SANDS: Anand-Carlsen chess title match kicks off Saturday in Chennai, India

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He has held the world championship for six years, beating off challenges from GMs Vladimir Kramnik, Veselin Topalov and, just two years ago, Boris Gelfand. He has far more match experience and will have the considerable advantage of defending his crown for the fourth time in his hometown of Chennai, India, before a rabid fan base that will be strongly pulling for him.

Yet 43-year-old world titleholder Viswanathan Anand nevertheless will be a substantial underdog when he comes to the board Saturday, a measure of the excitement and respect his challenger, Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, has generated in recent years. The 22-year-old Carlsen, whose style manages to be charismatic and dogged at the same time, is rated a 3-1 favorite by English bookies, based on his strong play and record high rating in recent FIDE listings.

Anand has slipped to No. 8 in the ratings, but he has proved a tough competitor in the match format and it is always hard to knock off the champion. GM Ian Rogers has compiled a handy cheat sheet on the Chennai (formerly Madras) match at the U.S. Chess Federation’s Chess Life Online website (uschess.org/content/blogsection/61/141) and we’ll have regular updates here as the match progresses. Some details:

*The match, to be held at the Chennai Hyatt Regency, once again will consist of 12 games at classical time controls, with a tiebreaker if the match is tied at 6-6 (no draw odds for the champ, in other words). The winner receives $1.45 million, and the loser roughly $1 million, a very nice payday by chess standards.

*The first game starts at 3 p.m. local time in India, and others on Nov. 11, Nov. 17, Nov. 20, Nov. 23 and Nov. 25. Game 12, if needed, is set for Nov. 26, with a rapid playoff, again if needed, on Thanksgiving, Nov. 28.

Kekelidze-Panjwani after 24...Rg8.

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Kekelidze-Panjwani after 24…Rg8. more >

*That playoff is unlikely to interfere with your turkey and football plans, as the games start at 4:30 a.m. Washington time. The official website is chennai2013.fide.com, and playchess.com and chessdom.com are among other sites planning live coverage with analysis. Always worth a look as well are the expert analysis at chessbase.com and chessvibes.com, as well as Chess Life Online.

We’ll have full coverage and color from the match online and in upcoming columns. Enjoy!

While waiting for the match to get underway, we can catch up on a little unfinished business from last month’s fourth Continental Class Championship in Arlington, won, as we reported here, by Pittsburgh GM Alex Shabalov. We found a great game from the tournament that didn’t make it into our original coverage, with Georgian GM Mikheil Kekelidze taking the measure of Canadian IM Raja Panjwani.

Black’s pawn-hunting on the queenside in this Nimzo-Indian meets with a brutal response on the other flank, beginning with 17. cxd4 Na5?! 18. f5! Qxc4 (exf5?? 19. Bd5+ Kh8 20. Qh5, and there’s no good answer to the threat of 21. Ng6+) 19. f6 Nc6 20. Be3 (already eyeing 21. Qh5 g6 22. Nxg6+! hxg6 23. Qxg6+ Kh8 24. Rf4 and wins) g6 21. Rc1 Qxa2 22. Nxg6!?, trying to break through while Black’s queen is diverted and his queenside forces undeveloped.

White’s aggressiveness pays off on 22…hxg6 23. Qd3 Kf7 (Kh7 24. Bxc6 bxc6 25. Rf4 wins again) 24. Be4 Rg8 (see diagram; also insufficient was 24…Rh8 [Nxf6 25. Rxf6+ Ke7 26. Bxc6 bxc6 27. Qxg6 Bd7 28. Qg7+ Kd8 29. Rxf8+] 25. Bxg6+ Kf8 26. Bh7! e5 27. g6 Be6 28. Bh6+ Ng7 29. fxg7+ Ke7 30. gxh8=Q, and wins) 25. Bxg6+ Rxg6 25. Qxg6+!! Kxg6 27. f7, and the Black knight is helpless against the advancing pawn.

Despite his huge material edge, Black can’t stave off mate after 27…Bd7 (Nf6 28. Rxf6+ Kh5 29. Rh6+ Kg4 f8=Q e5 31. h3+ Kg3 32. Bf2+ Qxf2+ 33. Qxf2 mate) 28. f8=Q e5 (Ng7 29. Rxf6+ Kh5 30. Rh6+ Kg4 31. Qf4 mate) 29. Qh6 mate.

Carlsen, in revealing comments from his interview with Charlie Rose on PBS this year, said one key to his jump to the elite level was, surprisingly, “optimism” — the growing confidence in unclear or equal positions that he could find a way to win. That may have played a role in today’s second game, taken from the recent U.S. Chess League round, in which the Miami Sharks’ GM Marcel Martinez defeated the Carolina Cobras’ NM Diego Garcia. The higher-rated Martinez launches a speculative sacrificial attack with 17. Bxf5!? gxf5 18. Nxf5 fxe6 19. Nh6+ Kg7 20. Qg4+ Kxh6 21. Rxe5?!, when Black backs down at the crucial moment in the game.

Garcia could have stayed in the game with the confident 21…dxe5! 22. Rxf8 Qc5+ 23. Kh1 Nf6!! (not 23…Bxf8 24. Ne4 Qe3 [Qe7 25. Bc1+] 25. Qxe6+ Kh5 26. Ng3+ Kg5 [Kh4 27. Nf5+] 27. Qf5+ Kh6 28. Qh5+ Kg7 29. Nf5 and White wins) 24. Rxf6+ Bxf6 25. Nf1 Qe7 26. Ng3 Bc6 27. Bc1+ Bg5 28. Qh5+ Kg7 29. Bxg5 Qf7, and Black has weathered the storm.

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About the Author
David R. Sands

David R. Sands

Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.

At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...

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