Magnus Opus


Even a loss in the final round of the London Classic tournament would not have prevented Magnus Carlsen from going past Garry Kasparov's all-time rating high of 2,851 points. Still, when the Norwegian settled for a draw against Viswanathan Anand, which also gave him his third title in four editions, it came as an anti-climax. For one thing, Anand was struggling for form, drawing winning positions and even falling to defeat against one of the lowest rated players in the tournament, Mickey Adams. Carlsen's rating performance for the tournament, on the other hand, at 2991, was one of the best in history.

The disappointment of the result was reflected in Carlsen's rating change after the game. Carlsen's strength (a provisional rating of 2862) demanded a win against the 42-year old World Champion, rated a distant 2773. The draw actually pulled Carlsen's rating down by a point.

The draw in the final round was a an anomaly for Carslen for one other reason. It is towards the end of the tournament, when players typically agree on tired and flat draws, safeguarding their tournament positions, that Carslen is at his ruthless best. At the Grand Prix Masters a couple of months back, Carlsen won three of his last five rounds. On the ten other boards, the rest of the field, which included the World No. 2, 5, 6 and 7, managed two wins. Carlsen, needless to say, defended his title at Bilbao.

At London, with four of the top six taking part, the field was as strong. This time, Carlsen did not have to rely on a late blitz. Five wins in the first six (of nine) rounds put day light between him and Vladimir Kramnik (no slouch himself with three wins in the period) in second place. The 37-year old Kramnik, at the end of the tournament, was second in the world and at his peak rating of 2809. Carlsen is more than 50 rating points ahead of him, a gulf that would technically designate any contest between Kramnik and him lop sided.

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