Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is off to a great start in the Tashkent Grand Prix after a convincing win over Rustam Kasimdzhanov in a 4.d3 Berlin. He is 2-0, while the other first-round winners, Hikaru Nakamura and Dmitry Andreikin, only drew against each other.
The latter duo remain alone half a point behind the leader, as the other four games were drawn. Fabiano Caruana got a big advantage against one of Baadur Jobava's eccentric lines (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Be2) but didn't manage to put him away. Anish Giri may have had some chances against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, while the other two games (Gelfand-Karjakin and Jakovenko-Radjabov) weren't as frightening for the defenders.
Round 3 pairings:
- Mamedyarov (.5) - Gelfand (1)
- Nakamura (1.5) - Giri (1)
- Caruana (.5) - Andreikin (1.5)
- Kasimdzhanov (.5) - Jobava (.5)
- Radjabov (1) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)
- Karjakin (1) - Jakovenko (1)
After struggling to get through her first three matches, in each case needing to win a game just to stay alive, Hou Yifan won the final match, against Sergey Fedorchuk, 2-0 to win the Corsican Circuit. In a second, distinct irony, the move that won game two was an outright blunder. Granted, it only brought the game from trivially won to winning with a little work, and even a draw would have been enough to win the match. Still, it was a blunder, and the interesting thing about it is that it displays a typical kind of chess illusion - have a look here for the details.
I had assumed it would be today, but they are holding it in a different site than the previous rounds. So tomorrow (Wednesday) will see the final between Hou Yifan and Sergey Fedorchuk.
Is Fabiano Caruana tired, regressing to the mean, or relatively inept against the Najdorf? (Very heavy emphasis on relatively.) Or can we just give Maxime Vachier-Lagrave the credit for being a fine and very well-prepared player today? Whatever the case, Caruana has lost three of his last six games, while his record against the Najdorf Sicilian since 2012 is two wins, five draws, and seven losses. Caruana was apparently surprised by MVL's new move, 15...Qc7, but there was nothing wrong with his position after it. White was always at least equal for another 10 moves, but with 25.Bd5 Caruana started to slightly lose the thread of the position, and with 33.Rg2 things got worse. (33.Rde1 would have kept Black's advantage manageable.) Vachier-Lagrave simply outplayed Caruana, and while his novelty may have gotten him off to a comfortable start the win had very little to do with that.
The other winners: Hikaru Nakamura beat Baadur Jobava and Dmitry Andreikin defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Anyone can lose to Nakamura, but Jobava may have a difficult time as he was a late addition to the tournament. In the other game, Mamedyarov was winning before letting it slip away at the end of the time control. Worse still, he went off the rails afterwards and even managed to lose the ending. It's incredible to see a super-GM go from being a safe pawn up in a double-rook ending to completely lost ten moves later, but it's explicable when you look at it one slightly wrong decision at a time.
The three draws (Giri - Gelfand, Radjabov - Karjakin, Kasimdzhanov - Jakovenko) were all full-bodied games, even if in most of them it was clear relatively early on that they were headed towards a peaceful conclusion.
Round 2 Pairings:
- Gelfand - Karjakin
- Jakovenko - Radjabov
- Vachier-Lagrave - Kasimdzhanov
- Jobava - Caruana
- Andreikin - Nakamura
- Giri - Mamedyarov
Tournament site here.
Anatoly Karpov's comment that he and Bobby Fischer were stronger than Magnus Carlsen is rather hard to believe and is almost comical, but I'll offer four remarks in his defense.
First, he prefaced it with "I think", offering a bit of a hedge. He wasn't making a categorical pronouncement.
Second, Karpov is assuming that rating inflation is obvious. Given that assumption, his supposition becomes more plausible.
Third, he notes that Carlsen is still developing. Though Karpov, like Carlsen, became the world champion in his early 20s, he didn't reach his peak in his early 20s but sometime later (in fact, his all-time highest rating was accomplished when he was 43 and his highest official rating when he was 45!). So Carlsen has plenty of time to improve even further.
Fourth, Karpov's claims may be based in part on dominance, and both he and Fischer had longer and/or clearer margins of dominance than Carlsen.
In reply, the first rebuttal makes it easier to swallow but doesn't do anything to support the claim on its merits.
Point two has been disputed by Ken Regan, who claims that there hasn't been rating inflation. (There was a brief period where there were maybe 30 points' worth of inflation, but that bump was subsequently eliminated.) In correspondence and conversation I've asked whether his model fails to take the increased depth of theoretical preparation into account, and in reply he has noted that even if we compare the players of today with those of yesteryear taking only moves 17-32 into account, there's still no good evidence of rating inflation.
Point three, like point one, mitigates the shock value of the claim but doesn't support the claim itself.
Point four is both iffy and a change of subject. Fischer's lead over the rest of the world was greater than Carlsen's, but Carlsen's lead was greater than Karpov's when the latter became champion. Karpov was then dominant for years, but as Carlsen only won the title last year the time hasn't elapsed to make the comparison of their reigns. And even if Karpov's reign proves more impressive than Carlsen's, relatively speaking, it doesn't show that he was the stronger player. Emanuel Lasker was great and was world champion for 27 years, but I don't believe that Karpov concludes that Lasker was therefore the strongest player of all time.
Anyway, it's an interesting interview, and there are other entertaining bits to be savored and disputed as well.
Dominic Lawson is conducting a five-part "Across the Board" series on BBC Radio 4, and his first guest, next Monday, is Magnus Carlsen. (The second guest will be Murray Campbell of Deep Blue fame; the remaining interviewees don't seem to have been announced yet.) Lawson is a "regular" journalist, but he has been around the game for a long time and should be able to ask questions that will be interesting not only to non-players but to those of us who know and love the game. Let's hope so!
HT: Marc Beishon.
Well, sports fans, Monday was a bad day for those of us who are hoping that Viswanathan Anand will win or at least be competitive against Magnus Carlsen in their coming world championship match. It would be wrong to draw too sweeping a conclusion from his ouster in the Corsica semi-finals at the hands of Sergey Fedorchuk, but it certainly doesn't lend itself to any optimistic scenarios either. Fedorchuk won the first rapid game with Black, and then drew from a position of strength with the white pieces - and he could easily have played for a win in that game too.
In the previous round Anand had blanked Pavel Tregubov 2-0 while Fedorchuk had struggled to overcome Csaba Balogh. They drew their rapid games, and the first blitz game was also drawn. Fedorchuk had White in the second blitz game but no advantage, but when Balogh went crazy with 17...Qh5? and 19...e5 he was quickly crushed.
In the other half of the draw, Hou Yifan made things as difficult for herself as possible before qualifying for the finals. As she did yesterday, she began her quarterfinal match with Martyn Kravtsiv by losing with the white pieces. As yesterday, she won the rematch and then won the blitz playoff 2-0. In the semi-final round she unexpectedly played Robert Ruck, who had defeated second seed Ivan Saric 1.5-.5, winning the second game with the pieces.
In the Hou-Ruck match Hou broke the pattern by winning the first game with White, but the overall pattern of needing to suffer continued intact. She lost the second game, and then lost the first blitz game to boot - both losses were with Black. She won the second blitz game, and then it was time for an Armageddon game. She had White and five minutes against Ruck's four minutes and draw odds, and she came through with a good win.
Tuesday will see the battle of the 2673s, and the silver lining for Anand is that he gets an additional day of preparation for the Carlsen match.
"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.
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.