Carlsen > Karjakin

by on November 30, 2016 at 10:04 pm in Games | Permalink

1. Karjakin played some of the best defensive chess ever, finding resources where there appeared to be none.

2. Carlsen had become a bit lazy, relying too much on his stamina advantage to beat opponents (yes I do understand that is an odd notion of lazy!).  Yet he had no real stamina advantage over Karjakin, who is of the same age and came to the match in very good physical shape.  So Carlsen simply could not grind him down, and it took Carlsen the entire match to realize that.

3. Karjakin made very few attempts to achieve demonstrable, sharp advantages.  That limited his total number of victories to one.

4. In the rapid tie-breaker — four consecutive games in the final day — Carlsen couldn’t try to win on stamina and simply showed he was the better player across many dimensions of the game.  Karjakin posed him no problems at all in these contests.

5. Karjakin played as Carlsen’s equal for the twelve regular time control games.  Yet I don’t think he will be back as a challenger.  His style is too “drab” (Kasparov’s description) to get through all of the risk-rewarding tournaments to reach the final championship match again.

6. Perhaps rapid chess is the future of chess as a spectator sport.  Four games in a row, each twenty-five minutes per player, plus increments.  It was thrilling, and I watched on the train.

7. Putin finally lost one this year, let’s hope this reverses the trend.

Here is the Chessbase account, here is the quite good NYT story.

1 Harding November 30, 2016 at 10:12 pm

“Putin finally lost one this year, let’s hope this reverses the trend”

-This is an idiotic take. Do you really want al-Qaeda to win?

2 buddyglass November 30, 2016 at 11:49 pm

Because what, Putin loss => Al Qaeda win?

3 msgkings December 1, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Harding, are you for real? You spam multiple blogs during the election process with MAGA and stuff, in which you explain Trump’s superiority as mainly due to being a Russian puppet, then completely disappear once your guy wins, only to show up once someone says anything bad about your employer Putin. The goal has been accomplished, you can reveal yourself now.

4 Ivan December 3, 2016 at 11:05 am

Perhaps he is writing from some troll-factory in St Petersburg…

5 Vincent November 30, 2016 at 10:14 pm

+1 for rapid chess. I streamed most of the games of this match, but couldn’t bring myself to follow closely until the rapid round.

6 mikey November 30, 2016 at 10:24 pm

> Perhaps rapid chess is the future of chess as a spectator sport.

I definitely agree with this. I’m a relative newcomer to chess; my interest grew from watching blitz and rapid games by streamers on YouTube, which are quite fun to watch. (GM Williams and IM Bartholomew are two of my favorites, check them out!)

7 londenio November 30, 2016 at 11:19 pm

The most interesting conclusion is that a well prepared young player can beat Magnus. It did not happen this time, but with three games to go, it was very much possible –and likely. More importantly that Karjakin (a child prodigy similar to Magnus) had been punching below his weight in previous years. I think he could be back next time.

8 wiki December 1, 2016 at 11:28 am

More accurate to say that a very steady young player with a defensive style can beat Carlsen in a match. However, such players tend not to make it through the qualifying tournaments that prioritize winning and therefore riskier play.

So Giri (for example) might do well in a match, given enough training. But Mr. 64 Memorable Draws has difficulty winning elite tournaments.

9 ckb November 30, 2016 at 11:24 pm

Youth and genius are wonderful, but they only get you so far. If Carlsen takes that lesson to heart, what couldn’t he accomplish?

10 londenio November 30, 2016 at 11:25 pm

Do you think Carlsen dominates chess like Usain Bolt dominated the 100m? They are both impressive, with an aura of invincibility, winning sometimes in spectacular fashion. Federer in the mid 2000s was like that. Young Tiger Woods was like that. In team sports maybe Lionel Messi or Michael Jordan were like that at their peak. Who else? Mike Tyson? Steffi Graf?

11 Philip Crawford November 30, 2016 at 11:48 pm


12 Cliff December 1, 2016 at 12:03 am


13 dan1111 December 1, 2016 at 3:50 am

+1 it’s hard for a single player to loom as large in baseball as in some other sports. But Trout really should have 5 MVP awards in his 5 seasons.

14 msgkings December 1, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Wonder if he’s on the juice. Sad that this is plausible.

15 Dzhaughn December 1, 2016 at 12:12 am

+1 Gretzky, Federer, Jordan.

Any NASCAR fans here care to comment on Jimmy Johnson in this respect? Thought not. 🙂

Messi, I don’t think so. He is currently the best, but there is just no way for one player to dominate a soccer match. You’d have to put Pele, maybe Maradona, in before Messi anyway, as they dominated their eras to a greater degree.

Tiger Woods and Usain Bolt, no, because these sports have no defensive aspect.

16 Thor December 1, 2016 at 12:15 am

Messi is like Pele, a great player who elevates any team he graces, even great ones.

Maradona, however, could carry a team. (And I say this as someone who has little respect for the mind, such as it is, or political inclinations, of Maradona.)

17 Ricardo December 1, 2016 at 12:12 pm

I can think of one match that Maradona won singlehandedly….

18 hmmm December 1, 2016 at 4:11 pm

Well you clearly didn’t watch much Serie A in the mid to late 80s. He completely took over games repeatedly, a match vs Milan in spring of ’87 comes to mind but there were many others.

19 msgkings December 1, 2016 at 12:48 pm

What does defense have to do with dominating a sport? Woods definitely dominated golf in his prime, or the work dominate has no meaning. Bolt as well (sprinting not golf LOL).

+1 to Gretzky, Federer, Jordan. LeBron James probably too. Barry Bonds perhaps. Babe Ruth for sure. Not Steffi Graf but Serena Williams yes.

20 msgkings December 1, 2016 at 12:48 pm

word, not work

21 msgkings December 1, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Forgot Michael Phelps.

22 Steve Sailer December 1, 2016 at 12:57 am

I don’t know anything about cricket, but sports fans more learned than me often bring up the name of the Australian cricket player Don Bradman as the most outstanding team sport player of all time.

23 tjamesjones December 1, 2016 at 4:06 am

well played Steve. The question in cricket is who is the second best.

24 stuart December 1, 2016 at 5:04 am

Given what he does, Bradman is certainly the best by the furthest. If you take into account that some players bowl as well, the gap between the second best shrinks and is maybe a bit closer to a normal situation.

25 Vivian Darkbloom December 1, 2016 at 2:36 am

Dan Gable

26 wiki December 1, 2016 at 11:34 am

We know that Kasparov was like that once Karpov declined. And at his peak Garry did not choke in the most difficult situations (long stretch where he won or tied for first in virtually every tournament he played). He also won matches against strong opponents by formidable margins. Carlsen doesn’t quite have that consistency yet (i.e. the Sinquefeld where Caruana dominated). And he showed weakness in this match. But given a change in attitude and training, he might conceivably yet reach those heights.

However, at the moment he reminds me more of Capablanca and Spassky — brilliance with a bit of complacency rather than a Kasparovian will to dominate.

27 Ivan December 3, 2016 at 11:07 am

Gary Kasparov 1985-2000

28 Thiago Ribeiro November 30, 2016 at 11:55 pm

America and its servile puppets may have won this one, but its triumph will not last long. Its mindless laughter will become weeping and gnashing of teeth as the chessboard is swept by the hurricane of change.

29 Dzhaughn December 1, 2016 at 12:03 am

You black-hearted running dog, you will be dealt a thousandfold retaliatory blow!

(But,that plane crash was very sad, sincerely.)

30 Thiago Ribeiro December 1, 2016 at 1:22 am

I fear no retaliation, I never will.
(Your feelings reflect well on you. I remember an old poem about students
slaughtered by the government forces whose deaths inspired the 1932 revolution: “They lived short lives/So they could die well/They died young/So they could live forever” It hadn’t occured to me even once while I recited those famous words how hollow such a piece of civic piety must have sounded to those who were still burying their dead and crying their loss. The generous Colombian chaps decided to yield, so I guess it means we, Brazilians, won and a football club that hadn’t played an international match until yesteryear won an international title after a series of David vs Goliath games that galvanized Brazil. It seemed no price would be too high to achieve it. Well, it doesn’t seem this way anymore. Life seemed so simple back then, a predictable phenomenon that follows the 17 rules of soccer and could be contained on 120 m X 90 m soccer fields as long as we won. Now we know: it isn’t, it doesn’t, it couldn’t.)

31 Thor December 1, 2016 at 12:20 am

If this means we must rely on nerdy vegetarian Norwegian chess playing underwear models to win our ideological battles, so be it. You can never have enough allies, bruh.

32 Thiago Ribeiro December 1, 2016 at 1:30 am

I say it is a farce. America’s decadent system should be represented by American players. Brezhnev did not send Mongolian or Beninese chess players to represent shiny Soviet Communism. Hitler did not send Swedish boxers fight Mr. Joe Louis.

33 Carter Ferrell December 1, 2016 at 11:23 am

Is this a joke? The USA is sitting pretty in the chess rankings last time I checked. Three players in the top 10, the most of any country. USA just won the Chess Olympiad. There’s a consensus that Caruana is a future championship challenger, while Nakamura is a blitz and bullet favorite

The future of chess in the USA is brighter than it has ever been.

34 msgkings December 1, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Yes it’s a joke. Thiago has a schtick.

35 Thiago Ribeiro December 1, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Who cares about it? Who was the second-best American in Bob Fischer’s day? Second place and last place are the same in the world of prestige sport projects. Go big or go home, I say.

36 Steko December 1, 2016 at 12:43 am

Not sure why his style, which was successful this round, would be a prohibitive disadvantage in the next one. He’s got to have better odds than anyone his age or older; maybe Wei Yi or Wesley So will eclipse him but that won’t be a fault of Karjakin’s style.

37 Carter Ferrell December 1, 2016 at 12:47 pm

The emerging consensus among experts seems to be that Carlsen wasn’t at his best; a consensus that Tyler seems to share. Magnus drew several winning positions during the classical rounds, many more than Karjakin threatened to win. While other contending Grandmasters might have been watching the ongoing match wishing that they had been in Karjakin’s stead, the final day seemed to reassert that Carlsen was a step above his challenger. Maybe Carlsen was overly comfortable and ill-prepared going into this match, but it still nevertheless supports the notion that it doesn’t speak well of Karjakin’s chances should he find himself at the Championship again in the near future. If it would be at all a repeat of this match, then Karjakin’s style just doesn’t appear universal enough to prise the title of Champion away from Magnus. I expect we would see a more ruthless Magnus less willing to engage in drawish lines.

GM Svidler was incredulous at a few of Magnus’ lost opportunities, which speaks more to Magnus’ reputation and ability than it does Karjakin’s, in my humble opinion. The Challenger played well, but never ventured to seriously challenge Magnus in many games beyond a robust defensive effort.

38 Steve Sailer December 1, 2016 at 1:00 am

What if the entire world chess championship was conducted like the tie breaker with a variety of game formats?

Cricket has benefited commercially in recent years from a sped-up version.

Alternatively, are there any rules changes that could cut down on draws?

39 Anthony Deluca December 1, 2016 at 1:11 am

Speeding up the time controls also reduces draws.

At this point its hard to justify classical time controls. The best played chess now always invovles computers. The world championships will never contain the best played chess games. So we should switch to a better format for humans to show off their skill in a reasonable length of time.

40 Andrew Pearson December 1, 2016 at 3:23 am

One of the main suggestions going round is that if it’s tied after twelve games, rather than a rapidplay finish it should be a victory for the champion. If there is always someone who is winning and someone who is losing, that forces them to play actively and try to actually beat the opponent – something Karjakin simply wasn’t attempting in this match. (His one win, after all, came when Carlsen pushed too hard for a win and messed up).

41 MikeP December 1, 2016 at 4:40 am

That’s how it was done in the past.

42 Carter Ferrell December 1, 2016 at 12:49 pm

I’m sure it’s too much to ask for a few rounds of Fischer random, haha.

43 Andre December 1, 2016 at 1:05 am

I was a bit disappointed that Karjakin didn’t take some chances. His play was Leko-like, just half way dead. They should let Nakamura in there against him, at least there will be fireworks.

44 MikeP December 1, 2016 at 4:41 am

And Nakamura would lose. He doesn’t play well against Carlson.

45 Yancey Ward December 1, 2016 at 1:21 am

I still think Caruana will be the next challenger, but I wouldn’t rule out Karjakin making it back.

46 stephan December 1, 2016 at 2:30 am

Karjakin did what he could and he was a more worthy opponent than Anand in any of his two WC matches against Carlsen, The games today were really exciting and there must have been a lot of interest worldwide as the Chess24 website was overloaded for the first 30 minutes and I had to go to another site. The Queen sac finish on game 4 was just a fantastic ending. Magnus is very hard to beat in Rapid and same in Blitz.

For the spectators, in a match as there is only one game at a time going on and one game per day , it can seem slow. Rapid is more exciting (more games per day and faster games). In a tournament there are quite a few games to focus on at the same time, so the spectators may be more entertained with classical time controls. Rapid also works well with the commentary. Blitz is fun too, but the commentary is all over the place and has trouble keeping up.

I am wondering if the player who will dethrone Magnus has been born yet. If it’s not Karjakin/Nakamura/Caruana/MVL/Giri, it’s not clear to me there’s anyone younger who will rise to his caliber eventually.

47 Steve Sailer December 1, 2016 at 4:20 am

Carlsen won the world championship with a queen sacrifice on his next to last move of the tournament? Wow, that’s something even a know-nothing like me recognizes as exciting.

48 mikey December 1, 2016 at 2:40 pm

I wouldn’t say it was a particularly brilliant queen sac (it’s mate in one after the sacrifice: can you find it? ); but it *was* particularly brilliant playing rc8 under time pressure and having the solid alternative of playing it safe and maintaining his advantage. If Carlsen had miscalculated he could have easily been mated himself.

49 mikey December 1, 2016 at 2:45 pm

And here are GMs Svidler and Gustafsson reacting to rc8:

50 Carter Ferrell December 1, 2016 at 3:45 pm

I really enjoyed watching their streams. The two of them have a great rapport and sense of humor. The highlight for me was the match on Thanksgiving, musing about Turducken, or maybe their newfound friendship with Norm MacDonald

51 stephan December 1, 2016 at 4:35 pm

It’s not brilliant in the sense it’s so hard to find over the board. It’s just a nice touch for the last move of an exciting WC match

52 Luis Pedro Coelho December 1, 2016 at 6:57 am

Chess is, indeed, a great internet spectator sport. The ability to have the engine and try out your own moves is very nice and unlike any other spectator experience.

The rapid games were more fun to watch, but it feels a bit of a shame that the world championship was decided on a huge time trouble blunder (Rxc7 in game 3 and then game 4 was dictated by Karjakin trying to create complications instead of playing the best he could). OTOH, Qh6 as the last move in the championship is a nice finish.

I did also enjoy streaming the classical games even though I would often switch over to work related subjects and come back to the game later to see what had happened. Because of the fact that you can easily go back in time and see the moves that happened in the meanwhile there is no chance you “miss out” and you can go in and out of the game.

53 Steve Carroll December 1, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Hey MR chess fans, do any of you have recommended resources for people who didn’t grow up studying chess but interested in being a better chess *spectator*? I’m unwilling to devote many hours to becoming a better player myself but would be willing to do some targeted “study” here to appreciate watching games more. What sayeth the community?

54 mikey December 2, 2016 at 10:51 am

Well, my recommendation is to check out the streamers on youtube. There are just a ton of resources. Blitz and rapid games are fun to follow along with, as I said above (search for: GM Williams, IM Bartholomew, GM Hansen (chessbrah), IM Sielecki (chessexplained)) — also good are game analysis videos, from youtubers like kingscrusher, chessnetwork, and if you search for say GM Finegold and GM Ramirez, they have some good lectures online, both on analysis of games and also chess fundamentals.

55 Bob December 2, 2016 at 11:48 am

You won’t understand the tactical complexities without becoming a high level player, but there’s a lot of books out there on imbalances and positional play that can help someone understand a top GM game pretty well if they have access to a computer.

Stilsman’s The Amateur Mind might help. He goes through games with weak players, but the principles he describes apply just as well to top level play. Imbalances, weak squares… One could write a course on the topics he covers just using examples from the Karjakin Carlsen match.

56 Boris_Badenoff December 3, 2016 at 12:13 am

It isn’t so much that Carlsen has “become lazy.” He has used this same approach since he first hit the top tier as a teenager and found he could no longer just roll over opponents with superior tactics. So he has developed the style of merely playing good, solid moves and waiting for his opponent to make a mistake. It takes a helluva player to get through a game without real error.

Magnus didn’t get along with Kasparov because Gazza still lived in his own era of massive opening research & preparation, which doesn’t win nearly so many games as it did before the engines started playing 3000+ chess. If there are innovations left to be found in popular lines, all the top players have also found them – and their antidotes – at home with Houdini.

It should be noted that the only times Carlsen was worse in this match, including his loss, were due to his own over-pressing. It was he trying to win games, not Karjakin. Resourceful defense has been a hallmark of champions since Lasker, but champions also push to win and Karjakin didn’t do that.

There is a new generation of young GMs coming along, and another wave behind them. But the only player so far who has shown the ability to improve his results steadily once in the top tier is Caruana. He takes risks to win and loses more often than Karjakin in Super-GM events but he scores far more victories, too. He is the only player currently in that high class who might have a real chance against Carlsen in the next few cycles.

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