CHESS

Los Angeles Times - - SUNDAY COMICS - Bill Corn­wall

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!

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