Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lessons from Anand's triumph

Vishy Anand's twelve game win with Black secured his World Chess Championship title for another 2 years till 2012.

Flashback 1991 when he first visited Singapore and gave a 6 year old girl a draw at a simul at Cairnhill CC. That was 19 years ago. We had a meal with some chessplayers and talked a bit. Till this day, he has not lost the friendly, cordial manner at all.

What are some lessons we can learn from the way he approached this match? If I may use the Art of War from Sun Tzu to help illustrate, the following maxims were deemed useful:


Anand's wise choice of openings steered clear of his opponent's theoretical preparation and avoided playing into the strengths of Topalov - great imagination in unbalanced positions, a strong tactical flair (witness his 1st game win), willing to take risks in order to win. In many ways Topalov resembles Fischer, but one quality he lacks is patience.

Playing the Slav is a little dicey for Anand who had to doggedly defend an inferior position, staying vigilant at all times and I believe he paid the price in the 8th game.

Playing the Catalan was a little stroke of genius as by imitating the play of Kramnik, it required Topalov to subdue the demons from his earlier match experience with Kramnik. What Topalov did not do quickly was to learn the ways of Magnus Carlsen in dealing with the Black pieces. He did manage to gain some ground after realising that the only way to wrest the initiative from White was to give a pawn. He did this superbly to force Anand to abandon the Catalan.


I think the Lasker Variation is a dangerous choice for Anand but a calculated risk. Allowing Topalov to think that he is going to get a slight advantage without trying lures him into a false sense of security, egging him to press on and be adventurous. If Topalov had taken pains to patiently manuevre instead of trying to opening the game, he would have forced another drawish position and will have better chances playing for a win then in the late endgame.

Anand's manner of accepting a draw and not rushing things was well used in many famous games, such as Lasker when playing Capablanca in St Petersburg 1914, Kasparov vs Karpov in their final game 1987. A drawing strategy against a desperate opponent needing the win would often force mistakes.

From the interviews, it is clear that Anand is humble to the last and this is where all players should emulate him. Beating an opponent like Topalov in his home ground is no mean feat,esp after travelling for 40 hrs on a bus.

From all counts, Anand's victory is well-deserved,though I fear this could be his last moment of glory as he would soon have to make way for the younger and stronger opponents on his heels. It is indeed a hard task to stay at the top and the strain of it does show- when Anand remarked that he is already a decade old after the match.