Grandmaster and World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen is just a game away from losing the top spot he has held since July 2011.
In the ongoing Atibox Norway Chess, Carlsen has had a dismal run registering five draws and two losses in seven rounds. With two rounds to go, he is currently in ninth position on the table. One ahead of France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who is last.
In the seventh round, Carlsen lost to World No.2 Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, who is now just 6.4 Elo points away from dethroning the Norwegian. In the next two rounds, Carlsen will face Russia’s Sergey Karjakin and India’s Viswanathan Anand. The last time Carlsen did not register a win in the tournament happened 10 years ago in Dortmund, where he registered six draws and a loss.
Carlsen performance in 2017 has been horrendous. Of the 27 games, he has played, he has won just five games, drawn 19 and lost three.
However, Kramnik feels that Carlsen’s slump is temporary one and the World No. 1 will hit top form yet again. “He is clearly out of form. He is heavily underrated! It will be not for long that I will be so close to him, or anyone else. I am sure he will just get to his senses and will rise back to the top, I have no doubt,” he said after beating Carlsen.
Talking about his win, Kramnik said, “It was convincing victory. After some complications I was always in control. Since Magnus was not in a good tournament position I was expecting him to play something random, something sharp. So frankly I just recollected my notes and was expecting him to play something like that.”
On securing the top spot even for a day isn’t very appealing to Kramnik. “It is nice to be a hero for only one day. But it doesn’t really mean much. It isn’t exactly about the ratings as well. I just want to play well and finish the tournament well,” he added.
So what’s really wrong?
An article in Chessbase talks about how Carlsen’s chess has perhaps stagnated.
For years, he was winning one long endgame after another, many times dead equal, where he was able to trick his opponents and eventually score. His rivals all took notice and began working hard on their endgame skills, acknowledging that he had showed them, like none other before, the importance of this. They might still be behind him, but the difference is no longer enough to secure a 50+ Elo edge over them. They have adjusted. This is also producing other problematic consequences: his self-confidence is shaky, and his patience is shakier still. Is this the end of the Carlsen Era? Oh puh-leeze.
Either which way, Carlsen might just emerge stronger from this. If he was looking for a challenge, he might just have found it. He is still just 26 and has time on his side. Kramnik also pointed out that Carlsen’s preparation in this tournament has not been the greatest.
“Here I can see that he’s struggling. He’s getting nothing with White and struggling with Black. It’s very difficult, even if you’re Magnus... To me it’s quite obvious that his openings with Black are not that great at the moment.”
Perhaps, it might just be a phase or maybe the other GMs have just back on level terms but one certainly can’t say he is playing on another level anymore.