Who will win the candidates

In December I had lunch with a friend who understands chess in a way very few people do in the world. At some point in the conversation I said something along the lines: “Kramnik is the greatest player of our age in my opnion. I do not think anyone has advanced our understanding of chess as much as he has.” To this my friend answered: “Yes, of course.”

Kramnik is my personal favourite for the candidates. I do not believe that Aronian will have the nerves to win. But I also have an outside belief that Topalov will come highly motivated and should not be underestimated. Anyway; the public thinks this:

61 thoughts on “Who will win the candidates”

  1. Okay, maybe someone who knows more about the world of Super GM chess competition can fill me in. (1) I was surprised to see that Svidler was in as a “host nominee,” that seems an odd way to do this. What is the justification for this, if any?? (2) Some strong, high rated players are not in, like Caruana, Nakamura, or the up and comer Vachier-Lagrave. How is this justified? Maybe instead of a “host nominee” that slot should be won in a “quad” tournament between the top 4 rated players not otherwise included (or some kind of match). (3) Who, amongst the world’s top players, and those in the candidates pool (two separate questions perhaps) stands the best chance of beating Carlsen, and why??

  2. I did vote Kramnik—who I have always seen as a deep strategic thinker who for some reason has not inspired much of a following. I think “Drawnik” is just ad hominem divorced from reality. I do think there would be a certain neatness to Kramnik next—Old Guard first and all that.

  3. One last—as a hack chess player with little understanding—I enjoy Shirov and Moro. I am aware they are rather far down the list.

  4. @Mark Moorman
    For (1) and (2) see the Wikipedia article on “World Chess Championship 2014”. I don’t include a link because I’m under the impression comments with links go through a moderation queue. I agree with you both that having a wildcard player is silly and that it would be nice if the field included more of the top ten.

  5. @Mark: these events need big sponsors. In general it’s hard to find a sponsor willing to spend millions on a chess tournament when they can’t even be sure that any of of the players will generate publicity in the organizing country, so it’s usual to include at least one wild card that the organizer can decide on. The Russian organizers chose the 7-time Russian Champion, who also came 3rd in the 2013 Candidates.

    For the other spots there were various ways of qualifying (rating, being the loser of the previous world championship match, the Grand Prix tournaments, the World Cup) and Caruana, Nakamura and Vachier-Lagrave failed to qualify.

  6. @ Remco G TY—that is a helpful way of looking at matters.
    @ Thomas I did not think I was raking the coals for “problems” but just asking genuine questions. However, I did see some oddities. (1) See the article in the NY Times on corruption in FIDE with regard to Kaspy’s bid for the presidency. [slightly inappropriate comment removed – JA] (2) Furthermore, take a look at the FIDE ratings—several of the world top rated are not in—that is prima facie “a problem” that at least begs explanation. (3) I was simply curious who matches up best—that is JUST a question not a problem. What is the problem with pointing to problems???

  7. The rating list is changing rapidly. For example Vachier-LaGrave was never even close to top ten before rising to his current high position. There were ways to qualify – Grischuk , Caruana and Nakamura failed to do so. But seven of the eight players are in the current top twelve.
    The host nominee is number ten or eleven in the world, former candidate and a top player over many years. I still see no problems.
    Oh, Nakamura didn’t qualify? Then it certainly has to do something with corruption, voodoo or any other evil power.

  8. Despite the fact that I am American I have no particular interest in Naka, and I don’t root for Americans, or even like my country. I am a Francophile so that explains my interest in V-L. Ulf Andersson is my favorite so I guess I am just strange. Why the rude hostility?? Your answers are good ones, but why does the question tick you off? Or the questioner?? It isn’t who was chosen that I was asking about but why have a host nominee —Remco G answered that.

  9. Oh I have solved the problem. Thomas thought I was displaying “moral superiority” with my remarks on cheap wins in another thread. Tone explained. I forgive you for your hostility Thomas.

  10. @Mark Moorman
    Mark, you raised great talking points. I actually have a poll waiting for Wednesday already that will address some of those. But please do not take offence that people disagree with you and keep a good tone. I also ammended your previous comment, which was something I did not like having here, though I know you were on the right side of the line. I hope you don’t take it personally; it was not meant this way.

  11. No problem, and I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. I have never used a hostile tone here, nor called anyone names (as I have been) nor have I asked for help from the mods. I am thick skinned and do not care. I do like to ask people why they are angry “out of the blue.” But, it is your (very interesting) forum, I want to be a polite and welcome member, and I have no problem with being edited, etc.. I was asking genuine questions—I do not know much about Super GM chess, so I was hoping people here who do could provide some guidance. [ Aside: an interesting win by Akopian vs Kotanjian today in the Euro Individuals.]

  12. I root for Veselin Topalov, I think he is the only one who could win the candidates appart from Kramnik and Aronian.
    But I must admit it would be a surprise.
    Aronian will be interesting, how he copes with his nerves, if he has a good start he can win.
    Kramnik Plays great chess after loosing his world championchip match against Anand. Prior to that he played way below his possibilities, but in the last 3-4 years he really Plays great chess with fantastic opening preperation.
    May the best win !

  13. @Mark Moorman
    Thank you. You are very welcome here. I am sure you understand why I removed this small bit; I do not want people to think things that I personally know to be silly. It is a case of “don’t think of pink elephants…”.

  14. @Jacob
    Unfortunatly I must agree 🙁 , Topi has played always bad against Magnus, even resigning in a drawn Position. But things change ( so I hope 🙂 )

  15. Using past performance as a harbinger only Svidler has a winning record vs MC 2 wins and 1 loss and some draws. Anand, Kramnik, and Mamedyarov have even records. (The above are dubious statistics derived from a cursory googling and Wiki). Apparently, Andrei Volokitin would be MC’s nightmare—he has 4 wins no losses and some draws contra MC.

  16. Jacob,

    In what way specifically do you think that Kramnik has advanced our understanding of chess? Thanks.

  17. To be clear my questions had nothing to do with “whining” (see latest poll), or asserting that spots should be given for “free” without being earned. I am not sure where these ideas come from. People debate the results of selection processes all the time, eg, for the Master’s golf tournament, the ever changing American college football “bowl” system, etc., etc.. My question was more hypothetical history, like what if Germany had not invaded Russia in 1941?? So, if you like the FIDE qualification system, and like the “host selection” slot—did this yield the strongest field of challengers?? If not which strong players were left out?? I don’t know enough about high level chess to have an opinion about the qualification process, BUT I do know that the history of chess world champions is quite messy, irregular, byzantine, and perhaps not a model of a coherent and uniform procedure—which is to say it isn’t a flight of irrationality to wonder if things are working properly. BUT that was not my question—my question was simply were some strong players left out, who are they iyo?? No one said they should be put in the tournament for “free.” I did ask for the host appt to be explained—a request for justification is not whining. So, imo, the final category on the latest poll should not ask about whining and giveaways, but just say: “the selection process has yielded a satisfactory result and no strong players were missed.” Or some such. The present wording really contains a not so tacit insult—to think the field would be stronger with Player X is to whine and believe that life is not based on earned merit but “free giveaways.” Strange thing to assume. Presumably, maintaining a rating that places one in the top 10 in the word is not freeloading for alms. Here we would get to the question I did not ask—is the qualification process rational/ the best, etc.. I have no idea.

  18. I think Mamedyarov could be an insiders’ tip if he has for once a profound preparation. He surely has the talent, but lacks the killer instinct.

    *I hope this wasn’t too hostile to anyone

  19. @Mark Moorman
    Hi Mark. Three points.

    1) Slight delusion of grandeur. I rarely base the poll on people’s comments and this was waiting in the wings before you even came with a comment. The whining part of it relates to Nakamura who has a not very flattering moment when he called the candidates ridiculous because he and Caruana were not in it.

    2) The host nation has a right to put one player in. Reality check: this is how the tournament gets to get organised. So far this has not lead to problems and I see no reason that it should.

    3) Is this the best system? I think it is (so far) and will put a post up saying so.

  20. Ilyumzhinov introduced the knockout format in 1997. At the time (and since) it was widely recognised as being quite unsatisfactory. Many have described it as effectively a lottery. Yet 17 years later, it is still given an important role in deciding qualifiers.
    Having a host nominee for one of only eight places in such an important event is also quite unsatisfactory.
    Therefore I think that Svidler, Andreikin, and Karjakin (this latter who would not be in had there been no World Cup) being in the Candidates is not really justified – they should have had to qualify by a more rigorous system. In my opinion, it would be much better if Caruana, Nakamura and Grischuk were there instead of them. Realistically speaking, Caruana and Nakamura would be the only ones who might have a significant chance to challenge the the Kramnik/Aronian duo for first place.

  21. @Blue Knight
    Grischuk was clearly being sarcastic; anyone who knows him realizes that. The true meaning of his words was “Kramnik is the best-prepared player in the world, especially with Black”.

  22. @Maxwell Smart
    Aronian and Karjakin qualified by rating list. Why do you want to leave out only Karjakin?
    It’s discussable if anyone should qualify merely by rating.
    Aronian qualified by rating, Kramnik through his World Cup victory.
    Karjakin and Andreikin were the runner ups. Why leave out only these two?
    Andreikin is quite an interesting player, I’m not sure if Caruana or Nakamura would make it more interesting, instaed I would have given Grischuk excellent chances.

  23. Blue Knight :@boki
    > “he really Plays great chess with fantastic opening preperation.”
    Hum, not what Gritchuk thinks:
    “What are their strengths and weaknesses?
    Don’t expect any profound revelations since I play them regularly. The only thing I can comment on is the weak opening preparation by Kramnik, especially when playing black.”

    I think you are misunderstanding Grischuk’s sense of humour.

  24. As in every Sport you must have a qualification System.
    The Grand-Prix series was great to determine the qualification spots.
    In my Opinion i would give a place to the winner of the world Cup, one host Country, one looser of last World championchip match and rest from the Grand Prix. But of course there must be a stable Grand Prix circuit. Also all Players would be forced to take part in the Grand Prix, which is potentially more interesting for Sponsors.

  25. @Thomas
    You are missing my point when I said with respect to Karjakin “this latter who would not be in had there been no World Cup”. Kramnik and Aronian were the original selections by rating and it should have stayed that way. But then Ilyumzhinov made them play in the World Cup anyway – which was completely unnecessary as they were in the Candidates whatever happened in the World Cup. Thus Karjakin got a free pass he would not otherwise have got. It is clear from my post that I think the World Cup should not have been a qualification event.
    While I believe that Grischuk would have a slightly better chance than Svidler, Andreikin and Karjakin in fighting for first place, I don’t believe he is really able to fight at Kramnik and Aronian’s level. To me, Caruana and Nakamura would be more dark horses in that respect.

  26. In general, I find the qualification system relatively fair.

    I find that it could be a lot of fun if the Candiates Tournament resembled the WC in soccer where Magnus Carlsen also had to participate to defend his title. Maybe 32 players could participate in groups of 4 players where the two best from each group continued in knock-out matches. Using this system probably increases the chance/risk that it is not the strongest player in the world that gets the title as world champion but it would be very entertaining. The Candidates Tournament in London last year was IMO absolutely fantastic even though it wasn’t the above-described soccer system 🙂 Following the Anand-Carlsen match was for me a disappointment.

  27. Paul Brøndal :
    …Maybe 32 players could participate in groups of 4 players where the two best from each group continued in knock-out matches. …

    Reminds me of the Dortmund “candidates” some years ago. Every game ended in a draw and they had to repeat the whole thing with a faster time control.
    4-player tournaments are not really a good idea in chess.

  28. OK, got it, the whining and belief in free ride talk = not me, but “delusion of grandeur” is me. I just thought it was a kind of skewed way to do a poll, and I have been attacked here before—“ranting idiot”, “moral superiority” poseur, and now “delusions of grandeur.” I find it amusing that someone who has said he was a beginner at chess (even at 52), has given his low rating (1625), and has confessed to “not knowing much about super GM chess” has delusions of grandeur. Thomas’s post made a like accusation that I was whining because Naka was not in (despite the fact that I have no particular interest in Naka). Anyway, I do hope you adhere to what is “good for the goose is good for the gander,” when I use equally barbed phrasings. I am guessing editing or “brabo-ing” might be more likely. Personally, I find the host nominee an oddity, and I don’t know what to think about the system. I will be interested to see what others think. I presume that such a system should be judged on the field it produces.

  29. @Thomas
    You could easily be right but the tournament in Dortmund was without the participation of some of the strongest players in that era. I can just imagine London having the “soccer system” where a final is played between Carlsen and Kramnik. This would have been an even bigger drama than what happened in 2013!

  30. @Mark Moorman
    Note to self: not everyone take things as friendly humorous remarks. Sorry. No offence was intended or indeed, I think, perceived by third parties reading it.

  31. grinding_tolya

    A few points to consider:
    1. Every chess player has the possibility of qualifying for the candidates and in extension become world champion. For example I with my meagre 2200 elo can qualify via the European Individual Championship for the World Cup.
    2. On what bases do you rate a Nakamura/Caruana higher than a Mamedyarov/Karyakin? Nakamura/Caruana happen to get more invites to top tournaments! Therefore I’m really happy to see that every chess player had equal chances to qualify.
    3. From a financial point of view, it’s totally justified that the sponsor gets to distribute a wild card.
    4. If I would have the money, I would organize an open tournament for all 2700+ players where the winner gets a Candidate’s ticket.

  32. grinding_tolya

    @Mark Moorman

    Where did you get your sensitivity from ? Relating everything to an attack on your person.
    Aren’t chess players automatically hardened by our beloved game ?

  33. My Danish friends were not amused when I told them that with all the “ae”s and “oe”s their language sounded like they were swearing all the time. I didn’t understand, but I’m sure they were.

  34. @middlewave
    Thomas seems to have this wrong. There were many decisive games at Dortmund 2002, though there still had to be a tie-break.
    But he is right that 4-player tournaments are not a good idea – far too much luck involved. It was for this reason that Kasparov, quite rightly, refused to play in this event.

  35. @Maxwell Smart
    I really don’t understand why too much luck is invoived in a 4-player tournament. How do you define luck in this respect? By the same reasoning you can call the knock-out system in tennis tournaments ‘too much luck involved’. Isn’t it primarily one’s own fault if one doesn’t win a tournament (no matter how many participants)? Holland has had the best foorball team for years and because of the bad world championship system never succeeded at becoming world champion. It’s so unfair.

  36. @Ray
    Let the tennis players play till 10 points and you will see a lot more luck. Compared to chess they are playing 32 game matches all the time.

  37. @grinding_tolya
    When I am called a “ranting idiot” (another thread), “moral superiority”poseur (another thread), “delusions of grandeur” —I am not sure it is “sensitivity” to simply defend myself. Since Thomas said my raising of some questions was whining related to me giving a damn about Naka (I don’t) I assumed that the mention of “whining” was a continuation of that theme. My mistake but hardly a “delusion” in the circumstances. I was toughened at American football and ice hockey—but I am new to chess so obviously I need more work. Now I am humorless (odd since in life my humor and wit are considered my main virtue), and out of touch with Scandinavian sensibilities—also odd, I have been closely linked to Denmark since 1977, my great grandfather was from nykobing , Falstar, the best an at my wedding a Dane, and he named his son “Mark”. Anyway—say what you want about me and, think what you wish.

  38. Ok, I had a look and it wasn’t the candidates, but the “normal” tournament in Dortmund in 2004 (Group B), when Kramnik, Leko, Bologan and Karjakin drew all their 12 games and had to repeat the tournament as a rapid playoff. Kramnik made it to the final where he lost to Anand.

  39. Anand 1 Aronian 0! I am sure Vishy is far too polite to say **** you to all the armchair experts of the world, but I bet that’s what he’s thinking right now….

  40. @Nestor
    In our stupid world, we imagine that Anand is thinking like this. However, this guy is far too smart to use his energy on such mortal stuff 🙂

  41. Very surprising start. It seems we wrote off Vishy too early after his poor performance in Zurich early this year. I hoped for it but didn’t expect it.

    BTW, quality chess has a history of providing great tournament books. Any book planned on this candidates tournament? With all those wonderful players we certainly get to see some very nice chess well worth a book.

  42. @ Thomas You are correct you did not use “whining” THAT is my inaccuracy and I sincerely apologize. You did imply that I had some kind of interest in Naka that prompted my remarks.
    @ Generally. If one reviewed all of my remarks here from politics, to Denmark, to chess—I simply state my views politely. I do not use aggressive language. I do not call the people I disagree with names. I feel I have met with a great deal of rude hostility. I cite “ranting idiot,” “trying to pretend to be noble,” “moral superiority,” “delusions of grandeur.” I think it is rude, uncalled for, and I find it amusing that I have been edited, and calls have been made to sensor my views, BUT all of the above were OK. I have also been told I need to toughen up. I guess this is true—at 6′ 2″ 190 I don’t usually have people walk up and give me sh*t—especially at the “Woody Allen Conventions” that constitute chess tournaments. I don’t take sh*t—always been a problem. So, when attacked I try and politely point it out. I remain amazed at the hostility and rudeness. I believe in civility—sorry—“old school.”
    @ “delusions of grandeur” I attribute this to the fact that English is a second language for the writer of this remark. I was not averring that I was the origin of the biased and odd poll phrasing, JUST distinguishing my remarks from whining or the belief that someone should be in for “free.”

  43. Yes, I am the new “brabo” —I just wish I got to have the fun he did being a pain in the neck. I have said nothing but positive things about the 7 QC books I own. This was not polite silence–I like the books. I am working through Schandorff’s “Caro-Kann” and find his direct, no nonsense guidance to active lines very enlightening. I have never personally insulted the character of GMs Shaw or Aagaard—I won’t do that either.

  44. @Mark Moorman
    Delusion of grandeur was meant very light-hearted; like sitting with your friends just chatting. Again, I am sorry it was not received like that. I do think you hold on to being insulted a bit much, when I do not think anyone actually did anything else than tease you a bit.

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