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    Monday
    Sep162013

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 6: Carlsen Beats Aronian, Takes Clear First

    In the first round of the Sinquefield Cup, Magnus Carlsen played indifferently in the opening (against Gata Kamsky in that game) before responding to the pressure, rising to the occasion and winning the game. That's just what he did this time, too. Hikaru Nakamura held on against Kamsky in a hair-raising game to make a draw, and so if Levon Aronian could defeat Carlsen - albeit with the black pieces - he would create a three-way tie for first and thereby force a playoff.

    With Carlsen in first and playing White, such a scenario would seem unlikely, but he nevertheless got into huge trouble. Around move 25 Aronian decided on the unfortunate plan of rounding up White's a-pawn. He was still a touch better after that, but he would have been seriously better, maybe strategically won, had he played 25...Nb5, aiming to put that knight on c3 and its partner in gallantry on d4. Aronian admitted missing 31.Ne1, eschewing the exchange to create a fortress.

    So, a draw? Not quite. Aronian kept playing, and correctly so, but finally around move 47 he realized that there was no win to be had, and finally offered a draw. Many players would accept and collect all the rewards of taking first, but Carlsen felt safe and also recognized that Aronian was starting to lose the thread, and he continued. Sure enough, Aronian quickly collapsed, and Carlsen finished the tournament with a big exclamation point, finishing a full point ahead of Nakamura, two points ahead of Aronian and three ahead of Kamsky. (Games here, sans notes.)

    What does the tournament mean for Carlsen's match against Anand? As far as openings go, the answer is probably this: absolutely nothing. How about Carlsen's form? That is a mixed bag, I think. Even taking his hiding his openings into account, he white games were awful: plenty of nothing in round 1 and very bad positions in round 3 (against Nakamura) and in this last game. The good news is that he still finished +3 and almost morphed into a computer whenever he was in trouble. His IPRs were very good, and here, courtesy of Ken Regan, are the IPRs for everyone in the event, both pro and con.

    Carlsen: 2948 (+/- 90), his opponents 2679 +/- 200

    Nakamura: 2797 +/- 150, vs. 2721 +/- 150

    Aronian: 2654(!) +/- 230, vs. 2850(!) +/-150

    Kamsky: 2535(!!) +/- 240, vs. 2765 +/- 170

    The bottom line is that unless Anand plays very accurately with the opening advantages he gets, there's almost surely going to be a new world champion by the year's end.

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    Reader Comments (12)

    Interesting statistics by Regan, though given that the ability of a human player to find the best moves depends a lot on the resistance of his opponent, I expect the IPRs to overrate the winners and underrate the losers.

    Carlsen's white games all followed a similar pattern. He went for a static advantage, underestimated his opponents dynamic chances, got into trouble and got out of trouble by incredibly precise play. But if you're always playing those weakies rated more then 70 points below you and you know that they are not going to be able to follow through with the attack anyway ... hard to get out of this kind of mindset.

    September 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhille

    Barring GM Ashley's commentary, which I suspect I am far from alone to find irksome, I think this was a very enjoyable tournament to watch, and the last round was really thrilling.

    Why GM Ashley comments on chess and not football, where it seems to me he would suit much better, is a mystery to me, but I enjoyed listening to GM Seirawan and fortunately 'Maurice Ashley's thoughts on this position', the expression the lady assisting Seirawan was using to announce every break for Ashley's football-like overexcited shouting of 'boy, how this kid can play', were not the main part of the commentary.

    He really summed it all up revealing his dream of chess being played in a stadium with 50,000 fans going wild (Really? 'Aronian moving his knight, is he gonna do it, yes he is, yes he is, he's picking it up, he's gonna plant it on c3, he's gonna do it, it's landing on c3, Aroniaaaaaaaaaaan! Knight to c3, what a performance, what a match! Aaaaand he's taking his shirt off, he's running in circles celebrating, and you can't be surprised, can you, the way he put this knight on c3!'. While we're at it, let's have bridge tournaments played in swimming pools and university lectures delivered in McDonald's restaurants. And to try it the other way round, let's ban footballers from using the f-word and football fans from shouting and see how this is going to work out) and then in the interviews, asking both Aronian and Carlsen about the '70 grand' Carlsen could take immediately by agreeing to the draw. Because it makes no difference. He just couldn't understand, could he?

    [DM: Now, now. Why does he commentate on chess games? Well, I trust you realize that "GM" isn't his name but an abbreviation for his grandmaster title. His presentation is part genuine enthusiasm, and part showman's shtick - he's trying to get an audience of casual and non-players involved and excited. (The shows were apparently covered on regional cable.)]

    September 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKajetan Wandowicz

    Before we read too much into Carlsen's IPR (which is impressive not just because it was so high, but also because it was so stable), remember that Ken Regan calculated Anand's IPR in the Gelfand match at 3002. I would guess that the reason for that is extremely deep opening preparation plus relatively early draws. So it would seem that the lengths of the games is likely to be a key factor, with Carlsen happy to accept slightly inferior positions even with white provided he can play and play, and Anand probably happy to force a draw in such cases. So it might well come down to the question of who can get the kinds of positions they want, and judging by his experience and success with opening preparation for matches, this makes Anand seem less of an underdog than the ratings suggest. Carlsen seemed quite psychologically vulnerable in the Candidates and was getting really tired, so if Anand can hold with black three times with superb opening preparation and play riskless chess with white, then the match is even at the halfway stage, and Carlsen is beginning to seem vulnerable. To some extent Carlsen has even set himself up for this pressure scenario with various bits of bluster about his superiority over Anand, and Anand's comments about being happy to be seen as the underdog might be psychologically astute.

    [DM: I'd note that while Gelfand proved very difficult for Anand, he's also the kind of player who can inflate Anand's TPR, as like Anand he is willing to go straight down forcing lines. Carlsen's play is generally more meandering, so I think the chances of Anand playing 3000-level chess against him are exceedingly slim.]

    September 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid McCarthy

    Agree with Dennis that Carlsen's play is very meandering (so says a 1200 guy !). Anand must not overprepare the openings (i.e. spend a smaller % of time on them that he did in the past). Anand needs to focus on building stamina building and sharpening his end-game mastery.

    Carlsen is a clear favorite by all aspects (rating superiority, recent performance, recent performance v/s each other etc.).

    If Carlsen showed some vulnerability during the Candidates, maybe it was because of the gruelling schedule. For the first 12 games at the candidates, they only had 3 rest days. In the Chennai WCC, they will have 6 rest days I believe. So, the schedule is more manageable. Morevoer I believe Carlsen benefits by being younger (and therefore more likely to have more stable nerves than Anand)

    If Anand needs extra motivation, someone should tell him that if he beats Carlsen, then no one in the world will question whether he is a super worthy world champ and the strongest player in the world (at least when it matters).

    [DM: I think Anand already knows his worth, having won five world championship events and twice losing in the finals, having been in the top three for most of the past 15 years or so, etc. That's probably part of the problem: he has done just about everything and been at or near the top for so long that it's very difficult to sustain motivation - all the more so now that he has a young child.]

    September 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMK

    David McCarthy is correct, and it becomes an issue of interpretation. My current model shows the IPR over all games (by 2700+ players, say) decreasing markedly on later moves even beyond Move 40. So if you play a lot of short draws, you're avoiding move numbers on which my data shows those players sliding under "2500". This raises the question, is this decline "real", or should the model correct for it---e.g. by saying that 2450 in moves 33--40 is "really" 2750 because that's what those players tend to do on those high-Zeitnot moves?

    The case for "no" is that we want to have a fixed standard of reference, and interpret chess happenings with regard to it. Thus if a game stays in a player's "book" thru move 20, and his prep is worthy of opening books that are painstakingly prepared for chess programs rated over 3100, then it is fitting to say that the player, too, is playing at 3100 level over those moves. If the game is then drawn on Move 21, well there you go---the argument should instead be about possibly switching to Chess 960-squared.

    September 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKenneth W. Regan

    @ Dennis,
    I don't entirely agree with your reply to MK.
    Of the 5 world championship events that Anand has won, one was a mickey-mouse knockout, so doesn't really count; another he barely beat a Topalov well past his best; another he couldn't beat a player rated about 20th in the world at classical. That leaves his two best achievments - winning the 2007 Mexico WC tournament, and the match victory over Kramnik. But even here, basically all he had to do was beat, or come ahead of, Kramnik, a fellow mediocre World Champion.
    In other words, he has never beaten a really "super" player (one that is easily first in the rating lists for long periods - Kasparov, Karpov, Fischer, Carlsen) in a match - so here is something he hasn't done; and this might give him motivation.

    [DM: I don't value the k.o. events as highly as the classical line, but calling it "mickey-mouse" is unduly disparaging. (By the way, he won two of them; it's just that the first one wasn't good enough for the title on account of the preposterously favorable conditions granted Karpov.)

    As for the "fellow mediocre World Champion" line, that's just about its own reductio ad absurdum. Kramnik was the second player in history to make 2800 and the only one to defeat Kasparov in a title match (which he did fairly comfortably). He defended his title twice under enormously difficult circumstances (the first time because he was very sick, the second time because of Danailov's psychological warfare). He has been in the top three for most of the past 16 years, was in the top 5-10 players in the world in his mid-teens, has a plus score against everybody but Anand (and was plus for much of their careers and up to their match) and still including Carlsen. So that's pretty ridiculous. There's nothing mediocre about Kramnik's career, even by the standard of his fellow world champions. Of course Anand is on a downswing now, but there hasn't been a world champion his age since Botvinnik.]

    September 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterobserver

    "Kramnik, a fellow mediocre World Champion." observer

    Posting that on this blog is like playing with fire!

    September 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommentercheVelle

    @ Dennis:
    Firstly (all too easy to forget to say), as one of your other commenters said, great blog and great analysis you do. Thank you. I'm surprised you don't get more comments.

    In terms of a format for a World Championship or Candidates, I really don't feel that "mickey-mouse" is too disparaging a term. They really do throw up random winners. Matter of opinion, I guess.

    Kramnik's main claim to fame was beating Kasparov in a Title match.
    As for the rest, i don't feel there's too much special there:
    Fischer and Karpov would have been 2800 players too if ratings had been as inflated in their time as when Kramnik made that mark;
    The circumstances under which he defended his title were difficult, yes, but they were hardly the strongest players - sadly Kramnik refused to have any but a mickey-mouse format to decide his challenger, so Kasparov therefore refused to play;
    To be in the top 3 in the rankings is hardly exceptional for a World Champion, indeed it should be expected; what is exceptional is that he has never been clear first, unlike every other World Champion since Spassky, compare with Kasparov's 20 years straight as number one. Nor does he ever even get equal first on Chessmetrics. Surely that's relative mediocrity!;
    He may have a plus score against everyone, but against most of the elite it is very small, his overall plus score against the elite would not be better than several others;
    He has been last(!) in at least 3(!) tournaments - what other World Champion, when aged under 40, has been even once?
    And has missed a mate-in-one.

    Generally, I would describe a "super" World Champion as one who has utterly dominated for a period of time; while a "mediocre" one is but 'first among equals'.
    Therefore, to me, "super" are: Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Tal, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov; Carlsen probably to be.
    "Mediocre" are Euwe, Smyslov, Petrosian, Spassky, Kramnik, Anand.

    [DM: First, thanks for the kind remarks at the start, before you decided to have me for dinner.

    I'd disagree with your evaluation of a number of points (shocking news!), but as you're elaborating I think that much of my complaint is probably due to your use of "mediocre". The case you're really making is that Kramnik's reign wasn't dominant in the way that Karpov's and Kasparov's reigns generally were. I wouldn't disagree with that, but would disagree with much else that's on your list.

    For instance, about the value of the k.o. events. They are not of the same value as the classical title, in part because they are more random than the latter. They are not wholly random though, and it's not a coincidence that Anand won two of the three he entered and Kramnik won one of the two.

    Next, "Kramnik's" method of selecting a challenger wasn't "Mickey Mouse" (that phrase again?); it was an attempt to eliminate the Kasparovian method of making his title part of his fiefdom, and was something both parties agreed upon beforehand. Kasparov just didn't like it when he wound up losing and Kramnik stuck to the agreement. Further, Kramnik went altogether in the opposite direction from Kasparov, reuniting the historic title with FIDE.

    Dominant world champions: Capablanca, Botvinnik, Tal and Fischer were not dominant champions. Capablanca came in second in NY 1924 and third in Moscow 1925 (being Lasker both times). This is not dominance. Botvinnik wasn't dominant by any standard; in fact, he's the one who first applied the phrase "first among equals" to the world championship, and he didn't win a single match as champion. (Two draws and three losses.) Tal had a fine result in the Olympiad, and then out he went. Fischer simply quit.

    Now, each of them had periods when they were the best player in the world, but in most cases those peaks were pretty short. Also, while Lasker was the dominant figure from around 1894 when he won the title to around 1909 (when Rubinstein hit his peak), he held the title after that by controversy, ducking and the delay caused by WWI.

    Karpov and Kasparov's reigns were something special, but aside from them I'd stack up the combination of Kramnik's reign, his strength and his influence against all the rest of them. Dominant? No - not like some of his predecessors. But I think he plays better chess than just about all of them, excepting Kasparov (even though Kasparov couldn't dominate Kramnik even when the latter was a teenager).

    As for supposed rating inflation, the jury is still out on that one. Everyone claims it, but Ken Regan's work suggests otherwise, or that at the very least the figures are greatly exaggerated.

    Hopefully we can agree to call it quits on this argument. There are other things more worth doing than continuing this, and I think we've both made our basic case.]

    September 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterobserver

    @ cheVelle
    Oh dear... I guess what I just posted a short time ago as a reply is like playing with nuclear weapons then...

    September 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterobserver

    "Posting that on this blog is like playing with fire!"

    Yes, here Kramnik has a plus score against everybody, including Carlsen, except Anand. Otherwise I think he has a minus score against Nakamura, Caruana, Karjakin, Kamsky and Karpov, and an even score against Carlsen :-)

    [DM: Considering how many top players there are, that's still pretty good. Your stats aren't entirely correct though.

    Vs. Karpov: It's 2-2 in decisive classical games, with Kramnik having won the last two and enjoying a colossal plus at faster time controls. Of course it was an odd pairing, as Karpov was quickly past his prime when Kramnik was on his way up - their primes didn't overlap at all, though around 1996 and 1997 they were both playing relatively near their peaks.

    Vs. Kamsky: You're correct, though it's all from the 1994 Candidates' match. They've barely played since then, especially in classical games.

    Vs. Karjakin: Kramnik's score is horrible here, as I mentioned late in the World Cup coverage when I semi-seriously wondered if it was such a good idea for him to help Karjakin get into the Candidates. And speaking of the World Cup, you can throw in Andreikin, who is still at +1.

    Vs. Caruana: Nope - it's 2-2 in decisive classical games. (Kramnik equalized the scores with his win this summer in Dortmund.)

    Vs. Nakamura: You're correct: 4-3 for Nakamura in classical games.]

    September 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermothra

    @ Dennis:
    I can understand that you do not want to spend a lot of time on this. I would like to make a (hopefully reasonably brief) reply.

    Yes, for sure the ko's will throw up some strong winners. But they also throw up the likes of Khalifman, Ponomariov, Kasimzdhanov, Ushenina, etc, players who have looked nothing like World Champions either before or since; and also allow the likes of Andreikin to qualify for the Candidates by winning just one(!) classical game. For these sorts of reasons, my regard for them is close to zero.

    [DM: And Grischuk very nearly qualified for the world championship in the Candidates itself by winning zero classical games, while Anand and Gelfand only managed to win one apiece in their title match. Pick a format, and there's a problem. As for the list of suspects, they were certainly underdogs, but Khalifman, Ponomariov and Kasimdzhanov were not a set of chumps. (I'm not saying Ushenina is, but will keep the discussion focused on the men's/open side.) Underdogs, yes, but not chumps. Also, if we're including World Cups, the other winners were Kamsky, Gelfand and Svidler - all players of a very high class.]

    The Elo inflation figures may be exaggerated; but for example, that Karpov around 1997-8, when he was well past his best, could have a rating higher than when he was World Champion is good evidence to me that it is there. Also, it needs to be explained why the ratings of the top players was very stable from 1970-1986 and then started rising sharply, never to stop, in that latter year.

    [DM: Obvious answers: There was an explosion of players worldwide, the dissolution of the USSR brought many more strong players into tournament action, and then computers further accelerated players' early growth and the ability of players around the world to develop. As for Karpov, there may have been some inflation by 1996/7 when he hit his peak rating, but I think he was clearly stronger after losing the title. Both Karpov and Kasparov grew hugely as players as a result of their mega-rivalry, and between that and the psychological boost Karpov got when he had the chance to be a world champion again gave him something of a second wind.]

    Perhaps I did not make my definition of a "Super" World Champion quite clear enough. What I meant was was one that has been utterly dominant for a period of time in his career; that time not necessarily being when he was World Champion. Thus:
    Capablanca 1916-1922, including a +4=10-0 victory over Lasker in 1921;
    Botvinnik 1941-1948;
    Tal 1957-1960, and would have been longer but for ill health;
    Fischer 1967-1972;
    these periods don't seem that short to me.

    [DM: I don't discount Capablanca's match win against a middle-aged Lasker who was out of practice, in some financial straits and unaccustomed to the Cuban climate, and who never lost a tournament game to Capablanca until he was a very old man...well, don't discount it much. But he didn't play for most of that period due to the war.

    Botvinnik: He won the Absolute Championship in 1941 - one strong event - and then barely won Groningen in 1946. This is dominance?

    Tal: Yes, it was a great period, but we can't know what he would have done remaining healthy. He himself largely blamed his failure in the 1961 match not on illness but on poor preparation - like Smyslov, he underestimated Botvinnik's ability to learn and adapt.

    I won't grant 1967-1969 for Fischer. For one thing, you can't dominate when you don't play (one game in 1969), and the events in 1968 were little league. In 1967 he won decent, non-supertournaments by half a point each. He was leading the Interzonal too, but hey - he won the 1962 Interzonal by a crushing margin, as did Kotov almost a decade before, and no one thinks they were the strongest players in the world at that time.

    At any rate, I granted that Kramnik didn't have a period of domination, but argued that there were other features of his reign and career that put him among the game's ultimate elite (though certainly below, say, Kasparov).]

    With respect, I don't think you are quite right on the Kramnik selecting challenger thing.
    The ONLY thing agreed between Kasparov and Kramnik before their match was that there was not a rematch clause. There was no agreement as to the format to decide the next challenger.
    After Kasparov lost the match, he made one or two hints that he would like a rematch, but until Braingames announced the format of the Dortmund qualifier, he absolutely did not make any public statement that he would refuse to play in a qualifier.
    You may recall the format that Braingames announced: 2 groups of 4 with double round robin in each (ie 6 games); with top 2 in each group progressing to a semi-final which consisted of 2 games (later made 4 games due to public pressure); and a final of 4 games.
    I was really shocked when I first saw this and my immediate thought was "Kasparov's not going to play in this", and neither would I have if I'd been him.
    To me, this format is real "mickey-mouse", but seeing you don't like that term, shall we say a lot less than acceptable for an event of this importance. It is an even worse format than the 2011 Candidates which Kramnik complained about.
    Despite a big public outcry, and there being far better ways of doing it with the money available, Kramnik refused to change this format. Given Kasparov's well known contempt of knockouts, of which this is just a modified version, Kramnik had to be virtually 100% certain that Kasparov would refuse to play in this. So if Kramnik was genuine, why did he do this?? I just don't get it.
    Of course, Kasparov did refuse to play (justifiably to me), and then, and only then, did he start demanding a rematch.

    [DM: There isn't any point in eliminating a rematch clause if the losing champ can veto a format he doesn't like. I don't think the Dortmund Candidates were too much like the FIDE k.o.s, either, but as I recall it was Brain Games who decided on the format rather than Kramnik, and Kramnik had signed the rights to that company before the match with Kasparov. Anyway, I think Kramnik did the right thing by quitting the pre-WWII and Kasparovian pretense that the champion is bigger than the game and the title is his plaything, to do as he sees fit with it. By allowing the title to return to normalcy and then to FIDE, Kramnik helped fix world chess rather than perpetuating the scandal of the split title.

    Unless there's some way in which you think I've misrepresented your argument or the facts in the foregoing, let's please bury this topic.]

    September 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterobserver

    @ Dennis
    Thanks for your reply.
    Just rounding up; nothing too controversial I hope:

    [DM: And for yours. This one will conclude the discussion.]

    Karpov's 'second wind' was pretty well just Linares 1994, it seems to me. Apart from that, his results in the 90's weren't all that good (for him) on the whole, nothing like the 80's.

    [DM: The level of competition went way up in the 1990s. I'd add that he had plenty of good results even in the period from 1993-1996. He crushed Timman and Kamsky in their World Championship matches while also winning a number of other matches (including a world championship semi-final match with Gelfand) by convincing margins. He won four of six classical international tournaments in 1993 (with one second and an undefeated third in the other two tournaments). 1994 was iffy, with the one spectacular example of Linares, which is on the short list of the greatest tournament victories of all time. In 1995 he won every tournament he played in - including Linares - except for Dortmund, when he went +4 but finished second. His results weren't quite as good in 1996, excepting the most important one of all, his match with Kamsky - but they were still good even by his high standards - until Las Palmas.]

    Capa played in all those years except 1917 and 1920.

    [DM: With the exception of the 1921 match and London 1922, the events were minor and weak. Marshall played in one of the events, and Janowski and Kostic were in a few. None of these three was anywhere close to the level of Lasker, Alekhine, Rubinstein or even Spielmann, Bogoljubow or Tarrasch. And apart from those three, the rest of his opponents were IM level and lower.]

    I think you seriously underestimate Botvinnik's dominance:
    Won the 1941 Absolute Championship by 2.5 points.
    Won a strong Soviet event at Sverdlovsk 1943.
    Won a strong USSR Ch. in 1944.
    Won a very strong USSR Ch. in 1945 with 15/17, 3 points ahead of the field. This field contained 8 of the 10 players of the team that crushed the USA 14.5 - 4.5 later that year.
    Only half a point ahead of Euwe at Groningen 1946, true, but Euwe said this was his best tournament performance in his whole career(!); Botvinnik was 2 points ahead of the 3rd placed player.
    Beat Reshevsky 1.5 - 0.5 in USSR-USA 1946.
    Won Moscow 1947, a tournament that was stronger than Groningen. Here he defeated, and obtained 2 more points than, his main Soviet rival, Keres.
    Won the 1948 World Championship Tournament 3 points ahead of the field.
    For the 7 year period 1941-1948, he won outright every tournament he played in, usually by large or huge margins.
    If this is not dominance, what is? (I almost wonder if you are having me on.)

    [DM: In part this was a bit of sloppiness on my part, but also a bit of rhetoric on yours. I already mentioned the Absolute Championship in 1941 and Groningen 1946 - which wasn't really dominant. Bringing in the 2-game mini-match with Reshevsky is a little silly. Should I bring up his drawn two-game match with Alexander to show that he wasn't dominant? On the other hand, you are completely correct in bringing up the Soviet events during the war. I had remembered reading Botvinnik speak of his non-chess efforts during the "Great Patriotic War", as they called it, and had mistakenly assumed that he was idle for at least a big chunk of those years. He was certainly the dominant player in the USSR at that time.]

    Fischer was already starting to dominate in 1966; After a poor first half of Santa Monica 1966 when he was shaking off the rust of semi-retirement, he crushed the field in the second half, finishing half a point behind Spassky and 2 points ahead of World Champion Petrosian;
    Had ratings been around then, he would have had the best rating performance of the 1966 Havana Olympiad, slightly ahead of Petrosian and well ahead of Spassky;
    My belief is that he would have won a match against anybody from 1967 on.

    [DM: You can believe it, but it doesn't make it so, and he lost to Spassky in 1966 and again in 1970. Fischer was eking out wins in 1967 tournaments ahead of Geller - who beat him twice - while Spassky was drilling Geller with a jackhammer in their Candidates match. And why is Fischer's streak in the second half of the Piatigorsky Cup relevant but his poor first half not? If I get to count all my good streaks and discount the bad ones, I would be an awfully good player myself!]

    This Kasparov - Kramnik thing could be argued a very long time of course, and this is not the time to do it; I would just say here that Braingames was basically Keene (a shonky company he had set up for this WC), and Keene would not have gone against Kramnik's wishes re format. Keene's comment that "he had bent over backwards" to accommodate Kasparov's complaints about the format by increasing the semi-final from 2 games to 4 games was truly laughable.

    [DM: I have no desire whatsoever to defend Keene - does anyone? - but Keene was brought into the situation by Kasparov, not Kramnik.]

    Kasparov was no angel (some of his behaviour in the period 1994-1997 was truly reprehensible), but when he broke from FIDE in 1993 (for reasons similar to the unfairness dished out to Carlsen re Chennai), I don't think he intended the Title to be his plaything; He held a full Challenger cycle in 1994-5; thereafter when sponsorship was short, he consistently offered to play the strongest possible opposition (unlike Alekhine or Lasker). The Shirov thing - Kasparov DID offer him a match in the USA for a low, but not unreasonable amount (and did preparation for it), but Shirov in his conceit thought he was worth more than that so turned it down, claiming he could find better sponsorship, but didn't; Kramnik was in no way to blame for accepting Kasparov's offer of a match in 2000. So if the Title was Kasparov's plaything, I think he handled it reasonably responsibly.

    [DM: We're pretty far afield here, but the remark about Shirov rejecting the offer is news to me. I see Wikipedia makes reference to it, citing a quote from Shirov from an old issue of TWIC; the link doesn't seem to get there anymore, now that Crowther has moved the operation. What I can do is cite Shirov in Fire on Board Part II: 1997-2004.

    He writes: "The hellish period began. First I had some conversations with people close to Kasparov about a possible match against him in California for a prize fund of one million dollars instead of two, and it seemed that an agreement to play under those conditions might be made. But then I received a fax from that other confidence man, this time the vice-president of the WCC, Dr. William Wirth, saying that California was also cancelled. I tried to get the match to Barcelona with the support of the Catalan government, but then - it was October 1998, only four months after Cazorla [the match with Kramnik that qualified him for the title shot] - Kasparov publicly announced that he was going to look for a new challenger. As for my rights... nothing."

    Not exactly the same story!

    In conclusion, no one has changed their minds. :) What else is new for internet debates? Anyway, if the whole point of your case is to say that Kramnik and Anand never had periods where they dominated their rivals, then that's obvious and was granted long ago. We're simply talking about different things. My argument was that Kramnik (and Anand too, I'd say) was by no means a "mediocre" champion, particularly as a world champion. Kramnik defeated the greatest player of all time (at least as of that time) to win the title, and defended his title twice - including once against a player who seemed at the time to be as dominant as Kasparov had been. He was the second highest-rated player ever when he won the title, and one can point to other marks of greatness as well - his contributions to opening theory have set the table for professional chess more than almost any player in history, and far more than any of his great contemporaries - possibly even including Kasparov over the period when their careers overlapped.

    Hopefully we're equally satisfied and dissatisfied, because that's the end of this discussion here, at least for now!]

    September 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterobserver

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