So Vishy Anand is getting ready to defend his world title against Veselin Topalov in Sofia in a 12-game match starting on April 24; that’s Saturday. Twelve games?! Before that there was the marathon encounters between the K’s. Prior to that we had what I thought was the most interesting system of all: zonals, interzonals, candidates tournaments and then the 24-game world championship match. Were some of those events rigged by the Soviets (or Russians as they were known then)? Probably and one of my early heroes, Botvinnik, seems to have been implicated in the skullduggery. No matter. They it was always exciting to follow the cycle from start to finish.
There’s always been intrigue involved so this one is no different. No matter what happens off the board, one thing has never changed. Speculation over who’s going to win?
Topalov is playing in his home country, Bulgaria, and that has to be an advantage. Anand’s arrival was delayed by the volcano in Iceland and he was refused permission to delay the start of the match by more than one day.
In their encounters at normal time controls Topalov has one more win than Anand, but at faster controls Anand has a big lead. That would seem to give Topy a slight advantage, but if the match is tied at 6-6 they are going to play what we used to call “speed chess” to break the tie, so Anand should have the edge there. I’m not going to go into what I think of the tie break system other than to say…well, I won’t comment at all.
Anand is 40 years old and Topalov 35…among top level chess players, 40 is just about reaching the top of the hill, if not actually over it.
Topalov and his team aren’t above trying to mess with people’s heads. Remember Toiletgate in 2006 when they accused Kramnik of using computer assistance during visits to the restroom?
In this match Topalov has declared that if Anand wishes to communicate with him, he should do so through the arbiter. Anand has been very gentlemanly and diplomatic on this issue, as becomes him.
Anand is generally regarded as the better player and has a very pragmatic style, preferring to play a move that looks good rather than spending all his time trying to find the absolute best one. He’s also a pretty deadly tactician.
All in all, I think Anand is better and I hope he wins, but my gut feeling is it’s going to be that weasel, Topalov.