28 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Third Week

Yesterday the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament finished with a clear winner, no tiebreaks necessary. Congratulations to Fabiano Caruana on earning the right to challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen next November in a title match. In my previous post, Berlin Candidates - Second Week, I recorded the situation at the top after nine of the 14 rounds had been played:-
6.0 Caruana; 5.5 Mamedyarov; 5.0 Grischuk

Since the official site, worldchess.com/berlin, never did manage to produce a crosstable, I'll use their chart of scores per round ('Standings') to show the final scores.

The scenario for an exciting finish was set in the 12th round when the two front runners were both defeated. Playing with the White pieces, Karjakin (6.0/11 before the round) beat Caruana (7.0). Playing Black, Ding Liren (5.5 after 11 draws) beat Mamedyarov (6.5) Many onlookers started to wonder whether we were going to see a second Carlsen - Karjakin title match, after the Russian scored +4-0=2 in rounds seven through twelve, thereby catching up with Caruana.

The two most recent posts on my main blog described the situation before the last two rounds. With two rounds to go, in Two Championship Qualifying Events, I noted,

The 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament is also reaching its climax and here the results are anything but clear. [...] Five players are bunched within a half-point of each other.

Before the final round, in Berlin Candidates - Tiebreaks, I wrote,

The players with a chance of winning the tournament (plus their scores going into the last round) are: 8.0 Caruana; 7.5 Mamedyarov, Karjakin; 7.0 Ding Liren. It's still not easy to calculate each player's chances to win.

Playing Black, Caruana beat Grischuk and none of the other games mattered anymore. The chart above shows that Caruana won his last two games, despite the tension. He seems to have the nerves of steel that all World Chess Champions necessarily possess.

I watched the beginning of the last few rounds on Chess24.com. For the first nine rounds, I alternated between that site and the official site, Worldchess.com, switching when the commentators on one site or the other took a break. After the Worldchess broadcasts disappeared behind the site's paywall, I settled on Chess24 exclusively. Although Judit Polgar did a capable job for Worldchess, their other commentators were not at her level.

Worldchess.com was plagued by technical and organizational problems. For the first few rounds, the site was unable to display the games in progress. News reports only started appearing after the first half of the event had been played, even though the same reports had been available on Fide.com from the beginning. For games in progress, the main page displayed broken images for the players' caricatures, although these were working on other parts of the site (as the chart above shows).

Now I have to change the title of my 'World Chess Championship' page. Until now, it has shown 2018 Carlsen - TBA; London, XI, 2018. After three successful title matches, GM Carlsen might be favored to win, but GM Caruana has shown that he will be a worthy challenger.

21 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Second Week

In last week's report on the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament (see Berlin Candidates - First Week), we saw three players with a plus score after three rounds:-
2.5 Kramnik; 2.0 Caruana, Mamedyarov

Another six rounds have been played, again leaving three players with plus scores:-

6.0 Caruana; 5.5 Mamedyarov; 5.0 Grischuk

In past reports on Candidates tournaments from previous cycles, like Moscow Candidates - Second Week (March 2016), I presented a crosstable from the offical site. I could find no such chart on the official site for the current tournament, so I took a snapshot of the crosstable from the news site that most of the English-speaking chess world uses for up-to-date chess information.

FIDE Candidates Tournament 2018

Source: The Week in Chess

The chart shows who will be playing whom in the last five rounds. The schedule for the critical games between the current leaders is:-

Round 10: Mamedyarov - Caruana
Round 13: Mamedyarov - Grischuk
Round 14: Grischuk - Caruana

In my 'First Week' report, I developed a chart from the last three Candidates tournaments projecting winners at different points in the events. The same observations were offered by GM Ian Rogers in his report on the first half of the Berlin event, Caruana Leading Candidates Race: “I’ll Try to Stay Calm.” (uschess.org; 18 March 2018):-

In the modern era, the winning recipe for qualifying to challenge the World Champion from the Candidates Tournament has been to be in the lead at the halfway mark. In fact one has to go back to 1959 to find a Candidates Tournament where the winner was not leading halfway through the event. [...] The winners in 2013, 2014 and 2016 – Carlsen, Anand and then Karjakin – were always tied with Levon Aronian at the halfway point, before going on to outpace the Armenian.

I double-checked GM Rogers on his facts from the earlier cycles and discovered that in the eight player, four stage round-robin 1959 Yugoslavia Candidates, the unlucky Paul Keres was leading at the half-way point with 10.0/14, a half point ahead of Mikhail Tal, who eventually won the event. In the 1962 Curacao Candidates, which used the same structure as in 1959, GMs Petrosian and Geller were leading at the half-way mark with 9.0/14. Petrosian eventually finished a half-point ahead of Geller and Keres. That tournament was marred by accusations that the three leaders colluded to draw against each other (which the crosstable confirms) and to play for wins against the other participants, the non-Soviets in particular.

For those suspicions of collusion, the Candidates stage of subsequent World Championship cycles was changed to a system of long matches which -- except for a handful of cycles using a single-event knockout system -- persisted until a round-robin tournament was reintroduced for the 2013 London Candidates. For more about Soviet collusion in Candidates tournament of the 1950s, see Calculating Collusion (February 2010) on this blog.

Predictions based on the leader at the halfway mark also held for two title tournaments in the 2000s. At 2005 San Luis, GM Topalov was ahead of the next player, GM Svidler, by two full points after seven rounds. At 2007 Mexico City, GM Anand was ahead of GM Gelfand by a half point after seven rounds.

The only Candidates tournament for which I haven't developed a cumulative score by round is the 1985 Montpellier Candidates. That event was unusual in that it qualified the first four players into a short series of matches.

14 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - First Week

As I write this, three rounds of the 2018 Candidates Tournament, Berlin have been played. At this point in past Candidate tournaments, I displayed a crosstable and added a bit of commentary. Let's do it differently this time. Given the results of the last three Candidate tournaments, what do the current standings say about each player's chance of ultimately winning the event?

The following chart shows the cumulative score by round for each of the last three tournaments. If the details are too small to read, you can find the same tables on three pages:-

The winners of each event are circled in red (in 2013 Carlsen beat Kramnik on tiebreak), as are the players with a plus score after round 3. I've also indicated the leaders after round 7, the halfway point of the tournament, when the participants have played each other once.

In all three tournaments, the eventual winner was from the group of players who had a plus score after round 3. The winner was also one of the leaders after the first half of the tournament. The following table shows the leaders after round 3 in the 2018 Berlin Candidates.

2.5 Kramnik
2.0 Caruana, Mamedyarov
1.5 Ding Liren, Grischuk
1.0 Aronian, Karjakin
0.5 Wesley So

If past is prologue (it's usually not!), then the eventual winner will be one of Kramnik, Caruana, or Mamedyarov. It's curious to note that in each of the last three events, GM Aronian was one of the leaders at mid-point, then faltered in the second half. It's also curious that the ultimate winning score was always 8.5-5.5, or plus-three as they say in the lingo.

07 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Resources

In a few days the much awaited 2018 Candidates Tournament starts in Berlin. Since I've already done a Berlin Candidates - Kickoff post with links to career info for the eight players, let's add some additional info from other resources. First, here's a series of Youtube videos from the PowerPlayChess channel, discussing each player 'in ranking order from the bottom up'.

Candidates 2018 | Berlin | Preview 1 (16:14) • 'Published on Feb 21, 2018'

The description for this first clip says,

Daniel King with a first preview of the Candidates' tournament introducing three of the eight players: Sergey Karjakin, Alexander Grischuk and Ding Liren.

The other five players are covered in two more videos in the series.

Next, here are profiles of the eight players by Carlos Colodro from Chess24.com (including comments from chess fans):-

Chess24.com will be following the action (live?): Jan, Peter & Sopiko commentate Candidates. If you're not a Chess24 insider, that's Jan Gustafsson, Peter Svidler, and Sopiko Guramishvili. NB: GM Svidler played in the last three candidates tournaments: 2013 London, 2014 Khanty-Mansiysk, and 2016 Moscow.

What about Agon/Worldchess.com? The resources I gave in the 'Kickoff' post -- official site and Facebook page-- are still valid, and I could add the Twitter feed and Youtube channel:-

A few days ago Worldchess.com announced they will be Making Chess Broadcasting Dramatic, with 'Top-view cameras' and 'Excellent commentary':-

Judit Polgar, who did excellent commentary during the 2016 World Chess Championship, will be the lead commentator. [...] Judit is going to be supported by Lawrence Trent, an international master, as well as numerous guests.

They will also have 'Stickers and important moments':-

We are trying stickers in the commentary for the first time. Believing that chess is a very emoji-friendly sport, we have developed a sticker-set, which we’ll use in the commentary as well as in Social Media. Feel free to use them and also add your own.

Two of the stickers say, 'Boring'(!); another says, 'In Kramnik We Trust'. The group also announced, Media organisations to be able to broadcast moves from Chess World Candidates Tournament with five minute delay. Let's see how that works out. The first round starts Saturday, 10 March, 15:00 local Berlin time.