30 March 2016

Moscow Candidates - Third Week

In the previous report, Moscow Candidates - Second Week, there were four rounds to go and four players still had good chances to emerge as the challenger to World Champion Carlsen. Aronian then had another bad week, winning none and losing one, leaving three players with chances.

Going into the last round, the tiebreak situation was complicated. The two players leading the pack, Karjakin and Caruana, were due to play each other, so a win for either would be sufficient to win the event. In case of a draw, Karjakin would win on tiebreak if Anand, the third placed player, also drew. If Anand won, thereby achieving the same score as the other two, Caruana would win on tiebreak.

As the round progressed, Anand playing Black could only draw, leaving Caruana in a must-win situation, also playing Black. Caruana pressed hard from the start of the game, but ultimately walked into a stunning combination, leaving Karjakin the winner. The following crosstable from the official site shows the total scores for both halves of the event plus individual game results for the second half.

Although the tournament is finally over, one story is sure to continue: Agon vs. other online chess sites. Bloomberg.com reported, There's a New King of the Chess Internet, and Fans Are Outraged:-

This week's tournament has been shadowed by moves taking place off the chess board. The company hired by the World Chess Federation to organize and broadcast the ongoing tournament in Russia announced earlier this month that other websites would not be allowed to offer live coverage, as many had done in the past. A few chess sites refused to honor the ban, and now the company, Agon Limited, is suing them in a Moscow court. [...] The websites sued by Agon, Bulgaria-based Chessbomb.com and an outfit called Chess24.com that operates from Germany and Gibraltar, have said they will continue offering live coverage.

I watched the event both on Agon's site, Worldchess.com, and on Chess24.com, often switching between the two. Although Worldchess.com had more technical problems, it offered post-game press conferences with the players. As attractive as these are for chess fans, the format needs more thought, as they often reduce to a private, post-mortem discussion by the two players over the just-concluded game, which is difficult to follow. The commentary was also marred by numerous breaks showing the same ads and explanatory videos over-and-over-and-over, to the point where I just switched off the sound until the live commentators returned.

Chess24.com has more experience doing live chess broadcasts and their overall performance was head-and-shoulders above Worldchess.com. I hope that Agon reconsiders its heavy-handed, eggs-in-one-basket approach, because it will be a step backwards for world-class chess. Some sort of syndicated approach blending the strengths of all stakeholders is needed.

23 March 2016

Moscow Candidates - Second Week

Since the previous intermediate report, Moscow Candidates - First Week, five more rounds have been played in the 2016 Candidates Tournament. The standings after ten rounds, with four rounds still to be played, are shown in the following crosstable from the official site.

Only individual games from the second half are marked on the crosstable, while the totals include results from the first half. The first four players, all with a plus score, are most likely to emerge as the eventual challenger for a match with World Champion Carlsen. GM Giri, who has played ten draws in ten games, has an outside chance, but the other three players are effectively relegated to the role of spoiler.

Looking at the games still to be player, the first three players listed -- GMs Caruana, Karjakin, and Aronian -- must still play each other. The pairings for those games, as well as the remaining game for former World Champion Anand, show one critical game per round. [The single decisive game from the first half is marked with '(*)'.]

Rd.11 Anand - Karjakin (*)
Rd.12 Caruana - Aronian
Rd.13 Aronian - Karjakin
Rd.14 Karjakin - Caruana

The tournament is wide open, the players are tired, and a single move might very well determine the challenger to Carlsen.

16 March 2016

Moscow Candidates - First Week

The 2016 Candidates Tournament started a few days after my Moscow Candidates - Kickoff post, and the results through the fourth round are history. The following crosstable was taken from the official site.

While I was writing this post, the fifth round finished with all games drawn, so add a half-point to all of the totals shown above. Since one-third of the event's 14 rounds have now included, can we make any predictions about the eventual winner?

I have a 'Cumulative Score' on my page for the 2013 Candidates Tournament (London). Looking at those standings after the 4th/5th rounds, we see that Aronian and Carlsen were tied for first at 'plus-2'. By the time the tournament's mid-point was reached, they had both won another game to retain their relative positions. In the second half of the event, Aronian faltered, Carlsen managed an even score, and Kramnik came roaring back to finish in a tie with Carlsen.

(It's curious that while watching commentary on the official site I have twice seen knowledgeable people mention that Anand won the last two Candidate tournaments. Many people seem to have forgotten that he was the reigning World Champion at the beginning of 2013.)

The 'Cumulative Score' for the 2014 Candidates Tournament (Khanty-Mansiysk), shows that Anand was leading with 'plus-2' after the 4th/5th rounds, a position he kept at the end of the first half. He added another full point in the second half to win the event.

If the past is prologue, Karjakin would be the favorite to win the 2016 Moscow event. I almost wrote 'clear favorite', but in a chess tournament at this level nothing is clear until the last move has been played in the last game of the last round.

The big news of the first week was the attempt by Agon, the organizer of the Moscow event, to restrict broadcasts of the tournament: And Now for a Word From Our Sponsor (worldchess.com; 6 March).

The moves and video of the Candidates tournament will only be broadcast on World Chess. That has some chess Web sites upset. The reaction is understandable, but is it fair or even right?

Announced less than a week before the first round, the heavy-handed action left long-time chess fans fuming. Agon stuck stubbornly to its position. Also from worldchess.com:-

I'll follow this evolving story of broadcast rights on my main blog.

09 March 2016

Moscow Candidates - Kickoff

The Candidates Tournament for the current World Championship cycle starts in a few days, so I'll retrace my steps from the previous cycle, Khanty-Mansiysk Candidates - Kickoff (March 2014), and provide a few relevant links.

And once again, here's a table with links to Chessgames.com showing how the eight participants have scored in play against each other and against World Champion Carlsen:-

Ana Aro Car Gir Kar Nak Svi Top : Car
Anand xx * * * * * * * : *
Aronian xx * * * * * * : *
Caruana xx * * * * * : *
Giri xx * * * * : *
Karjakin xx * * * : *
Nakamura xx * * : *
Svidler xx * : *
Topalov xx : *
Carlsen : xx

Three players from the 2014 Candidates -- Andreikin, Kramnik, and Mamedyarov -- have disappeared and have been replaced by Caruana, Giri, and Nakamura. It's curious that all three departed players finished with the same 50% score in 2014. It's also curious that the three newcomers are the 1-2-3 favorites for winning the 2016 event: Computer simulates and predicts Candidates winner (chessbase.com).

Official posters

This event could turn out to be one of the most closely contested candidate tournaments of the modern chess era.

02 March 2016

2015-2016 Women's Grand Prix, Tehran

I added the crosstable for the recent Women's Grand Prix event at Tehran to my page on the 2015-2016 FIDE Women's Grand Prix (the PGN will follow shortly). This was the second of four events. The first was 2015-2016 Women's Grand Prix, Monte Carlo and the third is scheduled for April in Batumi, Georgia.

The logo for the Tehran event (shown on the left) is unusually symbolic. At first I wasn't even sure it was the logo. Unlike the Monte Carlo logo (see that post), there is no text identifying the venue or dates. Only the Iranian flag and the filename -- 'logo_tehran2016' -- confirm the design's intention.

The FIDE calendar lists two Women's World Championships this year:-

  • Women's World Championship Match 2016; Lviv, Ukraine; 1-Mar-2016; 19-Mar-2016
  • Women's World Championship 2016; 11-Oct-2016; 31-Oct-2016

The first event, the 2015 Hou Yifan - M.Muzychuk Title Match is just getting underway. The second will be the type of knockout event last seen in the 2015 FIDE Knockout Matches, Sochi.