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