No spoilers here for those of you who missed yesterday's action, fear not. You can watch the semi-final match between Magnus Carlsen and Alexander Grischuk here (the report is here, for those who don't care about spoilers); while the second semi-final in Chess.com's Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship, between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Hikaru Nakamura, will start at 1 p.m. ET. (Viewing instructions here.)
There's a nice video series by Mark Dvoretsky (hosted by Jan Gustafsson) on endgame play (on Chess24) that's worth your while, especially (as is generally the case with Dvoretsky's material) if you're at least 1800-2000 in strength. (Of course you can learn plenty from him even if you're not yet of that strength, but he does pitch his material higher rather than lower.) His elocution could be better, but the material is excellent.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Estonian chess legend Paul Keres, this article is a nice place to start. For those of you who are familiar with him, you'll probably still want to read it, as there's quite a bit that is new, at least to those of us in the West.
Pretty remarkable: 15-year-old American GM Jeffery Xiong won the 2016 World Junior Championship, and did so in comfort, clinching first place with a round to spare. After 7 rounds he was tied for first with two other players, but after scoring 4.5 points in the next 5 rounds the contest was over. He only drew in the last round, allowing top seed Vladislav Artemiev to narrow the gap by half a point (Indian GM Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan took third on tiebreaks with 9), but Xiong's 10.5/13 still won the tournament by a full point, and brought him within just five points of a spot in the top 100. This is a great achievement, especially since the tournament is a world championship for players under 20 years of age.
As this review article notes, the U.S. has the top two players in the world born in the year 2000 and the top two born in 2001. With three players in the world's top seven overall, we're in business.
In this week's column I take a look back at a pair of consultation games between Paul Morphy and his elusive prey, Howard Staunton. Staunton, whether due to cowardice or busyness, never gave Morphy the one-on-one contest the latter desired during his trips to Europe in the late 1850s, but they did play a couple of games against each other with a partner. What happened? Go and see for yourself!
I'd already mentioned Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's dominance over Peter Svidler in their classical and rapid match in Biel, but it turned out that there was a larger blitz event that followed their match. As it turned out, ironically, MVL and Svidler tied for first and then played a 2-game match to decide the winner. Naturally, Vachier-Lagrave won this one too, 2-0.
A better reason to harken back to Biel is that Vachier-Lagrave gave a "Master Class" on a free day, which you can watch below.
More recently, Michael Adams won the British Championship in style, scoring an undefeated 10/11 to finish a point and a half ahead of his closest challenger. Along the way he defeated the next two seeds, David Howell (recently a 2700) and Gawain Jones, so it was in every sense a dominant performance by the strongest chess player in British history. Congratulations to GM Adams, who was at least once upon a time a reader of this blog, and someone whose success I appreciate as a player of my generation (more or less).
Big congratulations are in order to Wesley So, who took clear first in the 2016 Sinquefield Cup and also leads in the overall Grand Chess Tour standings to boot.
He finished the tournament with three draws, and that proved to be enough. Veselin Topalov and Viswanathan Anand were half a point back with three rounds to go, and they too drew their last three games.
In fact, all the games were drawn in round 7, while in round 8 Levon Aronian defeated Hikaru Nakamura to join the tie for second. (Peter Svidler was the day's other winner, defeating Anish Giri to drag the latter into a tie with him at the bottom of the tournament table.)
In the last round Fabiano Caruana defeated Giri to make it a four-way tie for second, while Nakamura bounced back with a win over Ding Liren. The game of the round was Topalov-Aronian. Had Topalov won - and he had a winning position in a rook endgame - he would have caught up to So and forced a playoff. The key decision Topalov had to make was which piece to use to support the a-pawn: the king or the rook. He chose the king, and it was the wrong decision.
Still, it was a good tournament for both of the "old" guys, Anand and Topalov, tying for second and gaining rating points. But of course, it was even better for So, who is still only 22 even though he seems to have been around forever. In fact, all the Americans did pretty well, so they should be in very good shape leading into the Olympiad on September 1. More good news for American fans: our fifth board, Sam Shankland, won the Master Tournament in Biel with a big score of 7.5/9 and saw his rating go up 18 points to 2679. (That puts him five points ahead of our fourth board, Ray Robson.) Look out, world!
Many of us are watching the Olympics, and this year's Chess Olympiad starts September 1. But did you know that chess was once in the "real" Olympics? Read more about it here.