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    Sunday
    Feb012015

    Gibraltar, Round 6: Nakamura the Latest Player with a Six-Game Winning Streak

    Seems like everyone's going on a six-game streak these days: Fabiano Caruana (who made it to seven games), Alexander Grischuk, Anish Giri, Vladimir Kramnik and Magnus Carlsen, to name a few super-GMs to have accomplished the feat since last year's Sinquefield Cup. Hikaru Nakamura added his name to their ranks with a victory over Veselin Topalov in the Gibraltar Masters Open, thereby maintaining a half point lead over David Howell (who ground out a win in a very long game against the world's youngest-ever ex-2700, Wei Yi) and Yu Yangyi (who beat Renier Vazquez Igarza).

    Nakamura will have the black pieces against Howell in round 7, while Yu will have the first move against his countrywoman Hou Yifan, who is among the 5-pointers. Both games ought to be extremely interesting. Other prominent pairings are Wagner-Bachmann and Adhiban-Naroditsky. (These are the remaining players with five points.)

    Other U.S. notables: Aleks Lenderman drew with the 2551-rated Grigory Oparin, and as a reward he'll have Black against Topalov. (Both have 4.5.) Irina Krush and John Watson both won their games to get to 4/6, but rusty James Tarjan lost and remains at 3. Krush and Watson will face strong GMs next round (David Anton Guijarro and Gawain Jones, respectively).

    Top games can be replayed here or here (the latter links lets you access the games with computer analysis and the video commentary too).

    Sunday
    Feb012015

    Starting Tomorrow: The Grenke Chess Classic in Baden-Baden

    In case you're not particularly excited by open events like Gibraltar, fear not: the next super-GM round-robin tournament begins tomorrow in Baden-Baden, Germany. The Grenke Chess Classic is an eight player single round-robin tournament with the following lineup:

    • Magnus Carlsen (2865)
    • Fabiano Caruana (2811)
    • Viswanathan Anand (2797)
    • Levon Aronian (2777)
    • Michael Adams (2738)
    • Etienne Bacrot (2714)
    • Arkadij Naiditsch (2703)
    • David Baramidze (2594)

    The mixed field should keep the number of decisive games up - something which is rarely a problem in any case when Carlsen, Caruana and Aronian show up.

    Will Caruana and Aronian bounce back from poor performances in Wijk aan Zee (and not only there)? Can Anand keep the magic from 2014 going in the new year? And will Carlsen be able to put some more distance between himself and the chase pack than he did in Wijk aan Zee?

    Sunday
    Feb012015

    Korchnoi to Play in Zurich?

    Hopefully. There have been a couple of false alarms since he suffered a stroke two or three years ago, but apparently things are going well enough for Viktor Korchnoi that he's going to try facing fellow octogenarian Wolfgang Uhlmann in a rapid match in Zurich. Their match will be a side event to the Zurich Chess Challenge, a six-player single round robin with Caruana, Anand, Nakamura, Kramnik, Aronian and Karjakin.

    Sunday
    Feb012015

    February Rating Lists

    A new month means new ratings, and ChessBase has a nice report on all the new top-lists, detailing not just who is on them but some of the (incredibly) rapid risers as well.

    Saturday
    Jan312015

    Gibraltar, Round 5: Nakamura Leads Alone with 5/5

    Wei Yi had his chances against Renier Vazquez Igarza, but when he failed to convert his advantage Hikaru Nakamura was the sole leader after round 5, thanks to his win against Baskaran Adhiban. Nakamura used an interesting exchange sac against in the Queen's Gambit Accepted first used by Romain Edouard, and after Adhiban made a couple of errors in the opening Nakamura quickly achieved a winning endgame. A slip or two could have given Adhiban some hopes of a draw, but he didn't manage to take advantage of them. Nakamura is now 5-0, and is a win away from reclaiming from Wesley So his place as the United States's #1 player.

    In addition to Wei Yi and Vazquez Igarza, there are several other 4.5 pointers. There's Yu Yangyi (the recent surprise winner of the Qatar Masters in December, where he beat Anish Giri and Vladimir Kramnik in successive rounds), David Howell (who is quietly sneaking up on the 2700 barrier), and none other than Veselin Topalov, who will be Nakamura's opponent in round 6. That will be entertaining.

    In the America watch (besides Nakamura), Aleks Lenderman drew comfortably with Black against Pentala Harikrishna to reach 4-1, and with a win playing down Daniel Naroditsky is on that score as well. The next group of U.S. players is at 3-2, and includes the relatively young Irina Krush and the relatively old James Tarjan and John Watson.

    Tournament site here.

    Friday
    Jan302015

    Gibraltar, Round 4: Four Perfect Scores, Plus Topalov's Master Class

    The ranks of the perfect are dwindling in the Masters section of the Gibraltar Chess Festival, and now there are just four. Hikaru Nakamura leads the way after a powerful victory over Nils Grandelius, Reinier Vazquez [sic] Igarza upset Maxim Rodshtein, Wei Yi defeated his countrywoman Ju Wenjun and Baskaran Adhiban beat former women's world champion Antoaneta Stefanova to complete the quartet. There is plenty of competition in the next score group, half a point back, including Veselin Topalov, Peter Svidler, Yu Yangyi, Pentala Harikrishna, current women's world champion and women's #1 Hou Yifan, and American player Aleksandr Lenderman is there too.

    All the top boards can be replayed here, and I'll leave you to replay and analyze them as you see fit. Instead, I'll invite you to have a look at Veselin Topalov's "Master Class", filmed after the round, which sees him presenting a nice and instructive old victory against Alexei Shirov from Linares 2004. Afterwards he took a lot of questions from the audience and from host GM Stuart Conquest as well, so it's an interesting hour all from start to finish. Here it is - enjoy:

    Friday
    Jan302015

    Gibraltar, Round 3 Highlights: 13 Lead, Including Youngest-Ever 2700 Wei Yi

    There are now only 13 3-0 scores in the current installment of the Masters section of the Gibraltar Chess Festival, and I will focus on five of them in this post: Hikaru Nakamura, Pendyala (or Pentala or even just "P.") Harikrishna, Wei Yi, Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun.

    Nakamura defeated Tamir Nabaty in good technical style - a la Carlsen, one might say, though Nakamura was adept at winning such games before Magnus Carlsen took over the chess world. As a result he is currently the highest-rated three-pointer, and if he wins tomorrow/today against Nils Grandelius he will pass Vladimir Kramnik to reach the #8 spot in the world. He is current 2.1 points behind him, and 6.6 points behind the new American #1, Wesley So.

    Harikrishna made it to 3-0 by winning a spectacular game against Ioan-Cristian Chirila, featuring an interesting pawn sac that may just refute Chirila's (probably unintended) novelty on move 8. Harikrishna will play Michael Roiz in round 4.

    Wei Yi is the real top story, as his victory against Bela Khotenashvili brought him to 2701.7 on the live list, making him the youngest player in chess history to break the 2700 barrier. The previous record-holder? Magnus Carlsen. Wei Yi, who just last week won the Challengers group at Wijk aan Zee, is just 15, and will not turn 16 until June 2. Next up for him: Ju Wenjun - about whom more a bit later.

    Hou Yifan consolidated her epochal achievement with another win, this time over Qatar GM Mohammed Al-Sayed. Now she's 2678.1, and will face Indian GM Babu M. R. Lilith in round 4.

    Finally, the women's #5 player, Ju Wenjun (like Wei Yi and Hou Yifan, she is from China), reached her 3-0 score by drubbing the 18-year-old Hungarian superstar Richard Rapport. That was a very big win for her, and now she'll get another 2700 as her reward, her countryman Wei Yi.

    The five games can be replayed here (sans notes), but for those of you who subscribe to ChessLecture.com I think I'm going to record a video of the Harikrishna game early next week (I don't know how long it will take before it's posted, though - probably another week or two after that).

    Thursday
    Jan292015

    Is Ivanchuk a (Chess) Genius?

    This profound question is raised by French GM Vladislav Tkachiev, who wonders if Vassily (aka Vasil) Ivanchuk is a genius.  His colleagues are split on the issue, while he himself does not offer an opinion. I'm not sure the word has any clear sense, so while we can obviously say that Ivanchuk is a brilliant and immensely creative player declaring him a genius may be more a matter of taste and emotion than anything objective. But have at it, and if you want to weigh in with some useful remarks on the nature (if any) of genius, feel free.

    Thursday
    Jan292015

    The Best Chess Books of all Time?

    This article by IM Jeremy Silman came out a couple of weeks ago, and he offers his favorites along with those of GM Yasser Seirawan and IMs John Donaldson, Anthony Saidy, Daniel Rensch, Jack Peters, Cyrus Lakdawala, David Preuss and John Watson.

    I may (or may not) someday offer such a list myself, but I approve of everything on Seirawan's list and an awful lot on Rensch's, Lakdawala's, Preuss's, Watson's and Silman's lists. Donaldson doesn't offer a list, while Peters offers a list but not the one Silman is after - he (Peters) lists books he found influential. Saidy offers the sort of list Silman requests, but most of his selections wouldn't be on my list - I find it too beginner-oriented.

    Anyway, this is the place where I invite all of you to offer your lists. If you feel like adding your strength for the sake of a broader perspective, that could be helpful. Ready...begin!

    Thursday
    Jan292015

    Gibraltar, Round 2: Hou Yifan, The New Women's #1

    Back to chess. It "only" took 26 years, but there is at long last someone other than Judit Polgar atop the rating list - at least the live rating list. (Whether this becomes official depends on how the tournament ends.) That person, of course, is women's world champion Hou Yifan, whose rating has been very close to Polgar's for months, even before the latter's retirement, but has only now surpassed it. Polgar retired with a rating of 2675, and with her second-round win in Gibraltar, Hou's rating is now 2675.2. Not a huge margin, to be sure, but all the same she has done what no other woman has done since 1989!

    While it is a milestone, it's one she doesn't seem overly impressed by it - or at least didn't prior to achieving it. She addresses this topic pretty early in this interview, from the antepenultimate round of Wijk aan Zee: