth round he suffered his only defeat in the tournament. Any guess who was the man who beat him?
None other than Vishy Anand!
Carlsen after making a horrible blunder in his game against Vishy Anand
Both games have been annotated by GM Vidit Gujrathi.
Carlsen, however, did not give up. He fought back and after surviving a nearly lost position against Grischuk in the 14th round, which he finally even won, he was able to claim the World Rapid title with a score of 11/15. Carlsen was now World Rapid Champion and World Champion in classical format.
How many of you could go for a game of bowling in a 45 minute tournament-break
and come back and play with the same focus!
The blitz-tournament was a 21 round marathon event. Magnus led right from the start and finished with an impressive score of 17/21. His only loss came against current World Junior Champion Lu Shanglei. The battle between Carlsen and Anand in blitz ended in a draw. Magnus finished one point ahead of blitz experts Ian Nepomniachtchi and Hikaru Nakamura who won Silver and Bronze respectively.
An elated Carlsen, after becoming World Champion in Classical-, Rapid- and Blitz-chess. Truly an amazing feat!
Vishy played very solid chess in the Rapid event, not losing a single game to win
Bronze. But in blitz he lost no less than six games and finished seventh.
Both players took some rest in July as they played no events. And in August the Olympiad was on the cards in August. Being held in Tromso, Norway, the Norwegian team was definitely in the limelight, much more so because Magnus led the team on the top board. On the other hand Vishy did not play for the Indian team.
At the inauguration, Magnus unveiled Norway's first chess stamp
The stamp with Magnus in the background
The Olympiad was a mixed event for Carlsen as he scored 6.0/9.
Magnus played some sparkling chess and beat Wojtaszek, Predojevic, and especially Caruana! While the other three boards tried their best to achieve a draw against opponents who were often higher rated, Magnus would press one top to secure his team a 2.5-1.5 victory. But it seems the pressure and extra attention of playing at home got to Magnus: he lost two games in the tournament, one against Arkadij Naiditsch, and one against Ivan Saric. Against Naiditsch he had the advantage but uncharacteristically went astray and surprisingly even lost the game. His three team mates had drawn their games, and thus it was due to Magnus that Norway had lost the match against Germany. This would have been heart-breaking for most players but have a look how Magnus approaches the game.
Magnus uploaded this picture on his Facebook-site and wrote:
"Devastating defeat today, gutted to have ruined a fine defensive performance by our team.
Looking to strike back fast as lightning though!"
The final event for the World Champion before the all-important match was the 2.. Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. This event will definitely be remembered for Caruana's brilliant 7.0/7 start, which finally led the Italian to win the tournament by a three point margin. For the second time in 2014, the Italian was able to get the better of Magnus. The battle in the tournament was only for second spot. And Carlsen was able to achieve that with a score of 5.5/10. There was nothing special about Carlsen's performance in the tournament and some think this was due to the stress he had wondering whether he should sign the World Championship match contract.
After quite a bit of dilly-dallying, Magnus finally signed the contract on the 7. September.
It meant that both players agreed to play the World Championship in Sochi, Russia.
Vishy might do well to get inspired by these four guys who have been
able to beat Magnus in classical play. Especially the guy in the upper
left corner who has been able to do it twice this year!
While Carlsen's performance was nothing special for the World's number one in the last two tournaments before the World Championship match, the Challenger was in sparkling form at the Bilbao Masters in September 2014. This was a double round-robin with six players and Vishy managed to beat Ponomariov once and Vallejo twice. With a score of 4.0/5, he won the tournament with one round to spare. A loss to Aronian in the last round was painful but winning the event was a nice achievement for Vishy.
Winning such a strong event convincingly a month and a half before the
World Championship match would definitely send some ominous signals
to the camp of his opponent
Hou Yifan and Vishy Anand at the 2014 Corsican Circuit Rapid
With 14 players from a qualifying event, Vishy Anand and Hou Yifan completed the list of 16 players who were to play a knock-out tournament in Corsican Rapid event. The organizers were definitely aiming for a dream finale of Anand vs Hou Yifan but this was not to be as Anand was eliminated in the semi-finals by Sergey Fedorchuk. The event was won by the Women's World Champion.
That was the journey from November 2013, when the Chennai match ended, to November 2014, when the Sochi match is about to begin. In that time Carlsen and Anand met each other five times over the board, twice in rapid, twice in blitz and once in classical play. The score is even: 2.5:2.5, with Carlsen winning a blitz game and Anand a rapid one.
Vishy has been known for his no-nonsense approach. For instance, he did not like to appear on social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. But this year he has totally different approach. In fact, Vishy has been very active on twitter giving his fans regular updates on his whereabouts. Here are a few interesting ones:
For more tweets, follow Vishy64theking on twitter.
Magnus was not too far behind and posted this picture on Facebook:
Commenting the picture Carlsen writes: "My coach thinks I have some questionable training techniques..."
The mind games have already begun at Sochi. Game one is just around the corner! It's going to be a cracker of a match!
A special thanks to Vidit Gujrathi for annotating the two encounters between Carlsen and Anand.