Friday, October 23, 2009

Carlsen the Great: a virtuoso performance

Thursday, October 22, 2009
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Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

ONE of the greatest tournament performance of all time was recently accomplished by Magnus Carlsen of Norway when he won the second Spring Pearl competition in Nanjing, China.

Carlsen, whose first name is “great” in Latin, totally dominated the event, winning six times and drawing four for an amazing 8/10 score. He left his nearest rival, the world’s top-rated grandmaster, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, 2 1/2 points behind. This is like winning in the NBA by 60 points.

While such scores are fairly common in chess, this was extraordinary as the competition was a category 21 and was considered a super-elite tournament. Here is the final score: Carlsen (2772, 8 points), Topalov (2813, 5½), Wang Yue of China (2736, 4 1/2), Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan (2757, 4), Peter Leko of Hungary (2762, 4) and Dmitry Jakovenko of Russia (2742, 4).

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GM Viswanathan Anand, the current world champion and No. 2 in the rating list, was originally slated to play. Instead he was substituted by the Hungarian grandmaster Leko.

Fide has recognized this tournament, which came after the highly successful first edition last year won by Topalov, as part of the world Grand Slam tournaments. This makes it a super-elite world chess event after Corus in Holland, Linares in Spain, Sofia in Bulgaria and Bilbao Grand Slam Chess Final.

Carlsen performed at a 2850 level (double-round robin) with an average Elo of 2763 and gained a massive 29 points on the Fide ratings list. This brings him to 2801, making him the fifth player in history--after Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand and Topalov--to break the 2800 barrier.

The currently highest-ranked player, Topalov, scored 5.5/10 and performed at a 2789 level. He lost 3.5 points and will appear at 2810 on the next list.

A relatively high 70 percent of the games in this event were drawn, with white winning 20 percent and black 10 percent.

Each of the other GMs dropped one game to Carlsen or Jakovenko.

In an article in, Jeff Sonas wrote that this was the best tournament performance since January 2005 and the greatest ever of all time by a teenager as Magnus is just 19.

The five best performances of all time were by Anatoly Karpov 2899 (Linares 1994); Garry Kasparov, 2881 (Tilburg 1989); Emanuele Lasker, 2878 (London 1899); Kasparov, 2877 (Linares 1999); and Mikhael Tal 2869 (Bled, Zagreb, Belgrade).

Surprisingly, Bobby Fischer’s best performance is just the same as Carlsen at 2850 in Palma de Mallorca (Interzonal) in 1970.

Bobby Fischer’s 100 percent score of 11-0 at the US Championships in 1963-64 is not recognized due to the low playing strength of his opponents. It is the only perfect score in the history of a major tournament.

Many observers attributed Carlsen’s amazing performance to the former world champion Kasparov, now retired, who is now his trainer and coach. A big amount of money must have been involved and Carlsen’s purse of 80,000 Euros in this event is just for starters.

The World Juniors Championship has just started in Puerto Madrin, Argentina instead of Mar del Plata as originally scheduled. The competition started yesterday and will end on Nov. 4.

Although there is also a Girls’ section, the Philippines is not represented. Our Wesley So is one of the favorites in the boys’ event.

The top 10 seeded players are (all GMs) 1. Vachier-Lagrave Maxime (2718, France), 2. Andreikin Dmitry (2659, Russia), 3. Sergie Zhigalko (2646, Bulgaria), 4. So (2644, Philippines) 5. David Howell David (2624, England) 6. Maxim Rodstein (2623, Israel) 7. Li Chao (2617, China) 8. Eduardo Iturrizaga (2605, Venezueala) 9. Eltaj Safarli (2587, Azebaijan) and 10. Ivan Popov (2582, Russia).

Ray Robson, the world’s youngest GM from the US, is also expected to be a contender.


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