So reports TWIC; Festival da Uva tournament website here. It's a strange amalgam of time controls, with everything from g/5 to g/60. Looks like it should be a nice and relaxing event for him, while his potential rivals are doing their last bits of preparation for the Candidates' tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, starting March 13. (In olden days I would have typed "brrr" or some such thing after listing the place name, but as the Arctic has decided to relocate in the American "Midwest" this winter a trip to Siberia might be just the place for a little warm weather.)
Entries in Magnus Carlsen (84)
Magnus Carlsen had a very bad time of things in the (quick) rapid games on Tuesday, and came close to losing his lead at the Zurich Chess Challenge. Close, but not close enough for Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana to catch him. All three players won their first game - Carlsen over Boris Gelfand, Aronian over Viswanathan Anand and Caruana over Hikaru Nakamura - and it looked like the deal was done. Carlsen enjoyed a two point lead over Aronian and a three point lead on Caruana, with just four games to go.
But then it got interesting. Aronian outplayed Carlsen and won handily to close to within a point. Caruana only drew with Gelfand, so he only closed his gap to two and a half points. In round 3 Carlsen drew with Nakamura, and while Aronian remained a point behind after a draw with Gelfand, Caruana got another half a point closer by defeating Anand. (That was three losses in a row for Anand, incidentally.)
Round 4 was the big chance. Caruana outplayed Carlsen, coming to within a single point of the leader. Had Aronian managed to defeat Nakamura, he would have caught Carlsen in first. Nakamura has been a regular "customer" of his for some time now, but not today. Nakamura won a good game, and so Aronian remained a point behind.
Round 5 was a mere formality. Carlsen had White against Anand, and cynically (but understandably) repeated game 8 of their match pretty much move for move. The players conducted the whole game at blitz tempo, called it a draw, and Carlsen clinched. (I enjoyed Nakamura's disdainful expression as he looked up at the electronic display as this was going on.) Caruana and Aronian played a real game, which also ended in a draw, and thus they finished tied for second, a point behind Carlsen. (Caruana took second on tiebreak.) Here are the full final standings:
1. Carlsen 10 (out of 15 - the classical games were scored double)
2. Caruana 9
3. Aronian 9
4. Nakamura 7.5 (he finished the rapid with a very strong 3.5/4)
5. Anand 5
6. Gelfand 4.5
As is fitting for a world champion, Magnus Carlsen has won the classical stage of the 2014 Zurich Chess Classic, finishing with a terrific, undefeated score of 4/5. Or rather, 8/10, as they are using a 2-1-0 scoring system for the classical stage. The tournament is not over, because today (or tomorrow, depending on where you are) there will be a rapid stage too, another round-robin but with colors reversed and a 15' + 10" time control where the games will count in their usual way: 1-.5-0.
In round 1 Carlsen defeated Boris Gelfand in a very good game, on the white side of a sort of Fianchetto Gruenfeld/Slav hybrid. In round 2 he again had White, but couldn't get anything against Levon Aronian and the game ultimately finished in a draw. The key game came in round 3, against Hikaru Nakamura. Both players were +1 coming into the game, and mentioned in this post Nakamura has recently taken it upon himself the mantle of the chess world's best hope to unseat the new champion. Things started off great for Nakamura, who obtained a clearly winning position and had more than one way to finish the job. Unfortunately, he faltered shortly before the time control, first going from seriously winning to clearly better, to equal and then losing. Carlsen won, and then he won again in round 4 against Fabiano Caruana - without drama. Finally, Carlsen finished with a very easy draw with Black against Viswanathan Anand.
Levon Aronian also had a good tournament, but he faltered at the finish, in keeping with his unfortunate new "habit". He outplayed Anand in round 1, drew with Carlsen in round 2 (as already mentioned), drew with Gelfand in round 3 and then crushed a probably dispirited Nakamura in round 4. In the last round, however, he lost to Caruana, who in turn wound up in third with a 50% score. Anand and Nakamura both finished at -1, while Gelfand brought up the rear of the train with a -2 score.
Tomorrow's action begins bright and (painfully) early, at 1 p.m. local time in Zurich, meaning 7 a.m. ET.
Here are two interesting quotations from Hikaru Nakamura. First, from his Twitter account last year, after Magnus Carlsen won the title:
Starting to realize that I am the only person who is going to be able to stop Sauron in the context of chess history.
Second, there's this from the cover of the latest issue of New In Chess Magazine. [N.B. I haven't received my copy yet, and perhaps all is clearly explained therein.]
I do feel that at the moment I am the biggest threat to Carlsen.
I think this may be an example of what psychologists call precommitment: one removes possible paths of escape so that he has no choice but to face a particular challenge. Given this lack of choice, moreover, one is likelier to muster one's full effort - the only way out is through, as the saying goes.
Objectively, these remarks are doubly dubious. First, he has never beaten Carlsen in a classical game, so it's hard to see why Middle Earth should put its ("preciousssss"?) resources behind H.N. Baggins. Second, while Levon Aronian perhaps showed a little psychological weakness in his final round game with Carlsen in last year's Sinquefield Cup, why not go for him? He's the world's clear #2 at the moment, and there's no obvious reason why he couldn't beat Carlsen in a match; likewise Vladimir Kramnik when he is on song. I don't mean that either would be a favorite against Carlsen, but if we're discussing "best chances" they look like the best options at the moment. One might also wonder why Nakamura is a better option for the next cycle than some of the younger players coming up, like Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri. None of this is to deny that Nakamura could have his chances as well, only the plausibility of his statements.
As a practical matter though, it's quite interesting. By making such a bold statement he is putting pressure on himself to deliver results, and if that's what he needs to train his best it may be a good strategy. I get the feeling too that Nakamura's remarks about Carlsen get under the latter's skin a little. More than once - including after their game today - I've seen Carlsen rankle a bit when any suggestion arises that Nakamura is an especially difficult opponent for him. Maybe irritating cool customer Carlsen is also part of the plan.
Are Nakamura's comments exemplars of the best kind of sportsmanship? Perhaps not, but they're not really rude, either. I think they're primarily his attempt to psych himself up, and they're a little amusing too - at least the one calling Carlsen "Sauron". So let's end this post on appropriately absurd and light note:
What a strange and interesting blitz tournament, especially when viewed through Magnus Carlsen's performance! In round one, he had White against Fabiano Caruana, and he was beaten like a child. (Playing Bill Gates isn't going to help your chess when you're the world champion.) In round 2 he had White against Boris Gelfand, and Gelfand outplayed him too. Carlsen did manage to fight back and save the game by a thread, but it still wasn't an auspicious start. In round 3 Carlsen was completely lost against Levon Aronian out of the opening, and down two minutes on the clock besides, but grimly hung on and managed a draw.
At this point, he finally got things together, and was helped by playing Viswanathan Anand, who seems unable to play well against the champ. Anand was comprehensively beaten, resigning after just 21 moves with mate coming on the next turn. A win in the final game, against Hikaru Nakamura, finished his comeback, and he tied for first with Levon Aronian at +1, coming first on tiebreaks.
Behind Carlsen and Aronian, Nakamura, Caruana and Anand finished on 50%, with Nakamura getting the coveted third place and thus an extra White game in the real tournament. Gelfand finished in last with 1.5.
Here are the pairings for round 1 of the classical tournament, which starts tomorrow (Thursday):
- Carlsen - Gelfand
- Aronian - Anand
- Nakamura - Caruana
There will doubtless be dozens of Magnus Carlsen videos in the aftermath of his world championship victory over Viswanathan Anand, and many will be more in-depth than this one. This one's not so bad for a short one, and he gave an interesting and quite direct reply when asked if he expected that the match would be such a one-sided affair.
Magnus Carlsen is the new world chess champion, achieving this final landmark eight days shy of his 23rd birthday. With a 6-3 lead coming into game 10 he only needed a draw to win the best-of-12 match against (now former world champion) Viswanathan Anand, and he succeeded.
Some thought Anand would be amenable to a short draw, but to his credit he played a full game. He tried to liven things up with a Sicilian (no Berlin, to the relief of many spectators), but Carlsen kept the position quiet and controlled, and at one moment had good winning chances. Anand's 28...Qg5 was a serious error, but after 29.e5 Ne8 Carlsen let him off the hook with 30.exd6; instead, something like 30.Nc3 Rc6 31.f4 Qd8 32.Na4 would have left Anand with an absolutely miserable position and probably still another loss.
After the exchange of errors Carlsen maintained a slight pull, but used it to swap almost everything off and reach a drawn knight ending. It turned into a queen ending that was drawn as well, and when (almost) all the pieces came off after 65 moves the players finally called it a day. (The game, with my brief comments, can be replayed here.)
Carlsen has now reached the summit, becoming the second-youngest world champion in history (Garry Kasparov was a younger 22-year-old when he won the title; third-oldest if one counts Ruslan Ponomariov's FIDE knockout championship win in 2002 when he was 18 years old). He is already the highest-rated player of all time, so what's left? Hopefully he can remain motivated to keep improving, and for that matter hopefully the chase pack will close on him to help force him to keep getting better.
For the almost 44-year-old Anand, it remains to be seen if he will put in the time and energy it will take to successfully fight in the next Candidates tournament this coming March. Will he start to fade, becoming just one of the super-GMs, or does he have the ambition to regain his title? We'll get a first glimpse of his form and ambition next month, as he is among the participants in the next edition of the London Chess Classic.
In the meantime, congratulations to Magnus Carlsen!
With his performance against Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand qualified for the 2014 Candidates tournament, set for next March in balmy Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. He will be joined by Vladimir Kramnik and Dmitry Andreikin (World Cup qualifiers), Veselin Topalov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Grand Prix qualifiers), Levon Aronian and Sergey Karjakin (qualified by rating) and Peter Svidler (organizer's wild card pick).
Carlsen will have to wait until next November for his earliest chance to qualify for the next Candidates event.