anish giri, will he ever win?!
asks Theo Slade
The biggest achievement for a chess player is to become World Champion. That is more important than being ranked number one, or playing immortal games, or even having plus scores against the World Champion! Therefore, in the super tournaments leading up to the Candidates’ Tournament, I did not feel the same excitement that I usually do. For example, did it really matter that World Champion Magnus Carlsen won his fifth Wijk aan Zee title ahead of Candidates Karjakin, Caruana, and Giri? It pales in comparison to the Candidates’, and you could tell by looking at their games – only Caruana looked in good form, so naturally he was the pre-tournament favourite.
As you read last month, I recently moved to the US, and since there were no British participants in the Candidates’, I was naturally rooting for either Nakamura or Caruana, particularly because the World Championship match against Carlsen is scheduled to be played in New York!
However, before the Candidates’ began it turned out that there was some off- the-board drama going on. Agon bought the broadcasting rights to five successive World Championship cycles, which includes the World Championship matches and the Candidates’ Tournaments. However, chess24, chess.com, and the Internet Chess Club showed the games anyway on their own websites with their own commentaries.
Agon broadcasted the games on worldchess.com, with commentary by GMs Ian Nepomniachtchi and Evgenij Miroshnichenko. To be fair, it was very professionally done, with commercial breaks, as if you were watching the action on television. Also, they published the highlights of the day’s commentary, such as Miroshnichenko’s mini-lectures on the on-going games and the press conferences of each game, on their YouTube channel.
I decided to watch the first game on chess24 because I prefer their commentary and interface, then I followed the rest of the tournament by reading the news articles published on chess24 after each round, followed by viewing every YouTube video published by World Chess. However, on the last day, I watched the whole round on chess24, but the stream cut out at one point, so I had to finally give in and watch the World Chess broadcast in the decisive moments of the Tournament.
Rumour has it that Agon is planning to sue chess24, chess.com, and ICC, and you can understand why, but I do not think that they are going to be successful. It seems a strange concept that you can purchase the rights to show chess games. After all, anyone present in Moscow could merely tweet the moves to the rest of the world, for example. On the other hand, if we as chess players want there to be more money in chess, it could be necessary for companies like Agon to buy broadcasting rights to increase sponsorship deals, prize money, and so on.
Moving on to the chess, it quickly became apparent that if there was to be an American challenger, it was much more likely to be Caruana, because Nakamura blundered against Karjakin in round two and lost again in round six, this time against Aronian. Meanwhile, Caruana had drawn his first seven games, which left him a point off first place, held by Karjakin, but his rut came to an end when he defeated his nemesis, Nakamura, in round eight.
Meanwhile, Giri had been quietly going about his business, drawing every single game, which was to be expected, some would say! Thus far, Giri’s only eventful game was in round six, where he pressed throughout with Black against Topalov, obtained a big advantage, but could not translate this into a full point. Naturally, then, when the youngest two participants in the Candidates’, and arguably the best-prepared players in the world, play an extremely important game, you know both of them will bring a huge amount of energy to the table!