2008 World Chess Championship concludes

The World Chess Championship match between India’s Viswanathan Anand and Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik has concluded in Bonn, Germany with defending champion Anand retaining the title.

The pieces that Kramnik and Anand used were probably a lot nicer than these

Anand, who had previously played Garry Kasparov for the championship, was the incumbent by virtue of having won last years round robin tournament in Mexico City.  Kramnik was the World Champion heading into that tournament after having defeated Bulgaria’s Vaselin Topalov in 2006 in the mutch-anticipated title reunification match.  Kramnik and Anand played two games against each other in Mexico City; both ended in draws.

I think it’s dubious to win the championship in a tournament like that; to be the champion you need to beat the champion.  But the anomaly was the result of the way Kasparov and Nigel Short managed their 1993 World Championship Match, which they held apart from the auspices of FIDE, the World Chess Federation.  From then until the 2006 Kramnik-Topalov match, there were two people with claims to be World Chess Champion: the one who won the FIDE tournaments and the one who could trace his claim through victories over the previous title holder.  (It got somewhat complicated.)

Anand defeated Kramnik 6.5 points to 4.5 points in a best of twelve match.  Anand won three games, Kramnik won one, and the other seven were drawn.  One point is awarded for a win, 1/2 point for a draw, and 0 points for a loss.  There are tie-breaker procedures in the event of a 6-6 tie after twelve games.

Anyway, the title is now happily reunified and will have to be won and defended in matches between the champion and challenger.  The 2009 championship will be between Anand and the winner of a match between 2005 FIDE champion Vaselin Topalov and Chess World Cup 2007 Winner Gata Kamsky, a naturalized American citizen.  Beginning in 2011, the championship will be contested every 2 years with a challenger determined through a series of tournaments, a system that I think should be fair and robust.

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