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

  • IM DanielRensch
  • | Sep 14, 2010

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:


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!


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.


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.


  • 6 weeks ago


    Magnus vs Stockfish latest

  • 5 years ago


    best suggestion :

    "by jollyc

    Have Magnus play a clock simul but do not tell him who his opponent is.   Have one be the world of amateurs, one be a group of strong masters, one be a strong GM, and one be a computer.     Strong computers may be too much for even Magnus in a simul, so maybe somehow cripple the computer or make a team of computers where they would be susceptible to the 'clash-of-plans' effect. This may add some psychological pressure and uncertainty since he wouldn't know who was sitting across the board from him.

    Then have Magnus guess his opponents. 

    Have Magnus play a clock simul but do not tell him who his opponent is.   Have one be the world of amateurs, one be a group of strong masters, one be a strong GM, and one be a computer.     Strong computers may be too much for even Magnus in a simul, so maybe somehow cripple the computer or make a team of computers where they would be susceptible to the 'clash-of-plans' effect. This may add some psychological pressure and uncertainty since he wouldn't know who was sitting across the board from him.

    Then have Magnus guess his opponents.  "

  • 6 years ago



  • 6 years ago



  • 6 years ago

    IM dpruess

    nice to hear such optimism :) i hope you are right!

  • 6 years ago


    Here in the United States chess is suffering from no exposure so this was a great way to draw alot of,much needed, attention to the royal game.

    Magnus and all of the amazing under 20's are bringing the game back.

    With Anatoly Karpov on his way in and kirstan on his long awaited way out,

    organized chess is bound for an amazing revival.

  • 6 years ago

    IM dpruess

    simpledimple, that's what the three thought after the experience as well.

  • 6 years ago


    well that proves Magnus Carlsen is really better than the world team

  • 6 years ago


    If the least of the three had secretly traded places with Magnus consistency of thought would have still won the day.

  • 6 years ago


    That was an ass whippingSurprised

  • 6 years ago


    I think that the "world" voting is not a good idea because most of them are not strong players, so people dont really know what is the best move. I also think the three grandmasters should have time to talk about the moves, i mean, the three together... 1 minute to think its like nothing to think a very good move.

    Im not saying the game was bad, but it should be thought by the GM's a little bit more.

  • 6 years ago


    Nverthless what everyone i must say that i had a huge fun while wtaching and voting in this game.Thx chess .com to providing me a chance like that :)

  • 6 years ago


    I wish i could see Alexander Alekhine playing against Magnus ! , in my dreams of course .

  • 6 years ago


    Nakamura is sporting the same jacket as Polgar. Respect!

  • 6 years ago


    we will se magnus against the real world not something fake like this contest we will see hem at the world chanpionship against the real chanpions not fake ones like he is magnus is fake ..he wase healped in this show that wase show not game against world lol...

  • 6 years ago


    I want to have an endurance match against Carlsen. First he plays the world blindfolded, then he plays a simul against our GMs and the World at the same time! and finally, the true test of his amazing stamina, he plays upside down! The upside down would have to be a blitz game with standard time controls to avoid a nose bleed.

  • 6 years ago

    IM dpruess

    listening to video/audio from the main site was optional. you could toggle it on and off. your other suggestion is right along the same lines as what we discussed a few comments down: having a period between the gm suggestions and the voting for the gms to type their reasoning for the world.

  • 6 years ago


    How about : same format but each other the world's 3 masters are able to see what the other two have chosen (allowing them to appreciate the stategic ideas they are considering), and each master can type out messages to the world (+? each other - or maybe a maximum of 3 messages to the other 2 - these messages could be flagged up in a different colour) at ANY TIME to explain strategies etc.

    During play everyone's board kept freezing so it might help to dispense with the video, and even the audio commentary from the same website if there were any signs of the system being under too much pressure. Danny Rensch's discussion was fantastic.

    Building on the same format, now so many people are used to how it works is better than radically changing the way it works, and presumably a lot easier to organise. The above ideas would also increase learning for players like myself.

  • 6 years ago


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

    As crazy as it sounds it might take cheesy stuff that like to get casual american audiences into the sport.  Imagine the youtube hits, it would even make national news.

  • 6 years ago


    Good article.

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