THE WORLD Championship starts in less than a fortnight and Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen are busy looking for ways to outfox each other in the openings. In his last match in 2012 against Boris Gelfand of Israel, Anand almost lost because his preparation was not quite up to scratch.
In researching this article, I took a look at Mikhail Botvinnik’s games in many World Championship matches. Botvinnik was World Champion on and off from 1948 to 1963.
I took one opening, the CaroKann defence, as an example. Botvinnik caught Vassily Smyslov off-guard in his return match in 1958, winning the first three games of the 24-game match, two with black using the Caro Kann. Smyslov did not quite recover from that setback and Botvinnik prepared for his next opponent, Mikhail Tal. Botvinnik lost the first match in 1961, but in the return encounter he was ready and met Tal’s advanced variation — 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 with 3. … c5, a move that today’s computer-aided research would find somewhat unsound.
■■■ Chess is going home. The game was born in the East and in case you hadn’t noticed, the World Champion, Viswanathan Anand, is Indian while the Women’s World Champion is Hou Yifan of China.
Now Wesley So of the Philippines has won the annual Hoogeveen tournament in the Netherlands. This shift back from its “temporary sojourn in the West” began in the 1930s when Mir Sultan Kahn won two British championships and a memorable game against the great José Capablanca.
This is an apparently true story from France. An entrant in a tournament arrived before his opponent and found that he was black in round one. He seated himself at the board facing the white pieces. His opponent arrived and said “Please move to the other side of the board as I am playing white.”
Our hero said: “Why should I? I am a problemist and when I compose or solve a chess problem, I always am playing up the board.”
He is quite right – take a look at the problem we publish today, it would look equally valid upside down. The American problem composer was once asked whether this position wasn’t impossible, to which Loyd replied: “This position is possible because the pieces are where I put them.
“If I was sitting on the other side of the board, I would keep on making illegal moves. My opponent is quite used to playing the black pieces, so why should he object to sitting facing the black pieces?”
The arbiter was summoned and ordered our hero to change sides, to which he replied: “Show me the rule which applies to your request.”
● Send your news and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org