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    Sunday
    Oct192014

    The Anand-Carlsen Rematch: A Reader Writes

    "MK" writes in with the following questions and comments; my replies are interspersed:

    1) Betting odds show that you should bet on Carlsen - if you believe Carlsen has more than 77% chance of winning.   If you believe Anand has more than 28% chance of winning, you should bet on Anand (odds offered are 45/17 - i.e. you bet 17 and casino puts in 45 for a total pot of 62). Who would you bet on?

    I'm not interested in promoting gambling, nor would I want anyone to lose money by following my guesses! So no answer here. (One comment though: I assume the odds you give add up to more 100% because of the house's take.)

    2) Whats your advice to Anand (or what do you expect Anand to change)

    I would expect more games like games 3 and 9, where Anand puts pressure on Carlsen. Moreover, Anand should play forever when he has a small advantage - primarily for psychological reasons, but also because Carlsen is a bully on the chessboard, and doesn't like to defend. Carlsen is great in endings where he can push, but has lost plenty of endings when he has had to defend. He's an incredible player, but he's human.

    a) Last WCC Anand played a little scared or maybe we should call it cautious  (i.e. he didnt push when he had a marginal advantage whereas Carlsen played till the very end when Carlsen had a marginal advantage) (another example is he played the Berlin defence late in the match despite being  he was 2 games down.  Do you think Anand needs to push more and believe in himself and be more optimistic? 

    Yes to both comments.

    b) Do you think Anand showed a better approach during the Candidates?  I thought he did but his unwillingness to work out a win against Andreikin disappointed me a little.

    I'm not really bothered by the Andreikin game, because at that point in the event the a loss would have been more harmful than a win would have been beneficial, in both cases relative to a draw. But there were a couple of other games earlier in the event where I did have some of the disappointment you're alluding to. He did play well there, but I think what we might call his "cynical minimalism" is just never going to work against Carlsen, even if it does against everyone else in the world.

    c) Last WCC, Anand lost a game or two in the end game.  Do you think his endgame technique needs to be sharpened and that he should expect Carlsen to continue pushing even in equal situations till bare kings

    There's only so much sharpening he can do. I think in the endgame he will always be Carlsen's inferior - that's the strongest aspect of Carlsen's game - but he must avoid playing "Neville Chamberlain chess" at all costs. Carlsen will never give him peace or be satisfied with small concessions; he'll greedily take those gifts and then beat his opponent over the head with them. Game 3 last year was an example of this that Anand didn't seem to learn from at all. Anand had been better and missed some great opportunities to win. At some point he gave up trying to win, but rather than offering a draw from a position of strength he gave away the rest of his advantage as if to lay down his arms, and only then offered a draw. At this point Carlsen no longer had any need to shake hands, and managed to put some slight pressure on Anand for the next dozen moves or so. It's not that Anand was in any trouble, but there was absolutely no reason for him to take up the role of supplicant, forfeiting the psychological advantage he had enjoyed all game long.

    d)  Related to C above what does Anand need to do to improve his stamina in the 3rd / 4th / 5th hour of the game

    Whatever physical exercise his doctor recommends, plus long training sessions simulating the kinds of pressure Carlsen will put him under.

    e) Anand was fidgety / nervous in the last WCC.   I think he needs to focus on his diet and workouts and also maybe spend time with his wife/son before each game to lower his stress levels.

    Agreed. And at a bare minimum, he should find some way to hide his nervousness during the game - the way his fingers trembled looked awful, and must have boosted Carlsen's confidence while doing nothing for his own.

    f) if Carlsen lost, would he be very demoralized so much so that his performance in the next Candidates matches will be materially adversely impacted?

    Doubtful. He's young and resilient, and there will be plenty of time between a hypothetical loss here and the next Candidates. The latter event won't occur until late 2015 or early 2016.

    g) If Anand won, I think it might be the greatest achievement of his career.

    Agreed!

    Sunday
    Oct192014

    Lu Shanglei, Aleksandra Goryachkina Are World Junior Champions

    Entering the last round of the boys'/open section of the World Junior Championship four players shared the lead with 9/12: Lu Shanglei, Wei Yi, Vladimir Fedoseev and Jan-Krzysztof Duda. Three of the four drew: Fedoseev with Black against Kamil Dragun (the only 8.5 entering the last round) while Wei and Duda split the point against each other in a Fritz-Ulvestad Two Knights(!). As for Lu Shanglei, he played an 8-pointer, but with the black pieces against a nominally higher-rated player he was far from a shoo-in. Nevertheless, he absolutely crushed his opponent (Aleksandar Indjic) and took clear first with 10/13. The other three leaders finished with 9.5, and sadly for one of them he was out of the medals due to tiebreaks. Wei Yi took second, Jan-Krzysztof Duda took second and Vladimir Fedoseev was in the worst spot: fourth.

    As for the girls' section, there was no drama in the race for first. Aleksandra Goryachkina repeated moves right after the opening to finish the event; she had already clinched the title a round earlier. Her final score of 11/13 left a point and a half ahead of the other medalists, Sarasadat Khademalsharieh and Ann Chumpitaz.

    Sunday
    Oct192014

    Corsica Underway With Viswanathan Anand and Hou Yifan

    In Corsica a rapid (15' + 3") knockout event is underway. Viswanathan Anand and Hou Yifan were invited, while the other 14 players earned their spots by their performance in a qualifying tournament immediately preceding the k.o. Anand is the top seed by a considerable margin, Ivan Saric (2678) is second, and then Hou Yifan and Sergey Fedorchuk are the third and fourth seeds, respectively, both sporting ratings of 2673. (Of course, they should use their rapid ratings rather than their classical ones, but if the players don't mind there's no reason why I should.)

    In these events the pairings always begin with the top seed playing the bottom one, #2 playing the second from the bottom seed, and so on. At the start the top players are generally huge favorites, but although Anand easily dispatched his 2376-rated IM opponent 2-0 and Saric also won 2-0, both Hou and Fedorchuk opened their matches by losing with White against mid-2400 rated opposition! Not to fear: both won the rematch and then blanked their opponents 2-0 in the added blitz games.

    The top four won't play each other tomorrow, but if they all win in the quarter-finals Anand will play Fedorchuk and Saric will play Hou on Tuesday.

    Sunday
    Oct192014

    Viswanathan Anand Interviews

    Here and here, with a hat tip for both to Srini Ramiah. The ex-champ seems to have a good mindset going into the rematch, so we can at least hope for a more competitive battle this time around.

    Sunday
    Oct192014

    Ken Regan's TEDxBuffalo Talk

    It was live a few days ago, but in case you didn't get the chance then and want to see it now, here you go: this link will take you straight to his spot at the conference.

    Sunday
    Oct192014

    Unive, Day 6: Giri and Jobava Both Win 4.5-1.5 over Shirov and Timman, Respectively

    It was a good week for the higher-rated youngsters against their "seasoned" opponents, as both Anish Giri and Baadur Jobava won their matches with undefeated +3 scores. When we left off after round 4, Giri was up two and Jobava up one, so it's clear that the last rounds didn't go well for the veterans.

    Both matches were decided in round five. For Shirov, it was decided in a surprisingly negative way: with White he went down a well-known theoretical path to a perpetual check - he just gave up! This uncharacteristic move on his part sealed match victory for Giri, who did not return the favor in round 6. But we'll get back to that later. Timman-Jobava was much more exciting, with Timman offering a rook and then a knight in pursuit of an attack. It was creative; unfortunately, his best opportunities had come earlier in the game, and by this point Jobava had the advantage. He defended well enough and eventually converted his extra exchange.

    In the final round, the youngsters won twice. Giri and Shirov engaged in a heavyweight theoretical battle in the Sveshnikov Sicilian. My surmise is that Giri had everything prepared until around move 30, by which point Shirov was simply lost. (That's not as implausible as you might think, considering that Shirov's novelty only came at move 25 in a very well-traveled line, and as that novelty was the computer's top choice there's little reason to think Giri hadn't examined it beforehand.) The youngster simply prepared better, and nowadays that can be enough. As for Timman, his 17...d5 was a dubious decision, inviting a strong exchange sacrifice. After that Timman could hope for no more than a draw if he could successfully grovel, and that was not to be.

    Event site here, games with comments here.

    Sunday
    Oct192014

    FSU 31, Notre Dame 27

    The pain, the pain!! Notre Dame came about as close to winning as possible, down to having first and goal at the end of the game and then having a game-winning touchdown taken back on a penalty. Argh!!!!!! Florida State was a good opponent though, and one can't say that they were lucky; just the winners of a great battle.

    Record so far: 6-1.

    Next victim: Navy (in two weeks).

    Tune time.

    Saturday
    Oct182014

    Notre Dame to Chop the Seminoles Tonight

    Notre Dame is ranked #5 in the college football polls, and today is their day to go up - way up. First, the absurdly overrated team that was #4 lost earlier today; second, Notre Dame gets to smash the #2 team, Florida State, tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. After the win it's likely we'll be #1 and if not #2 is guaranteed.

    Saturday
    Oct182014

    Garry Kasparov and Anish Giri?!

    Yesterday's mail brought the final installment of the helpfully titled Garry Kasparov's Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov* (Part III: 1993-2005). This will not be Dennis Monokroussos on Garry Kasparov's Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov, by Dennis Monokroussos, however. Instead, I want to report on an intriguing tidbit at the very end of the main section of the book and see if anyone can supply further details.

    On page 460, Kasparov (incidentally also the author of the Garry Kasparov on My Great Predecessors* series) offers a short summary of his activities since retiring from professional chess, and begins one paragraph thusly: "From time to time I have worked on chess with the young stars - Carlsen, Nakamura, Giri..."

    This gives rise to a double "Hmm". Everyone who has been around chess the past five years or so knows about his partnerships with Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura, but this is the first I recall hearing about his working with Anish Giri. Kasparov (surprisingly also the author of the series Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess*) has done lots of little camps for juniors in the United States and elsewhere, and while I'm sure they've proved valuable on many levels for the campers I would be surprised if Giri's inclusion in the very short list above was due to that very limited sort of collaboration. But does anyone have any further information?

    Second, I know that Russian language writers tend to overuse the ellipsis, but as he doesn't use them elsewhere on the page when detailing his activities, I wonder if he's hinting at anything. Is there someone else he's working with now whose identity is a secret? Is someone on his radar? Maybe he's just open to the possibility down the line of further proteges, or - going full circle - it's just a stylistic quirk.

    * While I'm mocking the titles of all three series, the 12 books they comprise are interesting and important. If you're a fan of chess history or an aspiring player, they're pretty close to must-haves.

    Saturday
    Oct182014

    One Round Left in the World Junior Championships

    The World Junior Championships aren't as prestigious as they once were, as the absolute top juniors nowadays are strong enough to play in events where they'll be paid quite handsomely for their appearance, and probably prefer to avoid the risk to their rating and reputation that such an event entails. Still, the tournament remains very strong and often interesting for those whose countries are well-represented in the event. (This is not the case for the U.S. this year.)

    The girls' event is a runaway for the top seed, Aleksandra Goryachkina of Russian, who has 10.5/12 and has clinched the title with a round to go.

    The boys'/open event is another story. Chinese prodigy Wei Yi led the field by half a point after 11 rounds, but after losing in the penultimate round he's part of a four-way tie for first with 9/12 with Lu Shanglei, Vladimir Fedoseev and Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and Kamil Dragun has 8.5 points.

    There's a nice report on rounds 10 and 11, with a bit on round 12 as well, here.