There is little doubt that World Champion Magnus Carlsen has not been playing his best chess for much of the last year. Just a few months ago, he experienced an especially disappointing result. Participating in his home country of Norway in a round-robin against nine of the world’s highest-rated Grandmasters, he finished an embarrassing 1⁄2 point out of last place.
It is perhaps a sign of how dominating Carlsen has been that a major slump has not cost him his first-place ranking in classical chess. In fact, he has been continuously rated No. 1 by the International Chess Federation a record 66 times.
In the two faster forms of chess that have become quite popular, Carlsen has been rated No. 1 as well. Recently, he convincingly demonstrated his speed skills when he took first in Grand Chess Tour competitions held in Paris, France and Leuven, Belgium. The format for both tournaments included nine games of rapid and 18 games of blitz. Rapid games allow 25 minutes per side for the entire game with a 10-second delay each move before the clock starts to run. Blitz games give each player only five minutes per game with a three-second delay.
It was observed that Carlsen’s games at speededup rates highly resemble “real” chess games played at classical rates allowing hours per side to complete.
Carlsen’s speed chess rating performance was astronomical, above the 3,000-point level.
In Paris, At the somewhat slower pace of rapid chess, Carlsen produced a number of other gems. This column’s featured game was contested against U.S. Champion Wesley So, third-ranked in classical chess in the world. After achieving a better position going midgame, Carlsen flashed out a deep combinational sequence starting on move 27. Newsflash
The last leg of the Grand Chess Tour will be held in St. Louis Aug. 13-19. Amongst its world top-10 participants will be former U.S. Champions Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. Former World Champion Viswanathan Anand will also compete. A special wild-card invitee will be 54-year-old Kasparov, who officially retired 12 years ago!
Regarding his participation, the former champion amusingly observed, “Looks like I’m going to raise the average age of the field and lower the average rating!