The Most Iconic Chess Matches in History

The beautiful game of chess boasts a wide array of memorable matches that remain etched in people’s minds. It bridges differences in language, sex, age and education. Some of the world’s greatest chess players have captured the minds of spectators with style, intuitive moves and precision.

The FIDE World Championship Match between defending champion Viswanathan Anand (India) and challenger Magnus Carlsen (Norway) was one of twelve classic chess matches that entertained spectators during the tournament. The competition was held in November 2013 in Chennai, India.

Carlsen’s greatest strengths lie in his remarkable understanding of simplified positions and precision. His coach was amazed at how quickly he could correctly evaluate a cold position, apparently without any calculations. Carlsen is in the lineage of Jose Capablanca and Anatoli Karpov, players who feel harmony on the chessboard in the same way that legendary musicians approach their compilations.

Few players and spectators who witnessed the competitive matches from the 1980s would imagine then that the world would see a match between an Indian and a Norwegian less than 30 years later. In the 1980s Soviet chess players were undisputed champions since the disappearance of Bobby Fischer. Chess is a remarkable universal language. With the likes of Carlsen at the helm, it is clear that the world of chess will never be the same.

Who knows where Carlsen’s challenger will come in ten or twenty years? If the answer is from East Asia, Africa or the Caribbean, then the Carlsen era will have been a great success.

According to Carlsen, his partner Jon Ludvig did a great job by completely blocking Anand with the Whites, thus helping win the match. After 19.Da5, the Sicilian Defense made its appearance on the chessboard. Magnus Carlsen chose solidity with attack: 3.Fb5 + Cd7 4.d4 cxd4 5.Dxd4 a6 6.Fxd7 + Fxd7 7.c4. The famous vice of Maroczy was lethal thanks to the white pawns in e4 and c4. 7 with a first break. The vast majority of commentators were mistaken in having predicted a quick draw, practically without playing 20.Dd2.

Norwegian Magnus Carlsen versus Russian Sergei Kariakine

The two chess prodigies, Sergei Kariakine and Magnus Carlsen met at the World Chess Championship tournament in 2016. The contest was touted as the most interesting chess match in 30 years. The reigning world champion, Carlsen was defending his title against Kariakine.

Rarely has the chess world championship pitted such young players: Kariakine was 26 years old and Carlsen was due to celebrate his birthday on November 30th of that year, the closing day of the competition. It had been a long time since chess fans had witnessed a match with players of the same age.

Both born in 1990, the two players were rivals since their first shots on the chessboard at 12 years of age. The Russian became the youngest international grandmaster in history closely followed by the Norwegian who had obtained the same title at the age of 13.

While Carlsen was popular with the bookmakers, the prodigy Kariakine still stood a chance to win the tournament. In the 12 games scheduled for the competition, players were awarded one point for a win and 0.5 points for a draw. The first to reach 6.5 points is declared the winner of the championship. If there is a tie after the 12 games, additional chess matches would be played.

The Russian, who trained for at least six hours a day was supported by five coaches. Like Kariakine, Carlsen trains largely through computer programs. The duo plays a similar game: solid technique, good openings and has the ability to make decisions quickly.

Born shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the two young men felt a Cold War vibe on the chessboard. They met a time when relations between Moscow and the West face serious tensions.

With a Russian player and a Western player, the championship is reminiscent to a historic match played in 1972 during the Cold War. The contest was nicknamed the “match of the century” during which the Soviet Boris Spassky lost to the eccentric great American master Bobby Fischer. The difference is that spectators expected the same intensity but this time the competition was not an ideological battle.

Match of the century: Boris Spassky versus Bobby Fischer

This match of the century went well beyond the dynamics of chess matches. In the early seventies, the buzz was created by the confrontation of two geopolitical ideologies. On the one hand, communism and its collective pseudo-values, on the other, liberalism and its individualistic pseudo-values.

For the first time since 1948 (the year of the birth of the World Championship under the patronage of FIDE), Soviet superiority on the chessboard was challenged by a master from the United States. The result was a resounding victory that sent shock waves around the world. The upset was a key moment in the psychological warfare between the two camps.

At the end of the championship, which attracted the media of the whole world, the trajectory of the two protagonists was never the same again. Fischer, the contrarian, stopped his professional career. He had just brilliantly proved that he was the best player on the planet. He had completed his ultimate quest. As for the Soviet player Boris Spassky, he became an unpopular figure with the Soviet regime. He could not return to the international scene until after his exile in France.

Viswanathan Anand at the World Championships

Anand won the FIDE 2000 World Championship after defeating Alexei Chirov 3.5-0.5 in the final in Tehran, becoming the first Indian to win the title. At the 2001-2002 World Championships in Moscow, Anand was eliminated in the semifinal by Vassili Ivantchuk. At the 2005 FIDE World Championship, Anand was dominated by Veselin Topalov and finished 2nd-3rd tied with Peter Svidler of Russia.

In 2007, at the world championship in Mexico, Anand became the new world champion in a tournament bringing together eight of the best players in the world. He wins this tournament with 9 points out of 14 without any defeat. In 2008, the Indian beat the official challenger Vladimir Kramnik with the score of 3 wins, 1 loss and 7 draws (6.5 to 4.5). He went on to retain his title in the match against Topalov in Sofia.

At 5.5 everywhere, in the final game where Topalov had the whites, he committed a foul that cost him a point and the match. Anand defended his title again in 2012, against Boris Guelfand, winner of the tournament of the contestants disputed in Kazan in 2011. After 6 draws, he loses the seventh. He won the eighth in 17 shots, which is the shortest part of a world title game in history. Finally, after four other draws, the two players compete in four quick tie-breaker games. Anand won in the second round.

Millions of people watched the game online. The great masters Susan Polgar, RB Ramesh, Laurent Trent and Tania Sachdev were commentators at the 2000 championships. In the end, commentators have become stars and were seen signing autographs and posing on photos with fans. Tania saw the number of followers on Twitter increased from 40 to almost 2,500 during the match. The world championship showed that chess matches had interesting possibilities in television.

During the Carlsen-Anand match, after 22 Dh5, the white position was solid and Magnus played with the draw in the pocket. At that stage, it became apparent that continuing the game was no longer a major priority because the draw would be enough to take the world crown.

Anatoly Karpov and Mikhail Botvinnik

Botvinnik, who had jealously kept the world crown for himself and his country for 15 long years, found a difficult opponent in Zlatoust. A small, slender boy showed exceptional maturity for his age. He calculated the variables with astounding rapidity and precision. The events took place in 1964 when Anatoly Karpov who was 13 years old at the time showed cold determination and ambition for his age.

For a long time, Karpov could not qualify for the USSR championship, a tournament considered difficult than the world championship. These tough, fierce, merciless tournaments have prematurely worn out many young Soviet hopefuls but not Karpov. The youthful player was subjected to a test tube regime.

At the age of 16, Karpov became Junior European Champion in Groningen. The next three years did not allow Western observers to notice Karpov’s progress. Supervised by Botvinnik, the training of the young champion was intense, methodical and programmed.

Botvinnik announced the participation of his young gem at the next Junior World Championship in Stockholm. By winning it, Karpov obtained the title of international master. The following year he was rewarded with the title of international grandmaster. Progress was faster than expected.

Anatoly Karpov went on to study economics at the University of Leningrad. Semyon Furman was in charge of his chess training. A patented theorist and great master of the game, Furman refined Karpov’s style and give it greater solidity in the techniques of openings, mainly with black pieces.

The regularity of the results of Karpov proved that he had despite his physical appearance high sports qualities: resistance, combativeness, composure and speed. Technically, his game had also improved.

In 1971, at the Alekhine Memorial in Moscow, Stein shared first place with newcomer Karpov. The test tube champion upset the scientific data. Karpov shone again the same year at Hastings where he shared the first place with Korchnoi, then tied with Portisch and Petrossian in San Antonio.

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