After five rounds it’s time to take a look at Keymer’s performance:

In the first game against Carlsen he was simply unable to build up the attack on the kingside, to construct the machine so to say.

In the second round it was quite similar. Keymer got maneuvered in a position where he had to demonstrate something on the kingside. Once again he failed to build up and allowed Anand to take the wind out of his sails. He hesitated to take a pawn and lost.

Against Caruana he tried another kingside demonstration, missed the best continuation, underestimated the counterplay and lost.

In the game against Naiditsch he didn’t get his queenside going, underesimated Arkadij’s kingside attack and got crushed.

And finally in the fifth round he didn’t even bother with building up on the queenside and sold his huge advantage for a single pawn. Very important here is that Leko called the resulting position drawish and it turned out to be equal. Once Keymer got confronted with a study-like problem he found the solution. This game raises all red flags, because it shows that Keymer has problems in evaluating positions: He undervalued his attack and overvalued the pawn.

You may have noticed that I am repeating certain patterns, because I think that’s where the problem is. Keymer was simply unable to build up positions and not because the moves weren’t there, he just didn’t find them. Once it came down to solving concrete problems he did very well. The big problem here is that he isn’t a fast superficial player. He is actually taking quite a while to come up with not that much. The game in the fourth round is the best example, because Naiditsch showed him how to build up.

To make it short: Keymer is rather weak strategically, tactically about average for his level and rather precise in the endgame.

What can be done about it? The typical suggestion would be to “study the classics”. Look at Nimzowitch vs. NN and do it exactly like that. Such advice worked for Botvinnik in 1925, but nowadays it’s simply outdated. If you want to study something from the past then you could start with the late 1950s, because they were playing the structures back then that Carlsen is playing now. One question remains though: What can you really learn from them?

There is another way to make progress though and that is to either skip the middlegame or to choose openings where certain elements are missing. For instance there is no middlegame in the Marshall Attack. It’s all tactics until it’s either mate or an endgame. There are no kingside or queenside build-ups in any of the Open Games. In such a sense Keymer is playing the wrong variations.

On the upside I think he is quite old for his age already, in other words he is not acting like a child in interviews. He can solve concrete problems and his openings with white lead to positions that are at least objectively advantageous. This is also a typical problem of modern preparation. You know a line until the point where the engine shows an advantage and just go from there. Sometimes you don’t even know why the position is supposed to be that good and have to figure it out over the board. That is where they are catching him right now, and it also explains his timetrouble. Positive is that he fighting and not trying to gain Elo by drawing.

Will he make a bigger impact on the scene than the 37 other kids who became GM before the age of 15? I guess it’s too early to tell.

Oh boy…

Meier ended up in a lost position straight out of book, almost like he intended to throw the game, the engines already showed +2 or better on virtually every candidate move for white, but Keymer played very fast and failed to convert it yet again. How many chances does he need? Well, apparently the answer is two, because Meier blundered to lose the game in study like fashion. Keymer didn’t miss it and this time he made it into the endgame-books as the winner. Was the win deserved? It doesn’t matter.


The following program may not be appropriate for the young audience, viewer discretion is therefore strongly advised.

The story continues for Keymer, but this time it was kinda brutal. First the kid gets tricked into a Closed Sicilian with a knight on f6, then Naiditsch develops a huge initiative on the kingside and he finally finishes him off with a beautiful combination. This game will win the brilliancy prize, it’s just sad to be at the losing end of it.

In my opinion Keymer is not the dangerous wunderkind who plays much stronger than his rating. He is rated 2516 and he also plays like it. His Elo-curve is flat and rightfully so. It can be covered up with opening preparation to a certain extent, but that’s about it.

Classical French

Today the Poisoned Pawn in the Classical French had two outings and the general consensus was that it’s tough to remember all the lines. Aronjan claimed that he forgot them but repeated Shirov’s line, while Meier blundered badly and got crushed without a fight.


On a sidenote: Keymer got a huge advantage against Caruana but lost again. It seems like the kid is also prone to get in timetrouble. Svidler is doing pretty well. He already beat Naiditsch and Meier, so he only has to beat Keymer with black to finish the event at +3.

Keymer’s struggles continue

Yes, he lost another Najdorf, this time to Anand. It’s not a shame to lose to Anand, but it certainly matters how it happens.

On the highest level, and that’s where the kid is competing in this tournament, the Najdorf is just a negative freeroll. He has zero chances to win with it, but it is so complicated and there are so many variations that he has every chance to lose. It gets even worse when he is missing his chances, because he won’t get that many. That is where Keymer has his biggest problems. He gets bad positions out of the opening despite Leko’s preparation and even when me manages to crawl back into the game, he is simply not tough enough (yet) to hang on or even turn the tables. Yes, he is only 14, but that doesn’t matter anymore these days because we already have a couple of kids who became GM even younger. Am I unfair to Keymer? Nope, I just don’t believe in this hype. Becoming the 37th GM before the age of 15 or the 39th player with Elo 2700 is quite nice, but only reaching the Top 10 really counts.

For me it is obvious that Leko can’t help him. Actually Leko can’t even help himself, otherwise he would be playing in the tournament. In fact, it is probably better training to play blitz with Naka, Firouzja and Artemiev on the internet than what he is doing right now. Even more important, he should ditch the Najdorf as soon as possible. It’s clearly his leak and there are lots of solid alternatives like the Berlin, the Petroff and the Caro Kann. I am fully aware of my Elo, but this is not about playing strength, it is about strategy, and that is an area where even patzers can come up with decent and sometimes even optimal decisions. I can be wrong of course.


On a sidenote: Carlsen once again proved that he is a true genius who simply plays on a different level.

Caro Kann Advance

The following game is not the typical draw, because it provides a few insights. Anand is obviously trusting this sharp line and MVL decided to believe him, at least for now. Since Anand has white against Caruana and Svidler there may not be a second chance.

Drawmeisters of the Day

Slightly more interesting is Karjakin’s improvement over Carlsen-Anand from round 2.

Ok, it was the last round.

Drawmeister of the Day

…well, almost. Instead Karjakin plays for a win and loses like Van Foreest and Navara. We can’t blame him for this, or shall we?

Losing with the Reversed Dragon

Why aren’t they playing the Symmetrical English against Carlsen?

QGD: 10…Rd8

Caruana’s match preparation had a not so successful outing today.

Play it safe!