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    Sunday
    Jan312010

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 13: Carlsen Wins the Tournament

    It was a very exciting last round, even though six of the seven games were drawn. Magnus Carlsen entered the last round with a half point lead over Vladimir Kramnik and Alexey Shirov, and with the white pieces against Fabiano Caruana it seemed he would at the very worst finish tied for first. When Kramnik went back into "a painter paints" mode against Sergey Karjakin, drawing pretty quickly with White, Carlsen's chances went up. But it didn't stay that way. Shirov threw the kitchen sink at Dominguez, set the board on fire [insert other cliches here] in an all-out effort to win, while Caruana got the upper hand and even a winning ending against Carlsen.

    With brilliant defense, Dominguez managed to hold the game...or at least, brilliant defense until the very last move. Dominguez's last move, accompanied by a draw offer, was a blunder, but Shirov failed to find the winning move and accepted the draw with two seconds on his clock. When Caruana likewise failed to win his game, Carlsen had emerged as the tournament victor.

    That's a real shame, I think. He didn't have any exciting streaks, he beat none of his main rivals (though he did manage to lose to one while having difficulties against others) and won no memorable games. Kramnik, on the other hand, played very well in the tournament, while Shirov played best of all. It's a tribute to Carlsen's tremendous strength and fighting spirit that even off-form, he can pose problems in attack and defense that very few players can handle.

    On to the other games. Anand obtained an advantage against van Wely, but as the latter was in no danger of winning the tournament the game ended in a draw. Nakamura had the round's one win, outplaying Tiviakov in a two bishops vs. bishop and knight ending. That put him in a tie for fourth-fifth with Anand, and confirmed his value as a super-GM participant both by score and style. Ivanchuk-Leko couldn't have been duller if it was fixed, but the last draw was pretty incredible. Short and Smeets drew by perpetual check in just 14 moves, with the perpet starting on move 11. But despite this, Short was below 10 minutes when they agreed to the draw, and Smeets had less than half an hour, so if this was acting they deserve an award.

    Final Standings:

    1. Carlsen 8½

    2-3. Kramnik, Shirov 8

    4-5. Anand, Nakamura 7½

    6-7. Karjakin, Ivanchuk 7

    8-9. Leko, Dominguez 6½

    10. Caruana 5½

    11-12. Short, van Wely 5

    13-14. Tiviakov, Smeets 4½

     

    In the B group, Giri drew quickly with Negi to clinch clear first with 9/13. Naiditsch won his game to come within half a point, taking clear second, half a point ahead of Ni Hua.

    In the C group, Li Chao finished with a bang. He had already clinched clear first going into the round, and rather than running out the clock decided to play freely. His win over Peng gave him a 10/13 score, 1½ points ahead of Gupta and two points ahead of Van Kampen and Vocaturo.

    A reminder: the winners of the B and C sections are automatically seeded into the next group up for next year. I wonder, though, if they'll also give Naiditsch a boost up to the A group, as it was announced during the event that Giri would play in the A group whether he won his section or not.

    Now to the links. Once again: the TWIC page is here, the tournament site here, and my notes to Shirov-Dominguez, Carlsen-Caruana and Short-Smeets are here.

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    Reader Comments (23)

    I think you are being a little unfair to Carlsen w.r.t. Shirov. Shirov also beat none of his main rivals. Furthermore, Carlsen's best win (standing-wise) was againt the player that finished sixth, while Shirov's was against the player that finished eigth. Carlsen lost a memorable game to Kramnik (t-2nd), it's true, but it was his only loss. Meanwhile Shirov had two loses, both to players that finished tied for fourth.

    Actually, I think Anand had the "best" tournament from a purely spoting view. He played listless chess, yet still finished on +2 while beating Kramnik and Shirov. All that with no losses AND without giving away anything prior to his match with Topalov! This tournament was like a secret Botvinnik training session done as a tune-up, but right out there in public. Or maybe more like one of Tal's tune-ups in some minor tournament in Latvia prior to some major obstacle on the path to the world championship - except against one of the better tournament fields of the year.

    Anand also had the worst result from a sporting perspective. If he had managed to beat just two of the four tail-enders he would have tied for first. Karjakin also had a bad tournament in that respect.

    And as you wrote, Naka clearly had the best professional result. He probably won't be playing in the Gibtel Masters-level events much longer.

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIcepick

    Check out Vocaturo's performance in Corus C:

    White +7 =0 -0
    Black +0 =2 -4

    Vocaturo was like a 3400 with White and a 1900 with Black!

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeffrey "notyetagm" Hall

    To describe Carlsen's win as "a real shame" and "unmemorable", Kramnik's play as "very well", and Shirov's as "best of all" is very subjective and it does ignore several important factors in evaluating the results.

    Let's start with Kramnik. Until round 12 it seemed to me that the theme of the tournament was "no one wants to win against Kramnik". He misplayed his white games three times and managed to draw because his opponents were too hesitant to play for a win (Leko in R2, Tiviakov in R4, Ivanchuk in R10). His five Petrovs as black were all uninspired. They include his miracle against Nigel "I started getting nervous" Short, who missed one win after another, being under pressure against Shirov's 35.c5!, the loss to Anand, and two dull draws. Escaping with only one loss from all of those games is a combination of Kramnik's resourcefulness in difficult positions, a lot of luck, and opponents getting nervous. The last round short draw with white is nothing to be proud of either. Among his four wins, the one against van Wely, after the latter blundered in an even position one move before the time control, wasn't very convincing either. So you can say that Kramnik played very well against Smeets and Nakamura, and very imaginatively (although objectively shaky) against Carlsen.

    Shirov did bring his fire to the board, but his wins were all against 2600+ players, and he did bluff quite a bit. He was unlucky against Anand, but was similarly lucky against Smeets, so those things often even out. Against Ivanchuk and Carlsen he opted for quick draws (albeit in spectacular fashion) right out of theory.

    Carlsen not beating rivals is untrue: he won against three opponents who were otherwise very solid and undefeated in the tournament. Ivanchuk and Karjakin were both on +2 when he won against them, shared second and shared third respectively at those moments. Dominguez was on +1. Also, he didn't reach as many inferior positions as Kramnik did. Apart from his single loss, there were only the games against Caruana and Nakamura, both of them played to their logical end (compare with Kramnik - Leko, Kramnik - Ivanchuk) and without serious blunders by his opponents (compare Kramnik - Tiviakov, Short - Kramnik), meaning that probably there was no win, at least not an obvious one. Now, he had no short draws with white. With black his short draws (against Anand, Shirov, Tiviakov, and Leko) came from Najdorf, Dragon, and Ruy, in all of which he did try to play for real. As for playing well, the ease with which he outplayed Karjakin was impressive, as was his game against van Wely. He didn't produce massterpieces such as some of the Nanjing games or his win over Kramnik in London, and he did spoil very good positions against Short and Kramnik.

    Overall, no single player displayed clear superiority comparable to Ivanchuk in Sofia 2008 or Carlsen in Nanjing 2009, but I do think that the results more or less reflect the reality. The difference between luck and resourcefulness is very subtle, but one does need both in order to achieve good results. With getting to so many inferior positions I don't think Kramnik can claim to 'deserve' to win the tournament, and with Shirov not winning any 2700+ opponents (and losing to Nakamura) the claim would be similarly problematic.

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterns

    Dennis, I agree with what you wrote about Carlsen, Kramnik and Shirov - while I also see the points raised by Icepick and ns. One could add that Carlsen owes a beer to Anand (or rather an orange juice because Vishy doesn't drink alcohol). In three key games (he had white in all of them), Anand
    - played his best game against Kramnik (maybe the only one of the event where he was fully motivated)
    - was very lucky against Shirov [no excuse for Shirov, though - one thing he may have to work on is his time management]
    - didn't show much ambition against Carlsen.

    Maybe interesting to list how the Corus top5 scored against players rated above 2700 and below 2700 (#1-9 and 10-14 in the final standings, respectively):
    Carlsen +2/+2 [but, as often, Ivanchuk had one game - against Carlsen - where he played far below his average level]
    Kramnik +1/+2
    Shirov -1/+4
    Anand +2/all draws
    Nakamura -1/+3

    Is this an indication how those players, with their current form and - Anand - "handicap" might perform in an event as Linares or, should it happen, Bilbao? Both Shirov and Nakamura obviously "confirmed [their] value as a super-GM participant both by score and style", yet - seen from this angle - wouldn't be prime candidates for winning an even stronger event with less or no "players to beat". They can still compete, play exciting games, pose problems to their opponents, and score some wins - no need to say "winner takes it all"!?

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    Yes, what a shame: the guy who won the most games and scored the most points won the tournament. Once again they didn’t pick mr. Monokroussos’s favorite to win.

    Get real!

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTapster

    I have to agree with the consensus here. it can hardly be a "real shame" that the guy that scored the most points won the tournament. for whatever Carlsen 'didn't do', the others didn't do something else. Carlsen held Anand with Black. Shirov and Kramnik didn't. Carlsen beat Kariakin with Black. Kramnik couldn't beat him with White to win the tournament. One could go on and on. Shirov started 5-0 vs relative tailenders, and then scored -2 against the elite.

    "you are what your record says you are!"

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdvigorito

    Of course Carlsen did what it took to win, and he earned his first place. But I didn't say that Carlsen didn't deserve to win, I said it was a pity that he won. It's not the same thing. He didn't beat any of his main opponents, he never had a hot streak that made him the big story, and the only somewhat memorable game he played was the one he lost. It's not any of those criteria by itself that's the basis for my yes, subjective feeling on the matter, but all of them put together. And by the way, to those who want to degrade the issue into the realm of personal insults, yes, I was rooting for Kramnik more than Carlsen, but it was Shirov who I felt was the moral victor of the tournament, and I wasn't rooting for him one way or another.

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Monokroussos

    I certainly agree wrt Shirov, but 'Kramnik played really well'? Considering some of the positions he had it's a miracle he only lost once.

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMerv

    I was hoping that *Anand* would win the tournamnet myself.

    His mind clearly was not focused on his games here, except for his magnificent win over Kramnik (sorry, Dennis), and yet he still almost won the tourney! He didn't beat any of the fish that he usually destroys at Corus yet still finished only 1 point behind Carlsen. If Anand had been motivated to beat Smeets, Caruana, Van Wely, Short, and Tiviakov like Shirov did, he might have run away with the tournament.

    Can you actually believe that Anand didn't beat any(!) of the 2600s and still finished only 1(!) point behind Carlsen? Unbelievable.

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeffrey "notyetagm" Hall

    Merv: I do think Kramnik played well! He didn't have much success in the opening, but except against Anand he managed to hold on in all the games and win quite a few.

    JnH: No need to apologize: he played an excellent game against Kramnik and dominated him. Considering what was at best questionable motivation and his self-imposed opening shackles, it wasn't a bad result for Anand at all. I do think he was more motivated than you suggest in at least some of the games, though, e.g. against van Wely in the last round and Tiviakov earlier. (The Dutch guys are often victimized by the top guys, but they're not that much weaker!)

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Monokroussos

    I like Kramnik (classy guy), and I like Carlsen (classy guy too). I don't like Nakamura, as I think he whines quite a bit and thinks very highly of himself. I am not advocating for false modesty, but the little bit I have heard from him seems to indicate that he is very full of himself. One of the interviews he gave left me thinking he implied that he works very little, and still gets good results, from which you should conclude that he would be completely dominant should he decide to apply himself. Very, very lame. I could be very wrong about Nakamura, of course, as I am going only on a couple of interviews I read.

    However, I choose Nakamura against Topalov any day. Now there is someone that I would NEVER be able to call a "classy guy."

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterestirodri

    ok, but saying it is a "pity that he won" is like saying it's a pity the Saints won...when you are a Vikings fan... Personally, I think it's great that we won because 1) he is 19, a westerner, the world #1 and fun to watch; and 2) he scored the most points! Kramnik beat Carlsen but lost to Anand. That may be more fun than two draws, but it's not 'better'. Shirov beat up the little guys but scored -2 vs the big boys. If the pairings had been different, his tournament would have been a 'nice comeback' instead of a 'hot start'. Neither win tournaments...

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdvigorito

    Well, it *is* a pity the Saints won! :) But the "Vikings fan" part is semi-irrelevant. As noted above, I was rooting for Kramnik as a fan, but felt Shirov would have been the most enjoyable victor. Yes, yes, I know the -2 point, but Carlsen's -1 doesn't exactly light it up either, and Shirov pushed hard against Kramnik and had wins against Anand and Dominguez. He was two time trouble moves from winning the tournament by a full point! (Yes, that's part of the game, I know; again, I'm not claiming he deserved to win.)

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Monokroussos

    I'm afraid I must join the chorus of opposition to Dennis' comment that "it's a real shame" Magnus won the tournament. With all due respect to Dennis, such a remark seems unworthy of a 2300 player, because of all people, a strong master should respect the enormous effort required to win a Category 19 event. It's not about "exciting streaks," it's about overall performance--and the score reveals that quite clearly, not only in Carlsen's case, but in the case of all the participants.

    It's a real shame when one can think of nothing more positive to say about such a stellar result than "it's a real shame." I reckon Dennis is in need of a reality check.

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRudy Bega

    With apologies to all the regulars on this blog...I would like to think that DMs comment was more a reflection of the fact that atleast two others could have won.. kramink who "bugged" carlsen and Shirov who did not win despite his courageous "fire" on the board more than once ...against Anand, Shirov was plain unlucky... witness Anand's bumbling post game press conference to confirm this...

    I am a big Anand fan but I must say overall as an amatuer chess buff, I was unhappy with his display.. he is still clearly a notch above all but the very best and he still has the great Kramnik on the back foot .. but we admire champions not merely for their genius but for their fighting spirit and their will...and Carlsen displayed the fighting qualities we like to see from our champions...but so did Shirov... he was less lucky though... so i guess one can say Carlsen's win was "fortuitous".. mebbe more acceptable than "real shame"?!

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdev anand

    A Dutch newspaper headline today: "Carlsen wins with the help of many" - reporter Gert Ligterink names Anand and Dominguez (who "stole" a draw from Shirov), I would add Ivanchuk who had a complete offday against Carlsen. It would be unfair to include Caruana, who certainly tried hard for a win (and it's unclear if there really was one).

    Regarding the Shirov-Dominguez game, Shirov probably wouldn't have found the forced win - but Dominguez' draw offer may have disturbed him for a few crucial seconds? As Dominguez was also in terrible time trouble, I don't blame him - though he knew it was a must-win game for Shirov and a "doesn't matter game" for himself - one of the few occasions where I would be in favor of Sofia rules.

    And the final report on the tournament homepage says "the 19-year-old Norwegian played attacking chess throughout" [hmm, along with Dennis I cannot quite follow] but then quotes Carlsen: "I had some good games; sometimes I played well and sometimes I played lousy. In the end, I won the tournament with a lot of luck.”

    So at least one Dutch and one Norwegian sort of agrees with Dennis!?

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    Sorry Dennis, I didn't mean to start a pile-on! I just thought the criticism of Carlsen could mostly be applied to Shirov as well.

    For what it's worth, I too was hoping Kramnik would pull off the win. It's great to see him with more energy and motivation again. It seems people forget he wasn't always so stodgy. I think this renaissance actually began with the match against Anand, not after. Kramnik didn't back down in the third game when Anand dropped a TN bomb on him. He lost that game and a subsequent game in that variation, but confronted with the novelty at the board he went all out. I took that as a good sign and it seems to have been borne out in the meantime.

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIcepick

    It seems hard to win these things impressively. You have to beat all the 2600's, play "interesting" chess against the top guys and hope none of the other guys blunder. ;)

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKoo

    I guess i'm as "partial" as it comes since the four people I was rooting for were... Carlsen, Kramnik, Shirov and Nakamura all of which finished well. However, I have to say the luck was pretty well spread throughout. Kramnik was lucky to survive both Short and Tiviiakov. Anand was extremely lucky against Shirov. Carlsen was lucky against Caruana and Ivanchuk. Shirov was lucky against Smeets and unlucky against Anand and Dominguez. Still, I have to question anyone who calls the Carlsen-Kramnik game "shaky." I mean it was one of the best of the tournament I think. Most of the time I have spent analyzing it, Kramnik's play was superb and way better than what the materialistic engines usually suggest. The only thing I could not understand about the game was why Carlsen never tried b3 Nb2 Nc4 ideas to get the knight back in the game.... but then its Kramnik's play we are trying to call questionable here right? On the one hand, you cannot slam Kramnik for horrible play and then turn around praise Carlsen... remember he lost the game. The thing about this event is it is a very long 13 round tournament. A 5/5 start does not win no matter how much one might want it to.

    I would say the only thing shaky about this event was Anand's press conference on the Shirov game... talk about utter disappointment.

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

    Rudy: While most commentators have overlooked it, I praised Carlsen for winning the tournament. To quote myself: "It's a tribute to Carlsen's tremendous strength and fighting spirit that even off-form, he can pose problems in attack and defense that very few players can handle." I wish Shirov had won, and feel it would have been more fitting, given the kind of chess he played in this tournament, but to turn this into some sort of slam on Carlsen is a mistake.

    I have the feeling that some of the comments are responding to me based on what others have written. It would be better if they focused on what I said instead!

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Monokroussos

    First a disclosure - I am friends with Dennis and I am not trying to knock HIM, I just have my own opinion too (just not my own blog!).
    hmmm, how would Shirov winning have "been more fitting"? The kind of chess he played was swindling Smeets, rolling the dice vs Dominguez, etc. Magnus may have only scored -1 vs the elite, but as pointed out, Shirov scored -2. While, a 5/5 start is exciting, it was obvious that he had relatively favourable pairings, and finishing with 3/8 is not impressive, to say the least. And really, saying "... Carlsen had emerged as the tournament victor. That's a real shame, I think" IS a bit of a slam on Carlsen. Let's face it, Carlsen, Shirov, and Kramnik scored their points in different orders and in different ways, but the one that 'deserves' to win the tournament is the one who scored the most points...
    Players like Shirov and Moro will always have their fans, but when you just hurl the ball down field you'll end up with a lot of interceptions to go along with those touchdowns.

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdvigorito

    It would be nice if there could be a way to measure the intrinsic combativeness of someone's play. How much challenge did ey set eir opponents? The Guid-Bratko "average difference" measure used to assess world champions doesn't measure this at all, though it makes some weak allowance with a notion of "complexity". Anyway, absent such an objective measure, it appears that Shirov brought the most "game". You don't feel chess with standard rules is joué when he's moving the pieces. In that sense it would have been most pleasing to see him win. I chime in with Dennis there.

    However, such partial quantitative work as I've done so far indicates that the right word for Carlsen is "nettlesome", especially when he's a half-pawn or so behind. Since no one says "Fischer fear" is at work, he must be doing something on the board to induce such inexactness from his opponents...

    February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKenneth W. Regan

    dvigorito: I don't think Shirov was quite as much a hurler as you're suggesting - he never went beyond the bounds of acceptable risk against Dominguez, for example. Also, I already denied that Shirov was the deserving winner, so repeating the charge won't make the case! The only "slam" against Carlsen was that he didn't bring as much to me as a fan as Shirov or even Kramnik in this tournament: no memorable games, no wins against his main rivals, no streaks, etc. The point is that while other rivals may have also faltered on one or more of those points (Shirov's -2 vs. the top players, for instance), Carlsen had none of the above.

    Finally, a clarification on the streak issue. Yes, I know that it's to some extent (but not wholly) a matter of luck: if you play the right people in the right order, you increase the likelihood of a nice string of wins. When I mentioned that Carlsen didn't have any such string, the reason was to enumerate yet another way in which Carlsen's tournament performance failed to be especially noteworthy. It's not a criticism.

    Think back, for instance, to Wijk aan Zee in 1999, when Kasparov won seven games in a row, all impressive games, including the "immortal" game vs. Topalov. Everyone watching that tournament remembers the streak and that amazing win. Now, how many remember that Anand finished just half a point behind? Kasparov cooled off toward the end, while Anand had a late surge at the expense of the Dutch. Anand played well and had a great performance too, but wouldn't it have been rather sad if Kasparov had blown it at the end and come in second after achieving one of the great performances of all time - not only by performance but quality and excitement?

    By the way, I remember our draw a couple of years ago. You definitely communicated your feeling that it was a bit of a pity, as you felt you had squandered superior play at the start of the game. Of course, I disagree with your assessment, but not on the basis that we scored the same number of points in the game (and in the tournament too, for that matter).

    February 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Monokroussos

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