The Nepo Shuffle -- The 2021 World Chess Championship

Jnai

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There have been other famous king walks -- but I don't remember one like Caruana's yesterday where the king when to the middle of the board in an open position with queens and rooks on the board. Sublime.
I think the Polgar stream was showing some crazy variation which was somehow still winning for Fabi but ended up with another pair of queens on the board. There is a Fabi interview where he says he saw the position right before he exchanged Queens like 10 moves prior, it is just crazy.
 

Bread of Yaz

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Nepo-Caruana showdown today. Must win for Fabi. May never get another shot at the title if he doesn't win. And do we really want to see Nepo against Magnus again (if Magnus deigns to play)? Methinks not.
 

Jnai

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On the other hand I think it is pretty reasonable to assume that Magnus refuses to play Nepo again, and so Fabi pushing for a win in an iffy position (like Rapport a few days ago) is probably much worse for his position than a draw, because Naka still gets to play white against Rapport, Firouza, and Duda.
 

SumnerH

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On the other hand I think it is pretty reasonable to assume that Magnus refuses to play Nepo again, and so Fabi pushing for a win in an iffy position (like Rapport a few days ago) is probably much worse for his position than a draw, because Naka still gets to play white against Rapport, Firouza, and Duda.
It's weird, Fabi's obviously got a better shot vs. Nepo than vs. Magnus, so if he wants a title then coming in 2nd might actually give him a better shot (presuming Magnus is most likely to choose not to defend vs. Nepo, since he just played him).

But I suspect that his competitive nature and desire to avoid an asterisk would make him unlikely to actually pursue a 2nd-place strategy.
 

YankeesIsrael

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And why would Caruana want to fight for a title with a king-sized asterisk on it? I’m almost sure he’s aiming for 1st place (and his position looks better, too).
 

Jnai

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Meanwhile Fabi has a pretty serious advantage in the game.
 
Alireza Firouzja, with Nepo to face in the morning today, spent all last night - until 6 a.m., apparently - playing a series of *250* micro-bullet matches against Daniel Naroditsky. What the hell? Shockingly, Nepo beat him with black. That's just absurd.

(Ding Liren into second place with a win over Caruana as well; Hikaru could only draw against Rapport.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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It’s pretty much over now I think. Nepo has the white pieces two more times.

Credit to him that he did not shrink after his performance in the championship and came out really strong in the candidates.

Only mystery is whether Carlsen will play. I don’t think he is going to. Ding against Hikaru on the last day could be huge. You have to imagine they both will understand it could well be for a chance to play for the championship. i hope one of them must play for a full point.
 

Jnai

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Caruana in line for an amazing throw. Had an advantage against Nepo for the lead, couldn't convert, and since has lost 3 of 4 games.

Ding meanwhile is on a 3 game winning streak.
 

Bread of Yaz

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Caruana in line for an amazing throw. Had an advantage against Nepo for the lead, couldn't convert, and since has lost 3 of 4 games.

Ding meanwhile is on a 3 game winning streak.
Ding has played Carlson tough, if memory serves. Would be awesome if he could somehow pull off a miracle and overtake Nepo.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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Nepo kind of dominated this group.

Pretty difficult choice for Nakamura today. One the one hand you want to beat the top guy, but even if you do you know he's probably not getting caught. On the other hand, given that second place may be good enough, he really had to make sure not to drop the half point.

Caruana could still pull a rabbit out of hat, but boy that last day between Nepo and Ding is shaping up to be some must see chess. They will play a game that could be the chance at all the marbles or could be nothing. And they won't know.
 

SumnerH

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Ding has played Carlson tough, if memory serves. Would be awesome if he could somehow pull off a miracle and overtake Nepo.
Magnus is undefeated vs. Ding in classical chess, but it's a SSS: 1-0 with 9 draws. Magnus is up 38-21 (48 draws) in rapid/exhibition, which is a pretty good showing by Ding but it's tough to extrapolate from rapid to classical.

Magnus is “only” 6-4 vs Nepo (18 draws) in classical—still a winning record, but Nepo's got more success against him than most people with more than a handful of games. But Magnus is 24-11 (34 draws) against him in rapid/exhibition.

Ding's much more interesting because we just saw Nepo and because of the story around him qualifying for the Candidates, but it's entirely possible that Nepo is actually the tougher matchup and was just off form in the WC.

The sample sizes are too small to say much, really: Kramnik, Anand, Svidler, and Leko have the best showings against Magnus among people with at least 2 wins, but it'd be a stretch to say that Svidler's 2-2 record to date is very conclusive in saying he's necessarily a tougher matchup than anyone in the Candidates.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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Hikaru is one draw away from possibly playing to be world champion.

Or from just having a cool story.

What he has done in a year after not playing much over the board chess is really quite amazing. If Carlsen decides to play I wonder if Hikaru will keep playing on the candidates circuit or will just go back to regular gig. Seems to be a jerk but not sure he has anything left to prove at this point. He looks like he could be a serious championship contender if that was his priority, even if he falls just short this time.
 
Seems to be a jerk
Wait, is that Hikaru's reputation? Not that I'm fully plugged into the chess world, but when I've seen him on YouTube or heard other people talking about him, my impressions have always been positive. (I enjoyed watching Gotham's recap of yesterday's matches, ending with Hikaru's win, and then watching Hikaru's own postgame recap of his win immediately afterward.)
 

SumnerH

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Wait, is that Hikaru's reputation? Not that I'm fully plugged into the chess world, but when I've seen him on YouTube or heard other people talking about him, my impressions have always been positive. (I enjoyed watching Gotham's recap of yesterday's matches, ending with Hikaru's win, and then watching Hikaru's own postgame recap of his win immediately afterward.)
a) Rumors are that he's kind of a jerk off-camera, and his “I literally don't care” persona is a total act. He often throws tantrums when he loses.

Ben Feingold said a lot here without saying anything specific View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21mHkRNrN_Y&t=2356s
:
There's a girl at our chess camp who's like 12...man does she hate Hikaru. I mean, how does a 12 year old hate a super GM? Well, the answer is she met him.

A lot of people have problems with Hikaru that are pre-Twitch, I mean whatever he's 2800 so he gets a pass. He plays great, what are you gonna do? If you look at Bobby Fisher objectively, he's a terrible person. Frankly, terrible...horrible....but he's so good at chess that you give him a pass. This happens with sports figures.

Even though we're also grand masters, me and Eric, he gets a pass because he's Hikaru. If Hikaru was rated 1100 he'd be getting his ass kicked every day, he'd be getting beat up by a different person every day. But he's 3500, so you get a pass.
More in the YT video, but Feingold knows what he's doing when he compares him to Bobby Fisher.

b) There footage of him getting in a physical fight with Eric Hansen of the Chessbrahs on YouTube (both of them were completely hammered, and it was years ago).

c) His big fall from grace was last April when his team started sending YouTube strikes around to other chess content creators who referenced him, including ChessBrahs and Ben Feingold (with whom he had earlier disputes: see above). He claims he had nothing to do with that and that an online manager did so without his knowledge, and the strikes were eventually reversed.

But that's exactly when he went from regular collabs with Gotham, Anish, etc to never showing up on their channels again. He and Gotham used to collaborate quite often, and they haven't streamed together at all since then from what I can tell: Gotham's still polite enough when breaking down his games and such, but he went suddenly and totally arms-length when they used to use each other to build audiences.
 

YankeesIsrael

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He also said he wouldn’t play in the Olympiad as a reserve. Vasily Smyslov and Mikhail Tal each played twice as 1st reserve and once as a 2nd reserve for the USSR team after being world champion.
 

SumnerH

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DennyDoyle'sBoil

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Not surprised. Carlsen seemed bored and borderline annoyed at times in Dubai. If it had been someone other than Nepo I think he plays.

Wouldn't be surprised if he wanted to play again if Ding wins. FIDE would probably have to make him play in the candidates, though I am sure they would love to try to find away around it.

By hook or crook I think Carlsen gets back eventually to the championship table, but it could be a while and a different Carlsen.
 
FIDE would probably have to make him play in the candidates, though I am sure they would love to try to find away around it.
I suspect Carlsen would enjoy playing in the Candidates more than he enjoyed playing the World Championship. Different opponent every day, high stakes, classical format...he'd find the challenge of wiping the floor with seven other guys more than just breaking one guy (like Nepo last year) and then dismembering him.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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I suspect Carlsen would enjoy playing in the Candidates more than he enjoyed playing the World Championship. Different opponent every day, high stakes, classical format...he'd find the challenge of wiping the floor with seven other guys more than just breaking one guy (like Nepo last year) and then dismembering him.
Agree -- he does like those tournaments. There should be a number of those kind of events that are staged in order to qualify for the 2024 candidates tournament. Not sure if that has been set yet, but he will undoubtedly play in the various tournaments that are used to identify the 7 candidates. Hopefully, the word cup will continue in a similar format as last year, because it was pretty much the best chess event of the year. Grand Swiss. I think the Grand Chess Tour also will send candidates to the 2024 candidates tournament, though I'm not sure how that will work.
 

Bread of Yaz

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These kinds of moves (no pun intended) by a world champion are unhelpful for the popularity and development of chess IMHO, as the Ding/Nepo match will draw far less interest, and the winner will be diminished in the eye of the public. While Carlsen seems like a fairly well-adjusted dude, and lacks the paranoia of Bobby Fisher or the emotionality of Kasparov, his decision not to play does seem to proceed from an overinflated sense of ego that the other two shared when they refused to play. If Carlsen wants to retire from chess, that is his prerogative and would be totally understandable. Refusing to play a qualified challenger because you've beaten him once, have nothing to gain, and would prefer to play Alireza is disrespectful to the game and to Nepo.
 
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SumnerH

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These kinds of moves (no pun intended) by a world champion are unhelpful for the popularity and development of chess IMHO, as the Ding/Nepo match will draw far less interest, and the winner will be diminished in the eye of the public. While Carlsen seems like a fairly well-adjusted dude, and lacks the paranoia of Bobby Fisher or the emotionality of Kasparov, his decision not to play does seem to proceed from an overinflated sense of ego that the other two shared when they refused to play.
I disagree strongly. FIDE are at best stick-in-the mud organization that refuses to modernize unless forced, and more often outright corrupt. Their reaction to the Agon Limited fiasco was to “scale back” their relationship with Agon/World Chess starting in 2020, keeping the money funnel going rather than actually severing ties when caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

Garry Kasparov splitting from FIDE is one of the only times we've seen any positive motion from them. Recall that Kasparov's last opponent in a FIDE world championship, Nigel Short, agreed with Kasparov's criticisms: by rule, Kasparov, FIDE, and his challenger were all supposed to have equal input on the format, location, and rules around their match. Instead, FIDE unilaterally announced a time and place for things. That improved for a time after the Kramnik reunification, but it's gotten back to the point where FIDE things they're the ones running the game.

Remember, the world championship is supposed to be an evaluation of the best player in the world, and it's traditionally passed along when the current title holder arranges matches with a challenger. FIDE's role is supposed to be to help facilitate such challenges to the title holder and help them negotiate the playing format with their challenger, not to create a competing tournament to crown a victor if they fail in those negotiations. The legitimacy of the title is in the belief of the public that it represents the strongest player, and the FIDE titles from the 1990s are rightly considered a joke and an embarrassment to FIDE.

If they're so inept at their mission of facilitating matches with the title holder that he walks away while still actively playing tournament chess, then they shouldn't be calling a match without him the world championship. And if they're not listening to Magnus' input when he's supposed to be an equal party to setting the rules of the challenge (along with his challenger), he should walk away.
 

Bread of Yaz

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I disagree strongly. FIDE are at best stick-in-the mud organization that refuses to modernize unless forced, and more often outright corrupt. Their reaction to the Agon Limited fiasco was to “scale back” their relationship with Agon/World Chess starting in 2020, keeping the money funnel going rather than actually severing ties when caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

Garry Kasparov splitting from FIDE is one of the only times we've seen any positive motion from them. Recall that Kasparov's last opponent in a FIDE world championship, Nigel Short, agreed with Kasparov's criticisms: by rule, Kasparov, FIDE, and his challenger were all supposed to have equal input on the format, location, and rules around their match. Instead, FIDE unilaterally announced a time and place for things. That improved for a time after the Kramnik reunification, but it's gotten back to the point where FIDE things they're the ones running the game.

Remember, the world championship is supposed to be an evaluation of the best player in the world, and it's traditionally passed along when the current title holder arranges matches with a challenger. FIDE's role is supposed to be to help facilitate such challenges to the title holder and help them negotiate the playing format with their challenger, not to create a competing tournament to crown a victor if they fail in those negotiations. The legitimacy of the title is in the belief of the public that it represents the strongest player, and the FIDE titles from the 1990s are rightly considered a joke and an embarrassment to FIDE.

If they're so inept at their mission of facilitating matches with the title holder that he walks away while still actively playing tournament chess, then they shouldn't be calling a match without him the world championship. And if they're not listening to Magnus' input when he's supposed to be an equal party to setting the rules of the challenge (along with his challenger), he should walk away.

100% agree with you about FIDE; its a sclerotic, incompetent, quasi-Russian controlled organization. But it is for better or worse the governing body, and it set neutral rules, and Nepo won. If Carlsen is upset with anyone, it should be with Alireza for his poor showing in Spain.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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These kinds of moves (no pun intended) by a world champion are unhelpful for the popularity and development of chess IMHO, as the Ding/Nepo match will draw far less interest, and the winner will be diminished in the eye of the public. While Carlsen seems like a fairly well-adjusted dude, and lacks the paranoia of Bobby Fisher or the emotionality of Kasparov, his decision not to play does seem to proceed from an overinflated sense of ego that the other two shared when they refused to play. If Carlsen wants to retire from chess, that is his prerogative and would be totally understandable. Refusing to play a qualified challenger because you've beaten him once, have nothing to gain, and would prefer to play Alireza is disrespectful to the game and to Nepo.
I don't agree with this. He's not obligated to play. He was miserable in Dubai. He was affirmatively pissed off at times in the press conferences.

He has confirmed as much. He saw it as work and he didn't enjoy it. Why are you going to force a guy who does not want to play to play? Does it make it a better tournament?

I don't think it has anything to do with ego or with thinking that he has nothing to gain. I think he doesn't want to spend a month being miserable. He thought that having a young challenger who plays chess he views as exciting might be enough to get him motivated to play. Maybe he would have felt the same for Duda. Or even Ding. Maybe not. But the guy seems like he would rather throw up right now than to play another match where he defends the Spanish, waits for Nepo to make a blunder, and then spends 18 days wandering around Buenos Aires or wherever planning out how to draw to the Petrov.

If it would make him miserable he's doing the right thing not the wrong thing by letting Ding play.
 

Bread of Yaz

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I don't agree with this. He's not obligated to play. He was miserable in Dubai. He was affirmatively pissed off at times in the press conferences.

He has confirmed as much. He saw it as work and he didn't enjoy it. Why are you going to force a guy who does not want to play to play? Does it make it a better tournament?

I don't think it has anything to do with ego or with thinking that he has nothing to gain. I think he doesn't want to spend a month being miserable. He thought that having a young challenger who plays chess he views as exciting might be enough to get him motivated to play. Maybe he would have felt the same for Duda. Or even Ding. Maybe not. But the guy seems like he would rather throw up right now than to play another match where he defends the Spanish, waits for Nepo to make a blunder, and then spends 18 days wandering around Buenos Aires or wherever planning out how to draw to the Petrov.

If it would make him miserable he's doing the right thing not the wrong thing by letting Ding play.
Respectfully disagree. "I'll only play if I feel that I'm challenged based on who I want to play" is pure ego talking and lacks humility. He has a greater duty to the game as a World Champion than to take his ball and go home because his preferred opponent couldn't get it done. Maybe I'm old fashioned.
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

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Respectfully disagree. "I'll only play if I feel that I'm challenged based on who I want to play" is pure ego talking and lacks humility. He has a greater duty to the game as a World Champion than to take his ball and go home because his preferred opponent couldn't get it done. Maybe I'm old fashioned.
Is there something specific about Carlsen that makes you feel that way? Or do you just think it is always a requirement of being chess champion that once you get the title you are required to defend it until you lose or die? That seems pretty harsh to me. And there is plenty of historical precedent. He has given four challengers the chance to beat him over a decade. And it's not like he has done or said anything to try to retain the title and create a fissure in chess. He's relinquishing the title and making way for others.
 

Bread of Yaz

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Is there something specific about Carlsen that makes you feel that way? Or do you just think it is always a requirement of being chess champion that once you get the title you are required to defend it until you lose or die? That seems pretty harsh to me. And there is plenty of historical precedent. He has given four challengers the chance to beat him over a decade. And it's not like he has done or said anything to try to retain the title and create a fissure in chess. He's relinquishing the title and making way for others.
No, nothing about Carlsen at all; as I said upthread, he seems like a good dude overall. But I think there's a pretty substantial difference between (1) a WC deciding to relinquish the crown because he or she has had enough; and (2) a WC saying that he or she will play the title match -- but only if the challenger is someone that gets the WC's juices flowing sufficiently enough. Its a disrespectful slap at Nepo.

And not a perfect analogy by any means but I'm sure the Celtics in the 60s didn't enjoy grinding their way year after year to the title against lesser opponents.
 

Icculus

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The last WC match was a disrespectful slap of Nepo. It's not like Magnus is denying someone new the chance to beat him for the title. Seems unsaid that a different format might have also encouraged Magnus to defend but it's his title to do what he wants with imo.
 

Bread of Yaz

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Fabi with an insipid loss to Gukesh yesterday where he passively shuffled his queen and rooks in an even position, lost a pawn, and allowed a queenside breakthrough. Love the guy and sad to see his performance lately. It looks like his time has some and passed; perhaps the close defeat to Carlsen stripped him of some of his confidence as he tends many times now to not play as aggressively as he should.
 

Bread of Yaz

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And a heartbreaking loss by Gukesh today, just walks into a simple fork.
That was just the unfortunate final move in the ending where he was already lost/close to lost. Gukesh had a massive advantage (plus 6) for a long portion of the game, and tossed it away in a couple inaccurate moves.