Andrew Paulson is one of the recent crop of organizers of major chess events, and is profiled rather skeptically in the NY Times. (HT: Marc B.) Any comments from those among you better positioned to have an opinion about him than I (or the NY Times)?
Martin Thoresen has been running computer-computer events for some years now, and the super-final of the eponymous Thoresen Chess Engines Competition (TCEC) is nearly at an end. After four elimination stages the programs Komodo and Stockfish (not Houdini!) made the final, and after 44 of 48 games Komodo leads 22.5-21.5. Game 45 is nearly over now and headed for a certain draw, leaving Stockfish just three games to catch up.
There is a bit of a "human interest" aspect to the story. (Granted, that's an incredibly stupid phrase, as all stories are presumably of some interest to humans - why else report them?) Komodo's main programmer, Don Dailey, passed away from leukemia on November 22*, early in the super-final. While programming surely wasn't his highest priority at the very end of his life, it still must have afforded him some satisfaction to have reached the final, ahead of Houdini, the previously recognized top program.
* This November 22 marked the 50th anniversary of the deaths of not only John F. Kennedy, but authors Aldous Huxley (best known for Brave New World) and C. S. Lewis (the Narnia books, Mere Christianity) as well.
The World Team Championship has just passed its halfway point going into tomorrow's (Sunday's) rest day, and Ukraine leads with a perfect 10 team points, meaning they have won all of their matches. Except for the 3-1 victory over Germany in round 4 they've been ekeing out 2.5-1.5 wins, but if one wins them all it doesn't matter if it's by a nose or a mile. The Russians have bounced back from their loss to the U.S. in round 2 with wins over China, Azerbaijan and Germany, and now they're in clear second with 7 match points. After that there's a three-way tie for third with the Netherlands, Armenia and China all with 6 match points.
The Armenians could have been tied for second if Levon Aronian won today against Rauf Mamedov. That game was long headed for a draw, and when it reached the ending of rook and bishop (for Aronian) vs. rook it remained theoretically drawn. Aronian achieved nothing for a long time, but as often happens the defender tires or gets confused and the strong side makes progress. Eventually Aronian achieved a winning position and was a handful of moves away from mating or winning the rook...but the 50 move rule intervened: draw.
Aronian's tournament has otherwise been very good, and there is now some space between him and Vladimir Kramnik on the live rating list. Or make that between him and Hikaru Nakamura, who is currently #3 in the world. Nakamura has been going up, and despite losing to Aronian in round 3 his highlights include wins over Kramnik in round 2 and Li Chao today. (Despite Nakamura's success, the U.S. team has only 4 match points: wins over Russian and Egypt but losses to Ukraine, Armenia and China.) Kramnik, on the other hand, is winless so far (-1 =3, took round 5 off) but the remaining Russians are playing well.
Granted, it'll be a challenge, but it's doable for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to finish the regular season with a victory over the Stanford Cardinal [sic]. The proceedings will be televised at 7 p.m. on Fox.
Ivan Sokolov, Sacrifice and Initiative in Chess: Seize the Moment to Get the Advantage (New in Chess 2013). 255 pp. $29.95/€24.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
Ivan Sokolov may be the strongest active player writing books on middlegame theory, and the quality shows. Speaking of which, the compliment is an ambiguous one, and it works both ways: he is active in the sense that his professional career, unlike, say, Garry Kasparov's, is still underway, but he's also active in the sense of being an aggressive player. Sokolov is known for being a fine attacking player with a fine sense of the initiative, and that certainly comes out in this book. There are 92 games in this book, 21 of which (by my quick count) are his, and his mastery shows. Further, he writes and analyses with great enthusiasm and expertise, and the attentive reader will not just be entertained by the great games, he'll be educated as well.
There are two parts, each corresponding to the concepts highlighted in the title. Part 1, Initiative, comprises the first seven chapters; part 2, sacrifice, the remaining nine. Each chapter ends with a number of "tips" that generally emerge from that chapter's games. Sometimes they are a bit superficial and overly general, but they can be illuminating as well. Generally there are some implicit tips given in the chapter intros, so be on the lookout for those. As an example of what you might find in the tips section, here's one of the better sets, from chapter 9 (p. 141), on attacking the castled king:
1. In the ratio of attackers versus defenders, the king counts as a defender.
2. It is often clever to keep your defending pawns on their original squares.
3. If you cannot compromise the enemy's defences with pawn breaks, a rook lift may do the job.
4. In an attack on Black's kingside in Sicilian positions, the Bf8 is mostly a useless defender. The light-squared bishop, however, is often an important defender of the a2-g8 diagonal.
5. The defender may balance an attack on his kingside with a counterattack on the queenside.
6. The pawn push ...f7-f5 is often a good way for Black to stop White's attack against h7.
7. With a black pawn on g6, a white knight sacrifice on f5 may be a dangerous way to eliminate Black's pawn defences on the kingside.
Not too many club players will find tips 2 and 5 shocking and new, but the rest will be new to most club players and some of these points (e.g. #4) might be new even to masters.
The game selection is excellent, featuring a nice blend of older and contemporary games, mostly featuring top players. (Carlsen, Kasparov, Fischer, Spassky, Tal, etc.) the analysis is illuminating without being overwhelming, and there is plenty of explanatory prose; indeed, there is more of the latter than the former.
For me the book works both as a game collection and as a catalog of techniques, and as a book that can be read for pleasure and for training. Recommended to mid-level club players and up.
It seems that there are three things you can count on in life: death, taxes, and the Russians underperforming in team events. The Russians drew with Armenia in round 1, which was only a mild upset (and admittedly a better result than the U.S.'s 2.5-1.5 loss to Ukraine), but they were dispatched by the Americans 3-1 in round 2. Hikaru Nakamura defeated Vladimir Kramnik in what one would normally think of as a Kramnik-like performance, and for dessert leapfrogged Kramnik into third place on the live rating list. The other victory came from Ray Robson, who took advantage of Nikita Vitiugov's losing the thread in a very sharp Slav Marshall Gambit. Here's a quick look at both games.
Overall, Germany and Azerbaijan lead the World Team Championship with 4 match points (i.e. 2-0 scores in their matches) and 5.5 board points; Ukraine has 4 match points and 5 board points to sit in third. It's a ten team round-robin though, so the current standings aren't too important just yet.
Ten teams are playing in this round-robin event, in Antalya, Turkey. In the order given on this page (the official page seems to be inaccessible at the moment), they are Armenia, Russia, the USA, China, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Turkey, Germany, Azerbaijan and Egypt. I don't know the full first round pairings, but do know that in addition to the matches listed in the title there's also China vs. the Netherlands.
Games of particular interest: Kramnik-Aronian (a Botvinnik System game(!) with Kramnik pressing, though a draw remains the likeliest result) and Ivanchuk-Nakamura (a Spanish Four Knights by transposition from a Berlin).