Viswanathan Anand 46 is regarded as one of the best chess players of all time. After earning accolades as India’s first international chess grandmaster in 1988, Anand won his first FIDE World Chess Championships in 2000 at Tehran by beating Russia-born Spanish player Alexei Shirov. In 2007, Vishy Anand stamped his chess authority in being crowned as the undisputed world champion by beating Vladimir Kramnik in the final of the FIDE World Championship at Mexico City. Next year in Bonn, Anand retained his world champion status in a rematch with Kramnik, who had earned the right to challenge Anand by winning 2008 Candidates’ tournament. Anand won the World Championship twice more; he defeated Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov in 2010 World Championship at Sofia and defended his title in 2012 championship in Moscow by outlasting Israel’s Boris Gelfand. The arrival of Norway’s Magnus Carlsen on world chess scene changed the equation at the top echelons. After the Norwegian won 2013 Candidates’ tournament to challenge 2012 world champion Anand, the two of them met at Chennai in November 2013. Carlsen was simply brilliant against Anand in winning with a difference of a whopping 3 points. However, in 2014, Anand won the candidates’ tournament and presented his own challenge to Carlsen in November 2014 at Sochi. Anand couldn’t win but qualified for the 2016 candidates’ tournament. Now the battle begins all over again in 2016 Candidates Tournament in about a week’s time at Moscow. The field of 8 qualified players is very strong but all Indian eyes will be on Vishy Anand, who still has the capability of winning despite his advanced age. The winner of 2016 Candidates’ tournament will challenge the reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen in USA later this year.
Held since 1950, the FIDE-organized Candidates Chess Tournament is an event that determines the challenger for World Chess Championship. The winner of the Candidates’ tournament plays against the reigning World Champion. India’s Vishy Anand had won the 2014 Candidates tournament but failed in his challenge against world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway. Historically, Candidates tournament began as a triennial event, but after the split of World Championship in early nineties, it has adopted a variable time format. This year, the grueling double round-robin tournament will have 14 rounds and the first-round action begins in Moscow’s iconic Central Telegraph building from March 11. The fourteenth and last round matches have been scheduled for March 28. Chess world’s top 8 grandmasters will vie with one another for an opportunity to challenge current World Champion Magnus Carlsen in USA sometime in October 2016. The eight players, who met the FIDE qualifying criteria are; Russians Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler, Americans Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana, India’s Vishy Anand, Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov, Netherlands’ Anish Giri and Armenia’s Levon Aronian. Karjakin and Svidler came through by taking the top two places in 2015 FIDE World Cup at Baku; Nakamura and Caruana qualified as top two finishers in FIDE grand prix 2014-15; Anand qualified as a loser in Sochi’s 2014 world chess championship match; Topalov and Giri were the top two players with the highest average rating in 2015 after playing in the World Cup or Grand Prix. The eighth spot was an organizers’ wild card, earned by Levon Aronian, whose FIDE rating exceeded 2725.
After Vaselin Topalov’s 2803 FIDE points, Vishy Anand is next with 2796 points but FIDE ratings are not enough to make winning predictions. However, Anand still has a unique game, though his performance with black pieces hasn’t been strong of late. Among the contestants at Moscow, Anand is third strongest with white pieces. The Indian’s chances will get better if he is able to win a couple of games with blacks. On this count, wild card entrant Aronian is strongest with white pieces among the eight players. Aronian registered an emphatic 3-point win over Magnus Carlsen in 2015 Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis, where Anand was placed at no.9 in a field of 10 grandmasters. But even so late in his career, Anand has the chess brilliance to shock any of the highly FIDE rated players. In February 2015, Anand reached the final of Zurich Chess Challenge before losing to USA’s Hakaru Nakamura in Armageddon. Before the 2014 Candidates Chess, the Chief Editor of Chess-News.ru announced that in his opinion, Vishy Anand was the least likely to win the tournament. The editor added that if Anand won, he would publicly admit that his knowledge about chess or life was questionable. When Anand won, the editor swallowed his pride by admitting that he understood nothing about life or chess.