Saturday, March 8

Anand Wins Linares, Carlsen Moves up to Top 5

(Viswanathan Anand draws easily with the white pieces in the final round against Veselin Topalov to clinch first place. Will these two elite players meet again with the World Championship at stake? Photo from ChessBase website.)

The super-Grandmaster tournament of Linares has drawn to a close with a familiar face at the top. Viswanathan Anand, the 38 year old World Champion from India, dominated a field of seven opponents, ranging from the Ukrainian veteran Vassily Ivanchuk (same age) to the Norwegian teenager Magnus Carlsen (just 17 years old). Anand finished in first with a solid result of 4 wins, 1 loss and 9 draws for 8.5 out of 14. The youngster Carlsen took second place honors at half a point behind while the Armenian Levon Aronian and the Bulgarian Veselin Topalov shared third place with 7.5 each.

Final standings

  • 8.5 Anand
  • 8.0 Carlsen
  • 7.5 Aronian and Topalov
  • 7.0 Radjabov
  • 6.5 Ivanchuk
  • 5.5 Leko and Shirov
This year's "Wimbledon of chess" will be remembered for the fighting chess that was played on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, first in Morelia, Mexico and then in Linares, Spain. The players insisted on mortal combat starting from the first round--remarkably at this level, three of the 14 rounds finished with more decisive games than draws. Despite a disappointing final round of four draws, 25 of 56 games (45%) resulted in a winner. Every player won at least two games and all but the champion suffered more than one defeat. Chess fans were able to follow many exciting games; even some of the draws were long back-and-forth battles that could have ended differently.

Here are my favorite games from the tournament. Serious chess students, especially those rated above 1800, should get in the habit of playing through Grandmaster games on a regular basis. By studying these top level contests, you improve your intuition in many different kinds of positions, which will hopefully open your eyes to new strategies in your own games. You may also download a PGN file of these 13 games to use in Fritz or ChessBase. On ICC, type "liblist Linares08" to see all of the games or check out the ChessFM website for daily video reports.

Of course, the big winner is the reigning World Champion Anand. He once again proved that, in the absence of former #1 Garry Kasparov, he's the man to beat. The other big news is the continued success of Carlsen (see photo at the right), coming on the heels of his first place finish in Corus at Wijk aan Zee earlier this year. Various websites report that Magnus will be ranked in the Top 5 of the World on the April FIDE rating list! At this rate, he will soon pass Kramnik and Anand to take over the #1 ranking! Will the best chess player on the planet soon be a teenager?

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