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    Entries in Magnus Carlsen (246)

    Friday
    Aug112017

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 9: Vachier-Lagrave Defeats Nepomniachtchi and Wins the Tournament Outright

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had the best chances of anyone coming into the round to emerge as the sole tournament winner, and he came through with a smooth positional win over Ian Nepomniachtchi. It was a little cheeky of Nepo to play the Najdorf against the world's top specialist in that variation, and it was interesting to see MVL avoid the most theoretical lines in reply. Vachier-Lagrave went for one of the stock positional plans, aiming to swap all the minor pieces except for a white knight (to plant on d5) and a black bishop (destined to suffer either from restriction or irrelevance on the dark squares). Having achieved the plan, he had little trouble converting his advantage, and by the time Nepomniachtchi resigned only Levon Aronian could catch him.

    And that was only in theory. Aronian played very sharply with Black against Magnus Carlsen, but Carlsen defended well while accumulating positional advantages elsewhere. By the time MVL won, Aronian was struggling for a draw, but couldn't achieve it. That left Magnus Carlsen half a point behind Vachier-Lagrave, and with mixed feelings at the end of the tournament. Overall he played well and finished strongly, but he could very easily have finished the clear winner with a +5 score, had he not blundered away a winning position against Vachier-Lagrave in round 4 on his way to a loss, and had he converted a winning rook ending against Hikaru Nakamura in round 6.

    Carlsen shared second place with Viswanathan Anand. The good news for Anand was that his opponent was Wesley So (this wouldn't normally be good news, but So had a very bad tournament by his standards), but the bad news is that he was playing Black. The game was a fairly short draw, and if anything So could have pushed a little harder than he did. Overall, though, it was a fine tournament for the former world champion.

    Sergey Karjakin could have joined the tie for second with a win over Nakamura, but with Black that wasn't going to be easy. The game was pretty balanced throughout, with Nakamura enjoying the initiative until almost all the pieces were hoovered off the board.

    Finally, Peter Svidler's quest to win a game finally bore fruit. After losing in round 1 and drawing his next seven games, Svidler reached 50% with a win over Fabiano Caruana.

    Final Standings:

    1. Vachier-Lagrave 6 (of 9)
    2-3. Carlsen, Anand 5.5
    4-5. Aronian, Karjakin 5
    6. Svidler 4.5
    7. Caruana 4
    8. Nakamura 3.5
    9-10. So, Nepomniachtchi 3

    Monday
    Aug072017

    2017 World Cup Pairings Are Up

    Oh the excitement! Will Magnus Carlsen succeed in his quest to earn a world championship match against himself? The first obstacle in his way is unrated Nigerian FM Oluwafemi Balogun, and assuming he wins that match there will be six more rounds of knockout matches before he qualifies for the Candidates. (The whole mess of pairings can be seen here in tree form, or you can go here for something that's a bit easier on the eyes.)

    The event runs from September 2-28, and the two finalists qualify for the Candidates. I assume - or at least I hope, for sanity's sake, that Carlsen will not be eligible for the Candidates. That would be amusing, but also kind of stupid, unless winning the Candidates means that he doesn't have to defend his title in this cycle in a world championship match. Anyway, on the assumption that he's ineligible for the Candidates (but then why does he get to play in the World Cup?), I guess that if he's a finalist the two players who lose in the semi-finals will have a match for the second Candidates' spot. (And if I'm wrong, I trust that someone will correct me.)

    Monday
    Aug072017

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 5: Carlsen, Anand Win to Come Within Half a Point of Vachier-Lagrave

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is taking his lead into the rest day on Monday, with the last two world champions hot on his heels. Vachier-Lagrave did his best to extend his lead with the white pieces against Levon Aronian, but Aronian defended extremely well. After a long tactical sequence MVL found himself in an ending with a bishop and knight for a rook and a pawn. In the middlegame that material (im)balance generally favors the minor pieces, but in the ending it's generally more equal, as the relatively empty board gives the rook maximum scope for activity. So the game finished in a draw, leaving MVL with 3.5 points out of 5.

    Magnus Carlsen bounced back after yesterday's loss to Vachier-Lagrave by defeating Wesley So, something that has become a good habit for the world champion this year and a very bad one for the American champ. Things looked good for So out of the opening - a Scotch - but the exchanging sequence starting with 19.Bf4 proved mistaken. It was better to protect the pawn with 19.b3, maintaining for the moment the tension in the center. Once the series of exchanges came to an end, Black's position was more active than White's. White's a-pawn soon dropped, and after a couple more moves White had lost a second pawn as well, without obtaining serious compensation in return.

    The game of the day, however, was unquestionably Viswanathan Anand's spectacular win over Fabiano Caruana. Caruana was doing well out of the opening, but things started going south after Anand's 19.f4. Black's best was 19...Bd5, aiming to meet 20.e4 with 20...Bc4, with unpleasant pressure against White's center. Instead, he played 19...Bg4, aiming for complications his position couldn't justify. After 22...Rxe2 Black is winning if White doesn't have anything special, but he did: 23.f7+ Kf8 24.Bxg7+! Kxg7 25.Qc3+ and now Caruana's 25...Re5(?) was met the attractive and crushing 26.Qd4!, more or less winning on the spot after 26...Qg5 27.Rc5! Instead, 25...Qe5 would have been more resilient, but after 26.Rxe2! Qxc3 27.Re8 White should win, e.g. 27...Qd4+ 28.Rf2 Qxb4 29.f8Q+ Qxf8 30.Rfxf8 Rxd3 31.Rg8+ Kf7 32.Ref8+ Ke7 33.Ra8 the ending is a win. Great chess by the former champ, and he's back in the hunt.

    Sergey Karjakin's game with Ian Nepomniachtchi finished peacefully, but was noteworthy for two reasons. The primary reason was Karjakin's intriguing two-step with his bishop. First 5.Bd3 in the Austrian Attack against the Pirc, a line that has been known for many decades (though generally with 5.Nf3 first and 6.Bd3 next), but then after 5...0-0 6.Nf3 Nc6 he played the incredible 7.Be2!? Karjakin claimed in the post-game interview that he had forgotten some of the analysis, so we'll have to see if this was a one-off joke or if this will prove an important new wrinkle. The second noteworthy aspect was that Nepo nearly won with Black. Had he done so, he would have made it back to 50% - an excellent score in light of his 0-2 start.

    Finally, the game between Hikaru Nakamura and Peter Svidler finished in a draw. It had been heading there, but a Svidler error gave Nakamura some serious chances to at least push for a win. He tried, but Svidler defended well and saved the game.

    As already noted, Monday is a rest day. Here's what the round 6 pairings look like for Tuesday's action:

    • Caruana (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3.5)
    • Carlsen (3) - Nakamura (2)
    • Karjakin (2.5) - Anand (3)
    • Aronian (2.5) - So (2)
    • Nepomniachtchi (2) - Svidler (2)

    Friday
    Aug042017

    Sinquefield Cup, Day 2: Three More Wins; Carlsen, Caruana, and Vachier-Lagrave Lead

    It was another exciting round at the Sinquefield Cup, and thanks to a pair of blunders by Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana, a very long one.

    But first things first: Ian Nepomniachtchi once again got into trouble in the opening, and lost for a second time. With White against Wesley So, Nepomniachtchi hoped to make use of the extra space provided by his Maroczy Bind setup, but he was unable to restrict Black's activity. His 17th move was an outright error, and while it didn't lose material it allowed So to reach a position where White's structure was beset by weaknesses. So won one pawn, and then another, and when Nepo resigned on his 40th move he was about to go three pawns down. So bounced back nicely from his first round loss, while Nepomniachtchi remains with the score he had before the tournament started.

    World champion Magnus Carlsen demonstrated excellent form against his last challenger, Sergey Karjakin, outplaying him in excellent style. It's easy to look at places where the computer's evaluation of Karjakin's position drops and say "here is where he went wrong", but none of the errors was obvious in its own right, even in retrospect, and the players themselves had a difficult time pinpointing the critical errors. Carlsen just played very well. Carlsen has 1.5/2, and Karjakin fell to 50%.

    The games Peter Svidler vs. Viswanathan Anand and Hikaru Nakamura vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were both fairly clean draws, and in both cases Black managed to solve his problems from the get-go. MVL is +1, Svidler is -1, and Anand and Nakamura remain on 50%.

    So that leaves Aronian-Caruana, which almost certainly would have ended in a draw in a few moves had Aronian not played 33.Ke2??, losing a piece after 33...Bb4! followed by 34...Re8, winning a piece. By itself, this didn't ensure a long game, just one with a different result. Had Caruana played 40...g5+, a logical and pretty obvious move that he had more than enough time to find, the game would have ended quickly, and maybe even immediately.

    Instead, after 40...Bd2?, Caruana (with Black) was left with a rook, dark-squared bishop and - critically - an h-pawn against Aronian's rook and doubled g-pawns. Blunders aside, this gave Caruana two "normal" ways to win: (1) Win both White pawns without trading anything, and win with rook, bishop and h-pawn against rook. (2) Trade rooks, stalemate White's king, and thereby force White to play g4-g5, allowing Black to play ...hxg5 and thereby eliminating the specter of a king + bishop + h-pawn vs. king draw. White would be happy to trade rooks if he lost one or both g-pawns (provided that losing the pawns didn't come by a pawn capture), otherwise not.

    Caruana eventually managed to win in a third, somewhat surprising way. He won the g4-pawn on move 74, and after a long stretch where he didn't seem to be making any progress, he finally found a way to put an end to the game. His 106th move, 106...Bd6!, won White's remaining pawn, but allowed White to eliminate Black's h-pawn as well. That was the good news for Aronian, but the bad news is that the resulting rook + bishop vs. rook ending was won for Black. White's king was in a mating net, and after 110...Rc4+ Aronian decided that 7 hours was long enough, and resigned. Aronian thus fell back to 50%, while Caruana joined Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave on +1.

    Round 3 Pairings:

    Anand (1) - Carlsen (1.5)
    So (1) - Nakamura (1)
    Caruana (1.5) - Nepomniachtchi (0)
    Karjakin (1) - Aronian (1)
    Vachier-Lagrave (1.5) - Svidler (.5)

    Friday
    Jul072017

    Kramnik On His Win Over Carlsen From Norway Chess, With Good Advice For Everyone

    The video may have lost some of its temporal urgency in light of Magnus Carlsen's impressive victories in Paris and Leuven, but not all. For one thing, those were not classical events. The more important matter is that we all have crises of form, and Vladimir Kramnik's remarks on that head should comfort us all.

    Monday
    Jul032017

    Carlsen Wins the Leuven Leg of the Grand Chess Tour

    Magnus Carlsen fans, it's like the good old days all over again. Magnus Carlsen flattened the field in the blitz portion of the Grand Chess Tour (GCT) event in Leuven, Belgium, overcoming the three point lead Wesley So had after the rapid games on Wednesday through Friday. Carlsen went 7.5/9 on Saturday and 7/9 on Sunday, finishing a whopping three points ahead of So, who took second overall. Having won the GCT tournament in Paris the week before, Carlsen is clearly leading the Tour overall.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave only lost to Carlsen in a tiebreak in Paris, and here too he was in the running for a while. He faltered down the homestretch, however, and not only failed to keep up with Carlsen, but also failed to catch up to a struggling So. Still, MVL's third place performance here puts him in second in the overall GCT standings. So is third overall, and the full standings can be found here.

    As for Leuven, here are the standings for the blitz followed by the combined totals:

    Final Blitz Standings:

    1. Carlsen 14.5/18
    2-3. Giri, Vachier-Lagrave 10 (N.B.: Only Anish Giri managed to defeat Carlsen in the blitz - this was on Saturday - and he held him to a draw on Sunday as well.)
    4-5. Kramnik, Aronian 9.5
    6. Nepomniachtchi 9
    7-8. Ivanchuk, So 8.5
    9. Anand 8
    10. Jobava 2.5 (N.B. His tournament was a complete disaster. He only drew one game in rapid, only drew one game on Saturday, and even on Sunday he only managed 2/9, though he at least won one game, against Kramnik. He was worse and even losing most of the way, but considering how many good and even winning positions he gave away in the other games, he can hardly be begrudged his single lucky win.)

    Overall Standings:

    1. Carlsen 25.5 (out of 36)
    2. So 22.5
    3. Vachier-Lagrave 22
    4. Giri 20
    5-6. Kramnik, Aronian 18.5
    7. Nepomniachtchi 18
    8. Anand 16
    9. Ivanchuk 15.5
    10. Jobava 3.5

    Can Carlsen reproduce these fine results in his next classical tournament? We'll see what happens in the Sinquefield Cup, which starts at the end of the month. For now, he can enjoy his insanely high rapid (2909) and blitz (2948) ratings. Most grandmasters, even very strong ones, would fantasize about having a single event TPR in the 2900s; for Carlsen, that's his overall rating. Ridiculous! (In a good way.)

    Sunday
    Jun252017

    Carlsen Wins the Paris leg of the 2017 Grand Chess Tour

    The 2017 Grand Chess Tour (GCT) kicked off this past week with a rapid & blitz event in Paris. (The second leg kicks off this Wednesday in Leuven, Belgium, with the same format but a slightly different cast of characters.) On Wednesday (the 21st) the ten players began three days of rapid play (three rounds per day), and on Saturday they played a blitz round robin, followed by another blitz round robin (with colors reversed) on Sunday. Rapid games were counted double, so a maximum of 18 points was available from each format, and the totals were combined to determine players' overall placement and the number of GCT points they received.

    The winners were Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who both finished with 24 points. Carlsen went undefeated in the rapid stage, scoring 14/18, while MVL dominated the blitz with 13/18. A two-game rapid playoff ensued, won by Carlsen 1.5-.5 (he won the first game with White and gave a charity draw in game two in a near-winning position to clinch the match). He thus received 12 tour points, while MVL got 10. (Tour standings can be found here.)

    Back to the event. Magnus Carlsen started out in beast mode, going undefeated through the rapid portion and winning his first four blitz games as well. It wasn't just his results that were good - he wasn't just fortunate or opportunistic - he played the kind of excellent chess that led him to be a triple world champion in 2014, winning everything in sight and enjoying a huge gap between his closest challengers on the classical rating list.

    In the rest of the field, someone else would star too - but it generally wasn't the same person two days in a row. For instance, on day 1 both Carlsen and Wesley So finished with 2.5/3, but So's fine score wasn't achieved so impressively, and indeed he quickly fell back. He lost to Carlsen in round 4, drew his next four games, and lost to Karjakin in the last round. On day 2 Nakamura impressed with 2.5/3, drawing in round 6 with Carlsen, and having gone 2/3 on day 1 his total was good enough to leave him...half a point behind Carlsen, who also went 2.5/3 on day 2. (Technically a point behind, on the 2-1-0 scoring, but let's bracket that for now.) Like So the previous day, however, Nakamura started day three with a loss and was out of the race for first in the rapid section. The hero of day 3 was Alexander Grischuk, who went 3-0. Carlsen only went 2-1, so Grischuk even managed to gain some ground. It was a fine result, but not quite enough to catch up. The final standings of the rapid competition look like this (here the doubling will be included):

    1. Carlsen 14
    2. Grischuk 13
    3. Nakamura 12
    4-5. Vachier-Lagrave, Mamedyarov 11
    6. So 9
    7. Karjakin 8
    8. Topalov 5
    9. Bacrot 4
    10. Caruana 3

    That's correct: Caruana scored three points, or 1.5/9. He lost his first three games - from two winning positions and one that was vastly superior - drew in round 4, and then lost his next three games as well. (Almost an Inverse-Sinquefield Cup.) He drew the last two games but still finished the rapid in last place - but this sad state of affairs would not carry over to the blitz.

    Caruana was one of the heroes of the blitz, except for the first game, which he lost to Carlsen. Carlsen started off on fire, as noted above, winning his first four games. But then things started going a bit screwy. He lost on time in round 5 to Grischuk from a position that was just about impossible to lose, but he spent a second or two too long trying to figure out how to maintain some small practical winning chances. After this he failed to convert a serious advantage against Sergey Karjakin, and then lost very unnecessarily to Vachier-Lagrave. Carlsen drew his next two games, and only a win over his new customer So in round 9 let him finish the day still in the overall lead.

    Carlsen scored 6/9 in the blitz for 20 points overall; Nakamura was in second with 19 after scoring 7/9 in the blitz. Grischuk had slipped to third after a poor first day; the three-time world blitz champion only scored 4.5 points to wind up with 17.5 overall. But two other players had a strong first day, both scoring 6/9. One was Vachier-Lagrave, who was now up to fourth with 17 points overall, and the other was Caruana. After the loss to Carlsen he went 6/8 to reach a more respectable total, though he remained in the bottom half of the table. Etienne Bacrot continued to struggle, which wasn't surprising for the lowest-rated player in the field (by far), but he didn't have the worst score. That unfortunate distinction went to So, who duplicated Caruana's result in the rapid: three draws and six losses. It's a tough field.

    On day two of the blitz, the pattern noted above recurred: Nakamura faltered. He went =2, -3 in the first five games, losing to MVL, but then also to So and Bacrot. While Carlsen too started out with a loss (to the resurgent Caruana), he then righted the ship with two wins. After a further two draws the event seemed to be over, but then things got interesting. First and foremost, Carlsen fell apart, losing in consecutive rounds to Karjakin, MVL, and Nakamura. Nakamura finished strongly with wins in rounds 15, 17, and 18 (the last round), but his loss to Mamedyarov in round 16 put him out of the running for first. Nevertheless, while Carlsen entered the last round a point ahead of Nakamura, he had not only been caught, but even surpassed, by Vachier-Lagrave.

    Vachier-Lagrave beat Nakamura in round 10, So in round 11, Bacrot in round 13, Mamedyarov in round 15, and Carlsen in round 16. When he drew in round 17 with Karjakin, he entered the last round half a point ahead of Carlsen. MVL had Black against Grischuk, and played well enough to draw; he never came within sniffing distance of a win. To force a tiebreak, Carlsen had to win with White; fortunately, his opponent was Wesley So. That's a crazy thing to say, given So's results in pretty much every event the past year prior to this one, but So had a terrible time in Paris, and this year it seems like Nakamura has transferred his old curse against Carlsen to his countryman. So was badly outplayed from the beginning, and then blundered a piece on move 24 and resigned immediately.

    Thus Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave finished tied for first overall, and as noted above, Carlsen won the playoff. Here are the final standings in the blitz:

    1. Vachier-Lagrave 13
    2-3. Nakamura, Caruana 11
    4-5. Karjakin, Carlsen 10
    6-7. Grischuk, Mamedyarov 9
    8. Topalov 6.5
    9. So 6
    10. Bacrot 4.5

    Overall:

     

    1-2. Carlsen, Vachier-Lagrave 24 (of 36)
    3. Nakamura 23
    4. Grischuk 22
    5. Mamedyarov 20
    6. Karjakin 18
    7. So 15
    8. Caruana 14
    9. Topalov 11.5
    10. Bacrot 8.5

     

    Thursday
    Jun152017

    Norway Chess 2017, Round 8: Draws on Top and a Spiky Tail

    It looks like Magnus Carlsen's reign at the top of the rating list will continue for at least another tournament, as his risky play against Sergey Karjakin paid off. Worse for much of the leadup to the first time control, Carlsen's luck finally started to change when Karjakin erred on move 40. That error wasn't fatal, but Karjakin's 41st move - played after a 27-minute think(!) - was. Very strange.

    That took Carlsen out of last place, which he shared with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but it didn't get him out of the tie with MVL. Vachier-Lagrave defeated one of yesterday's heroes, Vladimir Kramnik, and Kramnik's loss was reminiscent of his previous loss to Levon Aronian (in round 6). In both cases he had superb preparation with Black, rattling out 20 moves and achieving a fine position. But as in the earlier game, it wasn't even close to being good enough to achieve a draw (or more). Vachier-Lagrave outplayed Kramnik to reach a superior but not yet winning double rook ending, and then Kramnik, like Karjakin, made his fatal error after the time control.

    So the new tailender is Karjakin, with three points out of eight. Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave are tied with Viswanathan Anand with three and a half points apiece; out of the race for first but also out of the cellar. Anand drew quickly and comfortably with Black against Levon Aronian, who was and remains the tournament leader. Hikaru Nakamura is still in clear second after his short draw, with White, against Wesley So.

    Nakamura could have been caught in second by Anish Giri, had the latter won with White against Fabiano Caruana. He was better throughout, but despite the bloated numbers your engine might display he was never winning the bishop vs. knight ending. Giri played on a long time, hoping for a miracle or for his 24-year-old opponent to die of old age, but once it was clear that neither was going to happen he reconciled himself to the draw.

    There's one round to go, and here's how the final round pairings shake out:

    • Karjakin (3) - Vachier-Lagrave (3.5)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Nakamura (5)
    • So (4) - Aronian (5.5)
    • Kramnik (4) - Giri (4.5)
    • Anand (3.5) - Carlsen (3.5)

    Wednesday
    Jun142017

    Norway Chess, Rounds 6 & 7: Aronian Surging Forward With a Bang, Carlsen Going Out With a Whimper

    Round 6 (on Monday) and round 7 (on Wednesday) were both exciting and eventful, and after a slow start the Norway Chess tournament has become very lively. There were two wins in round 6 and three in round 7, and it's nice to see that the decisive games have all been well-played by the winners.

    Hikaru Nakamura had been leading after round 5, but he was caught in round 6 by Levon Aronian, who promptly went by him with a second straight win in round 7. In round 6 Aronian beat Vladimir Kramnik pretty badly on the white side of a Semi-Tarrasch when the latter underestimated the danger to his queen on g4. That was a clean victory, slightly contrasted with his win over Sergey Karjakin in the next round. Aronian was never in danger, but his play was rather speculative. Karjakin got caught up in the speculative atmosphere, which proved unfortunate. In particular, 28.Rg6 only managed to get the rook in trouble, and in the lead up to the time control things went from bad to worse, and Aronian dispatched him most efficiently.

    Things are going even more poorly for Magnus Carlsen, who is tied for last place with 2.5 points out of 7. He lost in round 7 to Kramnik, who bounced back nicely from his loss to Aronian with a surprisingly easy win against the world champion. This put Kramnik back into second place on the rating list, and what's incredible is that he's only 6.4 points out of first. Carlsen has been #1 in the world on every list since July 2011 (and on most of the lists going back to January 2010), but he's just one more loss and one more Kramnik (or Wesley So, or maybe even Aronian win) from falling to #2. Back to the Kramnik-Carlsen game: Kramnik played sharply, but Carlsen was fine until his 25th move. After 25...Bxf2+ he would have been fine with correct play; after 25...Qxf2+, however, and his further error on move 27, he was simply lost, and Kramnik was up to the challenge.

    Kramnik is tied for third place with Anish Giri, with four points, half a point behind Nakamura and a full point behind Aronian. Giri played the Accelerated Dragon/Dragon hybrid against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in round 7, and while MVL is one of the best calculators in the world and a player who loves sharp, imbalanced positions this just wasn't his day. He neither took proper care of his king nor got his own attack off the ground fast enough, and lost a short, one-sided game.

    The last decisive game of rounds 6 and 7 came from round 6. Viswanathan Anand (the last person not named "Magnus Carlsen" to be classical world champion or rated #1 in the world [in classical chess]) repeated the same anti-English line he lost with against Giri in round 4, but this time he was fully successful with it against Fabiano Caruana. Caruana's queenside play got nowhere, while Anand successfully broke through on the kingside on the way to a queenside mating attack.

    The decisive games mentioned above can be replayed here, with my comments. Here's what's coming up in round 8:

     

    • Nakamura (4.5) - So (3.5)
    • Carlsen (2.5) - Karjakin (3)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) - Kramnik (4)
    • Aronian (5) - Anand (3)
    • Giri (4) - Caruana (3)

     

     

     

    Tuesday
    Jun062017

    Norway Chess Starts Today (Tuesday); Carlsen Crushes the Field in Pre-Tournament Blitz

    The Norway Chess tournament gets underway today (Tuesday) with an elite field of 10 players that includes the world champion (Magnus Carlsen), the two previous world champions (Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik), three world #2 players (the current one, Wesley So, and erstwhile consistent #2s Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian), last year's world championship runner-up and the current world blitz champion (Sergey Karjakin), plus a pair of former (and quite possibly future) 2800s (Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri).

    As is common (but not universal) nowadays, tournament pairings were set based on results in a pre-tournament blitz competition. Carlsen started out with draws against Nakamura and Anand, and nearly ran the table after that, giving up a draw to Kramnik in round 7 and beating everyone else. His score of 7.5/9 put him two points clear of Nakamura and Aronian, with Vachier-Lagrave alone in fourth with 5 points. Kramnik and Karjakin tied for the critical fifth spot (the top five finishers get an extra game with the white pieces in the main event), and Kramnik got it on tiebreaks by defeating Karjakin in the last round. Both finished with 50% - a good result for Kramnik, who was winless and -2 after five rounds. After Karjakin, Anand and So finished with 4 points apiece, Caruana with 3 and a winless Giri lost his last five games to finish last with 1.5 points.

    The games and the blitz tournament video can be accessed here (for now). Here are the pairings for round 1 of the main event:

     

    • Carlsen - So
    • Nakamura - Giri
    • Aronian - Caruana
    • Vachier-Lagrave - Anand
    • Kramnik - Karjakin

     

    The world's #1 vs. the world's #2: not a bad way to start the tournament! The action begins at 10 a.m. ET = 4 p.m. local time in Norway = 3 p.m. CET.

    Predictions? I've been going with So lately, but Carlsen has been beating him lately  and seems strongly motivated, so I'm going with the champ this time around.