It’s now less than two weeks before the Carlsen-Anand World Championship rematch in Sochi and a website for the event has finally appeared. We take a look, and also provide a rundown of the continuing build-up to the match, with interviews and news snippets from the camps of both Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand.
The website features the same attractive design used by AGON for their own website and for the Grand Prix series. As of today it’s still light on some important content, although it does confirm the games will start each day at 15:00 Moscow time (08:00 New York, 12:00 London, 13:00 Paris, 17:30 Chennai).
The pieces will again be the new set designed for the London Candidates and used in the first match in Chennai. In this case, therefore, there shouldn’t be any risk of them coming as a surprise to Anand as Oleg Skvortsov claimed they did a year ago.
The people say section currently features only a single quote from former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik:
The match is going to be exciting. Anand will probably prepare well and will have less pressure. I expect lots of tension.
Fortunately the media has been following both players in the
run-up to the event, meaning there’s no lack of quotes and info. Let’s take the
In contrast to 2013, it’s Vishy who’s been the most active
player in the run-up to the match. He won the Bilbao Masters, despite a
last-round slip against Levon Aronian, and then went on to play the final
stages of the Corsica Masters last week. The knockout event was all set for an
Anand-Hou Yifan final, until Anand lost with White against Sergey Ferdochuk in
the first game of the semi-final. Hou Yifan went on to win the event.
Otherwise Vishy seems to have been firmly in preparation mode in his home base in Germany, although he did take time out to talk to the media. Here are some highlights:
On the match he lost to Carlsen in Chennai
Chennai was a low point and I don’t revisit it. It just went badly and I guess at that point you can’t pretend to be a Cheshire Cat. (Asian Age)
On preparing for matches
Each match is different and has a chemistry of its own - whether both players want sharp positions, tactical ones or want to keep the tension for the later rounds. It's very difficult to foresee how it will turn out. You have some basic ideas on what he would do and you prepare for that. I think we have spent enough time across the table to know each other well.
You play an opponent. The way I played Vladimir Kramnik, I couldn't have played Veselin Topalov. Stylistically, they are different. Understanding of positions is different. Experience teaches you to go deeper into your opponents' head, heart and soul. (NDTV Sports)
On Carlsen’s (relatively) poor form this year
A world championship match brings out a different player. Carlsen will be a different player at Sochi. (New Indian Express)
On Carlsen’s comments that he's the one who can teach Anand now
I don’t read what my opponents say about me. I’ve always believed and maybe my Indian upbringing comes in here, if you believe in yourself, you don’t need to chide your opponent or talk about your greatness. People understand it without you having to say it. (New Indian Express)
On Caruana and whether he shows how to beat Carlsen
His performance in St Louis is an all-time great moment. He does have a good style against Magnus. All of us are looking at Fabiano and learning a lot. (New Indian Express)
On keeping his motivation despite his age
As long as I wake up each morning, waiting to work on chess, nothing else is an issue. I am where I am because of chess, it fascinates me. I still want to learn more. (New Indian Express)
On playing in Russia
In 2001, I played against Tkachiev and the audience broke out in applause during the game. That’s the depth of knowledge. (New Indian Express)
On the doubts Carlsen would sign and chess politics
Since Khanty I was quite certain who I was preparing for. In all the years I have played chess I have almost kept a principle of not getting involved in chess politics. Maybe our understanding of our philosophy teaches us to believe in yourself. So, I only look at myself... Chess politics hasn’t been my biggest benefactor so I choose not to patronise it. My job is to play and promote chess. (Asian Age)
On his son Akhil
I spend time with my son Akhil. We have our pet sports of pillow fighting and jumping into a tree house. Watching Terminator never fails to fire me up. (NDTV Sports)
And how his son has affected his musical tastes:
Five Little Ducks seems to be a new hit now and Peppa Pig is a tension reliever! (Times of India)
Now let's look at the current World Champion.
The Norwegian World Champion’s last competitive game was back on the 6th September in the Sinquefield Cup, where his 2nd place performance was overshadowed both by Fabiano Caruana’s extraordinary streak and the tension over whether Carlsen would sign the World Championship contract. He did, and since then it’s been all about preparation for the match, although of course he’s maintained a media presence. Here are some of the highlights:
You’d think becoming World Chess Champion would be sufficient wish fulfillment for one lifetime, but Magnus also got to feature in a Donald Duck comic:
Magnus was invited to the Norwegian Royal Palace for a gala dinner featuring the Indian President.
He went for a training camp in the Swiss Alps, but not
before attending a press conference in which he explained some of his goals and
what he felt he needs to do better after his somewhat lackluster play this year (as
reported by Aftenposten):
Altitude training is part of this training camp as an experiment. It’s worked well before other tournaments. We'll see how it goes now, and it’s also important that there are opportunities to ski.
The goal of the training camp is to become a little better as a chess player. Previously, there’s been a lot of focus on the opening. This time I’ll try to focus on how I can put right some of the things I’ve done wrong in the past. I simply haven’t played very well.
There have been times when I’ve felt I needed to be a little more humble. I must continue to learn and I have a lot to learn. This is one of those periods. I’ll get stronger from it.
I think I have every chance of winning, but I must raise my game a little. In November I’ll be at the level I can be, and not what I've been at lately. I’ve got a lot of ideas about what I've done wrong and how I can correct it.
The Carlsen camp has revealed that the only chess company he’ll have in Sochi will be Peter Heine Nielsen, though Jon Ludvig Hammer will again be in touch by computer. Hammer was asked if Carlsen will manage to surprise Anand:
Hehe, last time Anand said that he was surprised that he was not surprised. So he is surprised anyway!
Perhaps the most interesting interview with Carlsen actually appeared in an Indian newspaper, The Hindu. Carlsen was asked about Anand’s improved form:
I think it’s a good thing for him that he has been playing well. I am happy for him. I have known him for many years; we have good relations. But obviously I don’t wish him well when he is playing me. I think what has set his two very successful tournaments apart from what he has done in the last few years is consistency. He has been playing a lot more consistent; very few blunders. His general level of chess is still extremely high, so when he doesn’t blunder he does very well.
He describes how the match in Chennai differed:
I knew like five months, maybe even six months, in advance when it was going to take place and where; so it was easier. This time it’s a little trickier, but on the other hand I know Anand better this time.
Although in most public appearances Carlsen has steadfastly avoided politics, he does refer to the current political situation in the interview:
I think Russia is a great venue for Chess; it has great traditions. But I don’t think this is the right time to be having an event between an Indian and a Norwegian in Russia.
The most curious detail, however, comes when Carlsen is asked about players from the past. He sees something of himself in both Fischer and Karpov (he was reading about their failed 1975 match), but then adds something perhaps no-one could have seen coming:
Another I could compare myself to is actually an American: Reuben Fine, who was very strong but quit chess early on. I was just reading about him the other day and it didn’t strike me before but now it strikes me that what he was doing in chess is similar to what I am doing.
Anand had a torrid time against Kasparov at the board, never recovering from losing their 1995 World Championship match and going on to score only 4 classical wins to Kasparov’s 16 over the course of their careers. He might have hoped that rivalry would end with Kasparov’s retirement, but in recent years Garry has gone out of his way to support Anand’s rivals, perhaps due to the Indian's unwillingness to help with campaigns against the current FIDE leadership.
Before the 2012 World Championship match Kasparov offered to be Boris Gelfand’s second and when that was rejected visited the match in Moscow and criticised both players. In 2013 he also attracted media attention and ensured awkward questions for Anand with a brief visit to Chennai, at no point hiding the fact that he was rooting for Carlsen.
This year Kasparov has repeated on multiple occasions that he won’t travel to Sochi, but he still managed to stir the pot on a recent visit to Oslo. Kasparov met with Carlsen, though it was less “secret” than the local media wanted to paint it:
What did they talk about? Well, Kasparov commented:
I'll give Magnus some general advice. Why not share my experience with him?
His greater concern, though, was apparently that the Russian authorities would try to influence the outcome of the match:
I do not know if there is political interest in helping Viswanathan Anand, but they have reasons to hinder Magnus Carlsen. He represents something foreign to them, namely the free western world.
The 13th World Champion repeated the point on Twitter:
Both players, however, have largely distanced themselves from politics so far.
That may grow more difficult when the event starts on the 7th November in Sochi. Vladimir Putin’s recent appearance at “his” Formula One Grand Prix in Sochi was cause for controversy in that sport – if he does appear at the World Championship match some awkward moments are likewise inevitable.
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