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    « "Everything" Else: British K.O. Championship, Russian Championship, TCEC | Main | 2017 London Chess Classic, Round 3: The Perfect Tournament Continues; UPDATED: Games Included »
    Tuesday
    Dec052017

    2017 London Chess Classic, Round 4: Caruana Spoils Everything, Falls Out of the Last Place Tie...UPDATED

    It was too good to last. After 19 consecutive draws, Fabiano Caruana ruined everything by winning the last game of the round, with Black, against Sergey Karjakin. He showed some great preparation (though Jan-Krzysztof Duda gets the finder's fee for being the first to play 8...b5) and played an all-around excellent game. Unfortunately, while Karjakin showed the right spirit yesterday by accepting Levon Aronian's draw offer, despite having a winning advantage, Caruana didn't repay the favor. May he be punished with many more wins in the rest of the tournament.

    Everyone else deserves to be commended for doing their part. Aronian played a quasi-Marshall Gambit against Viswanathan Anand, and Anand immediately fled from danger by returning the pawn to create a drawish position. Hikaru Nakamura may have had a slight edge against Ian Nepomniachtchi, but the latter defended well (he was particularly pleased with his 11...Re8). Nakamura's 23.f4 dissipated his advantage (it was a slightly weakening move that should have been kept in abeyance), and Nepo's fortress held. Wesley So played a reversed Benko Gambit against Michael Adams, and while he eventually managed to equalize (with White) he got no further.

    While the three games mentioned in the last paragraph were all drawn in around 30 moves, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Magnus Carlsen was less balanced. MVL pressed on the white side of a Giuoco Piano for a long time, and Carlsen's pawn sac to obtain the bishop pair wasn't working out for a while. The key moments were moves 28 and 29. White had to find some way of organizing his knights to give them stable squares and to neutralize Black's bishops. It looks like 28.Nfd4 was the best way to achieve that, but Vachier-Lagrave's 28.Nb4 followed by 29.Nd3 didn't do the job. In the post-game interview he said that he had seen the position after 33.Nc5 Bc8, which arose naturally if not by force after 28.Nb4. He assumed that he'd have something there, but once it arose he realized that there was nothing, and at that point it was time to pull the plug and ensure the draw.

    [Side question about Carlsen. In the post-game interviews with Magnus Carlsen it's hard to tell whether he's unhappy about the draws or about having to interact with Maurice Ashley. Carlsen is generally a pretty lousy interviewee unless he has just won or things are going well, but he seems to be expressing disgust, even revulsion in his self-presentation. I remember he and Ashley had a very uncomfortable interview at one point - I think back in 2016 - but I also thought they had gotten past that. Magnus-watchers, what do you think? Whatever it is, it would be good for him to learn to present himself in a more human way: Ashley is just doing his job, and he's a rich man because of chess fans, not in spite of them.]

    The games will come later; for now, here are the tomorrow's pairings for round 5: 

    • Nepomniachtchi (2) - Karjakin (1.5)
    • Caruana (2.5) - Anand (2)
    • Aronian (2) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)
    • Carlsen (2) - So (2)
    • Adams (2) - Nakamura (2)

    Nepomniachtchi and Anand haven't played yet, so it's not too late to fix it: Karjakin can beat Nepo, Anand can beat Caruana, and then in round 7 Nepo can beat Anand. The tournament's ultimate perfection has been spoiled, but that's the next best thing.

    UPDATE: The games are here, with some comments to Vachier-Lagrave vs. Carlsen and Karjakin-Caruana.

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    Reader Comments (4)

    I share your sentiment that being a pro should include decent behaviour towards opponents as well as commentators and organizers.

    That being said, the London format of presenting the tournament has brought me to quit watching it. Meaningless statistics, player interviews full of empty questions, commentators who (although as knowledgeable as Yasser Seirawan) for no reason at all give over to some other guy in front of a fancy interactive board (which by the way is cluttered), and the ever present attempt to make the sport shiny and thrilling, only to make it thereby more and more shallow.

    Maurice Ashley to me is the cover boy of this regrettable hollowing out of once interesting chess coverage. What do you answer to questions like "what was your concern level that you might loose"? Well, he wasn't concerned and said so before. "Great results in terms of the grand chess tour standings?" A question that under the surface is quite unfriendly - Ashley tries to get Magnus to say that the draw was great after all. Magnus politely says yes, bur otherwise evades the question. "What's your take on all the draws?" Magnus stutters something, but then, what can he say? The guy wants to talk about chess, positions, tactics, Ashley asks about everything else. In that regard, Magnus's frown is stil unprofessional (MVL answers similar questions as evadingly, but with a telling smile), but very understandable.

    December 6, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermadgett

    On the opening in Karjakin-Caruana: Duda had actually played 8.-h5 9.0-0-0 b5? - here just bad after 10.Bf4 f6 (sadly needed, after 10.-d6 sacrifices similar to, but more efficient than in Gorovets-Drozdowsky, would be decisive) 11.Bxe5 Qxe5 12.f4 Qb8 13.Qg6+ Ke7. Duda later won after his opponent Theodorou sacrificed incorrectly, but that's no reason to repeat 9.-b5? . Mainline for a reason is 9.-h4 (removing the white queen from the diagonal h2-b8) 10.Qh3 b5 (now OK for black).
    The position in Karjakin-Caruana is generally reached via 7.-Nf6 (main move) 8.0-0-0 (absolute main move) 8.-Ne5 (less common than 8.-Be7, but popular at the highest Elo level) 9.Qg3 b5 (now absolute main move).
    So Karjakin maybe got confused by a move order subtlety, combined with the fact that he didn't expect this line from Caruana: Caruana had played the Taimanov only four times before (6.Be3 a6 7.Qf3 Bd6 in a game against Kramnik, Dortmund 2016) - the Paulsen/Kan (4.-a6 rather than 4.-Nc6) more frequently but mainly in rapid/blitz.

    [DM: The amount of material these guys have to study and memorize is staggering, but on balance I find it less likely than not that Karjakin was unfamiliar with the position after, say, 10...Neg4. One can't remember everything, but since it has been played by quite a few super-GMs (MVL-Grischuk, two games where Nepo had White, games where Morozevich, Fressinet, and Leko had White, etc.) I'd expect him to know this. Maybe Caruana doesn't play the Taimanov very often, but other elite GMs do. You never know, but presumably Karjakin doesn't forget lines he prepares for, say, Grischuk or Harikrishna when he plays Caruana.]

    December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    On Dennis' "side question about Carlsen": the previous interview with Ashley was last summer at the Paris Chess Tour event, thus 2017.

    [DM: Wow, it seemed like longer ago to me. My internal calendar needs recalibrating!]

    In any case it isn't limited to Ashley: I attended Carlsen's winner's press conference in Wijk aan Zee 2015 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igefrxHjPfU - which was also uninspired and uninspiring to put it mildly (as mentioned by Dutch newspapers, not even mentioned at major chess sites). Then he was unhappy with his last-round draw against Saric. 2016 was somewhat better, but still pale compared to Aronian (2014) and also So (2017).

    [DM: Hmm. I just watched that, and by Carlsen's standards it wasn't bad at all. He makes occasional eye contact, gives real answers rather than monosyllabic replies, smiles, laughs, etc. He's never going to be Aronian or Svidler, but this wasn't bad. Yesterday's Ashley interview was far, far worse IMO.]

    Interviewer Tom Bottema is maybe the exact opposite of Maurice Ashley - always polite, never provocative, thereby arguably a tad dry or boring (that's what some other people think, I understand but don't share their opinions). [An exception was a later interview by Bottema with Jorden van Foreest this year after the Dutch championship, but they may know each other well enough for Bottema to ask direct-provocative questions.] Both Bottema and Ashley could be criticized for how they "do their job".

    Carlsen fans tend to defend his attitude - he also refused to give autographs to kids several times, unhappy with a game he drew just before - saying he is ambitious/maximalist/perfectionist. It may be Carlsen being himself and/or an image he and his team like to convey-create. Then there would be no (perceived) need to change anything ... .

    P.S.: In Dennis' last sentence "Ashley is just doing his job, and he's a rich man because of chess fans, not in spite of them." 'he' is obviously Carlsen, while ambiguous without the previous context .... .

    [DM: Correct...though if Ashley is rich (probably not, but hopefully he's at least comfortable), it's also at least in part due to chess fans.]

    December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    One could say, "Karjakin is in dead-last place out of ten players after four rounds in the London Classic."


    One could also state, "Not only that, Caruana is in clear-first place."

    Both of these statements are quite true, of course, but they're also both examples of equivocating !

    On a final note, I wonder if this event will end up resembling the final scores of Sofia 2007. Remember the final scores of
    that tournament !?

    [DM: Link to the final standings of that event, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-Tel_Masters#2007. Good memory/nice find!

    Why are the comments about Caruana and Karjakin equivocal? I don't see any fudging in either statement - saying that someone is in clear first or clear last doesn't imply anything about the gap between them and the rest of the field. "Clear first" only means that it's not a first-place tie, not that one is crushing the field - at least in standard chess jargon. (There are other contexts where this isn't so: if we speak of a "clear leader" in a political race with many candidates, then there is an implication that there is a statistically significant gap between the leader and his closest pursuer, extending at least beyond the margin of error. But that doesn't carry over to the expression "clear first" in chess.)]

    December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHoward S Sample

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