How good is Magnus Carlsen’s grip on his competition at the Altibox Norway Chess super-tournament? Matt & Patt brings you an overview.
by Tarjei J. Svensen
Norway’s brightest star has met the other players in the event a total of 126 times at a classical tournament chess time control. Of these the 25-year-old has won 34, drawn 75, and lost 17.
It should come as no surprise that the experienced Vladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian and Veselin Topalov are behind 14 of the 17 defeats. None of the other players has beaten Carlsen more than once.
«Aronian is one of the most difficult to play against.»
Aronian faced the Norwegian for the first time in the 2004 FIDE World Cup. There the Armenian emerged victorious in a brawl of a match that went into tie-breaks. Apart from Anand, the 33-year-old is the player Carlsen has faced most often in his career, having fought each other 48 times.
The Armenian has won five times, but his victory in the European Championship for national teams last November was his first over Carlsen in the seven years since Linares 2009.
«He has outplayed me so many times I’ve lost count,» Carlsen told state broadcaster NRK before the recent Candidates tournament.
«He is absolutely one of the most difficult to play against.»
Between the Aronian wins in 2009 and the end of 2015 Carlsen struck back seven times, and drew 19.
Kramnik’s ‘customer’ hasn’t lost in six years
«My score against Magnus is one of the best compared with the other players. I am just minus one against him, so that isn’t so bad. Recently +1 even. I do much better than Nakamura for example,» Kramnik said before meeting Carlsen at the Qatar Masters Open.
But that is a ‘slightly modified’ version of the facts. The Russian has not won a single game against the Norwegian since 2010. In the 13 encounters since then Carlsen has won three, with 10 draws.
Kramnik’s four wins came when Carlsen was still a teenager during their first ten meetings between 2007 and 2010. At that time the 40-year-old had such a good grip on Carlsen that he called him his ‘customer’.
«I always want to beat Kramnik,» Carlsen told Matt & Patt when asked who he was most eager to defeat.
The other player high on this list is Anish Giri. The cheeky Dutchman is the only one in the Altibox Norway Chess field that Carlsen still has a negative score against. In fact, in their 13 meetings, Magnus has yet to win a single game.
The 21-year-old regularly reminds him about their personal score but Carlsen has a retort: «Giri also has a ‘curse’ – he has never won a super-tournament. So we’ll see which happens first,» Magnus told newspaper VG before last year’s Norway Chess.
The Dutchman won their first encounter in 2011, when Carlsen played one of the worst games in his career. Since then 12 games have ended in often bloodless draws.
Topalov has won two of their last three
Carlsen can also use the occasion to take revenge on Veselin Topalov, who has begun repairing a terrible record by taking two wins in a row. The first of them came in the memorable start to last year’s event in Stavanger, when the world champion lost on time after misunderstanding the time control.
The Bulgarian has won five times vs. Carlsen in total, but has lost eight. Nine duels have ended in a draw.
Magnus also has a good score against world number five Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, with four wins, seven draws and just one loss.
Against his own World Championship assistant Pavel Eljanov Carlsen has won all three of their games.
The world champion won in crushing style in the Qatar Masters in his only meeting so far against China’s Chao Li.
Pentala Harikrishna has only been across the board from Carlsen four times, most recently in 2013 which ended in a Norwegian victory. Before that Harikrishna had won once in a tournament in Lausanne, with the two other games ending drawn.
The meeting with Swedish number one Nils Grandelius will be the first.
Soon we will see if Carlsen can improve his record in Stavanger.