Friday, November 15, 2013

The World Chess Championship Is Back!

Magnus Carlsen of Norway, born November 30, 1990, is the number 1 ranked chess player in the world.  But he is not the official World Champion.  That title belongs to Viswanathan Anand of India, born December 11, 1969, who is ranked number 8.  Anand has held the undisputed title since he won it in a tournament in 2007.  He defended the title in 2008 (defeating Vladimir Kramnik 6 1/2 to 4 1/2), in 2010 (defeating Veselin Topalov 6 1/2 to 5 1/2), and in 2012 (defeating Boris Gelfand in a tie breaker).

Carlsen didn't compete for the title the last time around, but this time he agreed to participate in the Candidates' Tournament held in London from March 15 to April 1, 2013.  In a round-robin tournament featuring eight of the strongest chess players in the world, Carlsen finished on top.  He and Kramnic both finished with 8 1/2 points, and they split their head-to-head matches, but Carlsen had more wins, which was the second tie-breaker.  So Carlsen qualified to play Anand for the title, with the matches taking place in Chennai, India.  (For most of the last few centuries, people in the English-speaking world have known Chennai as "Madras.")

The match consists of 12 games, which are supposed to take place from November 9 to November 26.  If the match is tied after 12 games, we will move to a tiebreaker.

Carlsen is favored, but Anand has been a great champion, and he is playing in his home country.

Here's what happened in the first four games:

Game One (Nov. 9):  Carlsen had white, and nothing much happened in a 16-move draw.

Game Two (Nov. 10):  Anand had white, and nothing much happened in a 25-move draw.

Game Three (Nov. 12):  Carlsen had white, and held the initiative for most of the game, but settled for a draw after 51 moves.

Game Four (Nov. 13):  Anand had white, and was in all kinds of trouble after going a pawn down on the 18th move.  But he fought back, equalizing play after a great attack on the black king in his 35th move.  After 64 moves, Anand had survived with another draw.

So the match was tied 2-2, although it seemed clear that Carlsen was raising the pressure on Anand.  That brings us to Game Five, which took place earlier today.  I'll cover that match in a separate post.

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