In The Armchair


Posted in India by Armchair Guy on May 12, 2010

The whole game

There were a lot of interesting points that came out of this match.

One of them was the effect of age on performance.  A quick look at the Live Top List shows that Anand is among the 3 oldest in the top 35.  Only Gelfand and Ivanchuk are older, by less than 2 years.  An overwhelming proportion is still in their 20s.  Topalov is about 5 years younger than Anand; IGMs everywhere were of mixed opinions whether this improved Topalov’s chances significantly.  There were some slight indications that fatigue was a bigger factor for Anand.

Age is also a factor in how easy it is to find an opponent when you’re young and learning.  Anand used his first computer for chess in 1988, at age 19.  Certainly today’s players start using computers much younger.  This probably has some impact on their playing style.  There’s never a case where you can’t find an opponent for practice.  Anand is possibly the last world champion to learn chess without a computer.

It’s also interesting to note that the age at which people attain their grandmaster title has become much lower.  This may be because of computers, because the sport is more popular, because the grandmaster norms are easier, or a combination of all these.

Another interesting thing is that a tournament never quite seems to have the same drama as a one-on-one match.  There are various arguments against matches, and the ability to hold on to the title for several years and then remain champion in case of a draw.  Many IGMs think (and I agree) that this loads the game heavily in favour of the reigning champion, since the champ would prefer calm more even positions while the challenger must play riskier chess.  The rapid and blitz playoffs in Sofia might have been designed to mitigate this.  But while there may be some valid arguments for tournaments to determine the world champion, there’s a certain drama, a spotlight on personalities, and an intensity in matches that is missing from tournament formats.


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