Anand – Kramnik Bonn 2008

World Chess Championship preview by Times of India

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There was this strong feeling in chess circles that the world will not be able to free itself from the stranglehold of Ks as the ‘K conveyor belt’ kept churning out stars like Karpov, Korchnoi, Kasparov, Kramnik, Kasimdzhanov and Kamsky. Viswanathan Anand, working with his seconds in an unknown destination in Europe, would have already finalised his preparations for Kramnik, the third K he is meeting for the World chess title. And, he must be thinking how to break free from the grip of Ks and the Russians as the Battle of Bonn unfolds from October 14 to find the ‘Ultimate’ world champion.

Both Kramnik and Anand have shielded themselves from public glare and also given nothing away with regard to the details of their seconds. But as the match starts next week, experts will soon get to know about the men who have worked behind the scene for the champion players.

Both Anand and Kramnik had a disastrous tournament in the run-up to this battle, forcing chess players to wonder if there was so much pressure on the two not to reveal anything before the match. Not even their skills and frame of mind.
Anand is perhaps the world’s most popular chess player having an impeccable conduct and record in public relations. Naturally, he will have more supporters from the world over but that will not win him the title.

Kramnik is known to be a tough opponent in match play (as opposed to tournament play) as he had beaten Kasparov eight years ago in a match to become the world champion in classical chess. Anand’s strength has been his awesome record in tournaments and the more popular and fast versions of rapid and blitz chess.

If you take the head-to-head record, you are struck by the clear trend indicating their respective strengths. In overall games, Anand has a 19-13 lead over Kramnik with 82 games ending in draws. In rapid and blitz, they have played 65 games, Anand winning 15 and losing 7. Anand does not have to think twice before picking his recent victory over Kramnik at Amber (Monaco, 2008) as his best rapid game against the Russian with black pieces.

“The move that won the game was Qf3. No one really saw the move and thought that the position didn’t look good. It took everyone a moment to realise that it won on the spot,” revealed Anand to ToI.

But the situation is quite the opposite in Classical chess where Anand has won four games, lost six and drawn 39 in two decades. And the best of them? The world champion goes back 11 years to Belgrade where he lost in the first round to Joel Lautier and had black against Kramnik the next day. “Actually he captured a piece and a I made a very silent move that seemed to win immediately. I won that event,” Anand recalled.

To many, the battle between Anand and Kramnik is a clash of styles. The world knows they are vastly different in disposition and their approach to the game. The vast number of draws in their personal encounters indicate that they are more or less equal in class but the Bonn battle could be different primarily because it is the first time that they meet in a match in Classical chess for such a big title. And the trend of the match will be decided by the kind of preparations they have made before the clash.

Anand is believed to have worked with Peter Heine Nielsen, who is his trusted second in tournaments. He is also reported to have worked with Magnus Carlsen, another Scandinavian and most probably the next world champion. If you look at the nationality of these two, it will be clear that the world of chess is divided into two halves: Russians and the non-Russians.

The late Bobby Fischer liked Anand and had picked his non-Russian background for his affinity towards the Indian and if Anand feels the same for Carlsen, it’s not just by chance. And there is an unmistakable link between them – Nielsen, who had acted as second for Carlsen too.

But it is the Kramnik camp that has remained cut off from contacts. The Russian had earlier worked with Miguel Illescas and Evgeny Bareev but for this match the entire Russian brain-bank would have offered support. For the Russians, the world chess crown is a prestige issue and they certainly would like to see the back of Anand in Bonn against Kramnik. However, at the moment, Anand-Kramnik is better defined as a clash between the current world champion, who has a very practical approach to chess, and a former world champion, who is quite versatile. Let the battle commence.

Report: Times of India

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