The prize for winning the Chess Candidates is a date with world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, so it’s no surprise Carlsen is paying attention to the tournament that he won back in 2012.
“I follow them for several hours each day,” he told users on Reddit. “The openings they play, I check them with my own databases. I follow it both as a professional but also as a chess fan, just enjoying some really great games.”
He also put out a Youtube video analysing the first six rounds. The man he deposed as champion – Viswanathan Anand – is currently leading the tournament with with four points in his bag from six games, a half-point lead over nearest contender Levon Aronian of Armenia.
Carlsen was seen by some as being less than charitable towards Anand after beating the Indian in Chennai last year, saying he would be a different sort of chess champion. “You will probably never hear me use the excuse that I was saving preparations for the championship matches and that type of things,” he told the Norwegian media in November 2013.
But he had nothing but praise for Anand’s form so far in the Candidates.
“I’m really impressed by what Anand has done so far. Of course his win against Aronian was very good – very, very good technique. He won almost by technique alone, which is very rare against Aronian ... it was very, very beautiful to watch."
Anand’s other win came against Mamedyarov and also drew positive reviews from Carlsen.
“He [Anand] just played very powerfully after he equalised in the opening – no waiting moves. Each move had its point and he just took over key squares very quickly.”
It wasn’t just the wins either. Carlsen thought Anand “played very, very, good chess” against Dmitry Andreikin in round six in a game that ultimately finished in a draw. "[Anand] gradually outplayed Andreikin. He didn’t get serious winning chances, but it was clear who was playing the better chess in that game.”
Of course Carlsen said he would not have offered Andreikin a draw when Anand did, but admitted getting anything out of the game from that point was “far-fetched”.
As for his pick of who might win the Candidates, he still thought Aronian was the only player with a chance of being a run-away winner but that “the one key lesson we learned last time is that anything can happen in the last rounds. When people get tired the usual rules don’t apply.”
You can watch the full video below: