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    Thursday
    Sep182014

    Slate on Caruana and the Sinquefield Cup

    This clearly isn't written for chess players, but I do think that articles written by "civilians" (i.e. non-chess players) have been getting a bit better lately. Read at your own risk.

    (HT: Robert Davis, who noted that the link to the article from Slate's home page asks "Can Chess Be Saved" and rejoins, "From what?")

    Thursday
    Sep182014

    Bilbao 2014: The Antepenultimate Round

    Both the Grand Slam Final and the European Club Cup have two more rounds to go despite the latter event having gone one round more than the former, so the headline seemed the best way to capture that. Let's hit the highlights:

    In the Grand Slam Final, Viswanathan Anand continued his domination of the tournament with a second win over Francisco Vallejo Pons, and he now leads with 3.5/4 (or 10/12 in Bilbaoese). Levon Aronian and Ruslan Ponomariov drew their game, leaving Anand close to clinching first with two rounds to go. As long as Anand doesn't lose to Aronian, the tournament is his. (Aronian has 6 points, Ponomariov 4, Vallejo 1.) With the win Anand has moved to third place on the Live Rating List, and is making the coming match with Magnus Carlsen look more interesting by the day.

    In the European Club Cup, the top two teams squared off and #1 beat #2. Two individual results of particular note are Fabiano Caruana's win against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in a delicate B vs. N ending (2842.4!), and Veselin Topalov's win over Hikaru Nakamura. Topalov is playing very well these days, and is closing back in on 2800. It's not impossible that these events will end with five players rated over 2800, and for Grischuk it would be a first.

    Wednesday
    Sep172014

    Happy Birthday, TWIC!

    Today (for me; yesterday for all of you across the pond) is the 20th anniversary of the first issue of The Week in Chess, arguably the most important website in chess history. Read more about it from the man himself, Mark Crowther, here, and by all means give him a gift if you can afford it. Practically every serious chess player around the world has benefited from his work either directly or indirectly (to give just one obvious example, those games in the Mega databases didn't get there by magic), and that includes all the regular readers of this blog.

    Wednesday
    Sep172014

    Catching Up on Bilbao

    The Grand Slam Final is at the halfway point and four rounds out of seven are finished at the European Club Cup, so let's take stock of what has happened since my brief round 1 report on Monday.

    Let's start with the first event. Viswanathan Anand followed his opening round win with a victory with Black over Francisco Vallejo Pons, while Levon Aronian beat Ruslan Ponomariov. Anand's imitation of Fabiano Caruana only lasted for two rounds, but his third round draw with Aronian sufficed to maintain his lead at the end of the first cycle. Ponomariov beat Vallejo in the other game, so after three rounds, the scores look like this:

     

    • 1. Anand 2.5/3 (or rather, 7/9 on Bilbao's 3-1-0 scoring system)
    • 2. Aronian 2 (5)
    • 3. Ponomariov 1 (3)
    • 4. Vallejo .5 (1)

     

    Anand's continued good form bodes well for the coming world championship!

    Meanwhile, there have been some hot players in the European Club Cup. Veselin Topalov has won two games against 2700s - Alexander Morozevich and David Navara - but was upset by Simen Agdestein, who showed that his fine performance in Norway a few months ago was not a fluke. Alexander Grischuk has done even better, going 3.5/4 to jump back into third place on the Live Rating List. He has "only" defeated one 2700 - Leinier Dominguez, but his brilliant win over the 2678-rated Maxim Rodshtein was something special. Fabiano Caruana hasn't beaten any superstars in his three games, but with 2.5/3 he has gained a point or two and avoided a post-St. Louis letdown.

    Other top-10 players: Hikaru Nakamura has 1.5/2, Sergey Karjakin has three draws in three games, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has a win and two draws, and Anish Giri has performed to rating with 3.5/4 against mixed opposition. Since he's only a tenth of a point out of the top 10 we'll include Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who has a win over Ian Nepomniachtchi and a couple of draws.

    A couple of strong players who are suffering: Peter Leko - but most of the damage was done in round 1, when he lost to IM Manuel Bosboom, and Alexei Shirov. Shirov started the event with a win over a 2382 player, but then lost in round 2 against a 2349(!) named Einar Jensson and then lost again in round 3, with White, to Alon Greenfeld (2551). When it rains, it pours.

    Monday
    Sep152014

    Bilbao, Day 1: Anand Leads The Masters, Few Upsets in the European Club Cup

    Viswanathan got off to a good start in the Grand Slam Final in Bilbao, defeating Ruslan Ponomariov in round one to take the early lead as the other game (Francisco Vallejo Pons vs. Levon Aronian) was drawn. They use a 3-1-0 scoring system, so he's off to a pleasant-looking lead already.

    Over in the European Club Cup most of the early matches were lopsided and many of the absolute top players took the opener off. Some very strong GMs were held to a draw, but I only noticed two elite players suffering defeat. One was Peter Leko, who was crushed by the (stylistically) wild Dutch IM Manuel Bosboom, and the other - sadly - was Gata Kamsky missing a simple tactic and losing to an FM. I don't know what has happened to Kamsky, who last July was 2763 and has lost more than 80 points since then, but I hope he's able to get back into good form.

    Both tournaments' websites can be accessed through this page.

    Saturday
    Sep132014

    Notre Dame 30, Purdue 14

    Purdue had a brief flurry of success early in the game before Notre Dame, playing decent but not their best football, dominated them the rest of the way. ND should move up a couple of spots in the rankings tomorrow, so that will leave them with eight more teams to leapfrog on their way to #1.

    Record so far: 3-0.

    Next victim: Syracuse (in two weeks).

    Tune time!

    Saturday
    Sep132014

    Notre Dame To Bust The Boilermakers Tonight

    The 11th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be Indy tonight to take on and dismantle the Purdue Boilermakers at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the proceedings televised on NBC. The winner (i.e. Notre Dame) wins the Shillelagh Trophy and - assuming it's Notre Dame - will likely move further up the rankings towards its rightful spot at #1.

    Saturday
    Sep132014

    Simultaneous Super-Events Starting Sunday in Bilbao

    This is a bit unusual but very welcome. In Bilbao, starting tomorrow, two major events will run concurrently - indeed, simultaneously - through Saturday, September 20: the Grand Slam Masters Final and the European Club Cup.

    The first is a four player double-round robin with Levon Aronian, Viswanathan Anand, Ruslan Ponomariov and Francisco Vallejo Pons. While Anand is bound to be hiding most of his preparation it's still very important for him to show or at least reach good form in this event, to get ready for his coming world championship match with Magnus Carlsen and to keep his confidence up. (And maybe to give Carlsen some reason for concern, giving the latter's decent but not perfect form this past summer.) For Aronian too the tournament has some importance, as 2014 from the Candidates' tournament on has been very disappointing, and he has managed to drop more than 40 points from his peak earlier this year.

    The second event is one of those delightful team tournaments where many if not most teammates have nothing more in common than who wrote their checks, but with so many of the world's top players involved, who cares? In fact, between the two events nine of the world's top ten is playing - only Magnus Carlsen is absent - and a large number of players from the top 50 will be involved. It's a chess feast!

    Saturday
    Sep132014

    Peter Svidler Q & A

    Chess24 solicited reader questions for Peter Svidler, which he answered yesterday in-studio. It was supposed to be aired live, but they had some technical troubles and only managed to upload the video later. Here it is.

     

    Tuesday
    Sep092014

    Nakamura Defeats Aronian 3.5-2.5 in Chess960 Match

    This year's Sinquefield Cup festivities finally came to an end today with a six-game rapid (15' + 2") Chess960 match between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura, both of whom are former Chess960 world champions.

    There are some starting positions that favor White far more than is the case in regular chess, so each starting position in the match was repeated so that both players would have a chance to have White. To further ensure a fair match, the player starting each two-game series switched: Nakamura had White in game 1, Aronian White in game 3, and Nakamura White again in game 5. (I suppose there should have been eight games so that each player got to start two series, but perhaps time constraints got in the way.) The funny thing is that fears of an excessive advantage for the white pieces turned out to be unfounded, and one could jokingly say that Nakamura won the match by drawing game 1 with White; after all, Black won the next five games!

    As for a link...I couldn't find the games on the St. Louis website, and they didn't seem to have any video coverage today; likewise Chess24. You can download them from TWIC (go to the very bottom of the linked page), but whether you'll be able to replay the file depends on your chess software. If you're an ICC member you can replay them there (they're in the library Naka-Aronian960). Finally, while I was able to replay the games from the TWIC download to ChessBase, my attempt to upload the games to the web didn't work - their upload program isn't designed to handle Chess960's castling rules.