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    Friday
    May292015

    Bobby Fischer Movie Trailer

    Here's a fresh take on Bobby Fischer and chess in general: it makes one craaaaaaaazy! Hollywood is nothing if not creative, fair and nuanced. (It also makes total sense to have the allegedly 5'9" Toby Maguire play the 6'2" Fischer.) The sad thing is that we'll all probably see the movie.

    More here.

    Friday
    May292015

    A New Cheating Scandal

    But the scandal isn't the cheating, it's the witch hunt. A relatively low-rated player had a great score early in the European Women's Championship, so "obviously" she was cheating. The games themselves don't seem to bear this out, however, so all the protests seem to have done is dragged an apparently innocent player's name through the mud and helped ruin the second half of her tournament. More here.

    Wednesday
    May272015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, The End: Caruana, Nakamura and Jakovenko Tie For First, and the First Two Are Now Candidates

    Five of the six games were drawn today, with only Peter Svidler managing a win (against Baadur Jobava). As a result, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Dmitry Jakovenko tied for first in the Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix tournament. More importantly, Caruana and Nakamura finished 1-2 in the overall Grand Prix standings, and thereby qualified for next year's Candidates' event.

    (Viswanathan Anand had already qualified by virtue of his loss in the last world championship match, while the other five candidates have yet to be determined. Two will qualify from the World Cup [starting September 10], two will qualify by rating, and one will qualify on whatever basis the organizers see fit. Hopefully it will go to the person who was closest overall to qualifying in one of the other ways, but there's a non-trivial chance that it will go to the strongest available representative of the host country.)

    As for the final round action, two games were crucial: Anish Giri vs. Caruana and Nakamura vs. Jakovenko. Caruana had a small disadvantage in the middlegame, but it disappeared when Giri went for the ebullient plan of g4-g5. Caruana was soon better, and it was only the sufficiency of taking a draw that prevented him from making Giri suffer for several hours. Meanwhile, Jakovenko needed a win to take sole first and to qualify for the Candidates' rather than his opponent. He managed to get a very small advantage, but it never became anything tangible. Whatever small chances he had departed with the last set of rooks, as 26...Rxf2 led to a queen ending where both sides' pawns started disappearing in a hurry. With the draw Jakovenko concluded an outstanding result, but it wasn't quite good enough.

    Tuesday
    May262015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, Round 10: Four Players Still Fighting For Two Candidates' Slots

    After drawing their game - a real game, too - Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura are still heavy favorites to go 1-2 in the overall Grand Prix standings and thereby qualify for next year's Candidates' event. Caruana probably would have sewed up his qualification had he won, and he was better, but even now his odds are allegedly 92.6%. Not bad, and Nakamura supposedly has an 87.6% chance to qualify.

    So who might upset the apple cart? The prime candidate (no pun intended) is Dmitry Jakovenko, whose victory over Sergey Karjakin put him into a tie for first. Jakovenko will have Black against Nakamura in the last round, and he has two ways to get in. The simplest is by beating Nakamura, but if he draws and Caruana loses he has a 2/3 chance of making it. All Caruana needs is a draw (with Black) against Anish Giri to qualify, and Nakamura will qualify with a draw unless Caruana beats Giri, Boris Gelfand beats Karjakin, Leinier Dominguez beats Alexander Grischuk and Evgeny Tomashevsky beats Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. If all that happens, Tomashevsky will qualify.

    So that's what we have to look forward to. The only other thing I'll mention about round 10 is that Baadur Jobava beat Leinier Dominguez, which was a big blow to the Cuban as he had been tied for first and still had his own hopes of qualifying for the Candidates'. The other games were drawn, and here are the full last round pairings, with player scores in parentheses:

    • Karjakin (5) - Gelfand (5.5)
    • Nakamura (6) - Jakovenko (6)
    • Giri (5) - Caruana (6)
    • Dominguez (5.5) - Grischuk (5)
    • Svidler (4.5) - Jobava (4)
    • Tomashevsky (4.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3)

    Tournament site here.

    Monday
    May252015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, Round 9: Draws at the Top

    There were no changes for the top six players (by place, not rating) in round 9 of the Grand Prix finale in Khanty-Mansiysk. There almost were, but it didn't happen.

    The most amazing save happened in the game between Dmitry Jakovenko and Boris Gelfand. Gelfand was very well-prepared with Black in a Najdorf Sicilian, rattled out his first 23 moves, and had he played 24...Qd7 it would have repeated the position and the game would have ended two moves later. That was the move he prepared, but suddenly he got a brainstorm. He thought for half an hour and played 24...Nd7, incredibly overlooking Jakovenko's very next move! (This is Gelfand's own admission.) Just like that he was lost (and out half an hour to boot), and while he put up a good fight he remained completely lost (excepting a couple of brief, missed semi-reprieves when he could have been just much worse) for the next 23 moves. The last trick was 48...g4, when Jakovenko would win fairly easily with 49.Ke3 or 49.Kg3. Instead, he took the pawn, which was a blunder. He was cognizant of stalemating motifs but thought he could simply refrain from capturing Black's knight. He had missed 50...Nd5+, when not taking allows a perpetual (unless he wants to lose his queen), while taking (the path chosen in the game) allows the stalemate or a repetition. Jakovenko was understandably unhappy, but errare humanum est!

    Fabiano Caruana also missed a winning chance today, albeit one which was far less ripe for the taking than Jakovenko's. Caruana played brilliantly in a drawn bishop ending against Sergey Karjakin and somehow managed to convert it into a queen ending that was a tablebase win. Tablebases are wonderful tools, but (thankfully) most players lack access to their outputs during a tournament. Maybe Caruana could have pushed Karjakin harder than he did, but it isn't really appropriate to blame him for failing to win that ending.

    Caruana remains in first (half a point of the other three players just mentioned) and tied with Hikaru Nakamura and Leinier Dominguez. Nakamura had White against Alexander Grischuk and did not miss any wins. Grischuk held relatively comfortably with Black in a Gruenfeld, and they called it a day after just 31 moves. Dominguez's game with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was also short - a draw by repetition in just 28 moves - but it was a bit mysterious as Dominguez seemed to have the advantage. Dominguez was apparently more concerned about his pawn deficit than about Black's pinned knights, and decided to call it a day.

    Those were the draws du jour; there were also two victories. The long-suffering Evgeny Tomashevsky finally avoided a long and heart-breaking game, managing to defeat Peter Svidler on the black side of an Anti-Marshall. Svidler should have played his 23rd and 24th moves in the reverse order (i.e. 23.d4 Nd3 24.Bxc4), with equal chances; his version left him in a difficult spot and Tomashevsky never let him escape (though he did miss an easier win with 39...Rbb2). The other victory was a miniature, with Anish Giri beating Baadur Jobava in just 25 moves. (I didn't see the press conference, so someone will have to tell me if there were any fireworks off the board.)

    Here are the pairings for round 10:

    • Gelfand (5) - Tomashevsky (4)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) - Svidler (4)
    • Jobava (3) - Dominguez (5.5)
    • Grischuk (4.5) - Giri (4.5)
    • Caruana (5.5) - Nakamura (5.5)
    • Jakovenko (5) - Karjakin (5)

    Will there be a real game between Caruana and Nakamura, or will they try to coast in to qualification?

    Saturday
    May232015

    Carlsen Gives a Blindfold Clock Simul

    It's more show than chess, or for those who already find chess a trivial activity this is triviality squared. But if you're pining for something new in chess before the Grand Prix resumes on Sunday, here you go:

    HT: David McCarthy

    Friday
    May222015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, Round 8: Three Lead

    As the rounds go on the players get more tired, and as they get more tired the blunders start to accumulate. There were four decisive games in Khanty-Mansiysk today, and in at least three of them the errors were more unforced than forced.

    Fabiano Caruana started the round in clear first and had White against Dmitry Jakovenko, and things were proceeding smoothly. Jakovenko sacrificed a pawn to make things messy, but it really looked like a two-result game: either Caruana would grind out a victory, or Black would draw either by having enough counterplay to keep White from doing what he wanted or by reaching a drawn opposite-colored bishop ending. After a while it looked more like the latter than the former, but a Black win was out of the question until Caruana's 36.Qb3??, overlooking or underestimating 36...c4. (The problem is that 37.dxc4 Qa5 wins a piece.) Black went from being a pawn down to a monster pawn up, and when White decided to avoid the queen ending with 41.Rf2? Black was on his way to delivering mate.

    Fortunately for Caruana, he's still in a first place tie. (Jakovenko, surprisingly, is just a half a point behind.) With a win either Leinier Dominguez or Sergey Karjakin could have leapfrogged into first, but neither did. Dominguez was worse forever against Evgeny Tomashevsky, but defended pretty much perfectly and drew in 101 moves. He is thus tied for first. As for Karjakin, he lost to Alexander Grischuk, and in one move. He had come under some pressure near the end of the time control, but after Grischuk's 39.Qe8+ the position would be about equal after 39...Kh6. Instead, Karjakin played 39...Nf7??, still with several minutes on the clock, and resigned after 40.Qg8.

    The third member of the leading triumvirate is Hikaru Nakamura. His opponent was Baadur Jobava, so you know it must have been an exciting game. Jobava flung his kingside pawns in the opening, but something went wrong and Nakamura was soon better - much better. He was well on his way to a pretty straightforward victory until he played 44...exf5; either 44...gxf5 or especially 44...dxe4 gxf5 would have made his life much simpler. The point is that Nakamura wound up with a group of pawns around his king that constituted a sort of do-it-yourself mating net, and while there were other improvements available to Nakamura later on Jobava had loads of counterplay based on Black's terrible king.

    A key moment came on move 67, when Jobava played 67.Ke7. Given his intention to play Nxg6 next, he should have played 67.Kd5 instead, when the same continuation as in the game would lead to a draw: 67.Kd5 Kg8 68.Nxg6 Rxg6 69.Rxh5 Rg4 70.Ke6! g6 71.Rh1! Kg7 72.Ke5! Ra4 73.Rh2 etc., and when Black plays ...g5 White plays Kf5, and then it's trivial. In the 67.Ke7(?) version, the sac failed, as there was no way to get the king back or to create a sort of mutual standoff where Black must let the king back in order to make progress. Maybe White could have held if he hadn't played 68.Nxg6 - I'll leave that to you guys to work out.

    The final winner of the day was Boris Gelfand, whose win over Peter Svidler was his first win of the tournament - and despite that he's just half a point out of first. This was one of those games where the evaluation moved in waves: equal at the start of the game, then White (Gelfand) was much better (maybe winning), then Black got back to equal, then White was better again, then equal, then White was better...and the third time, Svidler couldn't get back on the wave and he - or rather, his position - went under.

    The last game of the day was an uneventful draw between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri. For Vachier-Lagrave, it was enough to break a four-game losing streak, while Giri was probably tired from yesterday's marathon with Tomashevsky and reasonably happy to get an easy draw with Black going into the rest day. When the players resume battle on Sunday, these will be the pairings:

    • Jakovenko (4.5) - Gelfand (4.5)
    • Karjakin (4.5) - Caruana (5)
    • Nakamura (5) - Grischuk (4)
    • Giri (3.5) - Jobava (3)
    • Dominguez (5) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)
    • Svidler (4) - Tomashevsky (3)

    Friday
    May222015

    Wei Yi, Wen Yang Leading Chinese Championship

    After four rounds of 11, the prodigy Wei Yi co-leads the Chinese Championship with 3.5/4, along with Wen Yang. Maybe not quite every top player is participating, but most are: Wei Yi, Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi and Wang Hao are all participating, but it's the 15-year-old who is shining most brightly among the 2700+ level participants. Amazingly, Wei Yi is now 27th in the world, and has passed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on the live list, one spot below Vasil Ivanchuk.

    We'll see how he finishes, but he has been impressive so far - see for instance his 4th round victory over Ding Liren. (HT: David McCarthy.) Look out chess world!

    Friday
    May222015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, Round 7: Caruana Still Leads; Dominguez & Karjakin Half a Point Back

    As the Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansyisk starts heading down the home stretch, it's looking like Fabiano Caruana is pretty nearly guaranteed a spot in the next Candidates' event. Meanwhile, it looks increasingly unlikely that Evgeny Tomashevsky will gain the other spot from the Grand Prix, as a fresh loss has put him at -2 and in 11th place - next to last.

    Starting from the top of the table, Caruana had the white pieces against Boris Gelfand, and Gelfand showed that even when he isn't winning a lot of games (so far, he has drawn them all) he can always be counted on for strong preparation and resilient play. Gelfand was never in the slightest trouble and drew comfortably.

    Sergey Karjakin started the round half a point behind Caruana, and ended it the same way. He had White against Baadur Jobava, which might have seemed a good opportunity to catch up. Jobava played another of his slightly eccentric lines - the Hecht-Reefschlager line of the French (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nc6!?/?!) and a complicated and non-traditional middlegame ensued. Karjakin was probably a bit better most of the way, but couldn't maintain it and the game was agreed drawn in a messy position where anything could have happened. It was a pity that they stopped the game where they did, but fortunately such truncated games have been a rarity in super-GM tournaments the past few years.

    Peter Svidler was also tied for second, half a point back, but he was defeated by Leinier Dominguez who leapfrogged him into second place. Dominguez simply played a very good game and was the deserved winner. If we want to blame one move in particular, we can make 25...Nh5 the culprit; the gutys 25...g5 might have been what Svidler needed to keep soul and body together.

    Hikaru Nakamura closed to within a point of Caruana with his first win of the tournament, a rather easy victory against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who is in a kind of free fall at the moment. MVL lost rather badly, getting in trouble early and then blundering with 25...Rd4??, missing the simple 26.Qc3 Bc8 27.Rce1. This strengthens Nakamura's chances of qualifying for the Candidates', while for Vachier-Lagrave it was his fourth loss in a row.

    The day's other winner was Anish Giri, who put a serious dent in Tomashevsky's dwindling hopes for a Candidates' berth. Around move 25 or so Giri thought that Black should have opted for a setup with ...f5 and ...Bf6, when he would stand quite well. Tomashevsky waited too long, and once Giri got in 32.f4 it was all going to be suffering for Black. It took a while, but Giri reeled in the full point in the second time control.

    Finally, there was a third draw on the day, a 21-move brevity (17 moves plus the repetition) between Dmitry Jakovenko and Alexander Grischuk. Hopefully they'll provide more excitement tomorrow, when the pairings are as follows:

    • Gelfand (3.5) - Svidler (4)
    • Tomashevsky (2.5) - Dominguez (4.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (1.5) - Giri (3)
    • Jobava (3) - Nakamura (4)
    • Grischuk (3) - Karjakin (4.5)
    • Caruana (5) - Jakovenko (3.5)

    Friday
    May222015

    Wisdom From Dr. Kasparov

    Even if the doctorate is just honorary:

    Transcript here.