It seems strange to wrap up a supertournament with a round still to play. But that's what I'm doing because that's what Magnus Carlsen has done in Nanjing. Actually it's not terribly unusual. Last year in the inaugural Pearl Spring event Topalov won with a round to spare, finishing with +4, a point and a half ahead of Aronian. Ivanchuk's incredible +6 at MTel 2008 gave him the same margin over Topalov (though had Ivanchuk lost in the final round and Topalov won, they would have tied for first). Carlsen, after nine rounds in Nanjing and only tomorrow's white against Jakovenko to go, has a lead of two full points over Topalov and a performance rating hovering just under 3000. He's on +5 with exactly one win over each participant. Topalov is the only other player on plus score, his +1 actually under his lofty rating expectation.
Round nine was a day of draws after round eight was the first day with three decisive encounters. Carlsen forgot some of his preparation against Wang Yue and soon he was a move away from near certain loss. 20.Nb3 is bad; 20.Nf3 was correct. But Wang Yue missed his chance. 23..Ne7! and White loses piece, keeping only desperate attacking chances against the black king. After 23..Rc8 24.Qd3! Carlsen escaped intact and went on to outplay his opponent for his fifth victory. Also in the 8th round, Jakovenko won nicely against Radjabov's Dragon and Topalov ripped the listless Leko apart with the black pieces.
Other than the Wang Yue blip Carlsen's preparation has been as awesome as the rest of his play. I had a long conversation with Garry Kasparov about seeing his work with Carlsen pay off so impressively in Nanjing. You'll be able to get all the details in his upcoming New In Chess article that also covers his match with Karpov and its implications, combined with the lack of money for Anand-Topalov, for the chess world. I even got a glance at the notebook Kasparov keeps on his work with Carlsen. (Ironically, it's a "World Cup 1990" notebook, given out at the GMA qualifier in Moscow the year Carlsen was born.) I even took a few pictures, though the censor got to them first. As Carlsen said on the official Nanjing website, he's been in touch with Kasparov via the internet after each round to discuss preparation for each opponent. Kasparov was quite happy with their work, but also emphasized how tough Carlsen has been at the board, well beyond their preparation. In cinematic terms, he said Carlsen was "killing the bear!", which this scene will help you understand. We'll see if he's going to go Full
Garry Bear and try to beat Jakovenko in the largely meaningless final round.
More the of the event finishes -- officially. Round 10: Leko-Wang Yue, Topalov-Radjabov, Carlsen-Jakovenko. Five hours earlier, or 10pm NY time. Just about now!
Wow, Carlsen just beat Jakovenko before the end of the first time control. 5/5 with white! Holy hell. -- Topalov-Radjabov just finished, a final-round marathon with Topalov sacrificing a pawn for a long-term squeeze against the King's Indian. Finally a repetition with just minutes left for both players in the second control. Now that's getting your money's worth from a tournament! Many hard-fought and exciting games in this one, though it's hard to focus on anything other than Carlsen's insane +6 undefeated. He finished 2.5 points ahead of the world #1! He seemed tired in the second half, however, and now has the even stronger Tal Memorial in Moscow and then the London Classic with Kramnik and Nakamura. Not too long after that it's Corus time again...