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.

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