Rooting Interests and the World Championship

The 2012 World Championship match between Anand and Gelfand begins tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to this match, and it’s probably the most anticipated event for me since the Candidates Matches that saw Gelfand emerge as the winner.

While trying to find some articles about the match, I came across a couple that I thought were interesting and worth a look:

1. First, one from the match website itself – link. It provides an annotated history of their encounters, starting with Gelfand’s early wins and then the tides slowly turning followed by a longer period with some Anand wins and a number of draws.

2. Second, a ChessBase article by CHESS editor John Saunders. Gelfand hasn’t beaten Anand in classical chess for 19 years, and their overall head-to-head favors Anand narrowly. However, since 1997, they’ve had only one decisive game in 15 encounters! So Anand hasn’t exactly been beating up on Gelfand for those 19 years …

3. A collection of links from mostly Indian and Israeli publications gathered by ChessVibes . Of those, the article about Gelfand was quite interesting to read, while the Indian Express preview was notable for some of the amazingly confident predictions. The idea that Gelfand will be “no match” and has “no chance” against Anand overstates things quite a bit in my view.

As for me? To give myself a pat on the back, I did manage to predict the final score of the Anand – Topalov match, along with the right number of decisive games (5), and even the opening for the final game (QGD!). So I pretty much have nowhere to go but down after those predictions.

I want to see Anand win this match, but his poor form for a number of months is definitely concerning. Neither has been playing much for a while, and who knows what kind of form they’ll be in now.

There are a couple “intangible” advantages I see for Anand though – one is the obvious one of having more World Championship match experience. The second is that Anand’s repertoire is much broader, making preparation much more difficult. Gelfand of course will be well prepared, but he will have had to do work on 1.d4, 1.c4, and 1.e4 (all of which Anand has played against him). With colors reversed, Anand doesn’t have quite the same dilemma – the odds of Gelfand playing 1.e4 in this match are precisely 0.

Part of why I’m rooting for Anand here is that I’ve been rooting for him for a long time, probably since I first went through his Best Games book around 1997 or 1998 I think. However, after he first won the World Championship (in a match, that is), I haven’t been quite as invested in his tournament results.

In a way, it’s a bit like how I root for Federer in tennis. I don’t care so much when he loses in a smaller event, but when he loses in a Grand Slam, that bugs me. Even when the loss is considered a given by most (e.g., against Rafa on clay), it bugs me.

By comparison, I’ve been a SF Giants fan for longer than I’ve been rooting for either Anand or Federer. Still, I don’t know that I’m generally quite as invested in the team’s results – I’d prefer if the Giants didn’t lose so often in the regular season and if they win in the postseason, but I think I was more annoyed that Federer lost to Rafa in the 2011 French Open than about either of those things. Maybe it’s something about individual competitions.

And although I’m an Anand fan, I’m not sure how much I’d root for him against say Carlsen or Aronian. Not because I’d want to save myself the trouble of rooting for the losing player (the likely result against Aronian I think), but part of my allegiance to him is based on the idea of “respect the game, that should be it.”

Against Kramnik in 2008, I wanted him to win, but I wasn’t going to be particularly upset if he didn’t. However, against Topalov in 2010, I was very much in Anand’s corner because of that idea, and I’m probably as invested this time around as well.

But that’s not because Gelfand has disrespected the game – I think describing him as a pro’s pro is quite apt. Instead, it’s because I don’t really believe that he “deserves” to be World Champion. That’s not an argument I can really use against Carlsen or Aronian, and neither has been involved in some of the same shenanigans that Topalov has engaged in.

Either way, I think this is the last World Championship that Anand can win, so if he has to pass the baton, I’d rather it go to one of those two (Carlsen or Aronian) than to anybody else.

Anyway, back to prognosticating. I’ll go out on a limb and say: Anand will win the match (possibly in tiebreaks), he will use both 1.e4 and 1.d4 as white, and will largely use a Nimzo move order of 1…Nf6 and 2…e6 as Black against 1.d4.

Whether or not I’m right, I can’t wait!

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5 responses to “Rooting Interests and the World Championship

  1. I say Anand wins the match by one game, thanks to a horrible blunder in time trouble by Gelfand. After his successful title defense Anand immediately announces his retirement. FIDE holds a tournament to determine the next champion, and Kasparov shocks the world by coming out of retirement to participate. He beats Aronian in a thrilling semifinal, then loses to Carlsen in the final

    Now that’s a prediction!

  2. Aronian – Kasparov would be nuts. Let’s hope you’re right.

    Also, now that I read my post, why did I say he’d play both 1.e4 and 1.d4? Anand has only prepared one first move in his previous WCh matches, why change now? Oh well, too late.

  3. Unshod Ashish

    Mr. Bland has had his turn as World Champion, and I’m sorry to say he hasn’t made good use of it, either by “leading from the front” and winning tournaments, or by speaking up against all that’s wrong with FIDE.

    Crazy as it seems, I think a Gelfand win might be better for the future of professional chess – by exposing how broken it is. And maybe Gelfand will be more outspoken – he certainly can’t do less. So I have to root for Boris Abramovich.

    As for the Indian press, hyperbole is their bread and butter. (They particularly love active verbs like “thrashed,” even when the result of a game might have hinged on a single tempo at move 97.) Not to be taken seriously.

  4. Hehe, I think lots of people are talking about how broken it is already. And really, they’ve been talking about that for a while.

    I strongly doubt whether Gelfand would be more outspoken – some of the links from the ChessVibes summary show that he hasn’t been able to drum up much chess attention or support in Israel.

    And agreed on the Indian press – it’s pretty sad. What’s strange is that it’s probably reaching a wider audience now that a lot of the ChessBase reports are just press releases by “Team Anand at NIIT”.

  5. Pingback: Vinastradamus | There and Back Again

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