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    1948 World Chess Championship 1962 Candidates 2.c3 Sicilian 2.f4 Sicilian 2011 European Team Championship 2011 Russian Championship 2012 Capablanca Memorial 2012 Chess Olympiad 2012 European Women's Championship 2012 London Chess Classic 2012 U.S. Junior Championship 2012 U.S. Women's Championship 2012 US Championship 2012 Women's World Chess Championship 2012 World Rapid and Blitz Championships 2013 Alekhine Memorial 2013 Beijing Grand Prix 2013 European Club Cup 2013 European Team Championship 2013 FIDE World Cup 2013 Kings Tournament 2013 London Chess Classic 2013 Russian Championship 2013 Tal Memorial 2013 U.S. Championship 2013 Women's World Championship 2013 World Blitz Championship 2013 World Championship 2013 World Rapid Championship 2013 World Team Championship 2014 Capablanca Memorial 2014 Chess Olympiad 2014 Petrosian Memorial 2014 Rapid & Blitz World Championship 2014 Russian Team Championship 2014 Sinquefield Cup 2014 Tigran Petrosian Memorial 2014 U.S. Championship 2014 U.S. Open 2014 Women's World Championship 2014 World Championship 2014 World Junior Championships 2014 World Rapid Championship 22014 Sinquefield Cup 22014 U.S. Championship 60 Minutes A. 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    Saturday
    Nov222014

    Ongoing & Completed Events: St. Louis (x3), Ukrainian Championship, Tal Memorial Blitz

    The ongoing world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand has drawn the lion's share of the chess world's attention the past couple of weeks, but some other interesting events have taken place in the meantime as well. Let's take a quick tour of the landscape.

    1. Aronian - Nakamura. This is the main event in St. Louis, a five day match with four classical games (worth four points apiece) followed by 16 blitz games (worth one point per game). Game 1 was won by Hikaru Nakamura, when Levon Aronian got into time trouble and lost what would normally be considered a very drawish position. Today the reverse happened: it looked like Nakamura wanted to squeeze blood from a stone, and to his surprise wound up in an ending that should still have been drawn but turned out to be more challenging. He lost, and so the match is tied 4-4.

    2. There are concurrent GM and IM norm tournaments in St. Louis, and the big story is taking place in the GM event, where 13-year-old Sam Sevian is about to earn - or perhaps, has now earned - his grandmaster title. He already had the three norms needed, and simply had to get his rating over 2500 at some point. He entered the tournament rated 2484, and his 4-0 start, including two wins over GMs, has brought him to the promised land. He won't be awarded the title on the spot, but he has now become the youngest American player in history to achieve the grandmaster title. Have a look at these two wins from the tournament, and you won't find his accomplishment at all surprising. Congratulations to him!

    3. The Ukranian Championship finished earlier today (yesterday now, for the Ukranians themselves), and after a dramatic last round Yuriy Kuzubov and Pavel Eljanov finished tied for first with 7.5 points out of 11, with Kuzubov finishing first on tiebreaks.

    4. Tal Memorial Blitz. This took place a week or so ago, but deserved to be mentioned. It was a 12 player double-round robin event spread over two days, and on day 1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had a fantastic score of 10/11, giving up just two draws. He received enough gifts for a couple of Christmases, and not all of them could be chalked up to his very great tactical resourcefulness. He had a big lead, but the next day he had only normal luck and scored just 6 points out of 11, but Alexander Grischuk couldn't quite catch up and finished half a point behind. Alexander Morozevich, Boris Gelfand and Sergey Karjakin tied for third. Video coverage links: day 1, rounds 1-6; day 1, rounds 7-11; day 2, all rounds.

    Saturday
    Nov222014

    Louisville 31, Notre Dame 28

    Another loss, this time against a good opponent. Once again, though, Notre Dame helped things along with self-destructive play. The season started so well, but has fallen apart in good part at least as much due to mental errors as from anything their opponents have done.

    Record to date: 7-4.

    Next win: USC.

    Friday
    Nov212014

    Aronian - Nakamura: Nakamura Wins Game 1 With White

    A good game for Hikaru Nakamura, but Levon Aronian will be disappointed by how many mistakes he made - including a blunder on the last move. More here.

    Friday
    Nov212014

    World Championship, Game 10: Another Draw After Anand Lets The Advantage Slip

    Magnus Carlsen leads the world championship match with Viswanathan Anand 5.5-4.5 with two (scheduled) games remaining, but he's slightly fortunate to have come out of this game with his lead intact, and definitely fortunate that the game has finished already.

    Carlsen repeated the Gruenfeld for the first time since game 1, and this time Anand chose the Russian Variation. Judging solely by the time usage Carlsen was better prepared, but when it came to what happened on the board it was Anand who was either better prepared or simply playing better. Carlsen admitted to having underestimated Anand's 19.Ng5, and after this he started burning time on the clock too.

    The critical moment came on move 24, when Anand played 24.Rd2? This defended the a-pawn, but after 24...Re8 Black's problems were more or less gone. White needed to keep control of the e-file with 24.Rfe1, when he would have strong pressure and good winning chances. After 24.Rd2 White didn't have much, and what (very) little he did have was surrendered with 28.Bxb7, shortly followed by a draw offer.

    Game 11 is on Sunday (tomorrow is a rest day), and if Carlsen wins the match is over. If he doesn't, then game 12 will occur on Tuesday, after another rest day.

    The match site is here, and the game, with my light notes, is here.

    Thursday
    Nov202014

    The World Championship On ESPN

    More specifically, on the "Grantland" site, which is hosted by the sports network's website. It's a pretty good article, both in its own right and especially by the exceptionally low standards of the mainstream media (at least here in the U.S.), focusing on the double blunder in game 6. I have only one real complaint about the article, and chances are it's not the author's fault: the headline.

    It's apparently impossible for someone in the U.S. to publish a story about chess that doesn't find some angle insinuating that chess is the domain of the psychologically disturbed. Sure enough, even though mention of FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Russian President Vladimir Putin are of no relevance to the main focus of the piece and are mentioned only near the very end, the title naturally puts them front and center: Alien Space Tours, Vladimir Putin, and World-Exploding Double Blunders: Welcome to the 2014 World Championship. Thanks for nothing, Bill Simmons and ESPN.

    Thursday
    Nov202014

    Aronian - Nakamura Starts Tomorrow (Friday) (Updated)

    As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura are playing a five "round" match consisting of four classical games and a 16-game "round" of blitz chess. The action starts tomorrow at 2 p.m. local time (= 3 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CET) at the St. Louis Chess Club & Scholastic Center and runs through Tuesday. The prize fund is $100,000 and will be split 60-40.

    Predictions? Since they're calling it a five round match, I assume that even if one player wins the blitz 16-0 that still only counts as one point for match purposes. I think it's a coin flip, and will go out on a limb and say that the coin will land on its edge: the match will be drawn.

    Update: My assumption about the scoring system was wrong. Here's how it works: each classical game is worth four points and each blitz game is worth one, meaning the two stages are worth a total of 16 points each.

    Thursday
    Nov202014

    A Different Kind of Chess Puzzle

    From reader Ben Eshbach:

    I have a question that has no practical purpose, but it's something I've wondered about.

    Starting from scratch, what's the minimum number of consecutive wins one would need to become world champion?

    Here's the setup of this imaginary situation with me in the role: I win every game I play (this is the big stipulation.)  I only play rated tournament games. My first tournament game I'm unrated and then start rising in rating from there. I actively pursue the tournament path that leads to the world championship (ie. I don't just play in my home town over and over.)

    I realize there's no firm numerical answer because of unpredictable contingencies. But what is the ballpark? Dozens? Less than a hundred? A thousand? What's your intuition?

    Thanks! And thanks for your blog. I read it every day.

    That's a fun question, and it might remind some of us of our childhood ambitions to become world champion. My attempt to answer it only applies to a route through the United States chess system; different countries will have different answers. Here's my proposal; maybe someone can improve on it.

    The first step is to qualify for the U.S. Championship. There are various ways to do that, but I think the simplest would be by means of rating. One needs 25 rated games to achieve an established rating, and to get one that's as high as possible one should play in the championship section of various major opens (the Chicago Open, the National Open, etc.). If one goes 25-0 in such tournaments they will easily achieve the rating they need to qualify for the U.S. Championship.

    Nowadays the U.S. Championship is a nine-round event, so after 34 total games one is off to the next World Cup. That's a seven round knockout tournament, with the first six rounds being best-of-two mini-matches and the final round a best-of-four. That mission can be accomplished with 15 consecutive wins, and thus 49 wins in a row gets one to the Candidates.

    At present the challenger for the world championship match is settled by a Candidates tournament with eight players in a double-round robin. Thus 14 more wins are added to the total, making 63 wins leading up to the final stage.

    The rules for the next world championship match after this one haven't been set (as far as I know), but it's at least reasonable to think it'll be another best-of-12 like every match since the reunification of the title in 2006. Seven straight wins will do the trick, meaning the job can be done with a mere 70 wins in a row. Piece of cake!

    Thursday
    Nov202014

    World Championship, Game 9: Drawn in 20 Moves

    Today's game was a surprisingly short draw, taking just 20 moves and finishing in about an hour. But sometimes that happens, even with such a fighter as Magnus Carlsen; Viswanathan Anand's preparation was very good and Carlsen saw nothing better than to bail out with a repetition. Carlsen is thus half a point closer to retaining his title (he leads 5-4 with three scheduled games remaining), while Anand managed a very easy hold with Black and can look forward to pressing tomorrow with White.

    The match site is here, and the game (with very light notes) is here.

    Tuesday
    Nov182014

    World Championship, Game 8: A Very Easy Hold For Carlsen

    In game three of this world championship match, Viswanathan Anand got a great advantage out of the opening with White in a Queen's Gambit Declined, and in game 5 Magnus Carlsen switched to the Queen's Indian. This time Carlsen switched back, and he showed a very interesting new idea. Varying from the popular 6...Nbd7 line chosen in game three, Carlsen went for the older 6...c5, and after 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.a3 Nc6 9.Qc2 varied from the standard 9...Qa5 with the rare 9...Re8 and met 9.Bg5 with the practically new 9...Be7. It looked provocative, but it was deeply prepared and Anand couldn't find a way to either create real pressure against the d-pawn or to make anything dangerous happen along the b1-h7 diagonal. Black was always in time, and after 21...b4 had completely equalized. Mass exchanges followed, and the players continued speedily to the time control and agreed to a draw. The score, with (up to) four (classical) games remaining, is 4.5-3.5 in Carlsen's favor.

    So it's time for another rest day, and the ball is definitely in Anand's court when it comes to the opening. With only two white games left he's going to need something special there, and has a big decision to make with time allocation. Should he choose something else to play - maybe 3.Nc3, inviting the Nimzo-Indian? And if he repeats 3.Nf3, should he and his team devote a great deal of time to Carlsen's new line, or worry mostly about other lines on the grounds that Carlsen always seems to switch from one system to another?

    There's also the question of what he'll do with the black pieces. Does he try to hold again, saving more desperate or at least more aggressive and active measures for game 11, or does he look for something more combative straight away. If he again plays something "soft" like the Berlin, there are two problems. First, of course, it gives Carlsen what he wants - the opportunity to make his opponent suffer. Second, Carlsen is liable to play for hours on end, draining the energy Anand will need for his white game the next day. (At least that won't be an issue in the last two games: there is a rest day both before and after game 11.)

    As always, time will tell, and in the meantime here is today's game, with relatively light notes.

    Monday
    Nov172014

    World Championship, Game 7: Drawn in 122 Moves

    While Viswanathan Anand's Kan Sicilian is in the shop, he decided to go back to 1...e5 and the Berlin Defense. In game 2 Magnus Carlsen this with 4.d3 and went on to win a nice game, but this time decided to enter the famous ending. The players followed a trendy line, with the first officially new move occurring on move 25. That began the game, and three short moves later Anand found an idea that dictated the game's character for the next 50 moves or so. Anand began a combination that resulted in an ending where Carlsen had a rook, knight and two pawns against Black's rook and four compact pawns, with all the pawns on the queenside.

    White's fundamental idea was to put a pawn on c4, the knight on d5 and put the rook on the 7th rank, and if he could achieve that without Black doing anything special in reply he would most likely win (whether Black went for a rook swap or not), but achieving that setup wasn't at all easy. It took Carlsen a long time to legitimately threaten it, and once he was about ready to put that plan into action Anand started pushing his queenside pawns and advancing his king in search of counterplay. It wasn't easy, but Anand calculated everything correctly and managed to liquidate all of White's pawns by move 77, reaching an ending with rook and two pawns vs. Carlsen's rook and knight. Carlsen wasn't yet ready to call it a day, and while he eventually picked up both of Black's pawns Anand had no trouble holding the resulting ending, which has been known since forever to be a theoretical draw. Carlsen finally gave up the ghost and allowed the rooks to be traded, "unfortunately" finishing the game two moves before tying the old record for world championship games. (The record for moves, that is; the record for time is just about impossible to break under current time controls.)

    Carlsen thus continues to lead the world championship match with a 4-3 score; Anand will have the white pieces tomorrow. Meanwhile, the game, with my brief notes, can be replayed here. (Subscribers to my match coverage will get more detailed coverage later tonight.)