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    Saturday
    Oct142017

    William Lombardy, 1937-2017

    It wasn't a big surprise to learn that American grandmaster and 1957 World Junior Champion William James Lombardy passed away yesterday - Friday, October 13 - at the age of 79. Not a surprise, but sad nonetheless. He had come unto hard times in the last few years above and beyond the usual ravages of old age; thankfully, this was mitigated somewhat by the generosity of some members of the chess community.

    Much more can and should be said about the man and his career (or even careers, but I don't know much about his time as a Roman Catholic priest), but for now I'll refer you to a pair of obits: Chess.com's and ChessBase's.

    Monday
    Oct092017

    European Club Cup, Underway

    After a few days off, it's time for another star-studded event. The European Club Cup (which includes non-Europeans) started Sunday. Loads of 2700+ players are participating, including Vladimir Kramnik, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Ding Liren, Alexander Grischuk, Sergey Karjakin, Peter Svidler, Anish Giri and many, many more. As was noted during the Isle of Man, a successful performance here is absolutely necessary for Kramnik to have any chance of qualifying for the Candidates by rating, but he hasn't played the first two rounds. As it's only a seven-round event, he'll have to perform exceptionally well in the remaining five rounds to have a shot.

    Anyway, the event is far more interesting than just whatever Kramnik does or doesn't do; there are 16 players who came into the event with a 2700+ rating, and plenty of others who are near 2700 as well.

    Saturday
    Oct072017

    Notre Dame 33, UNC 10

    Another dominating win over a so-so team, but now the schedule gets difficult.

    Record to date: 5-1.

    Next victim: USC (ranked #14), in two weeks.

    As usual, it's tune time:

    Saturday
    Oct072017

    The Latest on "Shortsgate"

    A long article here, summarizing all the testimony thus far, in anticipation of tomorrow's Ethics Committee hearing.

    Saturday
    Oct072017

    Notre Dame to Beat Most North Carolina's Least Favorite Team

    That would be the University of North Carolina, of course. The game is starting now (3:30 p.m. ET) and is televised, appropriately, on ABC, which I was told by a former resident of that state also stands for "Anybody But Carolina" - referring to UNC. Let the drubbing by the 21st-ranked Irish begin!

    Reading material here.

    Thursday
    Oct052017

    American Chess Magazine, Issue #4

    The latest issue of the United States' best chess publication, the American Chess Magazine, is available. While it was the best American chess magazine, now it's the best American chess magazine. Before it was somewhat like New in Chess Magazine with a U.S. flavor, but now it really and clearly is a periodical dedicated to chess in the United States.

    This issue covers the goings-on in St. Louis, of course (with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov covering the Sinquefield Cup and Ivan Sokolov writing about the Rapid & Blitz), but that's about it for international events. Other major events, including Norway Chess in Stavanger and the Grand Chess Tour events in Paris and Leuven, are mentioned only en passant without any narrative near the end of the issue, with only results and the occasional lightly annotated game. (But none from those super-tournaments.)

    Two other major events are covered again - both from 2016: the Baku Olympiad and the Carlsen-Karjakin match. Both events had so much material they've been revisited in multiple issues - I think this is the third time the world championship has been covered. (At least it is being covered deeply, by the usually 2700+ GM Ernesto Inarkiev, currently rated 2693.)

    On to the new. A number of U.S. players are profiled, most especially Awonder Liang, currently the world's youngest GM. He is interviewed, and some of his best games from this year are presented. Other profilees are GM Sam Sevian, Maggie Feng, and new IM Bryce Tiglon. More broadly, the issue also takes a look at the very successful chess program at Webster University in St. Louis.

    There are columns by chess legend Vassily Ivanchuk and endgame specialist Karsten Mueller, and there's an interesting column with Jacob Aagaard (who for no obvious reason - to scare small children and animals? - is posed like the "Breaking Bad" guy) on decision-making in chess. There are also columns by American GMs, including the experienced quartet of John Fedorowicz, Joel Benjamin, Alex Fishbein, and Michael Rohde.

    Carsten Hansen presents short reviews of 10 new books, Jon Edwards offers a brief discussion of endgame tablebases, and there is more besides, including an eight-and-a-half page summary of events in the U.S. taking place in the U.S. from this past June-September.

    There are a few other columns as well, but this survey of the highlights should be enough to help the reader decide whether or not to buy the magazine. It seems to me that the publisher has a challenge here, to make the ACM attractive to U.S. audiences while not making it so parochial that international readers find it uninteresting. My suspicion is that it might be leaning a bit further to the parochial side, but I'm sure the publishers know better than I do - they can look at the receipts and feedback. My suggestion would be an explicit column on the openings, and less time spent looking back at older events (i.e. no more Baku or Carlsen-Karjakin). But I'm just one voice, and of course they should listen and try to accommodate as many opinions as they reasonably can.

    Full - and amusing - disclosure: I may end up writing an openings column for ACM.

    Thursday
    Oct052017

    2017 Speed Chess Championship: Carlsen vs. Guseinov

    The final match of the round of 16 is over, and Magnus Carlsen is through to the quarterfinals. Carlsen won 20.5-5.5, and if anything the match was even more lopsided than the score would suggest. (The replay of the broadcast is here.)

    Here are the pairings for the quarterfinals, in bracket order:

    Carlsen - So
    Grischuk - Vachier-Lagrave
    Nakamura - Caruana
    Nepomniachtchi - Karjakin

    The next match will be on October 23 at 1 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CET, viewable live on www.chess.com/TV.

    Wednesday
    Oct042017

    Informant 133: Back on Track

    I've been a big fan of the Chess Informant for years, especially in the hybrid form it has adopted in the past decade. But the last issue was pretty disappointing. Happily, the editors have reverted to the more positive trend, and I can enthusiastically recomment the current issue to serious club players (say, around 1800-1900) and up.

    The current issue covers the goings-on in the chess world from June through August of 2017, and as usual can be divided into broad parts: a traditional, proseless, component; and a newer, magazine-style component.

    The traditional component takes up most of the volume - all but 90 or so pages out of 332. At its heart is a collection of 200 games, (languagelessly) annotated (mostly) by the Informant staff of IMs and GMs. There are sections on combinations and endings (9 positions each), presentations of the best game and the best novelty from the preceding volume (the best novelty includes an ECO-style article updating the theory within that particular branch of the opening), a listing of the results from the FIDE events in the period covered by the volume, and a feature I always like: the mini-Informant devoted to a particular player.

    The honoree this time around is Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and there are 30 of his best games from previous Informants (played from 2003 to 2016) reprised here, along with 11 of his best novelties, 33(!) of his best combinations/most excellent moves, and 12 of his best endings.

    Turning to the prose component, there are nine articles. It begins with a pair of articles on the big events in St. Louis, both (I think) by GM Aleksandar Colovic. (All of the columns are by GMs, so the title will be omitted in the remainder of the review.) The first covers the highlights of the Sinquefield Cup, and the second on the Rapid & Blitz event. Appropriately, Colovic doesn't go overboard in examining Garry Kasparov's games, but treats him as just another participant in terms of the game selection.

    One of my disappointments about the preceding issue was the absence of articles by traditional super-GMs; that has been fixed. Michael Adams is back, and to his credit he looks at some of his recent failures - some misplayed endings from a tournament in Shenzhen.

    The talented and rising Indian star Baskaran Adhiban looks at a pair of his recent games which were "inspired" in various ways by previous world champions Vasily Smyslov and Bobby Fischer.

    Another returnee is Emanuel Berg's "Mirroring" column, in which he starts from a particular opening position and first shows a nice game won by White, and then a nice game won by Black. The line in this variation comes from Chigorin's system in the Ruy Lopez.

    Spyridon Kapnisis has a look at the "flamboyant" 4.g4 in the Advance Caro-Kann (not "Advanced", contrary to what's written in the Informant, though to play either side of it well it certainly helps to be an advanced player). It's a very risky approach that doesn't score very well against 4...Be4 or especially 4...Bd7 (though it does fare well against 4...Bg6, which experienced Caro-Kann players avoid), but Kapnisis makes the case that White can fight for an advantage in every line, and maybe even achieve one against 4...Bd7.

    Two endgame columns ensue. The first is by Aleksandr Lenderman, who takes a deep look at the ending of a game he played with Simon Williams in London last year. (An exception to the usual Informant policy of sticking to the "official" time frame, but a worthy one.)

    The second endgame column (and the third overall, counting Adams' article) is from the well-known specialist Karsten Mueller, who turns his attention to the important topic of simplification.

    Finally, Jakov Geller covers the g3 Taimanov/Paulsen lines starting 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.g3 a6 7.Bg2 Nf6 8.0-0 Nxd4 9.Qxd4 Bc5 in depth. The first chapter is on 10.Qd3, and chapter two starts with 10.Bf4 d6 and then further divides into 11.Qd3 and 11.Qd2.

    And that's it. For serious players over at least 1800, as mentioned above, it's a worthwhile purchase, and you can find ordering info here.

    Tuesday
    Oct032017

    Steinitz Quiz Positions: Solution Time

    About a week ago I posted a short review of Wilhelm Steinitz's The Modern Chess Instructor, and offered four quiz positions for the reader, to see how your analytical abilities compared with those of the first world champion. Here are some solutions to those positions; the new material is prefaced, subtly enough, by "NEW".

    Sunday
    Oct012017

    Aronian's Wedding

    As many of you know, Levon Aronian married his long-time girlfriend and fianceé Arianne Caoili on Saturday (September 30). Here's an article with some pictures, courtesy of Chess Today.