Saturday, 23 November 2013

Anand, Carlsen: It's all over; the fat lady has sung

The king surrounded, surely a sign of .... triumph?

As I had expected, Anand s/o Viswanathan had refused to give up his world chess championship without a fight. Rather than to agree a quick draw with Magnus Carlsen, he did not spare himself the gruelling hours of thought at the chessboard in Chennai, India, where the scheduled 12-game match had been played. Except that with Anand having already lost three games to Carlsen, the match was suddenly shortened to only 10 games.

Personally I am disappointed that Anand is no longer the world chess champion - I had really been rooting for him as an Asian - but there is really no resisting the march of time. Like it or not, time or age, was not on Anand's side. Come this 11th of December, he will turn 44. Compare his age with Carlsen who turns 23 on the 30th of November. So much younger, so much more energy, so much more ambitious. More so, Carlsen had been the world's top ranking player since January 2010. Anand, by comparison, was the world's Number Eight player going into this match. Therefore, all the signs were there that there would be change.

But coming back to the final game itself, as I was watching it unfold, I couldn't help getting a feeling that perhaps one of the reasons why Anand wanted to grind it out was because - other than wanting to exit honourably - he was still trying to hang onto his title for as long as he possibly could. I may be wrong but this was one of my impressions. And it was not being helped that despite Carlsen simplifying the position earlier through multiple exchanges of pieces, towards the end Carlsen holding the initiative meant that Anand had to fight for his life to safe another draw. Another loss in the 10th game would have been a real disaster for him. At the end, the game was drawn after both players had cleared the board of all pieces, safe for the solitary kings.

Carlsen now has the whole chess world at his feet. Not only is he still the Number One ranked player in the world - his rating points far outrank any other player in chess history, including Garry Kasparov's, and climbing higher - he now has the world chess champion's title. A destiny which many had predicted for him while he was still in his teens, now fulfilled.

As for Anand, his chess-playing career is at a crossroad. Will he still have the willpower to come back strongly and take his chances at qualifying for the next world chess championship cycle? Or will he simply be content with getting regular invitations to play in the top-class invitational chess tournaments around the world? Will he scale back his chess-playing commitments? Worse, will he want to retire totally from competitive chess like Kasparov before him? These are questions only he himself can answer. I can only hope that he will keep active in this game which he has loved playing since small. 

[Event "WCh 2013"]
[Site "Chennai IND"]
[Date "2013.11.22"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Black "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[WhiteTitle "GM"]
[BlackTitle "GM"]
[WhiteElo "2870"]
[BlackElo "2775"]
[WhiteFideId "1503014"]
[BlackFideId "5000017"]
[EventDate "2013.11.22"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nd7 4. d4 cxd4 5. Qxd4 a6 6. Bxd7+ Bxd7 7. c4 Nf6 8. Bg5 e6 9. Nc3 Be7 10. O-O Bc6 11. Qd3 O-O 12. Nd4 Rc8 13. b3 Qc7 14. Nxc6 Qxc6 15. Rac1 h6 16. Be3 Nd7 17. Bd4 Rfd8 18. h3 Qc7 19. Rfd1 Qa5 20. Qd2 Kf8 21. Qb2 Kg8 22. a4 Qh5 23. Ne2 Bf6 24. Rc3 Bxd4 25. Rxd4 Qe5 26. Qd2 Nf6 27. Re3 Rd7 28. a5 Qg5 29. e5 Ne8 30. exd6 Rc6 31. f4 Qd8 32. Red3 Rcxd6 33. Rxd6 Rxd6 34. Rxd6 Qxd6 35. Qxd6 Nxd6 36. Kf2 Kf8 37. Ke3 Ke7 38. Kd4 Kd7 39. Kc5 Kc7 40. Nc3 Nf5 41. Ne4 Ne3 42. g3 f5 43. Nd6 g5 44. Ne8+ Kd7 45. Nf6+ Ke7 46. Ng8+ Kf8 47. Nxh6 gxf4 48. gxf4 Kg7 49. Nxf5+ exf5 50. Kb6 Ng2 51. Kxb7 Nxf4 52. Kxa6 Ne6 53. Kb6 f4 54. a6 f3 55. a7 f2 56. a8=Q f1=Q 57. Qd5 Qe1 58. Qd6 Qe3+ 59. Ka6 Nc5+ 60. Kb5 Nxb3 61. Qc7+ Kh6 62. Qb6+ Qxb6+ 63. Kxb6 Kh5 64. h4 Kxh4 65. c5 Nxc5 ½-½

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