Impressive

Chessbomb is a very nice plattform because you get the moves in colors. Blue means very close to the computer top candidate, red means a massive deviation (= blunder). Here is a game that is blue from the start to the very end. The question remains how deep the preparation went for both sides, especially since none if this was forced. Carlsen goes for lines that leave many options.

18 games, 17 draws

Obviously I should be happy because this shows once again that chess is a draw, even though it’s not always forced. On the other hand this tournament is a strong argument for inviting a few underdogs to make it interesting for the crowd. I am not exactly a fan of Rapport or Topalov, but you need a few players who play for three results. Unfortunately Van Wely retired, because he was a fighter.

Snoozefest in the making

This year there is no real target in the lineup, so there won’t be many decisive games. Since Nakamura became rock solid, Nepo is pretty much the only random factor left. He can beat everyone and lose to everyone, but his fequency of decisive results is significantly higher than any one in the field. To prove this theory he already dropped half a point to Anand with white. To be fair, Anand played a nice game.

The Driving Force behind Success

Thank god this Horror Show is over. Carlsen, who clearly has anger issues when things are not going well, decided to roll out the trash. He beat Karjakin with the Sämisch-Nimzo and even managed to draw Aronian with it after a few adventures. He lost with the Jänisch to Caruana and with the Cochrane-Gambit to Yu. In one way it was a sign of frustration, in another way he didn’t give away any information either.

Was this unprofessional or not worthy for a World Champion, who is supposed to respect the game? I am pretty sure that Carlsen doesn’t care. This is the way he plays, he simply doesn’t care. The driving force behind his success is that he is the worst loser in the World. Before him it was Kasparov, and before Kasparov it was Fischer. Hating to lose is the biggest motivator possible. It forced all of these guys to put more energy in their game than everyone else. I don’t think that this is bad, it’s exactly what makes World Champions. Nice guys finish last, and part of the reason is that they take losing too lightly. I believe that this is also a good lesson for life. Don’t be too easy on yourself!

The struggles continue

The first day of the Blitz obviously went horrible for MC, but maybe we can take away some insights.

Karjakin doesn’t lose often with 1.e4, but when he does, it happens quite often in the French. Nevertheless it’s pretty weird that Carlsen went for the endgame-variation, because it only requires basic knowledge from white in order to secure a safe advantage. Karjakin probably surprised him with the AlphaZero-move h4.

Against Yu he played the Bd7-Sicilian and transposed to a slightly better version of the Dragon than with the regular moveorder. Nevertheless the resulting position is pretty bad and once again his opponent converted his advantage like a machine.

Finally there was this…

Such tournaments are tough because once you fall back you don’t really want to use your valuable novelties to catch up. I assume Carlsen just decided to play some crap in order to get over with it. At least there was some respect left, otherwise he could have tried the infamous Bongcloud.

Who dares doesn’t always win

Karjakin beat Carlsen in a masterpiece. Yes, he did. What really happened was this: This time Carlsen gave up too much rope and Karjakin just played a perfect game. Such things will happen from time to time if you play with fire like Carlsen. It’s not a reason to panic, it’s just the downside of playing bad openings on purpose.

Nevertheless the game must have put Carlsen on tilt, because he basically went berserk against Mamedyarov. On the other hand the result shows that he could afford this “calculated risk” against this specific opponent. Shak is less of an machine than Sergey.

It is not enough to be good player

…you also need to play well.

That’s the famous by Tarrasch quote that applies to Carlsen as well. Even the best strategy cannot work out if you make tactical blunders. Although it has to be said that Carlsen usually plays mainlines against Caruana, so their game was somewhat different.

In the next game Carlsen was clearly better and simply blundered.

Carlsen’s Approach

Here is a game that I would call prototypical for Carlsen’s approach to chess. He is willing to make a slight concession to obtain a playable position where he has no weaknesses and there are no forced lines. It’s like playing a gambit where he gives his opponents a slight advantage without a fight. In this case it was the bishop pair in a static rather closed position. Here is the trick: In order to preserve his bishops Rapport makes consolidating moves which gives Carlsen the freedom to grab space and to outplay him.

With the white pieces it’s a different story. Here it seems that Carlsen got inspired a lot by Leela aka AlphaZero as of late.

Another Surprise

Apparently my man Radjabov (Elo 2759) had a chance to catch Dominguez, so he decided to make it interesting. The line he chose offers white a bunch of forced draws on a silver plate nevertheless. Kualots (Elo 2560), for a reason only he knows, decided to “play a game”, so the draw was made after 40 moves.

What would Carlsen have done? He would have played some bullshit opening, given his opponent +0.33 at move 10, equalize around move 25 and win 50 moves later. Radjabov can’t do that, because he is wired differently. He cannot play incorrect openings in order to avoid forced draws, because it would violate his zero-risk-philosophy. Radjabov also gave his opponent rope to hang himself, but he did it as a negative freeroll. That’s not the same.

Surprise

Radja was given the chance to repeat a known forced draw in the Botvinnik, but he refused to do so.

Play it safe!