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    1948 World Chess Championship 1959 Candidates 1962 Candidates 2.c3 Sicilian 2.f4 Sicilian 2011 European Team Championship 2011 Russian Championship 2012 Capablanca Memorial 2012 Chess Olympiad 2012 European Women's Championship 2012 London Chess Classic 2012 U.S. Junior Championship 2012 U.S. Women's Championship 2012 US Championship 2012 Women's World Chess Championship 2012 World Rapid and Blitz Championships 2013 Alekhine Memorial 2013 Beijing Grand Prix 2013 European Club Cup 2013 European Team Championship 2013 FIDE World Cup 2013 Kings Tournament 2013 London Chess Classic 2013 Russian Championship 2013 Tal Memorial 2013 U.S. Championship 2013 Women's World Championship 2013 World Blitz Championship 2013 World Championship 2013 World Rapid Championship 2013 World Team Championship 2014 Capablanca Memorial 2014 Chess Olympiad 2014 London Chess Classic 2014 Petrosian Memorial 2014 Rapid & Blitz World Championship 2014 Russian Team Championship 2014 Sinquefield Cup 2014 Tigran Petrosian Memorial 2014 U.S. Championship 2014 U.S. Open 2014 Women's World Championship 2014 World Championship 2014 World Junior Championships 2014 World Rapid Championship 2015 Capablanca Memorial 2015 Chinese Championship 2015 European Club Cup 2015 European Team Championship 2015 London Chess Classic 2015 Millionaire Open 2015 Poikovsky 2015 Russian Team Championship 2015 Sinquefield Cup 2015 U.S. Championship 2015 Women's World Championship KO 2015 World Blitz Championship 2015 World Cup 2015 World Junior Championship 2015 World Open 2015 World Rapid & Blitz Championship 2015 World Team Championships 2016 2016 Candidates 2016 Capablanca Memorial 2016 Champions Showdown 2016 Chess Olympiad 2016 Chinese Championship 2016 European Club Cup 2016 Isle of Man 2016 London Chess Classic 2016 Russian Championship 2016 Sinquefield Cup 2016 Tal Memorial 2016 U.S. Championship 2016 U.S. Junior Championship 2016 U.S. Women's Championship 2016 Women's World Championship 2016 World Blitz Championship 2016 World Championship 2016 World Junior Championship 2016 World Open 2016 World Rapid Championship 2017 Chinese Championship 2017 PRO Chess League 2017 Sharjah Masters 2017 Speed Chess Championship 2017 U..S. 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    Tuesday
    Jun062017

    Norway Chess 2017, Round 1: Nakamura Wins; All Other Games Drawn

    Magnus Carlsen dominated the blitz tournament, but at least in round 1 of the main, classical event, was unable to convert his momentum from the first event into the second. He had White against Wesley So, and while the latter had to work to get his draw he was never in much trouble. In fact all four draws were reasonably correct affairs. Vladimir Kramnik had an advantage against Sergey Karjakin and Levon Aronian likewise had a plus against Fabiano Caruana, but in neither case was the second player (in both cases playing Black) at or particularly near death's door. And the fourth draw, between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Viswanathan Anand, was almost completely equal from start to finish.

    The remaining game was between Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri, and if anyone's "momentum" continued from the blitz it was Giri. Not all that long ago, Giri's name was used as a joking synonym for a draw, but between the blitz and round 1 of the main event he has lost six games in a row. In this game he was under pressure for a long time, but still holding an objectively drawn position after the first time control. The critical moment came on move 47, and Giri rightly spent a good chunk of time thinking there - around 14 minutes. Should he go into the rook endgame - all rook endings are drawn, as the cliche has it - or not? He chose the first option, and this time around the rule of thumb was wrong. White's bishop was better than Black's knight, but by exchanging it off the resulting ending left White's king and rook absolutely dominating their counterparts. Nakamura smoothly converted his advantage, and became the sole leader after round 1.

    Here are the pairings for round 2:

    • Giri (0) - Karjakin (.5)
    • Nakamura (1) - Aronian (.5)
    • Anand (.5) - Kramnik (.5)
    • Caruana (.5) - Carlsen (.5)
    • So (.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (.5)

    Tuesday
    Jun062017

    Remembering Paul Keres

    I meant to post this yesterday, on the 42nd anniversary of Paul Keres' death. Vlastimil Hort was himself a world-class grandmaster near the end of Keres' live, and offers a nice tribute to his fallen comrade.

    Tuesday
    Jun062017

    A Positive Profile of Wesley So in the WaPo

    Sometimes the mainstream press covers chess in a positive way, and when it does it deserves kudos. Case in point, this profile of Wesley So in the Washington Post. (HT: Marc Beishon) Be sure to distribute it to your "civilian" friends, so they can see that one can be a basically normal, happy individual and a great chess player - So is only "weird" insofar as he's very dedicated to his craft, and when it comes to high achievers in sports and the arts, and elsewhere, such dedication is the norm, not a sign of eccentricity.

    Tuesday
    Jun062017

    Norway Chess Starts Today (Tuesday); Carlsen Crushes the Field in Pre-Tournament Blitz

    The Norway Chess tournament gets underway today (Tuesday) with an elite field of 10 players that includes the world champion (Magnus Carlsen), the two previous world champions (Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik), three world #2 players (the current one, Wesley So, and erstwhile consistent #2s Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian), last year's world championship runner-up and the current world blitz champion (Sergey Karjakin), plus a pair of former (and quite possibly future) 2800s (Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri).

    As is common (but not universal) nowadays, tournament pairings were set based on results in a pre-tournament blitz competition. Carlsen started out with draws against Nakamura and Anand, and nearly ran the table after that, giving up a draw to Kramnik in round 7 and beating everyone else. His score of 7.5/9 put him two points clear of Nakamura and Aronian, with Vachier-Lagrave alone in fourth with 5 points. Kramnik and Karjakin tied for the critical fifth spot (the top five finishers get an extra game with the white pieces in the main event), and Kramnik got it on tiebreaks by defeating Karjakin in the last round. Both finished with 50% - a good result for Kramnik, who was winless and -2 after five rounds. After Karjakin, Anand and So finished with 4 points apiece, Caruana with 3 and a winless Giri lost his last five games to finish last with 1.5 points.

    The games and the blitz tournament video can be accessed here (for now). Here are the pairings for round 1 of the main event:

     

    • Carlsen - So
    • Nakamura - Giri
    • Aronian - Caruana
    • Vachier-Lagrave - Anand
    • Kramnik - Karjakin

     

    The world's #1 vs. the world's #2: not a bad way to start the tournament! The action begins at 10 a.m. ET = 4 p.m. local time in Norway = 3 p.m. CET.

    Predictions? I've been going with So lately, but Carlsen has been beating him lately  and seems strongly motivated, so I'm going with the champ this time around.

    Monday
    May292017

    Book Notice: Linder & Linder's *Max Euwe: 5th World Chess Champion*

    Isaak and Vladimir Linder, Max Euwe: 5th World Chess Champion. (Russell Enterprises, 2017.) Foreword by Andy Soltis, Game Annotations by Karsten Mueller. 238 pp., $24.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    Isaak and Vladimir Linder, father and son, produced a massive work in Russian in 2001 covering all the world chess champions from Wilhelm Steinitz through then-champ Vladimir Kramnik. Russell Enterprises arranged to present the book's contents in English, divided into separate volumes for each champion, and now we have the fifth volume in the series. The biographical material and game selection is due to the Linders, but a happy bonus of the English translation is that German GM Karsten Mueller has contributed annotations to the games.

    This volume's subject is the Dutchman Max Euwe (1901-1981; world champion from 1935-37), who was also a Ph.D. in mathematics (at the age of 24) and a math teacher by profession, but later the President of FIDE. He was also a noted theoretician and chess author, and in his 50s was involved for a time with computer chess.

    As with previous volumes (see my earlier reviews of the LaskerCapablanca, and Alekhine books) in the series, the book has an unusual encyclopedia-style format, though it comes closer to the traditional life-and-games model than the earlier works.

    Chapter 1 offers a very short biography of sorts, but it jumps over almost his entire chess career. That is covered by the 145-page second chapter, which as noted before is more of a mini-encyclopedia. After short summaries of his overall match and tournament results, the Linders begin with a section called "Hastings Tournaments", covering Euwe's participation in the 1930/31 and 1934/35 events, both of which he won. Then there's a similar section on Amsterdam tournaments, followed by a double entry: one on Richard Reti, and then on a Reti-Euwe match played in 1920. (In general, the events are covered in chronological order, but with exceptions like the Amsterdam tournaments noted above.) In the case of all the match opponents listed, a separate entry is given for the opponent himself: Reti, Geza Maroczy, Edgard Colle, Alexander Alekhine, Efim Bogoljubow, Salo Landau, Jose Raul Capablanca, Salo Flohr, Rudolf Spielmann, and Paul Keres. This continues through the 1948 World Championship Match-Tournament, and then concludes with entries on Johannes Donner, Beverwijk tournaments, and correspondence chess.

    Chapter 3 is a hodgepodge collected under the heading "Chess - Play and Novelties". This includes a number of his most famous games, some combinations and compositions, some of his aphorisms, and more. (Tartakower he's not, but he manages at least one memorable line with this bittersweet comment: "Unfortunately, success, like everything else in the world, must pass.")

    Chapter 4, "Writer and Journalist", is very short. Euwe was a prolific author, claiming to have written "50 or 60 [books], maybe even more" when asked in 1974 by IM Anthony Saidy's question how many books he had written. The Linders limit their focus to short synopses of four books: Practical Chess Lessons (1927-1928), Course of Chess Lectures (excerpted from the previous book), Strategy and Tactics in Chess (1935), and Judgment and Planning in Chess (1952).

    Finally, chapter 5, "Timeless", is mostly a series of reminiscences and evaluations of Euwe by his fellow champions, along with a brief mention of books about Euwe.

    There are 104 complete games (almost but not all of them involving Euwe, and almost all are well-annotated), along with four composed positions. So the book is worthwhile as both a chess biography as well as a chess biography. While I am ambivalent about the encyclopedia approach, which chops up Euwe's career into a series of discrete units rather than drawing out a narrative in which we feel the subject's ups and downs through the seasons of his chess career and his life as a whole, the book is nonetheless a valuable addition to the rather limited literature on Euwe available in English.

    Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in chess history, and warmly recommended to those whose interest in chess isn't limited to the purely utilitarian pursuit of this week's chess opening theory.

    Update: Trust, but verify. While I think the book is a contribution to chess literature, the authors - and/or the translator and editor - are somewhat careless. (See the review on this page.) The Linders of course knew that Capablanca didn't go undefeated for 10 years after losing to Reti in New York 1924, and in their book (section of their book) on Capablanca (on page 98) they write this: "The chess public had come to believe that Capablanca lost no games at all - indeed, in the ten years since St. Petersburg [in 1914] he had lost only one!"

    The error about Bad Kissingen is an odd one. The Linders list both Alekhine and Lasker as players who participated in Bad Kissingen (p. 77), but my suspicion when reading the Amazon review was that they played there in a different year; after all, the Linders' give a crosstable of the tournament (p. 78) and neither Alekhine nor Lasker is listed. As it turns out, however, a search of the Mega Database doesn't show Alekhine or Lasker participating in any Bad Kissingen event, so even if my attempt at a charitable hypothesis is correct, the Linders (assuming correct translation/editing) still made an error.

    I'm not sure that we should be bothered by the two remaining errors. Remember that the original was a 1000-page monster published in 2001, which means it was probably out of their hands at some point in 2000. Writing this book wouldn't have been the work of a few days, but of a few years, and if they wrote it in anything approaching chronological order they would have been dependent on the databases of the mid-to-late 1990s. The databases of 2017 aren't merely better than their counterparts of 20 years ago thanks to the games played since then, but also because of older games having been found, mis-entered games having been corrected, spurious games having been removed, and so on.

    So: errare humanum est, as usual. I think the Amazon reviewer's conclusion is extremely overblown, but even so historians in particular ought to be especially careful in getting the facts right. It's almost impossible to write anything long and substantial without making any errors, but it's important to try. Russell Enterprises has employed Taylor Kingston before for his skills as an eagle-eyed researcher; perhaps they should do so again (or find someone else of his ilk) to check and correct the Linders' errors for future books in the series.

    Saturday
    May272017

    The American Chess Magazine, Issue 2

    The second issue of the best chess magazine in the United States, and probably one of the best chess magazines in the world, is in print. Weighing in at 152 large pages on glossy paper, with full color photographs, the publication is a physical pleasure for those of us who still appreciate non-pixilated productions. But content is king; how does the American Chess Magazine (ACM) fare?

    Very well. First of all, there's plenty of chess material: 153 games and game fragments, and the vast majority are complete games. Most of the chess material is well-annotated, and generally by GMs. Vassily Ivanchuk annotates one game, but other very strong GMs contribute more: Leinier Dominguez (3 games), Ernesto Inarkiev (6), Baadur Jobava (2), Hou Yifan (1), Ivan Sokolov (7), Jeffery Xiong (3), Alex Lenderman (2); and there are plenty of other GM contributions as well.

    There's a fair amount of "talk" in the issue: it's not all games and variations. The analyses are a mix of words and moves, and there's plenty of material apart from the games. For instance, there is a short interview with Wesley So, and three GMs offer their thoughts on his rise. There are several pages of sidebars in which chess fans offer their thoughts on So's rise as well, which is an interesting and unusual feature. Mihail Marin offers "An Anecdotal Review of the World Title Matches", which includes eight pages of reflections and almost no actual chess whatsoever. Joel Benjamin offers his musings on rapid play in the context of the PRO Chess League, and there's much more besides. I'll note that there are three columns that are advice-based: Swedish GM Pontus Carlsson and American GM Yasser Seirawan both offer some tips for improving one's chess, while GM Nikola Mitkov offers "Five Key Elements of Norm-Hunting".

    Most of the talk is in the context of reviewing events, and the centerpiece of this issue is the world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin. (Spoiler alert: Carlsen won in a rapid tiebreak.) This rightly receives a nice chunk of the magazine: 16 pages, with the key games annotated by the 2700+ rated Inarkiev. Wijk aan Zee gets even more attention, and Gibraltar enjoys some coverage as well.

    There are tactical puzzles, and endgame column (GM Alex Fishbein has a nice piece called "Queen Endings Demystified"), book reviews, and one last feature that I appreciate is a section near the end offering a brief digest of U.S. events. There are about 13 pages summarizing the tournament results and including interesting games.

    This is not a complete list of what's in the magazine, but it's enough to give a taste of what's there. For more on the publication, have a look here.

    Recommended? Yes - for strong club players (at least 1800, or those rapidly heading there) and up, and/or for those interested in U.S. chess and U.S. chess players.

    Saturday
    May272017

    Chess.com's 2017 Speed Chess Championship: Matches 2 & 3

    This past week there were a couple more matches in Chess.com's 2017 Speed Chess Championship: Sergey Karjakin vs. Georg Meier and Wesley So vs. Anish Giri. The first match was an utter blowout in terms of the score, but on a game-by-game basis the players were well-matched. Karjakin (the reigning world blitz champion) did everything a bit better than Meier, and while Meier also had his chances Karjakin was far more efficient in converting his opportunities.

    The So-Giri match was another story altogether. It went back and forth all the way and came down to the wire. I won't offer any spoilers: it's entirely up to you whether you want to see the result first or relive the drama for yourself.

    The Karjakin-Meier video is here, and So-Giri is here. The next match is a ways off: Alexander Grischuk vs. Richard Rapport takes place July 20. One last bit of info: the winner of the So-Giri match jumps from the frying pan into the fire, and will get Magnus Carlsen next, assuming the world champion gets past bottom seed Gadir Guseinov on October 5.

    Wednesday
    May242017

    Three Interesting Recent Games

    I'm not going to analyze any of the three, mainly to avoid domesticating them. Each impressed and amazed me in its own way. The first, Najer-Mamedyarov, is a tactical tour de force by the hottest player in chess. (Don't peek, students!) The second, Ding Liren vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, featured a surprising sacrifice of a full exchange in the opening. The entire game was a mess, and the only thing that was clear is that Black was very fortunate to come away with half a point. The third game, between Hou Yifan and Jon Ludwig Hammer, was another matter. I watched a few moves early on in the rook vs. knight ending that arose after Black's 49th move, and was sure that it was a draw. A few hours later, I saw that Hou had won it (on her way to an excellent +1 result in the Grand Prix) and could hardly believe my eyes. Brilliancy by Hou or insanity by Hammer? I'll let you figure it out by yourself; I'll offer my own guess in the comments if anyone else offers one first.

    Games here.

    Tuesday
    May232017

    ChessLecture.com Videos

    As some of you may know, I've recorded videos for various organizations for a dozen years or so, most recently and enduringly for ChessLecture.com. (There are 383 of my videos on their site, and as they've been recorded at a rate of roughly one a week it seems I've been with them for around seven years or so.) It is a subscription site, but it's possible to look up presenters, watch free previews of their videos, and select individual videos a la carte. My page is here (I've added a link in the sidebar as well, it's the second one from the top), and it's possible to look for other presenters or to refine further one's search by openings, themes, players, and so on.

    For both full disclosure and (I hope) encouragement: I receive a commission on a la carte viewing of my videos.

    Tuesday
    May232017

    Catching Up on my World Chess Columns

    It has been a while, so here's your chance to engage in some binge reading. Here's what you may have missed, from earliest to most recent:

    1. The Ice King: Giri Wins the Reykjavik Open. Anish Giri is the star of the column, but I offer a pretty thorough review of the top finishers, covering eight games in all. (This includes a startling last round crush of Alexei Shirov at the hands of FM John Pigott, aged 59 or 60.)

    2. Wei Yi Wins Third Consecutive Chinese Championship. It was a weak event by Chinese standards, but that's not the 17-year-old's fault. As usual, he won a number of great attacking games, and I present two of them. There's also a third game in which he shows off his technical chops.

    3. The Always Entertaining Bundesliga. Team events are easily overlooked, especially when it's the Bundesliga. It doesn't meet every weekend, and it takes more than half a year to complete the season. Only one game is covered in this particular column, but it's an entertaining and instructive battle between Borki Predojevic and Levon Aronian, won by the latter.

    4. A 'Hobbyist' Dominates the Four Nations Chess League. The United Kingdom's version of the Bundesliga also finished this past month, and in this column I look at three games by the winning team's best player: Matthew Sadler. Despite having given up full-time chess a long time ago in exchange for a "real" job, he has reached a new peak rating for his career and continuing to play strong and entertaining chess.