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    Tuesday
    Jan172017

    Hans Berliner, 1929-2017

    Former Correspondence World Champion, over-the-board International Master, and computer chess programming legend Hans Berliner died this past Friday, January 13, at the age of 87, two weeks short of his 88th birthday. He was an impressive figure whose work as a chess programmer indirectly affects almost all of us today.

    Do check out the link above for an overview of his many successes in and contributions to the royal game. Berliner wrote a book a couple of decades ago called The System. There are some interesting bits in the book, but overall it's a bit nuts. It is interesting that as a programmer he realized the impossibility of "teaching" the program to play by logic rather than brute force, but then thought that a relatively simple algorithm was the Rosetta Stone to playing the opening better than even world champions.

    Sunday
    Jan152017

    Wijk aan Zee 2017, Round 1: Eljanov the Sole Winner in the Masters Event

    The battle between the top two seeds in the Tata Steel Masters was a bit of a dud, as Wesley So and Magnus Carlsen finished in a short, peaceful draw, as did several other games in the round. And six of the seven games finished with shared honors (or dishonor, depending on the degree of one's antipathy towards draws), with the only decisive result occurring in the Pavel Eljanov vs. Richard Rapport game. Rapport played a slightly oddball opening line and had Black against a higher-rated, more experienced opponent, but it turns out that the opening wasn't to blame. Rapport was fine after the opening and even had a chance to be better. His 15th move was a critical error, and his inaccuracy on move 18 left him with a very unpleasant position. Eljanov soon obtained a dream position where Black had plenty of weaknesses and no counterplay, and confidently brought home the point.

    Here are the round 2 pairings:

    • Aronian (.5) - Wei Yi (.5)
    • Nepomniachtchi (.5) - Andreikin (.5)
    • Carlsen (.5) - Wojtaszek (.5)
    • Giri (.5) - So (.5)
    • Rapport (0) - Karjakin (.5)
    • van Wely (.5) - Eljanov (1)
    • Harikrishna (.5) - Adhiban (.5)

    In the Challengers tournament the battle between #1 and #2 took a different turn. Markus Ragger obtained a serious advantage in the early middlegame, and although an error later gave Jeffery Xiong an opportunity to scrape out with a draw Ragger was the deserved victor when Xiong missed his chance. There were two other decisive games in this section: Jorden Van Foreest beat Erwin L'Ami, while Benjamin bok defeated Tingjie Lei.

    I've annotated the Eljanov-Rapport and Ragger-Xiong games, which you can replay here.

    Saturday
    Jan142017

    Wijk aan Zee 2017 Starts Today!

    The Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee begins today (Saturday), about four and a half hours from the time of this post, and stars some of the world's top stars in a 14-player round robin. This includes World Champion Magnus Carlsen, his challenger Sergey Karjakin, and 2016 player of the year Wesley So. Here are the first round pairings:

    • Pentala Harikrishna (2766) - Levon Aronian (2780)
    • Baskaran Adhiban (2653) - Loek van Wely (2695)
    • Pavel Eljanov (2755) - Richard Rapport (2702)
    • Sergey Karjakin (2785) - Anish Giri (2773)
    • Wesley So (2808) - Magnus Carlsen (2840)
    • Radoslaw Wojtaszek (2750) - Ian Nepomniachtchi (2767)
    • Dmitry Andreikin (2736) - Wei Yi (2706)

    Predictions? I'll be patriotic and claim that So will win the tournament.

    Technically, the foregoing is the Masters tournament; there's also a concurrent 14-player Challengers event, the winner of which qualifes for the 2018 Masters tournament. The favorites in this round-robin are Markus Ragger (2697), Jeffery Xiong (still just 16 years old) and Ilia Smirin (both rated 2667), and Gawain Jones (2665). Ragger has White against Xiong in round 1, so both events have #1 facing #2 to start the tournament.

    Saturday
    Jan142017

    The Best World Champion, According to the Computer, Is...

    Magnus Carlsen, according to Chess.com's "CAPS" (Computer Aggregated Precision Score), with Vladimir Kramnik #2, Garry Kasparov #3, Bobby Fischer #4, and on it goes. It's a bit interesting, but the concept seems rather a lot like IM and computer science professor Ken Regan's Intrinsic Performance Ratings (IPRs), which have been well-known for years now - see this profile, for instance. (I didn't see any mention of him or his work either in that article or in this one, which is really surprising.)

    Saturday
    Jan142017

    ChessBase's 2016 Player of the Year: Wesley So

    Wesley So gets ChessBase's vote for player of the year, an achievement I'd concur with as well. Still, Magnus Carlsen had a lot of success last in 2016 too, even if it wasn't a banner year by his lofty standards. Interestingly, in the ChessBase piece Carlsen gets kudos for the game of the year, the endgame of the year, and the move of the year. Not bad at all!

    Saturday
    Jan142017

    This Week's World Chess Column: Playing on the "Wrong" Side of the Board

    In the Carlsbad structure the side missing the e-pawn (Black in an official Carlsbad, but the structure can arise so that White is missing the e-pawn) often aims for kingside play while the opponent goes for queenside play (e.g. with the minority attack); often, but not always. In my World Chess column this week I show several examples illustrating the usual scenarios before showing a case where the script is flipped. It's good to know the "rules", and it's almost as important to realize that the rules are just rules of thumb.

    Tuesday
    Jan102017

    A New Rating System

    Sponsored by the Grand Chess Tour, the Kasparov Chess Foundation, and Chess Club and the Scholastic Center of Saint Louis; and devised by Mr. Maxime Rischard, Dr. J. Isaac Miller, Dr. Mark Glickman, and Mr. Jeff Sonas, the brand new Universal Rating System is now up and running.

    It's probably not a coincidence that the sponsors aren't overwhelmingly enamored by FIDE. In fact, this is at least the second time Garry Kasparov has tried introducing an alternative rating list in competition with FIDE's. This doesn't mean that it's not better than the FIDE rating formulas - I'll leave an assessment of that to the experts. But it's pretty easy to be skeptical about whether it will have any effect in the chess world. Time will tell.

    Meanwhile, if you're curious about it, the FAQs are here and the list of top players is here.

    Tuesday
    Jan102017

    Fascinating and Quirky: Chess in Ströbeck

    This is the first I've heard of this, or anything like this. (HT: Marc Beishon)

    Readers?

    Tuesday
    Jan102017

    An Interesting Article on Pascal

    This article on Blaise Pascal was written back in 1999, but just came to my attention in the last day or two. It does a nice job of situating Pascal in his time and summarizes a fair amount of what's in the Pensées, so think of this as a sort of supplement to the post a week or two ago about his Wager. If you were interested in that post, you might like the article; if not, then probably not. (If you're in the latter group, remember there weren't any posts about Notre Dame football this past fall, so you're still ahead for 2016-7.)

    Tuesday
    Jan102017

    William Lombardy Benefit

    William Lombardy is an American GM, best known nowadays as Bobby Fischer's second in the latter's 1972 World Championship match with Boris Spassky. Lombardy was a terrific player in his own right, and among his achievements he can count his victory in the 1957 World Junior Championship, achieved with a Fischer-like 11-0 whitewash of the field.

    In recent years he has not been doing especially well, but it looks like some good things are happening to and for him now. A little more about that, and about how you might even help if you'll be in the Chicago area a week from this coming Saturday (January 21), here. (I'm assuming the benefit is on his behalf; the announcement is less than clear on this.)