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    Entries in Magnus Carlsen (120)

    Tuesday
    Oct212014

    Comedy Time: Karpov on Carlsen

    Anatoly Karpov's comment that he and Bobby Fischer were stronger than Magnus Carlsen is rather hard to believe and is almost comical, but I'll offer four remarks in his defense.

    First, he prefaced it with "I think", offering a bit of a hedge. He wasn't making a categorical pronouncement.

    Second, Karpov is assuming that rating inflation is obvious. Given that assumption, his supposition becomes more plausible.

    Third, he notes that Carlsen is still developing. Though Karpov, like Carlsen, became the world champion in his early 20s, he didn't reach his peak in his early 20s but sometime later (in fact, his all-time highest rating was accomplished when he was 43 and his highest official rating when he was 45!). So Carlsen has plenty of time to improve even further.

    Fourth, Karpov's claims may be based in part on dominance, and both he and Fischer had longer and/or clearer margins of dominance than Carlsen.

    In reply, the first rebuttal makes it easier to swallow but doesn't do anything to support the claim on its merits.

    Point two has been disputed by Ken Regan, who claims that there hasn't been rating inflation. (There was a brief period where there were maybe 30 points' worth of inflation, but that bump was subsequently eliminated.) In correspondence and conversation I've asked whether his model fails to take the increased depth of theoretical preparation into account, and in reply he has noted that even if we compare the players of today with those of yesteryear taking only moves 17-32 into account, there's still no good evidence of rating inflation.

    Point three, like point one, mitigates the shock value of the claim but doesn't support the claim itself.

    Point four is both iffy and a change of subject. Fischer's lead over the rest of the world was greater than Carlsen's, but Carlsen's lead was greater than Karpov's when the latter became champion. Karpov was then dominant for years, but as Carlsen only won the title last year the time hasn't elapsed to make the comparison of their reigns. And even if Karpov's reign proves more impressive than Carlsen's, relatively speaking, it doesn't show that he was the stronger player. Emanuel Lasker was great and was world champion for 27 years, but I don't believe that Karpov concludes that Lasker was therefore the strongest player of all time.

    Anyway, it's an interesting interview, and there are other entertaining bits to be savored and disputed as well.

    Tuesday
    Oct212014

    Magnus Carlsen on the Beeb

    Dominic Lawson is conducting a five-part "Across the Board" series on BBC Radio 4, and his first guest, next Monday, is Magnus Carlsen. (The second guest will be Murray Campbell of Deep Blue fame; the remaining interviewees don't seem to have been announced yet.) Lawson is a "regular" journalist, but he has been around the game for a long time and should be able to ask questions that will be interesting not only to non-players but to those of us who know and love the game. Let's hope so!

    HT: Marc Beishon.

    Sunday
    Oct192014

    The Anand-Carlsen Rematch: A Reader Writes

    "MK" writes in with the following questions and comments; my replies are interspersed:

    1) Betting odds show that you should bet on Carlsen - if you believe Carlsen has more than 77% chance of winning.   If you believe Anand has more than 28% chance of winning, you should bet on Anand (odds offered are 45/17 - i.e. you bet 17 and casino puts in 45 for a total pot of 62). Who would you bet on?

    I'm not interested in promoting gambling, nor would I want anyone to lose money by following my guesses! So no answer here. (One comment though: I assume the odds you give add up to more 100% because of the house's take.)

    2) Whats your advice to Anand (or what do you expect Anand to change)

    I would expect more games like games 3 and 9, where Anand puts pressure on Carlsen. Moreover, Anand should play forever when he has a small advantage - primarily for psychological reasons, but also because Carlsen is a bully on the chessboard, and doesn't like to defend. Carlsen is great in endings where he can push, but has lost plenty of endings when he has had to defend. He's an incredible player, but he's human.

    a) Last WCC Anand played a little scared or maybe we should call it cautious  (i.e. he didnt push when he had a marginal advantage whereas Carlsen played till the very end when Carlsen had a marginal advantage) (another example is he played the Berlin defence late in the match despite being  he was 2 games down.  Do you think Anand needs to push more and believe in himself and be more optimistic? 

    Yes to both comments.

    b) Do you think Anand showed a better approach during the Candidates?  I thought he did but his unwillingness to work out a win against Andreikin disappointed me a little.

    I'm not really bothered by the Andreikin game, because at that point in the event the a loss would have been more harmful than a win would have been beneficial, in both cases relative to a draw. But there were a couple of other games earlier in the event where I did have some of the disappointment you're alluding to. He did play well there, but I think what we might call his "cynical minimalism" is just never going to work against Carlsen, even if it does against everyone else in the world.

    c) Last WCC, Anand lost a game or two in the end game.  Do you think his endgame technique needs to be sharpened and that he should expect Carlsen to continue pushing even in equal situations till bare kings

    There's only so much sharpening he can do. I think in the endgame he will always be Carlsen's inferior - that's the strongest aspect of Carlsen's game - but he must avoid playing "Neville Chamberlain chess" at all costs. Carlsen will never give him peace or be satisfied with small concessions; he'll greedily take those gifts and then beat his opponent over the head with them. Game 3 last year was an example of this that Anand didn't seem to learn from at all. Anand had been better and missed some great opportunities to win. At some point he gave up trying to win, but rather than offering a draw from a position of strength he gave away the rest of his advantage as if to lay down his arms, and only then offered a draw. At this point Carlsen no longer had any need to shake hands, and managed to put some slight pressure on Anand for the next dozen moves or so. It's not that Anand was in any trouble, but there was absolutely no reason for him to take up the role of supplicant, forfeiting the psychological advantage he had enjoyed all game long.

    d)  Related to C above what does Anand need to do to improve his stamina in the 3rd / 4th / 5th hour of the game

    Whatever physical exercise his doctor recommends, plus long training sessions simulating the kinds of pressure Carlsen will put him under.

    e) Anand was fidgety / nervous in the last WCC.   I think he needs to focus on his diet and workouts and also maybe spend time with his wife/son before each game to lower his stress levels.

    Agreed. And at a bare minimum, he should find some way to hide his nervousness during the game - the way his fingers trembled looked awful, and must have boosted Carlsen's confidence while doing nothing for his own.

    f) if Carlsen lost, would he be very demoralized so much so that his performance in the next Candidates matches will be materially adversely impacted?

    Doubtful. He's young and resilient, and there will be plenty of time between a hypothetical loss here and the next Candidates. The latter event won't occur until late 2015 or early 2016.

    g) If Anand won, I think it might be the greatest achievement of his career.

    Agreed!

    Thursday
    Oct162014

    A Short Carlsen Interview

    The world championship rematch between the current chess king, Magnus Carlsen, and his dethroned predecessor, Viswanathan Anand, is coming up in about three weeks. So it's time to put the match back on our radar screens, and we'll begin with this link to a Carlsen interview.

    A little tease, which was first given me by the person who told me about the article, Jaideep Unudurti. Carlsen compares himself a bit to both Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov, which is understandable, but he also compares himself to another U.S. player. Guess who, then check out the interview to see if you were right.

    Sunday
    Sep072014

    Match On! Carlsen Signs The Contract

    After weeks of drama and delay, Magnus Carlsen was facing a deadline - today: sign the contract for the world championship match against Viswanathan Anand, slated to begin in two months in Sochi, Russia, or be forfeited and replaced. Carlsen signed.

    Saturday
    Sep062014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 9: Three Draws; Missed Opportunities for Caruana & Carlsen

    The Sinquefield Cup is winding down and the players are perhaps starting to run out of gas. Fabiano Caruana played 38 very good moves against Hikaru Nakamura on the white side of a Berlin ending and had him at death's door. Fatigue and moderate time trouble struck, and he made an inaccuracy on move 39 and a big oversight on move 40. Even after the time control he still had some winning chances, but he failed to make anything of them and Nakamura drew comfortably by the end.

    Likewise, Magnus Carlsen seemed to be grinding his way to a win against Levon Aronian, but shortly before cashing in he saw the right idea but talked himself into a different move (or at least a different move order), one which didn't work. Aronian escaped.

    Veselin Topalov could have caught up with Carlsen in second place with a win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but although he obtained an advantage with Black he couldn't turn it into a win, so he remains in clear third.

    The tournament ends tomorrow (though there will be some other events following it), and these are the pairings: Aronian - Caruana, Topalov - Carlsen, Nakamura - Vachier-Lagrave.

    Games here (the Caruana & Carlsen games are annotated), tournament site here.

    Wednesday
    Sep032014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 7: Caruana 7-0!

    The "impossible" continues to be not only possible but actual at the Sinquefield Cup, as Fabiano wins yet again. With his second victory over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the tournament Caruana improves to 7-0, guaranteeing himself at least a tie for first in the tournament. (In case there is a tie, there will be a playoff.) Caruana played the solid Queen's Gambit Declined, but Vachier-Lagrave was ambitious (as he should be with the white pieces). Unfortunately, his accuracy didn't live up to his ambition, and the strange 14.Qa4 led to all kinds of trouble. Soon he was a pawn down with a vagabond king, and Caruanaadministered yet another drubbing of a top-10 opponent. Incredible.

    Nevertheless, a glimmer of suspense remains in the tournament, as Magnus Carlsen still has a tiny chance to end the tournament equal with Caruana. Today he did what he needed to do against his regular customer, Hikaru Nakamura. (Their cassical score, excluding draws, is now 11-0 for Carlsen.) Nakamura played a Slav line he has used before, but goofed something up very early and was almost losing after 11 moves. Carlsen had a very easy time of it, and with 4/7 and Caruana on tap for tomorrow he can still fight for first, or at least to make it a good tournament. Caruana will have the white pieces, and has remained level-headed throughout the tournament, so chances are he won't implode out of dizziness.

    The third game, between Veselin Topalov and Levon Aronian, was drawn.

    The games, with my notes to the first two, are here. Tomorrow's pairings are Nakamura (2) - Topalov (3), Aronian (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (2.5), and Caruana (4) - Carlsen (7).

    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.

    Sunday
    Aug312014

    Barden on the Carlsen-FIDE Controversy

    Here. (HT: Marc Beishon) Not much if any new information there, but his opinion that Magnus Carlsen's potential abdication is a lose-lose for both sides seems to me spot on.

    Saturday
    Aug302014

    Carlsen's Contract Deadline Extended to September 7

    It still isn't as long a delay as Magnus Carlsen's manager Espen Agdestein wants, as it coincides with the duration of the Sinquefield Cup and must therefore weigh on him and take his attentional resources, but it at least gives him another week to decide. More here. (HT: Thomas Richter)