Interviews Nov 24, 2014 | 3:19 PMby Colin McGourty

Grandmaster reaction to Magnus Carlsen’s victory

Which Top 10 player described Magnus Carlsen's play in the match as "very bad"? Read on to find out! | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

Magnus Carlsen lived up to expectations by winning the 2014 World Championship match against Viswanathan Anand, but did the match live up to the expectations of their fellow grandmasters? We’ve gathered together some opinions in the immediate aftermath of events in Sochi, with Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian’s thoughts during their match in St. Louis in particular not to be missed.

The first three opinions were given in interviews during and after Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian drew Game 3 of the Showdown in St. Louis. You can watch the whole show below:

Hikaru Nakamura

Maurice Ashley: What are your thoughts about Magnus’ win to retain his title? Did it seem predictable?

Hikaru Nakamura: I think it was predictable in the sense of him winning the match. I thought the quality of his play was very bad, actually, or maybe Anand was just playing very well, but I thought, for example, his mistake in Game 6, which he won, was very uncharacteristic and actually today I thought he was in quite a bit of trouble too, with the white pieces. So he did what he did, he got out of tough spots, but I guess I would have said that I thought his play was much more inspiring last time around.

But he’s now World Champion and he keeps it for a couple of years. You’re in the running for that - you’re in the cycle right now…

I have to do well in a couple of events first. I’m not quite in the Candidates yet, so a long way to go.

Are you optimistic about it?

I’ve done well in the first two Grand Prix events. I have another one in May, which is very far off. I’m also in the World Cup, so I’ll certainly have more opportunities, but I think at any rate whether I make it in or not I think pretty much everyone is hoping for a different opponent next time around.

Levon Aronian

Maurice Ashley: Magnus is again the World Champion. What did you think of this match?

Levon Aronian: Ok, I thought that Vishy was better prepared this time, but it’s difficult for him still to play against Magnus, because Magnus is just a player of a different generation. After all, chess advances, and if you look at it, the greatest players in the world... I consider Kasparov to be the greatest player in the world, but whenever I see him analysing with players of the modern era I can see that his understanding is very different. It’s difficult even for the greatest players in the world… if you had Michael Jordan playing with current players he also wouldn’t be the greatest, probably.

Chicago fans are screaming right now!

The game develops, so that’s why I thought it would be difficult for him to fight with Magnus. History shows he has a bad score against players of this generation.

And what do you think about the quality of the match itself?

It was pretty good, because in the World Championship match there is no quality. I’ve never seen a World Championship match with quality games. It’s very rare.


Of course it’s two of the best players playing against each other, but they’re overprepared, they work so much so they commit easy mistakes during the game because they’re not fresh. I don’t think I ever saw a really, really good game during a World Championship match.

A really good game or match?

A really good game with both players playing extremely well, like it would happen in a regular tournament.

Are you saying we should just throw away the World Championship?

No, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that you can’t really expect those players who have so much pressure on them to perform their best.

Ben Finegold

Maurice Ashley: What are your thoughts on the World Championship and Magnus retaining the title?

Ben Finegold: Well, most people don’t agree with me. I thought Anand would win the match. I still think Anand played better in this match but he made too many blunders – 34…h5?? in Game 2, which was ridiculous. He’s probably lost there, but that was ridiculous. Then today 27…Rb4? – I don’t even understand! I thought maybe it was done by accident and the rook should have gone to b3.

But I thought Anand played really well, much better than the last match. Maybe Carlsen was a little flat, but it seems that Anand occasionally just makes a one-move blunder and messes things up. It was great preparation by Anand, especially the game that he won. And today was great preparation. I think it was really a good, interesting match – much more interesting than the last match. And their third match will be even better!

You think there’s going to be a third match? What about the youngsters, Fabiano Caruana…

Those guys are no good. Anand’s the guy who’s going to challenge. I’m sure Yasser and Jen agree too 

Sergey Karjakin

Sergey Karjakin gave a simultaneous display on the final day of the match | photo: Vladimir Barsky, official website

If Vishy had stretched him then he would have fully mobilised, but Anand didn’t force Carlsen to play at his maximum. Anand’s problem is that he got promising positions and then let them slip. If, let’s say, the last two games had been played not against Magnus but against anyone else he would have taken 1.5 points instead of 0.5. He didn’t conduct the match very well mentally, and the final defeat doesn’t reflect his chess strength. The 11th game was a stupid loss, to be honest. (R-Sport)

It’s also interesting to note Karjakin’s comment from before the last game, which includes the opinion of Vladimir Kramnik:

I think Carlsen will try to play for a win, but at no risk. I wouldn’t rule out a Berlin Endgame, and if Anand remembers his home analysis it’ll be a draw. I talked to Kramnik and he expressed the opinion that Carlsen will more likely than not win today, since Anand clearly isn’t in top form. (RIA Novosti)

Sergey Shipov

Official Russian commentators Sergey Shipov (left) and Ilya Smirin concerned about Vishy's position on the final day? | photo: Vladimir Barsky, official website

After Game 10:

It feels as though the match ended today. If you let your opponent off so easily even in such appealing positions, then… It seems that in the opening Anand needs to get +-, an absolutely winning position, as he did in the third game. Otherwise he can’t manage to win.

Our tiger has grown old. He’s grown old… There’s not the same force as before. His teeth have been ground down, the leap is gone.  (KasparovChess forum post)

After Game 11:

So that’s that. You can call it what you want…

I’d call it: Kasparov’s generation has left Olympus. Now the young will rule and fight there. (KasparovChess forum post)

Vladimir Barsky interviewed Peter Svidler and Ian Nepomniachtchi for the official website (the English has been slightly edited):

Peter Svidler

Vladimir Barsky: Was the match result fair?

Peter Svidler: I think so, because Magnus made fewer mistakes at the important moments. Also, like it or not, but this match will be remembered for the 26th move in the sixth game, after which it could have gone either way. I think Vishy played very well in the second half, managing to recover mentally after such a blow. He successfully defended in the seventh game, did well in the next three games, and played very aggressively today. Alas, his instincts at the critical moment were wrong.

With Sopiko Guramishvili on her way to the Qatar Masters Peter Svidler and Ian Nepomniachtchi were the official commentators for the 11th game | photo: Vladimir Barsky, official website

Ian Nepomniachtchi

Vladimir Barsky: I asked grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi his opinion about the quality of play in the match and whether it was interesting for professional players.

Ian Nepomniachtchi: I don't think there was a single flawless game, but there were no major ups and downs, with one notable exception. Only the second game is almost flawless in a typical Carlsen manner, but even there Carlsen let a large part of his advantage slip, and Anand blundered a mate.

Speaking of professional players, I think there are two types of them. First of all, those who study the openings. To be honest, the match was far from exceptional as far as openings are concerned. Secondly, there are people who prepare for Carlsen or Anand specifically. Vishy showed that he can still make very strong decisions, but often cannot cope with psychological pressure. He played badly in the first two games, but then improved significantly.

The moment it was all over | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

Today Anand made an inexplicable decision to give everything for the attack, but there was no attack. There were about ten ways to sacrifice an exchange under better circumstances; for example, after 28…axb4 White cannot place the knight on d4, and one of his rooks is tied down to the a-pawn. But the way Vishy did it... Apparently, he just cracked under pressure.

How good was Carlsen in this match?

He played very strongly, but far from his best. In Chennai he wasn't particularly well-prepared in the opening, and here as well his opening preparation was worse than Anand's and even worse than we expected. However, when he could win material, he immediately grabbed it.

Today 23…b5! was very strong, and I think Magnus suffered a slight knock-down when he saw it. However, he pulled himself together, solidified the position and brought his king to the centre. Of course, Anand should have played 26…Be7, followed by exchanging on f6. We cannot say Black would certainly have won, but we would certainly have got a final game...

We'll have more on the match in the days to come!

See also:

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