A new year of hope for Anand
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In chess, theoretically speaking, a carryover in form, or the lack of it, between tournaments and match play is difficult to establish. Opponents with individual styles and weaknesses in tournaments demand a different kind of preparation, gameplay and risk tolerance to facing a challenger in a series of games with the world title at stake.
However, the nature of the chess calender (except for the World Championship, almost everything else is organised as tournaments) is such that a player cannot afford to specialise in one format. That said, in the instant-information-and-documentation world of chess, it must be particularly tempting for a world champion to play fewer tournaments in order to keep his preparation and ideas from the challenger.
In fact, in 16 months between February 2011 and the championship match against Boris Gelfand in May 2012, Viswanathan Anand appeared in just three tournaments, apart from playing four games for his German league side. The sequestering didn't really help as Gelfand managed to hold Anand over 12 classical games and it was only in the rapid tie-break that the Indian won.
Since September last year, Anand has already played in four tournaments and if nothing, it has at least helped haul himself out of the previous year's slump. In 2012, Anand had won just three of 34 classical games. But the increased frequency of tournament play seems to have turned his form for the better. Anand already has seven wins from 23 games in two months this year.
After winning in Grenke on Sunday, Anand admitted that from 'trying to get to interesting positions' last year, he now faces the challenge of 'exploiting' these positions this year. While that suggests an added measure of sharpness to his game, Anand's championship defense by the end of the year will also benefit from something he didn't carry into the contest last time, the confidence that comes with winning games.
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