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The Couch Potato's Guide to Carlsen-Anand: The Rematch Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
November 6, 2014
Photo Cathy Rogers

It is only a year since chess fans around the world watched Viswanathan Anand lose his World Championship title to his ex-sparring partner Magnus Carlsen, and this weekend the two rivals will again sit down to battle for the world title.

This year, instead of sunny Chennai, the players will be competing in the Russian seaside resort of Sochi, home of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Last time FIDE held a major chess event in Sochi, the Grand Prix tournament of 2008, the city became a staging point for Russian troops in a five day war between Russia and Georgia, less than 30 miles away. The war and the Grand Prix concluded within days of each other.

In 2014 the choice of Sochi as a venue, at a time when Russia is involved in a conflict with Ukraine, has been controversial, with Carlsen only agreeing to play in Russia two months ago. The prize fund is the absolute minimum allowed by FIDE, 1m Euros.

On Saturday November 8 at 7am AEST, Carlsen will begin his first world title defence. The 23-year-old has not been in vintage form in 2014, yet has won major tournaments in Zurich and Shamkir.

In contrast, Anand's form has been better than prior to any of his recent world title matches, with wins of the Candidates tournament in March and the Bilbao Masters Final breaking a five year drought for tournament victories by the Indian veteran.

Nonetheless, it has been many years since Anand won a classical game against Carlsen, though he did account for Carlsen's only loss on the way to the World Rapid Championship title in Dubai in June.

Betting agencies currently list Carlsen as a 3 to 1 on favourite which might seem a little too negative for Anand except that Carlsen has a not-so-secret weapon, his analyst Peter Heine Nielsen.

Nielsen was former chief second of the Anand team but defected after Anand's successful title defence against Boris Gelfand in 2012. Nielsen stayed neutral during the 2013 title match between his old and new employers but whatever legal or moral constraints were placed on Nielsen have obviously expired and he will now be part of Team Carlsen in Sochi.

Nielsen has an intimate knowledge of how Anand prepares for these world title matches - he assisted Anand against Kramnik, Topalov and Gelfand - and his insights should be invaluable for Carlsen.

The World Championship match is a best-of-12 contest, with tiebreakers if a 6-6 score is reached. The winner will earn $0.75m (little more than half of the Chennai prize money) and the loser around $0.5m, though the sums will be closer together should the match go to tiebreakers.

The venue is the Sochi Olympic Media Centre. Fans thinking of travelling to Sochi should be warned that spectator positions are limited and expensive (about $100 for a day ticket). So why not relax at home and use this Couch Potato's Guide to maximise your enjoyment of the Rematch of the 21st Century.
Before the Games

Games begin at 7.00am New York time - much more palatable than the 4.30am starting time during the Chennai match.

Your breakfast should, of course, have a Sochi theme and since few will have the culinary competence to make Khachapuri - the wonderful pastry treat from next-door Georgia - the chessplaying chef should probably be content to enjoy cheese balls, not too far removed from the Magnolia cheese balls which make breakfast in Sochi a treat.

You will need to mix together half a pound of cottage cheese, plus two eggs, a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a similar quantity of semolina flour. (True Magnolia balls are based on a type of cheddar but require tricky techniques like separating egg yolks and whites.) Knead the mixture into balls, coat in (wheat) flour and then fry in hot oil for about five minutes.

As regular readers of Couch Potato Guides will know, you should prepare the balls overnight and, once the games have reached the boring part just after the opening, start the frying. For the full Russian experience, serve with sour cream

During the Games

Commentary on the 2014 match is going to be a treat for couch potatoes, with world class players offering their opinions through a variety of sources.

The official site, http://www.sochi2014.fide.com/, will be hard to beat. The brilliant Peter Svidler will be paired with Sopiko Guramishvili and guests such as Vladimir Kramnik are expected. (Do not, however, expect a cameo from Garry Kasparov. Unlike 2013 when  commentators were told by FIDE not to let a visiting Kasparov into the commentary box, this time Kasparov has thought better of visiting Russia at all.)

Chess24.com , the web site which has rapidly become the leader in live chess broadcasting, will relay the official feed. (Since Svidler and Guramishvili are two of Chess24's regulars, it is understandable why Chess24 did not want to employ a team to compete with itself!) Chess24 will also be providing post-game reports (see round 1's report by Lawrene Trent below)

Playchess, will offer commentary in English, German and French, with Danny King and Simon Williams the anchors for the English service. Their guests will include Dutch star Loek van Wely and Anand's former second Rustam Kasimdzhanov.

Internet Chess Club remains a reliable option, and have created a video show featuring a wide variety of commentators including rare appearances of US veterans Gata Kamsky and Maxim Dlugy. CLO editor Jennifer Shahade will host round 1 with GM Gregory Kaidanov while game 4 will be a highlight, with Nakamura in the commentary box. The end of the match will see the reuniting of Chennai World Championship commentary duo Polgar and Ramesh.

Norwegian State broadcaster NRK has television rights to the match and on past form should put on an impressive live show (including plenty of interviews in English). However other Norwegian media may be worth checking out, notably VG.

Text commentary

Text commentary is becoming a dying art, with the master, Sergey Shipov having been recruited for Russian language audio commentary on the official site.

Chessdom remains in the field, but the action is likely to be on Twitter where dozens of pundits, on and off site, can discuss the state of the match. Kasparov offered pithy opinions about the games during the 2013 match, though he tends to mention the guy playing the ceremonial opening move in game one quite a few times, in a non-chess context.

Of the non-GMs, Peter Doggers (@chessvibes) will be on the spot for the first half of the match and should be worth following.

For a Russian perspective on the match, the dual language account @chess_news is excellent for breaking news.

Both Carlsen and Anand have a Twitter presence, the latter recently tweeting some clues about his preparation methods as well as a few anecdotes from past world title matches. However, don't expect revelations from either player (or their seconds) until the match is over.

After the Games

As soon as the games finish, the two players will be ushered into a press conference, which should be viewable on multiple sites as it happens.

Chess.com are continuing their emphasis on a post-match highlights show. The hour-long post-game show will feature videos and pictures from two on-site reporters, Peter Doggers and Mike Klein.

Two rest day shows on the 13th and 16th are likely to be particularly interesting given the appearance of Hikaru Nakamura as a guest.

The Week in Chess recently celebrating 20 years in the chess news business, is always worth a look. Mark Crowther is always one of the first to use the players' comments to create quality annotations. ChessPro is a little slower, but produces remarkable analytical work given their short turn-around time.

ChessBase has light annotations and usually a fine pictorial spread of that day's action.

A few hours after the game is completed, there will be an endless array of material on Youtube, though most video material tends to be extremely basic. ICC's Game of the Day stands out. You should also be able to find lectures on the STL Chess Club's burgeoning channel, with analysis from current GM-in-residence Yasser Seirawan. 

Of course Chess Life Online will also cover the match, with regular reports from Sochi by the legendary Spanish journalist Leontxo Garcia.

After three weeks of waking early, sitting in front of a computer and living on cheese balls, you will probably be turning to commentator Svidler for even more advice - the Russian lost more than 40 pounds in weight while preparing for the 2013 Candidates tournament. (His diet may, however, not be to everyone's taste - it involved watching endless hours of cricket rather than chess and giving up pavlova.)

2014 World Championship Match Schedule

Game 1 Saturday  November 8 (All games begin at 3pm Sochi time = 7.00am AEST)
Game 2 Sunday  November 9
Game 3 Tuesday November 11
Game 4 Wednesday November 12
Game 5 Friday November 14
Game 6 Saturday November 15
Game 7 Monday November 17
Game 8 Tuesday November 18
Game 9 Thursday November 20
Game 10 Friday November 21
Game 11 Sunday November 23
Game 12 Tuesday November 25
Playoffs (if needed) Thursday November 27