Thursday, May 29, 2008

What might have been?

Last Sunday I asked,

Who, in 2001, wrote:-

"Anand, by the way, did not have a strong tournament, and it is quite well known that he is not a very patient person. In his youth he played very quickly, living only on his enormous talent. He never became the great player he could have been, and I predict he will not be"

My question appears to have generated a fair amount of reaction, see for example Dennis Monokroussos' blog The Chess Mind, but as far as I know only 'Stig' - presumably not Top Gear's anonymous racing driver- has identified the author. Well Tom got the answer too but since he went on to talk himself out of it there's no cigar for T.C.

It's time to reveal our mystery scribe as Jacob Aagaard who was writing in Excelling at Chess (Everyman Chess, 2001). Aagaard is now British Champion (and a one-time commenter on our humble blog) but back then he was a relative no-mark at 2360 elo.

To be honest, I hadn't intended the post as anything other than a cheap shot of the "let's make fun of a guy for whom the passage of time has not been kind" variety. Inspired by Richard's comment to the original post I re-read Aagaard's words and I began to wonder ... might he be right? Even now? Even if Anand does go on to beat Kramnik has he become the player he could have been?

Is Anand the strongest player in the world today? I suppose we'll see when he plays Kramnik, but perhaps a more pertinent question is how he rates in historical terms - a Tarrasch or a Keres perhaps rather than a Lasker or a Botvinnik? At best a Tal? Even if you think he deserves to be higher up the ladder would you say he's fulfilled his potential?

Is this all a little unfair to Anand? Maybe so but making fun of Aagaard was definitely somewhat harsh. If nothing else Excelling at Chess at least has something to say which is more a lot of chess books can claim. I'll be coming back to Aagaard's book over the next couple of weeks - and while normally I usually get distracted and wander away to other things, this time I definitely mean it.

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