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Candidates Final Review & Preview of Upcoming World Championship Match

User Rating: / 4
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 12 April 2013
by GM Danny Gormally

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Well the dust has cleared and what was expected to happen has indeed occurred- the Norwegian wunderkind Magnus Carlsen, the most exciting chessplayer in the world since Kasparov, has qualifed for the right to challenge the reigning champion, Indian Viswanathan Anand, for the World Chess Champion crown.
Magnus Carlsen vs. Viswanathan Anand. Photo by

I would give myself the proverbial slap on the back, for tipping up Carlsen before the event, if he hadn't been such a strong favourite to begin with. Early on it looked like Aronian would be his closest challenger, but then Kramnik came back virtually from the dead, racking up win after win, before stumbling against the mercurial Ivanchuk in the final round.

Indeed at the end both Carlsen and Kramnik lost in that round, but Carlsen qualified by virtue of having a higher number of wins. By the end Carlsen seemed exhausted, losing two games with White- although admittedly the tactical problems Svidler posed him in that final game would have tested a fresh Carlsen.

He was forced to make only move after only move- but eventually cracked under the pressure. To give an illustration of how complex the situation on the board was, at one point the computer suggested that the best move for White was the extremely counter-intuitive Bh8!?, a move any human player would always have a great deal of problem playing.
Carlsen (2872) - Svidler (2747)
White played 30.Bh4?=/+, while the chess engines suggest 30.Bh8!?+/=

Fortunately for Magnus it didn't matter as Kramnik lost as well- he must have breathed a great sigh of relief that his early collapse wasn't costly. Rather than looking miserable in the press conference after the Svidler game, instead he looked thrilled- delighted that his dream of becoming world champion was well on track.

It turned out that his penultimate game- the win against the luckless Radjabov, was the decisive one in the event. I think that Carlsen is about the only player in the world who could have won that endgame, it perfectly represented his style of just playing and playing forever, until the opponent's resistance is broken. were watching the game during a tournament in Dublin, and it seemed to us that White should have just marched his King over to the kingside as quickly as possible, to try and munch the Black king-side pawns, then if necessary sacrifice a piece for the Black a-pawn. I even made a comment that Black could easily lose that endgame if he was not careful- and suggested that Radjabov lost because he wasn't familiar enough with the video game "Pacman", with the White king playing the role of Pacman, while the Black pawns stand for the ghosts.

View Radjabov (2793) - Carlsen (2872), 0-1

Although his success wasn't overwhelming, as Carlsen explained in the post-tournament press conference afterwards, he won because he made less mistakes than the rest, a theme which explains the gap that exists between himself and the rest of the world elite.

Now Carlsen can look forward to a match with Anand, even if the venue has yet to be decided (so far the most likely candidate is Chennai, India, with a prize fund of $5,300,000 - I make Carlsen a heavy favourite for that contest, although it will be a different test that one he has ever faced before, and Anand is not a player to be underestimated. I very much doubt though, that Carlsen will be in any danger of falling into a complacency trap.

We saw in Wijk Aan Zee, in the game against Aronian, how dangerous Anand's preparation can be. In sharp positions, with his impressive team of seconds, Anand's great tactical imagination can often be shown off to its full effect.

View Aronian (2802) - Anand (2772), 0-1

However in recent tournaments Anand has lacked the bite of old, and there are clear signs of decline. He is less accurate in winning positions, and much more often throws away wins than he did in the past.

If there is an Achilles heel with Carlsen, then it's that his opening preparation is not at World Championship level just yet. But will that be a problem? After all he seems to have become World number one without a great emphasis on opening play. Whether he brings anyone in to offer help for this match remains to be seen, but I expect him in general to stick to his game plan of steering games toward ones where he can just outplay Anand in the middlegame and endgame- his skills in those areas seem to be clearly superior to Anand these days.

In fact this is the probably the biggest rating gap between a challenger and the encumbent champion since the Fischer-Spassky 1972 match (Fischer was rated 125 points ahead of Spassky: 2785 vs. 2660 - I will be very surprised if Carlsen doesn't overcome Anand and continue to stamp his authority on the world chess scene.

Danny's official blog

Other posts by GM Danny Gormally:
Would Carlsen have beaten Capablanca?

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Last Updated ( Monday, 15 April 2013 )
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