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    Saturday
    May162015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, Round 3: Caruana, Svidler Win; They Lead With Dominguez

    There haven't been many wins so far in the Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, so when they do it's not surprising that the leaderboard is immediately affected. Evgeny Tomashevsky led after the first two rounds (and should have led with a 2-0 score), but today he came a-cropper against Fabiano Caruana. The American (aaah, it feels good writing that) had him under pressure from the opening, and when Tomashevsky played 25...Qc8? the tactical problems with Black's position left him lost or at least on death's door. The last critical moment came on move 30, when Tomashevsky needed to play 30...Qg4 intending ...Qb4 with a trade of queens. After 30...Bb4 31.e6 the passed pawn proved more than Black could cope with, and Tomashevsky resigned just after the time control.

    The day's other winner was Peter Svidler, who won a nice rook ending against Dmitry Jakovenko. Jakovenko was a co-leader after round 1, but with two consecutive defeats he's now tied for last. The game turned in Svidler's favor on moves 21 and 22 when Jakovenko didn't bring his knight back to c3 (which in turn implies that he shouldn't have removed it from that square on move 20). It's not clear to me what Jakovenko overlooked, and the end result was that he went from being a little better to down a pawn for nothing.

    The other four games were drawn. Baadur Jobava and Boris Gelfand had a very complicated game that may have favored Gelfand most of the way, but it was never easy. Alexander Grischuk had some advantage all the way against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but doesn't seem to have missed any real winning opportunities. Leinier Dominguez had Black against Sergey Karjakin, but despite that was better pretty much throughout. Indeed, it's not clear why he took a draw at the end, as a well-timed ...g5 would give him persistent pressure against White's e-pawn. (The bishop goes to g7 and a knight to g6 in case White takes en passant.) Finally Hikaru Nakamura vs. Anish Giri was a dud, but a very instructive dud. In a very well-known position of the old main line Giuoco Piano, Nakamura tried the rare 7.Nbd2 (rather than the dull and equal 7.Bd2 or the interesting but more or less bad 7.Nc3), sacrificing first the e-pawn and then the d-pawn with 11.d6. Had Black tried to hold on to the material White would have enjoyed fine compensation, but Giri followed Emanuel Lasker's ancient advice about replying to gambits: take the pawns, and then return them. Giri did so, and the game could have been agreed drawn after 17 moves (at the latest) were it not for the Sofia rules. They duly played a further 13 moves and called it a day.

    Caruana, Svidler and Dominguez lead with 2/3; Giri, Jakovenko and Jobava are in last with 1/3, and everyone else has 1.5 points going into tomorrow's round 4. The pairings are:

    • Gelfand - Giri
    • Dominguez - Nakamura
    • Svidler - Karjakin
    • Tomashevsky - Jakovenko
    • Vachier-Lagrave - Caruana
    • Jobava - Grischuk

    Saturday
    May162015

    Erwin L'Ami Wins Rabat Marathon Blitz

    It's looking like a very good year for Dutch GM Erwin L'Ami. Earlier this year he won a very strong open tournament in Reykjavik, clinching first place with a round to spare, and now he has won the Rabat Blitz Marathon with an enormous (and undefeated) score of 18.5/21 - and that's with a quick last-round draw against a player 400 points lower-rated to clinch clear first. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov finished half a point behind, and Daniel Fridman was in third with 16.

    By the end the top players had run out of GMs to face, but in the critical stretch when they all faced each other L'Ami had a fantastic run. Starting in round 4, he had wins against GMs David Larino Nieto, Mamedyarov (with a lot of luck in that game), Loek van Wely (who finished fourth), Fridman, drew with Alexei Shirov (and was pressing), beat Bartlomiej Heberla, drew with Sergey Fedorchuk (but was completely winning), drew with Fernando Peralta, beat a couple of non-GMs before beating Alfonso Romero Holmes and (after another intervening win vs. a non-GM) drew with Fabien Libiszewski. Going 8-2 vs. GMs will win a player a lot of tournaments!

    Saturday
    May162015

    Rabat Blitz Marathon Starts in a Few Hours

    21 rounds and 10 hours of blitz, complete with live commentary from New in Chess's Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam and GM Nigel Short, will start fairly soon, at 4 a.m. ET = 9 a.m. local time in Rabat, Morocco. The field includes some very strong players, including Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Alexei Shirov. The live coverage will be on the Chess24 website and, one would hope/presume, on the tournament site as well.

    Friday
    May152015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, Round 2: Dominguez Wins; Many Squander Chances

    In practice, chess is a competition first and an art second, but it doesn't mean that players and fans don't prefer to see wins where the game is a well-integrated whole. A good opening idea gets the eventual winner of to a good start, followed by powerful and logical play in the middlegame and endgame (if necessary). Whether the win is strategic in nature, a display of attacking genius, or a demonstration of tactical wizardry, that sense of unity and consistency is needed for a fully satisfying game. Anything less is like an incomplete story, and in most of today's games at the Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix the stories were missing intelligible endings.

    The sorriest finish of the lot today was seen in the game between Evgeny Tomashevsky and Alexander Grischuk. With the exception of a brief hiccup in the middlegame, Tomashevsky totally outplayed Grischuk and had an overwhelmingly winning position. (We're talking +5, +10, even +30.) It was almost impossible not to win it, even in time trouble, but sadly Tomashevsky found a way to let Grischuk live. The easiest way to win was 39.Qxd6, after which nothing short of the police placing Tomashevsky under arrest could have saved Black. There were further chances even after that, but a secular miracle happened and Grischuk drew.

    This, as I said, was only the most egregious example. Peter Svidler had a very large advantage against Fabiano Caruana before letting him off the hook, Sergey Karjakin had a significant advantage against Anish Giri and was still better at the end when they called it a day, Hikaru Nakamura was pressing throughout against Boris Gelfand (though maybe never winning), and in the game between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Baadur Jobava it was first MVL and then Jobava who enjoyed serious winning chances.

    The one exception was the game between Leinier Dominguez and Dmitry Jakovenko. Dominguez played strong, imaginative chess and won a very nice game. Not a perfect game, but a very good one - especially from move 25 on. (Only his 35th move could be improved upon, and to censure that move would be cavilling of the highest (or lowest) order.

    With the win Dominguez knocked Jakovenko out of a tie for first with Tomashevsky and took his place; Jobava and Giri are in last, and everyone else is on 50% going into round 3. Here are the pairings for that round:

    • Jobava - Gelfand
    • Grischuk - Vachier-Lagrave
    • Caruana - Tomashevsky
    • Jakovenko - Svidler
    • Karjakin - Dominguez
    • Nakamura - Giri

    Thursday
    May142015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, Round 1: Tomashevsky and Jakovenko Win

    It was a cautious start for most of the players on the first day of the final Grand Prix event of the year, with three of the six games finishing in a draw at or just after the 30-move limit and a fourth unnecessarily continuing to move 40 when it too could have been abandoned could have been abandoned with the others. The other two games had more life and indeed, finished with winners and losers.

    Dmitry Jakovenko was well-prepared for Anish Giri's Ragozin, and chose a line in which he quickly seized the bishop pair. Perhaps Giri's position wasn't too bad prior to his mistaken decision to play 19...Nxc4, but after that he was in trouble. Slow, long-lasting trouble, but trouble nonetheless. Jakovenko surrendered his bishops to reach a double-rook ending with a better structure; this in turn transmogrified into a single rook ending with an extra pawn. It took Jakovenko a while to win it, yet the result was never in any real doubt.

    The same cannot (truthfully) be said about Evgeny Tomashevsky's win over Baadur Jobava. Jobava got a big advantage from the opening, thanks in part to Tomashevsky's failure to play ...b6 at an appropriate moment, and it wasn't long before Jobava was winning. The game shifted in a big way when Jobava thought he could cash in with 22.Bxc4 dxc4 23.Rb4. The first move wasn't so good and the second (which was intended as a unit with the first move) was an outright error, thanks to Tomashevsky's strong 23...e5(!). Suddenly Black's pieces came to life, which was a remarkable transformation considering how cramped he had been just a few moments before. By move 30 Black was winning, and in the complications that followed Tomashevsky's advantage grew bigger by the move, and he finished the game in convincing style.

    For the moment, at least, the leader of the overall Grand Prix - Tomashevsky - is also the (co-)leader of this event. Ten rounds to go; here's what round 2's pairings look like:

    • Gelfand - Nakamura
    • Giri - Karjakin
    • Dominguez - Jakovenko
    • Svidler - Caruana
    • Tomashevsky - Grischuk
    • Vachier-Lagrave - Jobava

    Wednesday
    May132015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix Starts in the Morning

    At six in the morning (ET), to be precise, so most of the Americas will have the pleasure of sleeping through much if not most or even all of the games. Nevertheless, it's worth checking in on this, the final Grand Prix event of the current cycle once you wake up (or to watch it live, if you're across the pond). The top spots in the overall Grand Prix will be decided here, and those happy two receive automatic qualification to the next Candidates' event.

    The current leader in the series is Evgeny Tomashevsky, and if he finishes first or second he's guaranteed a spot. (He almost qualified for the last Candidates, but lost to Dmitry Andreikin in the semi-finals of the last World Cup after beating, among others, Levon Aronian, Alexander Morozevich and Gata Kamsky. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is in second, but has already played in his full complement of Grand Prix tournaments and is mathematically eliminated; he will be passed by Fabiano Caruana no matter what. Caruana is in great shape to guarantee qualification, and it's doubly good news: he is currently a favorite to qualify by rating, and that would supersede his qualification here. Hikaru Nakamura also has excellent chances to qualify, and may also be in the running for a ratings qualification spot. In case that happens, it might be not only Tomashevsky who qualifies but Boris Gelfand as well, or maybe Dmitry Jakovenko. (There's a helpful discussion of all of the qualification possibilities on this page, for your further entertainment and instruction. Most remarkably, all 12 participants are still mathematically eligible to qualify for the Candidates, though the odds for some, like Leinier Dominguez, are vanishingly small - 0.003%!)

    Here are the first round pairings:

    • Vachier-Lagrave - Gelfand
    • Jobava - Tomashevsky
    • Grischuk - Svidler
    • Caruana - Dominguez
    • Jakovenko - Giri
    • Karjakin - Nakamura

    Tuesday
    May122015

    Welcome Home, Fabiano Caruana (Updated)

    It looks more likely due to the effort$ efforts of Rex Sinquefield than from patriotism, homesickness or a desire to be part of a team with Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, but I suspect American chess fans won't mind this very much. Fabiano Caruana will represent the United States once again and will be in some sort of partnership with the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

    A parting question: will anyone apologize to Dylan McClain?

    UPDATE: Still more about the transfer, here. And a new parting question: Garry K, you seem to still have "it", you spend lots of time in the U.S. and have family here. Why not join the fun and help guarantee us victory in the next several Olympiads?

    Tuesday
    May122015

    United States Wins 2016 Chess Olympiad

    Also the 2018 Olympiad, according to this report.

    (HT: Allen Becker)

    Sunday
    May102015

    "Winning" Strategies for 14 Games

    It's an interesting article that was referred to me twice this morning (one HT goes to Marc Beishon), and I'll pass it along to you. There are three bits on chess, but unfortunately the first two only tell us what we all learned as beginners - strong players value the center - while the third offers some context-free (and thus relatively useless) statistics. (I blogged about that grid already, here, and tried to derive at least one slightly interesting result from those numbers.)

    Saturday
    May092015

    Russian Team Championship: A Final Batch of Games

    In my previous post on the Russian Team Championship, I covered games through round 6 of its 7 rounds, so in this wrap-up I'll look at games from the final round. There was one noteworthy game from round 6 that I missed - Motylev-Najer - so that is included as well.

    The first six games I include from round 7 are more from amusement than anything else. In the match between "Bronze Horseman" and "University" all six games were drawn, all quickly and as part of an obviously prearranged deal. The games are thus included as a sort of public service. If you're playing your best friend or a relative, and to make a draw need a serviceable game that goes more a handful of moves, you can borrow one of these six to get the job done.

    The remaining games are "real" ones and are interesting for different reasons. Nepomniachtchi-Sjugirov was a lively game that finished with a spectacular move, Kamsky-Shirov was a good fight in a classic rivalry, and Khismatullin-Murtazin was the triumph of the underdog - and in a game that decided the match in his seriously outrated team's favor.

    The games are here.