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"Mag-Town" Takes World To "Ouch-Town"!

  • IM DanielRensch
  • | Sep 14, 2010
  • | 13171 views
  • | 82 comments

by IM Daniel Rensch

To start this "post game review" off right, I would first like to say that I had a lot of fun broadcasting this match, G-Star Raw's World Chess Challenge, Magnus Carlsen vs the World, for all of you here on Chess.com/TV! Everyone was very enthusiastic, doing the best they could to "contribute" in some way, and although the participants blatantly ignored all of my suggestions (just kidding) we still had lots of fun. At one point I believe we had almost 800 viewers!

The bad news? We lost! My bold predictions, as usual, were alarmingly false -- and Mag-Town didn't need much to take us to Ouch-Town! It was that simple. Without throwing anyone under the bus (cough, cough) I do believe there was some dissention, slight disagreements, and therefore confusion amongst the "Big 3" in regards to the general direction they wanted the game to go. You will see more specific examples of where our leaders disagreed within the game review board, but I felt that there were a few critical moments where we, "Team World" simply weren't developing consistent (key word) plans...

Obviously most of the spectators, including myself, "questioned" Nakamura's decision to play 10...Bg4, and Polgar's post game comments with Ashley, also alluded to the fact that she didn't agree with this move (seemed awkward). However, if Naka's idea had indeed been followed up correctly, with 11...Qd7 -- maintaining the tension in the center --, was 10...Bg4 really that bad? 10...Bg4 may not have been the best move theoretically, but it was certainly an interesting idea (typical Nakamura, if you think about it). There is no doubt that 11...cxd5 was a positional blunder, and created a nightmare on the queenside.

After the transition from opening to middlegame was badly mistplayed by the world, I don't really think there was anything critical to talk about until Magnus made his only "mistake" of the game: Choosing to play 28. Nb6 instead of 28.g4 -- killing black's counterplay. If the world had played either 30...axb6 (Rybka's suggestion) or 30...Bf4 (Mag-Town) instead of the voted upon 30...Bc8? -- it seems we would have maintained some practical fighting chances (though white was still better).

However, regardless of his slight miscue on move 28, when Magnus explained the move by saying that he "wanted to finish the game off in style" in his post game interview -- all I could think was "that is why he is who he is." The kid gets it! The game was a show, and he entertained the masses as well as any chess player in the history of the game... Congrats to you Mag-Town, and I hope you had fun at Party-Town later that night Wink!

And from my partner, IM David Pruess, here is game analysis and his impressions from the site:
 Here are a few of the things that struck me during the event, or that I found interesting to think about afterwards:

Focus

Magnus was incredibly relaxed moments before the match. As everyone else had taken their places, and the last five minutes were counting down, Magnus posed for a few more pictures. Then he started chatting amiably with the arbiter... There was a countdown of 15...14...13...12 and I could feel tension rising in every one involved... except Magnus, who smiled, and strolled to his seat at the last second. But as soon as he was in the chair in front of the board, an instant and magical transformation occurred and he was more focused than anyone else there.

There was a computer screen turned outwards linked to one of my laptops. This was so the butler could see the world's moves and then move them on the board for Magnus. Magnus could very well have glanced at this screen at some point. To see the world's move 2 seconds earlier, or just out of nervousness or wandering mind. I am pretty sure I would have lost focus and glanced around a few times over the course of a 2.5 hour game. Waited for the opponent's move, rather than staying on task. But the arbiter who watched Magnus and his clock attentively the entire time said that Magnus did not *once* look up!

Show

As Danny said, Magnus seemed to understand that this event was for show. when the world played Bh6, I was thinking this would be one of the moves where Magnus would speed things along by playing g4 instantly, with an almost certain win. Yet he thought, and thought. Then he reached for and used his second time-out card! I was stunned. And then finally he went for the wild Nb6. I could not believe it. For one thing, I would not want to complicate the game if I was winning and had the strange 1 minute per move time control. For another, I wouldn't want to use up my time out on an easy move. Finally, would I have the confidence in my calculation after 3 minutes to go for Nb6? I sincerely doubt it!

But Magnus wanted to win with style. Wow. And this decision definitely had the desired effect. Nakamura got all excited again (he had been clutching his head and shaking it despondently for a while). He tweeted that we had a chance. The voters probably got all excited again. And it lead to a more flashy finish with Nxd5, Rb8, Rxc5, a bunch of cool tactics. Rather than the grim grinding out of the extra b-pawn with little to no counterplay for black.

That confident showmanship is definitely good for promotional events like this. You (chess) have a huge audience, which you don't always have: you have to take advantage and make things exciting to catch the imagination of casual fans and people who are not even fans but happen to be paying attention at that moment.

Challenge?

In the end, the game appears totally one-sided. The impression could easily be had that Magnus won easily. That impression was definitely shared by the participating GMs. Maxime told me under these conditions he could also easily have beaten the world. With black. I had the sense he thought most GMs could.

But I think Magnus' mastery was so seamless that it is partly being taken for granted. The 1 minute per move format is extremely trying for the GM. He needs to make all decisions so quickly, but it is both easy to mess up (miss something) and easy to hesitate about one's decisions. Personally I would not take any good move for granted under these conditions. Moves like a4 and a5 in the opening. I for one am not used to making moves like that after 40 seconds.

You have to be somewhat loose as well as focused to make all these decisions quickly. And not to worry about whether the game is getting complicated or simple or drawish or anything-- just to keep playing moves you think are good. And Magnus *was* loose. Loose and focused. On some moves he went down to 2-3 seconds, using the full measure of his time, without taking a wild card. On other moves, he was confident and played his move after 20-30 seconds, not needing to use every second he had to second-guess what seemed right to him. In fact, in conversation with his father, he told me that this was partly Magnus' approach: just to make some good moves.

Reflecting on it after the event, this looseness seems to be an indication that Magnus had played with this 1 minute time control before. And as soon as I consider that possibility, I feel almost certain that he had. This would certainly be the most effective preparation for this match-- and I think without it, one would necessarily feel uncomfortable playing at such a disorienting time control. I don't believe the three GMs representing the world had any experience with this, other than the test game we played the night before.

So rather than say that Magnus won easily because the game was not a challenge, we can say that Magnus prepared as he needed to, and was absolutely superb on the day of the challenge. Consider one of his tournament victories: would you say that winning Bazna Kings '10 or Shanghai '09 was easy? Well, he won by a comfortable margin, but I think the way to see it is that the tournament represented a serious challenge, but one which Magnus cleared easily. With preparation, focus, and skill.

Greater Challenge

Whether or not we think anyone else could have cleared this challenge, or that it was easy, what is clear is that Magnus is ready for a greater challenge. I can't help it, I'm quite curious about these questions, so I immediately started thinking about what a future challenge might be.

One idea was: a game with voting restricted to masters. How would that play out? Would a council of fifty 2300 fide players effectively play like a 2700? Or like a 2500? or a 2800? How about one hundred 2400 players? Just for the sake of my own scientific curiosity, I need to see some follow-up testing. And hey, chess.com spent so much time and effort building this mechanism, it would be a shame if we never took it for another ride. Perhaps first we should establish whether a council of masters actually is any better than the larger mass of club and casual players. In other words host a vote match between 50 masters and the world. If the masters seem strong, then perhaps organize some challenge matches between those masters and some GMs. If the council of masters can beat some GMs and play some good games, then perhaps they would be worthy to challenge Magnus in the future.

Another direction I am thinking is a simul. Remember how shocking it was to see Kasparov play clock simuls against olympiad teams (from Germany and Israel, I think)?? Don't you want to see Carlsen try that? I do!! I think that would definitely be a challenge where a lot of people would not be so confident that he would prevail (although I will always pick Carlsen to win until he's actually failed at something). Then there is the question how to get the world involved. Well, here are two possibilities, please give me your feedback as to whether you would find it fun to participate:

1. Magnus plays a clock simul against 4 grandmasters. As he does, viewers can try to predict his moves. The people who get the most moves correct over the course of *all* games would win prizes. We would have to design a mechanism to make sure that there was a warning when he was going to move, so people would have a sense of what time he was using on his moves. For example, any time Magnus moves, the board on which he has moved flashes for you a couple times. That means we will display his move in 10 more seconds, so you better enter your guess quickly.

2. Magnus plays a simul against 3 GMs *AND* The World. We can vote against him just like before, but since he's to strong for us, we have our three GMs play against him as a distraction, rather than coaching us.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about what would be an awesome challenge for Magnus. Since he's got such great skills, he can really do a lot to popularize our game. So let's think of a feat we could ask of him that would really wow the world!

 

RWCC 343.jpg
There is an entire photo album of terrific shots from the event taken by Lesley Weitjes here.
RWCC 575.jpg
I'd like to thank G-Star for sponsoring the event, GMs Carlsen, Nakamura, Polgar, and Vachier-Lagrave for putting in a tremendous effort and being very professional in making a great show of it. Frank and crew at Media Republic for being fun to work with. Same also goes for the guy's at G-Star who were lots of fun to meet at the event. And I'd like to thank my own buddies here at chess.com for working their behinds off to make the event possible. It's been a wild ride for all of us I think, but the result was an event enjoyed by hundreds of thousands, and that I imagine has helped popularize chess a bit more.

Comments


  • 4 years ago

    Zendo

    Lol! What an idea!

  • 4 years ago

    IM Kacparov

    best idea I have heard in a long time

  • 4 years ago

    IM dpruess

    Magnus, blindfolded, running a gauntlet of sponge-throwing kids, while searching for a small chess clock. great tv :)

  • 4 years ago

    AMcHarg

    Magnus is such an inspiration and imo has really sparked some life into the Chess world.  I'd like to see him play against a super computer (it would be interesting to see how he altered his game to play against something that strong).

    With regard to playing against communities of voters; I think the advantage will always be with the lone GM.  You could have a few GMs play against one GM but if they all had different ideas and the votes were spread evenly over those ideas then neither idea can be followed up on particularly well.  To even compete with Magnus the world would need to settle on a particular set of ideas in a game and avoid deviating from it; which I doubt would occurr if you have lots of people playing him at once.

    So based on that I don't think we can compete with Magnus at his top level; and therefore to make it more challenging for him we need to introduce some distractions, as follows:

    -> Magnus is blindfolded.

    -> Magnus randomly has wet sponges thrown at him by a bunch of school kids.

    -> Magnus must move the pieces with his mouth.

    -> When Magnus makes a move he needs to run to the other side of the room to press his clock.

    ...we might have a chance then; otherwise the only thing that will beat him in a proper match is a computer (or just maybe Vishy Anand; albeit unlikely).

    A Cool

  • 4 years ago

    Zendo

    We should play IM David Pruess vs Chess.com in that format.

  • 4 years ago

    IM dpruess

    chrispret's proposal of having an additional time period between the gm submitting their suggestion and the world voting, so that they can explain their thoughts behind the move, is the same idea that maxime came up with, and i think it's an interesting one, that would definitely make it closer. that + giving carlsen black might be enough to make it competitive.

    other suggestions about having the gms discuss their moves together don't make sense, bc the gms will tend to just agree with each other, at which point it becomes a 3 v 1 consultation game. obviously they have *very* good chances in that format, but the world just watches, so it misses on the participatory criterion.

    several other interesting suggestions, thanks everyone!

  • 4 years ago

    Zendo

    <carissachua> You're joking right?

  • 4 years ago

    carissachua

    How about organising a match where magnus plays with bobby fischer? That will be a real showdown.

  • 4 years ago

    elindauer

    The advantage to the group is in their ability to calculate together.  In a vote chess game, a good team will refine it's lines iteratively, and the calculation ability of the entire team can be used effectively.  If each player has to play in their own bubble, as was the case in this event, the team will never be stronger then it's strongest member.  Usually in fact, the team will be much weaker, since votes from a 1200 player who analyzes on their own will often be bad.

     

    I understand that there is a problem with team challenges in the computer age, so maybe you need to physically amass the team so they discuss and calculate together without fear that they are using a computer.  In this case a group of GMs would have excellent chances against Magnus.  In the current format, it will remain a blowout.

  • 4 years ago

    flamencowizard

    a blindfolded Magnus vs the world!

  • 4 years ago

    IM Kacparov

    I like all the other ideas :-)

  • 4 years ago

    MapleSyrup7

    Out of curiousity does anyone have a count on how many people were actually logged in and voting?  Thanks in advance.

  • 4 years ago

    homosapien

    It was very unfair on the world. I was a part of this match but as I saw it, everyone was just following any move that more than one gm made most of the time. If we plan to pick up nakamuras plan early on, we should stick to it. Because the other gms dont know what he is planning. It was to blindly trust him for two wacky moves and then switch plans.

  • 4 years ago

    chrispret

    I don't think the format was that bad, ie, 1x Magnus vs 3x Super GM. My only real gripe was that the 3x Super GM's had no way of explaining their plan to us plebs. In some moves I had an idea of where they wanted to go and then often enough they did not suggest the move I thought would come.

    I'd suggest changing the controls slightly, 1 minute to make a move, then 30 - 60 seconds to explain your suggestion and then the world gets to vote. The Super GMs must also be able to read each other's plan explanations so they can build on it, but only after suggesting their own move. I believe this would help a lot in terms of the game plan being all over the place.

    At least the GM's could have some ideas and contribute, even though it would lead to more "No vote required" type moves. You could also force the GM's into always proposing at least 2 different moves (ie, once 2 Super GM's proposed a vote, the third cannot do so too) so there is never a No vote situation.

  • 4 years ago

    Mathematicus

    Would have definitely been more competitive if the three GMs communicated with each other. Judging by how the match went, you could refer to it as 'blind leading the blind', or is that too harsh?

  • 4 years ago

    Gert-Jan

    I enjoyed your comments during the game. It contributed to the fun of this event. Well done.

  • 4 years ago

    Mathematicus

    good idea; 50 masters would definitely be strong opposition for any 2800, whether it be Kasparov or Carlsen

  • 4 years ago

    rubenshein

    Thanks for a great event. Real cool!

  • 4 years ago

    yukon1

    Very nice article, insightful commentary. It was a great event. Thank you.

  • 4 years ago

    Estragon

    Good article and several of the ideas are quite interesting, but any which involve Magnus are going to be expensive.  It's his livelihood and unless you live with the Fortune Teller, you don't get your fortune told for free.  This was part of his G-star promotion, so his money is coming from them this time.  Maybe they liked it enough to return to a similar format, but much of the appeal to the general public - their market - was the novelty of the event, so who knows?

    Great to see it , though, and of course the platform can be used for non-Carlsen events and opponents, too.

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