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Carlsen Loses But Leads

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It's been a hectic week of chess at the Bilbao Grand Slam final. There are three rounds left to play and the crosstable is very tight. It would be even tighter without the 3-1-0 scoring system in place. With it, Carlsen is in clear first with 11 points, one point ahead of Topalov, who also has a +1 score. Carlsen has three wins and two losses, giving him the edge over Topalov's two wins and one loss. A similar tiebreak effect is in play between Aronian and Ivanchuk, who would be a half-point behind the leaders using normal scoring. They are both on an even score, but Aronian has nine points and Ivanchuk only eight due to only one pair of decisive games to Aronian's two. Radjabov and Anand are tied for last in any scoring system this side of hexadecimal. In this one they have six each.

There have been several spectacular games so far, and many good ones. ICC Chess.FM guest commentator Peter Svidler, who pulled the entire round six shift with me on Monday to huge acclaim, opined that there was a very good level of chess in Bilbao, befitting its status as the highest-rated tournament ever, at least on FIDE Elo terms. I'm more fond of rankings than ratings when comparing across eras. E.g. AVRO 1938 included four world champions in its field of eight, and the two players who tied for first weren't among them. (Salo Flohr, who finished a distant last at AVRO, was equal first with Reshevsky and Petrovs ahead of Alekhine, Keres, and Fine at Kemeri 1937. Though I seriously doubt Botvinnik would have finished last at AVRO had he participated.) Las Palmas 1996 was the six best in the world, straight up. (Kamsky was actually #5 on the July 1996 list, but had just retired.) Interestingly, three of the players now in Bilbao played in Las Palmas and are now rated an average of 50 points higher than 12 years ago.

But I digress. The highlights so far include the Carlsen-Radjabov slugfest in the Dragon. It looked like Radjabov, on the black side, was maintaining enough counterplay to hold the balance, but it was Carlsen who landed the very pretty knockout blow in mutual time trouble. In the same bloody 4th round, Topalov obliterated Anand in the d5 pawn sac QID that is all the rage these days. The Bulgarian played what looks like an improvement on Kramnik's use of this line against Leko a few weeks ago in the Tal Memorial. Anand has been in serious trouble early and often in this event, and the loss was only a matter of time. Carlsen played a nearly gratuitous pawn toss against Aronian, boggling even Svidler. It all worked out for the teen when Aronian allowed his king to be dragged into the killing zone. Carlsen's play lately is starting to remind me of vintage Topalov, playing for maximum pressure on his opponent right out of the opening instead of objective quality. Thrilling stuff.

17-year-old Magnus Carlsen is also in first place, or equal first with Topalov if you score the usual way. He's beaten Aronian twice and has losses to Topalov and, today, Ivanchuk. Carlsen's 13.Be2 was just too slow in a very sharp oppo-castling position and he never caught up. Carlsen's occasional trainer, Nielsen, played the superior 13.g4 earlier this year. Curiously, it was the second time in a month's time that Ivanchuk has beaten someone who had just taken over the #1 spot on the live rating list. In the Tal Memorial Ivanchuk limited Morozevich's time at #1 to 24 hours. Carlsen should still be on top, but it's close. If he holds on to win the event he'll be the official #1 on the October list. Then we'll have to go check to see who guessed right last May when I asked you all when he would first appear as #1. (I really didn't think there would be enough chess for him to do it in 2008 no matter how well he played. Wrong! Hah, just found this gem in the comments there: "I must say I am regretting my extremely pessimistic [May 6] statement of October 2008, apologies all around ;-) - Quely, June 12, 2008") Carlsen didn't lose the lead because Topalov suffered his first loss, to Aronian. They have their showdown on Wednesday's 8th round, Topalov with the white pieces.

During the post-game press conference today, Ivanchuk was asked by Leontxo Garcia if he ever dreamed of chess positions. Ivanchuk said yes, about facing different players, but added he never got any good novelties out of it. He said it was more of a habit of seeing chess moves and images while taking Mass at church. This reminded me that he once said, in all seriousness, that he once had a mental image of Kasparov while praying in church. As much as chess invades the psyche even of amateurs, I imagine the only thing unusual about Ivanchuk in this sort of thing is that he admits it. As much as he plays it would be weird if he didn't dream chess, too.


With both Anand and Kramnik's play being rather circumspect (at least for world champion level) lately, it begs the question: When is Magnus gonna cinch the Title?

P.s. Come on Mig, live a little! :) "When is he gonna be #1?" Pssh, when is he gonna be champion?

But Botvinnik did play AVRO 1938, and came third.

Either Anand or Ivanchuk can overtake Carlsen on the October rating list if they gain +1 relative to Carlsen. In the case of Ivanchuk it would actually be a tie, but Ivanchuk has a larger number of games played. If Topalov gains +3 relative to Carlsen, Topalov will top the October list, provided that he gains at least +2 relative to both Anand and Ivanchuk.

When I was a child, everything in my dreams was made up of chess pieces, rather like paintings of the pointilists. I got over it by reading some light fiction instead of a chess book before sleeping. No wonder my rating never went over 2700!

This live rating list is incredible. All of top-4 can become no. 1 by the end of this tournament. Movsesian is No. 13, ahead of Mamedyarov, Svidler, Shirov, Kamsky, Gelfand, Ponomariev and so on. Go figure that out.

Well, June 12th I was quite high on chess (it's been a great year for it), and for a while it looked like Magnus could acually make it on the July list...


Mig, I don't want to harp on about this, but whatever technical problem is affecting your blog is irritating me immensely! Nearly always when I go to the site I see an old blog entry at the top rather than the latest one.

I concur. I have click on the current month under archives in order to 'refresh'.. :(

i have the same problem.

I day dream of chess all the time, I think about it when I wake up and when I go to sleep if I was playing right before. In class, sometimes as an analogy for things that happen, when I talk to girls. And especially when I'm stoned since I'm so used to playing chess that half an hour after I smoke rooks and bishops start popping at my mind.

I think it is like that because chess is so elementry and simple.

Is this going to be one of those games where Carlsen swindles Topa? Because it looks to me (as of move 35), that Topa has a pretty sweet initiative.

Interesting game-analysis on the Bilbao website. One example:

"According to Spasski the negresses are equal."

Geez, Mig: how could you forget Ba3!!

Or were you thinking of Flohr-Capablanca?

Are Moro and Ivanchuk now 1-2?

I do like this live rating list....

Ivanchuk dreams over the board as well. When I saw him playing Bologan he only looked at the board when moving the pieces or right after Bologan moved his. On move he gazed up at the lights or shaded his eyes, and off move he paced far from the board. Shirov, playing two boards away, seemed to spend more time looking at Ivanchuk-Bologan than Ivanchuk. If he had an entrance theme like a pro wrestler, it would probably be Traumerei.

I think it might well be a quite interesting last round, with Topalov, Carlsen and Aronjan having the white pieces - and because Topa will be trying to win against Ivanchuk the latter might also win with the black pieces in the last round as well. And definitely it will be a tough fight for the top spot in the next fide rating list - almost everything might happen. - Although I would very much like Ivanchuk to take 1st place, basically he has just deserved it in my eyes after being such an outstanding player for such a long time.

Agreed Loki, it would be great to see Ivanchuk
on top of the official rating list.

To me the ELO ranking means more than a
FIDE World Championship Title which just don't carry
as much weight as it should nowadays in my opinion
due to lack of consistency and controversies.

As much as I root for Magnus, his day is coming
and it would just be great to see a class act
like Vassilij get some glory one more time.

So Magnus turns out to be just like any other 2800 player who likes double-edged positions and so loses his share of games.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 9, 2008 8:23 PM.

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