Carlsen vs. Anand

by on November 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm in Current Affairs, Games | Permalink

They start playing Saturday, with a 12-game format.  Originally I had been picking Anand, on the grounds of superior match experience and better opening preparation.  But Carlsen’s results have simply been too strong lately, including in St. Louis.  Tarjei Svensen puts it well:

Against current @2700chess top 10 , @MagnusCarlsen has 21 wins, 53 draws and only 2 losses since Jan 2011.

Or if we judge the match by numerical rating, Carlsen again is a strong favorite.

The Chennai venue may help Anand, as Carlsen will be bringing a Norwegian chef to convert the local ingredients into…what…a $35 dollar small pizza?  Still, being surrounded by your friends, entire family, and numerous well-wishers is not always a net advantage in a competition.  Carlsen may find it easier to concentrate on the chess.  And Anand is 43 years old, which puts him as one of the oldest players in the top 100.  Carlsen is 22 and it feels like it is his time.

Here are some opinions from grandmasters, some of whom are being diplomatic.  Here Matt Wilson considers whether world champions simply got lucky.  Here are some options on how to watch the match.

1 Yancey Ward November 6, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Anand performed poorly against Gelfand in the last match for the title, but eked it out. Overall, his results are clearly in decline the last 3 years.

I think Carlsen wins 6.5/4.5.

2 sandy November 8, 2013 at 1:01 pm

If he did it will be 6.5/5.5

But he won’t.

Anand is is stronger

3 Yancey Ward November 6, 2013 at 5:08 pm

If you want to watch the match, I suggest, though I imagine Susan Polgar may do live blogging of it on her site.

4 Willitts November 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I have two daughters who I taught to play chess at a young age. If their chess skills are lacking, it is only because of the inadequate knowledge of their father. But they maintained very little interest in the game despite being relatively good at it. They rather seem to enjoy music.

It makes me wonder who the best female chess plauers are and why they arent competitive with men in a game that doesnt require brute strength. There are similar results in poker where women cannot consistently make the final table (although they tend to get in the money better than men).

Im trying to figure out if the apparent differences are based on mental acumen, preferences, alternative arenas, relative aggressive behavior, or simply lack of numbers making upper tail observations less likely. How would a researcher sort this out?

5 Yancey Ward November 6, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Judit Polgar has been the strongest female player for over 20 years. At her peak, she was one of the 10 best players in world regardless of gender. However, she chose to cut back on her playing time to have, I think, two children in the oughts. She has played more in the last 3 years, but I think she has found it difficult to balance top level play with being a mother to two small children.

6 Willitts November 6, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Little parasites just suck the brain right out of you. 🙂

That just raises another question: once you reach that level of play, how much more do you actually have to practice to remain competitive at the same level? Is the game quickly innovative or are the skills that perishable? Or is it that the children become an exogenous distraction from concentration? What exogenous factors affect men?

Im seriously trying to dissect the marginal components of success in this game, at least at the level of a hypothesis. Does age dull the chess mind or make it better? What is prime chess age?

Just watched Ender’s Game with my family. The girls have not reacted as much as i have in getting back into strategic games because of the film.

7 Rahul November 7, 2013 at 12:33 am

My impression is you have to practice huge amounts even at the top. And the skills are indeed perishable if world top 10 is the bar you are shooting for.

8 Willitts November 7, 2013 at 1:06 am

OK, but are you really practicing or are you just learning new nodes in the game tree?

If you memorized thousands of digits of Pi, I suppose you’d have to keep that up too.

9 Rahul November 7, 2013 at 1:18 am

I think a bit of both. Even the nodes you have mastered need refresh else they fade away.

Just plain super-fast evaluation of moves to a decent depth needs practice to keep it super-fast. Intuition needs practicing too so that one knows intuitively when n how much to trust it.

10 Sam Hardwick November 7, 2013 at 4:41 am

I don’t know, Kamsky quit chess for a long period of time and came back to peep into the top 10 (not there anymore, though). I bet Kasparov could be a top 10 player.

11 Bob November 8, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Chess is quite different from Kasparov’s time. The best Kasparov might not be top 10 today.

12 JWatts November 7, 2013 at 5:54 am

There are hundreds of strategic games out there. Are you talking about more than just Chess?

13 Dan Weber November 7, 2013 at 6:26 am

(Hope this responds in the right place)

If it takes a crazy amount of time to be a top-10 chess player, then the women may be making more rational decisions to not bother with a competition where the expected reward is very small.

How much reward is there for being a top-100 or top-1000 chess player?

14 US November 7, 2013 at 10:40 am

(Like Dan Weber, I hope this responds in the right place)
As for the why so few women in top chess, here’s a relevant stat: The Danish Chess Federation has 4315 members. 106 of those (~2.5%) are women.

I don’t think Denmark is unique in this respect, though I’m sure there’s some variation internationally in terms of how skewed the gender ratios are.

If female players are drawn from a talent mass comparable to 2.5% of the male talent mass, you should certainly expect to see much fewer strong female players.

15 R. Pointer November 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Official Website:

I think everyone is overblowing the Chennai factor on Carlsen. If Magnus can eat Lutefisk, then he can handle all of the great Indian cuisine on hand. Secondly, this isn’t Capablanca’s generation where the opponent might be in a place for the first time and uncomfortable. Carlsen has been traveling the world since he was at least 12. He can handle a new place much better than Tarrasch did. It’s not as if Chennai is completely unmodernized!

16 freethinker November 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm

It is stupid to take a chef with you from Europe when you can stay in a five star hotel in Chennai which maintains standards of hygiene you in the west are accustomed to. It may cost about the same

17 Rahul November 7, 2013 at 5:41 am

I don’t think it’s about hygiene. Maybe he’s a picky eater used to only certain types of food. It’d be hard to get good Norwegian food in Chennai.

Even if he’s not normally terribly picky, lots of competitive players are sticklers for their pre-game “rituals”. Perhaps it’s a way of conditioning your mind into a certain useful mode.

In any case, he sure can afford to be quirky!

18 freethinker November 7, 2013 at 9:20 am

“he sure can afford to be quirky” Rahul, that did not occur to me! Hope his chef finds the ingredients to cook good Norwegian food.

19 Adrian Ratnapala November 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I don’t know anything about Norwegian food. I’m just trying to imagine a German Imbiss in Chennai. How would you do “Currywurst”? I mean the chips are easy, the sausages can be faked. But how do you get the weird greenish-yellow powder?

20 Adrian Ratnapala November 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm

This is correct. Better to be Shane Warne than to fail for mental Dheli-Belly. BUT we can still mock him.

If I go to Oslo, I will not try to it Dosai. In fact I will try to find out if they do any especially weird stuff with herring and eat that. But if I sat in a sealed hotel room, with a menu that said nothing more than “Tamil” and “Norwegian”. There’s no real choice. The answer is never “Norwegian food”. And the choice still has to be “Tamil” if you add “Baked Beans” to the menu.

21 Ray Lopez November 7, 2013 at 12:25 am

If Anand wins, it would be as great an upset as the Tyson-Douglas boxing upset of 1990, the America’s Cup sailing upset of 2013, and the Alekhine-Euwe chess world championship match upset of 1935 (

As a middle aged man, I am rooting for Anand knowing full well he only has a 15% (at best) chance of a victory.

Old man vs the sea. Or as another poster here said: Anand = Old Man, and Carlsen = “The C”!

22 RR November 7, 2013 at 6:00 am

Ruy Lopez ( pun intended)

Thanks for repeating my pun.

23 Yancey Ward November 7, 2013 at 11:31 am

Yes, as a 47 year old, my natural inclination is to pull for Anand to win for all us middle aged patzers.

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