Friday, February 07, 2014
Saved by the extremely odd format
Magnus Carlsen wins first serious event since capturing world title
The Guardian, Friday 7 February 2014 09.06 EST
Magnus Carlsen won his first serious event since capturing the title this week, yet Zurich was a mixed performance for the world champion. He played some fine chess, but narrowly survived a vicious attack by an ambitious rival, and he cracked in the final rounds where he scored only 1/4.
Carlsen was saved because of the odd format where the six grandmasters played a single round-robin of classical chess, then reversed colours for five rounds of one-hour rapids. Classical points counted double. The champion scored 4/5 in classical so was top overall despite his late collapse in the rapids.
The Norwegian, 23, admitted that "I was outplayed by Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana", while his final game was bizarre. Needing only a draw against Vishy Anand for first prize, Carlsen exactly repeated for 30 moves their eighth game in the world title match. Anand offered the excuse that he had not realised until too late that Carlsen needed only a draw, as he was doing so badly himself that he had stopped looking at the score table. Carlsen added: "I've felt here and in other tournaments that when I play poorly in the last couple of rounds it leaves a bad after-taste."
The incident is a far cry from Alexander Alekhine's first major event as world champion at San Remo, where, with a record total assured, he still laboured for hours in the final round to squeeze another half point.
The United States No1, Hikaru Nakamura, told New in Chess magazine that he believed his own style gave the best chance of any top GM to defeat Carlsen. At Zurich he went for the throat, using the same attacking plan as Anand in game nine in Chennai, and obtained a crushing position. Then he self-destructed, missing several wins and allowing the champion to turn the tables.
Aronian and Caruana tied for second in Zurich, a point behind Carlsen, and it was the 21-year-old Italian who earned most plaudits, emerging a clear winner of the rapid section. Caruana did not qualify for next month's world title candidates but is emerging as the favourite to be challenger in 2016.Despite the caveats above, Carlsen played some great games in Zurich, and his win from Boris Gelfand showcased his style.
Full article here.