This year’s Candidates tournament

The final and deciding chess games are today, 8 a.m. EST, with Caruana and Karjakin in the lead and fortuitously playing each other in the final round.  The winner has the right to play Magnus Carlsen for the world championship in New York this November, or Karjakin wins on tiebreak if there is a draw (unless on another board Anand wins, then a draw elevates Caruana; don’t tell Ken Arrow!).  We have been learning a few things:

1. The English and Giuoco Piano are not bad openings if you are playing for a win; only first prize in this tournament counts for much, due to the embedded challenge option.

2. Risk-aversion does indeed vary with the prize environment — the Berlin defense has not been popular and every game has been hard fought.  That said, Anish Giri probably holds a lot of T-Bills in his portfolio.

3. Vishny Anand at age 46 (!) was in strong contention until the final round, which is remarkable for a contest so heavily biased toward youth.

4. I don’t think a disproportionate number of Americans are rooting for Fabiano Caruana, an American-born but Italian-raised dual citizen who was induced by financial support to play under the American flag.  The brilliant but emotionally immature Hikaru Nakamura, from White Plains N.Y., did poorly.  Nonetheless America has two of the top eight spots.

5. Today we’ll get to see whether individuals really do make better decisions when the stakes are high.  At least they have not been playing the King’s Indian.

6. Given how complicated are the rules for tie break, and the lack of clarity for handling a three-way tie, there is a chance the eventual winner will not be considered a fully meritocratic victor.  (Plus neither Caruana nor Karjakin could handle a rook and bishop vs. rook endgame correctly in the penultimate round.)  Send a DVD of Apocalypse Now, and ask for a sudden death playoff in lieu of tie-breaking rules.  Someone needs to go down in dramatic fashion, rather than having it look like the three stooges stumbling exhausted toward the finish line.

You can follow along at, with computer commentary, for background context.


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