In the last post I mentioned the so-called 10,000 hour rule, and a couple of weeks ago it was the Dunning-Kruger effect that made an appearance. Today's topic from the broader world of ideas is the peak-end rule, according to which an event is not emotionally evaluated in retrospect as the sum or average of its emotional moments, but rather by the feelings at the event's peak (whether positive or negative) and at its end. Applied to chess, a mediocre tournament might be remembered well if we win a beautiful game along the way and finish with a win. Conversely, a tournament that went well but finished with a painful and unnecessary loss might always be remembered afterwards with bitterness - even though the same results played in a different order might have led us to remember it fondly.
Why do I bring this up? If you followed the finale of the Grand Slam Masters, you can probably guess. Viswanathan Anand led from start to finish, was +3 after four rounds and looked to be in great shape heading into his match with Magnus Carlsen - especially as the latter's form has been relatively spotty of late. Anand drew in round five and clinched overall tournament victory, but in the last round lost to Levon Aronian. Anand still won the tournament and gained points, and his form this year gives him grounds for confidence against Carlsen. But this last round loss can't feel good, especially as his final official game before the world championship match. He lost to someone he used to struggle mightily against but against whom he had recently turned the tables, and lost some ground on the rating list too. Hopefully this doesn't harm his confidence too much going into the match, but we shall see!
In the other game, Francisco Vallejo Pons obtained his first win over the event, defeating Ruslan Ponomariov to catch up to him. Final scores: Anand 11, Aronian 10, Ponomariov & Vallejo 5. (This is on Bilbao's 3-1-0 scoring; in "real" scoring it's Anand & Aronian with 4/6, Ponomariov & Vallejo with 2.)
In the concurrent and co-located European Club Cup, the SOCAR team "from" Azerbaijan won the event with a perfect 7-0 team score. In the last round, their win occurred only thanks to that famous Azeri Veselin Topalov, who gradually defeated Peter Svidler in an opposite-colored bishop ending. Topalov himself (who is of course Bulgarian, not Azeri) had a great tournament and finished with an individual rating of 2799.5, which will be rounded up to 2800 at the end of the month. It's not his first time there, but it's impressive to see him reclaim that rating after a couple of years of indifferent results. Aside from the Candidates' tournament, Topalov has been playing very well lately. Maybe catching Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana is asking too much of him, but he is at #3 in the world now and showing glimpses of his former glory.
Speaking of Caruana, he finished strongly and concluded the event with another 7.5 points (which will be rounded up to +8) and will have an amazing, official rating of 2844 in a couple of weeks. Other big ratings winners are Anish Giri, who gained more than 10 points and hopped up to #7 in the world, and Hou Yifan, whose performance in the women's section has brought her up to 2673, just two points behind the newly retired Judit Polgar. Not too shabby! A good result in next month's women's world championship knockout tournament could very easily install her at #1 on the women's list, and a great result could have her tickling the 2700 barrier. As with Anand, we will see....