Monday, December 10

Carlsen on Top of the World

Carlsen on top of the London Eye.
The Norwegian conqueror of chess arrived at the London Chess Classic determined to assert his dominance over his closest challengers, and to stake out a place in history. After celebrating his 22nd birthday on the day before the first round, Magnus Carlsen won five games, drew three and lost none. He started explosively, winning the first two rounds and scoring 5.5 out of 6! Alas, a pair of fighting draws at the end of the event dropped his performance rating from an astronomical 3146 to a merely mortal 2994.

Book published in 2004
Perhaps most significantly, Carlsen smashed the all-time highest official rating of 2851, a record credited to his former teacher Garry Kasparov. The new mark is 2861, and will no doubt continue to rise as the Wunderkind keeps improving.  He extended the lead over his nearest challenger to 51 rating points; .half a year ago, the gap was just 10 points.  Former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, now rated second, finished with an impressive result himself, but he was eclipsed by someone even greater.

We can only imagine how high Carlsen could go once he stops needing luck to escape from a losing position (against Luke McShane) or when he finds the critical move order to convert all pleasant advantages into victories (against Hikaru Nakamura and Viswanathan Anand).  Indeed, he has plenty of room for improvement compared to a computer programs like Houdini.  Regardless, the always opinionated Kasparov already conceded that Carlsen has the necessary talent to reach 2900, only as long as he continues to work hard.

Can he do it?  Maybe it is just a question of when?  Vote in the poll on right side panel.

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