1. Can Hikaru Nakamura perform in his first Candidates Tournament ever, despite his prominence at the top of the field for several years now?
1a. Can Caruana, who cracked 2700 all the way back in July 2010 and never looked back?
1b. Can Giri, who last slipped under 2700 in 2012 at 19 and helped Anand prepare to fight Topalov two years previously?
These three relative youngsters in comparison to the rest of the field (minus Karjakin, who performed admirably last cycle, only a point behind Anand, who won the tournament and the right to challenge Carlsen) lack experience, and it will be interesting to see how they perform in perhaps the most important tournament of their careers.
2. Can Anand, after a shaky 2015, rebound to win the Candidates, or at least do well? He has been among the world’s elite for many years, Champion and then Challenger for the title in 2014. However, in the last year, his results have been generally poor for his caliber, resulting in his slide from #2 at several points during 2015 to #12 at the time of this writing (March 4, 2016) at a rating which is the lowest since 2003: 2762.
Here is a link to a news story which may help to elaborate further. Do note however, that it is not incredibly recent; it is about three months old: http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/sport/another-loss-and-anand-fails-to-arrest-decline/170228.html
Anand images from https://ratings.fide.com/id.phtml?event=5000017
Only Karjakin at 2760 and Svidler at 2757 are lower-rated among this year’s Candidates. However, Anand is the oldest by six years among the Candidates. Will his experience eventually triumph once more?
3. Will Topalov’s unusual preparation help him? This article: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/feb/12/hikaru-nakamura-candidates-tournament-zurich
elaborates on the topic. Topalov is the only player among those slated to compete who has not competed in a tournament relatively recently. Several competed in Zurich, and others were in the Tradewise Gibraltar Open. This careful, diligent guarding of opening preparation may help him. However, the article also states that he “rates himself as a no-hoper.” So we will see whether this hypothesis is confirmed.
Image from http://www.2700chess.com
The Women’s World Chess Championship has played four games so far, and one has been decisive: Game 2, as shown below and annotated by yours truly.
Hou Yifan–Mariya Muzychuk Women’s World Chess Championship 2016
Hou Yifan, though not the present holder of the Women’s World Championship, is the (recognized by nearly all) strongest active woman chess player. Thus Muzychuk has a tough match ahead of her, and with the match currently standing (3/6/16) at 2.5-1.5, she is already behind. However, the gap in rating between the two is only 104 points currently, 2667-2563, and Mariya’s greater focus on the title (Yifan eschewed her defense in 2015, electing instead to play in Hawaii) may be of use. As with the analysis of the Candidates Tournament, we will have to let the match determine the winner.
The jury deliberated. As they talked, so did Evert and Andrew.
“Michael, they played off every negative stereotype.”
“So they did, Andrew, and I did my best to rebuff them.”
“What about the cash rebuttal? You did prove that I could afford things,” Andrew said, brushing the front of his shirt off and straightening his tie.
“Yes,” Evert said. “Don’t be so nervous.”
The jury walked into the room. The judge asked them for deliberations. After a tense few seconds, the verdict was “Guilty.”
“Two years in juvenile detention,” said the judge, without missing a beat.
“Okay,” said Michael, as Andrew walked away, crying. “We can’t get an appeal,” he shouted. “But I’ll work to help you. I know the rules of chess.” He whispered. “And I’ll play dozens of games.”
Anton Kazuki–Michael Evert Cleveland 2014
(James Marston Craddock–Jacques Mieses London 1939)
Thanks all. Sorry for the hiatus. I’m back now.