Why I Should Not Make Predictions

by admin on September 16, 2015

If I had been alive at the right time, I would undoubtedly have predicted Napoleon to win the Battle of Waterloo. Robert E. Lee to win at Gettysburg. Edison’s direct current to win over Tesla’s alternating current. The dinosaurs to prevail over the meteorite.

In a similar vein, before the World Cup I predicted Levon Aronian would take first place. Six days and two rounds into the tournament, he is out, having been shown the exit by Ukraine’s Alexander Areshchenko. That upset was the most shocking result in a round that was otherwise rather lacking in major surprises. In fact, on the surface I seemed to predict the second round extremely well, because I mostly chose the favorites. In 32 matches, the higher seed won 25 and there were 7 upsets. My record was 26 correct predictions and 6 mistakes.

Usually I would be pretty happy about predicting better than the seeding system. I predicted four upset winners correctly (Lu Shanglei, Anton Kovalyov, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Le Quang Liem. However, that positive result is completely overshadowed by the negative result of having my winner eliminated.

Soothsayer. Caesar! Beware the 12th of March! Your mother-in-law will come for a visit! The 13th of March will be rainy. On the 14th of March you will have a headache. The Ides of March look very propitious, rather a good day for a stroll.

Caesar (to Brutus). You know, this guy is really good. He gets about 26 out of every 32 predictions right.

So, anyway, there will be no more talk of predictions here.

I’ll be interested to go over the first playoff game between Areschenko and Aronian, where Areshchenko nursed a rook pawn through to victory in a K+N+RP vs. K+N endgame. I’m impressed that Areshchenko was able to do this while playing on the 30-second time increment. From the strategic point of view this endgame appears simple, but from the tactical point of view it is endlessly complicated. You’ve got to be constantly watching out for fork tricks and trying to set up zugzwangs. Great patience and great technical proficiency by Areshchenko.

Probably the two most exciting playoff matches were Wei Yi against Yuri Vovk and Michael Adams against Victor Laznicka, both won by the higher-rated player but with great difficulty. Both Wei and Adams faced win-or-go-home situations, and the commentators said that Laznicka was at one point one move from winning. (I wasn’t watching at that moment.) Only two of the nine games between Laznicka and Adams were draws! Ironically, the two drawn games were the 5-minute games. The slow games, 25-minute games, and 10-minute games were all victories for one or the other. Finally, Adams won as White in the Armageddon game to move on to round three.

So, what can we look forward to in round three? Remember, I’m not going to make any more predictions. The match I look forward to the most is #1 Topalov against #97 Lu Shanglei. I want to see if the prodigy can put a scare into the highest seeded player. #16 Svidler against #17 Radjabov is on paper the closest match. We also have two upset winners (Guseinov and Areschchenko) against two of the strongest Chinese players (Ding Liren and Wei Yi).

On the American side, we are down to our three heavyweights: #2 Nakamura, #3 Caruana, and #5 So. Caruana and So have been completely dominating so far (So is one of two players to go 4-0 in the first two rounds), and Caruana gets a little bit of a gift because he faces #94 Anton Kovalyov.

Eljanov versus Grischuk looks like unstoppable force versus immovable object. In his first two matchs, Grischuk drew the first six games and then the first five games. On the other hand, Eljanov is the only player besides So who has a 4-0 record so far. Will Eljanov continue winning all of his games, or will Grischuk continue to play draws?

Finally, the players who should be seriously worried about their futures, because I predicted them to reach the Final Four along with Akobian, are Vachier-Lagrave, Dominguez, and Kramnik. Beware the Ides of March, fellas!

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Dan Schmidt September 16, 2015 at 10:54 am

If you are a fan of knight-and-pawn endgames played perfectly on the increment, also check out the second Tomashevsky-Nguyen rapid game (the fourth game of the match). Sutovsky, commentating, was convinced it was a win for ages, but Nguyen played tablebase-perfectly to hold and force blitz games.


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