Lubomir Kavalek
International Chess Grandmaster
Posted: January 12, 2011 03:50 PM

New and Old Chess Champions

As we enter the new decade, the chess world is ruled by a middle-aged man and a teenage girl.A twenty-something phenom presides over the world’s ratings and a new book recalling one of the greatest chess magicians has been published recently.

The Champions

Vishy Anand steps into the year 2011 as the world chess champion. At 41, the Indian grandmaster can look back on his career contentedly. In 1991 in Brussels, he almost eliminated Anatoly Karpov from the world championship cycle. In the next 20 years, Anand won many major tournaments and world championships under different formats and time controls. How long can Anand keep the world title is not clear, but I can’t imagine him free-falling from the chess Olympus any time soon.

Hou Yifan is the current women’s world champion and at age 16, the youngest in chess history.Discovered by the chess world at the age of 11, she was predicted to win the world title one day. Her confidence grew and at the age 12 the Chinese girl stated her plans as follows: buy real estate in Paris and overtake Judit Polgar, the all-time best woman. It may happen, but not yet. Polgar, who was rated among the world’s top 10 in her prime, is rated 184 points above Hou – a steep mountain to climb.

In Fischer’s footsteps

Anand has to wait for his next challenger for the world crown. He will come from the eight-player Candidates competition in May. It will not be the world’s top rated Magnus Carlsen who decided to skip the current world qualification cycle. His move drew some criticism from other players and chess celebrities, but the Norwegian was merely being consistent. In December 2008, Carlsen and Mickey Adams withdrew from the World Cup, a series of six tournaments that were losing form and shape. FIDE changed the venues and the players even though it was a qualification for the next world championship.

Bobby Fischer made a similar move after the Soviet players cheated on him during the 1962 Candidates tournament. After FIDE changed the qualifying tournament to one-on-one Candidates matches, he showed up again at the 1967 Interzonal in Sousse, Tunisia. He played 10 games with us and left after a dispute with the organizers. Fischer returned in 1970, stronger than ever, and went all the way, becoming the world champion at the age of 29. Like Fischer, Carlsen has time, but his game has to keep maturing.

Full article here. An excellent column.

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