Predictions, past and present

The Tal Memorial started today in Moscow, and it’s a great lineup. In fact, I can’t remember a top round-robin with as exciting a field in the past few years. As much as I’d like to see Anand play well, he hasn’t been a very compelling tournament player recently, so I’ll happily take Aronian, Kramnik, and Grischuk representing the 2770+ crowd here.

The rest of the field with Mamedyarov (2763), Karjakin (2760), Eljanov (2742), Gelfand (2741), Nakamura (2741), Shirov (2735), and Wang Hao (2727) is filled with a nice blend of young fighters and grizzled veterans.

Admittedly, I’m posting this while games from round 1 are still going on, but I did actually tell some people my predictions before the round started, so nothing’s changed based on the early Aronian-Kramnik result.

Aronian takes first at +3 (6.0/9) while Kramnik will have to settle for his standard +2 (5.5/9). It’s hard to pick last place finishers, but I’ll say that Shirov and Eljanov are the tail-enders here.

As for Nakamura, I don’t think he’ll enjoy the same success he had at Corus earlier this year (he scored +2, or 7.5/13). With 5 blacks (I’m assuming that with black in round 1, he’s in the bottom half of the starting list) and guys like Kramnik and Aronian at the top of the field, it’s not going to be easy going. Unlike Corus, where he scored a nice 4/5 against the sub-2700 crowd, there are no “easy” pickings here.

Since I’m sure everybody will be interested in the numbers, I crunched some numbers on Nakamura’s performance (as a 2700+ player) against other 2700s. It’s not very encouraging, but of course, he’s young and improving, so I would expect these numbers to get better over time.

I took the 2700+ players on the rating list who were born in 1986 or later (Nakamura was born in 1987) and looked at classical games against other 2700s. The games were only through the Olympiad, so Pearl Spring and maybe some Russian Team Championship games haven’t been included. That includes: Karjakin, Wang Yue, Radjabov, Nakamura, Gashimov, Nepomniachtchi, Wang Hao, Wojtaszek, Vachier Lagrave, and Vitiugov. Of those, “Nepo”, Wang Hao, Wojtaszek, and Vitiguov haven’t played 10 games against other 2700s yet.

Of the remaining, here’s how the numbers break down:

Nakamura has played 44 games as a 2700 against other 2700s, and scored an average of 40.9%. Not particularly impressive, when all the other young 2700s have done better against similar opposition. Compared to his current rating as well, he hasn’t done particularly well against those below him (44%) and not particularly well against those above him (36%).

And looking at this field, the only player against whom he has a plus score as a 2700 is Shirov: 1 win from Corus earlier this year. He’s got minus scores against Aronian, Kramnik, Grischuk, Karjakin, Mamedyarov, and Wang Hao, with an even score against Gelfand and no games against Eljanov. On paper at least, the only way things could get worse for him with this field is if Svidler was substituted for Shirov or Eljanov.

Taking a longer view of his results (going back to 2004), his numbers improve against some players: he has an even score against Grischuk in 5 classical games (beating Grischuk when Sasha was a 2700, Hikaru was 2660); he has +2 against Karjakin (largely due to a crushing win in their 2004 match); and he has a pair of draws against Aronian. By the same token, Gelfand’s score against Nakamura goes up, although he’s done ok since crossing 2700.

Finally, a word about Pearl Spring – I predicted Topalov would win with 6.5/10, but as we now know, he barely managed 4.5/10. Clearly, the reverse jinx worked. Or I failed to take into account how his recent marriage would negatively impact his play. One or the other.

Anand did score the standard +2 (6.0/10), but he didn’t make much of an impression with his play in a number of games. Carlsen ran away with it, rediscovering his form against the weaker 2700s at least.

At least I still have the Anand – Topalov prediction (correct score, correct opening for game 12!) to trade upon.

Mamedyarov (2763),

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