18 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, the Edge

A few months ago, in The Carlsen Saga, I left unanswered The Carlsen Question, 'What makes him so good?'. If you've been paying attention to his World Championship match with Anand, one answer has been repeated over and over by the commentators: 'He's in good physical shape and he wears his opponents down in the endgame'.

That's an easy hypothesis to test; just look at his results in games at standard time control and see how they compare to his opponents' efforts. Since I already had reliable data in Anand's TMER and Carlsen's TMER (*), I decided to compare his results for this year against Anand's.

It turns out that the two antagonists played together in three tournaments in 2013. Those events are listed in the following chart along with their results, Carlsen on the first line for each event, Anand on the second. For example, in Wijk aan Zee, Carlsen finished first with a +7-0=6 score, while Anand finished third with +4-1=8. Both players finished lower in the two other events, Carlsen finishing higher than Anand each time.

The bottom of the chart shows the number of moves they made in the three events. Each player contested 31 games. Carlsen made an average of 48.7 moves per game, while Anand made 39.6. In other words, Carlsen's games were almost 25% longer than Anand's.

I wouldn't say that this little test is absolutely conclusive, but it does confirm what the pundits are saying. Carlsen plays longer games than his opponents.

(*) TMER = Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record

No comments: