It's easy to learn from our losses (though some plucky individuals manage to avoid doing so), but learning from our wins comes much less naturally. In my column this week I start with a couple of autobiographical stories: one where I failed to learn from a game I won and one where I got it right. Then it's time to look at the pros, and we see that even the world's best can make this mistake, as Yasser Seirawan did in a famous pair of games against Anatoly Karpov in 1982. This was not the first or the last time someone has committed this error, and hopefully we can all learn from their errors and not follow in their footsteps.
I don't see a way to embed any of the videos here, so I'll send you straight to the source instead. I've only watched Viswanathan Anand's "master class" so far, and liked seeing him discuss his amazing game with Evgeny Bareev from Wijk aan Zee in 2004. There's a spectacular variation that could have arisen had Bareev played 27...Qf4, and I was rather pleased with myself to have worked it out with a computer shortly after the game was played. When I learned a few hours later that Anand had seen the variation (or at least most of it) over the board, well, that was jaw-dropping. If you don't already know about this game and the variation in question, do check out that video.
My fantasy of a 13-way tie for first in Gibraltar didn't come to pass, as Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won their games against David Anton and Sebastien Maze, respectively, to finish tied for first with 8/10. The result was a playoff, and after four consecutive draws (of which Nakamura had winning positions in two of them, albeit very briefly in the second) it came down to an Armageddon game. Nakamura won the coin toss and took black, and when he neutralized Vachier-Lagrave's pressure (that was convincingly achieved with 35...Kg7) the latter was forced into some serious risks. Nakamura was up to the challenge, and soon he was up the exchange while MVL was forced to trade queens or lose a knight. He chose a third option - resigning - and Nakamura won the event for the second straight year and the third time overall. (He first won in 2008.)
Tied for third through eighth places with 7.5 points were, in tiebreak order, Etienne Bacrot, S. P. Sethuraman, Pentala Harikrishna, Gawain Jones, Li Chao, and Emil Sutovsky. The women's prize went to Anna Muzychuk with 7 points, which was a fine score for just about anyone. (By comparison, Viswanathan Anand and Nigel Short wound up with 6.5 points, and Anand had to win his last two games to achieve that. Admittedly, his tournament was a disaster, but there were 2700+ players who, like Muzychuk, scored 7/10 and had perfectly respectable performances.)
Congratulations to the winners and condolences to the losers. I was going to engage in some speculation about what Anand's performance here might mean for the Candidates' tournament next month (the short answer: I'm inclined to think it doesn't mean much), but since he'll be in action about a week from now in Zurich we should look towards that event, which will feature three other candidates as well - Hikaru Nakamura, Levon Aronian, and Anish Giri. They will be joined by Vladimir Kramnik and Alexei Shirov in a "slow rapid" (G/40' + 10") and blitz competition from February 13-15.
The Zurich organizer, Oleg Skortsov, is hoping that this time control (or something close to it) will become the new classical time control. Speaking for myself, I would like to see more tournaments with rapid time limits, but I don't want to see slower time controls go extinct, either. It isn't a pleasure playing back-to-back six hours games in Swiss system events, but the value of depth shouldn't be scorned. It too has a place in our chess world. But what say you? Please answer both as a chess fan (what do you like watching when you're watching top grandmasters in action?) and as a chess player.
The last round of Gibraltar 2016 should be a fine mess. Eight players are tied for first with 7/9, and in the unlikely but not impossible event that their games all finish in a draw nine players half a point behind are fighting for the chance to catch them. (Who wants to see a 13-way tie for first, and the ensuing playoff? I know I do.)
Here are the top pairings for the last round:
- Hikaru Nakamura (7) - David Anton Guijarro (7)
- Sebastien Maze (7) - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (7)
- Pentala Harikrishna (7) - Li Chao (7)
- Etienne Bacrot (7) - S. P. Sethuraman (7)
- Yu Yangyi (6.5) - Gawain Jones (6.5)
- Dmitry Jakovenko (6.5) - Gujrathi Vidit (6.5)
- Nils Grandelius (6.5) - Markus Ragger (6.5)
- Emil Sutovsky (6.5) - Axel Bachmann (6.5)
- M. R. Lilith Babu (6.5) - Richard Rapport (6)
After two years in fabulous Las Vegas, the 2016 edition of the Millionaire Open is headed to Atlantic City. Although Atlantic City isn't most people's idea of a glamorous location, it makes sense to locate the tournament on the east coast - there are more chess players there and it makes life easier for European players as well.
Thanks to the six million of you who have let me know about this. The best moment comes at the 4:08 mark. Enjoy!
N.B. 1: There's one PG-13 moment, so parents be warned.
N.B. 2: I'm a little disappointed that I wasn't asked about what happens at 4:08 beforehand, and that I/this blog isn't included in the "Special Thanks" at the end. Caltech people, please fix that if you can. Nevertheless, it's very cool to have been included! My nerd points have gone through the roof.
Who? Right, David Anton Guijarro. He's a strong young Spanish GM, but it's still semi-shocking that the 24th seed, rated 2639, is leading a field with 10 players rated 2700 and up, including Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Viswanathan Anand. Anton has 6 out of 7, good for a half point lead over 15 players with 5.5, including 2700+ players Vachier-Lagrave, Pentala Harikrishna, Yu Yangyi, and Radoslaw Wojtaszek. Nakamura is another half a point back, while Anand has just four points, having given up two draws and two losses - including one of each to IMs. Thus far his tournament has been a disaster; hopefully it won't bruise his confidence too much before the Candidates' tournament in March.
Round 9 pairings here.
The first supertournament of 2016 is now history, and it's little surprise that the winner is the world champion and world #1 Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen is just 25 years old, and yet this is already the fifth time he has won the main event in Wijk aan Zee. His score of 9/13 was not a record, but his 2881 TPR was good enough for him to pick up 6.6 rating points - 7 points once it's rounded it on the new list, 50 points ahead of world #2 Vladimir Kramnik.
The last round looked ripe for drama coming in, with Carlsen only half a point ahead of Fabiano Caruana and a point ahead of his last round opponent, Ding Liren. The drama never materialized: Carlsen was always comfortable with white against Ding, who managed a draw after hours of suffering. Caruana was in a must-win situation, but winning to order with the black pieces against a solid, strong grandmaster like Evgeny Tomashevsky is a tall order. He didn't come close, and whether he was simply outplayed or because he took strategic risks in the hopes of getting a position where he could fight for more than a draw, Caruana was much worse straight out of the opening. It wasn't always clear whether Tomashevsky would win - he did - but it was clear that Caruana wouldn't win and wouldn't catch Carlsen.
It was still a good tournament for the American #1; he gained rating points, tied for second with Ding (and finished ahead of him on tiebreaks, not that that mattered), and is for now safe in his position as the #1 player in the U.S. It was a fine result for Ding Liren as well, currently rated #9 in the world.
Two other events are worth a quick mention. First, the other victor on the day was Pavel Eljanov, who defeated David Navara. Second, Hou Yifan nearly finished the tournament on a very high note, as she was clearly winning with black against Anish Giri. Unfortunately for her fans, she let the win slip, but one can be very impressed by Giri's tenacity in holding the rook ending.
- 1. Carlsen 9/13
- 2-3. Caruana, Ding Liren 8
- 4-6. So, Giri, Eljanov 7
- 7-8. Wei Yi, Mamedyarov 6.5
- 9. Karjakin 6
- 10-11. Navara, Tomashevsky 5.5
- 12-14. Hou Yifan, Adams, van Wely 5
In the Challengers' Group the three-man race between Baskaran Adhiban, Eltaj Safarli, and Alexey Dreev ended in a photo finish: all three wound up with 9/13. The former had the best tiebreak score, so he will play in the main event next year.