The remarkable feature of Carlsen's win is that he seems to have plenty of room for improvement, writes IAN ROGERS

When Viswanathan Anand looks back on his failed title defence in Chennai against Magnus Carlsen, he can have few regrets.

After 10 tense games, the 22-year-old Carlsen showed himself to be clearly the superior player in 2013, capable of handling the Indian legend in positions of all types.

Just five years ago Anand was capable of crushing his rivals — most notably Vladimir Kramnik in their 2008 title match — but since then he has slipped back into the pack, while Carlsen has surged ahead.

Anand raised his game sufficiently in 2010 and 2012 to keep his world title but a lean and hungry Carlsen was a bridge too far.

Carlsen's hunger was evident on Friday when he was expected to make a short draw, earning him the world title and Rs. 8.40 crore. Sure enough Anand made a tacit draw offer on move 21, repeating moves, and the spectators expected Carlsen's handshake for a truce to be offered almost immediately.

Will to win

Instead Carlsen showed, for the second consecutive tournament, that his will-to-win outweighed the title or the money, and if he thought he had a chance for victory, nothing else mattered.

Carlsen was not playing to humiliate Anand; he simply believed that he would be unfaithful to the game of chess to stop a game where he held the advantage. This was Bobby Fischer's maximalist attitude, though, in the four decades since the American gave up the world title, pragmatism has reigned.

In the event, Anand defended well. The game was drawn well into the fifth hour of play and the Carlsen era had begun.

Anand knows that every world chess champion is usurped eventually. Garry Kasparov is not disparaged because his 15-year reign came to an end in London in 2000 against Kramnik in a title match where Kasparov could not win a single game.

Anand was not out of form in the Chennai world title match but in only one game, the third, did he comprehensively outplay his opponent. Even there Anand failed to apply the finishing touches and Carlsen escaped with a draw.

For Anand there were too many lapses, including one really poor effort — Game Six — in which Anand seemed to be battling as much against his own unforced errors as his opponent.

Eventually, with one careless move in a position where a draw appeared inevitable, Anand self-destructed and his title defence was in tatters. Some unkindly called it a senior's moment; in any case it was only one of two game-losing blunders in his 2013 title defence.

The most remarkable feature of Carlsen's match victory was that he seems to have plenty of room for improvement.

Carlsen's cool head, manoeuvring skills and precise calculations are keys to his success but his opening choices remain insipid and for some time Carlsen looked vulnerable when faced with an attacking Anand in Game Nine.

If Carlsen keeps working on his game, it is hard to see Anand bridging the gap between the two — and whether Anand wants to spend the months of study and team preparation needed to try to qualify for a match for the world title again is a moot point.

Anand back to tournaments

More likely Anand will remain an active tournament player, playing events he enjoys without the burden of the world title or the need to seek it.

Meanwhile the chess world will have to adjust to having a player on the throne unlike any other; a player who models for a clothing company in his spare time, plays and follows multiple other sports and answers questions at press conferences with terms such as “Yada, yada, yada.”

Yes, Carlsen is a completely new generation of player, albeit one who, if world rankings are any guide, may be better than anyone in history at mastering India's 1,500-year-old gift to the world!

Ian Rogers is an Australian Grandmaster


Viswanathan Anand’s long reign endsNovember 22, 2013

Dawn of the Carlsen eraNovember 26, 2013

Carlsen takes Anand’s best and winsNovember 21, 2013

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