What was expected all along the past fortnight, eventually happened in the most unexpected way.
World number one Norway’s Magnus Carlsen earned the right to challenge Viswanathan Anand for the World title by winning the World Chess Candidates Tournament in London on Monday night.
But most dramatic was the unlikely defeat of Carlsen with white pieces to Russia’s Peter Svidler minutes before joint leader Vladimir Kramnik suffered a rare loss to Ukraine’s Vassily Ivanchuk in the 14 and final round.
With both players tied at 8.5 points, Carlsen was adjudged champion by virtue of more number of victories — four to Kramnik’s three.
Since March 15, eight players battled under the double round-robin format to find the challenger to Anand in the World championship match scheduled in October-November this year.
Carlsen, holder of the all-time high rating of 2872 — surpassing the previous best of 2851 by former World champion Gary Kasparov last year — was an obvious favourite in London.
The 22-year-old never trailed until his sensational loss in the 12 round to Ivanchuk made Kramnik the leader by half-a-point. This was an unexpected reward for Kramnik soon after he managed to overpower early joint leader Levon Aronian.
After a day’s rest, following Kramnik’s draw against former challenger Boris Gelfand, Carlsen proved why he is rated so high by the chess greats and his peers.
He pulled off a victory, when none appeared possible, against Teimour Radjabov by grinding his way past a materially-equal position to force his rival to err under severe constraint of time.
The final round held the interest of the chess lovers around the world. Millions logged on to the chess websites, relaying live games. As a result, many overloaded sites were forced to discontinue their chat lines.
To add to the thrill, the defeats of Carlsen and Kramnik on the final day made it the most memorable tournament in recent years.
In fact, moments after Carlsen finished analysing his 48-move loss before the media, Kramnik resigned. It instantly turned the young Norwegian’s disappointment into delight.
“I never expected to lose and I didn’t really have any expectations for the other game (involving Kramnik),” explained Carlsen and continued, “I didn’t really want to resign before I was sure that Ivanchuk would win! But overall I think I did pretty well and I deserve to win.”
Standings: 1-2. Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), Magnus Carlsen (Norway) 8.5 points; 3-4. Peter Svidler (Russia), Levon Aronian (Armenia) 8 each; 5-6. Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Boris Gelfand (Israel) 6.5 each; 7. Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine) 6; 8. Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan) 4.