The big chess match is over. Anand is the victor. He won three games to Kramnik’s one, with seven draws.
The final game saw Anand, playing white, opening with his e-pawn. This is Anand’s usual choice, but he had avoided it in this match. This is likely owing to the success Kramnik has had in making easy draws with the Petroff Defense. Given the match situation, however, Anand would have been happy with an easy draw.
Since the Petroff is not what you play when you need a win with black, Kramnik tried the Sicilian instead. The always exciting Najdorf variation appeared, though it quickly transposed to a sort of Classical Sicilian position. The most interesting moment of the game came at Kramnik’s twelfth move:
Position After 12. 0-0-0
Having to win with black necessitates taking some risks, so Kramnik played the bizarre 12. … exf5. Technically, this move wins a pawn. But it leaves white with so many positional trumps it is hard to believe it represents a serious winning attempt for black. His pawns are shattered, he is behind in development, and his king is not happy in the center. As things transpired, Anand recovered his pawn quickly, and Kramnik never managed to get any sort of counter-attack going.
For the record, the game ended here:
It is white to move, and after, say, Rf3, he can claim some advantage based on his better pawn structure. It would take a blunder of epic proportions for black to win. So Kramnik conceded the inevitable, and a draw was agreed.
So Anand is now the latest in the line of champions passed down through matches, starting with Botvinnik, and moving on to Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov and Kramnik. He is a well deserving champion. He has been a top player for two decades, and by all accounts he is one of the great class acts of chess.
Rumors have been circulating that Kramnik will now retire from chess. At a mere 32 he is not so old, and could certainly have another decade among the world’s chess elite. But he has nothing left to achieve, and having lost a match of this sort it tends to be difficult to return to that high level of play.
Anand, for his part, seems to be playing some of his best chess at 39. He could make a good case for retiring with the title, though I doubt he will do so.
If everything goes according to plan, this should be a bumper year for chess fans. American GM Gata Kamsky is set to play a match against Bulgarian phenom Veselin Topalov. This is supposed to take place at the end of November, though I do not know if everything is still on track. It should be a fascinating match, since there is a whole fire and ice story line there (with Kamsky being the ice, and Topalov being the fire). If the match happens, Topalov would have to be considered the favorite. But who knows!
If the match happens, you will certainly hear about in this space. For now, one more round of congratulations to Indian Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand. He is the first non-Russian to win a match for the WC since Fischer, and the first person from India ever to accomplish the feat.