Vishy Anand, a five-time world chess champion, and Magnus Carlsen, four times world champion and counting, have owned the world chess championship after the unification match in 2006.
Both of them are among the few chess players to ever have achieved a rating above 2800.
Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
Table of contents
- The Split Title Continues
- 2006 World Unification Match
- Viswanathan Anand World Chess Champion 2007 – 2013
- Magnus Carlsen World Chess Champion 2013 – Present
- In Conclusion
- Also, be sure to read
The Split Title Continues
Since 1993 there had been two world chess titles. In 2000 Anand played Alexei Shirov for the FIDE world title. Anand won the match decisively with a match score of 3 ½ – ½.
Ruslan Ponomariov would win the title in 2002 and Rustam Kasimdzhanov in 2004.
By 2002 there was a lot of confusion about who was really the world chess champion. Players played for two different titles, and Garry Kasparov, rated number one in the world, was winning numerous tournaments.
In May 2002, American GM Yasser Seirawan tried to organize a unification match. However, these matches were difficult to arrange financially.
Kramnik played against Leko and managed to retain his title in 2004. FIDE wasn’t able to arrange a match for Kasparov to decide who would challenge Kramnik.
Partly due to his frustrations over the matter, Garry Kasparov retired from chess in 2005. He retired ranked number one in the world.
2006 World Unification Match
The world chess championship match in 2006 united the two world chess titles. There had been two separate titles since Kasparov and Short broke away from FIDE in 1993.
Vladimir Kramnik, the world number four, played Veselin Topalov, the world number one, in this championship match.
This match would prove both unique and controversial.
Unique in that it was the only world chess championship match where the same first move (1.d4) was played in every game.
In the twelve games, the only two openings played were the Catalan and Slav.
The controversy arose after game four. Kramnik started off by winning games one and two. Games three and four ended in draws.
Before game five took place, Topalov’s team alleged Kramnik was getting computer assistance. They said his numerous trips to the relaxation room and bathroom breaks were very suspicious.
They alleged Kramnik visited the relaxation room an average of twenty-five times and bathroom visits averaged fifty times. In contrast, they said Topalov visited the relaxation room 8 times and the bathroom four times.
The arbiters investigated and found these numbers to be an exaggeration. However, they did take the allegations seriously enough to close the private bathrooms and have one public bathroom for both players.
Kramnik’s team responded by calling the allegations “disgraceful”. Kramnik refused to play under the new conditions.
For the first time since 1972, a world championship game was forfeited. Kramnik forfeited game five in protest.
Over 30 GMs, WGMs, and IMs expressed support for Kramnik.
The match was placed on hold while FIDE President Ilyumzhinov traveled to the venue. Several days later the Appeals Committee was replaced and access to private bathrooms restored.
Ilyumzhinov also decided that the forfeited game 5 would count as a loss for Kramnik.
When the match resumed, Topalov took the lead by winning games eight and nine. Kramnik won game ten to tie the match.
After the last two games ended in draws, the match went to a tiebreak, which began with a draw.
Kramnik and Topalov each won a game in the next two games. Kramnik won the deciding fourth game to become the 14th undisputed World Chess Champion.
Kramnik-Topalov, World Chess Championship Game 10, 2006, 1-0
Viswanathan Anand World Chess Champion 2007 – 2013
Anand became the first chess grandmaster from India in 1988 and would go on to become a five-time world chess champion.
He is also one of the few people to have a rating of over 2800 Elo. He passed this mark in 2006.
During the split of world chess titles, from 1993-2006, Anand was the FIDE World Chess Championship from 2000-2002.
Anand would dominate the world chess championship from 2007 until 2013.
World Chess Championship 2007
This world chess championship would be different than the others. This time, it took place in a tournament format.
When the 2006 championship match took place, the contestants agreed if Kramnik won he would take Topalov’s place at the 2007 world championship tournament.
The world championship tournament preparations were too far advanced for a rematch to take place.
Before the tournament started, Kramnik acknowledged the tournament as the world championship while expressing his preference for a championship match.
FIDE later announced that future world championships would take place between the world champion and the challenger. This would begin from 2008.
The world chess championship tournament took place from the 13th of September until the 29th of September, 2007.
The time control was forty moves in two hours, twenty moves in one hour, and 15 minutes with thirty seconds increment for the rest of the game.
Viswanathan Anand won the tournament by winning four games and drawing the rest. He finished with nine points, one point ahead of Kramnik and Gelfand.
Anand was the only player to make it through the tournament without losing a game.
Aronian-Anand, World Chess Tournament Round 2, 2007, 0-1
The World Chess Championship 2008
Included in the terms of the unification match of 2006 was the opportunity for Kramnik to challenge for the world title if he lost in 2007.
This gave him the right to challenge Anand, who won the World Chess Championship tournament.
A best-of twelve games match was held in Bonn, Germany. The championship match would end when a player reached 6 ½ points.
There were three options for tie-breaks:
- After twelve games, four rapid games would be played with a time control of 25 minutes and 10 seconds increment per move.
- If the match was tied, two rapid games would get played with a time control of 5 minutes and 10 seconds increment per move.
- The final tie-break was an Armageddon match. Lots would get drawn, and the winner would choose which color to play. White was given 6 minutes and black 5 minutes. There were no increments. A draw would end with the person playing black declared the winner.
The match began on October 14th, 2008, and ended on October 29th, 2008.
In the first six games, Anand scored three wins to lead the match 4 ½ to 1 ½. Kramnik’s only win came in game 10 with the white pieces.
By this time, Anand was only half-a-point away from retaining his world chess champion title. He earned the half-point needed in the next game.
After eleven games, the match score was Anand 6 ½ – Kramnik 4 ½.
Anand-Kramnik, World Chess Championship Game 6, 2008, 1-0
World Championship Match 2010
When Kramnik won the unification title match in 2006, he took Topalov’s place in the 2007 World Chess Championship tournament.
As compensation, FIDE seeded Topalov into the final of the 2010 Candidates Match.
Topalov won this match against Gata Kamsky. This earned him the right to challenge Anand for the title of world chess champion.
Once again, this match was the best of twelve games. However, there was a change in the tie-break.
The three conditions stipulated for the tie-break were:
- Four rapid games with a time control of 25 minutes and 10 seconds increment per move.
- Two blitz games of 5 minutes and 10 seconds increments would follow. If the match was tied, another two blitz games would get played. This process would be repeated until ten blitz games were completed.
- After ten blitz games, an Armageddon match would decide the winner. White would get 5 minutes and black 4 minutes, with a 3-second increment per move starting at move 61.
Once again, if the Armageddon match ended in a draw, black would be declared the winner.
A Volcano Erupting in Iceland Causes a Delay
The venue for the match was Sofia, Bulgaria, from April 24th, 2010, until May 11th, 2010. Due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland disrupting air-travel in Europe, the match started a day late.
Anand needed an alternative way to get to Sofia. He and his party got stopped by the ash cloud in Frankfurt, Germany. There followed a 40-hour road trip with his team.
Topalov won the first game. Anand leveled the match score with a victory in the second game.
After a draw in the third game, Anand won the fourth.
Three draws followed before Topalov got his second victory of the match in game eight. After eleven games, the match score was 5 ½ – 5 ½.
Anand, playing black, got the win he needed to retain the title in game twelve.
Topalov-Anand, World Chess Championship Game 12, 2010, 0-1
World Championship Match 2012
This time it was Boris Gelfand challenging for the title. He won the Candidates Match by beating Mamedyarov, Kamsky, and Grischuk.
The match took place in Moscow, Russia, from May 10th to May 30th, 2012. Match conditions were the same as in the 2010 World Chess Championship match.
Throughout the entire match, the players fought a tight battle. In the first twelve games, only two games ended in victory – one for each player.
The tie-break rapid games were closely fought. Anand getting the only victory in game three. All of the other rapid games ended in draws.
Once again, Anand was successful in defending his world chess championship title.
Take a look at the following miniature which Anand won in only seventeen moves.
Anand-Gelfand, World Chess Championship Game 8, 2012, 0-1
Magnus Carlsen World Chess Champion 2013 – Present
Carlsen, a Norwegian chess grandmaster, has proven to be an almost irresistible force in the chess world.
He achieved the highest chess rating ever (2882) and is second only to Garry Kasparov in time spent as world number 1.
In 2010, Magnus ranked number one in the world for the first time.
While rated number one in the world, Magnus withdrew from the Candidates tournament in 2012. Carlsen didn’t think the playing conditions were fair.
Since 2013, the Candidates Match is played on a double round-robin format.
In 2013 the competition was very close, with Carlsen winning thanks to a better second tie-break over Kramnik. This gave him the right to play against Anand for the world chess championship.
2013 World Chess Championship Match
This championship match took place in Chennai, India, from November 9th to November 22nd, 2013.
Carlsen expressed his disappointment at the venue. It wasn’t neutral ground.
Another strong contender as host city was Paris, France, which offered a higher budget and prize fund than Chennai.
The match was again a best of 12 with the winner needing 6 ½ points. Scheduled for twelve games, this championship match ended after game ten.
From 2005 to mid-2013, in standard time controls, Anand had a 6-3 lead in wins against Carlsen. Unfortunately for Anand, he couldn’t add to his tally while Carlsen doubled his.
All three victories in this championship match went to Carlsen, who won games five, six, and nine.
The final match score after game ten was Carlsen 6 ½ – Anand 3 ½.
Anand-Carlsen, World Chess Championship Game 9, 2013, 0-1
In this video, GM Ron W. Henley analyzes some amazing chess miniatures from Magnus Carlsen in 2014:
2014 World Chess Championship Rematch with Anand
Since 2014 the championship cycle has remained the same.
In odd years, players qualify for the Candidates Match. The Candidates Match occurs early in the even year. The world chess championship match takes place later in the same year.
Although not the highest rated player taking part, Anand won the 2014 Candidates Match and the chance to regain his world chess championship title.
This time the world chess championship match took place on neutral ground in Sochi, Russia. The match took place from November 7th to November 28th, 2014.
These two players became the first to play consecutive championship matches since Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov played each other five times between 1984 and 1990.
When Carlsen took the lead with a victory in game two, Anand responded by winning game three.
Carlsen would claim two more wins in games six and eleven to win the match 6 ½ – 3 ½.
Again, the match finished within the scheduled twelve games and without the need for a tiebreaker.
Carlsen-Anand, World Chess Championship Game 11, 2014, 1-0
2016 World Chess Championship Match
Carlsen was facing a true chess prodigy this time around. His opponent was Sergey Karjakin, the youngest player to ever become a chess grandmaster, at twelve years and seven months.
Karjakin won the Candidates Tournament ahead of Fabiano Caruana, who would challenge Carlsen two years later. Anand tied for second place with Caruana.
In 2016 the world chess championship match took place in New York City, USA, from November 10th until November 30th.
The first seven games of the match ended in draws. Then Karjakin won game eight and held on to draw game nine. Carlsen got the victory he needed to draw level in game ten.
With the final two games ending in draws, the match ended tied 6-6. This meant a tiebreaker of four rapid games.
The time control for the rapid games was 25 minutes and a 10 seconds increment per move.
Karjakin started well by drawing the first two games but lost the third and fourth rapid games. Once again, Carlsen had successfully defended his title.
Carlsen-Karjakin, World Chess Championship Game 13 Rapid, 2016, 1-0
Proving he isn’t only the world’s best in standard chess take a look at Magnus’s victories in the World Blitz and World Rapid championships.
2018 World Chess Championship Match
Caruana turned the tables on Karjakin in the 2018 Candidates Match and finished one point ahead. This meant the world’s two highest-rated players would contest the world chess championship match.
The match took place in London from November 9th to November 28th, 2018.
Game one was a 7-hour marathon that ended in a draw.
For the first time ever in a world chess championship match, all the games ended in draws, clearly reflecting the minuscule difference of only three points in their ratings.
However, things were much different in the four rapid games of the tiebreaker.
Carlsen kept his title by winning the first three rapid games.
It’s interesting to note the difference in rating between the players in rapid games was 91 points.
Carlsen-Caruana, World Chess Championship Game 13 Rapid, 2018, 1-0
The games of Anand and Carlsen will no doubt continue to delight and inspire many chess players for a long time.
There is a lot we can learn from both of them.
The worldwide pandemic has necessitated a change in the scheduling of the world chess championship for 2020.
FIDE plans to have the next world chess championship match in Dubai between November 24th and December 16th, 2021.
Carlsen remains the world chess champion. Who will challenge him is still undecided.
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