After Kasparov’s retirement, there doesn’t seem to have been much sniping among more than just a couple top players. The one that sticks out was the Kramnik – Topalov match of 2006, but outside of those two, there haven’t been many shots fired I think. If the past month or two are any indication, that’s about to change!
Back in February, Nakamura went on the record in New In Chess that he felt that he is “the biggest threat to Carlsen.” That was the soundbite quote, but there was a bit of nuance in that he really was referring to long-term threat.
He further tempered that in a subsequent interview that can be read here (with help from Google Translate for most of us I imagine) where he says:
“Aronian’s probably a bigger threat than me right now, but outside of him I am right behind. I have a chance. If I do not have confidence that I can beat him, what’s the point of playing then?”
This all happened after Magnus’s Bay Area visit and I also don’t get NIC, so it’s not like I could ask about this, but the 2nd interview above has a shot of Carlsen and Nielsen walking to the Zurich tournament hall with this reaction – who knows if they’re joking about the magazine, but it’s quite the coincidental shot if not!
Then this happened at Zurich.
Outplayed for most of the game, Magnus hung around long enough to pose some questions and then pounced at the first opening. This had to be a major psychological blow for Nakamura.
Then, a couple weeks ago, Hikaru did an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit. For the most part, I thought this was a good Q&A session. Some good questions, some good answers.
Magnus did an AMA as well, just two days ago. I admittedly found it much less interesting, and interestingly, among 4 non-chess friends who saw both, each of them concluded that Hikaru was the good guy and Magnus was a bad representative. This is not the narrative in the chess media, but that’s what this (very small) sample of non-chessplayers concluded.
There was one hilarious line in there though:
Q: Hi! What do you think of Nakamura joking with calling you Sauron on Twitter?
A: I’ve never actually watched Lord of the Rings… if I had, and Nakamura had been a better chess player, I might have been more insulted.
Then today, I saw Mark Crowther (the man behind TWIC) talking about an article in a Norwegian paper about the Candidates, and it looks like Magnus drops the gloves when talking about Kramnik. I only have the translations provided by him and some Norwegians talking about this, but there were essentially 3 components:
1. “Kramnik thinks he knows everything”
2. “Kramnik may seem impressive showing off his variations. But often they are just crap.”
3.”He plays with great principle. Probably the biggest difference between me and him is that he makes a lot of mistakes. He often thinks that he is right, while it is I am the one who is right.”
Magnus mentioned that Kramnik’s book of best games made a big impression on him coming up, but the article concludes with:
“The 13-year old Magnus Carlsen bought everything he said. Not me, says the 23-year-old chess champion, with a devilish smile.”
This isn’t the first time they’ve sniped at each other and probably won’t be the last, especially if Kramnik comes out of this Candidates Tournament. Of course, his loss to Topalov a couple days ago makes that a bit tougher. Topalov joined in the fun with this dig about an unclear new idea in the QGD:
“The position is really complicated and really deep – maybe for him [Kramnik] it was too deep!”