Saturday, November 6, 2010

Carlsen Quits World Candidates

I guess the biggest news now in the chess world is Magnus Carlsen withdrawing from the World Championship cycle.

Instead, Magnus favours the tournament method (link to Chessbase article)?

I'm sorry Magnus but you've lost me. The matches have been a mainstay and the main attraction of the chess world since its inception to produce a World Champion whether you like it or not. San Luis 2005 only produced a FIDE World Champion much like in the preceding years before it. Mexico 2007 was a special event and one which produced Anand as a unified World Champion because the then existing World Champion Kramnik agreed to play under FIDE's rule. Anand subsequently solidified his status a year later in Bonn and no one has since doubted his status.

No one ever said the path to being a world champion was easy. In the 50s and 60s, players had to qualify for Interzonals and then the Candidates before facing the World Champion. Players who reached this summit truly deserved to be a World Champion. That is why players like Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer proved their mettle and their names are etched in the minds as great chess players in everybody's hearts and minds.

So why a tournament format? It's obvious that Magnus shines in such a format and it is one which guarantees his best chance of winning. But winning such a tournament is worthless in the eyes of the chess world. The years of the split between FIDE and Kasparov are well known and FIDE's introduction of the tournament format was ample proof of that.

I find it amazing that Carlsen qualified not because he had passed through the Interzonals nor the Grand Prix but because FIDE gave him a free ticket to the seat by virtue of his rating and he is still not satisfied.

This is not going to sit well with the rest of the chess world.


  1. On the bright side, Magnus now gives credence to Americans' stereotype of Europeans as weak, effeminate whiners.

  2. I can often be critical of Fischer's rather childlike behavior after he won the title, but at least Fischer went through it once (and dominated!) Carlsen seems like he is afraid slog through it. I wonder what his mentor Kasparov thinks??

    Kasparov and Karpov were great champions as they would play anyone, anywhere in any format. Anand is also this way. And I even have to admit that Topalov is also a gamer as he seems unafraid to play anyone in any format!!

    Carlsen has to realize that that the title is not his birthright. He has to earn it!!

  3. I just read the article and interview at chessbase and Carlsen seems a little too concerned with and proud of his "Number 1" ranking. That is why I hate ratings lists!

    Chess is a competition! Play it out at the board in a match! There is psychological considerations in a match that make it much more exciting and grueling and dare I say entertaining!

  4. I'm tempted to throw in an "Anakin Skywalker" reference.

    History shows it's best not to wait too long to become a world champion. There's always another budding "Magnus" waiting in the wings, soon to be nipping at the heels.

    The more games played, the more other opponents prepare, just like in any sport eventually they start gunning/preparing for the #1 guy/team.

    It does sort of say suggest though that outside of the chess addicted-community perhaps regular folk really don't give a rat's who is chess world champion?! Kind of pathetic.

    Perhaps playing for the world championship should be a requirement for being allowed to play in top tournaments. Might seem draconian, but it is called a "FIDE" rating after all, and not a "Magnus" rating.

  5. I found another link where someone had something to add to this debate.

    I seem to recall back when Gaza had the PCA that there was a separate PCA ratings list, although I can't find a reference to there being one.

  6. Hi LinuxGuy and Tommyg:

    This means that Carlsen would not be able to challenge the World Championship for another 5 years. This is an enormous risk. Carlsen may think that he is good enough by then but every single World Champion and their challenger faced and accepted that an enormous amount of hardwork is required for such a feat.

    However, the young guns of Anish Giri, Hikaru Nakamura, Sergey Karjakin, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave are enormously talented and they are snapping at the heels of Carlsen and Carlsen may find that he may not be as dominant as he was before.

    I'll give an analogy. When Veselin Topalov first appeared on the scene in the 90s, many people had problems coping with his style. However, after playing with him over a few years, the top Grandmasters have more or less "figured" him out and how best to play against him. Carlsen has only been at the top for a year (ratings wise). It would not take long for players to figure him out over the next 2 years and to play against him.

    Kasparov complained that Carlsen is not willing to put sufficient effort into his openings and this is starting to show at the recent Olympiad - something which Kramnik, Topalov, Ivanchuk and Anand have done.

    I don't think people really care about Carlsen outside of the chess world. It's disappointing yes, and his protest seems misguided. Kirsan has done much to damage the image of chess and for once, when things might look to go to normality, Carlsen decides to throw in a spanner.


  7. This is going to be very unfortunate for this young man. FIDE has finally come to its senses and gotten back on track for a championship cycle that will include match play. He either agrees or he will be out. The ratings list loses meaning when the top 6 or 8 players have slugged it out in match play.

    A pity but what can you do. I hope he wakes up soon....

  8. Hi wang,

    Thanks for your comments. It is indeed unfortunate. Perhaps he has received some bad advice. Rating lists have no meaning at all. You can earn rating points by playing weaker 2700 players continuously while holding for draws vs 2800 players. Sure you improve your ratings but the idea is a flawed one.

    Topalov has been #1 on the ratings list for much longer than Carlsen and he was by no means the best chess player in the world.

  9. I am just a kid and don't want to "do" politics, I find that unbecoming.

    Five years to walk around and say you are world champ should be a big deal in terms of getting publicity/exposure outside of chess. It seems somewhat obvious that he would prefer to avoid the limelight, even as he plays along with it as a good sport.

    Perhaps in Norway, he is already a celebrity and so it holds no point for him personally, but in a big country like the USA, you really do need a giant "brownie button" on your lapel to announce to the non-chess world that you are somebody. Saying you are #1 on a ratings list is like saying you are "top geek". Where is the title?

  10. "Kasparov complained that Carlsen is not willing to put sufficient effort into his openings"

    You can lead a horse to water....

  11. I've suspected for the last two years that Carlsen's biggest hurdle would be winning against Anand in a match.

    But wait, I shouldn't have to play him! Yeah, yeah, that's it...that's the ticket! Probably have to know your openings real well against Anand too, bummer that.

  12. And what happens when Carlsen runs out of opening novelties? :)

    The sad part is that even if Carlsen were to come back and should one day win the WCC, there will always be lingering doubts that he has failed to beat the "old guard" of Anand/Kramnik/Gelfand/Topalov in their prime and that he chickened out when it mattered.


  13. Or he could become like Larsen, taking clear second behind Kasparov, missing the draw in their game, in some super-duper GM tournament of who's who. Who will remember Larsen for taking second? They will "remember" Kasparov winning it because he later became world champion!

    If I were that good at chess, I would work on my social life. lol.

    IMHO, he would be lucky if all he had to worry about was Anand getting old. If he "sneaks" in, only chessplayers or chess afficionados will make that distinction. ;-)

  14. The bottom line is that people want matches, not tournaments to decide a World Champion.

    The latest blurb from his dad only confirms what we know. Carlsen prefers tournaments. What he has done to the chess world is not a positive image. He talks about preferences and quits because his demands are not met.

    In contrast, most of the top players interviewed don't miss him and consider his acts strange (as Kramnik had stated). Just when the world is getting round and finding its feet back to the good old days of Interzonals and Candidates, Carlsen pulls this stunt.

    It's very sad.