Magnus Carlsen took his third Chess Oscar in a row. The Oscar was instituted as an annual award in 1967 for the player of the year. It is voted by a large jury of player and an accurate barometer of respect. Carlsen, Korchnoi and Bent Larsen, are the only non-world champions among the winners.
However, impressive as Carlsen's feat may be, it is nowhere near a record. The Super Ks and Fischer had long periods of dominance. Karpov won five times from 1973-1977 and thrice between 1979-81. Fischer did the hat-trick in 1970-72 and Kasparov took it four times (1985-88). Kasparov won it 11 times in all, Karpov 9 times and Anand has 6. Other winners include Spassky, Kramnik and Topalov.
Incidentally, the 61-year-old Karpov remains a formidable rapid and blitz player. He recently won the Cap D'Agde Rapid in France, topping a double round-robin to qualify for a knockout where he beat Romain Edouard and Ivanchuk. In a marathon final, Karpov and Ivanchuk traded wins at rapids and then, Karpov won a set of six blitz games, 3.5-2.5.
Ivanchuk is playing at the King's Tournament in Bucharest. This is a sadly truncated Grand Prix – it was postponed and Carlsen and Anand dropped out. It's a double-round-robin with Caruana top seeded ahead of Ivanchuk, Topalov, and Nisipeanu. After the opening round, Ivanchuk leads with a win against the latter, while Caruana found a fantastic defence to hold Topalov.
The Diagram, BLACK TO PLAY, (Topalov Vs Caruana Kings, Bucharest 2012) is very obscure. White’s better due to his strong pawn centre, despite king exposure. Black’s king is also unsafe since 25.--Kh7 26. h5! and 25.--Qf7 26. f5 are both terrible.
Caruana finds the only practical defence 25...Nd1! 26.e5! Qf5 27.Qxf5 gxf5 28.Rg6. This is natural but the computer says 28. h5 is stronger, nailing down g6 and holding e3 28...Nce3+ 29.Kg1 c5 30.Ng3 Kf7 31.Ra6 Bf8! An inspired defence leading to 32. Rxa7+ Be7 33.Nxd1 Rxd1+ 34.Kf2 Ng4+ 35.Ke2 Rxc1 36.Nxf5 Ke6 37.Nxe7 h5!
Amazing but it’s equal. White’s material is balanced by the c-passer and the Kt+R battery. Topalov continued 38.Nc8 c4? Black missed 38. ... Rc2+ drawing easily after 39. Kd3 Rxg2 or 39. Ke1 Ne3. 39.Nd6? The clever 39.Ra6+ Kd5 40.Rd6+ Kc5 41.Ne7! c3 keeps some pressure though the c-pawn may still draw. 39...Rc2+! 40.Kf3 Rc3+ 41.Ke4 Re3+ 42.Kd4 Rd3+ 43.Kc5 c3 44.Rc7 c2 45.Kxb5 Ne3
Now White must act before Rd1 and he played 46.f5+ Kxe5 47.Nc4+ Nxc4 48.Rxc4 Rd5+ 49.Kc6 Rd6+ 50.Kc7 Rd2 51.a4 Rd4 52.Rc5+ Kf6 53.a5 Rd5! 54.Rc6+ Kxf5 55.a6 Ra5 56.Kb6 Ra2 57.a7 Rb2+ 58.Kc7 Ra2 59.Kb7 Rb2+ 60.Kc7 (½–½).
Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player
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