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Candidates – Magnus Carlsen (2872 – World #1)

4/5/2013 – In the heat of reporting on the London Candidates tournament we unfortunately forgot one participant: Norwegian chess genius Magnus Carlsen. At 22 he already has sterling accomplishments under his belt – the World Championship is the one title he still needs for his résumé. With his victory Magnus has taken the first step towards that goal. Final player portrait by Michael von Keitz.
 

Magnus Carlsen (2872 – World #1)

Like a raging inferno of Norwegian cheese, Carlsen has held the world in rapt attention since his arrival on the scene. Upon the conclusion of Biel in 2006, the victor, Morozevich, was asked: “How do you judge Magnus Carlsen, your executioner in Biel?” His response was telling: “He is a free spirit; he calculates and plays fast. If he continues on this path, he can go far, very far.” Some might consider Magnus’ accomplishments to date to be “very far,” but the World Championship is the one title he needs to secure in order to silence the doubters.

"He can go far, very far" – Magnus back in 2005

In response to Fischer’s voiced outrage over possible Soviet collusion following the 1962 Candidates tournament, the traditional round-robin format was dispensed with in favour of match-play, which made its debut at the 1965 Candidates tournament. The years have progressed, the nature of the game has changed and rapidplay tiebreaks have become increasingly more commonplace; therefore, in no small part thanks to Carlsen, the chess world has now come full circle, with round-robin play being the format of choice for the 2013 Candidates tournament. That said, it remains to be seen whether this format is truly to be preferred.

Carlsen’s rise has been shocking, even more so when one considers that he is still only 22 years old. The heights he has reached are stratospheric, leaving the oxygen thin, but one can assume he has done a great deal of training leading up to this event, seeking to push himself to the mesosphere. Ignoring his varied accomplishments, which are many and well-documented over the past few years, it goes without saying that Carlsen is top-of-mind and heavily favoured to win this event. At stake is his ability to match Kasparov in securing the World Champion’s title at the age of 22.

The world in his hand – Magnus in 2008

Magnus’ previous World Cup and FIDE Knockout World Championship experiences came at a very young age, starting in 2004 when he was defeated by Aronian. He met with a similar fate at the 2007 Candidates tournament, which was quickly redeemed by a semi-final appearance at the 2007 World Cup. Since that time, he has been a hold-out, but no longer!

Allow us now to explore what Magnus’ fellow candidates have in store.


Boris Gelfand (2740 – World #18)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
29
2005 Biel E12 Queen's Indian
2 Draw (w)
26
2005 Biel B96 Sicilian, Najdorf
3 Loss (w)
38
2006 Tal Memorial D17 QGD Slav
4 Draw (w)
27
2007 Dortmund D11 QGD Slav
5 Draw (w)
37
2007 Tal Memorial A20 English
6 Draw (w)
67
2008 Corus D45 QGD Semi-Slav
7 Draw (b)
27
2009 Tal Memorial D80 Grunfeld
8 Draw (w)
40
2010 Bazna D43 QGD Semi-Slav
9 Draw (b)
33
2010 Bazna D37 QGD
10 Win (w)
38
2011 Tal Memorial D12 QGD Slav
11 Win (w)
52
2012 Wijk aan Zee D12 QGD Slav

Overall: 2 Wins, 8 Draws, 1 Loss
White: 2 Wins, 5 Draws, 1 Loss
Black: 0 Wins, 3 Draws, 0 Losses

Although they may not yet have faced often, Gelfand has proven a fairly difficult opponent for Carlsen over the years. Their most recent two encounters, however, have both ended in victory for Magnus, so the momentum is in his corner. Neither player has scored victory as black, which may remain a theme. Expect the Slav to be played and to be punished.


Carlsen's opponents at the Candidates

Peter Svidler (2747 – World #14)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (w)
43
2006 Spitsbergen Chess Festival C77 Ruy Lopez
2 Loss (b)
31
2006 Spitsbergen Chess Festival B30 Sicilian
3 Draw (b)
29
2006 Tal Memorial C95 Ruy Lopez, Breyer
4 Loss (w)
47
2007 Corus C84 Ruy Lopez, Closed
5 Draw (b)
27
2007 Linares-Morelia B35 Sicilian
6 Draw (w)
29
2007 Linares-Morelia E60 KID
7 Draw (b)
43
2008 Baku Grand Prix C80 Ruy Lopez, Open
8 Draw (b)
22
2008 Aerosvit E15 Queen's Indian
9 Draw (w)
55
2008 European Club Cup A15 English
10 Draw (b)
40
2009 Tal Memorial B30 Sicilian
11 Draw (w)
53
2011 Tal Memorial D86 Grunfeld, Exchange

Overall: 0 Wins, 9 Draws, 2 Losses
White: 0 Wins, 4 Draws, 1 Loss
Black: 0 Wins, 5 Draws, 1 Loss

Svidler is one of the few players among the world’s elite who can say that he has never lost a classical game against Carlsen. Moreover, he has managed two victories against the young Norwegian, one as each colour. Magnus will seek to restore the cosmic balance when they face-off again. Expect some opening surprises.


Vassily Ivanchuk (2757 – World #13)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Win (b)
60
2007 Linares-Morelia A46 Queen's Pawn Game
2 Win (w)
35
2007 Linares-Morelia D86 Grunfeld, Exchange
3 Draw (b)
93
2007 Tal Memorial B33 Sicilian
4 Draw (b)
19
2008 Corus C68 Ruy Lopez, Exchange
5 Draw (w)
39
2008 Linares-Morelia B90 Sicilian, Najdorf
6 Win (b)
40
2008 Linares-Morelia C67 Ruy Lopez
7 Win (w)
46
2008 Aerosvit E97 King's Indian
8 Draw (b)
29
2008 Bilbao B78 Sicilian, Yugoslav
9 Loss (w)
32
2008 Bilbao D37 QGD
10 Loss (b)
39
2008 European Club D94 Grunfeld
11 Draw (b)
24
2009 Corus C92 Ruy Lopez, Closed
12 Draw (w)
34
2009 Linares D81 Grunfeld, Russian
13 Draw (b)
22
2009 Linares D56 QGD
14 Draw (w)
54
2009 M-Tel Masters D11 QGD Slav
15 Draw (b)
41
2009 M-Tel Masters B30 Sicilian
16 Draw (b)
31
2009 Tal Memorial A48 King's Indian
17 Win (w)
35
2010 Corus D10 QGD Slav
18 Draw (b)
33
2011 Bazna C65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin
19 Win (w)
72
2011 Bazna D38 QGD, Ragozin
20 Win (b)
45
2011 Bilbao C11 French
21 Win (w)
34
2011 Bilbao E21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
22 Draw (b)
74
2011 Tal Memorial D82 Grunfeld, 4.Bf4
23 Draw (b)
57
2012 Wijk aan Zee D56 QGD

Overall: 8 Wins, 13 Draws, 2 Losses
White: 5 Wins, 3 Draws, 1 Loss
Black: 3 Wins, 10 Draws, 1 Loss

Ivanchuk is a favourite customer of Carlsen’s, with four of their last eight encounters ending in victory for the Norwegian, the other four ending in draws. The Ukrainian has had similar woes with either colour, but is quite capable of shocking the World #1, given the opportunity. Expect sharp struggles, as both players seek to shake things up.


Alexander Grischuk (2764 – World #10)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
17
2006 Tal Memorial D38 QGD, Ragozin
2 Draw (b)
55
2007 Biel E10 Queen's Pawn Game
3 Draw (b)
39
2008 Baku Grand Prix D17 QGD Slav
4 Draw (b)
34
2009 Linares B33 Sicilian
5 Win (w)
37
2009 Linares B85 Sicilian, Scheveningen
6 Draw (b)
19
2011 Wijk aan Zee D07 QGD, Chigorin
7 Draw (w)
40
2012 Tal Memorial C78 Ruy Lopez

Overall: 1 Win, 6 Draws, 0 Losses
White: 1 Win, 1 Draw, 0 Losses
Black: 0 Wins, 5 Draws, 0 Losses

In the few games played between Grischuk and Carlsen, caution has generally been the prescribed medicine, which has netted Magnus but one win as white. Expect the Norwegian to drop all pretenses here and to land some crushing blows with either colour. Careful play will be met with harsh rebuke. The Sicilian may be tried again between these two.


Teimour Radjabov (2793 – World #4)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (w)
33
2006 Turin Olympiad B30 Sicilian
2 Draw (b)
68
2006 Biel A58 Benko Gambit
3 Draw (w)
30
2006 Biel E97 King's Indian
4 Draw (w)
21
2007 Corus B32 Sicilian
5 Win (w)
28
2007 Biel B09 Pirc, Austrian Attack
6 Draw (w)
65
2008 Corus A48 King's Indian
7 Loss (b)
43
2008 Linares-Morelia C65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin
8 Draw (w)
69
2008 Linares-Morelia C63 Ruy Lopez, Schliemann
9 Win (b)
40
2008 Baku Grand Prix B77 Sicilian, Yugoslav
10 Win (w)
37
2008 Bilbao B78 Sicilian, Yugoslav
11 Draw (b)
53
2008 Bilbao B12 Caro-Kann
12 Draw (b)
31
2008 European Club Cup C67 Ruy Lopez
13 Draw (w)
60
2009 Corus B40 Sicilian
14 Draw (b)
34
2009 Linares C53 Giuoco Piano
15 Draw (w)
53
2009 Linares B30 Sicilian
16 Win (w)
25
2009 Pearl Spring B30 Sicilian
17 Draw (b)
34
2009 Pearl Spring D86 Grunfeld, Exchange
18 Draw (b)
74
2010 Bazna B25 Sicilian, Closed
19 Win (w)
64
2010 Bazna B30 Sicilian
20 Draw (w)
37
2011 Bazna D37 QGD
21 Draw (b)
29
2011 Bazna D37 QGD
22 Draw (b)
44
2012 Wijk aan Zee A07 KIA
23 Win (b)
59
2012 Tal Memorial C45 Scotch Game

Overall: 6 Wins, 16 Draws, 1 Loss
White: 4 Wins, 8 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 2 Wins, 8 Draws, 1 Loss

Radjabov was a young star a few short years before Carlsen’s rise. Since that time, the Azerbaijani has become another customer, dropping three of their last eight encounters, while stealing no points of his own. The English and French may both make appearances between these two, as Radjabov seeks to get a handle on his archrival.


Levon Aronian (2809 – World #3)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (w) 31 2004 FIDE World KO Ch E32 Nimzo-Indian, Classical
2 Draw (b) 19 2004 FIDE World KO Ch B10 Caro-Kann
3 Loss (b) 74 2006 Tal Memorial E15 Queen’s Indian
4 Draw (b) 20 2007 Corus E15 Queen’s Indian
5 Draw (b) 31 2007 Linares-Morelia E04 Catalan, Open
6 Draw (w) 28 2007 Linares-Morelia E15 Queen’s Indian
7 Loss (w) 36 2007 Candidates C78 Ruy Lopez
8 Draw (b) 21 2007 Candidates A58 Benko Gambit
9 Win (w) 41 2007 Candidates A30 English, Symmetrical
10 Loss (b) 40 2007 Candidates E11 Bogo-Indian
11 Win (w) 49 2007 Candidates E12 Queen's Indian
12 Draw (b) 47 2007 Candidates D17 QGD Slav
13 Draw (w) 36 2008 Corus C78 Ruy Lopez
14 Win (w) 40 2008 Linares-Morelia C84 Ruy Lopez, Closed
15 Draw (b) 28 2008 Linares-Morelia E17 Queen's Indian
16 Win (b) 51 2008 Bilbao A32 English, Symmetrical
17 Win (w) 36 2008 Bilbao D47 QGD Semi-Slav
18 Draw (w) 65 2009 Corus D45 QGD Semi-Slav
19 Draw (b) 37 2009 Linares E06 Catalan, Closed
20 Loss (w) 93 2009 Linares D45 QGD Semi-Slav
21 Draw (w) 32 2009 Tal Memorial D47 QGD Semi-Slav
22 Draw (w) 28 2011 Wijk aan Zee C45 Scotch Game
23 Draw (w) 56 2011 Bilbao C78 Ruy Lopez
24 Draw (b) 50 2011 Bilbao D55 QGD
25 Draw (b) 57 2011 Tal Memorial E15 Queen's Indian
26 Draw (b) 39 2011 London Classic D12 QGD Slav
27 Win (w) 68 2012 Wijk aan Zee D31 QGD
28 Draw (w) 60 2012 Tal Memorial C67 Ruy Lopez
29 Draw (w) 48 2012 Bilbao C65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin
30 Draw (b) 44 2012 Bilbao E17 Queen's Indian
31 Win (w) 59 2012 London Classic C77 Ruy Lopez
32 Draw (b) 46 2013 Wijk aan Zee E90 King's Indian

Overall: 7 Wins, 21 Draws, 4 Losses
White: 6 Wins, 9 Draws, 2 Losses
Black: 1 Win, 12 Draws, 2 Losses

Carlsen has declared Aronian to be his main threat in this event. Games between these two have been consistently hard-fought, with Aronian taking a point off the Norwegian as recently as 2009. For his part, however, Magnus bookended 2012 with victories against Aronian at both Wijk aan Zee and the London Classic. Expect an attempt for nothing less here. The games will be extremely sharp and unpredictable.


Vladimir Kramnik (2810 – World #2)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
28
2007 Corus E04 Catalan, Open
2 Loss (b)
30
2007 Dortmund E05 Catalan, Open, Classical
3 Draw (b)
40
2007 Tal Memorial E05 Catalan, Open, Classical
4 Win (b)
57
2008 Corus A30 English, Symmetrical
5 Draw (w)
19
2009 Dortmund E32 Nimzo-Indian, Classical
6 Loss (b)
36
2009 Dortmund D37 QGD
7 Draw (w)
58
2009 Tal Memorial E32 Nimzo-Indian, Classical
8 Win (w)
43
2009 London Classic A29 English, Four Knights
9 Loss (w)
38
2010 Corus E04 Catalan, Open
10 Loss (b)
45
2010 Bilbao E15 Queen's Indian
11 Draw (w)
73
2010 Bilbao A29 English, Four Knights
12 Draw (b)
86
2010 London Classic D07 QGD, Chigorin
13 Win (b)
80
2011 Wijk aan Zee E00 Queen's Pawn Game
14 Draw (b)
41
2011 Tal Memorial A20 English
15 Draw (w)
55
2011 London Classic E20 Nimzo-Indian
16 Draw (w)
23
2012 Tal Memorial E32 Nimzo-Indian, Classical
17 Draw (b)
62
2012 London Classic A37 English, Symmetrical

Overall: 3 Wins, 10 Draws, 4 Losses
White: 1 Win, 5 Draws, 1 Loss
Black: 2 Wins, 5 Draws, 3 Losses

Kramnik is another elite player who can proudly point to a plus record against Carlsen in classical time controls. There is obviously some question as to whether this can last, but Kramnik is still capable, spry, and ambitious. One can bet that, Aronian aside, Kramnik is on Carlsen’s mind. Back-to-back victories by the Russian in 2010 were answered by a lone victory from Carlsen in 2011. Plenty has been left unresolved. Magnus may face the English again as black.


Overall Stats Against Field

 
Wins
Draws
Losses
Draw %
Overall
27
83
14
66.94%
White
19
35
6
58.33%
Black
8
48
8
75.00%

Repertoire white

Line
score
Perf.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6
68%
2674
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6
68%
2778
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3
70%
2788
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3
60%
2736
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3
62%
2737
1.Nf3
61%
2633

Despite his career stats, Carlsen can be said to be relatively comfortable in any opening, making him difficult to be prepare against. This is only accentuated by the fact that he now has Peter Heine Nielsen in his camp. Perhaps expect a shift away from his e4 repertoire.

Repertoire black

Line
score
Perf.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6
42%
2575
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4
43%
2614
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6
41%
2659
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3
53%
2730
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6
45%
2638
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4
48%
2655
1.c4
45%
2556

Carlsen is no less dangerous on the black side of the pieces than he is on the white side. Expect him to play anything and everything as black.


The Candidates Tournament in London

The London Candidates 2013 will be the strongest tournament of its kind in history. The Prize Fund to be shared by the players totals €510,000. The winner of the Candidates will become the Challenger to Viswanathan Anand who has reigned as World Champion since 2007.

Full information on the Candidates – pairings and commentary schedule

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