The Clash of the Titans: Kasparov vs Anand
The game of 64 squares is back in the spotlight, as its greatest champion returns to centre stage. As Garry Kasparov comes out of retirement, in what he describes as a 'five-day hiatus', to participate in the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament, there is much reason for Indians to cheer at the prospect of a face-off between Kasparov and our own Viswanathan Anand.
Route to the World Championship
The St. Louis tournament held in USA is part of the Grand Chess Tour 2017 that qualifies participants for competing in the World Chess Championship 2018 cycle based on their performance at the end of the tour. Magnus Carlsen leads the pack on points with Vishy still to qualify.
Why is it all the more important?
With French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave winning the Sinquefield Open in US, also a part of the Grand Chess Tour, the battle is poised. However, current World Champion Magnus Carlsen deciding to give St. Louis a miss, leaves Vishy and Garry as the only two former World Champions on the participant list. This has chess fans on the edge of their seats.
Old rivals or friendly foes
When Vishy first faced Garry as a chess professional, it was way back in 1991. A precocious 21-year old Indian faced up to the chess juggernaut in Linares, a small sleepy town tucked away in southern Spain. It was a thrilling 27-move draw, interesting on theoretical grounds. Anand played the Petroff Defense with black pieces ensuring a lack of complexity in the middle.
Who do the numbers favour?
According to the popular online chess database Chessgames, Vishy and Garry played each other first in 1991 and for the last time in 2005. In the intervening years, in the classical format Garry holds a 16-4 lead over Vishy with 31 draws as well. In the rapid format, it is closer with a 10-4 lead to Garry with 12 draws.
Playing style of Anand and Kasparov
Considering Kasparov's playing style at his peak and that of Anand over his best years, the best quote that describes their encounter would probably be, 'When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.' Kasparov's play is marked by theoretical innovations in the opening to establish an early advantage finishing with a brutal endgame. Anand has a tactically superior approach relying on a solid defense.
Age doesn't age well
Considering the statistics above it would seem that Kasparov would fare better, but here are a few things to keep in mind: Both are past prime age, Garry more so. Chunk of stats are from time when Anand was not a mature player Anand's record in rapid/blitz second to none. Garry last played professionally 12 years ago. Keep your fingers crossed!