Dec 18, 2009

World Championship (1): Beginning the Preview

I'll begin here a preview that is going to go into some depth and over a number of posts between now and the match. I'm a fan of the big chess match, and we have few of them these days. Chess, according to me, was never better than in the matches leading to and including the World Championship in Reykjavik. Matches have not only the interest of the game at hand, but there's a psychological element that is sharply heightened as the players come out to face each other day after day. Who, for example, will go to the bathroom too often? There's also a greater anticipation concerning opening selection and the appearance of novelties.

Will the players continue a theoretical "discussion" begun years ago and played out over many games since, or will one or both of them build a new repertoire, either in whole or in part? How will the players respond when the match score is no longer level?

One of the things I note about World Championship matches is that there's often a feeling of doubt about whether the players are really the best two players in the world. Anand just turned 40, and Topalov is going to be 35 in March. Poets, theoretical physicists, and chess players are on the downhill after 30, aren't they? Anand, Ivanchuk, and Short, among others, may have something to say here. And of course neither Anand nor Topalov is likely to be the world's highest rated player at the time of the match. The new number one, who's less than half the age of Anand, is a giant shoe waiting to drop somewhere. In addition, Anand demolished Kramnik in the last match, but Kramnik has dominated Topalov, about to the same extent that Anand has dominated Topalov (but this is considering all games, including fast time controls and blindfold). That's not exciting. (The only player who's ever had Anand's number is Kasparov.)

Having said all that, I don't think there's a better matchup for the World Championship than Anand and Topalov in 2010. We have the 2nd and 3rd rated players meeting, and the 4th rated was defeated by Anand just last year. I'm a fan of the kid from Norway, but we're all going to have to wait a bit for him. I also have doubts about whether Carlsen would defeat either of these players in a match in 2010.

Finally, remember that even if the chess all goes to hell in a hand basket, we'll still have Silvio. Mark your calendars for April 21.


  1. I think it's interesting that FIDE is holding the match in the challenger's country, I believe that's the first time that's happened (other then when both particpiants were from the USSR)

    It used to be common in the pre-FIDE days for the match to be held in the challenger's home country (1907 Lasker- Marshall, 1908 Lasker-Tarrasch, 1910 Lasker-Schlecter, 1921 Lasker-Capablanca, 1929 Alekhine-Bogolijubow, 1934 Alekhine-Bogolijubow, 1935 Alekhine-Euwe) of course back then the challenger's party would raise the prize fund, so they would pick the venue.

    Kasparov vs Short (1993) was held in England, but there's no other modern WCC match (that I know of) that was held on the challenger's home turf (except when both players were from the same country), and of course, FIDE did not organize the Kasparov-Short match.

  2. I don't know if it's worth looking at the advantage of the home court. I doubt that it's significant. Nevertheless, were I Anand, I'd prefer to be somewhere else. Hats off to Bulgaria, however. Both the governmental and corporate support have been impressive for some time now. Parvanov's meeting with Ilyumzhinov for the guarantee speaks well for chess in Bulgaria.