Huffington: Carlsen Wins Grand Chess Tour

12/19/2015 – Many chess fans complained about the cumbersome tie-breaking rules of the Grand Chess Tour. The three-way tie for first in London was decided by a playoff in which Vachier-Lagrave beat Anish Giri, but then a single loss to Carlsen decided the tournament and an overall Tour victory. In his Huffington Post column GM Lubomir Kavalek analyses key games and tells us how the Chess Grand Tour points could have been simplified.

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Carlsen Wins Grand Chess Tour

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

The world chess champion Magnus Carlsen won the Chess Grand Tour, a three tournaments bonanza played in Norway, the USA and England, and involving the world's best players. It was loosely based on the $1,2 million 1988-1989 Chess World Cup, a series of six Grand Prix tournaments I have organized for the Grandmasters Association as its Executive Director. Garry Kasparov collected $175,000, finishing first ahead of Anatoly Karpov.

Twenty-six years later, Kasparov set up the Chess Grand Tour, borrowing some ideas from the GMA's World Cup. Both events were organized outside of FIDE as a sort of rebellion. I can go even further back and include the 1979 Montreal, won by Mikhail Tal and Karpov. It was an attempt to bring Bobby Fischer back to the chessboard.

"You know tournaments don't turn me on generally," Fischer wrote to me in March 1979, "my feeling is that matches are more interesting in terms of proving something or other."

Carlsen did not start the Tour well and finished just a half point above the last place in Norway Chess in Stavenger last June. He recovered at the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis in September, sharing second place. He needed to finish first in London in December for an overall victory in the Tour.

But Carlsen began the London Classic slowly, drawing the first six games, fast running out of time. He made his move in round seven, defeating the U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura. After another draw, he faced a must-win situation in the last round. Because of the slower pace at the top, five players had a chance to win the tournament. In a dramatic encounter, Carlsen defeated Alexander Grischuk and shared first prize. Moreover, he drew a bye in the playoff initial round with the best tiebreak and won the final match against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to claim first place.

Much has been said about Carlsen being fortunate. True, in his three wins in London, his opponents could have drawn the games, but they missed their chances. Strong players create their own luck.

Nakamura never defeated Carlsen in a classic-time game and his losses reached double-digits. In London, the U.S. champion was again under pressure most of the game, but there was a single moment, when Hikaru could have escaped.

[Event "7th London Classic "] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D11"] [WhiteElo "2850"] [BlackElo "2793"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4k3/1p3ppn/p1nB3P/2P2PK1/8/P7/6B1/8 w - - 0 56"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "2015.12.03"] {Everybody loves a bishop pair in the 21st century. The bishops like to run, they are the long-range weapons and they need space. Opening the position is mandatory, but Carlsen also needs to penetrate with his king. To achieve that, he has to run the rook pawn to h6, hoping that the pawn on f7 becomes a target. } 56. Kh4 gxh6 57. Kh5 Nf6+ 58. Kxh6 Ng4+ 59. Kg7 {The king is in and tickles the pawn on f7.} Nd4 60. Be4 Nf2 61. Bb1 Ng4 62. Bf4 f6 $2 {Giving away the square g6 and leaving the f-pawn suspended in the air unable to be helped by the king. The white king has the squares g7 and g6 to tango around.} (62... Ke7 63. Be4 a5) 63. Be4 Nf2 64. Bb1 Ng4 65. Be4 Nf2 66. Bxb7 $1 {After a few repetitions to gain time on the clock, Magnus gets down to business. He had to foresee the upcoming bishop sacrifice.} Nd3 {Diagram [#]} ({After} 66... Nxf5+ 67. Kxf6 Nd4 68. c6 {wins.}) 67. Kxf6 $1 {Magnus goes for beauty, sacrificing a bishop and taking advantage of the short-legged knights.} ({It was possible to play simply} 67. Bd6 Nxf5+ 68. Kxf6 Nxd6 69. Bc6+ $1 Kd8 70. cxd6 Nb2 71. Ke6 Nc4 72. a4 a5 73. Kd5 {and the white king should be able to outmaneuver the knight to win the a-pawn.}) 67... Nxf4 68. Ke5 Nfe2 {The horses protect each other, but they can also trip over each other and instead of running free, they are paralyzed.} ({Nakamura cannot buy freedom with} 68... Nxf5 69. Kxf5 Nd3 70. c6 Kd8 71. Bxa6 Nc5 72. Bb5 Kc7 73. Ke5 Kb6 74. a4 Kc7 75. a5 {and one of the pawns queens.}) 69. f6 $6 {The wrong pawn and the wrong square. Both sides committed errors by moving the pawn to f6.} ({After} 69. c6 $1 {Black has to give up the knight back.} Nxc6+ (69... Kd8 70. f6 {wins.}) 70. Bxc6+ Kf8 71. Bd5 a5 72. Bc4 {the pawn is less exposed on f5. White picks up the a-pawn and wins.}) 69... a5 70. a4 Kf7 71. Bd5+ Kf8 $2 {Losing. Hikaru just missed a draw.} ({The black king should have stayed around the f-pawn:} 71... Kg6 $1 72. Be4+ Kf7 73. c6 Nxc6+ 74. Bxc6 Nc3 75. Bd7 Nd1 76. Be6+ Kf8 77. Bb3 Nb2 { and White cannot make any progress. Black just moves the king. If the white king comes to c3 to attack the knight, Black liquidates both pawns starting with Nb2xa4. Draw.}) 72. Ke4 Nc2 (72... Ke8 73. Ke3 {Black can't untangle the knights and White simply threatens to win with 74.Bc4.}) 73. c6 Nc3+ 74. Ke5 Nxa4 75. Bb3 {An unusual fork!} Nb6 76. Bxc2 a4 77. c7 Kf7 (77... a3 78. Bb3 Ke8 79. Kd6 Nc8+ 80. Kc6 {wins.}) 78. Bxa4 1-0

Carlsen gave the impression this year that he wanted to sharpen his play before it became stale. In some games, he took risks that went beyond the point of no return. Against Grischuk he overplayed his hand, but all was well that ended well.

[Event "7th London Classic "] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Grischuk, Alexander"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B51"] [WhiteElo "2834"] [BlackElo "2747"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6rk/4qp2/Q2pp2p/pNp1bP1n/P3P1N1/5R1P/3P2P1/6K1 b - - 0 29"] [PlyCount "18"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] 29... Qh4 $1 {With the queen and knight lost on the queenside, Carlsen has to defend against overwhelming power of the four black attacking pieces.} 30. fxe6 {Magnus is gambling since a draw is not good enough.} ({The objectively best} 30. Nxe5 {leads to a draw after} Qe1+ 31. Rf1 $1 (31. Kh2 $2 dxe5 32. Qd6 (32. Nd6 Ng3 33. Nxf7+ Kh7 $19) 32... Qe2 $1 {wins.}) 31... Rxg2+ 32. Kxg2 Qg3+ 33. Kh1 Qxh3+ 34. Kg1 Qg3+ {with a perpetual check.}) 30... fxe6 $6 {This is still a playable move, but Grischuk could have turned the tables with an exchange sacrifice.} (30... Rxg4 $1 31. hxg4 Qh2+ 32. Kf2 Nf4 33. Rg3 Nxe6 34. Rf3 Nf4 35. Rg3 Ng6 36. Re3 Nh4 $19) 31. Nxe5 dxe5 (31... Qe1+ 32. Rf1 (32. Kh2 Nf4 33. Ng6+ Rxg6 34. Qc8+ Rg8 $19 35. Qxg8+ Kxg8 36. Rxf4 Qxd2 $19) 32... Rxg2+ $11) 32. Qxe6 {The queen protects the pawn on h3, forcing Black to find the only way to equalize.} Qe1+ $2 ({Grischuk missed} 32... Qg5 $1 33. Rf2 Nf4 34. Qg4 { with roughly equal chances.}) 33. Kh2 Rxg2+ (33... Qxd2 34. Qxe5+ Rg7 35. Rf8+ Kh7 36. Qf5+ Rg6 37. Qf7+ Rg7 38. Qf3 $16) 34. Kxg2 Qxd2+ $2 {Losing.} ({ Grischuk had the last chance to stay in the game with} 34... Qe2+ 35. Rf2 Nf4+ 36. Kg3 Qxf2+ 37. Kxf2 Nxe6 38. Nd6 c4 39. Nxc4 Nc5 40. Kf3 Nxa4 41. Nxa5 Kg7 { White is a pawn up, but it may not be enough.}) 35. Kg1 Qe1+ 36. Rf1 Qe3+ 37. Rf2 Qe1+ ({After} 37... Qg3+ 38. Kf1 Qd3+ 39. Ke1 Qe3+ 40. Kd1 $1 Qxf2 41. Qxh6+ Kg8 42. Qxh5 {and White should win.}) 38. Kg2 1-0

Carlsen's last victory came in the rapid play final against Vachier-Lagrave. The rook endgames are often slippery slopes and the Frenchman did not find the right path to a draw.

[Event "7th London Classic TB"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B52"] [WhiteElo "2834"] [BlackElo "2773"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/3k4/7K/6P1/4R2p/8/7r b - - 0 51"] [PlyCount "12"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] 51... Rf1 $2 {Under pressure most of the game, Vachier-Lagrave blunders.} ({ The four-corner maneuver, with the rook visiting the squares h1,a1,a8 and h8, draws:} 51... Ra1 $1 52. Rxh3 {Otherwise 52...h2.} Ra8 $1 {White cannot push the g-pawn now and other moves lead nowhere:} 53. Re3 (53. g5 Rh8+ 54. Kg4 Rxh3 55. Kxh3 Ke6 56. Kg4 Kf7 57. Kh5 Kg7 $11) (53. Kg6 Rg8+ 54. Kf5 Rf8+ 55. Ke4 ( 55. Kg5 Rg8+ {etc.}) 55... Re8+ 56. Kf4 Rf8+ 57. Kg3 Rg8 $11) 53... Rh8+ 54. Kg6 Rg8+ 55. Kf5 Rf8+ 56. Kg5 Rg8+ 57. Kh4 Rh8+ 58. Kg3 Rg8 {draw.}) 52. Rxh3 Ke7 (52... Rf8 {When I was younger, the veteran GM Ludek Pachman gave us lessons on the rook endgames. In a similar position, he would have asked: 'How do we best cut off the black king from the pawn?' The lessons abruptly ended when somebody replied:'With a saw!' White has to be precise here:} 53. Rd3+ $1 ({Not} 53. Re3 $2 Rh8+ 54. Kg5 Rg8+ 55. Kh4 Rh8+ 56. Kg3 Rg8 $1 $11) 53... Ke6 54. Re3+ $1 Kd6 (54... Kf7 55. Rf3+ {wins.}) 55. g5 {the black king is cut off and White wins.}) 53. Kg6 Rf6+ 54. Kg7 Rf7+ 55. Kg6 Rf6+ 56. Kg5 Ra6 (56... Rf1 57. Rh7+ Kf8 58. Kg6 Kg8 59. Rg7+ Kf8 (59... Kh8 60. Rf7 $1 {wins.}) 60. Ra7 Rg1 61. g5 Rg2 62. Ra8+ Ke7 63. Rg8 Rg1 64. Kh7 {and White pushes the g-pawn to g6 and achieves the winning Lucena position.}) 57. Rf3 1-0

Some chess fans complained about the cumbersome tie-breaking rules of the Grand Chess Tour. It is hard to find the logic behind the tiebreaks. Carlsen got the second place in Saint Louis without a playoff by having the best Sonnenborn system tiebreak . A three-way tie for first in London was decided by a playoff. Vachier-Lagrave won two games against Anish Giri, but it was not enough. A single loss to Carlsen decided the tournament and an overall Tour victory. But the rules were known to everybody before the Tour began and Magnus won fair and square.

The top three winners of the Grand Chess Tour: Carlsen $75,000, Giri $50,000 and Aronian $25,000. They also secured participation in the 2016 GCT.

One can understand the obsession with having a single winner in a tournament. It comes from the American tournaments. For example, Nakamura won the Millionaire Open in Las Vegas last October in a similar way Carlsen won in London. But the Chess Grand Tour points could have been simplified. All Kasparov needed to remember was how it was done in 1989.

Adjusting it for the CGT, it would state: "The CGT points for each player are based on a combination of the actual score from eight games per tournament (games against the local invitees don't count) and placement points in each tournament in descending order from nine points for first place to one point for ninth place. In the event of a tie, each player involved in a tie receives the average of the points assigned to all position in the tie." Just two sentences.

All 25 players taking part in the 1988-89 World Cup played four tournaments and only the three best results counted. Kasparov also wanted to have four tournaments for the GCT, but the event scheduled for Asia didn't materialize. As a result the players were under more pressure and every single game counted. Still, it was a fabulous Tour and we are looking forward to the 2016 version.

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post

The Huffington Post is an American news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington and others, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and liberal/progressive alternative to conservative news websites. It offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy. It is a top destination for news, blogs, and original content. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over over a quarter of a billion visits per month (according to Quantcast), making it the number 73 ranked web site in the world (Alexa, January 2014).

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thlai80 thlai80 12/22/2015 02:50
We can see Magnus is experimenting. He played half hearted and still is the best player in the world. To say someone else is better this year is an exaggeration. When needed, Magnus pull the next gear and deliver. He has been the world number 1 since Jan 1st 2010, already 6 years and counting, and becoming and defending his world crown during the time as well. And at least expected to be #1 for another few years. What else are we expecting from him? He is not that far away from Karpov in terms of domination. Yes, he has not perform as good as his peak, but still no one is able to scratch his back so far. May be at least another few more years when Wei Yi is ready, but don't even count on that yet as Wei Yi is not consistent and infrequently got himself overstretched and outplayed by lower rated players.
chatrhang chatrhang 12/21/2015 05:11
It is an interesting topic. One guy speaks about chess and world champion and another guy comes and tells "We" do not want you here anymore! Yasenadam: this guy is verbose you are right. but his point is completely correct. Magnus is out of form and based on traditional scoring system he could not finish first. The Great told that based on Kavalek's formula Giri could have finished first with a big margin. If you do not like a guy's opinion you can not insult him and you are not representative of others here. Speak about chess because here is a chess website and watch your words. People can judge your personality based on your words.

Aighearach Aighearach 12/20/2015 04:56
If he played well enough to win, we know already as a matter of historical ____fact____ that he played better than the others. Maybe you enjoyed another players games more because they won more pawns or something that doesn't count for points in competition.

Winning is winning, absent any accusation of cheating. You can't play better and lose; you can't even play better and draw, even if you made your fans and coaches happy by having created "chances" that you were unable to capitalize on. But if you can't or don't capitalize when it matters, it doesn't count. Getting a draw in a += position is still a draw. Getting a draw after having been -+ most of the game, it scores the same as having been = from the opening.

The funny part is that the fans who think their player played "better" than the winner, it is almost an insult to their player; they seem to think they should have finished higher in the rankings. Well whose fault was that, if not the player? Maybe their moves are so pretty as to intoxicate some fans, and yet still not objectively better at all.
The Great The Great 12/20/2015 03:16
Ranking of the players using Kavalek's formula would be as under:

1. Giri 22.5 points
2-4=. Carlsen, Aronian and MVL 16.5 points
5-6=. Nakamura and Topalov 14.5 points
7. Grischuk 13.5 points
8. Anand 10.5 points
9. Caruana 10 points

Hence Giri would have been the winner by a big margin.
yesenadam yesenadam 12/20/2015 12:51
ali4100m, take a few deep breaths. You ask other people to be logical, and proclaim that you are. You seem ignorant, verbose and ludicrous, having said so many ridiculous things on one page. Admitting that things you were so firmly insisting on at length 2 seconds before were actually baseless nonsense, is better than nothing, but it's not great is it. I hope we don't see so much from you on here for a long time. You are way out of your depth, sorry to say. Aighearach's comment went straight over your head. Apparently everyone's reaction to reading you is "Nope, you're wrong."
ali4110m ali4110m 12/19/2015 11:21
I spoke about Magnus' poor form and I had reasons for that. From the answers, Fabelhaft was completely right and I accepted that. The debate is easy and simple: Magnus is out of form and four players played better than him in Grand Chess Tour. I brought numbers for that. If you can bring logical answers you are welcome. Everybody knows that Magnus has not been the former invincible Magnus we knew and he is out of form.

Algherach: if your opponent could not go to toilet and you won it is not related to this debate.

Marcustheadore: Magnus was not prepared and he did not play well. Four players scored more than him. He was not prepared mentally and physically. Chess is about winning the games. Giri was +5, Nakamura +3, MVL +2 and Aronian and Magnus +1 during Grand Chess Tour. This is a simple fact. and it shows you have spoken against yourself and it shows Magnus did not play well and he was not well prepared. If you have played chess tournaments before you understand what +5 compared to +1 means.

Here I am speaking his poor form in recent months and compare him to other world champions and he needs to reconsider and train more. It is not only about Grand Chess Tour. In Chess olympiad and European Championship he played very badly.
Aighearach Aighearach 12/19/2015 09:02
People who don't think the winner deserves to win, and yet they have no accusation of cheating, don't understand sports, rules, chess, or competition generally.

Like Carlsen and Giri, I've never won when I didn't deserve it, never lost when I didn't deserve it, and I've never drawn when I didn't deserve it.

And I'm including the game I won on time when the nearest restroom was closed and my op had to go up three flights of stairs to handle an emergency, and was already flagged when he returned. "Luck" favors the prepared, and I knew what floor the restroom was on before the games started. I also made that trek up the stairs, but since I knew I would need to, and had prepared a line, I got back to the board in under 5 minutes.

If you don't think the winner deserved to win, stop confusing chess with a popularity contest. The goal is to win, not to win with extra pieces, or win in a fancy shirt, or draw in the way that armchair trainers will claim is better than the way the other guy actually won his game.
marcustheadore marcustheadore 12/19/2015 07:37
Ali4110m part of chess, and to a greater degree, life, and war, is the ability to 'see the terrain'. Which is to recognize what resources; what advantages or disadvantages are to be had or avoided. Carlsen won because not only did he play chess well, but he played the individuals across from him well, he played the tournament and it's location/climate/culture well, he played the scoring system, the cuisine, his diet and exercise resulting in great mental and physical fortitude, etc... He did all these things quite well. He took all things into consideration, weighed them to the proper balance and executed a winning plan that manifested, in reality, to the winning of the world chess crown, the 2015 grand prix, and everything else that he is and aspires to be.
ali4110m ali4110m 12/19/2015 05:01
You are right Fabelhaft. My statement "Giri is the best player in 2015" is not precise. But Magnus is world number 1 and world champion and he is the most talented player out there with no doubt. People compare him with great giants in history like Kasparov, Karpov and Fischer and I think he deserves to be among the best in history. But if you mention 3 tournaments he won in 2015 can not hide the fact that he is in decline now, and he does not have the stability of former champions like Kasparov and Karpov. In chess talent and technique, Giri is way behind Magnus but at the moment it seems that he is the more stable player. Scoring +5 in a tour with every strong player on the planet except Kramnik shows that. We need a champion like Kasparov with stability and passion for chess and Magnus can do that.

Mr Herz: We are speaking about scoring system in tournaments. A normal scoring system gives 1 point for a win,0.5 for a draw and 0 for a loss and it is everywhere and it shows the real performance of players based on real results. Magnus scored +1 in the tour and based on the classical scoring system he should have been 5th in the rankings of tour but based on the tour scoring system he finished first 3 points ahead of Giri! It means four more wins for Giri against best players in the world and I think it is something.

I think the point I am speaking about is logical. Magnus performed badly during the tour and he won the tour by pure chance. and I am surprised how nobody speaks about that. Four players performed better than him and he won the tour. That's surprising.
gabriele mileto gabriele mileto 12/19/2015 10:54
In Carlsen–Nakamura after 67.Bd6 Nxf5+ 68.Kxf6 Nxd6 69.Bc6+! Kd8 70.cxd6 Nb2 71.Ke6 Nc4 72.a4 a5 73.Kd5 Lomonosov tables say draw: 73...Ne3 74 Kc5 Ng4 75 Bg2 Nf6 76 Bh3 Nh7 ! =
So Magnus 67 K:f6 is only move, and a fantastic one !
David Herz David Herz 12/19/2015 10:45
actually people forget that unfairness can work against anyone, it would appear that the winner won because less unfairness was directed their way when in fact they simply played that other part of the game better than their adversaries, the part that is written in the way the particular rules of the venues in mind determine the can draw up all the facts and figures you want to prove that so and so did and so and so did not deserve what they got, but at the end of the day, everyone plays by the rules, or the game is off...
fabelhaft fabelhaft 12/19/2015 08:12
"if you compare his performance with Giri in 2015, he has been way behind him and Giri has been the best player in 2015"

"Giri was clearly best player in 2015"

Giri won the Dutch Championship. Carlsen won Tata (ahead of Giri), Gashimov Memorial (scoring +5-0=4 compared to Giri's +0-2=7), Baden Baden and London (ahead of Giri). That Carlsen has been way behind Giri in 2015, and the latter has been the clearly best player in the world, might be difficult to support with facts.
ali4110m ali4110m 12/19/2015 07:39
In this link you can see the complete results of Norway, Sinqufield cup and London and final standings:
ali4110m ali4110m 12/19/2015 07:35
Actually I made a mistake! I had forgot about Nakamura. If we consider all the points during the tour Nakamura is second after Giri with 15 points and after him MVL with 14.5 and Aronian and Carlsen with 14. Magnus should have finished 4th or 5th but he won the Grand Chess tour!
ali4110m ali4110m 12/19/2015 07:16
Magnus didn't deserve to win the Grand Chess Tour. He wasn't the best player last year. In the match against Anand for world championship he blundered in game 9 and if Vishy had seen a simple combination he could have won the match. In Grand Chess Tour Anish Giri was the best player. In 27 games against the best players on the planet he was undefeated and scored +5. Magnus scored +1 in Grand Chess Tour and he clearly won the tour because of unfair scoring system of the tour and pure luck. If you consider points of each game during the tour Giri is first with 16 points, MVL is second with 14.5, Aronian and Carlsen are tied with 14. It shows the unfair scoring system. Giri missed the first place with a single loss during the rapid games to MVL with black pieces in a drawn game and because of tiredness of a long day! Magnus is very talented and clearly has been the best player in last 5 years but if you compare his performance with Giri in 2015, he has been way behind him and Giri has been the best player in 2015. Magnus' poor performance in European championship where he couldn't score even half of the points and his unstable performance even in London ( He could have lost to Grischuk if Grischuk did not blunder a won game and after that he even lost a drawn game!) shows he is not the former mighty Magnus we knew anymore.

If we compare him with great legends like Kasparov and Karpov he needs much more stability. If you remember Karpov for example, he was clearly the best player between 1975 to 1985 with no rival and he didn't have hiccups like Magnus. After his loss to Kasparov in 1985 he fought back and was almost even with legendary Kasparov in 4 matches and till 1999 was second best in the world and FIDE world champion. Almost for 25 years first or second!

If Magnus wants to be between the best players in history he must compensate 2015 and he MUST fear Giri! Giri was clearly best player in 2015 and he clearly won the Grand Chess Tour and if I was Magnus I did not consider this as a win but a clear loss! It seems at the moment Giri is world number 1!
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 12/19/2015 05:08
Whatever the tiebreak rules, what was mostly unfair, is that it was a long day and that Carlsen benefitted from an important rest while MVL was having a long and stressful match against Giri.

The MVL/Carlsen match should have been held the day after, so that both players benefit reasonable rest before playing.