1/2/2006 - Sports are known for their great rivalries. In baseball, in the
1940ís and 1950ís it was the Yankees vs. the Dodgers. Boxing has also had
its great rivalries; in the 70ís it was Ali vs. Frazier, in the 50ís it
was Robinson vs. LaMotta, and in the 1990ís it was Bowe vs. Holyfield. During
the 60ís and 70ís, no football rivalry was hotter than the Chiefs vs. Oakland
or Dallas vs. Washington.
Just like any other sport, chess has its numerous rivalries.
In the 70ís, it was Spassky vs. Fischer, and Kortchnoi vs. Karpov. In the 1980ís,
it was Karpov vs. Kasparov. I think the hottest rivalry
in chess today is Anand vs. Topalov. Rivalries can force each player or
team to new heights. It brings out the best and sometimes the worst in an
opponent. Rivalry match ups can be hard fought, bitter battles. Often times
each team or player is pretty beat up after a contest.
According to my records, Anand leads Topalov in the head to head
battles, by a score of 16 wins, 10 losses, and 28 draws. Chess is not known
for its decisiveness, but games between these two top players are almost 50%
decisive. Out of 54 games played, 26 have been decisive. If you look at the
last two years, 2004 and 2005, you can seen a major rivalry brewing.
These players have met 13 times in the last two years; 8 games have been
decisive and 5 have ended in draws. During this period, Anand still holds the
lead with 5 wins and 3 losses.
In the last two years, only two games between these players ended in a
friendly draw. Anand might hold the head to head lead, but it was Topalov who
trumped Anand by winning the San Luis world championship, and bypassing
in the rating charts. At Mtel, a square away from queening a pawn, Anand
resigned after being engulfed in Topalovís mating web. This scenario would
play itself out again, in their epoch, 97-move battle in the 2nd round of
San Luis. Topalov had the upper hand in a queen and pawn end game, but Anand
again was poised to queen a pawn. The game was drawn when Topalov missed a
win, allowing Anand to forced a perpetual check draw. You have got to be a cool
customer to play 15+ moves against Anand, while he is one square away
from queening a pawn. It requires a cool head and hand, but cool-hand
Tope was up to the task. He tried to milk every resource to win this
game. Topalov played with the same fearlessness through out the rest of the
Recently Topalov said heís not afraid to lose, well this
attitude certainly evident when Topalov plays Anand. It also helped Topalov
win San Luis. This rivalry could help lift both players over the 2800
barrier. Topalov is already above it now and only 9 rating points separate
Anand from Topalov. I look for Anand to close this gap at Corus, a
tournament that Anand has excelled at over the years.