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    « Sinquefield Cup, Round 6: Caruana 6-0! | Main | Sharjah Update: Hou Yifan Closing in on the Grand Prix Crown, Polgar's Rating »
    Sunday
    Aug312014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 5: Caruana 5-0 (Updated)

    Prior to this round Fabiano Caruana was 0-3 against Hikaru Nakamura in decisive games played with a classical time control, but that didn't stop the golden boy of the Sinquefield Cup. He outplayed his opponent with the black pieces, and while he could have won a little more easily it was still a convincing victory overall, and he now enjoys a remarkable 5-0 score at the halfway point.

    Two other players won today, and share second place. Magnus Carlsen slowly ground out a win in a rook ending against Levon Aronian (winning, like Caruana, with Black) while Veselin Topalov won on the white side of a Najdorf against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Both players looked very good in winning, and as both Carlsen and Topalov are very dangerous once their confidence levels go up it's too soon to hand first prize to Caruana. On the other hand, Caruana will have White against both players in the second cycle, making it that much more difficult for them to catch up.

    This is especially so with tomorrow's rest day, which might serve to break Caruana's rhythm a bit. So far, however, this is one of the great starts in tournament chess history, going 5-0 against the world's #1 and #2 (former #2 now) and three other players in the top ten.

    Round 6 pairings (Tuesday): Nakamura (1.5) - Aronian (1.5), Caruana (5) - Topalov (2.5), Carlsen (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)

    Games later.

     UPDATE: Games here. I've annotated Nakamura-Caruana in some detail and offered a brief explanatory note at the end of Topalov vs. Vachier-Lagrave.

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    Reader Comments (10)

    Caruana can do the following:

    1) Refresh himself and his preparations on the "rest day" for the next 5-0 run.
    2) Negotiate with Rex Sinquefield for a match with Carlsen. If Sinquefield puts up the funds and Carlsen refuses to bow to Kirsan, many would love to see the match between the current number 1 and number 2 on the September 2014 ratings list.

    [DM: Who knows? - If Carlsen doesn't sign the match contract, maybe he will try some renegade, freelance alternative to the world championship. Hope it doesn't come to that, though.]

    August 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTrill

    I drove to Saint Louis for a family trip this weekend so i could see this tournament. Its a fantastic tournament and venue. I highly encourage anyone who can swing it to head over. Bar right next to the tourn with gm analysis and hall of fame across the street with a different gm giving analysis.

    The players are all very nice and willing to sign autographs after the game. My girls had a blast seeing (8 and 10) the world champion and all the other players.

    August 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe McCarron

    It's amazing to think that Caruana didn't even qualify for the candidates in 2012 and 2013. A stunning rise!

    [DM: Not so amazing, as he was very close. Remember the horrible short draw in the last round of the final Grand Prix event against Dominguez? If he won that, he'd have qualified.]

    Karpov's once in a lifetime performance at Linares 1994 is most definitely under threat. Sensational play.

    September 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

    WOW. What an amazing show, Caruana is putting on. This is Fischer like play. He is playing like he wants to win every game. Oh, he is.
    BRING HIM BACK!

    [DM: A Fischer-like result so far, anyway. Players know more today than in Fischer's era, and Fischer's streak didn't come against anyone even close to the level of Carlsen, Aronian, etc.]

    September 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLarry L.

    The most impressive thing about Caruana is that it's not like he's taking cheapies. He's just playing nearly perfect chess. I'm sure he'll come down to earth in the back half, at least for a game or two, but he is remorseless so far.

    September 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMikeO

    I have no special attachment to Caruana (send him back!) but I hope his streak continues! It's a remarkable feat and it's very exciting to to see how his tournament finishes.

    September 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommentercheVelle

    Will a 10-0 result cause Caruana to become number one by rating?

    Will a 10-0 result get Caruana a match with Carlsen?

    If "Caruana fear" takes over like "Fischer fear" did forty four years ago, then 10-0 is likely.

    [DM: Not unless Carlsen loses several games.]

    September 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTrill

    Before we get too carried away by Caruana's streak, it's worth remembering that if you play enough games, and win say 25% of them, then one day you are going to have a long streak of wins. So observing such a streak doesn't necessarily reveal that much. Moreover, we are going to be especially influenced by a streak which starts with the start of a tournament, but that surely has much more to do with psychological salience than objective significance. Since when did anyone celebrate a streak which started with the last two games in one tournament, continued for one Bundesliga match, and finished with the first two games of the next tournament? But it's hard to see why that is really much different from one which starts with the start of a tournament.

    I wouldn't know how to do the stats for this, but my guess would be that Carlsen's streak of 2870 ish performance for however many years he's done it now is more impressive by several orders of magnitude.

    September 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDavid McCarthy

    David,

    The math on that being a statistical abnormality isn't very hard - it goes like this:

    .25 ^ 6 = .0002.

    That's 1/50th of 1 percent chance that happens in 6 games. So he has to play about 5000 games for this to happen IF playing a chess game was like the flip of a coin. But that's where this analogy breaks down.

    Players fluctuate in strength. They fluctuate in both real strength and in their energy levels and confidence levels and focus. This means basically you need to care about the distribution of his wins with regards to tournament position, physical health, round number, opponents, etc.

    At any rate, my database shows that Kortchnoi has 4458 games over the course of 70 years. That means if Caruana played at a 2800 levels for 70 years - he still wouldn't have played enough games on average to guarantee this kind of result.

    Give him some credit perhaps.

    September 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoss Hytnen

    Ross,

    I could have made this clearer, but the statistical questions I was interested in are much harder than the one you address. One question was: how does Caruana's streak compare, with respect to some measure of impressiveness, with Carlsen's very long streak of 2870-ish performance?

    Another question was: to what extent is Caruana's streak a matter of luck? The long run of coin tosses idea was meant to illustrate one basic aspect of the problem, but as you say, it's more complicated, partly because it's at least possible that there are fluctuations in a player's genuine level of strength. So the second question forces us to ask: to what extent has Caruana been extra lucky, and to what extent has his level of playing strength jumped massively?

    Even ignoring variability in his opponents' performance, which I'll come to shortly, this is a fairly hard question, and one we are prone to get wrong, in the sense that we greatly over-attribute to skill what's really just randomness. This was studied a lot by Kahneman and Tversky and others in the context of basketball, where they concluded that the so-called "hot hand" phenomenon is a cognitive illusion. However, from speaking to statisticians who've worked on this, Kahneman and Tversky got the stats wrong, and there is a hot hand phenomenon, but it's very weak. That's why I was assuming the stats are quite hard for this kind of problem.

    Now in the case of chess, we also have to think about the opponents, so part of the question is: how well have Caruana's opponents been playing? From Kenneth Regan's stats from a couple of posts back, at the halfway point Caruana's IPR was 2960, his opponents was 2490. As Regan put it, it's "[t]he perfect storm: you play over 2950 and your opponents play under 2500."

    So before we start concluding that Caruana hasn't in significant part just been very lucky, we might ask ourselves: what is the prior likelihood that you enter a tournament where your opponents have an average 2800 rating, but don't manage to scrape together a 2500 performance against you?

    [DM: I think it's easy to misinterpret what an opponent's IPR means, and if I'm not mistaken this is something Ken has been working on. Caruana's opponent's low IPRs could mean that they're playing badly, but it can also mean that he's creating interesting problems that they don't know how to handle. One way of confirming the latter interpretation is to see what their IPRs are against everyone else. If their IPRs in the remaining games were similar, then fine, we can talk about Caruana having a perfect storm of good play on his part and bad form by everyone else. But if they're generally playing like themselves in their other games, then the explanation is Caruana's ability to pose problems they aren't well-equipped to handle and not good luck.]

    If we wanted a true measure of Caruana's performance, surely a good place to start, even if it's not the final say on the matter, is his IPR. At the halfway point it's 2960, which is very impressive, but from memory, it's a level Carlsen has knocked out consistently over longer stretches, and was regularly seen in recent world championship matches.

    It shouldn't be necessary to add that I am hardly not giving Caruana any credit.

    September 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDavid McCarthy

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