Wednesday, 3 April 2013

2013 Candidates: Some Stats...

One thing not featured on my blog yet is a full crosstable of results. Here is the table from the official site (which I thought was excellent, by the way)...

Carlsen qualified on number of wins - 5 to Kramnik's 4

Crosstables often tell a misleading story, of course. When we look back at the above crosstable in the future and see half a point separating the first four players, we may forget that there was a 1½ points gap between the first two names and the next two before the final round, and that Peter Svidler was never really in the running for first but had a late rally.

Now let's have a look at crosstables of the two separate cycles of the event...

Two very different tables! The main difference between them is that the players would have been very much more tired when they played the second cycle. Or you would have thought so - and yet it was the relative youngsters Aronian and Carlsen who did best in the first cycle, with the older players doing very much better in the second cycle. Perhaps the tension and pressure was more important than physical fitness, and the old guys proved to be made of sterner stuff?

Kramnik's resurgence in the second half was the most noticeable, of course, but Svidler and Gelfand did pretty well too. I suppose you could argue that Carlsen wouldn't have gone out on a limb in his final game had the tournament situation not demanded it, so he might have finished joint second with Svidler and Gelfand in the second half; but Kramnik would have been unlikely to have lost against Ivanchuk, so he would have made either 5½ or 6 - a remarkable score against such a field.


The first cycle featured 8 decisive games out of 28, with Carlsen and Aronian winning 3 each, and Radjabov and Svidler winning 1 each. The second cycle, with the tension growing, was much more bloodthirsty, with 17 decisive games in total, and all of the players bar the fading Radjabov getting at least one win on the scoreboard.

That makes 25 decisive games out of a total of 56 played in London = 44%. A very high proportion for a super-GM event: let's compare it with Linares 2009, which was also an eight-player double-cycle a.p.a. and featured five of the same players as played at London 2013 - it saw just 15 decisive games.

R.I.P. Match-Based Candidates Format: Dead and Buried...

Of course, the principal prize in London - a prestigious (and hopefully highly lucrative) match for the world title - provided the extra motivation. But such motivation has not always lead to more decisive games in Candidates' competitions. We only have to cast our minds back two years to the Candidates' matches played in Kazan in 2011, which produced a miserly three decisive classical games out of 30 played! That was probably the death knell for a match-based Candidates qualifier, certainly for the foreseeable future, and the 25 decisive games played in the tournament-based London Candidates will have driven the last nail into the coffin.

... But Bring Back the Interzonal!

So I guess that is it for the foreseeable future - a Candidates' tournament followed by a match for the world title. I'm happy with that. Gradually, inexorably, the tried and trusted ways of organising a world championship have come back into fashion, and the madhouse of Ilyumzhinov knock-out tournaments consigned to the dustbin of history where it belongs.

You have to go back to Curaçao 1962 to find a precedent for a proper Candidates' tournament like the one we have just witnessed in London. Candidates' matches, as played from 1965 onwards, weren't a bad innovation in the days when FIDE was capable of running them properly, getting sponsorship and setting a respectable duration for them, but they eventually fell into disrepute and became unworkable.

With that in mind, perhaps it is time to think about euthanasia for the FIDE Grand Prix and World Cup system. These events have also proved to be unworkable (as well as eminently forgettable), with the federation's resources and limited competence being stretched to the limit trying to organise a motley collection of events all over the world (though by default they usually end up in Kirsan's backyard - Khanty-Mansiysk, Elista, etc).

We still have Zonal qualifiers, as of old - so why not have one big interzonal of 24 players, as in the good old days. I suppose the objection to that will be that FIDE can't use it as a cash cow, with weak players from obscure corners of the globe having their chance to get smashed by super-GMs in round one of another Siberian extravaganza. Well, I guess a couple of them could be squeezed in alongside the genuine contenders in a 24-player event.

It would have the advantage that just one big tournament would need to be funded and organised - but it would have much greater prestige and prominence than the existing system. It could be a cracker of a sporting event, just like London 2013, and provide a chance for a player to make a name for himself, like the guy who won the last of the 24-player interzonals in 1970: Bobby Fischer. Preceding him, Larsen, Smyslov, Spassky, Tal, Kotov... (Bronstein, Tal and Fischer won two of these mega-events). Surely an aspirant super-GM would give his eye teeth just to get on an honours board with those guys. Do it, FIDE!


  1. Thanks for the nice articles.


    Peter Turland

  2. A good article, summary and suggestion.

    The London Candidates were a great series of games, and, personally, I'd love to see more like it !

  3. Nice article and summary. As defending champion, Carlsen will directly qualify for this year’s World Chess Championship. However, his opponent Anand had to go through the Candidates Tournament to seal a place. I too play chess in chess chess clubs and I have a wooden chess set from the company chessbazaar.
    This year’s clash between Carlsen and Anand will see the same two opponents face each other in consecutive world championship matches since Garry Kasparov and Karpov last met in 1990.