Wed. Nov 21st, 2018

Viswanathan Anand defies age, challenges young man-game theory

CHENNAI: With players making the Grandmaster cut at the age of 12 or 13, chess is increasingly being seen as a young

Viswanathan Anand of India, winner of the Worl...
Viswanathan Anand of India, winner of the World Chess Championship 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

man’s game. But Viswanathan Anand‘s victory on Wednesday at the age of 42 has renewed the debate on whether age has anything to do with performance.

Anand prevailed over older rival Boris Gelfand of Israel, 43, via a tiebreaker to assert his supremacy in match play and in the process made a mockery of the rating system in the game which has 22-year-old Magnus Carlsen of Norway at the top , 28-yearold Levon Aronian of Armenia at No. 2 and teenager Fabiano Caruana of Italy at No 8.

Anand’s triumph would also probably bring back the debate over the traditional match play format being out of fashion, with younger players finding it boring and unwieldy. It doesn’t really matter. It is a tribute to Anand’s prowess that he has mastered a format that he was not comfortable with when he was a young player himself and managed to stay on top even when the youth brigade overtook him in the ratings list over the past 12 months.

“I am relieved,” Anand said after the match in Moscow. He refused to admit that he was the favourite to win the rapid tiebreaker games. “I knew I would get my chances but I don’t think I was the favourite when the games started.”

So what is the next stage for the fivetime World champion ? He will most probably play his next title contest at home , maybe in Chennai next year, and will have to contend with opponents in their 20s. Is age catching up with him?

“Chess is a very strenuous sport . You can see that the top players are getting younger all the time,” Anand told TOI during the match. “W e have Magnus (Carlsen ) and (Fabiano ) Caruana in the top 10.”

The match between the seniors in Moscow mostly centred round theoretical contests and perhaps lacked the intensity of a World championship contest . Was it because the contestants were both in their 40s? “Like I said stamina has become a very important aspect . If you have a small advantage you should know how to keep pushing till your rival breaks down . This could take seven hours and if you make a mistake you could be busted almost immediately,” Anand said.

Anand is perhaps the most practical chess player around. Like Sachin Tendulkar, who has grown steadier with age, the world champion knows when to press and when to pull back. The world may wonder why Anand did not press in the two classical games when he had white and huge time advantage against Gelfand, but the world champion had clearly calculated both the risks and the potential gains in such situations.

The Kasparovs may say a world champion after 40 is an excess baggage for chess, but the Anands prove that there are exceptions to the rule .


1991: Qualified for Candidates matches, beat Alexei Dreev
before losing to Anatoly Karpov

1995: Lost Fide semis to Gata Kamsky, lost PCA final to Garry

1997: Lost Fide final to Karpov via tiebreak in Lausanne

2000-01 : beat Alexei Shirov in Teheran for Fide knockout title

2001: Lost to Ivanchuk in Fide knockout semis

2005: Finished second in tournament format at San Luis
behind Veselin Topalov.

2007: Won in tournament format at Mexico for unified title

2008: beat Vladimir Kramnik in Bonn, Germany, to be
undisputed champ

2010: beat Topalov in Sofia, Bulgaria

2012: beat Boris Gelfand in Moscow via tiebreak.

* Has been world champion since 2007


He has won the title five times in four different formats, an achievement likely to remain unsurpassed.

1. Fide KO: beat Shirov in final

2. Tournament format: Won in Mexico 2007

3. Matchplay: beat Kramnik and Topalov in stipulated number of games.

4. Triumph through tiebreak: Wednesday against Gelfand

source TOI

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