Chess: Carlsen wins speed titles after controversial game with rising star – The Guardian

Posted: January 3, 2020 at 10:47 am


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The world No 1 dominated his rivals in 2019, winning 10 elite tournaments, but is expected play less in his title defence year

Hikaru Nakamura v Jan-Krzysztof Duda, world blitz 2019. Can you find a win for Black

(to move)? Duda, Polands No 1, got it wrong.

Magnus Carlsen ended his vintage year of 2019 as he began it, as a superb all-round player who outclasses his rivals. Carlsen won at Wijk in January last year and at Moscow in December where he took both the world 30-minute rapid and the five-minute blitz crowns, losing only one game out of 38.

Overall the Norwegian, 29, won 10 elite tournaments over the year, with just two odd failures at speed in St Louis and at Fischer Random in Oslo. The standout difference between todays champion and Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov is that Carlsen has been far more active than the other legends in their peak years, taking on new challenges with hardly a break. And in his spare time he briefly became world No 1 in Fantasy Premier League. True, Kasparov was No 1 for some 21 years while Carlsen is eight years and counting.

Carlsens style has become sharper since he worked in 2018 with AlphaZero and the creative tactician Daniil Dubov: For me it is easier to play for a win. Perhaps the others risk more if they do so. I think thats the brutal truth. If you are a bit better you can afford to take more risks.

It will be different in 2020, as Carlsen has already announced: I will definitely play less. I have played a lot this year and my level of energy has become empty at the end. Not realistic to play as much in 2020, he said.

Three major targets remain. At Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee starting on 11 January he can break Sergei Tiviakovs record of 110 classical games unbeaten. Carlsen missed out on a 2900 classical rating despite getting near it in mid-year, so this can be a 2020 target. His current rating is 2872 and his all-time peak remains at 2889.

Perhaps most of all, Carlsen will want to defend his title more convincingly than in 2014, when with the scores level at 2.5 each Vishy Anand missed a simple winning chance, or 2016 and 2018 when the classical scores were tied at 6-6 before Carlsen defeated Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana in speed tie-breaks. As of now, Caruana and Chinas Ding Liren are the favourites to win the candidates in March and Carlsen respects them both as serious contenders.

Aside from Carlsen, the main talking point at Moscow was Alireza Firouzja, who quit his native Iran due to its ban on playing Israelis and will probably represent France, where he now lives.

The 16-year-old is already perceived as a potential world title challenger in the mid 2020s, so the dramatic end to his blitz game with the champion, where he missed several wins before his controversial loss on time, has become compulsive viewing.

The final position, where Carlsen had a lone bishop and a tablebase draw, was a loss for Firouzja under Fide rules because a mating position was legally possible. The teen often plays blitz games on websites where the rule is different, so that WK a8 WP a6 v BK c7 BN c8 with White to move and 1 a7 Nb6 mate is forced, may become a draw online if White loses on time and the server then decrees that Black lacks mating material.

Firouzja requested to see the Fide rule in print, an action paralleled long ago when Yuri Averbakh and Viktor Korchnoi were not sure of the rules on castling. His appeal against the result was doomed to fail because he had not complained during the game when he alleged he was disturbed by Carlsen speaking in Norwegian. Carlsen was magnanimous afterwards, but such incidents can have lasting effects on relationships between players.

Hastings has its final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday afternoon (2.15pm start). Online viewing is available on two different sites and includes computer commentary.

3652 1...Bxg2+! 2Rxg2 and now Duda fell for 2...Re1+?? 3 Rg1 Qc1 4 Rxh5+! Instead 2...Qc1+! 3 Qg1 (3 Rg1 Rxh2+) Re1 wins for Black.

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Chess: Carlsen wins speed titles after controversial game with rising star - The Guardian

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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