In cricket, 99.94 has been an unattainable batting average since Bradman retired in 1948. In chess, the equivalent high rating has changed several times. Bobby Fischer held the record for over two decades with his 1972 rating of 2785. Kasparov was the first to break the 2800 barrier and in the early 2000s, he set a record of 2851. Carlsen broke that in 2012 and his latest “reset” puts him over 20 points higher at around 2872.
Chess ratings are less intuitive than batting averages and involve much more calculation. There is also statistical inflation involved. In the simplest terms, once you have a pool of high-rated players facing each other, their ratings will all tend to inflate.
Nevertheless, Carlsen is clearly the strongest player of this era and the current top 100 are the strongest cohort of all time. Of course, the best engines are even stronger. Engines matches suggest 3200-odd is the limit now. So there is an upside.
Carlsen’s methods are unusual. He picks his openings to avoid early surprises and plays till bare kings. His endgame technique is truly extraordinary with very few errors. In the sphere of squeezing victory with very little left on board, he has set completely new standards.
The Norwegian’s victory at the Tata Steel with 10 points from 13 games (+7=6) saw him clearly dominate. He was the only unbeaten player, and a comfortable distance ahead of Aronian, who followed with 8.5 from 13. Anand suffered an unfortunate last-round loss to Wang Hao and shared third spot with Karjakin (both 8). The world champion appears to have regained some form. Harikrishna did creditably to score 50 per cent. In Group B, Richard Rapport and Arkady Naiditsch shared first with 9 each while Sabino Brunello won Group C with 11.
The focus shifts to Gibraltar, which has eight 2700 rated players in the very strong open. Gibraltar also has its traditional clutch of strong women players – the tournament has special prizes for women. After four rounds, Eduardo Iturrizaga, Le Quang Liem, Nikita Vitiugov and Dariusz Swiercz led with 4/4. There were 17 players on 3.5 including Ivanchuk and Kamsky.
The diagram (Carlsen Vs Nakamura, Wijk aan Zee 2013) demonstrated Carlsen's brutal efficiency. Black's pieces are dislocated but the finish is severe 22.f6! Bf8. There is no save with 22.-- Bxf6 23. Qf3 Rh4 24. Bg5. Play continued 23.Qf3 Qc7 24.Nb4 Nb7 25.Nc6 Nc5 26.Bf5 Nd7 27.Bg5 Rg8 28.Qh5 Nb6 29.Be6! This crushes all resistance. Naka tried the desperate 29. – Rxg5 30.Qxg5 fxe6 31.dxe6 (1–0). The pawns will deliver mate or win catastrophic material.
Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player