By Lubomir Kavalek
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, October 12, 2009; 9:55 AM
Magnus Carlsen will likely remember the Second Pearl Spring double-round elite tournament in Nanjing, China, for the rest of his life. The 18-year-old Norwegian superstar notched the greatest triumph of his young career, winning the event last week and outclassing the opposition. He left his nearest rival, the world’s top-rated grandmaster, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, 2 1/2 points behind. The final standings were: Carlsen 8 points in 10 games, Topalov 5 1/2 points, Wang Yue of China 4 1/2 points; Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan, Peter Leko of Hungary and Dmitry Jakovenko of Russia, each 4 points. Last year, in a similar tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria, winner Vassily Ivanchuk had an identical score to Carlsen’s, but the field was weaker.
Carlsen’s success and the margin of his victory in Nanjing will be compared to other great triumphs, and he still has time to match the best. Alexander Alekhine’s 14-1 score in San Remo in 1930 or his 20 1/2 -5 1/2 tally in Bled in 1931 come quickly to mind. So do Mikhail Tal’s 20-8 win in the 1959 Candidates tournament in Yugoslavia, Anatoly Karpov’s 11-2 triumph in Linares in 1994 and Garry Kasparov’s 12-2 victory in Tilburg in 1989. Of course, Bobby Fischer’s run of 20 consecutive wins against world-class grandmasters in 1970-71 will never be repeated.
On the next FIDE rating list, Carlsen will break the 2800 rating barrier, the youngest player ever to do so. It could have been the motivation for going full-throttle in the last round against Jakovenko even though he had the tournament victory already wrapped up. The Exchange variation of the Queen’s gambit figured prominently in last month’s exhibition match between Carlsen’s coach, Kasparov, and Karpov in Valencia, Spain.