March 13, 2013 12:55

FIDE Candidates: Predictions

Candidates: Predictions by Caruana, Ponomariov, Jones and l'Ami

Now that the first round of the FIDE Candidates tournament is just two days away, it's high time for some predictions! Will it be a walk in the park for Magnus? Can we expect surprises from outsiders like Svidler or Gelfand? Will Ivanchuk be the decisive factor in the end? GMs Fabiano Caruana, Ruslan Ponomariov, Gawain Jones and Erwin l'Ami look forward to London 2013 and give their predictions.

Photos by Anastasiya Karlovich courtesy of FIDE

Tomorrow at 18:00 local time the opening ceremony of the FIDE Candidates will be held at the tournament venue: the IET at Savoy Place in London. Then, on Friday, March 15th the first round will start at 14:00 GMT: Aronian-Carlsen, Gelfand-Radjabov, Ivanchuk-Grischuk and Svidler-Kramnik. It will be a historical event and the whole chess world is waiting for it! You can find all the information on the tournament here.

The Candidates tournament has already attracted attention from many mainstream media. Last Sunday, The Guardian's home page featured a photo of Magnus Carlsen which linked to Stephen Moss's article on the Norwegian and last Monday Malcolm Pein wrote a big preview for The Telegraph. Earlier, Anand gave his predictions in the The Economic Times, Anish Giri gave his predictions to Schach magazine (excerpted here) and Greg Shahade looked at Carlsen's openings. (If you know more links to previews online, please share in the comments!)

At the moment there seem to be two websites for the event: Agon's World Chess site and FIDE's tournament website. The latter will have photos, live video embbeded with commentary, round reports and, of course, the games. For the moment you can find an article by FIDE CEO Geoffrey Borg with overall percentages and statistics of the various Candidates. Based on 1,303 games, Borg noted:

Most number of games (Ivanchuk - Kramnik, 95 games)
Least number of games (Carlsen - Grischuk, 24 games)
Most Games (Ivanchuk, 448 games)
Least Games (Radjabov, 250 games)

It's high time to make some predictions here at ChessVibes. For this we spoke to four grandmasters: super GM Fabiano Caruana, currently the world's number 7 player in the live ratings, former FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov, who also played against all the players, and two of our new columnists for our magazine ChessVibes Training: Gawain Jones, who played his first super tournament in London in December last year, and Erwin l'Ami, the former second of super GM Veselin Topalov and participant in this year's Grandmaster Group A of Wijk aan Zee.

Fabiano Caruana (Italy, 2760)   Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine, 2733)
Gawain Jones (Engand, 2653)   Erwin l'Ami (Netherlands, 2624)

While speaking with these four players, we asked them for general predictions. Then, we tried to collect the strong and weak points for every Candidate. As Ruslan Ponomariov pointed out, obviously we're speaking about relative weaknesses, compared to other players, because at this level it's hard to speak of real weaknesses!

General predictions

Fabiano Caruana (FC): "For sure I will be following it every day. I have a general interest, but also from the theoretical point of view, in terms of openings, I think it will be extremely rich and very important, especially for top players. I'm sure many ideas will be revealed. I think all players will have a pretty fair chance. At the moment I would say Magnus is the strongest guy in the world, but I don't think that guarantees him victory and I'm not sure if he even has the best chance. I wouldn't really know who does. Based on the results in the last few months I would consider him a favorite, but I wouldn't be too comfortable to bet on anyone!"

Ruslan Ponomariov (RP): "Actually me and my wife, we just came back from our honeymoon in Mexico, so I didn't concentrate so much on chess. But surely London will be interesting to follow, from a professional point of view. Everyone expects Magnus to win, after Wijk aan Zee, after beating Kasparov's record... what's next? But this is a tournament, this is sport. If you just put the players in order of rating, it makes no sense to hold the tournament. Anything can happen. Last time, in Kazan, nobody expected that Gelfand and Grischuk would play in the final."

Gawain Jones (GJ): "I think it will be a very close tournament, like in Kazan. I imagine there will be a lot of draws. It probably depends on if Magnus has a good start; he has quite a tough first couple of games. Probably if he scores plus one from those games then the other contenders will feel obliged to risk a bit more. But maybe people will try and risk more anyway; I know Magnus won't accept quick draws, he'll be fighting, which is a bit different from Kazan. He's surely the favorite but not that much. Kramnik and Aronian are also favorites and I'd like to see Svidler and Grischuk do well and then it will be interesting to see what kind of mood Ivanchuk is in!"

Erwin l'Ami (EL): "Carlsen is the clear favorite. That's not a very surprising remark, but if he's in normal shape, he'll just win this tournament. Aronian and Kramnik are the only ones who can get close, but actually... I don't think Kramnik can do it. He is better at tournaments that have some weaker players as well, and there are no weak players in London. So I wonder if he can gain enough points to win the tournament. But it's quite clear it will be between Carlsen, Aronian and Kramnik and maybe on surprise, someone like Svidler, you never know."

Magnus Carlsen

FC: "Magnus always has extremely strong nerves. He never gets flustered, always keeps his cool. I think that will be most important in the last few rounds when some guys might be getting tired or nervous. I think he will always be very level-headed, as usual. He has had some slight problems against some of the players. In terms of result he hasn't dominated all of them and I think he has a minus score against a few of them. Of course these past results aren't a very clear indicator of what will happen. The biggest problem for him will be openings because in the past this has been his most vulnerable side. But I imagine he's been doing some very serious work in the last few months and he will probably come to the tournament with many new ideas. But I would say that in terms of openings he is not quite at the level of guys like Kramnik or Aronian."

RP: "He is the youngest player in the tournament, and he has good endgame technique. A good general understanding. He showed this in Wijk aan Zee, but there he was not so good in the opening, somehow. He didn't pay much attention to preparation, this is his style."

GJ: "The strongest point must be obvious: he is the strongest player in the field! He will just carry on pressing against everyone and probably his biggest advantage is his physical endurance. He'll just carry on, grinding away, win these equal endgames. Probably the only negative I can think of for him is the lack of experience in World Championship events. I don't know how he feels himself, whether he considers it to be a walk in the park, if he's got such confidence, but he'll be expecting to win I'm sure."

EL: "His strong point is simply that he is the best player. His opening repertoire is an issue. He is very good at finding small ideas, and playing slightly better or even equal positions, but you need some luck there. He needs to choose such things very carefully.

He is very good at finding small ideas, and playing slightly better or even equal positions, but you need some luck there. He needs to choose such things very carefully.

For example, he starts with Black against Aronian, who is, together with Kramnik, the best prepared player in the world. And in Wijk aan Zee it was really close. So for Magnus it's important to get through the opening without damage. But I heard he's taking Nielsen with him, so perhaps it's not a weakness anymore!"

Vladimir Kramnik

FC: "One one of the most experienced players in London. He has played in all these high-pressure situations, in so many matches and so many tournaments at this level. And his openings are very well prepared – he'll be rock-solid with the Berlin! It's not going to be easy to kill him there. But he might get tired after long periods of time. This is kind of what I noticed in his games: sometimes his level of play lowers towards the end of a tournament. But he should be considered one of the favorites; his general strength is very high and he is a very stable player."

RP: "Vladimir is usually very well prepared in the opening. However, he doesn't have so much energy anymore. For example, in Zurich in round 5 or 6 he started to play not so well anymore. In London it's going to be 14 rounds! Besides, in his match against Anand he wasn't so good in some tactical operations, but lately he has improved this somehow."

GJ: "The player in the field with the most experience of World Championship events. He's extremely solid and know exactly what to expect in this kind of thing. Probably the only negative is the tiredness, whether he'll manage to keep on going for fourteen rounds. That has occasionally let him down before I think, at the end of tournaments. He's probably happy that he's playing Magnus at the start of the tournament!"

He's probably happy that he's playing Magnus at the start of the tournament!

EL: "Kramnik is a great technical player who calculates a lot and very deeply; it's a very complete player. But he's now a bit older, a bit less energetic perhaps... His blunder against Anand in the last round in Zurich was perhaps no coincidence. Recently he's had a few more blackouts than in the past. It's important for him to be fit and sharp."

Levon Aronian

FC: "I think he is going to be very motivated. He has always been a very hard worker and I think he will be extra motivated for a clear shot at the World Championship. He is also an extremely well prepared player, maybe the best at the top. For me he was always the most unpleasant opponent; I had my worst results against him. I'm sure he has been working very hard in the past few months, preparing with... the entire country!

I'm sure he has been working very hard in the past few months, preparing with... the entire country!

Recently he has had some problems with his technique. He often gets winning positions and has trouble converting but of course this can always be fixed. He recently drew two positions against me which he should have won, in Sao Paulo and in Wijk aan Zee. But this is the only weakness I've noticed in his games recently. I am sure he will be in very good form for this tournament and very motivated." 

RP: "Levon is perhaps the most professional. I read in the news that he will even go to London with a personal doctor! He has so much support from Armenia. He will be well prepared and motivated. But sometimes he can be a bit unstable. Magnus for example is very stable, but Levon sometimes has tournaments like in December in London, or the beginning of the World Mind games, or even the start of Wijk aan Zee. But OK, he's number 2 in the world, has a 2800 Elo, that also means something!"

GJ: "A fantastic, creative player, again with very good theoretical knowledge and... he's second in the world, isn't he? If Aronian is in form, he could easily destroy the field. Maybe another negative for Kramnik is that his propensity to draw is quite high so he might get a solid plus three or something from the fourteen rounds but whether that's enough to win the tournament? Aronian will be able to get a bigger score, if he's in form. On the negative, he is more erratic than the other two top players."

EL: "I'm very curious to see whether Levon will finally make that jump to the next level. I mean, Kazan was disappointing... Aronian is a very creative player and if he's in good shape, he will be hard to stop. His preparation is fantastic as well; I also have the feeling that the whole country is behind him. The only thing is that in good positions he can be a bit nonchalant. He's an elusive player. Sometimes this works great, but sometimes it just fails."

Teimour Radjabov

FC: "Hard to say if his inactivity is a real disadvantage. I imagine he has been working very hard for the months that he hasn't been playing, but of course he is also a bit out of practice. It's possible also to play training games, not just tournaments, but this could be a risky strategy, to go into the Candidates without having been under these high pressure situations for a couple of months. In 2013 he hasn't played a single game. He hasn't been very dangerous with White, and it's kind of hard to count on wins with Black at this level. He might be a bit of an outsider; the guy has been at the top for many years and he's an extremely stable player."

RP: "There's something special about Radjabov. First of all, he plays in this Candidates because of big money from Azerbaijan but OK, he is now the 4th rated player in the world. At the same moment this rating is not so real. Compared with Fabiano, for example, he plays all the time and so his rating much more shows his strength. It's difficult to say something about Radjabov. His strong point is that he can win many games with Black, he is less strong with White normally. He likes to play for some counter-attack, like his favorite King's Indian. Maybe he will do some preparation but I'm not expecting something special. He doesn't play much, perhaps because he is not so hungry like other players. Maybe he is happy in Azerbaijan, maybe he is just enjoying his marriage, but you should also work on chess to be hungry for chess, to be motivated."

You should also work on chess to be hungry for chess, to be motivated.

GJ: "Radjabov is a slightly unknown element to me. He plays very little. I played him once in the world under 10; we're the same age. He beat me quite quickly! He's always been very strong... he is close to 2800 as well. His openings with Black always seem very impressive, he very rarely loses. With White I'm not sure if he's got such a killing instinct."

EL: "Radjabov is an outsider. He's just a bit too solid to win this tournament, I think. But if nobody really "runs away" with a big score, he has his chances because he can definitely keep the pace. He surely won't finish on minus four or anything, he's in the "minus two/plus two" category. He won't collapse, and he won't score plus six."

Alexander Grischuk

FC: "Grischuk hasn't been very active recently. The question is how seriously he has prepared in the last few months. From what I've heard he sometimes hasn't taken the most serious approach to opening work. But of course he's been one of the most talented players of recent times and been at the top for probably close to fifteen years now. So of course he has chances."

RP: "Grischuk has such a strong nervous system! He can find good moves in difficult positions in time trouble. And he plays creative chess, but this requires energy as well. And perhaps for Grischuk it's not so convenient that the system has changed. In Kazan there were different knockout tie-breaks with rapid and blitz, and this suits him well. Besides, he is one of three Russian players so he will have less support than for example Aronian. And... sometimes he can be concentrated on other things, poker for example."

GJ: "Grischuk has shown that he can match these guys in Kazan but he had done a lot of work on his Black repertoire, and with White he was playing quick draws. If he is wanting to get a big score here, he'll have to fight more with White and not just be happy to try and get 50%; there's no rapid and blitz option here, which is his specialty. Then, he has a slight problem here that Svidler has a big score against him. But probably his white repertoire is the main thing that will be interesting to see."

EL: "Another very good player, who will surely win a few good games. A very interesting player also, very very strong... on a good day he can beat anyone. He eliminated Aronian and Kramnik in Kazan! I do have the feeling, but I can't really know for sure, that players like Aronian and Kramnik are preparing for tournaments slightly more professionally. Sometimes he just seems not very motivated. And then there is of course his time trouble, which he should really avoid. People say he plays just as strongly in time trouble as in the rest of the game, but that's just nonsense. Nobody does. Against these guys it will cost him points."

People say he plays just as strongly in time trouble as in the rest of the game, but that's just nonsense. Nobody does.

Vassily Ivanchuk

FC: "This is another guy who has been very uncomfortable for me. I have lost many games to him although recently I kind of started to get back! He is the most unpredictable player; it's kind of hard to really say what he is going to do. He has played tournaments like the one in Romania, where he scored something like 8/10 and a 3000 performance against the top guys, and sometimes he collapses, for instance at the last Reggio Emilia. So... he could come very strong and start beating the guys or he might not be very stable and might finish near the bottom, it's really hard to say. But I would definitely not count Vassily out; he's one of the most accomplished guys and for sure he is one of the greatest chess talents of his generation. It will be very interesting to watch how he approaches the tournament."

RP: "I really wish for Vassily to show his best. His strong point is that he can play absolutely everything, any opening. It's difficult to prepare for him. And if he plays well, his concentration is very good and even with Black he can beat anyone. But if things go wrong, he can lose this concentration and lose games one by one. And, his problem is that he usually prepares alone, I think. I think all other players will have seconds, coaches, some training sessions, but Ivanchuk likes to concentrate on chess preparation himself."

GJ: "One of the most talented players, possibly the most talented ever. When you see him in form, he can beat anyone in this field with either color, just blow them away. But then, if things go wrong for him, he can just have a huge string of losses. Ivanchuk might well be the one who will decide the tournament. I don't see him managing to win the tournament, because I think his nerves will fail him at some point. He might be a couple of points ahead half way, but then he'll probably feel the strain. It's possible that he beats Magnus and then loses to Kramnik and Aronian or something. He could be very vital for the final standings."

He could be very vital for the final standings.

EL: "Chuky won't win this tournament, but he'll play a few beautiful games, and he'll be enjoying the tournament, he loves to participate. And he'll be responsible for a few surprises. In good shape he can stay at the top, but his negative is that there are two Chuky's. Sometimes he is just invisible. But he is incredibly all-round, and has the same class as the top players. He's openings could be better perhaps, but on the other hand he's varying so much!"

Peter Svidler

FC: "Another very experienced guy, who has gotten very close in the past. In San Luis 2005 he finished second, tied with Anand, in the tournament which Topalov won. He has his chances, but recently he hasn't played many of the top tournaments so it's possible that he is a bit out of practice, that he is not as sharp as other guys who are constantly playing at the top level. Maybe he has to get back into the rhythm of playing these guys. But he can be an extremely dangerous opponent for anyone on a given day."

RP: "Peter Svidler surprised me at the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. Now he is even out of the Russian team. And he is not so young anymore. But somehow he has found new motivation, after working with Grischuk. And he recently scored some wins against me and against Kramnik, while before he didn't score good against us. I don't think he will win but who knows, he already showed some surprises in the past, at least to me!"

GJ: "He has shown that he is very good in these tournaments. He has won the Russian Championships six times; he has beaten Kramnik the last two times they played, he did well in San Luis... So he can step up and play well in these tournaments.

He has won the Russian Championships six times; he has beaten Kramnik the last two times they played, he did well in San Luis... So he can step up and play well in these tournaments.

Again probably the question is going to be whether he'll be as well prepared as the top guys. It feels that he hasn't spent so much time on chess as the others. He's got a wide range of interests, a family... It will be interesting to see how much preparation he has managed for the tournament. Probably it's very important to him whether his Grünfeld holds up. He's got a very big score with it. With White he plays these Englishes a lot and tries for some small advantage. If his Grünfeld survives he'll get a good score, but if he's forced to abandon it then the tournament might be going not so well for him."

EL: "Well, Svidler, that's going to be interesting. It will depend on whether he'll have a good start. I think what he needs is to get some kind of positive feeling, and then he's capable of anything. Well, winning the tournament might be a bit too much to ask but I think he will be doing well in the tournament. He's an incredibly strong player who proved himself in the past. He sometimes loses Elo points in e.g. the Bundesliga or something, but he's still a true top player. But he hasn't been around much lately. At the moment his opening repertoire seems a bit limited, but I do think he has prepared seriously for this tournament so perhaps he'll come with some interesting ideas."

Boris Gelfand

FC: "I actually believe Boris has his chances also. He is the kind of guy who is always very motivated. He considers this the main focus of his career, trying to qualify for the World Championship, and that's how he was able to win the Candidates. That was a great deal of preparation and motivation which sometimes you might not see for instance in his tournament play. I think he is going to be coming to this event very well prepared. Of course the question is also if tiredness will play a role. He is not as young as some of the other guys and I think it's noticeable that in long games at the end of tournaments he is playing weaker than his usual strength."

RP: "Well... Boris is Boris! He already played the match and one day he could have become World Champion. But the problem is that he is one of the oldest players. It's quite difficult to do it again. When you're young you recover easier from tournament to tournament, but when you're above 40 it's not so easy. Besides, it's also better for Boris to play matches instead of tournaments. He did play well for example in Mexico 2007, but we're talking about how to win. But who knows. Spassky qualified for the second time against Petrosian, Smyslov qualified twice for Botvinnik!"

Spassky qualified for the second time against Petrosian, Smyslov qualified twice for Botvinnik!

GJ: "Boris is sort of the dark horse in this. Nobody expected him to do well in the Candidates last time, or in the World Championships! But he's surprised everyone there. It seems he's playing at a different level in the World Championship cycle. You can see the commitment and the focus, that he really wants this title. He said he was enjoying himself against Vishy and I think he will enjoy this tournament also. It's probably his last time, it will be difficult for him to get back. So I think he will be very well prepared and give everyone a tough battle. I can't see him winning the Candidates but he'll probably do better than expected again."

EL: "Yes, Boris... somehow I always like it when he does well. It's simply a very nice guy. You can see that he really love the game and lives for it, he does everything for it, works very hard... I actually think he will do quite well. Winning the tournament will be hard, but if he plays like he did against Anand, he just won't lose! His opening repertoire is so strong; if he has deepened it a bit further, it's just impossible to break it. But the question is whether he'll win enough games to make a difference."

Your predictions

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


Mopsy's picture

What me convinces most for predicting the result, is the individual match-percantage given above in the article.

arkan's picture

Bookmaker odds are usually a decent indicator;

These odds are interesting, with Magnus being the clear favorite and Gelfand at the bottom with 50 to 1

Kronsteen's picture

Can you post all the odds? This site does not seem to be available to Americans.

Thomas Oliver's picture

I can: Carlsen 1.55/1, Aronian and Kramnik 6/1, Ivanchuk 15/1, Grischuk 18/1, Radjabov 20/1, Svidler 40/1, Gelfand 50/1.
I wonder how they come up with these numbers. It can't be purely Elo - else Radjabov would have better odds. Maybe they read a couple of previews by journalists who are fans of Carlsen?

NN's picture

They probably come up with these numbers simply by looking at how their clients are betting. And then they try to make a profit in every case.

Thomas Oliver's picture

Yeah this may well be the case: many people consider Carlsen heavy favorite, many will bet at him so the betting site doesn't want to risk losing money IF he wins the event. On the other hand, they sort of encourage people to put money on Gelfand.

If so, it's hardly independent evidence for Carlsen being heavy favorite - an echo rather than an educated assessment. Note that I only question Carlsen's status as heavy and only favorite - if Kramnik and Aronian get 6/1, 4/1 may be realistic for Carlsen.

brabo's picture

If I use the tool then I get
Carlsen: 43%, Aronian: 13%, Gelfand: 3%, Ivanchuk: 4%, Svidler: 4%, Kramnik: 17%, Grischuk 6%, Radjabov 11% Although I've not seen the exact math behind it, the figures look plausible and are indeed deviating from the figures used for the betting (likely based on the betting behaviour of the customers). Betting on Gelfand, Svidler or Radjabov seems not bad to me as you get a higher return in case of winning than statistically should be.

Lee's picture

My head says Carlsen

My heart says Aronian

My spidey sense says Grischuk as dark horse.

PS: Great article. Nice to see informed opinions instead of the drivel us posters usually offer up.

Niima's picture

My head says Carlsen; my heart says Ivanchuk, always, until one of us dies! :-)

Guillaume's picture

My prediction is: I don't know. I'd say this elementary option is missing in the above poll. So, I didn't vote.

Remco G's picture

So in short they're all going to do quite well. Will be interesting to see if all of them will finish in the top half.

Couldn't you have forced your commentators to pick the two most likely to finish bottom or so? :-)

Thomas Oliver's picture

Everywhere one can read that Carlsen is the heavy and only favorite, that he will win easily ("walk in the park?") if only he can cope with the pressure, ... . The "previews" in Guardian and Telegraph are actually articles abundantly praising Carlsen, then - casually and for the sake of completeness - mentioning that seven other players also participate.

Then it is interesting and kinda refreshing that three out of four GMs here take a more nuanced point of view. l'Ami is the exception here and the rule in general. I think he is a bit wrong about Kramnik "is better at tournaments that have some weaker players as well" - didn't Vlad also win Tal Memorial and Bilbao?

redivivo's picture

"Everywhere one can read that Carlsen is the heavy and only favorite, that he will win easily"

I haven't read a single article declaring that Carlsen will win easily. That he is the heavy favourite is another thing though, but that doesn't mean that he will win.

I don't think l'Ami is wrong about Kramnik doing better when there are weaker opponents in the field, see for example his stats for 2011:

score against players rated 2750+
+2 -4 =15, performance: 2751

score against players rated sub-2700
+9 -0 =2, performance: 3061

This seems to be a fairly recent development of the last 3-4 years though.

Thomas Oliver's picture

Maybe not the exact word "easily" but some quotes can be interpreted like this, e.g. l'Ami: "if he's in normal shape, he'll just win this tournament." - he doesn't need to show anything special, and even Aronian, Kramnik and/or Ivanchuk in great form don't have much of a chance?
Or Giri: "If Magnus can mentally cope with the challenge, I estimate his winning chances as 80%" (maybe 60%, current result of the Chessvibes poll, is more realistic?).

About Kramnik, the issue isn't whether he does relatively better against weaker opponents, but whether he can also do well in exclusive strong fields - he did in the past, the examples might be a bit dated but he may well find back that kind of form.

elgransenor1's picture
noyb's picture

Carlsen wins with +4 or +5. Should be a very tightly played affair, lots of draws.

Sergio Henrique Riedel's picture


RealityCheck's picture

I voted for Levon Aronian. And, I'm dedicating the next couple weeks to Lev's chess and Coltrane's tenor saxophone.

A love supreme. A love supreme. A Lev supreme!

Anthony Migchels's picture

Olé Aronian!

Morley's picture

Carlsen is the highest rated player of all time. He is the youngest player to ever break 2800, and the youngest world no. 1. He has won a dozen super tournaments over the past few years, including his last three, over which period he has won more games than he has drawn. He has, over the last two years, beaten everyone in this field (sans Grischuk and Svidler) ... and lost to NONE of them. Let me repeat that. No player in this Candidates has beaten Carlsen in a classical game since 2010. He is by far the favorite.

Morley's picture

Look at it this way: Over the last two years, Carlsen is +9 -0 =21 against this field.

Kronsteen's picture

Wow. That is an impressive statistic.

Anthony Migchels's picture

Basically this suggests his expected performance is +4. That will probably suffice.

Bobby Fiske's picture

Wow. Numbers don't lie!

Zeblakob's picture

I was about to vote for MC but I was afraid of S3 (D_H) and suddenly voted for Aronian.

s3's picture

:) .You will thank me later !

D Sanchez's picture

I came up with nearly the same result: +9 -0 =22 for Carlsen in classical against these players from 2011 to present.

Some might argue that the results skew in Carlsen's favor in that the highest number of games are against against Aronian (against whom he does well) and his client Ivanchuk. But I don't think that is born out by a deeper analysis. If we take the percentage scores Carlsen has against each opponent and average (to equal out the weighting), Carlsen scores a very healthy 65.22% against the field – which is actually better than the unweighted 64.51%. This, as Anthony Migchels points out, should give Carlsen a +4 score.

Also it is telling that Carlsen has not lost a single game against any of these players in the last couple of years.

Who knows what will actually happen, but the stats favor Carlsen.

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for the's Fischer like in its dominance.

Thomas Oliver's picture

If we only consider the very strongest events (Bilbao and Tal Memorial), things still look good for Carlsen but are far less clear. In Bilbao, he twice needed tiebreaks to win. Tal Memorial: In 2012 he "somehow" won but the event was closely contested and very much open until the last round. In 2011, he shared first place with Aronian (and had the better tiebreak). We can add Bazna 2011: again shared first for Carlsen and a very slightly better tiebreak than Karjakin.

Carlsen fans present statistics that favor Carlsen, I look at the empirical evidence that's IMO most relevant for the upcoming event. And, to put it mildly, it doesn't suggest that Carlsen will win by a big margin. Maybe again first on tiebreak?

redivivo's picture

"Carlsen fans present statistics that favor Carlsen, I look at the empirical evidence"

Looking at the results of the last years it's hard to find statistics that doesn't favour Carlsen.

Thomas Oliver's picture

First, this is another example of selective quoting - I wrote "empirical evidence _most relevant for the given event". In other words, Carlsen beating the likes of Jones, Adams, McShane, l'Ami ... doesn't mean much if anything for his chances in the candidates event.

I concede that stats against the other participants are more relevant, and obviously Carlsen did best overall (reflected by his rating). But the candidates tournament is one event, not a series of events. Also interesting that Carlsen fans tend(ed) to downplay or ignore stats that don't favor him: when Kramnik had a plus score against Carlsen and - answering a provocative question - said so ("Magnus is my client") hell broke lose in this and other forums.

I do not question that Carlsen is one of the favorites, probably first favorite. I just don't agree that he is the heavy and only favorite who can only beat himself ("if he shows normal form", "if he can cope with the pressure" ... everyone else can at most hope for second place).

Anonymous's picture

If Carlsen had the same classical games score with the 7ven russian schooled candidates he'll be competing against starting to-morrow in London as he does with his client Nakamura, I for one might've jumped on Maggie the Magnificant's bandwagon.

But he doesn't even come close. Carlsen will need another cycle or two IMHO.

That's another reason I cast my vote for GM Lev..

A Love Supreme. A Love Supreme. A Lev Supreme.

redivivo's picture

"If Carlsen had the same classical games score with the 7ven russian schooled candidates he'll be competing against starting to-morrow in London as he does with his client Nakamura"

he would have 42-0 against his opponents, that's a bit much to ask. I'm not even sure if the supreme Lev has such stats against the opposition here.

adam's picture

"empirical evidence"--mwhaaha :D

D Sanchez's picture

"Carlsen fans present statistics that favor Carlsen, I look at the empirical evidence"


D Sanchez's picture

Your lack of bias has surely been palpable in all your posts here Thomas Oliver.

bronkenstein's picture

Talking about funny constructions, just few more statistical details - he is also already too old to become (if...) the youngest world champ, also his score (0.00 %) in the previous candidates doesn´t sound too encouraging - even if he wins all of his games here (which even Houdinni wouldn´t be able to achieve imNSHo) - he will reach 50% - which is in fact decent against this strong field.

malper's picture

Looking forward for Aronian-Redjabov games and aggressive chatting between Armenians and Azeris at chessbomb. Many heads will roll again and many will be banned from the chat room. Chess is an amazing entertainment with its own hooligans.
Hereby I predict that Carlsen will under-perform. I expect something around 2850 TPR because I expect regression to the mean and this tourney offers the ultimate platform for such a case.
I am fan of Kramnik as well as Ivanchuck. But they are old. Gelfand is old as well. They will likely to fail during the second half.
Grischuk is not going to have any rapid/blitz tiebreaks. I rule him out as well. Although I wanna see his usual exciting KID.
Svidler's opening theory is limited. Noone will allow him to go for Grunfeld. Thus I do not expect anything exceptional from Svidler.
So there remains Aronian and Radjabov. Both of which can perform above 2900 TPR. My favorite is Aronian to win this tourney and Radjabov is the underdog. I feel like Aronian is more likely to generate more wins against lower rated/demoralized/under-performing opponents when compared to Radjabov.

hei's picture

Hey I missed Radjabovs marriage completely. Who is his wife?

bronkenstein's picture

You have nice pic of them in this Chessvibes report

dmitry's picture
hei's picture

Just you

Coco Loco's picture

Can anyone do a quick computer simulation of the results based on the Elo ratings (and the corresponding expected points per game)? Obviously Magnus has by far the best chance to win, but I bet it's under 50%.
[E.g., 40-15-15-10-8-6-4-2 could be a possible probability distribution.]

Yuri's picture

Russia will win tournament. The players will gang up on Magnus play hard and he will crack under pressure. Kramnik will win and be world champion again later in year. It is possible Radjabov could win because big Azerbaijan money for this tournament. Why invest so much only to see their player not win? This is possible of course but unlikely. There are secret agendas at play behind the scenes as always with chess and shadowy forces in dark corners in hats and black raincoats. But Russia always has secret formula and victory will be ours. The crown belongs to Russia. We will win title back one way or another. Wait and see.

Doc's picture

Yuri Boy...You have failed to take your medicines again !

Creemer's picture

This is actually an interesting idea. Might some sort of repeated scenario of Curacao 1962 take place? There Soviet players made a pact to make easy draws amongst themselves, so they would have more energy against Fischer. It worked: Petrosian eventually won, if I remember correctly. And it took Fischer another 10 years to become WC.

Of course the situation now is very different, and I don't think any of the Russian players is inclined to give easy draws to fellow countrymen. There's no Party to threaten anything, no fear-factor. (Not that I know of.)
Also, in '62 the tournament had 28 (!) rounds and adjourned games, so endurance played a bigger role then. And Carlsen is at least as physically fit as Fischer was then.
Still, some twists and turns near the end of the tournament might be explained by secret, even unspoken, agreements. Part of the intrigue of this great tournament which I am looking forward to a lot!

RealityCheck's picture

Hey, @Creemer. If Fischer, the one shot cowboy, had the intestinal fortitude of the current 5 times world champion Anand, he'd be somebobby!

Anand's been battling the same forces for over 20 years. With great success I might add.

Creemer's picture

Ah, well, I don't know about that. Not that Anand doesn't have staying power, he's proven that, but I am not aware of any pacts or secret arrangements to hinder his results. Of course, I don't pretend to know everything - feel free to inform me.

s3's picture

Carlsen has enough money to bribe the whole lot of them. Far more likely espesially considering his earlier cheating attempts. I have not seen these Russians trying to cheat.

SetNoEscapeOn's picture

Kramnik has a good chance but he would lose to Anand again.

And by the way the Russian Secret Formula hasn't worked in the Olympiad since 2002.


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