Apparently Carlsen Is Boring

NM ih8sens
Nov 22, 2014, 5:13 AM |

I don't have a game for you guys to look at in this blog, but I wanted to take a minute to comment on Magnus Carlsen, the undisputed World Champion who looks poised to defend his title with relative ease.

I watched a couple of the games live and I saw a lot of people complaining that Carlsen's play is 'boring'.  I think that's sort of crazy.

Consider this: Carlsen game after game demonstrates that surprising your opponent in the opening is at least as good as having monstrous preparation.  Anand has appeared to be better prepared in both World Championships, and Carlsen has simply found ways to avoid the preparation and win anyways.  This is a huge change from Kasparov's days as WC, where entire matches were decided by opening ideas (ie. many Kasparov-Karpov games, and then of course Kramnik's Berlin wall). Carlsen is well prepared, but the variety he brings to the opening far surpasses his predecessors.  Not boring.

His middlegame play also has it's own interesting character.  As often happens in modern chess, Carlsen regularly runs into well prepared opponents and ends up getting nothing out of the opening.  Rather than simply agreeing to a draw as soon as the rules allow it, Carlsen comes up with innovative ways to put pressure on his opponents.  His first win of this year's WC is an excellent example; he should have had absolutely nothing, and ended up with a won major piece endgame just a few moves later.  

Finally, you guessed it, his endgame play.  I don't have much to say here.  It's probably not a stretch to say that the majority of Carlsen's wins go something like this: Equal out of the opening, opponent bails out of prolonged middlegame pressure by opting for a drawn but slightly worse endgame, Carlsen finds a way to draw out a blunder and wins the endgame quickly.  

While you may not see Carlsen attempting dubious pawn storms against a perfectly safe king, Topalov style, it really demonstrates the one sidedness of one's own play to call him 'boring'.  Magnus Carlsen is not boring, he's effective.  At no point during a normal Carlsen game does he ever find himself forced to 'prove' an idea.  If he is unable to demonstrate an opening advantage, he simply transitions to an equal middlegame where he continues to play with no risk.  If the middlegame leaves him with nothing, he tries targetting weaknesses in the endgame.  Really, it's the way chess should be played.  And so I say again, Magnus Carlsen is not boring - he's deadly.