Champions Showdown: Carlsen stays on top

by André Schulz
11/15/2017 – The last day of the match between Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren continued the trend of the previous days: Ding had chances but failed to realise them. Carlsen, however, was able to exploit chances he did not really seem to have. No wonder Carlsen won the blitz-match by a huge margin. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Carlsen won some games, Ding lost some games

"Sometimes Lasker won, sometimes Janowski lost", is a witticism of the Austrian chess journalist Georg Marco about the one-sided World Championship match between Emanuel Lasker and Dawid Janowski, 1910 in Berlin, a match in which Janowski did not win a single game. The Champions Showdown match between Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren was not that one-sided but Carlsen was still clearly superior.

It was one of four matches, in which eight top-players met on four days to battle it out in rapid chess, more rapid chess, even more rapid chess, and blitz chess. Or, to quote the time-controls: 30-minute games, 20-minute games, 10-minute games, and 5-minute games. All games with a very classical time-control, that is without additional time per move, the so-called increment. This led to good old clock-bashing, mistakes, blunders, and lots of drama. Wonderful! 

Let's start! | Photo: Lennart Ootes

One can only hope that no one will hit on the idea to come up with a new rating-list for each of these time-controls. For some time now the FIDE has kept three separate rating lists - one for games with classical time-control, one for rapid games, and one for blitz.

Magnus Carlsen leads all three lists and the less time he has the better is his rating and the higher is the distance to his rivals. In blitz Carlsen has an Elo-rating of 2948 and is about 60 points ahead of Sergey Karjakin, currently number two on the blitz-rating list. But Carlsen only needs 52 points to reach a rating of 3000 points, and some spectators thought that Carlsen would try to do his very best on the fourth and final day of his match against Ding Liren to reach this milestone.

But arbiter Tony Rich quickly pointed out that according to FIDE rules the blitz games on day 4 would not be rated  because the match had already been decided.

Black was OK

Rated or not rated, Carlsen and Ding still played the twelve blitz games with ambition. Carlsen won six of them, five were drawn, and only one, the third, was won by Ding Liren. Admittedly, Ding had more chances than the final result indicates, and had a couple of very good positions which he could not convert. Time was crucial here - and Carlsen simply played faster.

Ding Liren, Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The World Champion came well-prepared to the blitz battle against Ding. After all, after his handicap simul in Hamburg he played an inofficial blitz match (1 against 5 minutes) against Lawrence Trent, the commentator of the handicap simul.

No easy task for Carlsen: Playing with 1 minute Lawrence Trent's 5 minutes | Photo: André Schulz

If you count in classical fashion (1 point for a win, ½ point for a draw and 0 for a loss) Carlsen won the match against Ding with 22-8. The Chinese could only win two of the 30 games played in the match, Carlsen won 16 of these 30 games. But the games at the Champions Showdown in Saint Louis counted differently: a win in the 5-minute games netted 2 points, a win  in the 10-minute games brought 3 points, in the 20-minutes it gave you 4 points, and in the 30-minute games the players received 5 points for a win. But no matter how clear or how close the match was, the winner always received 60,000$ while the loser had to content himself with 40,000$.

Six of the seven decided games in the blitz-match between Ding Liren and Magnus Carlsen were won by Black. 1.e4 was played in two of the twelve games (in both cases Carlsen had White), and in no less than four games Carlsen opted for the King's Indian with Black - despite the fact that Ding is considered to be a King's Indian expert. But Carlsen still won all four games.

King's Indian: A modern approach

Bologan: "If you study this DVD carefully and solve the interactive exercises you will also enrich your chess vocabulary, your King's Indian vocabulary, build up confidence in the King's Indian and your chess and win more games."








In game 8 Ding Liren was clearly winning against Carlsen's King's Indian but then gave the game away:




The blitz games


All games


On-demand playlist

Illustrating the effect of no increment time control, last week GM commentators Alejandro Ramirez and Christian Chrila played a trio of bullet games.

You can also find each days complete commentary in the playlist menu (click or tap the icon in the upper left of the video player).

2017 Champions Showdown playlist | Source: CCSCSL on YouTube

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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Adilson Adilson 11/17/2017 03:41
Turok, I agree with you. Before his death, Bobby Fischer pointed out many wrong things that happen in chess world nowadays.
turok turok 11/16/2017 11:56
I just find this all boring to be honest. The Chess world protects these overly rated players by always having them play vs each other. IMO this is just boring as they lose and swap points amongst themselves. However it is shown when a far greater amount of players with lower ratings are allowed to play there are many games lost by these guys and I find it more interesting. Here is another thing people may not realize: By playing each other over and over again you just lose all surprise in the cases when they may face in the candidates or even to challenge carlsen. But that is me and no need to lash out. I just think this is much. It was nice in the past when players like Spassky-fisher and others only played a few games vs each other. But now it is like they are all in the same club and playing every other day-there own little good ole boys club
koko48 koko48 11/16/2017 03:23
@ RaymondLabelle I agree completely. The results of the 2016 WC rapid tiebreaks, and this quote, says it all IMO:

"Magnus Carlsen leads all three lists and the less time he has the better is his rating and the higher is the distance to his rivals."

It's a common misconception that rapid and blitz chess is more random, and that the weaker player has a better chance in rapid/blitz games. In fact nowadays, the opposite is true.

Nowadays the stronger player can show his strength more in rapid and blitz. The weaker player has a better chance in the classical games, where he can rely on computer analysis and steer the game into drawish channels
Aighearach Aighearach 11/16/2017 01:04
Carlsen might be better than everybody else because he's better at understanding his opponent's thinking. He doesn't have to calculate better or have deeper understanding if he can see his opponent's plan and choose the correct plan to defeat it. He doesn't always "have" the chances he turns out to have; for some reason. That is my best guess so far! ;)
truthadjustr truthadjustr 11/15/2017 09:31
although he was demolished, I still admire Ding's uncompromising, take-no-prisoners style of play. Unlike some out there who end up resulting to a lot of draws, Ding took his knife and tried to swing it. It's just that Magnus' samurai is much, much longer than Ding's kitchen knife.
KrushonIrina KrushonIrina 11/15/2017 08:12
Not that one-sided?

They played 30 games.

Magnus won 16.

Ding won 2.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 11/15/2017 07:30
Regardless of who wins the Candidates, the resulting Challenger may better choose a strategy, for the Championship, other than: "I will try to draw the series of classical games and then I'll try to pull it up in the Rapids and/or Blitz".

To keep better chances, the Challenger will almost have no choice but to try to wrap it up with the Classical games only. Not an easy order.

Magnus is just too strong in Rapid and Blitz.