In his first tournament since becoming World Champion, Magnus Carlsen came out victorious last week. While he suffered a couple of stumbles, his performance was strong enough in the classical games to overcome his lackluster performance in the rapids. One attribute that is recurrent in Carlsen’s play is his ability to be resourceful and find the best choices in difficult situations.
In his classical game against Hikaru Nakamura, he was on the verge of being brutally crushed when Nakamura became excited and erred at a critical moment. Carlsen seized on the moment and turned the tables. Nakamura is on the cover of the latest New in Chess saying that he is the most serious rival to Carlsen, but he has yet to find the formula to score against him. Nevertheless it was the only classical game in which Carlsen was in danger of losing.
In the Rapids, Carlsen only scored 2/5 with losses to Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian. However, he ended with a combined total of 10 points and the tournament win. Caruana and Aronian ended on nine points.
With the Candidate’s Tournament just around the corner, players are jockeying for position for who will be the challenger to Carlsen’s reign. Nakamura say that he is, but certainly Aronian is capable as well. Caruana is still improving and Sergey Karjakin may be another candidate. What is clear is that Carlsen is on the top of the chess world (live rating at 2881.2) and the title is his to lose.
Carlsen has spent a month recovering from the championship match and spent time conducting interviews and meeting with tech luminaries such as Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. Gates was “posterized” on camera after being mated in nine moves by Carlsen. While it is dubious to make much of Carlsen’s win over a rank beginner like Gates, it provides good publicity for the champion.
So with a new crown, millions of fans, sponsorships, modeling contracts and the world ahead of him at 23, the world’s top player is the World Champion and that much can be understood by all. With the honorable stewardship of Viswanathan Anand and emergence of Carlsen, the title has finally been unified. However, chess has entered a new era after his auspicious win in Zurich. What remains to be seen is whether chess will be ignited by Carlsen’s reign. A lot is expected.