GM Sergey Shipov about the match
In the year that has passed the two players’ capabilities have not changed. But on the other hand the situation has become radically new.
1. And the main thing is: the psychological background.
The reversal of roles changes considerably the attitude of the players to a match. The challenger always has an advantage in motivation over the champion. And now the challenger is Anand. It will be easier for him to play than it was a year ago.
2. There are also attendant, non-competitive factors, which may hinder the champion.
Anand feels very much at home in Russia. He often and successfully plays in our country, and he has many friends here. Whereas Carlsen, by my observation, relates both to Russia (as it happens) and to the FIDE leadership (Magnus supported Kasparov at the elections in Tromsø) without any particular warmth.
And therefore I will venture to assume that Anand will be psychologically more comfortable than Carlsen in Sochi. Again this is a trifle. Again nothing fundamental. After all, last year Magnus was able to play well on his opponent’s home ground. Even so, this factor should not be underestimated.
3. What is shown by a study of the two players’ games from the past year?
Carlsen has begun taking more risks. He is now absolutely confident in his powers and considers himself obliged to beat everyone and with either colour. I am very pleased about this enlivenment of the young champion’s style, since a year ago there was a tendency for him to play very drily. Too often and too readily he exchanged the queens. In the new year the champion’s play became more interesting to watch.
But the question arises about the acceptable degree of risk.
In his striving for victory, Carlsen now often goes too far, which leads to failures. Magnus’s rather reckless actions and an underestimation of his opponents’ possibilities have become a regular feature. I was especially staggered by his losses at the Olympiad – against Naiditsch and Saric. They were not at all of the standard of a champion. These are warning signals.
Anand has pleasantly surprised us with his newly-acquired ease of play. And this, of course, is a psychological effect. In all other chess aspects I have not found any particular changes in Vishy compared with last year. However, at his age stability is better than innovation. You can’t teach an old player new tricks.
4. As regards playing style, Carlsen does not need to change or correct anything. He only needs to be himself. But not become conceited.
As for Anand, my last year’s recommendations remain in force. I repeat:
The ex-champion needs to overcome his desire to play with a reserve of solidity – and act aggressively. Serious tension in the position should be created from the very first moves.
Vishy should not get involved in lengthy, viscous positional battles. Desirably he should avoid passive, inferior endings. This is Carlsen’s territory. He is a marathon runner.
What has been said is not only a guide in the choice of opening variations (we all know that nowadays the opening often leads to an ending), but also a factor when making a difficult choice at key moments of a game.
Of course, this is not easy to put into practice, since it requires Anand to overcome his playing habits. In earlier years at difficult moments he usually agreed to play slightly inferior positions, skilfully earning a draw in defence. But times and opponents change. The present-day Anand should not play this way against the present-day Carlsen, as was shown by the previous match. At turning-points, when the character of the subsequent play depends on one move, it is desirable to choose lines with counterplay. Even if they are risky. Vishy is able to do this, it is simply that he rarely makes use of his gift.
Well, and the main thing, from which he must begin – Anand must believe in himself. Spread his wings!
5. And now my forecast
Magnus will win again, and quite confidently. Because he is stronger. And because this is needed. For example, in order that we should see an even more interesting match between Carlsen and Caruana…