World Chess Championship 2013 Viswanathan Anand vs Magnus Carlsen at Chennai Hyatt Regency: nigel short
Showing posts with label nigel short. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nigel short. Show all posts

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Chess has become Cool: Nigel Short Summary of Anand, Carlsen Chennai World Chess Championship

Posted by World Chess Championship 2013 News Blog Thursday, November 28, 2013

British Grandmaster (and lots more) Nigel Short's summary of the Anand - Carlsen Chennai World Chess Championship 2013, courtesy Indian Express.  
A champion of his time

Nigel Short

At Chennai, as Carlsen outplayed Anand, the dignified but staid image of the game changed.

As the dust settles on the Viswanathan Anand versus Magnus Carlsen match in Chennai — the biggest chess clash since Bobby Fischer vs Boris Spassky in 1972 — it is time to reflect upon its impact. The immense interest, both in India and abroad, of this most cerebral of jousts, belies the pessimist's view that chess requires Cold War rivalry to be marketable. Indians proudly cheered, and sometimes even prayed, in huge numbers, for their mighty warrior. Alas, it was always going be an unforgiving task for Anand — at almost 44, the oldest World Champion in half a century — to cling on to his crown against someone half his age and already the highest-rated player in history. Time and tide tarries for no man.

Carlsen's victory gives succour to the countless enthusiasts who feared that modern chess was becoming an ever-accelerating arms-race of computer engine analysis. It is hard to recall any World Championship match that has been so bereft of theoretical novelties, as the young Norwegian constantly sought to sidestep Anand's renowned preparation by going down less travelled paths. His simple philosophy was, in essence, "Give me an equal position that you have not studied with a computer and I will outplay you." Call it cocky, if you will, but he was right. Twice, in games five and six, he defeated Anand with the slenderest of endgame advantages, defying the expectations of even the finest experts. It simply does not do credit to Carlsen to say that Anand just blundered. He blundered — yes — but only because he was subjected to constant, nagging pressure. To use a cricketing analogy, Carlsen's style most resembles that of Glenn McGrath — unspectacular, but extraordinarily accurate and effective. Only once did Anand seek to drastically alter the course of the match — in game nine, when he was already on the verge of defeat. From the first move he sought to gain the upper hand by striving for complications. It was the correct strategy and was nearly successful, as he built up an imposing attack. Anand must have felt he had an excellent position. But first, he dithered slightly with an unnecessary rook exchange, and then spent 40 minutes looking for a forced win where none existed. Faced with a resolute, calm defence and the knowledge that the title was ebbing from him, Anand cracked first with a hideous and uncharacteristic howler.

It would be tempting to now predict a lengthy reign for Carlsen. He is well-balanced, from a good family and not in the least bit weird. He is still ridiculously young, but has already dominated the chess world for the past few years. Yet, while I consider the above prognosis to be the most plausible, the example of Vladimir Kramnik, who defeated the legendary Garry Kasparov in 2000, provides a cautionary note. The lack of motivation, bordering on apathy, combined with an unpleasant illness (arthritis), meant that the Russian's play nose-dived in the years following his scaling of the highest summit. With his health recovered, he has, arguably, only relatively recently regained the drive and form he once possessed. Indeed, after playing superbly at the London Candidates back in March, he was edged out of another World Championship match by Carlsen with the slenderest of margins — on tiebreak. Of Carlsen's most likely challengers in 2014, I would say that Kramnik, despite his ripe age (38), will give him the hardest time. Another tough opponent will be the world number two, Levon Aronian (31) from Armenia — although I would still back Carlsen to fend off either threat. Beyond that short horizon, one must look to the next generation — such as Hikaru Nakamura from America (who, on Twitter, perhaps not entirely jokingly, refers to Carlsen as "Sauron" — the evil, all-seeing eye from Lord of the Rings), Fabiano Caruana from Italy, or maybe Sergey Karjakin from Russia.

Undoubtedly the most exciting thing about the Chennai match is the palpable feeling that the dignified but slightly staid image of the game has abruptly changed. With a young, G-Star Raw model as World Champion, chess has become cool. It is suddenly reaching new audiences that had been hitherto untouched by its esoteric beauty. This was most graphically demonstrated by the Norwegian schoolgirls who famously undressed for Carlsen in a moment of patriotic fervour. More seriously, countless international media outlets, that have previously neglected chess, have this time covered the drama in Tamil Nadu.

India may be mourning the loss of a great champion but, when the tears have dried, people will remember that Anand has inspired an entire generation of chess players. The country has gone from being mediocre to being a powerhouse in a few decades, for which he can take much of the credit. As yet, no one is quite ready to step into his shoes but, given the extraordinary and increasing strength and depth of Indian chess, it is surely only a short matter of time. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Nigel Short: I don't Doubt it is Possible for Anand to Raise his Game, Question is Can He here in Chennai?

Posted by World Chess Championship 2013 News Blog Wednesday, November 6, 2013
This is the second part of GM Nigel Short's preview of the 2013 World Chess Championship between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen beginning November 9 in Chennai. You can read the first part of the chess preview on our site.

Nigel Short Preview - Part 2 in Indian Express

Energy of youth vs years of wisdom
There is an immense self confidence — which to the uninitiated borders on arrogance — about Magnus Carlsen. Summarising the prospects of Viswanathan Anand and himself in an interview for "Chess" magazine, earlier this year, the 22 year-old Norwegian stated "The difference (between us) is that I've been winning tournaments and he's been holding on to his title. It will be an interesting clash between two different ideas of what constitutes the best player in the world".

It was perhaps not the politest thing to say about one of the greatest players in history, but then again it was probably not intended to be. The psychological warfare has already begun. From Anand's perspective, the most wounding aspect of this remark — ignoring the not-so-subtle reminder that Carlsen will easily remain the number one ranked player regardless of whether he wins or not — is that it is essentially true.

Carlsen is blessed with a superb memory, an uncanny sense of harmony and a sharp tactical eye. In terms of pure chess attributes, however, I don't think he holds any advantage, whatsoever, over the defending champion.

I agree with the Russian Grandmaster, Vladimir Kramnik, that Carlsen's main assets are youthful energy, a good nervous system, incredible motivation and a deadly killer instinct. Such qualities cannot be dismissed as a bag of tricks: World Championships are played under tremendous pressure and these things really do count for a lot.

Tough nut

Anand is not devoid of chances though. His vast match experience should hold him in good stead. He has come a very long way from the fluffy, little rabbit who disintegrated the moment Kasparov put him under pressure in 1995. He has added toughness, resilience and wisdom to his armoury. Playing one-on- one for weeks on end is a true test of character and is a far cry from psychologically less demanding tournament play — where Carlsen excels.

Indeed the Norwegian is practically a virgin in this demanding field. Matches require deep introspection because any flaws will be ruthlessly exposed. He will have to learn on the job. Other factors may also work in Anand's favour. For a start he is playing on home soil with a partisan crowd. Huge numbers of cheering fans can occasionally be a distraction but, in this case, they ought to give his confidence a welcome boost. Both climate and cuisine could pose problems for Carlsen.

Your writer has plenty of experience of playing in India — winning the Commonwealth Championship twice in Mumbai and once in Nagpur. Nevertheless, on a couple of other occasions, I have suffered the most debilitating food poisoning, as Europeans are sometimes prone to do. In case Carlsen succumbs as I have done previously, he will not be able to beat his grandmother, let alone a player of Anand's class.

Alert to the danger, Carlsen has included a chef in his entourage. Some people have ridiculed this move, saying he should enjoy the delights of local offerings — apparently forgetting he is not going to Chennai as a tourist, but to do an important job. As a prophylactic measure it is probably money very well spent.

With the same concern in mind, his manager has negotiated an optional "time-out" for each participant, in case of illness. This is not popular with the public and goes against the trend of ever shorter matches, but is by no means unprecedented historically. Indeed, in the great Karpov-Kasparov matches of the 80s and 90s each player could call a temporary halt to proceedings on no less than 3 occasions.

Age differenceAnand's last purely chess advantage is perhaps his opening play. Despite being from an older generation, he is adept at extremely sophisticated computer preparation. His dismantling of Kramnik in 2008 was a prime example of nuking an opponent before he could even begin to show his capabilities.

Carlsen's openings choices are far more intelligent and cunning than he is generally given credit for. Nevertheless he is not renowned as a theoretician and is much less likely to unleash devastating analysis-engine based novelties. With his immense versatility, however, he will probably be content to dodge the missiles, choosing less predictable variations, supremely confident in his own ability simply to outplay Anand from equal positions.

If Carlsen succeeds in this objective, I honestly don't see any way out for Vishy. He is conceding a colossal age advantage and sooner or later it is going to show. Chess is not an academic discipline where one can display one's accumulated erudition in written papers at one's leisure: it is a sport performed in the spotlight under enormous pressure.

For the past three years the sure-footedness that characterised Anand's finest period has largely deserted him. I don't doubt it is possible to raise his game, for this, the toughest match of his career. Whether he is likely to, though, is another matter. Eventually the end of the road comes to even the greatest of batsmen.

-- Nigel David Short MBE is a British Grandmaster, chess columnist, chess coach and chess commentator. Short earned the Grandmaster title at the age of 19, and was ranked third in the world by FIDE from January 1988 to July 1989. In 1993 he became the first English player to play a World Chess Championship match.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Carlsen vs Anand Preview - Nigel Short in Indian Express (Part 1): Time to Pass on the Baton for Anand?

Posted by World Chess Championship 2013 News Blog Sunday, November 3, 2013
This is some great Carlsen vs Anand World Chess Championship pre-match analysis by GM Nigel Short from the Indian Express. Perfect Sunday reading. 

End Game?

Writing for The Sunday Express ahead of next week's World Championship final in Chennai, British Grandmaster and former World Championship finalist NIGEL SHORT predicts a generational shift in chess with Magnus Carlsen prevailing over Viswanathan AnandEvery once in a while, in the history of the World Chess Championship, comes a moment — such as Steinitz-Lasker 1894, Lasker-Capablanca 1921 and Kasparov-Kramnik 2000 — when the power passes palpably from one generation to the next. Without wishing to cause distress to the readers of The Indian Express, I venture to suggest that we are at another turning point now. This is by no means to imply that Viswanathan Anand will not fight like a tiger against the brilliant, young Norwegian Magnus Carlsen or that the defeat of the older man is a foregone conclusion. Nevertheless, it is hard to recall any other match in recent decades where the defending champion has begun with his back so firmly pressed to the wall.

This trenchant opinion may come as something of a jolt to the casual home fan: after all, isn't Anand a giant of the game? Indeed, he is. Precociously talented as a youth, he added guile and experience, over the years, to take him to an astonishing five world championship victories, in three different formats. His demolition of Vladimir Kramnik in 2008 was the pinnacle of these great achievements, which have rightfully earned him a prominent place in the chess pantheon, even if he never pushes a pawn again.

Despite a tremendous career record, it has been painfully obvious that Anand has really struggled over the past three years — which is why he has slid from number 1 in the world rankings to number 8 during this period. While he doesn't lose that often (an important quality in match-play) wins against very strong players have become exceedingly rare.
Click photo to join Nigel Short's twitter feed.

Carlsen, however, loses even less frequently against the elite but, in stark contrast, notches up his victories at a brisk strike rate. Vishy recognised that the problem was bordering on a full crisis and wisely vowed to play more frequently this year, in an attempt to remedy matters.


These efforts were partially rewarded by, among other things, a satisfying triumph in Baden Baden back in February. But like a once towering batsman who finally hits a century after a very long interval, sometimes a success only serves to emphasise the depths to which a person has sunk: this was Anand's first classical chess tournament victory in 5 years.

Furthermore, although his play has been relatively better in 2013, he has been unable to maintain consistent form. Much has been made by the optimists in the Indian media of Anand's positive lifetime score against Carlsen. While this statistic is not irrelevant, it is hardly surprising when one considers that Anand was already a top player before his antagonist was even born. Recent results, however, have been less flattering, and he got an absolute drubbing at the Tal Memorial.

Anand's last title defence was at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow last year when he narrowly beat off a challenge from Boris Gelfand. While the vastly experienced, highly competent and famously hard-working Israeli is justly esteemed by his peers, in truth he was about as soft an opponent as Anand could possibly hope for in a World Championship Final. Brutally put, he probably lacked the extra spark that is necessary to scale the ultimate summit.

Furthermore, at 43 years of age, he was even older than the champion. Despite such a favourable pairing, Anand barely stumbled over the line, winning just one of the 12 classical chess games before prevailing in the rapid chess. With such unconvincing form, he would probably have lost to Aronian, Kramnik or even Grischuk — never mind Carlsen.

So what has gone wrong? Firstly, the most obvious point is that, at nearly 44, Anand is no longer a spring chicken. In chess terms, he could be considered a veritable dinosaur (incidentally, your 48 year-old writer is the oldest player in the top 100). Concentration wavers in middle-age in a manner it does not when you are in your physical prime. One lapse and you are on your way back to the pavilion. Secondly, motivation sags over time. When you have already achieved everything you could wish for professionally and you have as much money as you need for a good life, other things become more important — particularly when you have a young child. Success in all sport requires sacrifice and pain: most people tire of it eventually.


I hope to say a lot more about the phenomenal Magnus Carlsen — the highest rated player in chess history — and the problems and challenges he will face (and notwithstanding all that I have said, there will be plenty) in another article. Technically speaking, the significance of his enormous rating is not the absolute number (which cannot properly be compared to other eras due to persistent inflation over the past quarter of a century) but the huge gap which he has opened on everyone else.

With Vishy now languishing in a modest spot down the world rankings, the Nordic iceman leads by a whopping 95 rating points, which suggests, statistically, a very comfortable win (63% to 37%). Crude numbers by no means tell the whole story, but they do offer an insight into the scale of challenge that Anand now faces. He can overcome the odds, but he is going to have to strain every atom in his body to do so. Even that may not be enough.
Viswanathan Anand

Strengths: Anand over the course of four world titles has accumulated vast matchplay experience and employable opening preparation along the way.
Weaknesses: At 43, Anand is one of the older champions and his play over the last couple of years has been erratic.
Opportunities: Carlsen's relative inexperience means he may not react best to an early loss or having to trail. The first win could be crucial for Anand
Threats: Long-drawn games. Carlsen is wont to battle on hour after hour and not offer easy draws. This could tire Anand out.

Magnus Carlsen

Strengths: Carlsen has a universal style of play. His ability to squeeze results from seemingly drawn positions is a big plus.

Weakness: Nothing, really. There were a few wobbly endgames this year, but then, Carlsen has won laughably more endgames from lost positions than anybody else.

Opportunities: Steering the game into unknown waters would immediately neutralise Anand's voluminous preparation.

Threats: Playing in a country he has not been to before, Carlsen has already taken measures to stay insulated, bringing his own chef and installing an 'illness clause'.


The head to head apparently favours the Indian, but a closer look at the statistics suggests that the advantage may, in fact, lie with Carlsen. All of Anand's wins over Carlsen came before 2010, when Carlsen was still in his teens. The tide has turned Carlsen's way since, with the Norwegian winning all of the three decisive games after 2010, including a 24-move dismantling of Anand in their last classical game before the Final.

Anand has had a relatively better 2013 than 2012, but still his year pales in comparison to Carlsen's. The Norwegian has won 84 per cent of his decisive games, while the figure for Anand is 63. Including draws, Anand has won 21.8 per cent of his games this year, while Carlsen has won 41.2. Still ,the 12 wins is an improvement for Anand, who just won two classical games in 2012.


Ahead of this year's Final, Anand has had to disband his successful team of seconds, who have been with him since his defeat of Kramnik in 2008. Two of his longest-serving deputies, Peter Heine Nielsen and Rustam Kasimdzhanov, will no longer be a part of what Anand says will be his toughest challenge. Surya Ganguly and Radoslaw Wojtaszek will, however, remain in his team.


This might be Carlsen's first final, but what he lacks in match experience will be made up for by the presence of former champion Garry Kasparov. The Russian had earlier trained with Carlsen for a year before parting by mutual consent. Carlsen said he found Kasparov too demanding and bossy, but has teamed up with the Russian once more ahead of the Final.


Despite retaining his world title thrice in five years Anand has won just one tournament in that period. Compared to this, Carlsen has enjoyed a prolific run in tournaments, especially of late. In the last two years, Carlsen has won five major tournaments in the classical format, registering many wins over top-ten players. Apart from a spectacular victory against Levon Aronian in the Tata Steel tournament earlier this year, Anand has not had too many victories against elite players.


Unlike many sports, chess confers little advantage, at least technically, to a player competing in front of his home crowd. The playing conditions, after all, remain the same for the two. What advantage he might garner from the familiarity, Anand admitted, he would lose in terms of the extra expectations. Carlsen, though, is taking no chances on his first visit to India, bringing with him a chef and a personal doctor. The illness clause in the Championship contract means Carlsen can take a break of a couple of days in case he falls ill.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Top 7 Commentators you would Like to see at Anand - Carlsen World Chess Championship 2013 in Chennai

Posted by World Chess Championship 2013 News Blog Sunday, September 1, 2013
State-of-the art transmission of top chess tournaments has created a new niche: Chess commentary. Somewhere from the Anand - Gelfand World Chess Championship 2012 to the London Chess Candidates 2013, chess commentary has developed as an art form.  

They're not giving out chess commentator Grandmaster titles yet, but we wondered what chess fans' popular pick would be/could be for best chess commentators at the 2013 Anand - Carlsen World Chess Championship in Chennai (not in any specific order):

1 - Garry Kasparov: No two thoughts about this one. Expect carpet bombing, ballistic missiles, commentary room on fire, a zillion re-tweets, journalists in hectic-jot-mode or stunned mode, audience in aww-man mode and all without gunpowder... That's just when he enters the room. What's life, or chess, without passion?
2 - Nigel Short: Nothing could possibly replace quintessential British humour, knowledge of chess history and chess real-life tales from a guy who's been there, done that. Short would make the shortlist any day also because of all the cricket he can toss in! (in a cricket-addicted country like India).

3 - Alexandra Kosteniuk: Okay this one's a package deal. You connect to the Russian, French, Spanish and English audience in one go (not to mention Swiss and American residents speaking any language). You get hangers-on for chess even if they don't know chess. She brings the technical knowledge of a world chess champion to the table along with the distinction of having squashed both Anand and Carlsen in blitz (not to speak of Aronian, Polgar and the rest of the A-list). The organisers also get a one-(wo)man newsroom team, social media expert and a chic Chess Queen rolled in one.

4 - David Howell: Reigning British chess champion, handsome quotient for the girls in the audience and fun comments... We want him back... where's he been since the London Chess Candidates. Sigh.


5 - Lawrence Trent: If Howell is there, how can Trent be far behind. He's the guy who knows his job. He makes all the chess mortals in the audience feel good about themselves and keeps their self esteem from dipping.

6 - Anastasiya Karlovich: Lady, just sit there!

7 - Dirk Jan Ten Geuzendam: For all the ways he can play with the editor's pen and twirl it without dropping... for the way he brings out the best in his interviewees and co-hosts. The mild mannered Clark Kent with his chess reminiscences, anecdotes and great chess questions - all are worth their weight in gold. 

Of course, we've not counted so many other great Grandmasters, but we'd like to see them as special guests. This one was about taking us through the long haul of commentary at the Anand - Carlsen World Chess Championship 2013. -- Zainab Raza Undulusi