Sergey Shipov’s preview of the Sofia match included both an assessment of the players’ chances and a response to Danailov’s criticism of Anand for rejecting Sofia Rules.
GM Sergei Shipov has put up a preview of the match on his website. He talks of the match result being an equation with two unknowns – as the long preparation for these matches makes even players who’ve been around this long into mysteries. Jumping ahead he says a year ago he rated the chances as 51-49 in favour of Anand, and now he thinks 51-49 for Topalov, but that that just means its too close to call.
Vishwanathan Anand: Mister X
A harmonious, universal and practical chess player. He plays easily, not inclined to put in extreme effort when he can get by with minimal measures. Very flexible, he can vary his openings and style of play. A brilliant defender. He has great match experience. He played Kasparov and Karpov – a schooling you can’t replace with any training sessions.
Veselin Topalov: Mister Y
An aggressive, energetic chess player, he loves and knows how to overcome insurmountable obstacles. Fundamentally without a sense of fear. He puts his opponents under constant pressure in the style of Kasparov. Of course the quality of his chess education is inferior to his great predecessor, but he knows how to bluff. He plays at full throttle even when others have no will to play on. He can keep his concentration at an unbelievable level even for super grandmasters.
These descriptions and the inevitable comparison of the players can be reduced to a single sentence:
Anand is a player of higher class, Topalov – tougher and more energetic.
From which it follows that to solve the equation it is much more important to define X, than Y. If Anand manages to be on top form, if he’s prepared in all areas at the level of, say, the Bonn match with Kramnik (2008), then he can control the course of the match. Almost everything will depend upon him, however well Topalov is prepared.
But if you only knew how difficult that is! Don’t forget that the Indian champion has already entered his fifth decade – a serious handicap compared to the younger Bulgarian contender.
The match format is 12 games, plus rapid and blitz if there’s a tied score. That’s an exceptionally, and I’d even say – inexcusably short distance for a match for the highest title. It ends up meaning that the result of the match largely depends on who lands the first precise blow against the opening weaknesses of his opponent. You recall how a couple of years ago in Bonn Anand hit the Meran solar plexus of Kramnik? The impact was so great that Vladimir was essentially unable to get back on his feet before the end of the confrontation. The match turned out to have already been decided.
As I see it the logical consequence of this sad story will be the players employing a very cautious opening strategy at the start of the current match. It’s unlikely that they’ll immediately launch themselves into the thicket of fashionable, risky and essentially computer variations, where one analytical mistake could be fatal. Or rather, that will only happen if they’re absolutely confident in the results of their analysis. While if there are any doubts – it won’t be unleashed on the opponent immediately. Taking into account the different temperaments of the players I guess that Anand will most likely be cautious, while Topalov – will be as cautious as he’s capable of being! After all we know that his “caution” can look like amazing courage to those looking on!
I’ll say a few words about Sofia rules, or a ban on agreeing to draws in playable positions – as we know the Bulgarian side tried to officially insert this point into the match regulations. What would that achieve? In a battle for the highest title you force the opponents to play positions where they would like to and could agree to a draw? You risk the sporting result and the highest prize for the sake of the desire that important guests can be brought into the playing hall for an hour longer?
The initiative, at the very least, is inappropriate. For me, it’s simply absurd! Such a concern for spectators is logical in friendly matches or, at most, in super tournaments. But in the championship cycle, and worse still in the championship final, it’s got no place. You have to let the opponents compose their tactics and match strategy as they see fit – which in itself is extremely interesting for chess fans. And we, spectators and commentators, will in any case not be left disappointed. The significance of the match and the extreme pressure will allow us to savour every move, every decision of the players. The interest in the match is guaranteed, and pleasure from the chess content, I’m sure, will be obtained without any artificial judicial decisions.
However, Topalov has already declared that he’s intending to create a “Sofia” character to the struggle even without any regulations. That means he’ll stubbornly play on in any position and won’t offer any draws. And that’s his sacred right! I admire the determination and spirit of the chess matador. Let each player act in accordance with the regulations and take their own decisions at every moment of the game, with no outside influence…
I look forward to the match being an interesting struggle with quality chess. I really hope that the words “cheating”, “toilet”, “protest”, “appeal” and so on won’t figure in our reports – which, of course, depends only on the participants in the match and those around them.