The 53rd World Chess Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen has caught more media attention around the globe than any other chess event in the past.
Of course, in 1972, Bobby Fischer created an unparalleled chess wave and unbelievable media attention prior to his world championship match against Boris Spassky. But the match itself could hardly be considered unique as there was no doubt about the outcome.
The Anand-Carlsen match, however, is unique in many ways.
Today, Anand reigns supreme in terms of crowns and titles. He is the undisputed world champion since unification of the FIDE and the breakaway group in 2007, winning three championship matches in a row.
At 43, Anand is defending his crown against someone who is not even 23, who has never played any world championship cycle and yet enjoys the status of being world No 1. As a result, for the first time in chess history, pundits are unable to predict.
Clash of styles
Since childhood, Anand has been famous for his genius and mastery over the game. He is a great scholar of the classical style, a true master of attack. On the other hand, Carlsen hardly has any style or specialty.
He has no obvious weapons in his armour. He is like a street-fighter, wanting to knock out every opponent. And yet, he has been doing it so effectively that the entire world had to take cognizance of him since he was 16!
Since World War II, chess was dominated by players from the Soviet Union and east Europe. In every world championship match since 1922, at least one of the players (generally both) belonged to east Europe. Fischer and Anand made it to the all-time greats’ list by getting to the top without any support system in their countries.
Carlsen too is from a country where chess was not really popular till he emerged. For the first time since 1922, there won’t be a player with Bolshevik influence.
It would be interesting to see what strategies the players adopt. Anand, one of the great attacking players, is likely to try sharp openings with possibilities of attack against Carlsen’s King.
Anand dominated the 2008 and 2010 world championship matches against Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov by successfully conducting kingside attacks. These matches also reflected Anand’s successful opening preparation.
Sucking out energy
In 2012, Boris Gelfand outsmarted Anand in the opening phase but Anand still prevailed due to his judgement and imagination. However, since the match against Topalov in 2010, he has been committing some inaccuracies in the 4th and 5th hours, due to fatigue.
With an advisor like Garry Kasparov, who was himself a shrewd strategist, Carlsen is expected to try to bank on this weakness of the champion. Carlsen, with much greater mental energy and stamina, is likely to try and avoid simplification and keep playing seemingly dull and boring positions till he is able to drain the energy from Anand.
Matches between youth and experience have always proved to be one-sided down the ages. This match is going to be no different!
The writer is India’s third GM and has been playing for 42 years