19 March 2014

Khanty-Mansiysk Candidates - First Week

The eight candidates vying for the chance to play Carlsen for the World Championship are off and running. After five rounds the standings are shown in the following table, taken from the official site, Candidates Tournament 2014.

In a comment to last week's post, Khanty-Mansiysk Candidates - Kickoff, I noted,

If we substitute Anand for Carlsen, the top four finishers at the 2013 London Candidates are also playing in the 2014 Khanty-Mansiysk Candidates. The bottom four finishers have been replaced by four different players.

The top four finishers at 2013 London are currently occupying the first four places at 2014 Khanty-Mansiysk. Coincidence? Definitely. With nine rounds still to be played, anything can happen.

Last year Carlsen edged Kramnik on tiebreak, earning the right to challenge Anand. This year's tiebreaks, identical to the system used last year, are shown in the table under the 'Res', 'Vict', and 'SB' column headers. Their meaning is found in the 'Rules & Regulations' for the tournament.

3.7 Tie-breaks

If the top two or more players score the same points, the tie will be decided by the following criteria, in order of priority:
a) The results of the games between the players involved in the tie.

If they are still tied:
b) The total number of wins in the tournament of every player involved in the tie.

If they are still tied:
c) Sonneborn-Berger System.

If there is no clear winner with the above 3 criteria, there will be a special competition between the players who still remain tied after using the 3rd criteria (Sonneborn-Berger) [...]

Although the players in Khanty-Mansiysk are giving their best efforts, the competition lacks some of the heat felt in London. This is due to several factors.

First, Carlsen isn't playing. In 2013 the number one question was 'will he qualify for a match with Anand?', followed by 'if he qualifies, will he win?'. Carlsen was the favorite and everyone knew it. In 2014 the number one question is 'who will qualify?'. There are at least four players who have a chance of winning, and before the tournament started, their chances were considered roughly equal. Ditto for their chances against Carlsen. Against any one of them, the Norwegian GM will be the heavy favorite.

Second, London is one of the world's major cities, while Khanty-Mansiysk is somewhere in Siberia. Media attention is sadly lacking and we won't see any interviews on BBC or CNN while the tournament is taking place.


Later: The sixth round has finished. Two of the top-four players were beaten by two of the bottom-four. Anand is at plus-two, Aronian at plus-one, Karjakin at minus-one, and Andreikin at minus-two. The other four players have even scores. Tomorrow is a free day and then we have three games on the weekend: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You can be sure I'll be watching.

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