Markus Ragger: Thoughts about Carlsen vs Karjakin

by ChessBase
11/21/2016 – Markus Ragger is Austria's number one and with a current rating of 2694 he is also one of the 50 best players in the world. Of course, Ragger follows the World Championship match in New York closely and after seven games he offers some thoughts on the match. He reveals what has surprised him so far and evem dares a prediction who will win the match.

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Markus Ragger: Thoughts about the World Championship Match

Markus Ragger zieht eine Halbzeitbilanz bei der WM 2016

Markus Ragger is sharing thoughts about the fight in New York City

After the first seven games of the World Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin, I have to say that I find it surprising that Carlsen dominates in the opening. It is well-known that Carlsen has a knack of getting positions from the opening which suit him. But in this match he also shows concrete preparation - move by move, so to speak. This is particularly well illustrated by game six - and here the sequence that starts with 14...c5.

S. Karjakin - M. Carlsen, World Championship Match 2016, game 6, position after 14...c5

I was expecting Karjakin to exert more pressure with White as Vishy Anand managed to do in Sochi 2014. But in the first seven games Karjakin failed to do so.

Karjakin has a reputation of being a very resourceful and good defender. But I still did not think that any player on this planet would be able to draw the positions Karjakin had in game three (after 36.Nd4) and in game four (after 24...Bc6) against Carlsen.

M. Carlsen - S. Karjakin, World Championship Match 2016, game 3, position after 36.Nd4

S. Karjakin - M. Carlsen, World Championship Match 2016, game 4, position after 24...Bxc6

Of course, one might argue that Carlsen in games three and four missed a number of moves which would have led to positions the engines evaluate as +2 and that Carlsen must be in bad shape because he is unable to win such positions. But that misses the point. The longer a defender manages to hold, to avoid giving the opponent a forced win, the greater the chance for the attacker to make mistakes. When the opponent plays well you often cannot hold a bad position, you can only try to make the win as difficult as possible for your opponent. Here Karjakin is probably better than any other player in the world.

I will also dare a prediction even though most people only remember such predictions if you happen to wrong. For me, Carlsen is still favorite, mainly because Karjakin up to now has not managed to put Carlsen under pressure. In game 5 Carlsen gave Karjakin chances with 41.Kg2 but if Carlsen does not give such chances I cannot imagine that he will lose a game.

What do you think?

In any case, I am looking forward to an exciting finish of this interesting match.

Games 1 to 7



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GDiVanGuard GDiVanGuard 11/23/2016 11:06
Any thoughts about 33. Ba4. Isnt white winning after that move?
Nostalgiac1972 Nostalgiac1972 11/23/2016 04:09
@imdvb_8793 your doubts are absolutely legitimate mate. I too doubt we are not going to have a new champion at the end of the business. Calculation and prophylaxis aside, I would go as far as to say that his chance of retaining the title is 20-80 and Karjakin is the new champion most probably. Carlsen is not used to failure. Previously it was either Anand or any other opponent against whom he exerted himself and often won. In many tournaments he started badly but at the end even managed to come first. But in this special event he is doing everything for 7 rounds and simply nothing happens. In round 8 he is "taking too much risk" (!!) and loses. This too much risk taking presupposes many things: one is "I am sure that I am the only genius in the game and there is no one alive who would understand even what I am doing or thinking about over the board." unfortunately this is a false belief which he might have been acculturated into since very early age. In game 8 in lost positions on 3 occasions he had a perpetual. An objective top player would realize this and would settle for a draw otherwise they know that they would definitely lose; but he didn't because he lives in his own reality of "being a totally different thing" from the best players on the planet. Well, he was soon proved wrong. And at the end he got so shocked at the loss as if he didn't expect it at all! with such bizarre behaviour that I have neither read about nor seen an example of at least in modern history of chess. All of these tend to show that as he hasn't been able to do what he usually does, so he has lost objectivity and is desperate. His self-image says to him that at this point of the match he should have been ahead no matter who the opponent, but why isn't he? Why can't he outplay his opponent from an equal position? And why is he behind now?? Difficult questions for Carlsen indeed. To everybody's surprise, Karjakin has been doing whatever he has planned since game one. He is quite objective, technically robust, and professionally mature (seems he has no big ego to bother him all the time). I believe if Carlsen loses the title he has his lack of objectivity (and Karjakin's perfect objectivity) to blame.
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 11/23/2016 03:58
Yup - in all sports and competitive situations, people behave differently under the biggest pressure than under normal conditions. Some crumble, others thrive, when normally their levels of play (since we're speaking of top level encounters) are much closer than that. For me, at least, the primary quality of any great champion, which distinguishes him from the rest of the elite, is the ability to thrive under pressure. I don't think, after seeing his run up to this match and the first 8 games, that anybody can say Karjakin isn't very good under pressure. Which is why it was foolish for anyone to ever underestimate him.

Of course, Magnus might still win - he might also be great even under the biggest pressure, though I very much have my doubts, based on what I've seen so far in his career, which is a point of view I've been ranting on for years, to anyone who would listen. :) But if he does it under these circumstances, I will definitely have to reconsider my stance and agree with people who say he's one of the all-time greatest champions. I still won't agree he's in the top 3 or even top 5, though. He'll have to show a bit more in future years to make me acknowledge that...
Nostalgiac1972 Nostalgiac1972 11/22/2016 04:21
@imdvb_8793 truly so. I read it very well-said. There is also a point I think, which should not be ignored: Sometimes it happens that a chess player's ability starts perfection right at the battlefield where (s)he has to have it tested to the limits. And I think this is happening to Karjakin in this Championship match.
Nostalgiac1972 Nostalgiac1972 11/22/2016 12:59
@Peter B; Thank you so much for the comment but I definitely didn't mean the apparent similarities between Fischer - Karpov could-be match. The point was that Carlsen in fact is facing a new Karjakin- a truly lifeless-looking immovable object- against whom he has been obviously desperate after 7 rounds. Interestingly enough, he started the match with a mental plus from the last game where he had "smashed" Karjakin prior to the match. Therefore, no doubt this Karjakin is a quite different quality.
In round 8 Carlsen found this intolerable and over pressed himself but hurt himself. I don't want to say that he will definitely cede the title, but that Sergey is playing ever better and with this win he will play even much stronger, unlike the opinion of those who unfairly try to put him in underdog's position.
chessdrummer chessdrummer 11/22/2016 11:43
Ragger says Carlsen is a favorite (of course), but what is his prediction?
vinniethepooh vinniethepooh 11/22/2016 08:18
hmm......the games get more interesting as Sergey wins game 8
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 11/22/2016 08:14
Great comment, Nostalgiac1972! As I said here,, in a comment I made after game 6, Carlsen had also not created much at all, having only been better in two games, to Karjakin's one. And he'd been quite poor under pressure. (Which, to me, isn't all that surprising, given several of his performances on the Grand Chess Tour last year, at the Olympiads and in the London Candidates - all high-pressure spots, just like the title matches, even though to a lesser extent, of course. It had seemed he was doing better this year, in that respect, so I wasn't sure it would happen again in this match, but I was sure he'd have a much, much tougher match than the ones against Vishy. Which it already clearly is, no matter how it ends...)

"Unfortunately Comments like those of the Austrian champion like many others are awe- biased coming from a Carlsen-dominated mindset."

I've been saying for a long time people are overestimating Carlsen's greatness when compared to the greats of the past (like Garry, Fischer, Karpov, etc.), and 90% of what I've seen over the last 2-3 years, this match included, seems to support that, honestly. He just has significant weaknesses those guys did not have, and they're all getting showcased once more in this match, as they have many times before under pressure. Now it remains to be seen if his qualities are enough to compensate, and help him to level and, ultimately, still win the match. I would bet not, were I forced to pick, but, of course, it's most likely still too close to call...
HuyenAnh HuyenAnh 11/22/2016 08:02
Carlsen is playing Karjalekhine
libyantiger libyantiger 11/22/2016 07:59
now for karjakin to win he the match he have to forget that he won game 8 ...defending this game wont help , carlsen will put all his efforts for coming back
Peter B Peter B 11/22/2016 07:28
@Nostalgiac1972 the problem with your analysis is that, prior to this match, Carlsen has played his contemporaries many times, and has a good record against all of them, including Karjakin. This is very different from a hypothetical 1975 Fischer who would have been playing Karpov for the first time. So he has no reason to be insecure. It's simply that Karjakin has played very well (up to the moment, i.e. end of Game 8). (Or maybe Carlsen not so well - those guys are so far above me it's hard to tell which!)
Nostalgiac1972 Nostalgiac1972 11/22/2016 05:09
Funny comments again. I had predicted that tables are really going to be turned as Carlsen simply cannot win. This is greatly psychological although Karjakin has shown he is no short of his opponent in technique and resilience. Watching this WC match I keep remembering Garry Kasparov's very good analysis on Fischer-Karpov could-be match. He said that Fischer could have defended his title successfully had it been anyone of older generation. But with a new generation player like Karpov, he felt insecure and could possibly have cracked. I think that is pretty much the same here with Carlsen as he is facing his symmetry before himself and his perks don't yield as much this time as with Anand.
Unfortunately Comments like those of the Austrian champion like many others are awe- biased coming from a Carlsen-dominated mindset. Being in love or deep reverense with Carlsen is one thing and objective observation of what the Russian has been systematically doing since game one is surely a different thing. He says "In game 5 Carlsen gave Karjakin chances with 41.Kg2 but if Carlsen does not give such chances I cannot imagine that he will lose a game." which sounds funny because if Carlsen keeps making such mistakes during this match, well, it means that he IS under pressure. That simple.
SULAYI_LANG SULAYI_LANG 11/22/2016 04:53
well, you are wrong.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 11/22/2016 03:22
I admire Mr. Ragger's courage to make such a prediction. A bit badlucky to have based his prediction on a supposed incapacity for Karjakin to win a game immediately before game 8... The reasoning is convincing, but...

But the match is not over - 4 games to go.

Carlsen in a must-win situation - makes the probabilities of fireworks higher.
David Herz David Herz 11/21/2016 07:30
Thank you for your useful comments