Magnus Carlsen will launch his new campaign to achieve a 2900 Fide rating, the Everest of overall tournament performance, when the world champion makes his first move on Saturday (1pm start) in the opening round of the “chess Wimbledon” in Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee. Reaching the round number after previously stalling at 2,882 twice is the 31-year-old’s main goal for 2022.
After four successful defenses of his global crown, Carlsen says he will only do so again in 2023 if his opponent is the current No. 2, Alireza Firouzja, 18, or another new-generation grandmaster.
Calling the 2900’s purpose an Everest is an apt metaphor. Add another zero for what used to be calculated as the mountain’s exact height, although it was publicly stated as 29,002 feet to avoid the impression that 29,000 was a rounded estimate. There was an Everest expedition in 1922 a century ago, two years before the tragedy of the famous 1924 attempt.
Carlsen’s chances of reaching his personal peak are a lot better than those of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine. His current rating after his world title match in Dubai is 2865, and he will have to score 9/13 in Wijk to get just one rating point. A total of 10/13 would take him to 2,876, within reach of his personal bests. He reached 2,882 in Fide’s monthly charts in the years 2014 and 2019, while his unofficial daily peak in live viewing figures is 2,889.
Now that he’s so close, why hasn’t the No. 1 already surpassed his target? His highest tournament performance score of 3002 came as far back as 2009 at Pearl Spring, China, which ranks second in the TPRs of at least nine rounds behind Fabiano Caruana’s 3103 in St. Louis in 2014. Carlsen’s performance in the first half of 2019 was also well above the required target at 2942.
The problem is, the occasional under-performance sneaks in between the glittering successes. One was in Wijk 2021, where Carlsen finished only sixth after his shocking defeat to Russian Andrey Esipenko, then 18. In total, he has won Wijk seven times, the record number of wins of any player on the windswept Dutch coast, and his opposition for 2022, although of high quality, it lacks its two closest rivals in the ratings, Firouzja and Ding Liren.
Firouzja, the world No. 2 who left his native Iran and now represents France, had a spat with the organizers of Wijk during the final round in 2021 when he was disturbed by tables being moved to accommodate the play-off. for the first prize between the Dutch Jorden van Forest and Anish Giri.
The teenager was invited to Wijk 2022, but demanded compensation for the incident on the final day and also wanted a much higher starting amount than the organizers offered, which caused the negotiations to break down. Ding, the world number 3, whose tournaments have been drastically low last year due to China’s difficulties with the pandemic, is also absent from Wijk.
If Carlsen wants to jump from 2865 to 2900 in the next three weeks, he will probably have to drop just one draw in 13 games. More realistic is 9.5/13, a gain of six rating points, which would be enough to show that the champion is on his way to his self-imposed goal. On the other hand, second to Caruana would be disappointing, but would still keep Carlsen’s dream alive.
The round-by-round pairings announced Friday aren’t ideal for Carlsen, who got number 11 out of 14 players and thus, like everyone else in the bottom half of the draw, has seven games with black and only six as white. . The world champion opens his campaign on Saturday (13.00 start) as Black against Andrey Esipenko, the now 19-year-old who defeated him at Wijk 2021 in the adversity of that tournament. In the second round, Carlsen has White against longtime rival and Dutch No. 1 Anish Giri, followed by pairs against World Cup winner Jan-Kryzsztof Duda and last year’s surprise Wijk winner Jorden van Foreest – who was also a member of Carlsen’s own backroom team for Dubai last month. What could be the tournament decider, Carlsen against world number 4 and US number 1 Fabiano Caruana, will be in the 12th and penultimate round, and the champion also has black in that game. In short, the rather unfriendly combinations will be a serious test for Carlsen’s Everest 2900 campaign.
Game Changer by Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan was a best seller that revealed the secrets of AlphaZero and its free open-source counterpart LeelaZero.
Now Sadler has followed up with The Silicon Road to Chess Improvement (new in chess, £25), which includes both computer games and training games between computers and the grandmaster author, plus an analysis of key themes and advice on how to use your own engine to improve game. Sadler reveals that he regularly played two games a day, one with each suit, on his daily commute, losing almost all of them to Stockfish, but analyzed them when he got home. He thinks training games are more useful than the normal practice of checking your own human encounter with the website engine after the game is over.
Sadler also analyzes the themes, techniques and plans that are typical of engine strategy. Some of these are already well known, especially Harry the h-pawn’s advance against a fianchettoed bishop, with his ultimate version 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 h4!?
Other ideas will be new to many players. Engines are more ready than humans to seek out endgames with bishops of opposite suits, especially with rooks still on the board, the reason being that dominance of half the board outweighs the risks of reaching a sterile drawn position.
The power of entrenched pieces controlling the game from the opponent’s camp is another engine favorite. Long ago, Adolf Anderssen or Wilhelm Steinitz may have argued (sources are lacking) that you can go to sleep with a knight on e6/d6 and let the game itself win, and the writings of Aron Nimzowitsch show many examples of dominant knights. However, the entrenched piece in the heart of the opponent’s position is more likely to be a bishop.
Today’s best GMs quickly familiarize themselves with useful engine concepts, and there’s an example of a deep-seated piece in a game played after Sadler’s book was published, in the decisive Maxime Vachier-Lagrave v Jan-Krzysztof Duda tie-break game in the World Blitz final.
Vachier-Lagrave’s Bc6, which is normally difficult to eject or switch, dominates black’s surrounding heavy pieces, and this proved decisive in the game and the match.
Silicon Road is a high-level reading book, which should be especially useful for strong and/or ambitious players with a rating of around 2000 or more enthusiastic juniors out of 1800. A minus for this reviewer: the book is over 550 pages long, thick book, and the binding is such that only the middle part opens flat.
3798: 1 Nxh6! gxh6 2 g5! hxg5 3 h6 Ne7 4 h7 Ng6 5 Kg2 when the World Cup moves to g7 and the h pawn queens. In the game black tried 1 Nxh6 Ke6 2 Nf5 Nxa5 3 Nxg7+ Kf7 4 Nf5 Resigns because White’s g and h-pawns will move.