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The End of the Aughties: Mighty Magnus

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Norway's Magnus Carlsen just turned 19, a birthday that capped one of the most remarkable years any 18-year-old chessplayer has ever had. He starts 2010 as the #1 on the FIDE rating list, two years younger than Kasparov was when he accomplished the same feat in 1984. Ratings are rising like sea levels and titles are proliferating like bunnies, but rankings are forever. Since the list was implemented in 1971, only Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Veselin Topalov, Viswanathan Anand, and now Magnus Carlsen have held the clear #1 spot. Kramnik should be on the list by virtue of tying for first a pair of times; let's be generous. It's not as if being one of seven players in 29 39 years is less impressive than being one of six. And even if you asterisk Topalov's FIDE title, it's one hell of an exclusive list. It's fair to point out we've been in a primus inter pares situation since Kasparov's retirement in 2005, with Anand, Topalov, and Kramnik all getting their due, but obviously number ones don't just pop up on any old fjord. Especially 19-year-old number ones. Btw, the excellent profile of him in TIME is here.

With success come its trappings, and Carlsen has picked up some impressive sponsorship deals in Norway. One of them, Arctic Securities ("an employee owned investment bank and is independent of all financial institutions.") is hosting his new blog. There are some nice round-by-round notes on his most recent events already there, mostly from London. It's clear they are dictated and/or reported -- fair enough since it's hard to imagine him heading back to his hotel to bang out these reports after every round. Still, there are plenty of insightful bits and it's certainly much more than we get from any other top player. (Nakamura, who is online more than most modems, still only has the time to blog at his site a few times a month, though his unfiltered musings are a rare treat.) Carlsen's indefagitable father, Henrik, signs off on the old blog with a coda that's well worth a read. Even the Dirt gets a shout-out! They should probably redirect the main URL to the new blog since the old one will rule the Google search results for a long while and taking it down entirely would be a loss.

Carlsen's first half of 2009 seems, now, to have been a sort of consolidation phase. Good results, a few great games, but no first place finishes. +1 at Corus after starting with nine straight draws. A curious streak repeated in Linares (5 draws to start) and later at the Tal Memorial (7). But two of his biggest wins of 2009 were first-rounders, against Topalov at MTel and Kramnik in London. It all came together in Nanjing, where Carlsen put up a result for the ages by scoring 8/10 in at the 2763-average Pearl Spring. He beat Topalov again and showed a welcome maximalist streak by beating Jakovenko in the final round despite having first place already wrapped up. Pearl Spring was the first of three classical events in a row in which Carlsen "won" the drawing of the lots, getting the one-spot and beginning with two whites. He scored 5/6, beginning Nanjing and London 2-0. In Moscow at the Tal he didn't make news until the finish, winning his last two games to share second. Totaling the three events he went 26 games undefeated with 11 wins.

Tossed in for good measure was one of the greatest blitz performances on record, finishing three points ahead of world champ and speed legend Anand, who finished 2.5 ahead of the rest. +20 in a 42-round event. Eeek. In yet another statistic that seems meaningful, Carlsen swept his four closest pursuers -- Anand, Karjakin, Kramnik, and Grischuk.

Carlsen, who is beginning a training junket with Kasparov in Morocco this week, has the fresh challenge of Corus with Anand and Kramnik in the middle of the month. He isn't bulletproof, though increasingly it is looking like the bullets must be made of silver. If he wins in Wijk aan Zee, where he shared first in 2008, we might start talking about a Carlsen primus with no pares.


I wonder if this primus with no pares may actually slow him down. I mean Kasparov was tempered in the fires of the Karpov matches. Carlsen without any peers (and the old guard retiring in the next 3-4 years) may not feel challenged. Its still too early and Karjakin looks like he may yet bloom (he is the defending Corus champ after all).

"Even the Dirt gets a shout-out!"

Yup, Mig - but you were listed (right) _after_ me, hehe. ;o)

Just kidding. :o)

"We would also like to thank the many chess enthusiasts contributing to chess as spectators and commentators, his chess friends at NTG, tournament organisers (as Corus, Linares and Tromsoe to mention a few), chess sites (as www.chessbase.com), chess blogs (with significant contributions from for instance Hans Arild Runde and Mig Greengard) and the influential people, patrons and politicians throughout the world supporting our great game one way or the other."

[From chessbase's reprint: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=6031 ]

When Henrik mentions "blogging" above, he doesn't refer to my recent rating site, but to hundreds of posts about Carlsen on cg.com and elsewhere, like the Daily Dirt, since 2003.

Btw, I notice that several GMs, including this young talent, have started using the following razor sharp refutation of the Petroff:
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d3!!
This was also used by Karpov at least once.
As an 1.e4 player, all I can say is....poop :(


topalov in 2008 could be just as impressive as carlsen as 2009. slow first half for himself, and dynamite in the second. but they gave the "chess oscar" to anand because he won the thing fide called the "world championship"

probably carlsen wins it this time. though the applied logic would give it to topalov for winning the "candidates match" to qualify to play anand for the "world championship"

"topalov in 2008 could be just as impressive as carlsen as 2009."

Was Topalov also 18 years old in 2008? A slight difference there, isn't it?

"indefagitable"? Now there's some genuine dirt. I didn't think he was gay either, but it's not our business to speculate.

Hello Mr. Clubfoot. I do not understand.

Maybe Clubfoot's fantasy was triggered by these few words?

"as carlsen as 2009"

I guess the poster meant "as Carlsen in 2009".

Fag=slang for "gay". Correct spelling of term referred to: indefatigable

I think I now understand and say thank you all for being so nice. Mr. Clubfoot is funny I geuss but I am slow to undrstand.

there's not much wrong with the Cochrane gambit.

Anand won the world championship (widely accepted, not just so-called by FIDE) convincingly, in a match that didn't have a clear advance favorite. Topalov won a semi-final ("so-called" or created out of the blue) where he was clear favorite beforehand, and his victory wasn't convincing - if one looks beyond the score at the actual games. The difference should be clear enough ... .

But otherwise you have a point: Topa's run in the second half of 2008 is comparable to Carlsen's one year later - and back then some of his fans also called him primus with no pares, which didn't quite come true. For me, Carlsen winning Corus also still wouldn't close the issue, at least not if it's just 1/2 point ahead of Anand or Kramnik - well, Mig carefully wrote "we might _start_ talking about ...".

BTW, what's more impressive in today's chess world: Carlsen being #1 and potential WCh at his age, or Anand and colleagues still going strong at their age? And even if Anand, Topalov, Kramnik, Gelfand ... retire in 3-4 years (like Kasparov did) or gradually drop out of the world top (like Karpov, Timman, ...), there are still Aronian, Gashimov, Karjakin and some rising stars for competition.

It's a pity Aronian is not participating in Corus.

Agreed - also for selfish personal reasons: Corus is the event that I can watch onsite, still better than watching live over the Internet. There may be two reasons for Aronian's absence:
1) The Grand Slam organizers decided (for financial reasons?) to split the top5 between them: Carlsen, Anand and Kramnik play Corus, Aronian and Topalov play Linares.
2) Aronian plays the World Team Championship that finishes just before Corus, and two events in one month may be too much? While he reportedly likes Corus, he loves team events for Armenia.
Now only Nakamura plays both - Karjakin had the same plan, but still isn't allowed to represent Russia in team events.

Me and a couple of club mates also found that refutation the other day.

Not only Karpov, but also Lawrence Day has played it - if that's not a quality mark I don't know what is.

And it has actually been approved of on reasonably high political level, when then Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson played it against his Estonian counterpart in a very important game. The latter found the interesting 3..Bd6, and it's true White soon had to concede a draw, but I think there are improvements to be found.


Well... yes, there is. Of course if Black is unprepared it's easy to go wrong against it, but objectively it's just not good.

Was it Tartakower that said, 'an opening is good enough if it's reputation is bad enough'? I think the Cochrane gives good practical chances- 2 pawns for a piece+ an uncastled Black king+ difficulties with piece development and coordination, seems like a good return on the investment of a piece.
Hey, Topalov played it against Kramnik in Linares....

There is another little boy who win big tourment and soon we all talk. I think he was one time the doll bear boy.

I find it a bit hard to judge its practical chances, it certainly depends on the level it's played on, but on most levels it can definitely be dangerous.

Not the same thing as saying there is not much wrong with it. You could say the same thing about the King's Gambit or a lot of other dubious gambits.

Yeah, Topalov played it against Kramnik and got nothing. If he just wanted a draw against Kramnik's Petroff there's really not much need to go through that trouble. ;) Kramnik gave 4.Nxf7 a full '?' in his annotations. Perhaps some find it a bit harsh, but I very strongly doubt it's better than '?!'

Well, I am a strong believer in the laws of chess, and I don't think it is sound...such early sacrifices, against reasonable moves by Black, just can't be right. Sometimes people play it against me in internet blitz, I've yet to lose a game against it (opponents roughly equal strength). But a great philosopher and GM, Mr Balboa, had some pertinent words which apply well to 3.d3 ..."That all you got?"

But you know what they say: getting to the top is not as hard as maintaining yourself at the top. We have had in the last few years a number of number ones that are more just like firsts among equals without that dominance that Fischer, Karpov or Kasparov showed in their time. Will this number one be different? Time will tell.

Why are they going to Morocco to train???

The concept of 'potential' is unavoidable when one reflects on where Carlsen is poised at this moment in time. His two year-end tournament victories indicate his over-the-board potential. The fact that TIME Magazine published two articles about Carlsen within about a week indicates another, not insignificant, type of potential.

But you know what they say: getting to the top is not as hard as maintaining yourself at the top.

<- Actually I have found getting there quite difficult.

The ratings have been around for 39 years, not 29, which emphasizes the rarity value of the people who have been #1.

Over the first 34 years three people were ranked #1 (not counting Kramnik's joint #1 in Jan-1996). In the last 5 years, three other people were ranked #1 (this time counting Kramnik's joint #1). Only time will tell whether Carlsen belongs with the first group or the second.

Lots of business owners do not have free time to do their seo work. Thus, the seo firm can be an answer.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on January 4, 2010 1:45 AM.

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