CHENNAI: Reinventing himself time and again is what makes Viswanathan Anand a great player. He has had his share of ups and downs but his ability to bounce back after tough losses has helped the Indian remain a top player for more than two decades.
Winning the Tal Memorial rapid title in emphatic fashion proved his World Rapid triumph was not an aberration. Importantly, he has got his mojo back in the quicker format.He was off to a flying start in Moscow, winning his first two games against Daniil Dubov and Ian Nepomniachtchi.
However, he suffered a setback in the third round, going down to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov for the first time. Anand didn’t let it affect him as he overcame Hikaru Nakamura in a tricky opposite colour bishop ending to join Mamedyarov in the lead at the end of the second day.
In the penultimate round, Anand sacrificed a knight and rook to conjure up a beautiful mating combination against Alexander Grischuk. This victory combined with Mamedyarov’s loss to Dubov gave Anand a one-point lead. Needing a draw in the final round to seal the title, Anand achieved it without much ado against Boris Gelfand.
“Very glad to see Anand winning two consecutive rapids. Immediately after winning the World Rapid, Anand proved he can always adapt to the current scenario and play his best chess,” reflected former Asian champion SP Sethuraman.
Indian No 7 Baskaran Adhiban echoed the same: “It is a great victory and shows that the triumph at the World Rapid was not a one-off thing! He has become more ambitious than before.”When queried about whether Anand is back to his best in rapid chess? Sethuraman said: “His play has been consistent and the games were a treat to watch. He is sharp and alert and is one of the best rapid chess players in the world even today with all the youngsters competing with him.”
“Yes. Once upon a time he was the strongest in rapid chess and now he is back on top again,” reflected Adhiban on Anand’s success in the quicker format.Anand had a tough 2017 in rapids, performing below-par in Leuven and St Louis, besides losing in the finals in Leon. From being a disappointing year, Anand turned it into a memorable one, winning the World Rapid, which also restored his confidence.
His back-to-back title triumphs has pushed Anand to World No 3 on the live rating list (2,822.2) and one can expect more victories if he continues in the same vein.Anand had a moderate performance in the one-day blitz tournament, finishing joint ninth.
Rapid: 1. 1. V Anand (IND) 6, 2-4: S Mamedyarov (AZE), S Karjakin (RUS), H Nakamura (USA) 5, 5-6: B Gelfand (ISR), A Grischuk (RUS) 4.5, 7-8: D Dubov, V Kramnik (both RUS) 4, 9-10: P Svidler, I Nepomniachtchi (both RUS) 3.5.
Blitz: 1.S Karjakin (Rus) 10, 2. H Nakamura (USA) 8.5, 3. I Nepomniachtchi (Rus) 7.5, 4-6, V Artemiev, A Grischuk, V Kramnik 7 (all Rus), 7-8: D Dubov, D Andreikin 6.5, (both Rus), 9-10: V Anand (IND), P Svidler 6 (RUS), 11-13: A Morozevich, V Fedoseev, (both RUS), S Mamedyarov (AZE) 5, 14. B Gelfand (ISR) 4.