He may struggle to get winning positions in tournaments but when it comes to World Championships and Candidates Tournaments, Viswanathan Anand is a different player altogether. Not a lot of people had given him much importance in the 2016 Candidates Tournament that started in Moscow on Friday following some indifferent results in 2015, but the 26-year-old Indian GM showed that
he is still a force to reckon with in this format.
On Friday, Anand defeated former World Champion Veselin Topalov in the first round of the 8-player double round-robin tournament in Moscow to start the 2016 Candidates Championship on a rousing note. Anand’s victory is very significant because the games on the other two boards on the opening day ended in draw. Young Anish Giri of Netherlands was still engaged in a marathon battle with Armenia’s Levon Aronian at the time of going to press.
So while the top two favourites for winning the candidates here – Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura of the United States – played out a draw, Anand made a strong start by overcoming Topalov, the man he beat in a World Championship Final match in Sofia in 2010.
In a clash between the two oldest players in the tournament, the 46-year-old Anand got a slight advantage going into the middle game after Topalov opted for Anti-Berlin attack in Ruy Lopez opening. Anand, playing with white pieces, captured a pawn offered by Topalov but the Bulgarian had enough counterplay to compensate for the loss. He did develop his pieces well but Anand maintained his slight advantage and slowly build on that.
Topalov did not help his cause by missing an opportunity to deliver what could have been a killer blow. After that mistake at a crucial moment by his rival, Anand consolidated and soon infiltrated Topalov’s position with his rooks. In the end, caught in a mating net, Topalov had to give up material to avoid immediate loss, so he resigned, giving his rival from Chennai a superb start in the tournament.
Friday’s victory would have been a sense of déjà vu for Anand’s fans as the Grandmaster from Chennai had started the 2014 edition of Candidates in similar manner by beating Levon Aronian in the opening round