Hooray for Anand!

by admin on October 30, 2008

As many of you know, the world championship has ended, and Viswanathan Anand has finally left no doubt in anybody’s mind who the champion is, with a convincing 6.5-4.5 victory over Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik at least made a fight of it, with a back-against-the-wall victory in round 10 that closed the gap to 6-4. (For ChessLecture subscribers, Jesse Kraai gave a very nice but somewhat too fast-moving explanation of that complicated game.) But Kramnik would have had to win two more in a row to even tie the match, and as Black in round 11 he really never had a chance to win.

I didn’t see a single article or broadcast in the mainstream media about the match; as far as I can tell, it was totally invisible to non-chess-playing Americans. I suppose the New York Times covered it, but of course we know that New York is not part of America. (Sarah Palin can explain this to you if you’re not clear on the concept.)  8-)

The most incisive commentary that I saw on the match came from Garry Kasparov, who was quoted at www.chessbase.com:

“[In this match] Kramnik did not expect tough, sharp challenges with white, and this was the key for Anand. He kicked some sand in Kramnik’s face and hit Kramnik’s weakness: his conservative approach to the game itself. Suddenly Kramnik had to fight in these sharp positions and he wasn’t able to do it. This result ends the illusion that Kramnik is a great match player. London was a unique occurrence and I still stand with Leonid Yudasin as the only players Kramnik has ever beaten in a match! Kramnik now has some work to do. His overly-defensive play seems to represent a general decline in strength.

A great result for Anand and for chess. Vishy deserved the win in every way and I’m very happy for him. It will not be easy for the younger generation to push him aside.”

Coming from Kasparov, that comment, “London was a unique occurrence and I still stand with Leonid Yudasin as the only players Kramnik has ever beaten in a match!” qualifies as LOL humor. Kasparov is referring, of course, to the match that he lost against Kramnik in London, and to the fact that Kramnik did not really WIN his first two title-defense matches. He tied with Peter Leko and Veselin Topalov, although in the latter match he subsequently won a playoff of four 25-minute games. Kasparov is being a little unfair to Kramnik, because the Topalov match included a game that Topalov won by forfeit because of the Toiletgate controversy. To me, that match really does count as a win for Kramnik. But I think that Kasparov is mostly poking fun at himself for actually finding a way to lose to the less-than-terrifying Kramnik.

Before the Kramnik-Anand match I compared Kramnik to Botvinnik, who kept scraping by for many years as the “first among equals” in chess. But now it seems as if the more appropriate analogy may be Max Euwe, a good player who happened to catch a stronger world champion off guard in one match. But for Kramnik, unlike Euwe, his reign was perhaps unduly prolonged by the lack of a return match against Kasparov, followed by Kasparov’s retirement and the resulting confusion at the top.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chesslover October 30, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Yes..very interesting insights. Have to agree. It is very interesting to compare different world champions..and very tough task too.

I would still consider Kramnik as extremely tough match player, this time he just found his match, Vishy really played superb chess! It was his time.

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chesstiger October 31, 2008 at 4:26 am

I think your comparison with Euwe is best since there is no doubt by me that Kramnik wouldn’t have survived another match with Kasparov. Above all, Kramnik was thrown that match against Kasparov in his lap since it was not he but Shirov who normally had to play Kasparov since Kramnik had lost against Shirov in the qualification match for that World Championship Chalenge against Kasparov.

With other words, i never considered Kramnik as WC but just a lucky bastard who got very lucky.

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