Will Anand play in the 2014 Candidates?
Before we dig into the news here are the basic facts:
On December 23, 2013, FIDE announced that the deadline for player's participation in the Candidates Tournament is 20 January 2014. The event will be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia from 11 March (arrivals) to 1 April 2014 (departures) and the qualifiers are:
1. Vishy Anand (IND, former world champion)
2. Vladimir Kramnik (RUS, world cup 2013 winner)
3. Dmitry Andreikin (RUS, world cup 2013 finalist)
4. Veselin Topalov (BUL, grand-prix 2012-13 winner)
5. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE, grand-prix 2012-13 runner-up)
6. Levon Aronian (ARM, rating list 2012-13)
7. Sergey Karjakin (RUS, rating list 2012-13)
8. Peter Svidler (RUS, host nominee)
First reserve from the FIDE Grand-Prix standings is Fabiano Caruana (ITA). The winner of the Candidates Tournament will challenge Magnus Carlsen for the world championship title in the last quarter of 2014.
Before the announcement Anand was reluctant to commit. A number of newspapers and chess blogs were already writing him off for the Candidates, and celebrating the inclusion of Fabiano Caruana as the replacement. In The Chess Mind Dennis Monokroussos regretted this supposed decision by Anand: "Skipping out seems like a big mistake. For one thing, qualifying for subsequent Candidates events from scratch is not going to be easy, so he should take the free pass while it's there. Second, he must still have a nice bank of theoretical work from the match that will still be usable. In time it will seep out in tournament and others will catch up, so he should use them while he can." And here's the December 21 report from the Times of India:
If Anand pulls out of the event, it won't be a huge surprise. His priorities appear to have changed and the weather at the Candidates too may not be to his liking. Khanty Mansiysk is in Siberia, where Friday's temperature was minus 31 degrees Celsius. The average temperature in March is minus 3.
In case the world No. 9 Anand (Elo 2773) opts out of the Candidates meet, his spot will go to 21-year-old Fabiana Caruana of Italy, the world No. 7 (Elo 2782). The Russian federation chose Peter Svidler (age 37, rating 2758) over Caruana and granted their home player a wild card.
A day hater NDTV Sport has some hopeful news for Anand fans:
A day later there was even more encouraging news from the former champion:
And on the same pre-Christmas day FirstPost Sport had a similar story:
Asked whether age was catching up with him, the 44-year-old said: "Yes. Age has been a factor to put it mildly. There is not much you can do about it. I want to focus on results. With age, you tend to change your approach and try to compensate with your experience. That's a fact of course. I can think of seeing myself at 50 but not beyond. It's clear that the average age in chess is dropping fast. In fact, most of the top ten are young players. I can't set myself a number of years. I will keep playing till I enjoy playing." Anand started off brilliantly in London Classic but only to lose in the quarters to Vladimir Kramnik: "I was trying a different approach. I was trying to experiment a bit and play freely. It worked in group league. It was going well in knock out stage but the position fell apart quite fast."
Naturally we will keep you posted on Anand's final decision – which doesn't need to come before January 20. Without wishing to pressure him in any way we tend to agree with Dennis Monokroussos: he should participate. Here are some reasons:
- Anand loves chess, and when you are as good as he is at anything, you are going to want to do it.
- He has, as Dennis above, practically finished preparation for the event, from his work for Carlsen.
- As the former world champion Anand has a free ticket to the final stage of the coming cycle, something many players would give their back teeth for.
- One billion people are hoping that he will play, and will be rooting with all their hearts for him (as we said, it behooves us not to apply pressure, but those are the facts).
- Anand is a great player who was in contention for the World Championship when Magnus Carlsen was barely able to say the word "sjakk". Magnus and Fabiano are young guys with at least twenty years of top class chess ahead of them.
- Anand has won or defended the title five time, and a half-dozen would be a nice number.
- He's a seriously nice guy.
In case you wondered: the "will he, won't he" title of our report is from the Mock Turtle's Song.