2012 in chess was, yet again, the year of Magnus Carlsen. The Norwegian prodigy finally surpassed Garry Kasparov’s highest ever rating, causing Sergey Shipov to remark in his review of 2012 at Crestbook: “He’s Kasparov’s heir – not Kramnik, Topalov or Anand”.
Shipov was answering questions posed by members of Crestbook’s Russian KC-forum, and the end result was a comprehensive account of the year. Topics ranged from the best games and moves to chess politics, with Shipov explaining why Kirsan Ilyumzhinov should go but Garry Kasparov shouldn’t replace him.
Shipov assessed the year for a host of top players and didn’t mince his words – concluding that Hikaru Nakamura is “not fated to rise higher and fight for the title” and responding to a question about the “disappointment of the year” with, “Anand. By a large margin.” (though Shipov did later provide an update in light of Anand’s current performance in Wijk aan Zee)
One player who drew only praise, however, was Magnus Carlsen. Some extracts:
On Carlsen beating Kasparov’s record
Carlsen has already been the world’s best player for a few years now. His leadership has become clear and undeniable. Magnus is made to dominate! The lacklustre performance of the official World Champion casts a favourable light on the Norwegian’s merits. The contrast between Anand and Carlsen is now so great that it’s impossible not to question the World Championship system. […]
Carlsen’s current rating achievements really are comparable to Kasparov’s peak, despite the significant rating inflation. Yes, the gap between Kasparov and the elite of his own day was greater, but at the time there weren’t as many strong programs to help with preparation as there are nowadays. The computer, like the Colt in the Wild West, has levelled the strength of the rivals. In our day it’s become harder to break clear of your pursuers.
That makes Carlsen’s achievements all the more impressive. He’s Kasparov’s heir – not Kramnik, Topalov or Anand – because he’s managed to become not simply the first among equals, but objectively and unquestionably the best.
All that’s left is a trifle – winning the title. Otherwise years from now Magnus’ current achievements will be almost forgotten.
Incidentally, I don’t consider Carlsen weak in the opening. It’s simply that instead of following the fashionable lines he seeks out his own paths. He skilfully chooses systems that come as a surprise to his opponents. Everyone has their own style. Their own strategy. Their own approach.
I really don’t see any weaknesses in the Norwegian’s play. He’s absolutely universal. The current Carlsen is the Spassky of the 60s, reinforced with all the chess knowledge accumulated over the last half century.
On whether Carlsen can cross the 2900 mark in 2013?
That largely depends on the speed of rating inflation. If the people Magnus can play a simultaneous display against become 2700 players, then why not?
But in the current state of affairs – unlikely.
On whether Carlsen is destined to win the Candidates Tournament?
I’m reminded of Agatha Christie’s wonderful work “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”. All the facts and all the clues pointed to Ralph Paton being the guilty man. But that was precisely why Hercule Poirot assumed Ralph wasn’t the murderer.
It’s the same here. Everything suggests Carlsen will win: his huge rating, convincing play, the energy of youth, the tournament format, the weaknesses of his rivals. But it’s precisely that predestination that forces me to doubt Magnus’ success. The sense of the inevitability of his upcoming success could play a cruel trick on the Norwegian. That’s happened more than once before with his predecessors. And Carlsen’s rivals, who no-one expects to win, will find it correspondingly easier to play. The weight of responsibility will be much lighter on them.
So while assessing the probabilities I’ll be careful. Yes, Magnus is the favourite, but not the sole and absolute favourite. Aronian, Kramnik and some third guy in dark clothes will also have real chances.
Don’t miss the full text at Crestbook!