Bobby Fischer never achieved 2800, the super-elite rating for the very strongest grandmasters. At his 1972 peak during his match with Boris Spassky at Reykjavik Fischer reached 2785, which reflected his record run of 20 consecutive games won and put him 120 points ahead of Spassky.
Garry Kasparov did pass 2800 and set a record of 2851 but now 2800 is no longer an Everest to conquer. This week the magic figure has been passed twice. Anish Giri did it when the Dutch 20-year-old won his opening round at the Tbilisi Grand Prix, then Hikaru Nakamura hit 2800 at Zurich, the first American to do so.
Giri and Nakamura are only the ninth and 10th to reach the target and the standout figure now is that Magnus Carlsen, the world champion, on 2863, is 50 points clear – not quite Fischer dominance but on the way.
The obvious question is: are all the 10 2800s really superior to the legendary Fischer or is rating inflation a significant part of the answer? Probably they are truly better, though inflation may well exaggerate the margin. Today’s GMs have a huge advantage in that they have easy access to all the games of their predecessors and can prepare for any opponent at the flick of a computer button rather than ploughing through masses of printed material as Fischer’s generation had to. And computers have hugely expanded opening theory so that key lines are analysed to move 20 or 25 or even beyond.
But there is a downside, which also emerged this week. Computer material has to be committed to memory and nowadays there are more elite tournaments where only top stars compete and there are few bunnies. So the dangers are information overload and burnout and that is what happened to Nakamura’s opponent Sergey Karjakin. The Russian, 25, who at 12 was the youngest ever GM, failed to remember the computer analysis when the game reached a wild position where an unlikely sequence would draw by perpetual check.
Two other current burn-out victims are the world No3, Fabiano Caruana, who plays with hardly a break and whose form is now pedestrian compared with St Louis 2014, and Levon Aronian, who used to be No2 but is now in danger of dropping out of the top 10.
Zurich ended in victory for Nakamura, who followed up his win at Gibraltar and beat Anand in a final Armageddon speed tie-breaker.
In this Zurich game, Anand’s 12 Rd1 and 13 Be3 improves on the 12 Bg5 he played against Carlsen in their world title match. Aronian goes for win of a piece, but 19 d7! is fine compensation as Black’s pieces are in a tangle. Caught in a prepared variation, Aronian blundered by Be4? (Nc7) and Bc6? (Ra5) when 21 Rd6! proved crushing as White, who threatens both Rxc6 and Rxg6+, will meet Rb6 by 22 Qd1 Rb6 23 Rxc6! When Anand emerged a piece up, Black resigned.
Vishy Anand v Levon Aronian
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Qb3 dxc4 6 Qxc4 O-O 7 e4 Na6 8 Be2 c5 9 d5 e6 10 O-O exd5 11 exd5 Re8 12 Rd1 Bf5 13 d6 h6 14 Be3 Ng4 15 Bf4 Bxc3 16 bxc3 Re4 17 Qb5 Rxf4 18 Qxb7 Ra4 19 d7 Be4 20 Qb3 Bc6 21 Rd6 Bxd7 22 Rad1 Qb8 23 Rxd7 Qxb3 24 axb3 Ra2 25 Bc4 Rf8 26 R7d6 Kg7 27 Rxa6 Rxf2 28 Re1 1-0
3378 1 Bxf7+! Kxf7 2 Rxd7! and Black resigned in the face of Rxd7 3 Qe6 mate.