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Anand earns Carlsen rematch

- Five-time world champion wins Candidates meet with a tie to spare
Viswanathan Anand, during his match against Sergey Karjakin of Russia, in Khanty Mansiysk, on Saturday. Picture courtesy: FIDE

Calcutta / Khanty Mansiysk: Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand proved all his critics wrong and won the Candidates Chess tournament, after settling for a draw with Sergey Karjakin of Russia in the 13th and penultimate round here on Saturday.

Anand earned the right to a rematch with Magnus Carlsen of Norway, who dethroned the Indian champion at Chennai in November last. This rematch will take place sometime in the last quarter of this year.

And records say that whenever Anand got a second shot at the same title or against the same player, he has been extremely well prepared for the challenge.

It was a marathon against Karjakin and the rest day did Anand a world of good. The Indian held his own in the endgame that lasted more than five-and-a-half hours.

The draw helped Anand reach eight points and he benefitted from the biggest upset in the tournament, when top seed Levon Aronian of Armenia lost to lowest ranked Dmitry Andreikin of Russia.

On a day that saw Vladimir Kramnik avenging his earlier loss in the tournament against Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan played out a draw with Russian Peter Svidler to seal the deal in Anand’s favour, irrespective of the results on Sunday.

While Anand is on eight points, Karjakin, Kramnik, Mamedyarov, Andreikin and Aronian are now on 6.5 points each. Peter Svidler stand seventh on six points while Topalov reamined on 5.5 to fill the last place.

In the last round, Anand will meet Svidler and the Indian will play with white pieces.

In the game against Karjakin, Anand equalised quite easily with the queen’s gambit declined and had no trouble whatsoever in finding a thematic pawn sacrifice that made his position easier to play.

However, while trying to work out the right path, Anand erred slightly and faced a difficult but possible defence when he parted with two pieces for Karjakin’s rook.

The ensuing endgame was easier for Karjakin and the defence was not easy, yet Anand kept finding the right moves and obtained a passed pawn on the king side that proved vital.

Karjakin was aware at this point that the fight was over but he played on till 91 moves before signing the peace treaty. The tournament victory gives Anand the winner’s cheque of Euros 135,000 (a little over Rs 1 cr).

Carlsen definitely has reasons to worry. Anand had lost to Gata Kamsky in Sanghinagar in Fide Candidates semis in 1994, but defeated him in the PCA Candidates in 1995.

He lost to Garry Kasparov in matchplay in 1995 but defeated Vladimir Kramnik in 2008 in the same event.

Anand lost in the final of first Fide knock-out World championship to Anatoly Karpov in 1998; but won when he participated next, in 2000 by beating Alexei Shirov.

He had finished second in World Championship in 2005 (Toplaov won with 10/14) but won the crown in Mexico in 2007.

Since 1937, the score in favour of revenge wins in World Championships is 5-1.

On Saturday, Andreikin came up with a sensational performance to beat Aronian who appeared out of sorts once more. The Russian went for the Trompovsky opening as an early surprise and got a comfortable endgame once the queens got traded.

Aronian was saddled with the worse pawn structure and another accuracy cost him heavily as he landed in a lost rook and pawns endgame.

Kramnik had a fine victory against Topalov out of a Semi Slav defense. Playing white, Kramnik was at the top of his game for once in the tournament.

Topalov made the mistake of pushing his king side pawns and Kramnik picked one of them with precise calculation.

The Bulgaria posed some problems before he faced inevitable loss.

In World Championship rematches, there have been five players who have won revenge matches. Kasparov, Boris Spassky, Mikhail Botvinnik, Vassily Symslov and Alexander Alekhine are the ones who have had the honour.

Anand has won a crack at the World Championship title for the 10th time in his career, after finishing first in the Candidates.

He had nine attempts in 18 years. And now, he has qualified for the eighth classical title and sixth matchplay title.

Kasparov played eight title matches in 16 years (five vs Karpov; and one each vs Short, Anand and Kramnik). He refused to play four times — 1997 in Groningen, 1999 in Las Vegas, 2000 in New Delhi and 2002 in Moscow.