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    Thursday
    Oct112018

    Chess Olympiad, Round 10 Games

    Almost to the finish - here is a selection of round 10 games, with my annotations. Do check out the Ding Liren-Jan-Krzysztof Duda game, which has some spectacular variations.

    Wednesday
    Oct102018

    Chess Olympiad, Round 8 Games

    Slowly, slowly, we catch up. Here are some games from round 8, with varying degrees of commentary. Some games were suggested by readers, some my own selections, and hopefully all are of interest.

    Tuesday
    Oct092018

    Chess Olympiad, Round 9 Games

    I said I would get to the games, and bit by bit, I am. Here, out of order (round 8 will come soon!) some of the interesting games from round 9, with annotations to some of the critical moments.

    Tuesday
    Oct092018

    My Video of Bai Jinshi vs. Ding Liren

    ChessLecture.com posts a new video each week, available for free for the next two weeks to anyone who has an account there - even a free account. This week's offering is my video of the fantastic Bai Jinshi-Ding Liren game played last year. If you haven't seen the game, or haven't seen it annotated, it's very much worth your while to watch. In my opinion, and not only my opinion, it was the game of the year for 2017.

    Tuesday
    Oct092018

    So-Gujrathi

    As usual, I'll give the result of this match, the penultimate quarterfinal match of Chess.com's 2018 Speed Chess Championship, in the comments. For those who would like to watch the stream of the Wesley So-Vidit Gujrathi match as if live, here it is.

    Monday
    Oct082018

    Coming Events: So-Gujrathi, Nakamura-MVL, European Club Cup

    The first two events listed above are the final quarterfinal matches of the 2018 Chess.com Speed Chess Championship. Wesley So takes on Vidit Gujrathi tomorrow (Tuesday) at 12 p.m. ET, and on Thursday starting at 1 p.m. ET Hikaru Nakamura will play Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The winner of the first match will face Jan-Krzysztof Duda in one semi-final, and the winner of the second match faces Levon Aronian in the other. Those matches can be seen live on Chess.com/TV or Twitch.tv/Chess.

    The other event, the European Club Cup, starts Friday and stars lots of elite players. Above all, Magnus Carlsen will participate in what will be his last event before his championship match with Fabiano Caruana this November. Caruana had an excellent showing at the Olympiad with notable wins over Mamedyarov, Anand, and Gelfand. Will Carlsen make a similar or even more impressive statement? We'll see!

    Saturday
    Oct062018

    Notre Dame 45, Virginia Tech 23

    They were game opponents, but in the second half Notre Dame dominated to win going away. That puts Notre Dame is now 6-0, and since the #5 team (LSU, whom Notre Dame beat in a bowl game last year) lost the Irish should be #5 next week. Only one more spot to go to get into the top 4!

    Next victim: Pitt.

    Tune time:

    Saturday
    Oct062018

    Notre Dame to Show the Virginia Tech Hokies What's it's all About

    The #6 Fighting Irish of Notre Dame will take on the #24 Virginia Tech "Hokies" tonight, starting at 8 p.m. ET. "Hokie" seems to have been a completely made-up word invented by the school and initially without any meaning, but now seems to refer to their mascot, which is a turkey. If so, then it looks like tonight will be an early Thanksgiving dinner for the greatest college football team in history. The festivities can be seen on ABC.

    Friday
    Oct052018

    Olympiad Finishes: China Wins Both Sections

    Well...that was a pity. (With all apologies to all Chinese readers and fans, of course.) The U.S. and China were co-leaders after round 10, with the U.S. enjoying a healthy tiebreak lead over the Chinese. The danger seemed to be what would happen in case of a drawn match between the two, as Poland and/or the winner of the match between France and Russia might catch up and come out ahead on tiebreaks.

    So there was good news and bad news. Although the USA-China match did finish in a 2-2 tie, with no player on either side facing any serious danger, Poland was held to a 2-2 tie against India while Russia's tiebreak scores left them behind the U.S. even though they beat France 2.5-1.5. The bad news: somehow the Chinese team's tiebreak score vaulted ahead of the Americans'. Ugh. Well, it happens, and two years ago it was the U.S. team that came out a whisker ahead of the Ukrainians in the tiebreak lottery. Congratulations to the top three teams, all of which finished with 9/11 (technically 18/22, since the Olympiad used a 2-1-0 scoring system, but it comes to the same thing) scores.

    In the Women's section, China led entering the last round but the U.S. team had a chance to take first, if all went well. Again, there was good news and bad news. The good news is that the Chinese team failed to win their last round match, and it was only because of Ju Wenjun's heroic efforts that they managed to eke out a 2-2 tie against the Russians. Ju Wenjun had absolutely nothing going against Alexandra Kosteniuk for a very long time, and even through move 71 the position was still equal. But she kept on fighting, and on her 87th move Kosteniuk went under for good, and resigned after 95 moves.

    If the U.S. had defeated the Ukrainian team, who knows? It would have come down to the wonders of tiebreaks. Tatev Abrahamyan destroyed Anna Ushenina, who really needs to do some sort of endgame bootcamp. Unfortunately, that was the sole bright spot on the day for the American women, as the Ukranian women won convincingly on the other boards to take a 3-1 victory. They tied the Chinese, but came in second on tiebreaks. Had Ju Wenjun not performed her quasi-miracle, the Ukranians would have taken clear first. (And of course, they probably would have won the event had it not been for Ushenina's endgame loss in the China match several rounds earlier.)

    Georgia 1 took clear third, half a point behind, after defeating Armenia 3-1. The U.S. team finished another half a point back, in a tie for 4th-12th and coming in 7th on tiebreaks. Again, congratulations to the medalists, and to the U.S. team for what was overall an excellent result.

    Let's quickly mention some notable performances, as measured by tournament performance rating (TPR):

    The top TPR of the event was achieved by Peruvian GM Jorge Cori (2664), whose 7.5/8 score against opponents averaging 2459 translated to a 2925 TPR. (Vladimir Kramnik's 6.5/9 against considerably higher-rated opposition - average 2602 - gave him the silver for board 3 with a 2770 TPR, and the U.S.'s least-favorite player this Olympiad, Kacper Piorun, took the board 3 bronze with a 2765 TPR.)

    Most of the top TPRs came on board 1. In order, the top six were Ding Liren (2873), Fabiano Caruana (2859), Anish Giri (2814), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2803) (which in his exalted case meant he lost 1.5 rating points), Viswanathan Anand (2799), and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2775).

    On board 2 only Vietnamese star Ngoc Truong Son Nguyen broke 2800, with a 2804 TPR. Ian Nepomniachtchi, probably the MVP of the Russian team, was next with a 2790 performance, two rating points ahead of Teimour Radjabov.

    Board 3 we've already mentioned, and on board 4 Germany's Daniel Fridman had an impressive 2814 TPR, scoring 7.5/9 against 2541-rated opposition. China's Bu Xiangzhi was second with 2774, Rauf Mamedov of Azerbaijan was third with 2740, and Sam Shankland proved once again that his entry this year into the 2700 club was justified with a fourth place finish and a 2733 TPR.

    Amongst the reserves, Anton Korobov of Ukraine was first with a 2773 TPR, Israel's Ilia Smirin was second with an impressive 2746, and Christian Bauer of France took the board 5 bronze with a 2743 performance.

    In the women's section, the best performance was, appropriately enough, on the winning team's board 1: Ju Wenjun had a 2661 TPR. Also scoring at least 2600 were Hungary's board 1, Thanh Trang Hoang (2636); Georgia 1's board 1, Nana Dzagnidze (2600 on the dot); and Ukraine's board 2 Maria Muzychuk (2616). (Her sister Anna had the fourth-best TPR on board 1, at 2568.)

    The American women did well, in almost every case exceeding their rating. Board 1 Anna Zatonskih's 2421 TPR was slightly below her actual rating of 2431, and the other three regulars played over their ratings. Irina Krush (2423) took the board 2 silver with a 2552 TPR, Tatev Abrahamyan (2368) was 5th on board 3 with a 2417 performance, and 16-year-old Jennifer Yu (2268) got the bronze on board 5 (the reserve board) with a 2407 TPR. Yu played in all 11 rounds, largely because Sabina-Francesca Foisor was having such a bad time of things that she only played in four games, scoring just half a point.

    It will be a few days before I'll have the time to start posting games, but I fully intend to do so. Thank you to all of you who have submitted suggestions - they are appreciated!

     

    Thursday
    Oct042018

    Olympiad, Rounds 9 & 10

    Only one round remains, and in both the Open and Women's sections the leading contenders for the gold medals are the Chinese and U.S. teams. In the Open section both teams have 8.5/10, half a point ahead of Poland, France, and Russia. The U.S. has the better tiebreaks against the Chinese, who are their last round opponents, but in case their match finishes in a draw other teams from the next score group could leapfrog the Americans to win. So the only way for the U.S. (or of course, China) to guarantee a win is with a last round win.

    In the Women's section there's a critical difference: China is alone in first place with 8.5 points, with Ukraine, the U.S., and Armenia (in tiebreak order) half a point back. Ukraine's tiebreakers are better than the Americans, but that's not a fatal problem as the two teams are playing in the last round. China will play Russia, which is after all the top seed, so the U.S. still has a chance for the gold, although they will be underdogs against Ukraine. It's a tall order, but not impossible.

    Let's recap the last two rounds, to see how we got here.

    Round 9 was the tragedy for the U.S. (Open) team. The Polish team they faced had performed brilliantly up to that point, but even so, the U.S. was a significant favorite. In fact, the U.S. enjoyed winning or near-winning advantages on boards 1, 2, and 4, and while Hikaru Nakamura started off with difficulties against Kacper Piorun, he managed to fight his way to equality at one moment. So, did the U.S. win by a 3.5-.5 margin, or at least 3-1? Nope. 2.5-1.5? No again. Not even a draw. All three better positions finished in draws, and Nakamura's defense broke down, resulting in a loss. With the win, Poland vaulted over the U.S. to take the lead, half a point ahead of the U.S. Also tied for second were China, who defeated Azerbaijan thanks to a win on board 4 by Bu Xiangzhi against Eltaj Safarli; Armenia, who defeated India 2.5-1.5 (also thanks to a board 4 win; the board 1 clash between Viswanathan Anand and Levon Aronian was drawn); and - surprisingly - England, who defeated Norway (remember, Magnus Carlsen isn't playing) 3-1.

    The leading round 10 pairings looked like this:

    • China (7.5) - Poland (8)
    • Armenia (7.5) - U.S.A. (7.5)
    • Russian (7) - England (7.5)

    In this round order was restored, with the favorites all winning: China dispatched Poland 3-1 with wins on boards 1 and 4, the United States defeated Armenia 2.5-1.5 thanks to our secret weapon Sam Shankland coming through with a win on board 3, and Russia defeated England 2.5-1.5 thanks to their little known board 3 player - someone called "Vladimir Kramnik". (Kramnik's tournament got off to a mediocre start, but he is now up rating points for the event. Hopefully he's getting back to form, and will keep Kamikaze Kramnik in the closet, taking him out only for blitz games and simuls.)

    So here's what's on tap for tomorrow, the final round:

    • U.S.A. (8.5) - China (8.5)
    • France (8) - Russia (8)
    • India (7.5) - Poland (8)

    In the women's section, China and Ukraine came into the round as co-leaders, half a point ahead of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, the U.S, Hungary, and Armenia. China comfortably dispatched the Kazakhstan women 3-1, the Azeris and Ukrainians drew their match 2-2, and Armenia beat Iran 3-1. As for the U.S. women, they received a quasi-miracle, one that was half-earned. They led 2-1 against Hungary, but Irina Krush was dead to rights against Anita Gara. After a big mistake on move 31 she was lost, and would have had to resign if Gara played 44.Rd8. Still completely lost, she never gave up, and when Gara goofed on move 81 Krush could save the game - albeit with difficulty. However, she erred in turn on move 83, and White was again winning. Still, Krush kept fighting, and on move 108 Gara had to make a choice. Frankly, it shouldn't have been a hard choice, as the relevant motifs are well-known to anyone who has studied rook vs. one pawn endings in a work like Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, so Gara should have been able to apply that knowledge to the position to calculate what would and wouldn't work. Instead, though she had the time, she uncorked 108.Rg8+??, and Krush escaped.

    On to round 10, with these pairings at the top:

    • China (8) - U.S.A. (7.5)
    • Ukraine (7.5) - Russia (7)
    • Azerbaijan (7) - Armenia (7.5)
    • Georgia 1 (7) - Czech Republic (6.5)

    With a win, the U.S. would be in first, but to their credit, they at least managed to draw the match 2-2 despite being heavy underdogs. The board 2 match was also drawn; likewise board 3...and in fact, the top seven matches all finished 2-2. The relative standings are thus the same, as no team with 6.5 points or more won a match. Here, then, is what the final round pairings look like for the leading women's teams:

    • Russian (7.5) - China (8.5)
    • U.S.A. (8) - Ukraine (8)
    • Armenia (8) - Georgia 1 (7.5)

    Games...will have to wait (sorry).