[I seem to get a good number of readers, but not so many comments. This is one post where I really would appreciate some feedback. Apologies for the length … I bolded the most important parts!]
The Candidates Matches for the current Championship Cycle ended a couple days ago, and Boris Gelfand came out on top.
I somehow managed to guess Grischuk – Gelfand for the final match, but in the final, I had Grischuk advancing. Gelfand was a worthy winner, of course, but somehow, I think that Grischuk would have proved a more difficult opponent for Anand.
However, the matches have drawn a lot of criticism, some of it reasonable, some much less so in my view. There were two common threads amongst the unreasonable complaints in my view.
The first is that the winner was undeserving. It’s hard to imagine a chump coming out of these Candidates Matches, but because Gelfand was not a favorite (I certainly did not expect him to win it, even up to the final game), that doesn’t mean he was undeserving.
Aronian was generally considered the favorite before the event, but after failing to win an easily won endgame in Game 1 against Grischuk, he wasn’t able to break through later on, and then lost in the rapid tiebreaks, 2.5-1.5. Nothing fishy, he lost under the rules of the system.
The second is that these Matches were “boring” because of the high draw rate. With only 3 wins in 30 classical games, the 90% draw rate trumps even the 87% draw-rate in the “snooze-fest” that was Kasparov – Kramnik, London 2000. Nobody was holding me hostage in either event.
The chief offender here was apparently Grischuk because of some short draws with the White pieces. GM Moradiabadi, in commenting for ChessBase, apparently called some of his games disgusting (later revised to disappointing). Of course, Elshan’s handful of draws as white under 10 moves in the past decade are probably not as bad.
I’m not so surprised that 90% of the games ended in a draw. It’s very difficult to beat a strong chessplayer, and these guys are incredibly strong chessplayers. Grischuk saved some tough positions against Aronian and Kramnik, so should we knock him for being good enough to save those positions that most would have lost?