For the answer based on an unspecified two million game database, have a look here.
Frankly, there's very little that's surprising there, and of course the results aren't normative: one isn't obliged to make sure that his d-pawn and knights leave the board first and his h-pawn is the last thing to go. The only thing that did surprise me a little was that the h-pawn's survival rate was as high as it is: I assumed it would be high, but thought that h4-h5 attacking ideas against fianchettos (as in the Yugoslav Attack vs. the Dragon) would lower its average lifespan by a larger degree.
One slightly interesting finding was came when I played around with the numbers. If my math was correct, on average White finishes .103 pawns ahead, assuming the traditional material scale according to which a pawn = 1, bishops and knights = 3, rooks = 5 and queens = 9. If you turn a typical engine on at the beginning of the game it will award White an advantage great than .1 pawns, so either the engines get it wrong, players with White consistently underperform, or part of White's advantage is not based on the quantity of material but on what can be done with that material. (Of course, this must be part of the story, as at the beginning of the game the computer prefers White, even though the material is completely even.)
I'm sure clever readers can find more interesting applications of the data than I did, so have at it.
HT: James Turnbull & Phil Salathé
If you were a chess player at the time of the Kasparov-Deep Blue matches in 1996 and 1997 there's little you'll learn from this video by Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight crew on the second match. It does a very good job of summarizing the match in a way that's useful for "civilians", so I recommend it for the curious non-chess players in your life.
HT: Allen Becker
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is off to a great start in the Tashkent Grand Prix after a convincing win over Rustam Kasimdzhanov in a 4.d3 Berlin. He is 2-0, while the other first-round winners, Hikaru Nakamura and Dmitry Andreikin, only drew against each other.
The latter duo remain alone half a point behind the leader, as the other four games were drawn. Fabiano Caruana got a big advantage against one of Baadur Jobava's eccentric lines (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Be2) but didn't manage to put him away. Anish Giri may have had some chances against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, while the other two games (Gelfand-Karjakin and Jakovenko-Radjabov) weren't as frightening for the defenders.
Round 3 pairings:
- Mamedyarov (.5) - Gelfand (1)
- Nakamura (1.5) - Giri (1)
- Caruana (.5) - Andreikin (1.5)
- Kasimdzhanov (.5) - Jobava (.5)
- Radjabov (1) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)
- Karjakin (1) - Jakovenko (1)
After struggling to get through her first three matches, in each case needing to win a game just to stay alive, Hou Yifan won the final match, against Sergey Fedorchuk, 2-0 to win the Corsican Circuit. In a second, distinct irony, the move that won game two was an outright blunder. Granted, it only brought the game from trivially won to winning with a little work, and even a draw would have been enough to win the match. Still, it was a blunder, and the interesting thing about it is that it displays a typical kind of chess illusion - have a look here for the details.
I had assumed it would be today, but they are holding it in a different site than the previous rounds. So tomorrow (Wednesday) will see the final between Hou Yifan and Sergey Fedorchuk.
Is Fabiano Caruana tired, regressing to the mean, or relatively inept against the Najdorf? (Very heavy emphasis on relatively.) Or can we just give Maxime Vachier-Lagrave the credit for being a fine and very well-prepared player today? Whatever the case, Caruana has lost three of his last six games, while his record against the Najdorf Sicilian since 2012 is two wins, five draws, and seven losses. Caruana was apparently surprised by MVL's new move, 15...Qc7, but there was nothing wrong with his position after it. White was always at least equal for another 10 moves, but with 25.Bd5 Caruana started to slightly lose the thread of the position, and with 33.Rg2 things got worse. (33.Rde1 would have kept Black's advantage manageable.) Vachier-Lagrave simply outplayed Caruana, and while his novelty may have gotten him off to a comfortable start the win had very little to do with that.
The other winners: Hikaru Nakamura beat Baadur Jobava and Dmitry Andreikin defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Anyone can lose to Nakamura, but Jobava may have a difficult time as he was a late addition to the tournament. In the other game, Mamedyarov was winning before letting it slip away at the end of the time control. Worse still, he went off the rails afterwards and even managed to lose the ending. It's incredible to see a super-GM go from being a safe pawn up in a double-rook ending to completely lost ten moves later, but it's explicable when you look at it one slightly wrong decision at a time.
The three draws (Giri - Gelfand, Radjabov - Karjakin, Kasimdzhanov - Jakovenko) were all full-bodied games, even if in most of them it was clear relatively early on that they were headed towards a peaceful conclusion.
Round 2 Pairings:
- Gelfand - Karjakin
- Jakovenko - Radjabov
- Vachier-Lagrave - Kasimdzhanov
- Jobava - Caruana
- Andreikin - Nakamura
- Giri - Mamedyarov
Tournament site here.
Anatoly Karpov's comment that he and Bobby Fischer were stronger than Magnus Carlsen is rather hard to believe and is almost comical, but I'll offer four remarks in his defense.
First, he prefaced it with "I think", offering a bit of a hedge. He wasn't making a categorical pronouncement.
Second, Karpov is assuming that rating inflation is obvious. Given that assumption, his supposition becomes more plausible.
Third, he notes that Carlsen is still developing. Though Karpov, like Carlsen, became the world champion in his early 20s, he didn't reach his peak in his early 20s but sometime later (in fact, his all-time highest rating was accomplished when he was 43 and his highest official rating when he was 45!). So Carlsen has plenty of time to improve even further.
Fourth, Karpov's claims may be based in part on dominance, and both he and Fischer had longer and/or clearer margins of dominance than Carlsen.
In reply, the first rebuttal makes it easier to swallow but doesn't do anything to support the claim on its merits.
Point two has been disputed by Ken Regan, who claims that there hasn't been rating inflation. (There was a brief period where there were maybe 30 points' worth of inflation, but that bump was subsequently eliminated.) In correspondence and conversation I've asked whether his model fails to take the increased depth of theoretical preparation into account, and in reply he has noted that even if we compare the players of today with those of yesteryear taking only moves 17-32 into account, there's still no good evidence of rating inflation.
Point three, like point one, mitigates the shock value of the claim but doesn't support the claim itself.
Point four is both iffy and a change of subject. Fischer's lead over the rest of the world was greater than Carlsen's, but Carlsen's lead was greater than Karpov's when the latter became champion. Karpov was then dominant for years, but as Carlsen only won the title last year the time hasn't elapsed to make the comparison of their reigns. And even if Karpov's reign proves more impressive than Carlsen's, relatively speaking, it doesn't show that he was the stronger player. Emanuel Lasker was great and was world champion for 27 years, but I don't believe that Karpov concludes that Lasker was therefore the strongest player of all time.
Anyway, it's an interesting interview, and there are other entertaining bits to be savored and disputed as well.
Dominic Lawson is conducting a five-part "Across the Board" series on BBC Radio 4, and his first guest, next Monday, is Magnus Carlsen. (The second guest will be Murray Campbell of Deep Blue fame; the remaining interviewees don't seem to have been announced yet.) Lawson is a "regular" journalist, but he has been around the game for a long time and should be able to ask questions that will be interesting not only to non-players but to those of us who know and love the game. Let's hope so!
HT: Marc Beishon.