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    Wednesday
    Dec162009

    Carlsen Wins London, Kramnik Second, Adams and Howell(!) Tie for Third

    I may present a couple of games tomorrow, but for now I'll limit myself to a summary of the results. The last round was again an exciting affair, and the final standings were in doubt until near the end.

    Nakamura - Kramnik was the first game to finish, and in a short but exciting 34 moves. Both sides played very well, and Kramnik had a little trap to avoid. If he played the greedy 20...Bh5, then he would have come under a withering attack. As Nakamura put it afterwards, "If Kramnik had played 20...Bh5 I would have won the brilliancy prize." He didn't, though, and the result was a draw that caught him up to Carlsen.

    Carlsen, however, was still playing, and his game went to move 71. It wasn't any sort of problem though, as he was better and then won a pawn; the only question seemed to be whether he would manage to pull out a win. Somehow, though, Carlsen really went off the tracks, and his position grew dangerous. (In fact, as he admitted after the game, he almost blundered into a mate!) In the end, both players held on, traded everything, and when bare kings were reached Carlsen had won the tournament by a point (on the 3-1-0 scoring system used in the event; half a point by normal scoring).

    There were two decisive games, and the result was that the winners found themselves tied for third. Ni Hua played a horrible opening and early middlegame against Howell, and was crushed, while Adams worked his old positional magic against McShane and then put out his opponent's tactical fires. Here, then, are the final standings:

    1. Carlsen 13 (5-2, +3 =4)

    2. Kramnik 12 (4.5-2.5, +3 -1 =3)

    3-4. Adams, Howell 9 (4-3, +1 =6)

    5. McShane 7 (2.5-4.5, +2 -4 =1)

    6-7. Nakamura, Ni Hua 6 (Nakamura went 3-4 on -1 =6 scoring, Ni Hua went 2.5-4.5 on +1 -3 =3)

    8. Short 5 (2.5-4.5, -2 =5)

    (Are these results really a good advertisement for this 3-1-0 nonsense?)

     

    So Carlsen has won, and just as importantly, ensured that he will be #1 on the next official rating list. He will be by far the youngest player to accomplish this, having just turned 19 a few weeks ago. I can't even remember the last time he lost a classical game, either: he went undefeated here, at the Tal Memorial, and and before that in Nanjing. His play here wasn't even particularly impressive after round 2, but even when he's playing relatively poorly his opponents still aren't beating him. It's better to be lucky and good! Given his youth and his coach, the future looks grim for his rivals.

    Kramnik had another good result and played the best chess in the tournament, by far, after round 1. He gained more rating points and is just a whisker behind Anand on the rating list. He is definitely a contender again - at least if anyone not named Carlsen will be able to fight successfully for the title in 2011 or so.

    Adams had an excellent result, showing glimpses of the form that made him one of the absolute best in the world from around 1997 to 2004. If anything it could have been better, as he failed to convert some advantages, including a probable win against Carlsen in round 6. I don't know if he passed Short on the rating list, as apparently neither man is over 2700 at this point, but it's quite possible that he did.

    Howell was what people call the "revelation" of the event; we'll see. It was certainly an excellent result by rating, and if he can build on this result it will be a real boon to English chess.

    Everyone else had a mediocre-to-bad tournament, though McShane was at least clever enough to have his mediocre result occur in a financially valuable way.

    More info on the tournament and the last round games here; the Live Top (Rating) List is here (see how your London and World Cup favorites fared).

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    Reader Comments (18)

    "I can't even remember the last time he [Carlsen] lost a classical game ..."
    Is this statement tongue-in-cheek, or have you forgotten about Dortmund? To the disappointment of his coach, Carlsen lost against Kramnik .... .

    BTW, isn't it almost by definition that no more than half of the field (four players out of eight) can have a good to excellent tournament, with the other half being "mediocre-to-bad"?
    Regarding McShane: ELO-wise he did OK (ELO 2615, TPR 2606), unlike the other three players from the lower half of the field who lost quite a few rating points. Financially he did very well: For whichever reason (to me it's a complete joke) the overall 10,000€ brilliancy prize went to ... McShane for his win against Nakamura.

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    No, it wasn't tongue in cheek. That was four months and many events ago. I knew he had lost to Kramnik earlier this year, but didn't remember if there was another non-blitz loss to someone else in the intervening period.

    I'm not sure there's such a thing as "almost by definition". If it's by definition, then it's a matter of necessity and thus exceptionless. But never mind that; what was the purpose of your semi-rhetorical question? Did I write something that intellectually merited it, like "In an incredible outcome, exactly half of the players had a mediocre-to-bad result? What are the odds on that??"?

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Monokroussos

    Sorry, but why you don't like the 3 points per win format? In my opinion It is a system that favors wins over draws.

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAl

    I've addressed this on my old blog and even on this blog a number of posts ago. (In the latter case, it was in response to a similar comment.) You can look it up if you're so inclined. Note, though, that the current system already favors wins over draws: you get a full point for a win, and only half a point for a draw. What this system does is reward players with a more volatile style, and I don't see any reason why they should get an automatic advantage.

    December 16, 2009 | Registered CommenterDennis Monokroussos

    I see what you say. For example in the current system Nakamura would had 3 points and McShane 2.5. Seems unfair since Nakamura just lost 1 game and McShane lost 3 games. Still MCshane stayed ahead of Nakamura. Nakamura played a more consistent tournament instead of McShane ups and downs.
    But on the other had Mcshane won 2 games, showing that he played more risk games, and was rewarded. He was more all or nothing.
    I think this good for the general public, we can have more exciting games.
    Anyways just my humble opinion.

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAl

    I happen to agree that the 3-1-0 system is awful. I wonder, would a 1, -0.5, -1 system work? :D Just kidding. I still prefer the classical scoring system, personally.

    I had a hard time grasping why McStain's 2-4-1 performance was clever in the "financially valuable" way. I understand that putting up two wins is better than if he'd drawn the four games he lost, but it would be cleverer still to just win the four losses. But it does make sense now.

    By the way, this is WolfgangSenff from CV.TV - good show over there. I'm probably going to join up on Playchess again and attend your lectures there, too. I appreciate how structured your thinking is, and have been striving for that recently (even in non-chess-related ways, such as with programming, which is my job). Thanks Dennis!

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKyle

    Jenn Shahade observed that the Sofia rules are especially hard on the players who are new to this level of competition (McShane, Nakamura, Howell, etc). They had to adjust to facing elite competition as well as the Sofia Rules.

    I am happy that they have a large brilliancy prize for the event. I don't think it will happen but it would be fun to have an event where players are paid based on how well their games finish in the brilliancy prize voting rather than their overall score.

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Karen

    Brian, no offense, but I think that's a terrible idea. If Drawnik were to stale out a bunch of games, but win most of them, then he should be duly given the best honors. Having honors for following dubious lines just because they're more exciting is akin to giving honors for doing the best stunt driving in a Nascar competition.

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKyle

    Kyle,

    Not to be too heavy-handed about this, but have you actually looked at Kramnik's games and results? Topalov is a sharper, more risk-oriented and fight-oriented player than Kramnik, so if you're using him as the standard, then sure, Kramnik comes out in second. Topalov is at an extreme, however; let's see how Kramnik fares in comparison to his peers as a whole.

    Frst, let's consider the "Drawnik" insult. Maybe that's ok for ICC or other online forums, but in addition to being disrespectful it's also absurd, unless you want to prefix "Draw-" to all super-GM names. Taking his classical results in 2009, only McShane had more decisive games here. At Dortmund, he had three decisive games, more than three other players and only one less than Carlsen (whom he beat) and Naiditisch (who managed to lose four and win none). In Moscow, at the Tal Memorial, no one had more decisive games than he did. And if you look at his results in rapid (at the Melody Amber, Zurich and Azerbaijan vs. The Rest of the World) or blitz (the Tal Memorial blitz) he has an extremely high percentage of decisive games.

    As for "stal[ing]" games out, look for instance at all of his wins from Dortmund. The wins here against McShane and at the start of the game with Ni Hua were no boring technical achievements either. Of course Kramnik, like most top players, has had his share of bloodless draws and earned his fair share of mockery for the infamous "A painter paints." But c'mon - look at his actual games and results.

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Monokroussos

    Al, McShane lost four games, not just three.

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Monokroussos

    Dennis,

    I agree - was just using the trendy moniker of the moment. I actually prefer Kramnik's games by far (to Topalov, anyway). I was using it sarcastically, anyway, to imply that using the 3-1-0 system doesn't necessarily represent the overall strength of the play, and so prizes should not be awarded for risky, often-losing play that an opponent stumbled over by accident.

    Believe it or not, I'm on your side here, Dennis. :) I think you just saw the insult (which was meant to be even more sarcastic than normal, not to insult Kramnik, but instead to insult Topalovers, for lack of a better term) and immediately dismissed what I said. It's very likely that that didn't come out very obviously though, so sorry about that.

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKyle

    Dennis, my response part I: I considered Carlsen's loss against Kramnik worthwhile pointing out, because the two players together dominated the second half of this year - and sometimes it seems that Kramnik doesn't get enough credit for it (I hurry to add that he does get it from you). Within this period, Carlsen at Nanjing was another league or another planet .... in part due to the (transient!) psychological effect his collaboration with Kasparov had on his opponents? Kramnik presumably wasn't invited to Nanjing [it's a "semi-Danailov event!?] - not his fault, but maybe he doesn't mind or was lucky that he didn't face Carlsen in top-top form.

    BTW, to me four or five months isn't THAT long, and it may be a bit debatable whether Carlsen's unbeaten streak (three events, 28 games) is already worthwhile pointing out. For comparison: Wang Yue had 85 consecutive games without a loss, and isn't even a serious WCh contender ... . Longer ago Kramnik had 82 games without loss (Jan 11 1999 until July 10 2000), including six strong events (2* Hoogovens becoming Corus, 2* Linares, Dos Hermanas and Dortmund), the Las Vegas KO WCh (where he lost in rapid playoff) and his WCh match against Kasparov.
    Maybe Carlsen's winning percentage is exceptional or unprecedented, didn't check on that ... .

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    And part II: To me it sounded like you are a bit harsh on the four not-that-successful players, maybe it's a language issue or a matter of semantics. "Mediocre" could mean 'unsatisfactory', it could also mean "as expected, neither good nor bad"? The latter would apply to McShane's naked result - as I said he did OK ELO-wise. And, different from Nakamura and Short, he and/or his fans (if he has many?) probably didn't expect more at the start of the tournament. Not sure what to say about Ni Hua - he seemed to be on a decline or in an extended bad phase already before London: invited as a 2700 player, then dropping to 2665.

    But if you mean McShane's actual play, I see your point. His games briefly summarized from my patzer point of view:
    His wins - not sure what to make of his marathon against Short, "simply bizarre" or "words cannot describe"!? His win against Nakamura, to say the least, didn't deserve a brilliancy prize (even though he got it).
    His losses - He wasn't a match for Carlsen and Kramnik, nothing to be ashamed of and maybe he was still tired from his lengthy game against Short. Against Ni Hua, he looked strangely helpless out of a favorable position. Against Adams, he played coffehouse chess.
    "McShane was at least clever enough to have his mediocre result occur in a financially valuable way." This was probably in jest - I don't think he deliberately planned his tournament thinking "I will score -2, let's make this +2=1-4 rather than Nigel's =5-2"!?

    And maybe Short's tournament was already decided after round 1: losing such a game is as tiring, and psychologically worse than winning it!?

    Fast forward to Corus where we'll see four of the London players again: Carlsen and Kramnik again competing for tournament victory (the easy prediction), what to expect (now) from Nakamura and Short?

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    Kyle,

    It might be that I took two stupid pills today instead of the usual one. Maybe their effects haven't fully ebbed away yet, but I'm having a hard time reading your comment even now as saying what you suggested. Still, I'll take you at your word! Btw, I only now noticed "McStain" from an earlier comment of yours, so I'll offer a perfunctory complaint about that too. (With a last name like mine, it's the least I can do!)

    Thomas,

    If I meant that "mediocre" meant "bad", then I probably wouldn't have written "mediocre-to-bad" unless I felt like redundantly repeating myself over and over again.

    Here's a quote from your last comment, beginning with a quote from my post:

    "'McShane was at least clever enough to have his mediocre result occur in a financially valuable way.' This was probably in jest - I don't think he deliberately planned his tournament thinking "I will score -2, let's make this +2=1-4 rather than Nigel's =5-2"!?

    Yes, Thomas, it was a jest. Do I have to offer a footnote for any sentence using a figure of speech or (allegedly) humorous remark?*

    * The foregoing may have been slightly sarcastic.**
    ** The foregoing and subsequent footnotes were intended in a wry way.***
    *** The preceding footnote is was intended in a wry way.**

    December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Monokroussos

    Kyle,

    I didn't suggest that they award the brilliancy prize based on games that follow dubious lines. Dubious lines should keep a game from winning the prize. It would encourage the players to play riskier lines but you could win a nice positional game too - for example Carlsen's win over Kramnik in the London Classic.

    Today there are more elite tournaments played in a year than used to be played in a decade or more in the past. Sponsors should look for ways to make their tournaments unique. Declaring a winner based on the number of brilliancy prizes is one idea.

    What do GMs contribute to the world to justify the money sponsors/fans provide? Three things:
    1.) The entertainment value that arises from watching two geniuses in combat (Competition)
    2.) Opening novelties and other new ideas (Science)
    3.) Brilliant games that can be replayed for amusement and instruction (Art)

    Tournaments that don't have brilliancy prizes provide incentive mostly for #1, to a lesser extent #2 and least of all #3.

    December 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Karen

    Dennis - you're right about the McStain thing. That was actually something pretty ridiculous from Conan O'brien. He had, "McCain" secrets once, with respect to John McCain, and in it, McCain said, "One time in high school, I accidentally got mustard on my shirt during lunch. Some kid called me 'McStain' and everyone laughed at me. When he got out of the hospital, he began calling me 'McPain'!" Of course it was a joke there, and there was no reason for me to call McShane that, so yes, I'm sorry for that one too. Incidentally, Monokroussous is an awesome last name, and incredibly difficult to make fun of. :) My last name, Szklenski, is unpronounceable in most known human languages, and there's about 45 other pseudo-random non-vowel letters that normally come before the first 'S'.

    I think it was *me* who didn't take enough pills this morning, not you taking too many. Actually, yesterday morning. Sometimes, my stench of humor is very hard to follow, and this case is no exception.

    Brian, it seemed like you were implying that to me. Maybe, again, though, it was just my silliheadedness.

    All: I'll stop insulting people needlessly. Sorry about that.

    December 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKyle

    "So Carlsen has won, and just as importantly, ensured that he will be #1 on the next official rating list."

    Glad someone named him earlier...

    ;)

    December 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertackhead

    "Somehow, though, Carlsen really went off the tracks, and his position grew dangerous. (In fact, as he admitted after the game, he almost blundered into a mate!)"

    Anyone have a link to Carlsen saying how he almost played 56 c4-c5!! Qh5xc5?? ?

    Thanks

    January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeffrey "notyetagm" Hall

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