In case the action in Leuven isn't enough for you, there's a super-strong blitz event going on in Almaty, Kazakhstan: the Eurasian Blitz Chess Cup. It started Friday and finishes Sunday, and includes monsters like Alexander Grischuk, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Sergey Karjakin, Le Quang Liem, Boris Gelfand, Peter Svidler, Ruslan Ponomariov, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and many more. After 14 of 22 rounds, Mamedyarov leads with 11.5 points, a point ahead of Karjakin, Farrukh Amonatov, Baadur Jobava, and Kasimdzhanov.
The identities of the first four players offers nary a surprise: Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, and Ray Robson. The reserve spot was more closely contested, but in the end Sam Shankland earned his place on the team. It could have been an even stronger team if Gata Kamsky had maintained his level from just a few years ago, but short of Garry Kasparov taking U.S. citizenship and coming out of retirement it's about the best the U.S. can do - and it's very good.
More here. (HT: Daniel Parmet)
It's a few weeks off (July 13-23), but the lineup for the Bilbao Masters Final is impressive and offers a foretaste of the World Championship match in November. It's a double-round robin with Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Anish Giri, Sergey Karjakin, Wesley So, and Wei Yi.
In round 1, World Champion Magnus Carlsen drew with Black against Wesley So, and the other games finished with a winner. Vladimir Kramnik won an impressive technical game against Hikaru Nakamura on the white side of a Reti; the beginning of a bad run for last week's winner of the Paris Rapid & Blitz tournament. (That said, if Nakamura had chosen ...a5 on move 21 or 22, he probably would have drawn without too many tears.) Viswanathan Anand also won impressively, defeating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with Black with a well-calculated sacrificial attack. The other two wins weren't quite as clean, but both Fabiano Caruana (vs. Veselin Topalov) and Levon Aronian (against Anish Giri) were deserved winners.
Leaders: Anand, Aronian, Caruana and Kramnik.
Less blood was spilled in round 2 - only Topalov-Nakamura ended with a decisive result. Nakamura came out of the opening in great shape, with a rook and two massive center pawns for a pair of minor pieces. Topalov defended well, managed to blockade the position, and after Nakamura played 38...Rfd8? it was a light-squared rout after 39.Bxe5 Qxe5 40.Nh4. Giri-Caruana should have been a second win, as Giri had an overwhelming advantage, but Giri got careless and allowed Caruana a near-miracle draw.
Leaders: Exactly the same: Anand, Aronian, Caruana and Kramnik.
In round 3 more strange things happened. Anand blundered a piece against Caruana on move 8 to a straightforward tactic, and then kept playing and pulled out a draw. Almost as strange was the grudge game Kramnik-Topalov. Kramnik enjoyed a two-results ending for a long time, but then he uncorked 58.f6??, blundering a piece to a trivially simple tactic and lost. Aronian had an edge against Carlsen for a while, and certainly should have drawn. In the rook ending, however, everything went wrong for Aronian, who is not the first and won't be the last player to lose a "drawn" rook ending to the champ. Nakamura-Giri was another disaster for the American, whose was lost already out of the opening. Finally, MVL-So was a clean draw.
Leaders: Anand, Carlsen, Caruana and Topalov.
Round 4 finally resulted in a single leader: Fabiano Caruana. He was getting outplayed by Carlsen in a complicated middlegame, but in mutual time trouble Carlsen's 43.Bd6! allowed 43...Re5!, equalizing, after after 44.Rf1 Rg5 Carlsen was about to play the correct 45.Rf2 before changing his mind and sliding the rook on to f3. That lost to 45...Rxg2+! 46.Kxg2 Nd4, and Caruana duly converted his advantage. Anand and Topalov failed to keep up, as they only drew with Nakamura and Giri, respectively. So-Aronian was also drawn, while Vachier-Lagrave defeated Kramnik after the latter again blundered a piece (this time in an inferior position).
That state of affairs did not last. In round 5, Caruana lost with White to So; this was the undefeated So's first win of the tournament, and was good enough to put him into a tie for second with Caruana. And in first? It is Anand, who defeated Topalov on the black side of a rather peculiar English (1.c4 e5 2.d3). White was fine after the opening (though not better), so the "blame" for the loss goes to Anand's better play in the middlegame and not to any fault with the opening experiment. Both Aronian (against MVL) and Kramnik (against Giri) had some advantage with White before their long-lasting games finished peacefully.
Finally, in the remaining game - which was the first one to finish - a sort of miracle happened: Nakamura defeated Carlsen in something other than a blitz game! It was no masterpiece, and Nakamura didn't have to show any grit or find any brilliant ideas. Carlsen just hallucinated or miscalculated - or didn't calculate at all - and straightforwardly blundered a piece on move 11, resigning six moves later. It's not a game Nakamura will brag about, but to finally defeat Carlsen after taking so many lumps from him over the years must still be psychologically huge.
Here are the full standings after day 1 (remember, the rapid games are counted on a 2-1-0 scoring system; the blitz will have the traditional 1-.5-0 weights):
- 1. Anand 7/10
- 2-3. Caruana, So 6
- 4-7. Topalov, Aronian, Vachier-Lagrave, Giri 5
- 8-9. Carlsen, Kramnik 4
- 10. Nakamura 3
The schedule is here. This is a sort of companion piece to last week's Grand Chess Tour event in Paris (won by Hikaru Nakamura, with Magnus Carlsen a close second and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in third). The format is the same, and so are the players, except that Viswanathan Anand will participate rather than Laurent Fressinet. Play starts at 2 p.m. local time in Belgium (= 8 a.m. ET).
From Hal Bogner, by email (originally posted here):
As the youthful chief organizer of that unplayed match in Pasadena (Los Angeles), 1983, it was a great privilege and pleasure to host Viktor in the preceding weeks, and throughout the US Open Championship which he won (along with GM Larry Christiansen) ahead of 840 players. Our story, too, has remained untold for decades, but our organizing committee intended only to hold this most important event, and not to affect the future of chess through political acts. Therefore, when FIDE president Florencio Campomanes informed us that he had arranged for Hungarian GM Zoltan Ribli to be waiting in western Europe, ready to fly to California
and seal the forfeits he had declared of Kasparov and of former world champion Vasily Smyslov, we absolutely refused to host such a match.
Besides yourself, Garry, few could have been happier than our group in California when the Candidates cycle was reset and your match with Viktor took place in London.
Hal Bogner, California, USA
From what I recall of previous TCEC events, the draw death was limited to most of Gull's games and the Komodo-Stockfish finals, so this year's Stage 2 is quite unusual: eight games, eight draws. (It's still very early, obviously, but unusual all the same.)
Not many (non-Cuban) members of the world's super-elite play in the annual Capablanca Memorial in Havana, except for Vassily Ivanchuk. This event is a favorite of his, and he has won it six times. This year, it looks like he's going to make it seven, as he has raced out to a 4-1 score, already enough for a point and a half lead over the rest of the field. Moreover, he has not just been successful; he has been playing excellent chess as well.
More here. (HT: Brian Gaines)