Thursday, 14 April 2016


Something odd struck me just at the end of this rather nice video which has been going about over the past couple of weeks.

It's that at the very end of the sequence, in which we're reminded that the world number #1 is Magnus Carlsen, there's no sign at all of the chap who is about to play him for his title. The top ten players' names appear in colour all throug the video (well, a maximum of ten) and Karjakin isn't among them.

I'm not 100% sure where they're getting the numbers from for that last point in the sequence but if it's the rating list for February 2016 that'd be more or less right, since there's Sergei just outside the top ten.

How very odd, I thought, for a world championship contender to be outside the top ten, so I started looking back to see if such an event had ever occurred before and of course, duh, I hardly had to look back any distance at all since the challenger in the 2012 match doesn't show up on the top ten either, either round about the time he qualified

or when the match was actually played.

Wikipedia has Gelfand as having been the world number twenty which I confess is lower than I'd remembered, though given that I'd not remembered he was outside the top ten in the first place, this isn't a memory that's worth very much.

That same unreliable memory also reckons that Gelfand really ought to have won that match, despite his relatively lowly position in the rankings - and, come to that, recalls more discussion of the ages of the players than the possibility of having a champion barely on the same page of the ranking list as the world number one.

Not Gelfand's fault, of course, since you can only beat the people who turn up to play you, but at least if Karjakin wins in New York he can say he became champion by beating the best player in the world. And if we didn't have any rankings in the first place, that would be perfectly all right by everybody.

It's odd nevertheless not to see the challenger's name on the top ten list. You'd have to assume that nobody who's that much of an outsider really has a chance against a number one as dominant as Carlsen. But maybe it's the other way round - maybe it's Karjakin's only chance, and Carlsen's only real weakness - his Achilles' heel, if you like - is to be found when he's playing opponents he doesn't fear at all.

A likely story.


Anonymous said...

Increasingly the standard of player has levelled up so that most or all of the world 20 would be plausible opponents against the world champion. You wouldn't have been able to say that in the days of dominance by many of the past champions, up to and including Kasparov. Botvinnik, perhaps, to the extent that his colleagues in the Soviet team and reserves were potential challengers.


Todd Durham said...

The weird thing is how truncated Karjakin's options for top tournaments were last year. He had a lot of exposure to lower rated players because he didn't get invites to perhaps the four best tournaments of the year. Admittedly he had slipped down in 2014 a bit, but it's still strange. Second and firsts in the last two Candidates tournaments, and frozen out of top non-FIDE events.

(No doubt pulling out of Stavanger this year will hurt futures prospects a little, too.)