All Tied After 13 Rounds
With Round 13 complete, Caruana and Karjakin are both at 7.5 points. Although Caruana holds a slim advantage in the SB tiebreak, Karjakin has more wins in the tournament (3 wins to Caruana’s 2 wins), which is more important. Bottom line is that Caruana will basically have to beat Karjakin in their direct encounter in Round 14 if he wants to secure a chance at the world championship title later this year against Carlsen. Karjakin will have the White pieces in the Round 14 matchup.
Note: Update at the bottom of this post.
Can Caruana Beat Karjakin?
The ChessGames.com database shows 12 games between Karjakin and Caruana where Karjakin has the White pieces. Eight of those games were draws, but Caruana has actually won 3 times as Black! Karjakin has won 1o of the games. What’s more–Karjakin’s lone win came back in 2010, whereas Caruana’s wins were in 2012, 2014, and 2015.
If we forget the color of the pieces and just look at all games, Caruana has a 4-1-19 lifetime record against Karjakin in classical time controls (keep in mind that this is just from the free online Chess Games database, so this might not be complete).
Those stats suggest that Caruana has reasonable winning chances in the final round, even as Black.
However, we have to keep in mind that Caruana has left several wins on the board during the tournament. Had he converted even one of those positions, he probably would have secured the tournament by this point. If he does manage to get a winning position tomorrow against Karjakin, the question will be, can he win the won game?
Related: Caruana comments on his missed win today after Svidler blundered in the endgame:
It’s unclear to me if anyone else can mathematically win tomorrow. However, I don’t believe that Karjakin can’t just relax and play for a draw. If Anand were to win his match, that would put the former world champ at 8.0. And if Caruana and Karjakin draw, that would lead to a three-way tie for first. So, in that situation, it would seem to depend on how we are to interpret Regulations 3.7a and 3.7b.
As a reminder, Regulation 3.7a states,
If the top two or more players score the same points, the tie will be decided by the following criteria, in order of priority:
a) The results of the games between the players involved in the tie.
That is, if all three players are tied for first, the first tiebreaker would be head-to-head matchups. Does that mean they will do a three-way table of the games and decide it that way? If so, it seems like, with an Anand win and a Karjakin-Caruana draw, the head-to-head (direct encounter) games would give both Caruana and Anand 2.5 points to Karjakin’s 2.0 points (see table below).
So, in the case of the table above (Anand win in Rd 14 and Karjakin-Caruana draw), it looks like Caruana would win the tournament. We’ll have to wait for FIDE to clarify this for sure though, as the tiebreak regulations seem a bit fuzzy to me.
It seems that the arbiter has clarified this issue. According to some tweets by ChessVibe, it looks like, if Anand wins and Karjakin-Caruana draw, then Caruana would win (make sure to read the correction tweet below):
Arbiter: “In case Anand, Caruana and Karjakin tie for first, Anand drops (worse TB vs Caruana), so Karjakin wins (more wins vs Caruana).”
— ChessVibes (@ChessVibes) March 27, 2016
CORRECTION. If Anand wins & joins Caruana and Karjakin (if they draw), Caruana wins the tournament. https://t.co/ivIY6nHzNH
— ChessVibes (@ChessVibes) March 27, 2016
I imagine that by “lost in translation” he means that he was tweeting based off what he heard in the Round 13 postround press conference and misunderstood what the arbiter said. In any case though, this lends support to the idea that an Anand win in Rd 14 (which would not contribute to his head-to-head points in the table above) and a Karjakin-Caruana draw would lead to Caruana winning the tournament.
Note: I originally had this incorrect myself, as I was calculating the three-way tie, head-to-head results with Anand having 2.5 points, but if he wins Round 14 against Svidler, of course that would not count toward the table’s results. I was corrected by ChessVibes and updated the post accordingly.
Will Anand Fight for a Win?
Regardless of how the tiebreak would be decided, we should also ask ourselves whether Anand is really going to fight for a win this round. We first should remember that Anand is playing with the Black pieces, and, although he has done well against Svidler in the past, he is still playing Black (as is Caruana in the final round). Additionally, I don’t know how much Anand will fight to win against Svidler. Of course, both players will try to win from the start of the game. But if they come to a position that is drawish but perhaps a bit complicated, neither player will really want to lose and they don’t have much reason to fight except if one player feels significantly better than the other player in the position. They could easily just agree to a draw in many situations.
Bottom Line for Round 14
- Whoever wins the Caruana-Karjakin match in Round 14 will win the tournament.
- If Caruana-Karjakin is a draw, then an Anand win against Svidler gives Caruana the tournament, whereas an Anand loss or draw gives Karjakin the tournmanet.
Should the 2016 Candidates Tournament Tiebreak Rules Be Changed?
The tiebreak regulations are fair in the sense that they were available to all players at the start of the tournament. However, I don’t think many fans are too excited about deciding the tournament this way. At least, most people on Twitter, Reddit, and other social media sites seem to be complaining about the rules. It is, after all, the second most important tournament in chess, behind only the world championship match, so using tiebreakers feels a bit anticlimactic.
In the case of a three-way tie, I think they should take the top two players based on their SB scores and have them battle it out in a short blitz match, perhaps first player to 3 points. I’d prefer to see 5| rather than the official blitz time control of 3|2 because the quality of play is much better in 5|2, but I imagine they’d opt for the latter. In any case, regardless of how they chose to do it, some head-to-head live blitz play would be much more interesting than settling things with a tiebreaker. On the other hand, the advantage of the tiebreak system is that they are genuinely giving the tournament to the person who played the strongest within the 14 rounds of regulation play.