Russia: As he approaches the big game against Russia’s Sergey Karjakin, five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand would aim to carry forward his good from into the crucial 13th and penultimate round of the Candidates Chess tournament, on Saturday.
The oldest competitor in the fray, Anand has thus far outlasted everyone else. The Indian’s tryst with destiny to win the Candidates and earn the right to challenge tormentor Magnus Carlsen is well on track.
And Karjakin is one last hurdle that Anand faces with black pieces before he has a white game against Peter Svidler of Russia in the final round.
With 7.5 points in his bag from the first 12-rounds of this double round robin event, Anand has a full point lead over top seed Levon Aronian of Armenia who has 6.5 points.
Karjakin and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan are the other two in contention with six points each while the other four players – Russian trio of Vladimir Kramnik, Dmitry Andreikin and Svidler and Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria have an identical 5.5 points.
The one point lead for Anand is effectively 1.5 points lead as he beat Aronian 1.5-0.5 in their personal encounter. The tournament rules specify that in case of a tie for the top spot, the personal encounter between the tied players will be the first consideration to resolve the tie.
And since Anand beat Aronian, it is clear that the Armenian will have to score half a point more than Anand if he has to win the tournament. Matching Anand on points is not an option for Aronian.
In the scenario, one point from the remaining two games will be enough for Anand to secure the tournament victory even if Aronian wins the last two rounds. The Armenian has a black game against Dmitry Andreikin before he plays his last game against Karjakin.
The history here is in favour of Anand. The Indian ace has never lost to both Karjakin and Svidler in any Classical game ever and this would give Anand a lot of confidence. This fact could also be one of the reason Anand did not “tempt fate” in his own words in the previous round.
Up against Andreikin in the 12th round it was a winning position on board with some optical illusions and Anand after some considerable thought decided to take the safer route to draw. While this was a practical choice, the fact remains that Anand could have sealed the tournament with two rounds to spare had he beaten Andreikin.
Aronian’s form right from the start has been a talking point of the tournament. Starting with a loss against Anand, the Armenian has not quite bridged the gap. Some easy draws, some positions out of his liking and the never-give-up attitude of fellow participants has not let Aronian come out of his shackles and he would be secretly wishing for a miracle in the last two rounds.
For Karjakin and Mamedyarov, if there is any chance it lies in two victories. To beat Anand and Aronian on consecutive days could only be a pipe dream for Karjakin while for Mamedyarov it’s an equally daunting task as he meets Svidler and Kramnik in last two rounds. The other four are out of contention unless some disaster strikes both Anand and Aronian.
The final rest day has come at an appropriate time for Anand who candidly admitted he was tired and ran out of energy against Andreikin when it mattered the most.
After a day off, the fans can expect Anand to come back roaring. After all this is his chance of staging the mother-of-all-comebacks. Courage is also grace under pressure.