Anand vs Carlsen: what their colleagues are saying

by ChessBase
11/4/2013 – "It is hard to recall any other match in recent decades where the defending champion has begun with his back so firmly pressed to the wall," says Nigel Short, the 1993 World Championship Challenger. Fourteenth World Champion Vladimir Kramnik thinks Anand may be scared of Carlsen, while Indian GMs Krishnan Sasikiran and Koneru Humpy are more optimistic. Press reports on the match.

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Every once in a while, in the history of the World Chess Championship, comes a moment — such as Steinitz-Lasker 1894, Lasker-Capablanca 1921 and Kasparov-Kramnik 2000 — when the power passes palpably from one generation to the next. Without wishing to cause distress to the readers of The Indian Express, I venture to suggest that we are at another turning point now This is by no means to imply that Viswanathan Anand will not fight like a tiger against the brilliant, young Nonvegian Magnus Carlsen, or that the defeat of the older man is a foregone conclusion. Nevertheless, it is hard to recall any other match in recent decades where the defending champion has begun with his back so firmly pressed to the wall.

Firstly, the most obvious point is that, at nearly 44, Anand is no longer a spring chicken. In chess terms, he could be considered a veritable dinosaur (incidentally, your 48 year-old writer is the oldest player in the top 100). Concentration wavers in middle-age in a manner if does not when you are in your physical prime. One lapse and you are on your way back to the pavilion. Secondly, motivation sags over time. When you have already achieved everything you could wish for professionally and you have as much money as you need for a good life, other things beome more important — particularly when you have a young child. Success in all sport requires sacrifice and pain: most people tire of it eventually

With Vishy now languishing in a modest spot down the world rankings, the Nordic iceman leads by a whopping 95 rating points, which suggests, statistically, a very comfortable win (63% to 37%). Crude numbers by no means tell the whole story, but they do offer an insight into the scale of challenge that Anand now faces. He can overcome the odds, but he is going to have to strain every atom in his body to do so. Even that may not be enough.

Most in world chess, including Anatoly Karpov, believe that the 24-year-old Norwegian is at the right age to win the title and Kramnik is no exception. "Chess is not like football or other sports, but still, when you are much older than your opponent, it works against you. (At 37) I consider myself to be quite old. Vishy (44) is even older than me. So that makes it a bit difficult for him. Carlsen has much more energy, more motivation as he hasn't been a world champion yet. Those are his biggest advantages."

The Russian GM feels that Anand is "somewhat intimidated" by Carlsen's rapid rise. "Anand definitely has his chances, it is absolutely realistic. The only problem that Anand is facing is that he is somewhat intimidated by Carlsen. He hasn't been confident playing against him – he's scared of him, I would say." Elaborating on it, the Russian talked about the problems Anand used to face when he took on Kasparov. "He was never seriously weaker than Kasparov, but just couldn't play against him." In order to turn the tables on Carlsen, Anand has to be "absolutely relaxed". "Vishy shouldn't think about the outcome. He should just play and enjoy and try to show his best. If he is relaxed and doesn't get too tense, he can win."

“I expect some great chess from November 9 and it would be a close contest,” said Krishnan Sasikiran, one of India’s strongest players. Sasikiran believes both Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen are going to find the match extremely tough. “As far as the World championship is concerned, I would say Anand has an edge because he has vast experience of playing in matches, while Carlsen has never been in a match. That is very important, I feel. We all know that Anand prepares hard for the World Championship matches and that Carlsen has tried to stay away from the theory in the past. But it would be wrong to assume that Carlsen would not change his routine for this match. It is after all the World Championship, the most important event of a player’s career.”

Sasikiran said he would not be surprised if the match went full distance and reached the tie-breakers. “Yes, Anand has always been good in rapid chess, but I am not going to say that he would be the clear favourite if the match goes to the tie-breaker stage,” he said. “Carlsen is a tough customer always. He is a versatile player and handles all kinds of positions well. He is particularly good in simple positions and is great in ending.”

Koneru Humpy, the world’s No. 3 in women’s chess with 2618 points, said the Chennai World championship would be difficult to predict. “Anand and Carlsen are two different types of players,” she said. “Anand’s experience at the World championships would of course be very handy for him. The preparations are very important for a match like this and we have seen in the past how good Anand is in that area.” But she said Carlsen would be up for the challenge from Anand. “He doesn’t like losing,” she said. “And we have to remember that he is a very stable player. He is a natural talent and has got an excellent middle game. And he is very good at ending too. To have a rating of 2870 is fantastic.”

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Polgar is witness to how the reigning champion has evolved from aggressive blitz-kid to a more all-round player. “I played in many tournaments with Anand when we were younger. It was incredible to see how fast he used to play at that time. He could dismantle strong GMs in classical games by using less than 30 minutes on his clock. His mind was like a computer. Anand’s style has changed over the years. He was more aggressive when he was young. Now he has evolved to be an all-around player. This directly contributed to his chess success and longevity.”

Carlsen has been touted as heavy favourite going into the match, but Polgar does not want to take sides. But she has no doubt that both players, when they do decide to retire, will be rated as all-time greats. “Their careers are not over yet so it is hard to rate either of the player at the moment. But I have no doubt that both their names will be near the top, perhaps even at the top, by the time they are done with chess.”

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