The first round of Norway Chess 2015 came to a stunning conclusion. With three decisive games already in the books, only world champion Magnus Carlsen was left pressing for the fourth white win of the day against Veselin Topalov. Commentators agreed that the position appeared to be a dead draw, but Carlsen is famous for pressing apparently stale positions and wringing unexpected extra half points from them. Today appeared to be no exception. Topalov erred, and suddenly the computer evaluations spiked into the double digits, showing that Carlsen had achieved a clearly winning position. The champion made his 60th move and the computer read “+91.70”, completely winning. And then… his time expired.
Carlsen had misunderstood the time control, and mistakenly believed he would get additional time added to his clock at move 60, and so failed to convert his advantage. When he allowed his clock to tick down, not only did the win slip away from him, but so did the draw. For in chess, when your clock reads zero, you lose; regardless of the position on the board.
Topalov, beneficiary of the shocking result, perhaps responded best when, as reported by Tarjei Svensen, he said “I feel sorry for him, but what can I do.”
Now Topalov suddenly finds himself tied for first place, a full point ahead of Carlsen, and with an easier path than any of his rivals on 1/1 (as the rest of them all must still play games against Magnus). In other words, Topalov is now the favorite:
|Player||Pre-Event Odds||Odds After Rd 1|
|Jon Ludvig Hammer||0.2%||0.1%|
It isn’t impossible for Carlsen to rebound from this, but his chances of victory dropped 26 percentage points on the results of this round (where had he won this game, his odds of victory would instead have risen to around 56%). Meanwhile Topalov’s odds shot upward and he takes over as the favorite for now. Also gaining significant equity in a potential victory were Nakamura (up to 17.5% from 10.6%), Giri (up to 14.5% from 6.2%), and MVL (up to 4.6% from 1.5%), the other three victors of today’s decisive games.
But there is more at stake than just the title in Norway. This is the first leg of the three-event Grand Chess Tour, and odds shifted there as well:
|Player||Pre-Norway||After Rd 1|
Three full tournaments gives Carlsen a much more forgiving time frame in which to try to recover from today’s blow than does a single event, so the damage here wasn’t quite as severe, but the world champion is no longer favored over the entire field combined. The eight players not named Magnus now have a combined 50.5% chance of winning the combined Tour title, up from just 31.9% before play began in Norway. That being said, Carlsen remains the most likely winner by a large margin – no individual player comes close to matching his chances at this point. For the record, if Magnus had won today he’d be up to roughly a 76% chance of here, instead of being down to 49%.
Tomorrow sees Carlsen try to bounce back with the black pieces against Fabiano Caruana, who dropped today to #3 in the world by live ratings. Not exactly the easiest spot to stage a recovery – black against an opponent rated above 2800 -although in this field easy spots are few and far between.
New favorite Topalov at least gets the white pieces, but must face fellow co-leader Hikaru Nakamura – the player who passed Caruana today and is now #2 in the world. The fourth player tied for first is Anish Giri, who also gets the white pieces, but must also face an opponent rated over 2800 – Viswanathan Anand. Again, in this field easy games are few and far between.
Put another way, the six highest rated players in the world are all facing each other! And the “underdog” in each game has the white pieces, perhaps balancing the matchups further!
#3 Caruana vs. #1 Carlsen
#4 Topalov vs. #2 Nakamura
#6 Giri vs. #5 Anand
What battles and drama will these epic round 2 clashes bring us? What new twists and turns will we see in the odds? We’ll find out in 14 hours!