It’s been a bad few weeks for me as a fan – in chess, Anand was worked over by the younger generation in Norway, the Spurs lost to the Heat in the NBA finals, the Giants have been in a big tailspin in baseball, and Federer was eliminated in the 2nd round in Wimbledon! If nothing else, I guess I should find some younger people to root for …
Chess-wise, Anand’s 2013 has definitely been better than 2012 thus far – while his overall results weren’t amazing, he started winning some games again and playing generally more interesting/combative chess this year. However, Norway continued a strange trend for him in a few areas.
After losing quickly against Carlsen (where he played incredibly passively), he had the white pieces against Nakamura. I had already called the loss the day before, but I still was a bit surprised to see the 0-1 the next day – between two losses as white to Caruana and Nakamura in the Lopez there, he’s now lost more games in the Ruy Lopez this year than he did in the previous two decades combined! (And while Anand has largely played 1.d4 starting with this Kramnik match in 2008, he’s played a huge majority of his games with 1.e4) This reversion to 2012 form doesn’t bode particularly well for the the title match in November.
Quite literally, here are his classical losses in the Lopez since the ’90s:
- Anand-Ivanchuk, Bilbao 2011
- Anand-Aronian, Linares 2008
- Anand – Kamsky, MTel 2006
- Anand – Sokolov, Wijk aan Zee 1996
That’s it. Meanwhile, in 2013, Caruana has beaten him a couple times, Nakamura a couple times, Adams … there are all sorts of localized results that are bizarre like this.
For example, I found out during the Tal Memorial that Nakamura and Caruana are the only two active players with plus scores versus both Anand and Kramnik. Actually, given that Kasparov had a -1 score overall versus Kramnik, I’m not sure if anybody else in history has plus scores versus both of them. Maybe I’ll look into this at some point …
Meanwhile, Carlsen came close to winning yet another super-tournament, but he also showed he’s human again by losing a strange game to Caruana, a continuation from the Candidates tournament in London. That’s one thing Anand can hope for come November …
Alternatively … he could hope to get in touch with Gelfand’s people for whatever he’s doing these days. Before 2013, I think the last time that Gelfand won a round-robin event with multiple top-5 players was in the 1990s. This year, though, shared first at the Alekhine Memorial and now clear first at the Tal Memorial! (He also tied for first in a Grand Prix event last year, but most of the very top are skipping those events.)
If anything, he seems to be the exception that proves the rule that “chess is a young man’s game” these days – I’m skeptical of what GM Jacob Aagaard wrote over that Quality Chess blog (http://www.qualitychess.co.uk/blog/?p=1884). Looking at 2700chess.com, everybody in their mid-30s on up is still capable of an amazing run (Kramnik’s and Svidler’s results in the 2013 Candidates; Anand in Wijk aan Zee 2013; Adams at the start of Zurich 2013; Topalov in one Grand Prix event; Kamsky for much of the latest Grand Prix event; even Ivanchuk’s star shone brightly for a couple rounds in the Candidates) – but most can’t sustain it for an entire event and consecutive top-flight results are few and far between.
This is probably Anand’s best hope for the title match – hope for a good run of 6+ games to start the match and then hope Carlsen’s nerves start to kick in more and more. He can probably do himself some favors with better opening choices (I don’t really believe he’ll play some of the openings he’s been playing a lot of recently), but opening preparation alone isn’t going to make things competitive.
Ah well, I’m still hoping the Giants can turn their season around.