World Chess Candidates Tournament Berlin 2018
The world chess candidates tournament was played in Berlin, Germany from 10 March to 28 March. The purpose of the candidates tournament is to determine who plays Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship from 8-28 November 2018. I want to share my views of the candidates tournament as I watched it online for the first few rounds and in person for the last few. Just before entering the building you were confronted with this quote:
The players fighting for the right to be Carlsen's challenger were Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Alexander Grischuk, Sergey Karjakin, Vladimir Kramnik, Ding Liren, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Wesley So. Caruana won with a full point ahead of the rest and won the right to face Magnus Carlsen in the World Championship!
To show you how crazy this tournament was I have prepared a graph showing the standings as the rounds progressed. The y-axis is the aggregate games won, so if someone wins a game their score goes up by 1 and if they lose then their score goes down by 1.
After the first three rounds, Kramnik was on +2 and it seemed plausible that we would have a former world champion challenging Magnus Carlsen. However, he had a horrible 6 rounds after that before stabilizing in the end.
Aronian had one of the most horrible tournaments you can imagine, ending on -5. I went to see the players in Berlin and after round 11 he looked distraught at the board. It really is a shame to see such a great player buckle under the pressure.
Karjakin had a horrible start scoring -2 in the first 4 rounds, but he came back and even defeated Caruana in round 12 making him tied for first place going into round 13. However, it was not meant to be as Caruana had a very strong finish with two wins and never having given up first sport after round 4.
Mamedyarov was the rating favorite going into this tournament and he had a good tournament, but simply not enough wins to actually claim the prize. He had 10 draws, which is the most draws except for Ding Liren who had 13 draws.
In the end, Caruana prevailed and deservedly so, because of his great results.
The tournament was played in the Kulhaus Berlin. It was an interesting concept where spectators could watch the games from above. This is quite different from the other top tournaments that I've watched, where you usually have to look at a screen that have the moves shown on them. The idea is quite interesting; however, I think that they should not have tried it out on the candidates tournament for a couple of reasons.
Although the idea is interesting, the execution was less than perfect. Because of the industrial nature of the venue, the acoustics were quite bad. This means that any cough or movement from the audience disturbed the players. Also, the staircase was right next to the playing hall and any time the door was opened, the noise from the staircase propagated into the playing hall. Somewhat hilarious is that the acoustics also amplified the squeaky shoes of Vladimir Kramnik.
Some other annoyances for the players were the bad hotel (Karjakin complained about it) and that there was only one toilet for the players. They had even made the effort of providing a portable toilet, so it shouldn't have been too hard to provide another one.
World Chess Championship
For now we can look forward to the World Chess Championship in November!