Viswanathan Anand, the five-time former World Champion, continued his great start in 2019 as he defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in just 29 moves to stay joint-first along with reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen at the end of the eighth round of the Tata Steel Chess tournament in Wijk Aan Zee, Netherlands. Anand, who is currently undefeated in the tournament, has surged to the top spot with his second consecutive win, having defeated old-time rival Vladimir Kramnik in the previous round. However, Anand is joined by Magnus Carlsen, who defeated Richard Rapport. Both players are on five points from eight rounds. With Monday being a rest day, Anand will face Rapport in the ninth round but his match against Carlsen on January 23 could decide the title.
Anand employed the Caro-Kann defence against Mamedyarov and a bishop blunder from the Azerbaijan Grand Master allowed the Indian Grandmaster to seal the win. “I thought the mistake he did was Bishop d7. He seemed to slow down a bit from that. If he was accurate and played a5, then I had no chance to push for the win from that position. This win against Mamedyarov, who has been great in the last one year, is simply great,” Anand said following his win.
Anand, who was the world rapid champion in 2017 failed to win the remaining games and registered draws from rounds 12 to 15 to finish joint 23rd and squander his chance of retaining the championship. However, 2018 gave the 49-yer-old Grandmaster one bright spot as he clinched the Tata Steel Chess Blitz Championship with a stunning display on the final day. After securing 7.5 out of nine points on the final day, he was tied for the lead with Hikaru Nakamura, considered to be the best blitz player in the world currently. In the ensuing two-round play-off, which was faster than blitz in a reduced time format of a three-minute game, Anand secured a win with white pieces and drew the last game to clinch the title with a score of 1.5-0.5.
Speaking after the end of the tournament, Anand said the feeling to do well in Kolkata, where he was playing for the first time since the Goodricke Open in 1992, was magical. “I wanted to show the audience what is that I do in some other parts of the world all the time and it was nice to be able to do it here. I did not have any problem with motivation. It genuinely meant a lot to me to do well here,” Anand said.
In 2019, Anand would be determined to do well in the Chess Grand Prix and ensure he stays in contention for the World Championship clashes. A win in Wijk Aan Zee will do wonders for his confidence.