The upcoming 12 game World Championship match between Anand and Kramnik is creating internet rumors faster than Alexandra Kosteniuk makes blitz moves in China. Most of these rumors seem to be speculation on opening choices and who is going to be the “Second” for Anand and Kramnik. A “Second” refers to a chess players choice of another strong chess player to help him/her prepare for a particular opponent. Generally this early preparation focuses on finding new ideas and weaknesses in an opponent’s opening repertoire. The role of the Second was arguably much more important in the time before large chess databases and strong computer engines. With the onset of the computer dominated age of chess, we are also seeing match play that has a much shorter structure and therefor less games to try prepared innovations. The upcoming match between Anand and Kramnik is only scheduled for 12 rounds. I am confident that both Anand and Kramnik are capable of coming up with six very good ideas as to what to try with each color. For the upcoming Anand vs. Kramnik match, a Second’s primary role will likely be acting as the flashy Rybka yielding intimidator in a world champion contender’s entourage. Basically a “my friend is stronger than your friend” ornament meant to impress upon the chess world that the player that attracts friends/disciples with higher ratings must be the next chess messiah.
So who have Anand and Kramnik chosen for this critical role? Viswanathan Anand’s Second is very likely to be the 2786 rated Grand Master from Norway, Magnus Carlsen. Born in 1990 in Tønsberg, Magnus played his first tournament at the age of eight and was coached at the Norwegian High School for Top Athletes by the country’s top player, Grandmaster (GM) Simen Agdestein. On 26 April 2004 Carlsen became a Grandmaster at the age of 13 years, 4 months, and 27 days, the third youngest Grandmaster age in history. Carlsen and Anand are reported to get along very well and have been seen dining together as well as reinacting scenes from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. If for no other reason, Magnus is a good choice because he will likely be able to keep Viswanathan Anand more relaxed than any other top ten rated player. Even still, it seems odd to have Anand’s Second be higher rated than Anand.
Vladimir Kramnik’s Second is confirmed to be the 2747 former World Championship Match participant from Hungary, Peter Leko. Leko was born on September 8, 1979 in Subotica, Yugoslavia. He became a grandmaster in 1994 at the age of 14 years and in doing so became the youngest grandmaster ever. This choice makes sense for Kramnik as Leko’s style is very similar to Kramnik’s solid play. The choice seems a little odd in that from September 25-October 18, 2004 Leko was attempting to take the World Chess Champion title from Kramnik in a match of their own. Leko led by a point with just one game left to play. Kramnik managed to win the last game, tying the match 7-7 (+2 -2 =10), which entitled him to remain the reigning “classical” world champion.
1 day and 21 hours left until the World Chess Championship 2008 begins!