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    Thursday
    Jul172014

    A Short Review of Jon Edwards' Mastering Mates: 1,111 One-Move Mates

    Jon Edwards, Mastering Mates: 1,111 One-Move Mates. (Russell Enterprises, 2014.) 224 pp. $19.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    About a month ago I mentioned Alex Baburin's quip about Jon Edwards' earlier book Sacking the Citadel to the effect that Edwards was engaging in a bit of overkill:

    Recently I received an interesting book called "Sacking the Citadel" (Russell Enterprises, 2011, 400 pages, $25). This book, written by Jon Edwards, is devoted exclusively to the Greek Gift sacrifice (Bxh7+, usually followed by Ng5+). It contains 308 examples of this theme, which is probably about 300 examples more than one needs to study in order to understand how this sacrifice works.

    One might have a similar thought about the current book under review, which sees Edwards present 1111 (that's base 10, not base 2!) one-move mates, all taken from actual games. Wouldn't 306 puzzles be enough? (That's how many mates in one are offered in Laszlo Polgar's tome Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games.) 500? 800? Surely we don't need more than 1110, do we?!

    Apparently Edwards thinks we do, so while I'm probably not in Edwards' target audience I decided to solve them all in one session. It took me about 80 minutes to plow through them all, less a few minutes to take some notes for this post and a few moments here and there to clear my mind from the fog. The experience was something like a long-distance run. At first I felt fine, and after a bit of a slow-paced warmup everything kicked into gear and I started speeding along. At a certain point a fog starts to set in, and I started wondering why I was doing this and if it would ever finish. After several minutes of slog I got my second wind, but inevitably hit a second wave of fog. Mercifully, that passed more quickly, and when I turned the last page and saw to my surprise that there was only one problem left I enjoyed a small wave of euphoria. Done! I don't recommend that anyone follow my example.

    About the puzzles: they are not sorted by themes or patterns, although sometimes the same pattern will appear in back-to-back problems. Over the long haul, certain mating patterns arose many times - not to the point of painful repetition (unless like me you go through the whole thing in one shot) - but to an extent that will be useful for the beginners and near-beginners for whom this book is intended.

    In passing: early on I wondered if Keres-Fischer from the 1959 Candidates would be there; to my pleasure, it showed up - #801! (That probably helped get me going on the homestretch.) Something that didn't show up that really should have been there was a version of the four-move mate. How do you not include that in a book designed for novices?! At one point there was a mate with Bxf7# supported by a knight on e5 (#344), but not including Scholar's Mate was a real omission. (A possible objection: All Edwards' examples are taken from real games in databases, not from games played in after-school chess clubs or between parents and their young kids. Response: One can even find Scholar's Mate in ChessBase's Mega Database. I just did a search for the position that can arise via 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Qh5 Nf6 4.Qxf7# and found seven examples; there are surely more games demonstrating other versions of the mate.)

    A nice aspect of the book is that in some of the games the player missed the mate; when that happened Edwards noted the move that was played. Something I like a bit less is that several positions had multiple solutions (#s 10 & 339 were the ones I caught), especially since Edwards doesn't mention the successful alternatives in the solutions section.

    If there is a second printing, the publisher should note that pages 38 and 153 are mislabeled as "Black to move" and "White to move", respectively; it should be the other way around. Also, the very bottom of diagram 74 is cut off. (The publisher's page for the book is here.)

    Recommended? I don't think anyone needs 1000+ mates in one or believe that this would be more effective than, say, going through a set of 500 such mates twice. The giant Polgar tome (1104 pages!) mentioned above has more than 300 mates in one, and then goes completely off the deep end with 3412 mates in two with even more content after that, and besides that the paperback version basically costs the same as the Edwards book! Living in the real world, though, there is one big advantage in favor of the Edwards book: one can carry it around without needing a truss. Edwards' book is much lighter, the paper is nicer and the diagrams are easier to see - all advantages for kids and adults alike. My conclusion is that if you already have something that fits the bill, use (or give) it; if not, this book will certainly help inexperienced players develop a good eye for many standard mate-in-one patterns.

    Thursday
    Jul172014

    The Daily Roundup: Dortmund, Biel and Bergamo

    Dortmund: This is the Fabiano Caruana show. He was the only winner in today's round, defeating Georg Meier on the white side of a Steinitz French. Meier was under serious pressure, but the trouble only came near the end. First, his 34...gxf6 gave Caruana the upper hand, and only his last move, 37...Rcc8, gave up the game; 37...Rg6 instead would have allowed him to put up plenty of resistance. Caruana has 3.5/4, good for a full point lead over Arkadij Naiditsch and more over everyone else. Caruana has now jumped into third on the Live Rating List, and is closing in on 2800 once again. (In two previous tournaments he reached 2800 while the tournament was underway, but has yet to finish an event at or over 2800.)

    Biel: All three games were decisive today, and all three of the round's losers started the day tied for first! They were leapfrogged by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who is in clear first with two out of three.

    Bergamo: Wesley So continues to lead after an easy draw with Zoltan Almasi. He has 3/4 and leads Baadur Jobava (who won in this round) by half a point.

    Thursday
    Jul172014

    Trouble Brewing At The Olympiad

    A controversy is cooking at the Olympiad, and it (the event) hasn't even started yet. The Russian women are the defending Olympic champions, but as of this writing they are excluded from the competition. Why? Because they failed to register in time. Pretty stupid on their part, but it would seem to be an open and shut case.

    However, it's possible that FIDE has the jurisdiction to overrule the organizers on the matter and let them play anyway. (The organizers interpret the FIDE statute differently.) Moreover, it seems that the Olympiad organizers gave the Russian Chess Federation a receipt (invoice) acknowledging payment for the women's team as well as the men's.

    So why the delay? Apparently the Russian federation had to wait until Kateryna Lagno successfully switched her allegiance from the Ukraine to Russia. (Why any self-respecting Ukranian would do that is entirely beyond me. I can't imagine switching my affiliation to Canada come that inevitable day when those crazy and militaristic Canadians try to take over the USA. But Lagno's decision is hers, not mine.)

    Anyway, there's much more in the article, linked above.

    HT: Macauley Peterson.

    Tuesday
    Jul152014

    The Daily Update: Dull Draws in Dortmund, Giri Gets a Root Canal in Biel

    Two of the three elite tournaments saw action today, though some might deem that verb a stretch when applied to the chess in Dortmund. Two Berlins achieved their aim, and Georg Meier's exquisitely dull French was equally effective in securing a draw. (I'm not objecting to the procedure; it's just not a lot of fun for the spectators.)

    Vladimir Kramnik's game against Baramidze was genuinely exciting, however, but for the third time in three rounds something went drastically wrong for the ex-champ. In round 1 he played a disastrous opening against Meier and got crushed, in round 2 he was winning against Michael Adams but let him escape, and the same thing happened today. Kramnik had a big advantage through much of the middlegame, and after squandering it he was given a one-move opportunity to win with 28.fxg7+ Kg8 29.Qf4, winning the exchange (see here). At a certain moment he even stood worse, but he held tight and saved the draw.

    Two of the three games in Biel were also drawn, but the exception was notable. Anish Giri lost his second straight game, to Pentala Harikrishna in the rare Canal Variation of the Giuoco Piano (hence the pun in the title). The opening was not to blame, except to the extent that it helped get Giri into time trouble. Giri's position after Harikrishna's 37.Qf3 was still very playable, but challenging, and 37...Rg8 was an error. (37...Ba5! was best, forcing the rook to abandon the protection of the first rank.) Worse still, it was preparation for a blunder on the next move, after which it was all but over, and Giri resigned on his 41st move. As an old friend used to tell me, they can't all be jewels!

    Tuesday
    Jul152014

    Brilliancies Everywhere

    Three high-level tournaments are underway, in Dortmund (Caruana leads with a 2-0 score), Bergamo (the ACP Golden Classic; So leads with 2.5/3) and in Biel (Wojtaszek and Hou Yifan were first-day winners). More importantly, the chess has been good and entertaining, so rather than offering tournament summaries I'll present some of the games that have caught my eye, with my brief comments - here.

    Sunday
    Jul132014

    More Coming Events: Biel (Monday), Gelfand-Svidler (Next Week)

    In case Dortmund and the ACP Golden Classic aren't enough to keep your interest, two more major events are coming your way. Biel starts Monday - today for some of you, tomorrow for others - and looks quite attractive. The main event is a six-player double round-robin, starring Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Anish Giri, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Pentala Harikrishna, Alexander Motylev (the graybeard of the event, the 35-year-old Russian is the only player in the event not in his 20s), and women's world champion Hou Yifan.

    The second event is an eight-game rapid match between Boris Gelfand and Peter Svidler, taking place in Jerusalem from July 20-24 (HT: Chess Today). The games will be followed by live video interviews, which is especially welcome with post-mortem world champion Svidler at the helm.

    With the Olympiad starting August 1, this is a great stretch for those who not only like to play but enjoy watching the game as well.

    Saturday
    Jul122014

    Day 1 of Dortmund and the ACP Classic

    Dortmund I already mentioned, but another strong event also began today - the ACP Golden Classic in Bergamo, Italy. What makes it a "classic"? It's not the tournament's age, but (I think) their choice to bring back to the good old days - or maybe it's the bad old days - and have adjournments. It's a round-robin with seven players, meaning someone always has a day off from playing. From playing, yes, but not working; the recipient of the bye must help with the live commentary. (This idea has been used elsewhere, like the London Chess Classic. It's a nice idea for the fans.)

    Like Dortmund, the tournament is well-stocked with 2700s, though they are more from the lower-tier than the upper crust of that elite level, and so they may be a hungrier bunch than the top stars playing in Germany. Nevertheless, all three of today's games were drawn: Zoltan Almasi - Ian Nepomniachtchi, Wesley So - Emil Sutovsky and Baadur Jobava - Sabino Brunello, with the last one reaching an adjournment before the players decided to split the point without resuming. The seventh player is Daniele Vocaturo, who will join the action tomorrow.

    As for Dortmund, there was not only action but blood on a day when Black was very much OK. Arkadij Naiditsch - Michael Adams and Peter Leko - Ruslan Ponomariov were both drawn, but in both cases White was down a pawn and had to sweat to save the game. The other two games featured superstars (Vladimir Kramnik and Fabiano Caruana) against local players rated in the low 2600s (Georg Meier and David Baramidze, respectively), but neither player had an easy time of it.

    Caruana won (with Black) in a long game, winning a great four bishop ending. After 29 moves both players had both of their bishops plus seven pawns apiece, but White had a problem with the d5 pawn. Afraid it might get cut off by ...e4, Baramidze played 30.f3 and 32.e4 to remedy the problem, but then 32...f4 highlighted the weakness of White's h-pawn. Slowly (very slowly) but surely Caruana made progress, exchanging one advantage for another, and after 75 moves White gave up.

    As for Kramnik - Meier, it was an unmitigated disaster for the former world champion. Kramnik chose a very passive approach in the English, perhaps just wanting to play a game rather than engaging in a theoretical battle, but the decision didn't work out very well at all. His position was clearly worse after ten moves(!) and pretty much lost soon thereafter. Meier kept accumulating advantages, and the series from moves 32 to 38 is pretty funny. Material is initially equal, but White loses four - count 'em, four - pawns without so much as a receipt to show for it. In the final position Kramnik can regain a pawn or two, but with Black about to make a second queen there was no delaying White's already tardy resignation.

    Saturday
    Jul122014

    A Last Batch of Games From the World Rapid Championship

    I've been taking my sweet time going through and presenting some games from the World Rapid Championship, but it isn't yet time for the 2015 edition - it hasn't been that long. Anyway, with Dortmund upon us and the Olympiad coming soon, it's time to put the Rapid Championship to bed with a final installment.

    A few posts ago we highlighted some of Viswanathan Anand's best and most important games from the rapid & blitz tournaments, which most notably included his win over Magnus Carlsen in round 12 in the rapid. That put him half a point clear of the field, but finishing with three draws left him tied for second (third on tiebreaks), half a point behind Carlsen. Anand played well overall, but was pretty shaky on the final day. Even in the Carlsen game he had been slightly outplayed before the world champion committed a 1-2 move blunder, and Anand was also in huge trouble against Fabiano Caruana in round 13 and Levon Aronian in round 15.

    Carlsen was also fortunate against Aronian in round 11 and Alexander Grischuk in round 14. The latter game was crucial for Carlsen: had he lost he would have been half a point down to several players going into the last round; instead, he pulled out a win and led by half a point. Moreover, his tiebreaks were excellent, so all he needed was a draw against Teimour Radjabov to seal the title (albeit with the black pieces), and he achieved it with ease.

    Still, the tiebreaks were very close, and if Sergey Karjakin had managed to defeat Alexander Morozevich with the white pieces in the last round a tiebreak win by Carlsen would have seemed somewhat arbitrary. Fortunately, that scenario didn't arise, as Morozevich not only avoided a loss but won a good game to boot.

    All the games discussed above (except Carlsen-Anand, which was presented in an earlier post) are here.

    Saturday
    Jul122014

    Dortmund Starts Today (Saturday)

    Vladimir Kramnik's favorite annual super-tournament, the Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Dortmund, Germany, kicks off today. The eight player round-robin headlines Kramnik and Fabiano Caruana, and begins at 3 p.m. local time with the following pairings:

    • David Baramidze - Fabiano Caruana
    • Arkadij Naiditsch - Michael Adams
    • Vladimir Kramnik - Georg Meier
    • Peter Leko - Ruslan Ponomariov

    The tournament is maybe a little weaker and smaller than it used to be, but with two players from the top ten and six players over 2700 it's still a strong and interesting event.

    Thursday
    Jul102014

    A Little Blitz Entertainment

    I don't watch much blitz online, but I took a few minutes earlier this afternoon to see some big guns slugging it out on (the) ICC. You can find one of the games I saw and replay it here, and my recommendation is to avoid looking at the notes until you get to the position after 24.Rac1 Nf4. Take a moment or two trying to work things out and look for tricks.

    It's nothing heavy; just a little light entertainment and a small workout. Enjoy it!