The World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Doha were the last elite event of the last year and the whole buzz around them was Carlsen’s “failure.” Now, finishing on the podium both times (sharing first on both occasions) can hardly be considered a failure; it shows Carlsen’s consistency – no other player came close to that. But the public’s view of his results as a failure shows the incredibly high expectations Carlsen has set for himself after his countless triumphs. The public expects him to win everything everywhere. And from his reactions at the closing ceremonies he seems to expect the same of himself. I don’t know if this pressure helps him or not. The public will continue to relentlessly ask for wins, wins and more wins from him, but a more objective view shows that the secret to Carlsen’s wins lies in his consistency. No other player comes close to his level of consistency, that is why Carlsen is the leader in all the rating lists – classical, rapid and blitz. So his second place in the blitz and third in the rapid is just a confirmation of his superiority even though he didn’t win outright.
Next on the calendar is the Tata Steel in Wijk aan Zee. The rise of So and the presence of both Karjakin (who I expect will draw a lot again) and Carlsen, coupled with the fresh blood of Nepomniachtchi, Andreikin, Wei Yi and Rapport, plus the eternal van Wely, promise an exciting viewing. I will be watching closely, even though the first two rounds coincide with my own playing schedule at the 4NCL.
The new year is already under way. I hope it’s much better than the previous one, which turned out to be very difficult for me, especially its second part. I have always been optimistic and, curiously enough, the harder the situation, the more optimistic I have been. As they say, what hurts you today, makes you stronger tomorrow.