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    1948 World Chess Championship 1962 Candidates 2.c3 Sicilian 2.f4 Sicilian 2011 European Team Championship 2011 Russian Championship 2012 Capablanca Memorial 2012 Chess Olympiad 2012 European Women's Championship 2012 London Chess Classic 2012 U.S. Junior Championship 2012 U.S. Women's Championship 2012 US Championship 2012 Women's World Chess Championship 2012 World Rapid and Blitz Championships 2013 Alekhine Memorial 2013 Beijing Grand Prix 2013 European Club Cup 2013 European Team Championship 2013 FIDE World Cup 2013 Kings Tournament 2013 London Chess Classic 2013 Russian Championship 2013 Tal Memorial 2013 U.S. Championship 2013 Women's World Championship 2013 World Blitz Championship 2013 World Championship 2013 World Rapid Championship 2013 World Team Championship 2014 Capablanca Memorial 2014 Chess Olympiad 2014 Rapid & Blitz World Championship 2014 Russian Team Championship 2014 Sinquefield Cup 2014 U.S. Championship 2014 U.S. Open 2014 World Championship 2014 World Rapid Championship 22014 U.S. Championship 60 Minutes A. 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    Thursday
    Aug282014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 2: Caruana Wins Again, Aronian Also Wins

    Fabiano Caruana (please stay here!) is off to a great start, two for two, at the second Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, Missouri. While round 1 saw him take advantage of Veselin Topalov's self-destruction, today's victory over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave took a completely different course. Yesterday Vachier-Lagrave was the speedier player in a fascinating theoretical battle against Magnus Carlsen, but today the Frenchman was the victim. Caruana blitzed out his first 17 moves, all prepared with his second Vladimir Chuchelov some months earlier for a game against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. He didn't get to use it then and didn't expect to use it today, but Vachier-Lagrave walked into it and paid the price. Caruana didn't have to think until his opponent erred with 17...Nh6, and it didn't take him too long to figure out the refutation. Black resigned after 30 moves, and really could have thrown in the towel at least six moves before that. It was a very impressive win by the world's #2 player, even if it was largely a result of superior homework.

    While that result was clear very early in the round, it turned out that it was the second game to finish. Levon Aronian got curious at the board about an idea he "knew" wasn't very good, and when he played it his suspicions were confirmed. Topalov played well and forced Aronian to sac an exchange for some compensation, though it shouldn't have been enough. Having achieved the advantage, however, Topalov fell apart almost immediately, committing both tactical oversights and positional misjudgments (most notably making the self-destructive decision to castle queenside), and he was quickly crushed.

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura and Carlsen drew their game. Carlsen met the Ruy with 3...g6, and while the succeeding play was always interesting neither player managed to achieve any advantage, and the world champion's attempts to sharpen the play at the end were smoothly neutralized by the American.

    After two rounds, Caruana has 2 points, Aronian 1.5, Nakamura and Carlsen 1, Vachier-Lagrave half a point and Topalov has as many as the rest of the world put together. Here are the pairings for round 3, tomorrow: Topalov - Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave - Aronian, Carlsen - Caruana.

    Finally, here are the games, with my comments.

    Wednesday
    Aug272014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 1: Caruana Wins, Leads

    All three games from round 1 of this year's Sinquefield Cup were interesting, but only one had a winner. Veselin Topalov played very aggressively, as is his wont, and in this case it was more self-destructive than anything else. Fabiano Caruana played very well and took advantage of Topalov's concessions to start the event with a win, and with the black pieces at that.

    The world champion (at least for now; will he be a lame duck in four days?) had Black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a very exciting game. Magnus Carlsen used an idea against Vachier-Lagrave's Scotch that seems to have come from Garry Kasparov's notebook, and it looks like it's good enough for a very exciting equality. It seems to me that both players only made one inaccuracy apiece in the game, and although Carlsen could have shown an advantage at one moment the talk I've read that he may have missed a win is mistaken. He should have played 25...Qd3, that's true, but instead of playing as in the game 26.Qc3 would have kept the disadvantage to manageable proportions. I'd add that for Carlsen to have worked out all the fine tactical details between 25...Qd3 and 25...Qd2 in fairly significant time trouble is asking a bit much of him (you'll see when you replay the game and my analysis).

    Finally, Levon Aronian had a small advantage at times against Hikaru Nakamura's Classical Slav, but couldn't manage to turn it into something significant.

    The games, with my notes (heavy-ish notes to the MVL-Carlsen game), are here.

    Round 2 Pairings: Nakamura - Carlsen, Caruana - Vachier-Lagrave, Aronian - Topalov

    Wednesday
    Aug272014

    Carlsen's Deadline: This Sunday?

    So says this article, c/o this one. (Background in the second link; see also here.) Karjakin-Anand, anyone?

    Tuesday
    Aug262014

    2014 Sinquefield Cup: Round 1 Pairings

    The full pairings are here; as for round 1, this is what we have to look forward to tomorrow (Wednesday):

    • Levon Aronian - Hikaru Nakamura
    • Veselin Topalov - Fabiano Caruana
    • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Magnus Carlsen

    Rather than ask for predictions (though you're all welcome to give them, especially if you think someone other than the champ will take first), I'll ask this: would you take Carlsen or the rest of the field?

    Tuesday
    Aug262014

    Carlsen and Sochi: Will He Or Won't He?

    Will Magnus Carlsen sign his contract for the world championship match slated to begin in Sochi on November 7? He has until September 7, the final day of the Sinquefield Cup (which starts tomorrow/today/Wednesday) to do so. This article offers a good summary of where things stand, and notes that it Carlsen doesn't play there will be a world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Sergei Karjakin. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

    Monday
    Aug252014

    Starting Wednesday: The 2014 Sinquefield Cup

    The opening ceremonies and such begin tomorrow (Tuesday), but the real action begins on Wednesday. It's a double round-robin with six great players:

    • Magnus Carlsen
    • Levon Aronian
    • Fabiano Caruana
    • Hikaru Nakamura
    • Veselin Topalov
    • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

    The average rating is over 2800! More info about the Sinquefield Cup here.

    Monday
    Aug252014

    Starting Tomorrow: The 2014 US Chess League

    Here's the website, and here are this week's pairings.

    Monday
    Aug252014

    Women's Grand Prix Finale Underway

    Whatever problems exist for the "men's" world championship, their cycle is at least reasonably clear and logical compared to the convolutions FIDE has generated for the women's world title. Sometimes the champion is determined by a knockout event, other times in a match between the defending titleholder and the winner of the Grand Prix cycle - or in case the champion is also the Grand Prix winner, the champ plays the Grand Prix runner-up.

    Right now Hou Yifan is the women's world champion and, with the retirement of Judit Polgar the top-rated woman in the world by a pretty hefty margin. But for how long? There's a knockout event allegedly going to take place in October, and while Hou has done well in most of the KO events she had a bad day in the last one and was eliminated early. (That event was eventually won by someone who couldn't mate with a bishop and a knight.)

    She (Hou) won the Grand Prix, however, and demolished the KO winner (Anna Ushenina) in a match, which brings us where we are today. The current Grand Prix cycle has one tournament left, in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Humpy Koneru has a slight lead over Hou Yifan in the overall standings, but as long as Hou finishes a single place ahead of her rival in Sharjah she will leapfrog her into first place. (As Hou won her first game while Humpy lost hers, she's off to a good start.)

    So here's what all of this means. If the KO takes place and neither Hou Yifan nor Humpy Koneru wins, then the winner of the KO will play whichever of the two women wins the Grand Prix. If one of them does win the KO, then the other woman will face her in a match, regardless of which one wins the Grand Prix.

    Monday
    Aug252014

    Stockfish Beats Nakamura

    And in other news: ten is greater than five and Usain Bolt is faster than I am. Still, the story is more interesting and the match was closer than one might expect.

    In fact, the match between the latest version of Stockfish and Hikaru Nakamura (currently #7 in the world; more precisely the #7 human chess player in the world*) was quite close, the 3-1 score notwithstanding. It wasn't an even fight, as Nakamura had help in the first two games while Stockfish had handicaps in all four, but it was a close battle all the same.

    In the first two games Nakamura was helped by an older version of Rybka (rated approximately 200 points lower than the version of Stockfish he was facing), while Stockfish wasn't given access to either an opening book or tablebases.  Nakamura drew game one with White, and in game two it seemed that he was headed for a draw by the 50-move rule before playing 83...Bh6. Stockfish ground that one out in 147 moves.

    In the next two games Nakamura was on his own - no Rybka - but was given White and an extra pawn. In the first game Stockfish played without an h-pawn and the game was drawn, and in the second game the computer started without its b-pawn. Nakamura wasn't in any danger when they reached the endgame, but he'd need to win to tie the match, and once he opened the board he was gradually outplayed, losing in 97 moves.

    Overall, Nakamura acquitted himself well. It's hard to remain vigilant and not miss anything when a game lasts 97 or especially 147 moves, and all four games were on the same day -  there were more 10 hours of play in all. So while the computer played with a handicap, the human did too: computers don't suffer from fatigue (or at least not in the relevant sense)!

    * Then again, as computers don't play chess (in part because they don't exist**, in part because there's nobody home "upstairs"), we can dispense with the qualifying adjective "human".

    ** In saying that they don't exist, I don't mean that they are illusions but that they aren't unities in their own right. Think of a cup sitting on a table. Is there a further entity we could call a tablecup, comprised of the table and the cup put together? Most people would say no, and I agree. The table and cup are not subsumed into a further whole. By contrast, an atom of hydrogen or a molecule of water is a genuine whole in its own right. Its parts are genuinely subsumed into the whole and are defined as parts of that whole. Those parts do not act independently, but in a behavior that's determined by their function within the hydrogen atom or water molecule.

    So is a computer more like a tablecup or a water molecule? Both, really - but it depends on one's perspective. As a purely physical object, it's like the tablecup. Its parts interact with each other, but there is no intrinsic principle of unity to the computer's constituent parts. There is a unity to the computer, however, but it comes from us, from our purposes. What the computer does it does only if there are intelligent outside interpreters to understand its results. Otherwise, it is just an unnatural collection of heterogenous parts. It is not a thing in its own right, and thus doesn't exist per se.

    (HT: Jason Childress, by way of Allen Becker.)

    Thursday
    Aug212014

    The Coming World Championship: Will Carlsen Sign the Contract?

    This doesn't look good. Magnus Carlsen is understandably concerned about the situation with Russia and Ukraine, and is also not sure who exactly is supplying the money for his coming world championhip match, scheduled to begin November 7. Accordingly, he has requested a postponement (not a change of venue), but the request has been turned down. Also, speaking of money, the prize fund may be reduced to half of what it was in the last few matches. (Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's latest term is off to a great start, isn't it? Don't worry, there will be a new FIDE president someday - he can't live forever. Ah, I know! Garry Kasparov can start his own rival organization! Oh wait, that already happened in 1993. Anyone have a plan C?) Let's hope this gets resolved quickly.