''It does seem though that Magnus Carlsen can breathe new life into the royal game…''
Anish' reflection after Anand-Carlsen's match.


©Official website
For the past month the attention of the chess community (and not only) have been focussed on the World Championship Match between world champion Anand and the challenger Magnus Carlsen. And although there has been and will be a lot of remarks, comments and analysis of that extraordinary event, by experts, amateurs and whom not, let me also put my two cents in it.

Before the event all the chess players and lovers were divided into two groups- those who said that Magnus will destroy the Indian legend and those who said that the first group doesn't understand the specifics of the matter. Frankly I was leaning towards the second group, as the ambiance of the match has something special to it and the 100 elo points advantage that Magnus accumulated over the past years did not seem to be of such a great importance to me. Yet, the final score of 6,5-3,5 speaks for itself and the victory of our new World Champion Magnus Carlsen couldn't have been any more convincing.

So what went wrong for Anand, who kept retaining his title for 6 years, winning match after match? Did something happen to him or is Carlsen just so much better than Anand (as well as everyone else)? Definitely, a bit of both.

Before the match Vladimir Kramnik, who knows what he is talking about, said that Anand has to stop fearing Carlsen. I do agree, and I do think that Anand failed in that matter. Whenever I tuned it to watch the press-conference Anand was always underestimating his position. He seemed to be content with 'holding by getting enough counterplay' in game 3, when the whole world, Magnus included, were instead seriously worried about our World Number One.

©Official website
In the next game when Anand misplayed the opening he called his position 'basically lost', to surprise of Magnus who seemed to be quite content about the game, thinking that the draw was a logical outcome. The culmination of underestimating his position was the game 5, when Anand lost, saying that his decisive mistake was Rd4, an excellent active move, which secured absolute equality. If a player with such great understanding of Anand keeps misevaluating the positions game after game, it definitely means that some psychology is involved, although we will never know whether Anand was honest about his thought after the game, or if he just wanted to confuse Magnus and all the spectators. For a while I even thought Anand was trying to get Magnus overconfident and force him to overpush eventually, but I doubt that that was the case.

After the match we also saw the reason behind the smile on Magnus' face, which appeared after Anand has mentioned his seconds (see the video from the press-conference before the match). There was almost no use of Vishy's opening experts, as Magnus was jumping from sideline to a sideline, refusing to enter a single critical variation even at cost of his position (e.g. game 9). I hope Anand will participate in the candidates and make use of all the Semi-slav and Berlin files that otherwise could go down the trash after this match.
©Official website


There is also a lot to be said about Magnus' philosophy towards the game. A very strong player, with incredible understanding, ability to calculate and sharp tactical vision, his strength lies in actually PLAYING the game. His main idea is to take his opponent out of their comfort zone and play, play, play until the pressure gets too high and opponents start to err. The more games Magnus wins, the higher his rating becomes and thus the higher the pressure and fortunately for Magnus this eternal circle keeps both, his rating and his results very high.

The new World Champion also doesn't care what the position was on the previous move, if Rc1-c2 was pointless, he will proudly go Rc2-c1, if all the game he was suffering and suddenly he has a choice to either make a draw or play for a win, he won't hesitate and will press you forever. Magnus also has the remarkable ability to focus during the game and put all the modeling and media appearance in a separate section of his brain. He can play Wii with his friends, post quotes on Romain Edouard's wall, and then spend 3 hours before the game playing bullet online and there you go, he sits in front of the board with unshakable concentration. Perhaps, I was one of the few people to actually experience this concentration failing (Wijk aan Zee 2011), but those occasions have become more and more rare.

©magnuschess
Magnus also gets all the professionals mad: all those years of evolution of our game, Botvinnik, developing a whole system of preparation, Fischer, swallowing Russian books on openings, Timman, memorizing informants, Karpov with whole country behind him, Kasparov, with his team working daily like maniacs to find new ideas and directions in the opening, all that in vain, as Carlsen will get you out of your book on move 5 and the game will start from scratch. The new World Champion shows us that the game can be played very differently and if you are that good at it, even more successfully.

I would also like to say few words about Anand, one of the most remarkable players of all times. Anand has been a great champion for many years and a true legend of our game. It is not clear what his plans are, now that he had to give up his title, but I am sure all the chess fans are eagerly waiting for the Tiger to be back!

Now let's take stock of the situation. It is of course not clear whether there will be some major changes in the chess world, now that the Norwegian superstar is the undisputed leader of our sport. It does seem though that Magnus Carlsen can breathe new life into the royal game and there are understandable hopes that with the new World Champion chess will be elevated to new heights and there will be another rise in the popularity of the sport all over the world.
And why not indeed, as that's what the game deserves.

P.S. Those who are not interested in 'blablabla' and want to see some real chess, I advice to check out my analysis of four crucial games in the next issue of NewInChess magazine.