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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 Petrosian Memorial 2014 Rapid & Blitz World Championship 2014 Russian Team Championship 2014 Sinquefield Cup 2014 Tigran Petrosian Memorial 2014 U.S. Championship 2014 U.S. Open 2014 Women's World Championship 2014 World Championship 2014 World Junior Championships 2014 World Rapid Championship 22014 Sinquefield Cup 22014 U.S. Championship 60 Minutes A. 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    Saturday
    Nov152014

    World Championship, Game 6: Carlsen Wins After Anand Misses A Huge Chance

    When Viswanathan Anand blundered at the end of game 2, it was in a position that was very difficult and possibly lost against best play. Today, however, Magnus Carlsen blundered in a position that was clearly better, and had Anand spotted it the tables would have been turned. As so often happens, Carlsen realized his mistake the instant after he made his move, and unfortunately for Anand it was only after he made his reply that he spotted the missed opportunity. (Carlsen's 26.Kd2?? allowed 26...Nxe5, e.g. 27.Rxg8 Nxc4+ 28.Kd3 Nb2+ 29.Ke2 Rxg8 30.g3 and although White will reclaim one of the two missing pawns Black has excellent winning chances.)

    After the exchange of errors Black's position remained difficult but defensible, but Anand did not make the most of his chances. In particular, ...Ba4 was a good idea, but according to the players it needed to be prefaced by ...Ne7. After 31...Ba4 32.Be4+ Bc6 Black started bleeding pawns left and right, and when he resigned he was on the verge of going five pawns(!) down. In fact Black had an incredible defensive resource - see the PGN file (link below) for the details - but it would have been very difficult to spot.

    Going back to the beginning, the opening was rather a surprise. Anand's decision to repeat the Sicilian with 2...e6 was not a shock--the last game was successful and this was after all the variation I had suggested. Carlsen went for an Open Sicilian - a mild surprise - and one would think that this was just the sort of thing Anand wanted. Here, however, Anand chose a line with an early queen trade and wher Black is passive, immediately going into a two-results position where neither of the results (well, except in the case of a blunder!) is a Black win. If Anand had achieved a position that was (at least) objectively good or really and clearly worked out to a draw out of the opening one could make an argument for this strategy, but that clearly wasn't the case.

    The players have a rest day tomorrow, and game 7 will be on Monday with Carlsen again having the white pieces. Meanwhile, you can replay the game, with my relatively light comments, here. (As usual, subscribers will receive the more detailed annotations and the video later today.)

    Friday
    Nov142014

    World Championship, Game 5: Carlsen Holds Easily With Black

    Game 5 of the world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen was the first real dud of the series. Anand again opened with 1.d4, and Carlsen switched lines once again, opting this time for the solid Queen's Indian. For once he wasn't surprised and seemed to be the better-prepared player. Anand did achieve a slight edge, but he couldn't figure out what to do with it. After thinking for a while he played 27.Rb7, which was in effect a surrender: the remaining moves were played a tempo and the game was drawn a dozen moves and about five moves later.

    The match is tied 2.5-2.5, but Carlsen will have good chances to seize the match initiative as he gets White in the next two games (first tomorrow and then on Monday). The game, with light notes, is here; subscribers' deeper coverage will be emailed later.

    Wednesday
    Nov122014

    World Championship, Game 4: A Drawn Sicilian

    (Hmm, kind of a mobster-y title there - but at least the Sicilian wasn't then quartered.)

    I think the likelihood that Viswanathan Anand reads my blog is extremely close to zero, and the odds that someone on his team reads it is only infinitesimally greater. But it's still a happy coincidence that he acted in accordance with my advice to scrap the whole Berlin business and try a Sicilian with 2...e6. Magnus Carlsen, as chess fans everywhere surely expected, went for a sideline - in this case 3.g3. Soon Black had an isolated d-pawn, which is, I think, a nice structure for this match, as both players get what they want. The side facing the isolani can hope to positionally massage the opponent until the pawn eventually drops - just the sort of thing Carlsen likes to do (though not the only thing he is adept at, obviously) - while the side with the isolani gets to play actively and to fight for the initiative - the kind of chess Anand thrives on.

    As far as I can recall, this is their first IQP (isolated queen's pawn - the d-pawn) game against each other, at least in a world championship, and it wound up drawn. First Anand was a tiny bit better, and then Carlsen had a slight edge, but ultimately neither player experienced any serious problems before they split the point after 47 moves. Thus this match, like their previous one, was tied 2-2 heading into the second rest day.

    After the game Anand was basically satisfied with his play, except for a late oversight in his calculations that he was able to correct beforehand, while Carlsen seemed fairly disgusted by his own play. Does this mean that Carlsen will head for this line again, thinking he should do better next time? My advice to Anand & co. is that they repeat this. The opening was fine, and a return trip will let them work out the details even more effectively. As White objectively achieved nothing from the variation, and didn't saddle Anand with the kind of position where he must morosely and passively defend forever, there's no obvious reason why he shouldn't go for a second dose of this. And if Carlsen goes for an Open Sicilian, that's definitely playing to Anand's strength. So my prediction is that Carlsen will switch first moves next time, maybe going for the vague world of 1.Nf3.

    The game (with very light annotations) is here; subscribers' material will be sent later.

    Wednesday
    Nov122014

    Ukranian Championship Underway

    I won't be covering it (some other event seems to be hogging the limelight these days), but the Ukranian Championship may be worth an occasional glance over the next week or two. (If you don't want to mess around with Russian, you'll be able to replay the previous round on TWIC's live page.) Five 2700 and two near-2700 players are participating, including Vassily Ivanchuk, Pavel Eljanov and Ruslan Ponomariov, so some excellent and interesting chess can be expected.

    HT: Mark Crowther

    Tuesday
    Nov112014

    World Championship, Game 3: Anand Strikes Back to Level the Match

    In last year's world championship match between the same players, the score was likewise 1.5-1.5 after three games, but the feeling is very different this time around. Having been totally outplayed in games 5-10 of last year's match and the first two games of this one, it looked as if Viswanathan Anand might be hopelessly outclassed by Magnus Carlsen. After today's game, there is hope and relief for Anand and his fans, and for everyone who wants to see a competitive match.

    In game 1 Anand tried to complicate the play and succeeded up to a point, and today he was even more successful. Carlsen went into a deeply theoretical line of the Queen's Gambit Declined with Black, but it was soon clear that Anand had done his homework and that Carlsen hadn't. Anand's preparation went up to at least his 22nd move, at which time he had a clear advantage and a huge lead on the clock. Some further precise moves like 26.Rc6! and 28.Ra1! put Carlsen under enormous pressure, and in a difficult position he cracked with 28...Ba5 and 29...Bxc7, losing serious material without achieving any counterplay whatsoever. In a hopeless position and just a few seconds left, Carlsen resigned on his 34th move.

    Carlsen is a very resilient player - one of the most resilient in top-level chess, if not the most resilient, so he will not crumble after this. But Anand needed this win very badly, and now that he should have his confidence up we could be in for a great match! (Those of you who feared a rout may want to take this opportunity to subscribe. The first step is to drop me a note via the "Contact" link on the sidebar.)

    The match site is here, and the game, with my light commentary, is here. (Much more detailed coverage, plus a video, will be sent out to subscribers later.)

    Tuesday
    Nov112014

    Petrosian Memorial: Grischuk-Kramnik Drawn; Grischuk Takes Clear First

    Alexander Grischuk finished the Petrosian Memorial facing Vladimir Kramnik, and if Kramnik had won the players would have concluded the event tied for first. Winning to order against Grischuk would be a difficult task for Kramnik even in his best form and with the white pieces, but with the black pieces and seeing Grischuk playing the best chess of his life this year it wasn't in, on, under or through the cards.* Kramnik tried a sharp line against the Catalan, one he had previously used successfully against Veselin Topalov, but an alert Grischuk noticed that instead of the theoretical 10.Bd6 White could play 10.Bc3 and more or less force a draw on the spot, as Black cannot afford to allow Nxb5. So Grischuk took clear first and Kramnik took clear second.

    Three players were tied for third entering the round, and two of them won. Boris Gelfand defeated Peter Leko with a nice breakthrough in a rook ending, and Levon Aronian won a complicated bishop ending against Ernesto Inarkiev. The third member of the pre-round triumvirate, Ding Liren, only drew with Morozevich. For Gelfand, going +1 was a nice rebound from the disaster in Tashkent (and a real accomplishment for a man playing in his third straight tournament, perhaps especially at his age), and it was a decent result for Aronian as well.

    Back now to the main show - the Carlsen-Anand match!

    * A little joke for those who caught Peter Svidler's discussion a week or so ago on "in the cards" vs. "on the cards".

    Monday
    Nov102014

    Petrosian Memorial, Round 6: Kramnik Beats Morozevich

    Alexander Grischuk continues to lead the Tigran Petrosian Memorial, but he is not yet guaranteed clear first. Levon Aronian put Grischuk under pressure in a Gruenfeld (Aronian was White), but Grischuk played very well to draw. He is at 5/6 (a great score good for a 3011 TPR), but thanks to Vladimir Kramnik's attacking victory over tailender Alexander Morozevich it's not over. Kramnik has 4 points and the good news for him is that he gets Grischuk in the last round. His bad news is that he gets Black, so Grischuk's a very strong favorite to finish the event on top.

    I've analyzed Kramnik's win over Morozevich here and provided the round's other three games (all drawn) as well. Also, Jeffrey Hall wrote in to mention a remarkable blunder in the round four game between Morozevich and Ernesto Inarkiev, so that's also included at the link above.

    Last Round Pairings:

    • Grischuk (5) - Kramnik (4)
    • Inarkiev (2) - Aronian (3)
    • Gelfand (3) - Leko (2.5)
    • Morozevich (1.5) - Ding Liren (3)

    Monday
    Nov102014

    Big Money Blitz in Sochi

    Once the Petrosian Memorial finishes in Moscow, most of the players (Ding Liren and Levon Aronian will be absent) plus four others will zip over to Sochi, site of the world championship, for a big money ($100,000) double round robin blitz (4' + 2") tournament on Thursday and Friday. The full lineup is here.

    Sunday
    Nov092014

    Petrosian Memorial, Round 5: Grischuk Wins Again!

    It isn't quite Fabiano Caruana's streak at the Sinquefield Cup, but Alexander Grischuk's score of 4.5/5 in the Tigran Petrosian Memorial (and 7.5 out of his last 8 games) is extremely impressive. Today's victim was Peter Leko, and although Leko is one of the most solid players in chess he was outfoxed in a complicated game and lost in just 33 moves.

    He hasn't quite managed to clinch even a tie for first yet, with two rounds remaining, as Vladimir Kramnik is "only" a point and a half behind after drawing with Levon Aronian. Aronian is on 50%, as is Ding Liren (who drew with Ernesto Inarkiev) and Boris Gelfand (who defeated Alexander Morozevich in a nice game).

    (Because I need to spend time working on the Carlsen-Anand analysis I won't take the time now to analyze the games from this round, but the two decisive games are worth your attention, so I'll post them here.)

    Round 6 Pairings:

    • Kramnik (3) - Morozevich (1.5)
    • Ding Liren (2.5) - Gelfand (2.5)
    • Leko (2) - Inarkiev (1.5)
    • Aronian (2.5) - Grischuk (4.5)

    Sunday
    Nov092014

    Carlsen-Anand, Game 2: Carlsen Wins After Anand Blunders in a Bad Position

    This is clearly not the way Viswanathan Anand hoped to start his second world championship match against Magnus Carlsen. The position he reached from the opening, a "Closed" Berlin (4.d3)  was reasonable enough, objectively speaking, but Carlsen found a nice plan to whip up a dangerous kingside initiative - 14.Ra3 was the clear signal, but the previous moves had prepared the plan. Anand defended well for a while, but 20...Bxf5 rather than the tactically clever 20...Kh8 (21.Rxf6 Qf7) was a big concession. Soon the players reached their second straight heavy piece ending, but this time Carlsen entered it with a large positional advantage. Carlsen's technique was not up to its usual incredibly high standard, but he was still in control when Anand played 34...h5??, which lost on the spot. Carlsen played 35.Qb7 and Anand resigned on the move.

    Anand's propensity to make concessions like 20...Bxf5 was part of what ruined his chances last year, and it looks like it's happening again. The trouble is that his keep-it-simple approach, one he has used to the point of cynicism over the years, has worked very effectively against everyone else in the chess world, at least since Garry Kasparov's retirement. Against Carlsen (as against Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov in their primes) it is a disaster. He accepts the concession, then ramps up the tension again until the opponent makes another concession, which he again accepts and starts the process all over again. Most players, even great ones, tend to relax at least a little once they've extracted some gain from their opponents; most, but not Carlsen. Anand must try not to let Carlsen get risk-free positions, where he is simply the best player in the world, and by a significant margin.

    For Anand to choose the Berlin against Carlsen is almost the exact inversion of Kasparov's problem in 2000 against Vladimir Kramnik. Kasparov kept banging his head against the Berlin ending, believing (with some justification, at least at the time) that White simply must be better there and thus sticking to the principled belief that he should keep at it. Had he switched to the less principled 4.d3, he might not have obtained any advantage but would have reached positions where his own natural gifts would be more likely to shine. For Anand, it's the opposite: he is playing the Berlin because he believes (with justification) that Black is doing fine there. That's true (or at least seems to be true at this point in time), but he is thereby heading into the kinds of positions where his opponent's gifts for chess are more likely to shine than his own. Giving Carlsen a position where he can just grind away with no risk at all is a ridiculously bad strategy. It's not that Carlsen can't play in sharper positions - of course he can - but there they can fight on a much more equal footing. So: if Anand has some Sicilian lines ready to go in his preparation, it's time to use them. Make Carlsen take strategic risks!

    The game, with some light annotations, can be replayed here. (Subscribers' coverage is coming later today. For non-subscribers, it's not too late to sign up!)