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    Entries in 2013 World Championship (32)

    Wednesday
    Nov062013

    A Norwegian Documentary on Magnus Carlsen

    This is a very pleasant documentary on Magnus Carlsen, suitable for chess player and non-chess player alike. Worth a look.

    HT: Glenn Snow

    Saturday
    Nov022013

    Another Anand Interview

    From the Financial Times, c/o Jaideep Unudurti, and better than the usual patter.

    Tuesday
    Oct222013

    "Anand-Carlsen Bigger Than Spassky-Fischer"?

    This claim, which is also the headline of this article (HT: Jaideep Unudurti), initially struck me as utter poppycock. The 1972 match between world champion Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union and Bobby Fischer of the U.S.A. involved the world's two super-powers, nations that were not only significant in their own right but as the representatives of two very different and radically opposed political systems. India is an up-and-coming (and extremely populous) nation and Norway is a beautiful and prosperous country, but neither plays the sort of role that the USSR or the USA did.

    What about the players? Viswanathan Anand strikes me as a more impressive version of Boris Spassky. Both are gentleman and fantastic players in their own right, both were world junior champions and both took a bit longer to become champion than their immense talent and great early results led people to expect. Anand's results and longevity are greater than Spassky's, though on the other hand Spassky's dominance from 1965 to 1970 may represent a longer stretch at the top than Anand's.*

    As for Bobby Fischer and Magnus Carlsen, both were dominant players. The distance between Fischer and world #2 Spassky was colossal - 125 points! Carlsen is "only" 69 points higher-rated than world #2 Levon Aronian and 95 points higher than Anand. ("Ouch!" for the champion in any case.) On the other hand, Carlsen has achieved this match and his dominance at an earlier age than Fischer did. Still, Fischer was a far more charismatic and enigmatic figure than Carlsen. Carlsen comes across as a normal, well-adjusted individual, and I suspect that what non-chessplaying people remember most about Carlsen after seeing some program about him is that he is called the "Mozart of chess". (That label was bestowed on him in 2004 by Lubosh Kavalek, and is to me even more cringeworthy** than Hans Kmoch's calling Fischer's 1956 win over Donald Byrne the "Game of the Century".) Further, while Carlsen has received strong coaching every step of the way, Fischer was largely (not entirely) a self-made player. Both are fantastic players with staggering amounts of talent and drive, who made the most of their gifts, but in terms of their "notoriety quotients" Carlsen barely registers as a blip compared to Fischer. (That's not necessarily a bad thing!)

    So, as I said, I was inclined to dismiss the organizer's remark as near-nonsense, as a bit of self-serving and self-congratulatory propaganda, and wasn't going to post. But I recognize that my thoughts about this are very likely influenced to some degree by the fact that I live in (what was) Fischer's country, the United States of America. So I ask my European and South Asian friends and readers, especially those who go back to the Fischer era or at least know those who lived through it, to tell me how things seem in your neck of the woods. Could it really be that the upcoming Anand-Carlsen match is making a bigger splash than Spassky-Fischer in 1972 - particularly in the broader culture?

     

    * (Yes, I'm aware that Spassky was world champion from 1969-1972.)

    ** Kavalek came up with that moniker to meet a deadline, Carlsen himself apparently didn't and maybe still doesn't care for it very much, and the game that inspired Kavalek (Carlsen-Ernst, Wijk aan Zee 2004) was already worked out by Carlsen beforehand, if I remember correctly.

    Monday
    Oct212013

    The Odds In The Anand-Carlsen Match, According to One Statistician

    One statistician (not much of a sample size, is it?) - or rather, one economist in training, with some background in statistics - argues that the odds for the classical part of the upcoming Carlsen-Anand match are very heavily in the challenger's favor. On his (Matthew Wilson's) most generous interpretation, Carlsen has a 77.2% chance of winning the match before the tiebreaks, Anand a mere 10.3% chance. Have a look. (For comments on his argument, see here. If you're interested in his discussion of previous championship matches, then this is the article for you.)

    Sunday
    Oct202013

    Dreev, Svidler and Vitiugov on the Anand-Carlsen Match

    Thomas Richter emailed to let me know about some comments by Russian players on the upcoming world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen. Here's what he wrote, with some comments by me in parentheses:

    Some things complementary to interviews by Anand and Carlsen themselves. The first is easy as it was already in English:

    Dreev – “Anand is motivated and Carlsen is also very strong. Both are great players and have chances.” – saying nothing and a lot at the same time? Source http://chessbase.com/Home/TabId/211/PostId/4011565/dreev-wins-indonesia-open-2013-181013.aspx

    [DM: I'm more inclined to the "nothing" interpretation.]

    The rest is originally in Russian (on request, pointed out to me by Colin McGourty) and Google translation does a relatively poor job, at least I needed to read that version two or three times before understanding or thinking to understand:

    http://russiachess.org/news/report/petr_svidler_turnir_mog_nachatsya_sovcem_inache/

    http://chesspro.ru/interview/svidler_vitiugov_interview

    Svidler said, if he had to pick a favorite, it’s still Carlsen – but only by 60-40 or rather 55-45.

    [DM: Google Translate was more helpful to me - maybe you were going from Russian to German, and then translating from that to English? In particular, it renders Svidler as saying that 60-40 is if Carlsen is in top form, 55-45 if he is only in good form.]

    His main rationales are that Anand, unlike Carlsen, is a “debyutchik” (opening specialist), and that Anand the match player vs. Anand the tournament player are quite different persons. He also said that the risk of food poisoning in a 5-star hotel in India is as high/low as the risk of food poisoning in a 5-star hotel anywhere.

    Vitiugov seems to have a stronger preference for Carlsen, but takes Svidler’s points (the second interview is a joint one, and Svidler was asked first).

    The interviews were mainly about the Russian championship, just one short Svidler quote: “Strange as it seems because he lost two games and I lost none, but I think Volodya [Kramnik] played brighter than me.” Compare this to Carlsen after the candidates event: “Kramnik was impressive, but I deserved to win because I played the best chess.”

    I wrote an own article on this but it’s in German: http://www.schach-welt.de/BLOG/Blog/RussischeStimmenzurWM.

    Sunday
    Oct202013

    Carlsen Interview in the Guardian

    Thanks to both Russell Whittington (by email) and Marc (in comments) for passing along the link to this interview, which I in turn send your way. Enjoy.

    Saturday
    Oct192013

    Short Anand, Carlsen Interviews

    All from the Times of India: First, a short piece with Viswanathan Anand (HT: Jaideep Unudurti) whose most interesting revelation to those unfamiliar with Indian culture is that while his son roots for Jerry, the champion's sympathies are with Tom.

    I will make a similar confession, that especially as a teen and young adult I hated the Road Runner and wished I was rich so I could produce a cartoon where the hapless Wile E. Coyote caught and dined upon his infernal prey. Unlike Bugs Bunny, who was witty and infinitely more clever than Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam put together, the Road Runner was sometimes lucky and sometimes simply cheated! It must be admitted that what the Coyote had in cleverness and persistence, he more than made up for with an all-encompassing lack of wisdom. Bugs Bunny is like an idealized version of ourselves. He's vulnerable, but by wit and pluck can escape his plight. The Road Runner, by contrast, cannot be anthropomorphized. He (she? it?) is wholly other, a cruel and implacable trickster without a soul or a history. It is impossible for the Coyote to triumph within the world of the Road Runner, and alas, he is unable to escape it. The Coyote cannot succeed, cannot die, and cannot change. He is in hell - or would be, were it not for the last item in Pandora's Box. He has hope, and does not realize the futility of his quest. His existence continues to be a meaningful one, at least to himself.

    From the trivial world of cartoons to the significant world of chess - or is it the other way around? - it's time to mention the second interview, of Magnus Carlsen. There are some little gems in there, including his calling Vladimir Kramnik a "loose cannon" for some of his sharper remarks, his remark that theories about rating inflation are themselves "a bit inflated", and an unclear answer that seems as if he's ready to be a hypocrite and preserves the world champion's advantages if he wins the title.

    Finally, there's some provocative material in this third article, in which Carlsen is coy when asked if he is working with Garry Kasparov leading up to the match, and criticizes the lack of fight in some of Anand's games with Boris Gelfand in last year's title tilt.

    Time for more editorializing. Carlsen is right to be confident, both for objective reasons and pragmatic ones, too. But he seems confident to the point of cockiness, which leads me to wonder two things. First, if he is doing himself a double disservice by being overconfident and by giving Anand extra motivation. Anand is a middle-aged guy who has started a family, and his general momentum is that of a man who is enjoying life and no longer driven to stay at the highest peak. Why give him this added motivation? Let sleeping champions lie! Second, I'm wondering how Carlsen will fare if things go wrong and he has to face some real adversity. Let's suppose he falls a couple of games behind in the match. Will he be able to readjust? Or let's say he even loses the match. Will he bounce back like Vassily Smyslov in 1957 and Boris Spassky in 1969, or will he sink back into the pack for a while like Anand did after his loss to Kasparov in 1995? (It seems less likely that he would slowly start to fade, as David Bronstein did after 1951, or would disappear from the highest levels as Andrei Sokolov did after being demolished by Anatoly Karpov in 1987.) Intriguing questions, but it's possible that he's too much stronger than Anand for us to find out.

    Monday
    Sep022013

    Anand: I Put Myself in Magnus Carlsen's Head and Think

    Wouldn't that amount to murder? And how would he get in there, anyway? And what would become of the world championship cycle in that case? Miserable materialist metaphors aside, here's a short semi-interview between Jaideep Unudurti, who regularly comments on this blog, and world champion Viswanathan Anand.

    Wednesday
    Aug212013

    Carlsen's Recce in Chennai

    Magnus Carlsen and team are doing recce - reconnaissance, if like me you were hitherto unfamiliar with that military term - in Chennai, India. Most of what you'll read in the article is what you'd expect to see, but there are some interesting details in the final few paragraphs.

    HT: Jaideep

    Tuesday
    May072013

    FIDE Decides on Chennai; Carlsen Reluctantly Accepts the Decision

    As a couple of commentators noted in the comments section to my previous post, FIDE decided that the Chennai bid would be accepted, end of story. Fortunately, but with understandable disappointment, Magnus Carlsen has accepted the decision, and will hopefully play his best chess against Anand in Chennai but also against his rivals starting tomorrow (today, for most of us) in the super-event starting in Norway. (Blitz today, "real" chess tomorrow and thereafter.)