Championship rematches are a source of the historic rivalries which provide intrigue for fans and motivate the competitors to perform at their highest level. Historically, chess has had many such occasions because a World Champion who failed to defend his title used to be awarded an automatic rematch. The fact that there is no longer a rematch clause did little slow Viswanathan Anand‘s pursuit of regaining his title from Magnus Carlsen.
Rematches have been hugely important for the overall popularity of chess in the 20th century. Who can forget the five epic matches between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov? Perhaps the only worthy comparison of the Kasparov-Karpov rivalry can be drawn from the battles between boxing’s Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier. Another great chess rematch occurred between Mikhail Tal and Mikhail Botvinnik in 1961. In their first match, Mikhail Tal’s attacking style was too much for the strategic Botvinnik to handle but in their second encounter, Mikhail Botvinnik was able to shut down Tal’s offensives and win the match convincingly. In order for an Anand-Carlsen rivalry to achieve anywhere near the same level of notoriety, Viswanathan Anand will have to follow in Botvinnik’s footsteps and bounce back convincingly.
Perhaps the most important strategy for Anand in his rematch will be going on the offensive. In their first encounter, Viswanathan Anand was defending his title and his play was lifeless. In 2014, Vishy has nothing to lose and thus nothing to gain by being ultra-conservative. Indeed, for the much elder Anand, it is vitally important to be the aggressor as much as possible.
For Magnus, the key to victory is being a professional. Magnus Carlsen is the highest rated player on the planet and has already defeated Anand in match play. In his first defense of his title, it is critical that Magnus assumes the role of the champion and not take any unnecessary risks early in the match. Carlsen needs to allow Anand, who didn’t win a single game in their first match, to be the one to gamble with risky strategies. Finally, Carlsen needs to forget about losing rating points and accept drawing opportunities as a chance to move closer to a possible rapid play tiebreak and his goal of retaining his title.
In chess, rematches fuel rivalries and it is these rivalries that create legends. Very few chess players are ever crowned a World Champion and within hours two of them will be writing their rivalry into the book of chess lore. Regardless of the outcome, the winner will be chess itself.
Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in both Bakersfield and the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Currently, Chris Torres has the ranking of candidate master and serves as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.
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