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    Tuesday
    Sep182018

    Grischuk-Duda Underway **UPDATED**

    The first quarterfinal match of Chess.com's 2018 Speed Chess Championship is underway, pitting Alexander Grischuk and Jan-Krzysztof Duda. The 5'+1" portion is finished and has Grischuk taking a 5-4 lead (after all decisive games) heading into the 3'+1" portion. You can find the live stream on Chess.com or at Twitch.tv/chess. Happy viewing!

    **UPDATE** The match was incredible, coming down to the very end. If you don't care who won, watch the whole thing; if you do and will be upset if your guy lost, I give the final result in the comments.

    Saturday
    Sep152018

    Notre Dame 22, Vanderbilt 17

    Another underperforming win, but the bottom line is that it's a win. In some ways they played better than last week, in other ways worse. If they put the good parts together they can contend for a national championship, but if they put the bad parts together it will be a hot mess. But for now, they're 3-0 and likely to move up at least one or two spots in next week's poll from their current spot at #8.

    2018 Record: 3-0.

    Next victim: Wake Forest.

    Tune time!

    Saturday
    Sep152018

    Notre Dame to go Whiskey Lake vs. the Vanderbilt Commodore(64)s

    Too obscure? I have confidence in my readers; you'll figure it out if you don't get it already! The upshot is that Notre Dame will outclass Vanderbilt today and win, starting at 2:30 p.m. (ET) and televised on NBC.

    Go Irish!

    Saturday
    Sep152018

    Champions Showdown (Chess960) Ends

    Some matches stayed close for a while, some until the last day, but by the end each match winner had shown his dominance over his opponent.

    In the match between Levon Aronian and Leinier Dominguez, it was pretty one-sided throughout. In part this may be because Aronian's top end is simply stronger than Dominguez's (at least judging by their career ratings in classical chess), but Aronian also had a significant edge in experience, having been a regular in Chess960 competitions when they were an annual event in Mainz. In the end Aronian more than doubled Dominguez's score, winning 17.5-8.5. (There were 20 games in total, but because the six rapid games counted double there were 26 points at stake in each match.)

    Similarly lopsided was the match between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Sam Shankland. Shankland did pretty well the first two days, but losing seven straight games over the third and fourth days put an end to the American's hopes and then some. He finally got a consolation win in the penultimate game, but still lost by an overall score of 17.5-8.5, the same as in Aronian-Dominguez.

    Wesley So dominated the first two days, and while Anish Giri came back a bit on day 3 So finished the match with a win and seven draws on the last day. It wasn't as lopsided as the two previous matches, but So's winning margin of 15.5-10.5 was still very comfortable.

    Veselin Topalov "only" defeated Garry Kasparov 14.5-11.5, but that's with Kasparov winning the last two games. Topalov looked stronger throughout the event, but Kasparov left quite a few points on the table, missing wins and making blunders. He also had a bit of bad luck thanks to Peter Svidler. At the start of each day the position would be determined and shown to the players 30-60 minutes before the day's first round, and the players would spend time analyzing the position to get in some prep. Svidler and Kasparov, the two Russians, worked together, and today only Svidler looked at the position and set it up for the two to analyze. Unfortunately, he switched the placement of two of the pieces, and so they analyzed the wrong position until Giri came by about a minute before the analysis finished, telling them that they'd made a mistake. Kasparov's equilibrium was shaken, and he played very poorly in the first game, resigning after just 15 moves. By the end of the day he seemed to have found his form - but too late. Topalov won, 14.5-11.5.

    The only match that was really competitive through the first three days and into the fourth was Hikaru Nakamura vs. Peter Svidler. Nakamura began the day with just a one point lead, and after a draw and a Svidler win it was all equal with six blitz games to go. Just when it seemed it was going to come down to the wire, however, Nakamura won four in a row to clinch the match. Svidler won the last two to shrink the margin to two points, but as with Kasparov's wins it was too little too late. Nakamura 15, Svidler 13.

    There won't be anything to learn about your regular openings from these games, but I'd recommend having a look at them - whenever players of this caliber get together there are going to be some deep and beautiful ideas. The next major event comes in about a week and a half, and it's as major as can be: the World Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia. Magnus Carlsen isn't playing, but he might be the only one missing from the world's top 10 - maybe even the top 20, except for whomever is the odd Russian out.

    Saturday
    Sep152018

    Parham Maghsoodloo, World Junior Champion

    The last round of the 2018 World Junior Championship starts in three hours or so, but it doesn't matter. (Or rather it does, but not when it comes to identifying the winner.) Iranian GM Parham Maghsoodloo has crushed the field, scoring 9.5/10 to take a two point lead entering the last round. His one draw was against fellow Iranian Alireza Firouzja, and as he was White in an Exchange French that finished in a draw by perpetual check in 33 moves one suspects that he wasn't exactly going all-out for victory. Everyone else bit the dust.

    Round 9 was the highlight for U.S. fans. Awonder Liang defeated Firouzja in round 8 and was in clear second entering the ninth round, a point behind Maghsoodloo. Maghsoodloo played a quiet opening with White that allowed Liang to equalize, but it didn't help the American very much. The Iranian star confidently outplayed him, picked up a pawn, and showed fine technique in dispatching his rival.

    The race for first is over, but six players have 7.5 points and are competing for spots on the podium: Johnan-Sebastian Christiansen of Norway, Aram Hakobyan of Armenia, Abhimanyu Puranik of India, Andrey Esipenko of Russia (who has White against Maghsoodloo in the last round), Jinshi Bai of China (you might remember him as the loser of Ding Liren's "immortal" game last year), and Russian Sergei Lobanov.

    Congrats to Maghsoodloo, who is only 18 (and that only as of a month ago) and (thanks to this tournament) nearing 2700.

    Friday
    Sep142018

    Jumping on the Chess960 Bandwagon

    With the fun afoot in St. Louis I decided to play a few blitz Chess960 games, and so far it has been an enjoyable challenge. Figuring out how to create harmony is part of the fun, and staying alert to tactical possibilities (whether one's own or one's opponents) in unfamiliar situations is another worthy challenge. And of course, there's the usual fun of "regular" chess as the 960ness of the game fades into the background.

    Here is the conclusion of one of my recent experiments that finished with a nice attack. It's a quirk of Chess960 that the bishop remained stuck on h8 for the duration of the game, but the attack was correct - what can you do?

    Tuesday
    Sep112018

    Book Notice: Hertan's "Strike Like Judit!"

    Charles Hertan, Strike Like Judit! The Winning Tactics of Chess Legend Judit Polgar (New in Chess, 2018). 253 pp., $24.95. (But considerably less via Amazon.)

    For a tactics book to be worth one's while it should provide the reader with a challenge (or have some other instructional value) and aesthetic pleasure. (Ideally and most of the time these two features go hand in hand.) How does this book fare? Aesthetically, it fares very well; it's almost impossible for a book on any elite grandmaster to to fail in that respect, and when it comes to a tactical monster like Judit Polgar one would have to work very hard to produce a book with poor content. Polgar won countless gorgeous games against players below the absolute top, and except against Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik managed to win lovely games against all the other members of the world elite as well. (She never defeated Kramnik, and her one win against Kasparov was in a rapid game where the latter played terribly on the black side of a Berlin.)

    There are 110 games and game fragments - mostly the latter - spread across six chapters: Geometry lessons, Sicilian Slayer, The art of calculation, Endgame Empress, Shots!, and The Classics. Some of the fragments are deeply analyzed, others more lightly, and all are entertaining. (If you want the full Judit Polgar chess experience I'd strongly recommend getting her autobiographical 3-volume Quality Chess series, however. But that will set your wallet back by at least $45 more than this book, though it's worth it if you can afford it.)

    How does it fare in the other respect? It's not designed as a puzzle book, and trying to use it in that way won't really work. Some diagrams precede special tactical moments, but others are more neutral while others show the position after a tactical shot. What about the book's instructional value? Here it's more successful, but again, it's not really designed for didactic purposes. The content is rich, so one can use the material as source material for one's own analytical work or for solitaire game exercises. After doing that one can check one's work against Hertan's analysis. That would make the book instructive, in a way that any well-annotated book could be instructive.

    So for most readers, the book is worth getting for the pleasure of seeing some of Judit Polgar's greatest hits supplemented by Hertan's analysis, which also focuses on finding beautiful moves and ideas. As such, it's a nice one-volume intro to Polgar's chess for those who are hesitant to plunk down $65+ on her own series (through Amazon), for those willing to spend the bucks, I highly recommend her series.

    Tuesday
    Sep112018

    PRO Chess League All Stars (Updated: Link Fixed)

    If you're interested in reading all about the event, which took place last Saturday, have a look here. My aim is more modest, to show you a couple of nice games that caught my eye. Enjoy!

    Tuesday
    Sep112018

    Champions Showdown (Chess960), Day 1

    The random-number generator outputted an interesting position for the first day of the big-league Chess960 event in St. Louis, with lively play resulting from ideas like Qxh7/...Qxh2 and b2-b4/...b7-b5, hitting the opponent's c-pawn. Four games were played in each match, and all 20 of the day's games featured the same starting position. First the players tried a pair of rapid games from the starting position (g/30 with a normal 10-second delay, i.e. not Bronstein delay), then a pair of blitz games (g/5 with a normal 5-second delay), with the rapid games counting double.

    Here are the scores in each match after day 1:

    • Topalov 3.5 - Kasparov 2.5
    • Svidler 2.5 - Nakamura 3.5
    • So 4.5 - Giri 1.5
    • Vachier-Lagrave 4 - Shankland 2
    • Dominguez 2.5 - Aronian 3.5

    Wednesday and Thursday they'll follow the same format, and on Friday they'll skip the rapids and play eight blitz games instead. Every four games a new Chess960 position is randomly chosen, which means something new tomorrow, something new on Thursday, and then something new both at the start and in the middle of Friday's blitz rounds.

    I tried to post the games, but although ChessBase can handle Chess960 games in the program itself, the web app for replaying games can't handle Chess960 castling and so the game scores get messed up. They're not on TWIC (yet?) either, probably for a similar reason, nor on the event site. So I'll send you to Chess24, and especially commend to you the third-round game between Shankland and MVL. Here's the end of it with my annotations, starting with a position after any castling worries can mess up the software.

    Tuesday
    Sep112018

    Another Free Chess Lecture Video by Yours Truly

    I'd like to think that the relative preponderance of free ChessLecture videos by your faithful blogger is due to their excellence, but it might be that they're giving away their weakest presenter so that those who like my work will be even more impressed when they see everyone else's videos. Whatever the true explanation, this Monday's offering, which will be available for a couple of weeks, is a win by Dmitry Andreikin from the 2016 European Club Cup. The video is available for free, but you'll have to register if you haven't already (this can also be done for free).

    Enjoy, and if you like what you see, please consider a paid membership at ChessLecture.com. (And plug my videos, if you like them!)