The Anand-Carlsen match is well in the books, and while I was in India for the tail end of the match, I didn’t have much internet time to be writing blog posts. With a couple weeks passing since I came back (Happy Festivus! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year, soon enough! yada yada yada …), these aren’t terribly timely, but I wanted to share a couple thoughts on the match and the aftermath.
I suspected after Game 6 in a Berlin that Anand’s strategy was to try and hold the balance for as long as he could (and maybe hope that Magnus would falter under psychological pressure), but it was only during the 8th game that I was certain of that. By playing the Berlin as Black in game 8 down 2 points, it finally became clear to me that Anand had planned for this match completely differently than I had expected.
While in the Kramnik and Topalov matches he made a conscious effort to target his opponent’s relative weaknesses (concrete play and strategic play at virtually any cost, respectively), he decided to work on his endurance and play in equal positions for this match – in other words, try to meet Magnus’s strength head-on in this one. That approach failed miserably this time.
Of course, when he did finally take the gloves off in Game 9, he lost thanks to yet another bad blunder in an objectively equal position, but that style of play was more of what I was expecting and that was the only time he got any advantage as White. So I’d like to say I was right, but if he was still going to make those kinds of blunders, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
There’s some question about whether he’ll play in the Candidates in March 2014. In an interview with an Indian paper just after the match, I said I thought he’d retire from active play in 2014 (for now, he’s only got Zurich on the calendar in February 2014) and I’m sticking with that. He’s still talking a good game, but I think he’ll back out before the late-January deadline and give Caruana a way into the event.
As for why? I think there are a multitude of reasons, one of which is that he is a realist about his slide in form, so he doesn’t seem to have the requisite foolish pride to try and make one last run at it. And among the many other reasons, losing hurts. Real bad.
I’m currently reading Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open, and the first chapter (“The End”) is both amazing in itself and also extremely relatable for a professional chessplayer in many ways (maybe more on this later).
“Now that I’ve won a slam, I know something very few people on earth are permitted to know. A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad. Not even close.”