Posts Tagged ‘Mikhail Botvinnik’

Carlsen vs. Anand: World Chess Championship 2014

November 6, 2014
Official Photograph for Carlsen-Anand 2014

Official Photograph for Carlsen-Anand 2014

Championship rematches are a source of the historic rivalries which provide intrigue for fans and motivate the competitors to perform at their highest level. Historically, chess has had many such occasions because a World Champion who failed to defend his title used to be awarded an automatic rematch. The fact that there is no longer a rematch clause did little slow Viswanathan Anand‘s pursuit of regaining his title from Magnus Carlsen.

Regular readers of this blog will remember that Magnus Carlsen stunned the world by throttling Viswanathan Anand in their first encounter. Many expected Anand to retire after his crushing defeat and chess to be taken over by the “young guns” of the sport. However, Viswanathan Anand quickly returned to form and convincingly defeated his rivals at the 2014 Candidates Tournament. In doing so, he won the right to a rematch against the man who humiliated him in front of his own countrymen.

Kasparov vs. Karpov 1986

Kasparov vs. Karpov 1986

Rematches have been hugely important for the overall popularity of chess in the 20th century. Who can forget the five epic matches between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov? Perhaps the only worthy comparison of the Kasparov-Karpov rivalry can be drawn from the battles between boxing’s Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier. Another great chess rematch occurred between Mikhail Tal and Mikhail Botvinnik in 1961. In their first match, Mikhail Tal’s attacking style was too much for the strategic Botvinnik to handle but in their second encounter, Mikhail Botvinnik was able to shut down Tal’s offensives and win the match convincingly. In order for an Anand-Carlsen rivalry to achieve anywhere near the same level of notoriety, Viswanathan Anand will have to follow in Botvinnik’s footsteps and bounce back convincingly.

Vishy Anand needs to go on the offensive.

Vishy Anand needs to go on the offensive.

Perhaps the most important strategy for Anand in his rematch will be going on the offensive. In their first encounter, Viswanathan Anand was defending his title and his play was lifeless. In 2014, Vishy has nothing to lose and thus nothing to gain by being ultra-conservative. Indeed, for the much elder Anand, it is vitally important to be the aggressor as much as possible.

Magnus Carlsen needs to assume the role of the World Champion.

Magnus Carlsen needs to assume the role of the World Champion.

For Magnus, the key to victory is being a professional. Magnus Carlsen is the highest rated player on the planet and has already defeated Anand in match play. In his first defense of his title, it is critical that Magnus assumes the role of the champion and not take any unnecessary risks early in the match. Carlsen needs to allow Anand, who didn’t win a single game in their first match, to be the one to gamble with risky strategies. Finally, Carlsen needs to forget about losing rating points and accept drawing opportunities as a chance to move closer to a possible rapid play tiebreak and his goal of retaining his title.

In chess, rematches fuel rivalries and it is these rivalries that create legends. Very few chess players are ever crowned a World Champion and within hours two of them will be writing their rivalry into the book of chess lore. Regardless of the outcome, the winner will be chess itself.

Check back here often for updates on the 2014 FIDE World Chess Championship in Sochi, Russia.

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