New king ascends throne

New king ascends throne

It a bittersweet 2013, chess witnessed a change of guard or perhaps, a change of generation, at the top.

Quite clearly the most vivid and sad memory of the year was the 44-year-old Viswanathan Anand relinquishing his World chess title to the highest-ever rated player on the planet, 23-year-old Magnus Carlsen after holding it continuously since 2007.

After single-handedly ushering in a chess revolution in India, one of  India’s most decorated players, Anand failed to win the title for the sixth time in his home city Chennai. It was a dream match and once which stirred the imagination of the followers in a way not witnessed since the sensational 1972 World Championship Match between Robert James Fischer and Boris Spassky.

On the positive side, India’s strongest woman player for a long time now, Koneru Humpy, after a couple of lacklustre years was in tremendous form, winning both the Women’s Grand Prix tournaments she participated in to emerge as a strong contender to earn the Challenger tag for the title in 2015. Each of the 12 qualified players of the Grand Prix were to contest in four of the six events in 2013 and 2014 to determine the Challenger.

Indian children continued to show promise in age category events and the icing on the cake was India winning the World Under-16 Olympiad. N Srinath also retained his Asian junior title.

The Commonwealth Championships in South Africa witnessed a clean sweep by the Indian men with former world junior Champion Abhijeet Gupta winning the gold, Dibyendu Barua securing silver and Lalith Babu the bronze. In the women’s section Soumya Swaminathan had to settle for silver behind Joanna Houska while Mary Ann Gomes got the bronze. Another promising youngster Viddit Santosh Gujrathi bagged the bronze in the World Junior Championship.

The most eagerly awaited contest, dubbed as ‘The Ultimate Match’ at Chennai in November proved to be a rather one-sided affair as Anand, struggling for form, failed to whip up the legendary magic in his moves.

A gritty Carlsen, dubbed as the ‘Prince in Waiting” for more than a couple of years, defeated Anand 6.5-3.5 in the 12-game Match.

This time the factors going against Anand were his age and form. For a long time now Anand has been focusing more on world title matches and his showing at the Grand Slam events has been rather indifferent. This year however he had won the Grenke Leasing Classic in Germany though the field was diluted and Fabiano Caruana was his main contender. At the London Classic in December, played in Rapid format amongst 16 players, Anand was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Vladimir Kramnik.

Parimarjan Negi’s rise brought cheer to India as he went from strength to strength, tying for top place with seven GMs in the Capella-la Grande tournament and also emerged joint winner in the World Open in Virginia. He also won the Politiken Cup this year. Pentala Harikrishna also won the strong Biel Masters tournament besides the Biel Rapid.

A promising event, the Maharashtra Chess League, based loosely along the lines of the IPL, took shape and it was a treat for the Indian chess enthusiasts to watch the country’s top masters in action at Pune in April this year.

Even as Anand struggled in his home city, Aravind Chithambaram, a 14-year-old from Madurai, clinched the Grandmaster event held parallel to the World Championship. A whopping rating performance of 2728 by the 2300-plus rated player caught the imagination of the enthusiasts. Whether we will witness a new Anand in the coming years would be debatable but there undoubtedly is a ray of hope in Aravind and the others who grabbed old in the age categories.

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