"If I play for a legal trap and it doesn't work, can I still have a good game?"
Sounds like you might be a lawyer (or need to consult one)!
This is also a good example of how I need to "interpret" questions on my Q&A show. Since the questioner did not provide an example or move order (for an opening sequence), I assume he meant "Legal's Mate": 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 h6 (or any random move that allows the trap) 4.Nc3 Bg4 5.Nxe5 Bxd1 6.Bxf7+ Ke7 7.Nd5#
So, if you "play for" Legal's Mate but it does not happen, what might be the affect? Well, if you play 1.e4 and Black does not play 1...e5, you are in a normal opening. If you play 2.Nf3 and Black plays the more common 2...Nc6 or 2...Nf6 you are also in normal openings. If you play 3.Bc4 instead of 3.d4 and Black plays 3...Nc6 or 3...Nf6 or 3...c6 there's nothing wrong with White's game - he can play a later d2-d4 anyway. So 3.Bc4 against the Philidor's Defense is a quite acceptable move. Bottom line: if you play for Legal's Mate and your opponent does not know it, it's very unlikely he will accidentally stumble into it; instead, you have to be prepared for the much more likely chance that you will be playing against one of the more popular defenses to 1.e4.
That's a long answer, and a lot of effort if actually he was asking a different question .
"Whom do you favor in the Candidates' Tournament?"
It's a shame that neither "New York" GMs Fabiano Caruana (now representing Italy) and Hikaru Nakamura (now living in St. Louis, I think) did not make it. Their youth and vigor of play would have added a lot, not to mention their chances of besting top-rated Aronian. I think among the current candidates Kramnik is second-rated. Kramnik has played very well the past couple of years but he is ~50 rating points behind Aronian, who is also on a hot streak, and about 10 years older. That does not bode well for Kramnik. So I would say that Aronian has about a 50% chance to win and the other players together probably add up to about 50%.
"Is Carlsen's opposition stronger than Kasparov's was?"
There is always a tendency for everyone to defend their "time" or "era". Young players think that everyone is much better today and older players sometimes think their era was better. That's not in chess but in everything. I know many people who think Wilt Chamberlain was not that good at basketball (Lebron James did not put him in his "Mount Rushmore" of the 4 Top players of all time!) mostly because they did not see him play. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I am old enough - and live close enough - to have seen Chamberlain play "live" many times and he and Jordan are the two best in my book.
Anyway, back to Carlsen and Kasparov. Kasparov had the "honor" of meeting one of the likely Top 5 players of all time in his prime when he first began his matches against Karpov. Admittedly those two were, at the time, head and shoulders about the other top players, but Carlsen is also about 50 points ahead of 2nd and 70 above third so that's also a pretty big spread.
I recently emailed USCF Rating Committee Chairman Dr. Mark Glickman about the idea of rating inflation and he pointed out a second reason why the top players are higher rated today: rating spread. If you use the same rating system and it produces the same Gaussian Curve of ratings then, when you introduce many more participants into the system, the same shaped-curve becomes larger, pushing out the edges (where the highest and lowest rated players reside). So the result is that the highest rated players are now higher than before, but not necessarily better, even without inflation. Interesting.
"Can I email you if my question is too long for the show?"
Excellent question. Yes! And if it is an open-ended question you can also call or Skype via my website to have a short conversation. Of course, if you have a ton of questions or a really long, detailed question, my full-time profession is giving chess lessons so consider scheduling one . But if you have a short question and don't abuse the privilege, you can occasionally email, phone, or skype. Email is probably best around 3 AM ET . Another possibility is that you can join our chess "conversations" at our Chess.com group Dan Heisman Learning Center (which also features slow time-control events) That's not just a group named after me; Eternal_Patzer and I started it for that purpose.
If I can sneak in an ad for an upcoming book, the second edition of Looking for Trouble (click for the Amazon link) will be available in about 10 days. This is a book about recognizing and dealing with threats. There are over 300 problems, up from about 230 in the first edition, along with corrections/additions and an extended Introduction. In each problem the reader is given the previous move and has to identify two things: 1) find all the threats and 2)figure out which move(s) best deal with them.
Unlike tactics book problems where you are trying to find a win or draw, these problems range from winning positions to ones where even properly dealing with the threat leaves you with a tough game, or even one or two where the answer is that there is no defense (that's unfortunately realistic)! There is an Introduction about recognizing and dealing with threats and three chapters of puzzles: Opening, Middlegame, and Endgame (my favorite is the Endgame chapter but you may like the Openings or Middlegame better ). The difficulty of the problems is very wide-ranging, from one-asterisk for beginners up to five-asterisks (get out the computer!). Players rated under 1200 should probably stick to the one and two asterisk level until they get a little stronger!