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    Friday
    Sep302016

    Other Events: Hammer-Navara Match, Spanish Team Championship

    The ongoing Tal Memorial is the marquee event of the moment, but other interesting events are also underway, of which I'll mention two. First, there's an eight-game match between Norwegian GM Jon Ludwig Hammer and Czech GM David Navara. As is increasingly common the last two years, it's a hybrid of classical and rapid games. Even in this hybrid context, there's still an unusual twist: games 1 and 2, 5 and 6 are classical; games 3, 4, 7 and 8 are rapid. Game 1 was drawn, and Hammer won game 2.

    On a grander scale, there's the Spanish Team Championship. Eight teams participate in a round-robin event, and each match is contested on seven boards. Many strong players are participating, including 2700s Pentala Harikrishna, Richard Rapport, Leinier Dominguez, Ernesto Inarkiev, Teimour Radjabov, and Francisco Vallejo Pons.

    Friday
    Sep302016

    Carlsen vs. Nakamura Blitz Battle Set for October 27

    More info here.

    Wednesday
    Sep282016

    Tal Memorial, Round 2: Anand, Giri Win

    There's now a three-way tie for first after two rounds of the Tal Memorial. Three games were drawn - two post-haste (Svidler-Nepomniachtchi and Tomashevsky-Aronian) while the third (Kramnik-Li Chao) always seemed headed for the draw that was eventually achieved.

    The other two games were impressive achievements by the victors. Anish Giri defeated Boris Gelfand with the black pieces in good style. Giri's active play in the center involved a pawn sac, and it would seem that he did a better job of evaluating the sharp position that resulted than did his opponent. 28...g5 was a nice move, and Giri finished the game with an impressive attack, helped along by Gelfand's plausible error on move 34 in time trouble.

    Viswanathan Anand also won with an impressive attack, but in an endgame. Mamedyarov went for an interesting piece sac in a Closed Ruy, and while his compensation may have been enough it required accurate play to remain that way. His decision to trade queens on move 29 surprised Anand, and the computer doesn't like it either: Black's compensation rested as much on his attacking chances as on the pawns he had for the piece, and once the queens came off it was White who took over the initiative. The final sequence, beginning with, say, 47.Rb6, was very nice. Mamedyarov wasn't too far away from escaping with a draw, but some clever tactics combining various possible knight forks with threats against Black's king secured the win for the former world champion.

    Here are the pairings for round 3, with player scores in parentheses:

    • Nepomniachtchi (1.5) - Kramnik (1)
    • Aronian (1) - Svidler (1)
    • Giri (1.5) - Tomashevsky (.5)
    • Mamedyarov (.5) - Gelfand (.5)
    • Li Chao (1) - Anand (1.5)

    Monday
    Sep262016

    Mark Dvoretsky (1947-2016), R.I.P.

    The famed trainer and author Mark Dvoretsky unexpectedly passed away earlier this week at the age of 68. He had been actively engaged in his usual occupations with no clear signs that anything was too terribly wrong, having published a book earlier this year and recording a couple of video series for Chess24 in the last couple of months.

    I've mentioned Mark Dvoretsky many times on this blog, generally and maybe invariably praising him for his work as a trainer of serious students. Many of his students reached a very high level, including Artur Yusupov, Sergei Dolmatov, and Alexei Dreev, all of whom reached the Candidates on one or more occasions. He worked with many other great players on a more occasional basis, including Peter Svidler, Viswanathan Anand, and even Garry Kasparov.

    His publication legacy is also quite impressive. His books were never derivative, but covered new topics with fresh examples, always very carefully examined. Where some authors barely review their work before sending it out into the world, Dvoretsky always analyzed it carefully and then checked it in training sessions as well. Even then, after it was published, he would engage in further revisions and produce new editions of his books. His magnus opus, Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, was dubbed the best book of all time by Jacob Aagaard. Certainly it is the most influential book in this century, at least among professional players.

    While not what he's going to be remembered for, he was a fine player as well, at one point in the top 50 in the world (and apparently ranked as high as #20 on the ChessMetrics scale). He never got the GM title, but that wasn't due to either a lack of strength or rating. During the period when Dvoretsky was an active player, there weren't many opportunities for Soviet players to get the grandmaster title, and by the time there was more access he had essentially retired from play.

    The original posting of the bad news was here, and there are some nice tributes to Dvoretsky collected on this page.

    Monday
    Sep262016

    Tal Memorial, Round 1: Nepomniachtchi Beats Tomashevsky; Other Games Drawn

    First a quick word about the Tal Memorial blitz, which occurred on Sunday. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was the runaway winner, scoring an undefeated 7.5/9. Levon Aronian finished in second with 5.5 points, and Ian Nepomniachtchi, Peter Svidler, and Anish Giri (in that tiebreak order) tied for third-fifth with 5 points apiece. All five players thereby secured an extra white game in the main tournament. (More on the blitz here.)

    Today was time for round 1 of the main event. Only one game had a winner, and one other game should have. The win belonged to Ian Nepomniachtchi, who defeated Evgeny Tomashevsky in a strange game. Nepomniachtchi played the Scotch, which is about as surprising as Peter Svidler dominated a post-game press conference. Nevertheless, Tomashevsky seemed badly unprepared, choosing a seemingly dubious line on move 10. The poor continuations on moves 12 and 13 suggested that his choice on move 10 wasn't part of some deep new idea, and by move 14 he was already lost. Resignation was already reasonable on move 20, and occurred on move 23.

    Svidler also seemed headed for a win over Vladimir Kramnik after 17...g5?! 18.Be3 d5?! got Kramnik into trouble and subsequent errors on moves 25 and 30 left him lost. The win wasn't quite trivial though, and in what was probably time trouble Svidler lost much of his advantage. The momentum continued to swing Kramnik's way, and by around move 45 he was the one doing the pressing. It wasn't enough, and the game ended in a draw, as did Aronian-Gelfand, Giri-Anand, and Mamedyarov-Li Chao.

    The games, with varying degrees of annotation, are here, and these are the pairings for round 2:

    • Kramnik - Li Chao
    • Anand - Mamedyarov
    • Gelfand - Giri
    • Tomashevsky - Aronian
    • Svidler - Nepomniachtchi

    Sunday
    Sep252016

    The Tal Memorial Starts Today

    At least, as mentioned in the last post, the blitz portion does. It won't count for the standings, but players will receive their pairing numbers for the "real" tournament based on their blitz performance. That starts at either 5 p.m. or 7 p.m. local time in Moscow (=10 a.m. or noon ET) - I've seen both numbers. Here's who's playing, listed in order of blitz ratings:

    Ian Nepomniachtchi (2840)
    Levon Aronian (2826)
    Peter Svidler (2795)
    Evgeny Tomashevsky (2793)
    Viswanathan Anand (2790)
    Anish Giri (2766)
    Boris Gelfand (2765)
    Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2748)
    Vladimir Kramnik (2713)
    Li Chao (2624)

    Predictions for the blitz, and for the main event? I'll go with Nepomniachtchi and Aronian, respectively. These predictions should be taken as seriously as if they were arrived at by pulling their names out of a hat.

    Tournament site here, Chess24 preview here.

    Sunday
    Sep252016

    This Week's World Chess Column: In Memory Of...

    With the Tal Memorial starting today (the blitz portion used to set the pairings, that is; the tournament proper starts Monday) I take note of the panoply of memorial events offered to world champions and "ordinary" grandmasters alike. It's interesting to see not only who has been thus commemorated, but to also pay attention to the dog that didn't bark and recognize that some greats haven't received serious memorialization. (Perhaps that's a column for another week.)

    Thursday
    Sep222016

    Anand: 40 is the new 50 (Update: Title Fixed!)

    Here. On a personal note, I hope not!

    Thursday
    Sep222016

    An Article on Kramnik's Olympic Performance

    (Pun intended.)

    The article, by GM Elshan Moradiabadi, is here and worth your while.

    Thursday
    Sep222016

    Happy Birthday, TWIC!

    The venerable and indispensable internet website is 22 years old this week. Congratulations to all of us for being its fortunate beneficiaries, and many thanks to Mark Crowther for making it happen.