03 October 2013

Anand on World Championship Opening Preparation

At the end of my previous post, Opening Wisdom from Anand, I noted,

The last set of quotes I collected were related specifically to World Championship opening preparation [...] a topic I've covered many times in this blog.

The wrapup for the initial series was World Championship Opening Preparation - Summary, followed a few months later by World Championship Opening Preparation in 2010, on the Anand - Topalov title match. Although I never addressed the preparation for the 2012 match itself, there's a photo of the team on my World Championship blog: Anand - Gelfand Wrapup. The 2008 Anand - Kramnik match is still unexplored on this blog, so I hope to come back to it eventually.

As for the 1995 PCA match with Kasparov, Anand discussed several aspects in 'My Best Games of Chess'. The following page references are to the 1998 edition of the book.

Preparation for a World Championship match needs to be extremely thorough -- one must not only take the existing theory a little bit further, but in fact almost reinvent the lines you expect to use since it must withstand several months of scrutiny by a team of grandmasters. (p.137)

The days when chess was a game between two players are long gone.

When I finally reached the Kasparov match there was a feeling of anticlimax, as if I was already spent from the earlier efforts. I had the feeling that, having played so many matches, I was fairly exposed because I had already shown most of my best ideas trying to reach the World Championship itself. The champion can be much better prepared, as he only has to play when and where he chooses and can just wait to see how the cycle develops. Of course, every challenger says much the same thing! [...]

I had to assemble a team in a hurry, and it was a unique experience suddenly going from having at most two seconds to having four. [...]

It was amazing how much more you could accomplish with such help, but it was also much more confusing comparing the results of one person's analysis with another's. Trying to get everybody to work together in the most efficient manner was a major task in itself. You can't have all five people analyzing on one board -- it's just too many heads and hands. On the other hand, splitting into groups analyzing the same position often leads to the groups heading off in entirely different directions and then it can be hard to decide which line you are actually going to play. Thanks to the information explosion, the amount of material you have to deal with is gigantic. [...]

With hindsight, and given that we were new to the job, I think we did a reasonably good job with our preparation. I am sure that we would do better next time, based on our experience in 1995. Still, this was an area where Kasparov had an advantage due to his vast experience preparing for World Championship matches. His preparation was able to survive the close scrutiny of a World Championship match while mine took some heavy blows. (p.181)

The following quote isn't about preparation, but is still worth noting.

I had noticed that a number of players had been badly affected by match defeats. [...] After my defeat by Kasparov, I gave some thought as to how to get my career back on track. The memory of the chess world can be very short-lived -- you can become a nobody within a year if you don't back your reputation up by good results. (p.188)

The value of the preparation lasts long after the match is over.

A position on which I had done a lot of work for the Kasparov match. Although I wasn't so successful in the match itself, the analysis paid off over the succeeding months. At the time this game was played, I was still far ahead of other grandmasters in my understanding of this line. Later on they caught up with me, but not before I had notched up several wins. (p.202)

With only a month to go until the Anand - Carlsen title match starts, I imagine that the teams are in full swing.

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