Magnus Carlsen of Norway scored a crushing victory in the Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2013 in Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands, last month, which unquestionably puts him in the same class as the game’s greatest players, Garry Kasparov, Bobby Fischer, Jose Capablanca, to mention a few. Carlsen simply ran through a field of 13 of the best players in the world, scoring 10-3, losing no games, and often exhausting his opponents, 1.5 points ahead of the field. Levon Aronian of Armenia placed a masterful second with 8.5 points, normally enough to win a tournament, but not with Carlsen playing.
Carlsen scored 2 points higher than world champion Viswanathan Anand of India, who made a substantial comeback in this tournament after a number of recent poor results. He ran even with Carlsen through round 7, but could not keep up with the Norwegian’s 5.5-.5 surge in the last part of the tournament. Anand suffered a loss in the last round against Hao Wang of China.
Yet, despite this remarkable performance, Carlsen has his work cut out to become world champion. To reach this height, Carlsen must occupy first place in the next Candidates tournament, a double round robin against seven other Grandmasters, three of whom — Peter Svidler, Alexander Grischuk, and Vladimir Kramnik — are Russian. The remaining opponents will be Teimour Radjabov, Azerbaijan; Boris Gelfand, Israel; Vassily Ivanchuk, Ukraine; and Aronian. Kramnik, a former world champion, did not play at Tata Steel this year.
Surely Carlsen will be favored to win the Candidates. His rating of 2872, up from 2867, is now the highest on record, well above Kaspar-ov’s record of 2815. Of course, if he wins the Candidates he must defeat Anand. He would again be favored. However, the championship finals are relatively short 12-game matches, and opening preparation is very important.
Peter Heine Nielsen, the Danish Grandmaster and the assistant to Anand for 10 years, has switched to help Carlsen in the Candidates tournament. However, for obvious ethical reasons he will not help either party if Carlsen eventually faces Anand.
Carlsen showed substantial versatility in his victory string. Although he prefers the Ruy Lopez as White, he played a mix of king and queen side openings. As he said, practically all turned out well. As Black he even succeeded with the lackadaisical Ponziani opening.
Carlsen once again dominated US champion Hikaru Nakamura in a tense struggle. Nakamura unfolded a novelty 6…h5 which had merit, though Carlsen described it as more original than good. Carlsen got castled and pressed hard, and on the 21st move, Nakamura missed a move that would protect his king’s bishop. Carlsen forced it out of play and thereafter the position was his.
Brevity: P. Ricardi vs. O. Vasiliev (2003) 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.0–0 Bg7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.e5 Nd5 7.Nc3 Nxc3 8.dxc3 0–0 9.Bg5 a6 10.Bxc6 bxc6 11.Qd2 Re8 12.Rad1 Qa5 13.a3 Rb8 14.b4 cxb4 15.axb4 Qb5 16.Qf4 a5 17.bxa5 Qxa5 18.e6 dxe6 19.Qxb8 Bxc3 20.Re3 Bb4 21.h4; 1-0
Winners: Newburyport CC January Swiss: 1st-3d, J. Elmore, G. Potorski, A. King, 3.5-1.5;
Boylston Thurs. Night Swiss: 1st, M. Esserman, 4.5-.5, E. Godin 4-1, N. Smolensky, 3.5-1.5, T. O’Malley 3.5-1.5.
Coming Events: Feb. 16, BCC $5 Open; Feb. 19-22, BCC Chess Camp, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day; both at BCC, 240B Elm St., Somerville, www.boylstonchessclub.org . Feb.12, Larry Christiansen simul, South Station, 5-7 p.m.