Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Carlsen's New Weapon

| Permalink | 135 comments

You can call it a coincidence but I won't believe you. Magnus Carlsen busted out the Scotch Game to beat Peter Leko in the first round of the Pearl Spring tournament. As far as I can tell this was only the second time Carlsen has played it since he was still in junior tournaments. That was a quick draw against Kamsky at the World Cup in 2007. Other than that, Carlsen plays 3.Bb5 as reliably as a Norwegian glacier. He used to play e4 as much as or more than d4, but lately he's been playing d4 more frequently. Carlsen might have had in mind that Leko hasn't faced the Scotch in a couple of years. It's a fairly rare bird at the top level and Leko only plays top-level events. It was quite notable when the 2008 Grand Slam Final in Bilbao saw three Scotch Games, two by Radjabov and one by Anand. Rublevsky and Morozevich also trot it out on occasion.

That's rare, but it used to be even more unusual to see a Scotch in an elite event. Timman gave it a try now and then, but overall it was considered archaic and uninteresting, akin to the Four Knights or Jay Leno. Then came game 14 of the fifth and final Kasparov-Karpov world championship match. Kasparov's 3.d4 was a bombshell, the first time it had been seen in a world championship match since Chigorin-Steinitz, 1892. It only got Kasparov a draw in that game, though he won with it two games later. Of course Kasparov scored tremendously with white in general, but his career Scotch score of +14 =9 -0 is still scary. Compare that 80% to 66% with the Spanish. That being the case it's a little curious that Kasparov dropped the Scotch entirely in 2001, even if it had mostly been a surprise weapon.

With the Carlsen-Kasparov collaboration out of the bag, you have to figure seeing the Scotch on the board today was an extra kick in the gut for Leko. White played a sharp pawn sacrifice line that gives white the bishop pair and a bind on the center. The black knights were without squares and the white rooks had open lines. The excellent, if not new, move 15.d5 replicated another Kasparov trademark, a move that "splits the board." It hampered black's development and pawns and cut the black pieces on the kingside off from the vulnerable black pawns on the queenside. Unfortunately I don't remember the author who described this tendency in Kasparov's games, often involving a pawn sacrifice. I found it very insightful and still do.

Here it was very effective. Leko was left to look for a desperate kingside attack while he was picked clean on the queenside. (Or, as the official site has it, "facing the dilemma situation, Leko gave up the rear wing as the cost, and made counterattack in the chariot wing.") Carlsen was unfazed and defended calmly. Leko played on down a piece for a good while, hoping for a miracle. I think playing for a long time just on the 30 second increment melts a player's brain. You can't look away for a moment, let alone get up to take a breath or go to the loo. It's permanent time trouble, often from move 20. Horrid. [According to ChessBase.com, pointed out by Mark S below, the control is actually 40 moves in 90 minutes and then 60 minutes to finish, no increment. Still quite fast but not nearly as horrific as the 90'+30" still given on the official site FAQ as the time control. So Leko was likely playing on in mutual time trouble.]

Jakovenko defended against Topalov's steady Catalan pressure to earn a hard-fought draw. Wang Yue repeated the fairly tedious queen exchange line against the King's Indian he tried against Radjabov at Melody Amber earlier this year. These endgames are the sort of thing Wang Yue enjoys and most KID players don't, but White didn't get much as Radjabov defended accurately.

Round 2 sees the favorites battle in Carlsen-Topalov. More surprises from Karlsen? The other games are Jakovenko-Wang Yue, Leko-Radjabov.


"Unfortunately I don't remember the author who described this tendency in Kasparov's games, often involving a pawn sacrifice."

Stohl? Watson?

According to Chessbase:

Time controls, as given on the official web site, are 90 minutes for all the moves of the game with a 30 second increment per move, but in reality it is 90 minutes for 40 moves and 60 minutes for the rest of the game, with no increment.

Whoever was analyzing the game speculated that Leko was playing on in a hopeless position hoping Carlsen would choke under time pressure, and that Carlsen was safe once he got to move 40.

I guess tags don't work. Here's the link: http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=5790.

The 2nd paragraph is from the article, the third is me.

"Unfortunately I don't remember the author who described this tendency in Kasparov's games, often involving a pawn sacrifice."

That would be John Watson, in his excellent middlegame book "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy", an all time classic. I dont have the book in front of me, but it was a beautiful win by Kasparov in the early 80s. I thought it was against Nikolic but I couldnt find it on chessgames.com after a fairly cursory search.

Well, time trouble is nicer than my theory about Leko's brain melting. It seemed odd they would go with the old and discredited 90'+30" all of a sudden. So that's good news. I do wish they would all just standardize in these top level events. At least the Grand Slam. And of course I would prefer 40/2, 20/1, g/30'+15". Three controls, increment only in the last one.

Now I'm wondering whether it was the sequel to SOMCS, "Chess Strategy in Action". It was definitely one of those two books.

Yes I'm quite sure I saw it in "Chess Strategy In Action". That's the one of them I have (slightly oddly, perhaps).

"Wang Yue repeated the fairly tedious queen exchange line against the King's Indian he tried against Radjabov at Melody Amber earlier this year. These endgames are the sort of thing Wang Yue enjoys and most KID players don't, but White didn't get much as Radjabov defended accurately."

I took a quick glance at the queenless endgame while the game was going on, and I thought Wang Yue had an almost won position. Anyway I was mightily impressed. However Radjabov seemed to equalise effortlessly. Says a lot about my understanding of endgames :-)

In the meantime, psychological games continue?! Topalov is not afraid of playing the King's Indian against Carlsen. Of course he must be aware of Kasparov's related experience, as well as his "current" opinion on the opening.

BTW, regarding the time control - the related FAQ on the tournament homepage is from last year (2008-12-10).

I also got CSIA first, but then I had to get SOMCS too. Worth having.

I saw the date on that question but assumed that since they had bothered to move the FAQ to the new site and also include a more recent question that it was still valid. Maybe their win-win translator is also in charge of the web updates.

Topalov's KID is interesting because while he doesn't play it, Radjabov does and he's in the tournament. So it's not like Carlsen isn't going to be booked. A little disappointing it's not one of the hot b4 lines. I always hated the g4 stuff with black (sometimes credited to Benko), but more because it was boring. I'm sure it won't be boring with Topalov on the black side though.

acirce do you remember, was it this game against Portisch at Niksic in 1983? http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1070074&kpage=4

I think the Niksic confused me into thinking it was played against Nikolic.

He uses several examples. I finally found the book so I can check! :-) For instance: Here is Kasparov-Pribyl 1980: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1069896 Here is Kasparov-Anand 1996: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1018663

Today, Topalov is just down a pawn and close to losing as far as I can see -- and slightly more significantly, GM Jan Gustafsson agrees. Somewhat interesting endgame in Jakovenko-Wang, but maybe more so in Lékó-Radjabov.

So you got out of bed early after all? ,:) Of course, Carlsen only needs some specific KID preparation against Radjabov if he goes for 1.d4 in their game. Else there may be a Dragon - a bit strange that Leko was way behind on the clock in the opening phase against Radja today, he must have been 'booked'!?

Ah yes, it was the Pribyl game I was thinking of!

Carlsen wins again, quite spectacular. Powerful play for sure, but it felt like Topalov self-destructed to a large degree.

Very, very powerful and effortless play by Carlsen again. I couldn't think of any other plan for Black than to open the f file. How else is he going to activate his K Rook and Black-squared B?

Hard to say where exactly, and why things went wrong for Topalov - maybe his characteristic desire to get some active play backfired on him, but can this be called self-destruction?

BTW, probably just semantics but how could you tell (presumably from a distance of several thousand kms) that Carlsen's play was "effortless"? Maybe "he made it look easy" (another cliche!?) and didn't have to find and play any particularly 'deep' moves.

Hi Thomas, its not a literal description, rather a figurative term intended as a stylistic description, as well as an adjective for the strength and simplicity of the moves Carlsen played. I am reminded of similar comments on Fischer's play and moves, which after he made them looked quite obvious ("My God, Fischer plays so simply" - Najdorf after observing one of Fischer's wins against Petrosian in their candidates where he gave up a conventionally "good" Knight for a B). Elegance and economy of moves are hard to quantify. However they are obvious when somebody demonstrates them. Rather than explain all of this upon seeing Carlsen's play in the previous two games, I said his play was "effortless". Happy with that?

Rather than explain all of this upon seeing Carlsen's play in the previous two games, I said his play was "effortless". Happy with that?

I certainly am.

Teimour Radjabov is really on a mission to inject life into supposedly dubious openings. The 9.O-O-O variation of the Dragon Yugoslav is supposed to be almost lethal for Black, according to Khalifman and Dzinzhichashvili among others.

So Black is not forced to play the dubious Queen sac in this line after all. Superb. Long live the Dragon variation. God bless Radjabov.

Carlsen adds another skull to his collection!

Does anyone here know Carlsen’s and Topalov’s liverating after Round 2? Did Carlsen win more than 5 points today, given that 41 points separate their official FIDE ratings?

I notice that Nils Arild Runde has not updated his excellent http://chess.liverating.org/ since 26 September.

Grateful if someone has the numbers!

:) ArcticStones

Against Leko, Carlsen gained 4.9 points. Against Topalov, Carlsen gained 5.6 points.

Forgot the Topalov part. Topalov lost 1.0 point against Jakovenko and 5.6 points against Carlsen.

That brings Topalov to 2806.4 and Carlsen to 2782.5.

You can find the table to find the expected score here:

E.g. Topalov is officially rated 41 rating points higher than Carlsen, thus he was expected to obtain 0.56 points from the game. He obtained 0.56 points less than expected and lost 5.6 rating points (multiply by 10). Carlsen was expected to obtain 0.44 points, obtained .56 points more than expected and gained 5.6 rating points.

Thank you! :)

Thank you, kspiteri!

Two days ago Topalov was 41 points ahead of Magnus.
Today the difference is a "mere" 23,9 points.

Let us hope Nanjing brings lots more high-quality chess!

Thanks, now I am happy ,:) and in this sense I agree with you. Another way of saying roughly the same thing might be: "No single move by Carlsen deserves "!!", and Topalov didn't make an obvious blunder either, still everything came together nicely in the end." I am not _that_ familiar with Fischer's games (not old enough, non-American), but some of Kramnik's endgame victories leave the same impression to me.

Today, Carlsen's toughest (or rather least obvious) moves may have been 12.Rg1 and 14.0-0-0, correctly assessing that his attacking chances are more real - or will become more real because Topalov had to open lines on the kingside to activate his pieces.

In any case, Carlsen's victory was not "effortless" in the sense of "it was easy, my opponent blundered a piece on move 10". Of course I exaggerate, but Natalia Pogonina (live commentary on chessgames.com) said something similar:

"Just like Leko yesterday, Topalov was a shadow of himself in this game. His dubious Bf6-d8 plan and the Na8 blunder have left him struggling for survival. Carlsen did a good job picking up all the presents his opponents have offered him, but there was no real struggle. I know that Carlsen' fans will again be accusing me of underestimating his achievements. So, I give him full credit for the wins, but, trust me, the resistance from Leko and Topalov was rather light. They were playing as if they were doomed."

Not sure if she's right, but if so: Who are Carlsen's opponents afraid of, C or K? And, comparing Nanjing with Dortmund: Does it really make a difference that the rest of the world now knows about the Carlsen-Kasparov cooperation?

If chessgames.com is complete, Carlsen's record against Topalov at classical time controls is now +5 =3 -3. So today's game isn't really a milestone or major breakthrough in his career - unlike his first-ever wins against Anand and Kramnik (he still has a minus score against both, of course a bit skewed by early games when he was not yet firmly established in the top 5).

It seems that Topalov's style suits Carlsen well: always looking for active play (but sometimes it might be wiser to "sit and wait"), never or hardly ever happy with a draw.

Magnus has never ever lost a classical game of chess against anyone younger than him, how many 18-19 year olds can say that?

Another way of saying roughly the same thing might be: "No single move by Carlsen deserves "!!", and Topalov didn't make an obvious blunder either, still everything came together nicely in the end."

Not really. Carlsen showed wonderful strategic play and tactical awareness. You still don't get it. I will politely make the kind request that you don't try to rephrase other people's English with your own, when it is your understanding that is at fault. As always, all the best to you!

"Magnus has never ever lost a classical game of chess against anyone younger than him"
Interesting. It will be So, I bet.

"Natalia Pogonina (live commentary on chessgames.com) said something similar"

According to her Carlsen has only been picking up presents from his opponents, there is no passion in his eyes, he had obvious difficulties in converting the win against Leko, was feeling nervous, often doesn't convert won positions easily enough, has psychological problems, takes too much time for his moves, seems tired from professional chess, etc etc. Weird that she is so negative.

I guess Henrik has stopped writing the Magnus blog: http://blog.magnuschess.com/ Latest update is from June? Too bad if the blog is no longer active. It's fun to get news from inside Magnus's family/camp.

For the sake of argument, let us say that the beautiful and brilliant Natalia Pogonina is correct in her evaluation.

Imagine, then, what the true potential of Magnus Carlsen is -- given that he is now rated No. 3 in the world (Liverating after Nanjing round 2) with all those flaws!!

It is precisely this that makes his opponents tremble.

His capacity for improvement is awesome. And thanks to Kasparov, perhaps it is precisely the *improved Carlsen* we are now seeing in Nanjing.

Chessbase has a quote from Carlsen crediting Kasparov following his win over Leko:

"The Nanjing games are homework by Garry Kasparov and me," said Magnus Carlsen at the press conference. "Today's game was provided by Garry."

I love it that Carlsen has started with 2-0, against Leko and Topalov, no less.

But he's not invincible, and working with Gary doesn't guarantee superhuman powers.

I predict (unfortunately, since I am a fan), that Magnus will have his ups and downs in this tournament.

I put things in my own words, so rephrasing was not at all done to "correct" or "improve" your English. I think or claim that I DID understand your points (after the first clarification on what you mean with 'effortless'). In my opinion, "everything came together nicely in the end" [my words] is fully consistent with, though less expicit than "Carlsen showed wonderful strategic play" [your words]. In most cases, strategy is about plans (series of moves) rather than particularly brilliant _single_ moves. There are some exceptions, e.g.

- exchanging a conventionally good knight (your Fischer example)
- moves such as Nb3-a1 to put the knight on a journey to f5. There is a French saying "reculer pour mieux sauter" [retreat to advance in a better way]. But today Topa's 21.-Na8 doesn't fall in that category ... .
- accepting doubled pawns to open lines and/or control important squares

But the bottom line is: I think it is pointless to argue when we actually (at least largely) agree with each other, let's reserve this for future topics where we might disagree ,:) .

"In any case, Carlsen's victory was not 'effortless' in the sense of 'it was easy, my opponent blundered a piece on move 10'."

In English people don't use the word "effortless" to describe easy games in which an opponent blunders. The term is used in the sense d_tal described.

In fairness to Mrs. Pogonina, she also said (or tried to say) something nice about both players:
"By the way, Topalov and Carlsen are competitors not only in terms of chess rankings, but they are also very popular among women chess players. Carlsen has the charm of a young boy, while Topalov is an energetic and powerful man."

As far as the Carlsen blog is concerned, see the entry from March 14th (Amber preview):
"What some may consider good news and others as not so good, I won't be updating the blog very often in the months ahead. One reason is that Magnus has become more sensitive with regard to sharing information about his games, and he will in general not reveal more on the blog than what he does in video interviews after the game and in the occasional annotations of games."
Was this advice by Kasparov??

That’s right, Boz. Well put!

It is a bit like watching a world-class athlete, say tennis players Roger Federer og Björn Borg, moving "effortlessly". I recall watching an analysis of Borg’s footwork some years ago; he always seemed to be in the right place to make the perfect shot. However, an extreme slow-motion photo analysis showed that he was on the move astonishingly early, already anticipating the next shot that his opponent would make. Thus Björn Borg’s every move was well directed and appeared effortless.

It is the same the "effortless chess" that Magnus Carlsen has displayed against Peter Leko and Veselin Topalov in Nanjing -- impressively crushing both players.

Carlsen’s opening preparations, over-the-board analysis, and intuitive understanding of the strategic nuances of each position contribute to making his every move well-directed, and his game as a whole "effortless".

What we are not talking about is something that "comes nicely together in the end". I’m sorry, but that is missing d_Tal’s point entirely.


OK Thomas. :-) What I wanted to point out was I fundamentally disagree with Pogonina, as well as your phrasing. I consider that Leko and Topalov were not given a chance to play as they wanted, rather than that they collapsed and Carlsen just had to play fairly obvious and reasonably strong moves and it all just came together nicely in the end. This is the lot of a genius! Carlsen plays wonderfully, and his moves are so logical and crystal clear after the event, that folks think it was easy.

Ah well put yourself ArcticStones :-) Had your post not been near simultaneous with mine, I would not have needed to post!

"I am not _that_ familiar with Fischer's games (not old enough, non-American)"-Thomas.
That did give me a chuckle. I am also not that familiar with Steinitz's games (not old enough, non-Austrian).

As an apropos to the "simplicity" of Carlsens chess and "presents from his opponents", here is what Anand had to say a year ago:

"Carlsen and Fischer are both brilliant in simple technical positions. This year, Magnus has often won positions, in which he had only a small or even no advantage at all. Usually you need to be older for such a mature style. Carlsen actually does not yet have the experience to play this way. It is a bit surprising to see that he is already that far with 17 years of age. That is very impressive. You could say that both Fischer and Carlsen had or have the ability to let chess look simple."

And this guy should know, at least he's older than Natalia...

"Kasparov's 3.d4 was a bombshell, the first time it had been seen in a world championship match since Chigorin-Steinitz, 1892."

Nicely written piece, Mig. Carlsen is the man. Game 1. I'm a Scotch player. I checked to see if this game was similar to Krasenkow vs Sutovsky, 1998, but after 6. h3 Na6 it's not. Game 2. Topalov chose the King's Indian Classical against Carlsen? Weak sauce to me.

Actually, I was going to say that if Carlsen's style resembles anybody's it's Fischer's, but I didnt want to get into endless arguments. Glad Anand said it. :-)

I forgot to say I'm a Carlsen fan, not a Topalov fan. If Magnus does better in this tourney, cool beans.

I know it turned out ok, but any ideas why Carlsen against Topolov played 16.cxd5 when 16.Bxc5 dxc5 17. exd5 would pick up a free pawn and result in a more solid position (e.g., not opening up the c-file against White's Queen and castled position)?

Speaking of chess style. There is a to-be-published book

Chess Secrets: Heroes of Classical Chess: Learn from Carlsen, Anand, Fischer, Smyslov and Rubinstein

So, yes, Carlsen has the same clear style as Fischer.
I am somewhat surprise that Anand is also considered to be in the "classical" style.

[That did give me a chuckle. I am also not that familiar with Steinitz's games (not old enough, non-Austrian).]

But American players do tend to know Fischer's games better, just as Dutch players are more familiar with Timman's career. I came to the US 10 years ago, and was surprised by how well players knew his games. I'd been familiar with Fischer's games before, of course, but not to the extent you see in the US.

It's true that you're more likely to play badly if your opponent plays very well. But both things are possible to coexist: Topalov may have played badly and he was not getting any help by Carlsen to play better. With the slight caveat that I'm a 2000-ish patzer and don't know what I'm talking about, it still seems like a case of self-destruction. Saying that doesn't take anything away from Carlsen. Carlsen-Lékó seemed a bit different to me but I'm not going to pretend I understand most aspects of that game either, or particularly not that game. As always welcoming informed and reasonably objective comments. But I know it's hard to turn emotions off.

Pogonina's comments are at least free from the silly populism of, let's say, Susan Polgar. I liked Short the same way when he commented live for cg.com.

I love the way Topalov plays, which makes it all the more disappointing how he plays v Carlsen. Not to detract from the latter's merits, but I think he must be psyched out or something, or maybe he just can't deal with Carlsen's style.
@macuga: fair enough, but where does that leave us Irish players?? We have no chess heroes here yet.
I was about to add that any chess player worth his salt would know at least some of Fischer's games, til I remembered young Kamsky being asked in an interview:
Q: Who are your favourite chessplayers of the older generation?
A: Ivanchuk.

"It's true that you're more likely to play badly if your opponent plays very well. But both things are possible to coexist ..."

Things like this always remind me of a famous murder case here in the USA (bear with me!). A famous ex-athlete was accused of murdering his wife and a friend of hers outside her home. There seemed to be a lot of circumstantial evidence suggesting his guilt. However, the trial often focused on whether or not his notoriety had caused the police in the case to 'set him up,' i.e., plant evidence in order to have him convicted (a bloody glove, blood droplets, etc.).

Regardless of the merits of either possible scenario, no one seemed to put forth the idea that BOTH possibilities were true -- that he HAD committed the murders AND that he had been set up. Even to this day you don't hear that option much, but both things are 'possible to coexist.'

They are not mutually exclusive, as are good and bad play inside the same game of chess.


(By the way, he was aquitted of murder, but is currently serving a long sentence for another crime. Karma?)

I recall when Carlsen beat Topalov rather easily with Black using the Alekhine (!). He said that he wasn't particularly proud of that game, because Topalov wasn't being Topalov, or something like that. This game was probably better, and it will be interesting to hear what the players think.

I watched the game on chessbase this time and there was Anish Giri , who as early as move 13 or 14 said something like ¨this guy Topalov mixed the move order and lost a tempo¨ or something like that .
Although im a big fan of attacking chess i dislike the KID (even when black wins) and was very worried since move 3 , anyway , i also didnt like Topa´s first game , maybe he is not yet full recovered from his long absence in tournament play.

chess observer, after his was acquitted in the criminal trial, he was successfully sued for "wrongful death" by the families of the victims and ordered by the court to pay them $33.5 million. Later, he essentially confessed to the murders (but not in a straightforward way).

That famous athlete is now in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping after holding up some people in a Las Vegas hotel.

A rather tangential issue, I should think. But I'll tick it off the list. Next, the Assassination of Kennedy and How it Relates to Chess.

The Al Capone syndrom has nothing to do with Karma , and even less to do with chess , IMHO.

ROFL!!!!! Thanks!



I remember glancing at it at the time, thinking "what the f*** is Mig doing NOW?!" and then laughing so hard that people in other offices walked in to see what was so funny.

I wonder if Vlad has seen it.

I really like the way you look at carlsen and kasparov, there is no guarantee for superhuman powers. implying that there might well be such power. and why not? they are both awesome :-)

Feel free to chuckle, my remark was a bit tongue-in-cheek anyway ,:) . Still it made sense IMO:
1) Age - I guess anyone is more likely to remember and/or know players that were active during his own "chessic lifetime". For me, this includes all of the K's - the first WCh matches I followed were Karpov-Korchnoi.
2) Nationality: I just hypothesize that the book on Fischer's best games sells more widely in the USA, and/or is used in chess education. In the meantime, macuga came with some empirical support for this view ... .
BTW, "young Kamsky" was largely a product of Soviet chess education, I wonder how much he was told or taught about Fischer. In any case, he can have other favorites - or maybe he simply interpreted the question as referring to still active players.

Anand is not only older, but also higher-rated than Pogonina ... . Ironically, maybe one of the best examples of Carlsen's style (postdating the interview) is Carlsen-Anand, Linares 2009. GM Rogozenko commented on Chessbase:
"18.Nc7!? Just like Fischer did in some games, Carlsen exchanges opponent's poor-looking bishop, which nevertheless had important defensive tasks to protect the weak pawns."

Concerning comments or opinions by "semi-strong players" on world top chess: I vividly remember that a clubmate (ELO 2200-2300) was literally laughing aloud when Kasparov played the Scotch against Karpov ... .

Check out Dennis Monokroussos' blog:
"The tournament can be divided into three groups so far. Group 1: Carlsen. Group 2: Those defeated by Carlsen. Group 3: Those who haven't played Carlsen yet."

He comments the game, but didn't find any "!!"s. However, he did find four "!"s!
Will that do?

And here is Spassky on Carlsen:
"He has quite an interesting and rich play, moreover he is a very brave boy; he goes forward whether he wins or looses. He also plays endgames well like Bobby Fisher in his time."

Good analysis by Mono.

Yeah, I didn't include the civil trial result, as it didn't apply to my observation. Thanks for striving for completeness.

And, in that vein, none of the judgement has been paid. Some compensation was received by publishing his "fictional" account of what "would" have happened "If (he) Did It," a fascinating read, by the way.

And of course, he claims to have been set up in his current situation as well.


CO :)

Wait a minute, I've just found proof that Kramnik is innocent!

Anand and Spassky say that Carlsen is in the Fischer mould. Kasparov says that Carlsen is in the Karpov, Smyslov, Capablanca mould.

I wonder who is correct.

Making jokes about something that happened 4 years ago wont change the fact that none of you will see Kramnik play another match for the title again. Ouch.
But don´t be sad , he still can do like Garry and replay his match against Leko in a few years , that will be awesome!
Or lame .

I realize the Carlsen game was the King's Indian Classical and not the Nimzo-Indian Defense, but I have no confidence in the Indian systems in general. I just found a game where White Ben Finegold (2375 at the time) beat Black Boris Gelfand's Nimzo-Indian Defense. That's enough proof for me! ;)


Ben Finegold is a very strong player. He has draws against , among others, Anand, Gligoric and Smyslov to his credit.

Besides Gelfand, Finegold also has wins over Sosonko and Tukmakov.

In the English language when we use the ;) wink symbol that means we are joking. Your English is excellent for your second language though. ;)

I didn't find it particularly funny.

"Ben Finegold is a very strong player."

Agreed to a degree. He's had a fine career and many good games. At age 40 he just became a GM, he wasn't invited to the 2009 US Championship, his 2515 rating doesn't make him top 25 in the US, and I'd feel more comfortable with higher rated (2527) 14 year old IM Ray Robson on the Olympiad team. I'm a huge American cheerleader here, but let's keep it real.

Hey Mig,

Looking forward to your take on Pearl Spring Round 2.
:) I know your pencils are already sharpened.

What’re you up to?
I keep checking your calling, hoping for an update...

From the Nanjing official website:
Topalov said: “I was the champion last year, but not now. I think this year’s lever is higher than last year, because Nanjing always invites the best players in the world. It’s more difficult to win the champion. Carlsen is very strong and Wang has just gotten the champion in China. It was the May when I attended a game, so I am a little worried about my status.”

Surely the organizers could spare a few more bob to hire a decent translator. These garbled translations are initially amusing but become more irritating the more they occur.

Another Scotch in this round, from Radjabov this time. Of course he's played it before, like Mig said. His results are a big number of draws and an occasional win.

This seems comparatively well translated (just a bit too English, St. Louis should be San Luis), but still odd:
"By mentioning the process of the admittance of Nanjing Pearl Spring Chess Tournament into the Grand Slam, we feel very proud. On early morning of February 1st, 2009 (Beijing time), good news came from the annual conference of the Grand Slam Chess Association held in Holland. Nanjing Pearl Spring Chess Tournament beat competitors Seattle, USA and St. Louis, Argentina and was successfully admitted to the Grand Slam Association. Thus, Nanjing becomes the only city in China that hosts top Grand Slam chess tournament."
A gret achievement indeed to beat non-existing (or phantom) competitors ... . And I wonder what an unsuccessful admission to the Grand Slam would imply.

Precisely, according to chessgames.com Radjabov's white score in the Scotch is +1 =17. Already after 14 moves, it seems likely that this will become +1 =18 after today's game ... .

And I just checked that Carlsen has played the Grunfeld before, including two games against Wang Yue earlier this year in a different 4.Bf4 line.

You don´t have the inside information to call the other offers ¨phantom competitors¨ , Thomas , do you?

Nice and solid :)

There isn't that much difference. Fischer's early idol was Capablanca, and he was broadly in the Capablanca mould, although he had a penchant for strategically risky openings, especially as Black. While he revelled in the myriad complications of the poisoned pawn variation to which Capa would have recoiled in horror, he had a very positionally correct style. His technique was legendary, and he actually did not like messy, complicated positions where it was impossible to calculate everything, unlike say Tal. Fischer did not eschew complications in any way, so long as he could calculate everything correctly and make sure his king was not in danger! I think in this Carlsen resembles Fischer more than he does Capa and Smyslov. Perhaps I am getting a bit too excited here comparing Carslsen's style to probably the most perfect Chess player in history, but he appears to be the real McCoy!

Yea , lets applaud speculation and bias .
You people need to let go the fact that Danailov is involved on it and deal with the fact that Grand Slam is one of the best things (if not the best thing) that happened to chess in the last years .
While other organizations crumble the Slam provided lots of innovation and fighting chess , leave your pettiness behind please .

No, I don't have any inside information. I just referred to publicly available "outside information": those tournaments were announced (not sure if, in those two cases, dates had already been given) and then didn't take place. In other words, Nanjing "beat" competitors that withdrew before any moves were played on the boards. Or maybe, unknown and rather irrelevant to me, the 'competing events' took place as category 12 tourneys?

Do you have any inside (or locally available outside) information on what happened to the San Luis tournament?

In a tv interview while being asked about his program of chess in schools (San Luis is the only province that has that) Rodriguez Saá said that more good things were comming that way , but he didn´t clarify much .
I don´t know if that has to do with the GS but i wouldnt be so sure about calling the San Luis offer a lie , after all the guy made the WCH possible in 2005 while the rest of the country couldn´t afford to organize a beach volley tourney.

 Today Wang Yue played Black in the usual Russian defense against her old rival Jakovenko. In the layout stage, the two sides exchanged out three light pieces. Afterwards, in order to get rid of the passive, Wang Yue discarded a pawn in the chariot wing to make counterattack. Jakovenko ate the pawn to bravely accept Wang Yue’s attack. To 20th round, Wang Yue ate back the pawn, and the two sides were off the empress, and entered chariot-elephant-five-pawn balance power situation. Since then both sides were off check-elephant, and eventually in the chariot-pawn endgame, battled to 35 rounds to form three repeated the situation, and afterwards, drew with each other.

gotta love them :)

I didn't call the San Luis plans a lie, I just pointed out that, at least currently, it is no competition for Nanjing. Whether competition is an issue at all is another story, maybe the Grand Slam would have room for and welcome two or three new events (i.e. San Luis and/or Seattle in addition to Nanjing)? On the other hand, this year the Bilbao organizers could only afford four players ... .

Back to the Nanjing action: In the meantime Radjabov drew as predicted, but not completely without excitement. My patzer impression is that he tried in vain to create something out of nothing, and then bailed out with a perpetual check.

I _hate_ being off check-elephant. I pity the poor guys.

36. ... Rf4 - omg! We are not worthy!
How does Wang Yue stay so calm in the face of that? Yet he does remain calm.

"Magnus has never ever lost a classical game of chess against anyone younger than him, how many 18-19 year olds can say that?"

I'd say 99% of the world's 18-19 year olds :-)

It's hard to resist a nice blow like Rxf4, but the situation got too messy to handle given the time trouble.

The computers were recommending 36... d4 at the time, which seems to give black a very breezy advantage. (For the record, I'm of course not critizising Carlsen here)

I didn't realize Wang Yue's position was flexible enough to continue to generate threats. This is like a great boxing match (I've just seen 44 Re8) Great to watch!

A pity Carlsen lost his advantage on the very last move before the time control. A most interesting game!

Still, the Norwegian is a whole point ahead of the pack.

Bummer, a draw. Oh well, that was exciting chess (until the repetition). I thought 36. ... Rxf4, and 39.Qd7 and 43.Rxe4 were all exciting to watch, as a spectator, full of tension. Engine-less, these moves don't seem obvious, nor are the proper responses obvious. One has to work out all sorts of bizarre possibilities, which the engines zip through, but this human has to work hard at! Bravo to both players, even if the engines reveal our human errors.

(To clarify, I am watching as an online spectator, not in person in China! I am only virtually present, via TWIC.)

"Carslsen's ... appears to be the real McCoy!"


I knew he had some similarity to another famous chess player!
But I just couldn’t think of the name. ;)

Interesting that Carlsen took "opposite approaches" in time trouble yesterday and today - probably not a deliberate choice, though.
Yesterday he chose 37.Ne3, missing(?) the prettier 37.Qh3 (37.-Rh8 38.Qh8:+). Or maybe he saw it but didn't fully trust his calculations with limited time on the clock? That didn't change the result of the game, only decreases chances that it will feature in newspaper chess columns etc. ... .
Today he played the flashy 36.-Rf4: (maybe also to shock his opponent?), when simply 36.-d4 might have been better.
Also no criticism of Carlsen, it makes sense to play whatever move or line you happen to see first. On the other hand (with recent discussions here in mind): Is it now forbidden or unethical to criticize either Carlsen or his opponents?!

thomas: As a little tidbit: according to the swedish website covering the event, Carlsen said that Topalov showed him Qh3 after the game.

Also, players shouldn't be immune to criticism, but now that Carlsen has proven his prowess in so many events, the "he only won because of the opponent" is getting beyond silly. I follow chess because I enjoy it, and hearing that particular argument every time just isn't enjoyable.

I enjoyed today's game, though :)

But very few, if anyone, are saying that Carlsen "only won because of the opponent" except in extreme cases. It's easy enough to construct straw men. Statement like "Carlsen's opponent played very badly today, so he didn't really have to show anything special by his standards" or "Carlsen's opponent didn't put up much resistance today, and while Carlsen certainly played very well, it wasn't much of a test" may be tiresome to hear "every time", but that doesn't mean they can't be true in some cases, just like with every player. I'm a big supporter of Kramnik, but I've acknowledged that about quite a few of his wins. Shouldn't be such a sensitive issue once you try to be less emotional about it. If you think it's wrong in a particular case, it could be discussed rather than just lazily dismissed.

Incredible that he came close to 3/3. Earlier we commended him for making use of his time instead of moving quickly at the risk of blundering, but now he got himself into serious time trouble instead. It's hard to find the balance. But of course the position was very complicated.

acirce, every time you mention this issue, you mention the necessity to distance oneself from "emotion", and I dont know why you say that unless you are referring to yourself. I dont think anybody was emotional in the dicussion in this thread. Rather the discussion was reasoned and interesting. Speaking for myself, I have never been a Carlsen fanatic, and I just found his play in the opening two games to be a model of brevity and consistency and reminded me of Foshcer's play on some distant level, and I used the word "effortless" to describe it, and several people seemed to agree. Thomas misunderstood the difference between a figurative and literal description, and took the word to mean Carlsen won without effort. I tried to explain it to him, and while I'm still not sure he understands, he wasnt particularly "emotional" about it. Who exactly was emotional?

"but that doesn't mean they can't be true in some cases"

Sure it can be true in some cases, but not nearly as often as people are saying. That's the tiresome part. When Carlsen wins I give him the benefit of the doubt and presume he played very well (2780 level) until proven otherwise, not the other way around.

"not nearly as often as people are saying" -- Could well be true, as on most matters that many people comment on at least a few of them will inevitably be fools.

"I give him the benefit of the doubt and presume he played very well (2780 level) until proven otherwise," -- There we differ. I don't assume anything either way until having investigated it.

Not sure (or: I don't remember) if there were earlier occasions. My impression is that the entire issue ["Carlsen won only because of the opponent", or rather "Carlsen's opponent played way below his usual level"] just surfaced during the first two rounds of Nanjing. I cited Natalia Pogonina, but this does not mean that I agree with her - at least not fully, there may be some truth in her comment after all ... . And if Leko and Topalov indeed "played as if they were doomed", maybe they were primarily afraid of Kasparov rather than Leko?

We had this discussion before: many players were afraid of or had excessive respect for Kasparov, hence they kept losing against him - history might start repeating itself with GK passing his aura on to his student. Of course both Kasparov and Carlsen also won many games, kept and maintained a high rating because they are strong player - that should go without saying.

OK, that's my take of the issue - in this respect I cannot quite follow wingit ("hearing that particular argument every time") and boz ("not nearly as often as people are saying").

"maybe they were primarily afraid of Kasparov rather than Leko?" - here Leko should of course read Carlsen ... !

"I don't assume anything either way until having investigated it."

Yes, that's the better approach. I'll have to settle for the "until somebody else investigates it" method.

"OK, that's my take of the issue - in this respect I cannot quite follow wingit ("hearing that particular argument every time") and boz ("not nearly as often as people are saying")."

Over at CG.com people have been calling Carlsen lucky (because of blunders by opponents) for years.

In any case, I don't think anyone (be it Thomas, boz, acirce, Kasparov or Rybka) could reliably determine or estimate the exact ELO level (2700, 2720, 2750, 2780 or 2800) of a single game. ELO scores are cumulative career achievements.

In other words: If anyone looked at, say, Carlsen-Leko without knowing the names of the players - could he/she really know or even guess that the white player must have been Carlsen (or Aronian/Anand/Topalov), ruling out for sure that Svidler (2740) or Karjakin (2725) had the white pieces?

The silliest aspect of the repeated "he was lucky" in Carlsen's case over the years is that it is such a one way thing. When Carlsen blunders away the win against Wang Yue no one calls the latter lucky. He defended well, played impressive moves in a difficult position, showed how hard he is to beat. Most of the times when Carlsen wins people start pointing out some less than perfect move of the opponent somewhere and repeat that it wasn't impressive, wasn't a good game, was a question of luck.

I totally believe the luck arguement. I play against a lot of really lucky players.

"I totally believe the luck arguement. I play against a lot of really lucky players."


You unlucky sod! ;) lol

I believe in luck too, how else can you explain the success of those you dislike?

@Thomas :
¨I didn't call the San Luis plans a lie, I just pointed out that, at least currently, it is no competition for Nanjing.¨

Yes you did, and ¨currently ¨is not part of the argument since the phrase you quoted was in past tense.
Of course when asked for evidence you just started babbling nonesense.

@acirce :
¨ as on most matters that many people comment on at least a few of them will inevitably be fools.¨

You are not the brightest bulb in the vanity either.

Do you even wonder why people call you a troll?

I have observed many interesting opinions from you, and read those opinions with an open mind, but proving acirce's point usually isn't your m.o.

Just an observation...


I understand your obsrvation , but i just don´t consider acirce clever enough to claim stupidity on other people´s opinion.
And i like the troll nick , i have to say.

Nothing sweeter than a nice lucky victory. I'm more often on the receiving side. In my last game, he blundered after having a winning position for 20 moves.
It warmed my heart. Delicious undeserved point.

What about internet blitz ,when your oponent striped you of everything but the king and then stalemates you?
Sometimes i swear i hear them punching their computers from where i am.

The only satisfaction I take from a lucky win is that it helps even the score for all the times I've thrown away winning games.

Feel free to confuse nonsense and facts. It burns down to two simple questions:
1) Why wasn't San Luis part of the Grand Slam 2009 (or 2008/2009 including the retro-admission of Nanjing)?
No tournament, no Grand Slam participation, no qualifying spot for Bilbao - would you agree?
2) Will San Luis be part of the Grand Slam 2009/2010?
Maybe, but it will take a bit more than a vague TV interview announcement that "more good things are coming". And as chess (including the Grand Slam!) is suffering from the financial crisis: past results (organizing a WCh tournament in 2005) offer no guarantees for future performances.

So are all the leading GMs going to start lining up, wallets in hand, for their turn at a couple of training sessions with Kasparov?

It burns down to you claiming that those offers were lies and being unable to prove it.
About the ¨vague¨ tv interview:
You asked me if there were ¨signs¨ , and i answered that at least San Luis was provably not made up , it is you who needs to prove that those offers never took place.
But of course you cant , because you were just babbling nonesense speculations without facts, driven by your hate toward the Slam and Danailov in your nitpicking of that press statement.

Just to be clear, I didn't mean investigating it all on my own - analyzing the game myself and so on. I'm not nearly enough competent to do that and believe that I can draw valid conclusions, except in obvious cases. (That's an entire issue of its own - how come so many of us patzers think we enough super-GM chess so well that we immediately after a game can proclaim "Wow, incredibly well played by X" or "pretty mediocre game between Y and Z"? I mean in some cases it _is_ possible to tell with some certainty, even for us, but that is pretty rare. Kind of severe hubris at times.) I also mean looking at what others say that I consider reasonably objective, competent and trustworthy, listening to what the players say afterwards, etc.

And I definitely know I have been guilty of that many times, but I am trying to learn!

We "enough" super-GM chess? Should of course be "We know/understand/whatever super-GM chess." Thanks for your patience.

acirce: Yes, I understood what you meant. That's an odd and interesting thing about chess. There's the initial reaction, the emotional response, let's say. And only later, with guidance, actual understanding which itself may alter over the years.

Super GM's are so secure and steady when they play known openings and variations. -Flashing out 30 moves in a short time. But when they suddenly are forced into unknown territory early in the game, they start to blunder or play weaker. That's what happend to Topalov and Leko. Kudos to Wang in this regard, by the way.
Top level chess ''needs'' more surprise openings!

And there you have it
Carlsen plays wonderful chess and everybody talks about who ??? GK of course. Exactly what I meant when I said a couple of weeks ago that the hidden agenda of GK when starting to act as a trainer for MC, is that he is looking for a way to stay in a way the boss of everybody in the chess world.
And everybody falls for it.
Look at the comments: everything in MC game was trademark Gary...great you would even start wondering whether it was not secretely GK playing. WTF...
It is just ridiculous. Carlsen will be number one even without GK. He doesnt need him. And it would be better if he got to the World title without him.Because otherwise he will for the rest of his career be known as the WC who got the title thanks to the legendary GK in first instance and not by his own genius. Even though I am sure that MC's genius largely matches up to that of GK (at similar ages that is).

Mathias I beg to differ, without question having someone with massive dose of experience with the top modern players today certainly makes a BIG difference.

And as for Carlsen making it all by himself is another point I disagree with.... Kasparov has been long been behind Carlsen well before they chose to make it public.

I do not believe in Superman.... people get to where they are for a reason.

In Carlsen’s case a combination of Talent, Hard work, influential help from elite players e.g. Anand & Kasparov, and finally favourable circumstances to Top tournament invites in his earlier Years.

Credit to Carlsen, he has made the most of the opportunities life has given him.

acirce wrote: "it wasn't much of a test" may be tiresome to hear "every time", but that doesn't mean they can't be true in some cases."

It could very well be that Topalov was jet-lagged or something during round 2 and therefore played badly. Nothing that's happened in the past would change that. What the past *does* change, though, is that if you put too much emphasis on it now, it just ends up sounding like sour grapes, and it all ends up with a lot of bickering. So maybe it's better to sugarcoat it, even though stronger words would - in isolation - be justified.

I'm obviously soapboxing here, but it's still rubbish that I have to avoid certain forums like the plague if I want to learn more about certain games. If someone can explain why Topalov's moves were so horrible, there is simply no need to point out that he was below par. Just leave it to my imagination.

Mathias: "Carlsen will be number one even without GK. He doesnt need him. And it would be better if he got to the World title without him. Because otherwise he will for the rest of his career be known as the WC who got the title thanks to the legendary GK in first instance and not by his own genius."


Sorry that I have to be blunt, Mathias, but what you are saying is patently absurd!

Many of the world-class players have an entire team around the, and often come with seconds to matches. Carlsen, notably, has not. If you were to investigate, you would find that just about every Russian and ex-Soviet player has benefited from close contact and cooperation with their grandmaster compatriots.

If and when Carlsen becomes World Champion, it will be entirely his own achievement. What Garry Kasparov has done is to instill a new sense of discipline in the Norwegian -- in his preparations, and the work he does over the board.

Carlsen is make his moves. Kasparov is not.
Carlsen is winning his own games. Kasparov is not winning for him.


Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 29, 2009 1:02 AM.

    Intelligent Life We Gather: Nanjing 2009 was the previous entry in this blog.

    Кarlsen Starts Hot in Nanjing is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.