Posts Tagged ‘anand’

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3 more months to Anand-Kramnik

July 8, 2008

I am still counting down the days to the big match coming up in October. Somewhat to my surprise, both players are choosing to stay reasonably active leading up to the match. I had assumed that they would both shut down tournament play post-Linares and start up their preparations. Instead, Kramnik’s just finished playing Dortmund and has apparently agreed to defend his title at the Tal Memorial in September. Vishy is playing the Mainz Classic (which he always seems to win) but more importantly, is playing the Grand Slam Final in September.

I guess the strategy is 3-fold:

  • Shake off the rust and get some real games under your belt.
  • Don’t let any opening secrets out of your bag. (I guess a side-effect of this will be that they won’t play any spectacular novelties and will probably not contend in these tournaments)
  • Play openings you wouldn’t normally play, just to make your opponent waste time conducting his due diligence on it. For example, Kramnik unleashed the Grunfeld at Dortmund. By the same token, I fully expect Anand to open with d4 and/or Nf3 at the Grand Slam Final – in fact, he might very well have to do that sooner or later in the match.

In addition, Kramnik’s agreed to lead the Russian team at the Chess Olympiad two weeks after the end of the match. Vishy hasn’t yet made a similar commitment to the Indian team and I don’t think he will either – the last Olympiad, where he rushed at the end of the M-Tel to join the team, was an absolute disaster for him.

And finally, I wonder what Kramnik’s ranking will be when the match starts. The next ratings are due to be published on October 1st and Ivanchuk, Carlsen, Morozevich and Topalov are all ahead of him in the live ratings.

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An early look-ahead to Anand-Kramnik

March 12, 2008

Vishy won his second consecutive Linares after coasting through the second half of the tournament with 6 straight draws to finish. Carlsen, who people are predicting to move up to 4/5 in the world in the latest rankings, finished half a point behind for his second straight second place in Linares. Combined with his win in Corus in January, his performances are certainly noteworthy and perhaps a bit scary to the rest of the field.

There’s a number of important classical tournaments coming up in the next few months – the newly formed Grand Prix, MTel, Dortmund etc. But I am already starting to look ahead to the clash of the titans in October. It is gearing up to be a classic (though I wish the match were doubled in length, to 24 games). While the general consensus is that Kramnik is the stronger match player after his win over Kasparov, I maintain its not as wide a gap as many would have you believe. Kramnik did lose a match to Shirov before his match with Kasparov, yet managed to be the guy to play him for the world title. His 2 title defence matches (has it been only 2 in 7 years?) were tight affairs with a draw with Leko and a tiebreak with Topalov (though to be fair, in that match, he forfeited one game because of Toiletgate). Anand hasn’t played any matches recently but bar his match with Kasparov, has an extremely good match record throughout his career. Even in that ill-fated match with Kasparov, he went blow-for-blow with him and even recorded the first win of the match in the 9th game before losing a flurry of games.

In his book on his best games, Anand says he learnt a lot in his preparation for that world championship match and that the experience would serve him well in any future matches for the world title. I am really curious as to his choice of seconds for the match. I guess Peter Heine Nielsen, his regular second, would be a part of the team. I wonder if he would get any of the Indian crop to help him out – I guess he would – a subset of Sasikiran Krishnan, Pentala Harikrishna and Surya Shekhar Ganguly would be my guess. I would really like him to include a Carlsen or Aronian as part of his team but I doubt it would happen. I’m not sure he would like to work with who he would see as his prime competition over the next few years to have an insight into his preparations.

The more I write about it, the more curious I get…

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Linares resumes tomorrow

February 27, 2008

The Morelia leg finished over the weekend, and while the players made their away across the Atlantic, we could relax a bit after the frenetic action in Morelia. When I wished for a more exciting tournament than in recent years, I hardly expected this. More than half the games have been decisive so far (15/28), and most of the draws have been well-fought out as well. While some of the play has been sub-standard (a couple of blunders even I could have avoided), it has resulted in each participant recording atleast 3 decisive games and each one winning and losing atleast one. Vishy is in the lead at the moment, by a half point over Topalov and Shirov. It is great to regularly see Vishy play sharp lines like the Najdorf and the Semi-Slav again.
Here’s hoping to more of the same for the rest of the tournament.

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Will this year’s Linares be any different?

February 16, 2008

Ok, ok, Morelia-Linares, as it has been for the past couple of years. Three decisive games (with 3 Sicilians and one win each for white and black) in the first round certainly provokes hope that it will be. Linares, even more than the other super-tournaments, is a draw-haven. With a double round-robin format among 8 of the elite players resulting in only 4 games a day (I actually prefer their old format where they had 7 players in a double round-robin, with one player sitting out each day), it is very rare to get more than 1 decisive game a day.* In the past few editions, the one day of 3 decisive games was negated by the couple of days with all draws.** Let’s hope this one’s different.

It was interesting to see Anand bring out the Najdorf against Shirov. He seems to mostly prefer the Petroff and the Ruy nowadays, but seems to bring out the Najdorf against specific players – Carlsen and Judit Polgar come to mind. I think this is because all four of them are similar kinds of players (except maybe Polgar who isn’t as positionally savvy as the other three, I think), and he feels confident he can out-think them in any kind of position. I am especially keen on observing his upcoming two games with Carlsen – if I am not mistaken, he has beaten Carlsen in their last 3 meetings – twice in the same tournament last year and then last month at Wijk Aan Zee. Carlsen will of course be riding high after his tournament victory there.

Obviously, I am rooting for Anand to come good – this being his last tournament with classical time-controls before his match with Kramnik in October (I believe he is playing in the Monaco Amber Rapid-Blindfold tournament and probably a couple of other rapid tournaments before then), it is his chance to re-emphasize his World Champion status. Obviously, Kramnik is an extremely strong match player and has played many more matches of late. He will of course have to get past Kramnik’s Petroff (or worse, Berlin), and though he came close to it at Wijk last month, I think he will have to switch to 1.d4 to make inroads. With black, he’s recently moved from the QID to the Semi-Slav, which I think brings him a lot more winning opportunities. Let’s wait and see.

* Having said that, I prefer Linares to Dortmund. Though Dortmund might have more decisive games because they usually have one or two players not at the very top, the constant shuffling of formats (double round-robin, round-robin within groups followed by knockouts, and the current format with single round-robin) has left me disinterested. Moreover, the current format results in the tournament finishing before I’ve really had a chance to get into it as a fan.

* Linares was, of course, a very exciting event back in the day when first Karpov, then Kasparov, were dominating chess. Karpov’s famous +9, 11/13 performance in 1994 is the stuff of legend, while Kasparov’s domination there, year after year, is also simply mind-boggling.