Why Carlsen Is A Huge Favorite To Win The Championship
Every last one of them has picked the reigning world champion GM Magnus Carlsen to retain his title.
While GM Sergey Karjakin is a formidable challenger, the winner of the Candidates' Tournament faces long odds to defeat Carlsen. Pundits have spoken, but let's dive into the numbers and examine what Chess.com's Computer Aggregated Precision Score (CAPS) tells us.
1. Sergey Karjakin is extremely accurate.
Karjakin, who at 12 years and seven months old became the youngest grandmaster in history, rarely makes mistakes. Just 26 years old, the Russian superstar's CAPS score places him in a familiar spot among the best players in the world.
2. Karjakin has been less accurate over the last year.
This is an unsurprising finding considering that he has played many games after already qualifying for the right to face Carlsen. At that point, Karjakin's training intensified and he likely decided to "hide" his preparation.
3. Magnus Carlsen is the standard bearer of accurate chess.
The 25-year-old Carlsen makes a true inaccuracy approximately once every three games. In the 67 games Chess.com analyzed from his last year, it was discovered he blunders just 0.12 percent of the time. What more needs to be said?
4. Karjakin brings his A+ game against Carlsen.
One of the most interesting results of our CAPS data suggests that Karjakin elevates his level of play when he faces the world champion. The challenger's CAPS reaches 98.17 , which raises his CAPS-predicted ELO over 2880. This is a significant improvement over his professional career averages. In Karjakin's lone win over Carlsen in classical chess, he played a nearly flawless game.
5. Carlsen is also at his best when these two square off.
Despite the aforementioned loss, the Norwegian still holds a great record against the challenger to his title. Not only is he winning games, but he's also playing exceptionally accurate chess. Carlsen boasts a 98.50 CAPS in direct competition with Karjakin.
6. Mistakes often follow one another.
Way back in 2009, these two met in Wijk aan Zee for what was most likely their sloppiest game. First Karjakin missed a nice tactic in a solid position, then Carlsen obtained a won position before throwing it away. Here's that game, which in chess terms occurred a lifetime ago.
7. Carlsen is the more accurate (and better) player.
Chess.com's CAPS analysis demonstrates this: Carlsen's lifetime plus score against Karjakin is also evidence in his favor. Tie in the fact that Carlsen's peak FIDE rating (2882) is 94 points higher than Karjakin's peak (2788) and all indications point to a title defense.
As we know, CAPS measures holistic performance across many moves, and as such, is a strong predictor for head-to-head performance, like we showed in the information about the Nakamura vs Carlsen Blitz Battle Championship.
But the chess we love isn't a game of statistics—it's a game of the mind, a story with drama and twists and, oh my, blunders!
The inaccuracy counts shown here, as we did before with the Blitz Battle Final preview, are estimates of inaccuracies and blunders made by the players throughout their careers, and it's an intriguing way to anticipate who might play better when it matters most. (PS: Coming soon is a real CAPS score on every move!)
Here's IM Danny Rensch's analysis of the Bilbao 2016 game where Carlsen smoothly outplayed Karjakin.
In a match of just 12 games, anything can happen.
Not convinced Carlsen is such a big favorite? GM Sasha Ipatov might agree with you!
Here's his analysis of how the underdog might be able to pull off the upset from a ChessCenter Special Cut:
Will challenger Sergey Karjakin bring the world championship title back to Russia for the first time since Vladimir Kramnik? Or will Magnus Carlsen defend his crown?
Please leave your predictions in the comments!