Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Anand against 40 breaks his own record

By Johannes Fischer

The Chess Classic Mainz began in style. World Champion Vishy Anand and ten-times winner of the Rapid World Chess Championship in Mainz, opened the event with a simul on 40 boards. This time maybe a bit more than just the usual chess entertainment simuls tend to be. Of course, Anand has his mind on the World Championship match against Vladimir Kramnik, which will be played in October. Doing badly in a simul might not be good for his confidence. But possibly Anand does not even think about defeat and just wants to break another record in Mainz where he already holds so many. Four draws in 40 games is the best result ever achieved in these simultaneous events, which traditionally start the Chess Classic. And this record was set back in 1994, at the first Chess Classic ever – and by no other but Vishy Anand himself.

Anand playing his record-breaking simul in Mainz on Monday

14 years and two World Champion titles later Anand now tries to top himself. In the “Goldsaal” – the “Gold Hall” – of the Hilton in Mainz he quietly moves from board to board to show his opponents what a World Champion can do with the pieces. In the beginning Anand, playing White on all 40 boards, keeps a steady pace, moving in a constant rhythm, which, however, slows down a bit while some of his opponents manage to pose him more seriously problems. But there are not many who are able to do so. The 40 players visibly try their best to outwit the best player they might ever have played against and will ever play against, but to no avail. No matter how hard they think about their moves, how tricky the maneuvers they come up with, the strategies they plan to follow, the World Champion seems to grasp all of them in a moment and to dispel all dreams of victory with quick and smooth play, which forces one after the other of his opponents to resign. And while the simul takes its course more and more boards are dominated by a white Kings on e4, indicating a win by Anand. After three and a half hours of play only about half of the players are still in the game. Only one player managed to achieve the draw.

Even though most of spectators in Mainz are experienced chess enthusiasts, who have seen, played or even gave the one or the other simul, the whole spectacle still amazes. Why does it take the simul player only seconds to find better moves than his opponents? Why is his fairly automatic play, necessary to play on 40 boards at the same time, still superior to the creative efforts of the individual player?

Simultaneous events are chess spectacles. Only few games of them made it to the textbooks and mainly because of some nice tactical trick and unlike the really “serious” events onlookers, fans and journalists are allowed to use their flashlight cameras throughout the simul. Anand seems undisturbed. He quietly and efficiently follows his course, making the moves he thinks best on board after board. And while he quietly and efficiently beats one opponent after the other the fascination of chess and particularly the way Anand plays it slowly unfolds. In the week to come the Chess Classic in Mainz will offer more and faster events than a simul. But the fascination of chess will always be seen.

In the end Anand won 39-1, breaking his own record.

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