Sochi Opening: Anand draws white for game one

by Albert Silver
11/8/2014 – The press conference and opening ceremony took place, officially opening the match. It started with a press conference with some fun and some tough questions for organizers and players, while Karpov presented two special chess sets as a personal prize to the winner. The opening ceremony set the stage for the drawing of colors as the players pulled balloons from a magician's box.

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Press Conference

The Sochi World Championship was officially started with the first press conference with the organizers, officials and players.

At the table were Magnus Carlsen, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the
Russian Chess Federation Andrei Filatov, Vishy Anand, FIDE press officer Anastasiya Karlovich,
former world champion Anatoly Karpov, and the organizer Ilya Merenzon.

After the expected introductions and welcomes, FIDE press officer Anastasiya Karlovich started the questions and answers with one of the most obvious and prominent questions: who their seconds were. Last year in Chennai, Carlsen had clearly been taken by surprise by Anand’s openness, dodging a question he did not appear ready for, but this time he had come prepared.

Anand was the first to respond, “I have Sasikiran, Wojtaszek, and Gajewski here.” Since the Polish GM Grzegorz Gajewski is a noted theoretician and friend of longtime second Radoslaw Wojtaszek, this could only be considered a moderate surprise. Perhaps the underlying word was ‘here’. Carlsen was little different, “There’s The Dane, and there’s The Hammer, and that’s about it.” Some of the less fluent press members, depending on the interpreter, were possibly a bit confused at first, but the names of Peter Heine Nielsen and Jon Hammer were expected. Here too the question as to outside helpers was left open.

One thing is certain, the seconds are unlikely to be getting much sleep over the next week or two, and one imagines the rooms are equipped with espresso machines and backups.

The press conference with the media in force

Unsurprisingly, there were TV cameras galor, mostly national, but some international as well

There were several questions regarding the actual playing hall, as rumors had abounded the ticket prices were nothing short of exorbitant. Organizer Ilya Merenzon responded that first of all only fifteen percent of the tickets were actually sold, with the remainder being free of charge, and the money from those sales would go to charity, the Chess in Schools program in Russia. He added that the tickets sold were usually purchased by foreigners seeking to watch a specific game, and that the hall can only seat 140 spectators.

12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov next to organizer Ilya Merenzon who answers concerns
regarding the tickets. Although 85% of the tickets are free and can supposedly be downloaded
on the internet, that means just over one hundred.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the lack of a glass wall to insulate the players from outside noise or disturbances, hoping to recreate the atmosphere of chess in the sixties. Magnus Carlsen expressed reservations , “As for the glass wall, I think that would be a good way to do it, but it wasn’t possible this time so we had to find another solution.”  It should be noted that while it is true they didn’t have mobile phones or similar devices in the sixties, concert halls across the globe do not benefit from glass walls and they do just fine.

An unsung hero of the press conference was the interpreter Polina Tsedenova at the left,
ho not only kept pace with all of the information rich questions without missing a beat,
ut translated with rare fluidity and fluency

The journalist asked about the two chess sets on display near the table, said to belong
to the private collection of 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov

Karpov explained that the first set was made from Woolly Mammoth bones, an animal extinct
for thousands of years, a material that is now only found in Russia

The second set is called The Invincible, and was made from precious woods. This was his
innovation, the first time a former world champion provides special prizes of his own.

Although polite, the journalists did not hesitate to ask some tougher questions. “Mr. Anand, after
you lost to Magnus Carlsen a year ago, you said you began to doubt your way of playing chess.
Can you tell us how you regained faith in your own chess and why you are now able to beat Magnus?”

“Well, after a result like that, you’re pretty depressed, but a little bit of time passed and I
felt that I wanted to play chess again slowly. The Candidates went well, and definitely this
year was reasonably successful. I’m quite happy with the way things shaped up, and I’m
ready to give it another shot.”

Magnus was asked whether he thought he was the favorite, a question one would think
he could answer only one way, and sure enough, “What do you think?”

Nevertheless he then expanded on this in a more thoughtful manner. "Seriously, it doesn’t really matter for the players. You can only do your best and as soon as the match starts it doesn’t matter whoever was the favourite. If you play badly you’re not going to win. Last time I didn’t play very successfully at the start and I could have been severely punished for that in a couple of games. Obviously it’s important for me to get off to a better start."

The Talisman

The artist who designed the two chess sets to be awarded at the end of the match asked his own question to the players and what their talisman (lucky charm) was. “As all of us know, you frequently come to tournaments with your charming wife. For you, your wife is she a kind of talisman and inspiration?”

"Well, she’s a kind of wife. Obviously we are very close, and she has been helping me more
or less since we got married. Big big support of course.

Recently since Akhil was born she doesn’t come that often but I’m very happy she’s here."

Magnus was asked similarly, “what is your inspiration, mascot, or talisman in chess matches?” to which he answered “I’m not such a spiritual person.”

Full video of the press conference with further questions and answers. It starts at 9m30.

Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony followed the tried and true patterns with speeches, entertainment and the all-important drawing of colors, the moment everyone was waiting for.

Magnus Carlsen seemed less non-chalant as the Norwegian national anthem was played

Former world champion Boris Spassky was present during the press conference and the opening ceremony

As a touch of surprise the players drew ballons from a magician's box. The colors are clear.

The magician then proceeded to pop the balloons making white and black birds appear

The full opening ceremony can be viewed here. Please note the actual ceremony only starts
at the 25m30 mark

The colors are set and Vishy Anand will have white in game one. The first game will start at 3PM local time, (1PM Paris/Berlin or 7AM New York).

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  German English French Spanish
Round 1
Thomas Luther Daniel King
Parimarjan Negi
Yannick Pelletier Ana Matnadze
Marc Narciso
Round 2
Oliver Reeh
Karsten Müller
Simon Williams
Nicholas Pert
Christian Bauer Sergio Estremera
Rest day
Rest day      
Round 3
Markus Ragger
Harald Schneider-Zinner
Daniel King
Loek van Wely
Fabien Libiszewski Sergio Estremera
Round 4
Klaus Bischoff Daniel King
Rustam Kasimdzhanov
Romain Edouard Sergio Estremera
Rest day
Rest day      
Round 5
Klaus Bischoff Simon Williams
Irina Krush
Sebastien Mazé Sergio Estremera
Round 6
Klaus Bischoff Daniel King
Yannick Pelletier
Fabien Libiszewski Sergio Estremera
Rest day
Rest day      
Round 7
Klaus Bischoff Simon Williams
Loek van Wely
Sebastien Mazé Sergio Estremera
Round 8
Klaus Bischoff Daniel King
Loek van Wely
Romain Edouard Sergio Estremera
Rest day
Rest day      
Round 9
Oliver Reeh
Merijn van Delft
Simon Williams
Irina Krush
Christian Bauer Sergio Estremera
Round 10
Oliver Reeh
Merijn van Delft
Daniel King
Simon Williams
Yannick Pelletier Ana Matnadze
Marc Narciso
22.11.2014 Rest day Rest day      
Round 11
Yannick Pelletier Chris Ward
Parimarjan Negi
Fabien Libiszewski Sergio Estremera
Rest day
Rest day      
Round 12
Oliver Reeh
Karsten Müller
Simon Williams
Rustam Kasimdzhanov
Sebastien Mazé Sergio Estremera
26.11.2014 Rest day      
27.11.2014 Tie-Break      

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Our team of commentators:


Irina Krush
The woman in the commentator team, several times US-Champion


Daniel King
Well known, popular, experienced, and very good. In England he is so well-known as chess moderator that the car company Audi even shot a commercial with him.


Simon Williams
Englisher grandmaster, author of two popular ChessBase DVDs on the King's Gambit.


Chris Ward
Dragon expert and chess commentator

Niclas Pert
Grandmaster, trainer, and author of a number of excellent Fritztrainer-ChessBase DVDs


Loek van Wely
Several times Dutch champion and quick-witted chess commentator


Parimarjan Negi
The Indian grandmaster once was world's youngest grandmaster and also excelled as author of books and DVDs


Rustam Kasimdzhanov
The FIDE-World Champion from 2004 supported Anand as a second in several of his World Championship matches



Klaus Bischoff
German Champion and"Anchorman" of chess commentary in German



Oliver Reeh
Called "Tactic-Reeh". Well known through his regular tactic column in the ChessBase magazine and the ChessBase website


Dr. Karsten Müller
Graduated mathematician and chess grandmaster. His works on the endgame changed endgame training completely.


Thomas Luther
Several times German champion. Active in the FIDE commission for the handicapped.


Merijn van Delft
From the Dutch dynasty of the van Delfts. Lives in Hambug and in Holland.


Yannick Pelletier
Several times Swiss champion. With a gift for languages he can provide commentary in a number of languages.


Markus Ragger
Grandmaster and Austria's number one

Harald Schneider-Zinner
Chess trainer and moderator of ChessBase TV Austria

If you want to, you can also enjoy the live commentary in the language of Voltaire.


Christian Bauer
Grandmaster, several time French Champion and member of the French national team


Fabien Libiszewski
International Master and member of the French national team


Romain Edouard
Grandmaster, European Junior Champion and Vice-World Junior Champion, member of the French national team



Sebastien Mazé
Grandmaster and French national coaach


Ana Matnadze


Marc Narcisco


Sergio Estremera



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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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Catullus Catullus 11/8/2014 10:55
The first game starts 8th of November at 15:00 local time (13:00 CET, 07:00 EST)
firestorm firestorm 11/8/2014 09:07
Its probably me, but the official tournament site doesn't give the time games start in the match schedule- if this info is there, I don't see it. Anyone know, and the correction to ECT?
karavamudan karavamudan 11/8/2014 08:45
Best of Luck Anand!!

The Chess World expects you to give Carlsen a mighty run for his money this time.

Play games befitting your stature and enrich Chess
Zirie Zirie 11/8/2014 06:56
The level of stupidity in some questions in these conferences never ceases to astound me. "Can you show us the drawing you did?" No! Of course not.