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    Monday
    Jul132015

    Giri Wins Dutch Championship

    Not a big surprise here, though if Loek van Wely had won in the last round they would have needed a playoff. He couldn't pull it off, so Anish Giri won the Dutch Championship for the fourth time, with a score of 5.5/7. He added a couple of points to his Elo and remains #6 in the world, still a bit below the 2800 barrier (which he has already crossed).

    Monday
    Jul132015

    Wang Yue Wins Danzhou SuperGM

    The very strong Danzhou SuperGM tournament finished this weekend in China, and Wang Yue finished first with a great score of 7/9 (good for an rating gain of 20 points), a point ahead of Ni Hua. Ding Liren was third with 5.5, and super-prodigy Wei Yi finished fourth with 5, more or less finishing with his expected score. (The games can be found here.)

    Monday
    Jul132015

    Kramnik, Still a Bohemian

    Here's a new interview with Vladimir Kramnik, with a couple of new tidbits and a couple of comments about Magnus Carlsen. (Regarding one of them, Carlsen has a staff of ten people? I could see that if one includes the people managing the business side of things, like his father and Espen Agdestein, but ten chess players? There's Jon Ludwig Hammer, Peter Heine Nielsen, Laurent Fressinet and...?)

    Wednesday
    Jul082015

    Book Notice: Hertan's Basic Chess Openings for Kids

    Charles Hertan, Basic Chess Openings for Kids: Play Like a Winner from Move One (New in Chess, 2015). 156 pp., $18.95/€18.95.

    This book is intended as a sort of primer on the opening; it's not a sort of baby ECO for less experienced players like Paul van der Sterren's Fundamental Chess Openings or Carsten Hansen's Back to Basics: Openings. The title suggests that it's for kids, and while the language is often directed at younger readers (Hertan describes one plan as a "stinky twinkie" (to this we quote Dorothy Parker's remark about A. A. Milne's overly cutesy writing in one of the Pooh books: "Tonstant Weader fwowed up"), but in fact any beginner or near-beginner, regardless of age, could benefit from a book of this sort.

    After a short chapter discussing the value of the pieces (giving the traditional 9-5-3-3-1 figures) and the "quick count" (a way of determining whether it's safe to capture something or move a piece where it can be captured) he has four chapters on developing the pieces: on developing the knights, then the bishops, then the rooks and finally the queen. To give some ideas of what's covered in these chapters, here is a selection of concepts. With knights, there are holes and maneuvers; with bishops, fianchettoes and pins; with rooks, there's doubling rooks and rook lifts; finally, with queens, there's centralization and making sure she stays out of trouble.

    Chapter 6, "Learn Basic Openings: Piece and Pawn Coordination" offers a very little theory, but mostly in the service of illustrating the earlier concepts in action. He focuses on two ideas: quick and easy development, and the pawn duo (e.g. pawns on c4 and d4 or d4 and e4) - and how to combat them. He looks at various Giuoco Piano lines, the Torre Attack, the Queen's Gambit and the Ruy Lopez.

    Chapter 7 is entitled "The Five Biggest Mistakes Kids Make in the Opening", along with three very useful meta-mistakes. The last one is especially valuable, especially when generalized: "The last important thing about mistakes - maybe most important - is: don't be ashamed if you make one or all of the Five Biggest Kid's Mistakes." So as not to give away the farm, I'll only list two of the five: wasted pawn moves (#2) and neglected development (#5).

    Chapter 8 offers answers to 20 quiz questions offered over the course of the book, and then Hertan finishes things up with a useful glossary of chess terms.

    I doubt that too many of my readers are in his target audience (but I'd be happy to be corrected!), but if you know a kid who's starting out in chess and likes to learn from books, you might consider this book as a present for the youngster.

    Wednesday
    Jul082015

    Book Review: Finding Bobby Fischer: Chess Interviews

    Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, Finding Bobby Fischer: Chess Interviews (New in Chess, 2015; first published in 1994). 286 pp, $27.95/€24.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam isn't a professional player, but he is a man who loves chess and has a great affection for chess players. More than that, he has a remarkable ability as an interviewer to make himself almost invisible while allowing his subjects to express themselves on the widest array of subjects. When you read one of his interviews, you're not only going to learn about the player's views on the event that just finished, but his (or her) thoughts about his career, about the chess world, about life outside the game, his views about politics, the arts, religion - you name it. Maybe Gennadi Sosonko is able to delve even more deeply, at least when writing about figures from the former Soviet Union, but ten Geuzendam's books are at the very least a close second when it comes to offering a fully rounded picture of his subjects.

    Most if not all of the interviews were originally published in New in Chess Magazine and date from 1986 to 1994, when the book was originally published. Contrary to what the title suggests, very little here has to do with Bobby Fischer. I'm sure the title helped (and helps) sales, but please: if you're buying the book because you crave more Fischer material, don't. The one chapter with Fischer does make for very interesting reading, as ten Geuzendam relates his visit with Fischer (but not an "interview") during the latter's 1992 rematch with Boris Spassky, but that, together with a short (three page) interview with Garry Kasparov about that match afterwards, is the extent of it.

    Having said that, I think the book is very much worth buying if you love chess for the personalities as well as the game itself. I especially love the multi-generational nature of the book. The first section, "Bibles of the Best", is a series of interviews about what chess books some great players value most. In this section there are interviews with Dr. Meindert Niemeijer (a book collector) and Tim Krabbe (best known for his collection of chess curiosities - do check out his fantastic website if you haven't already) and then he interviews some legends: Garry Kasparov, Lev Polugaevsky, Mikhail Botvinnik, Anatoly Karpov and Jan Timman.

    Then comes a series of interviews with some players who were still playing at a high level at the time of the interview, but whose best days were, in most cases, from the 60s through the early 80s. There's Viktor Kortchnoi, Vlastimil Hort, Boris Spassky, Svetozar Gligoric, Lajos Portisch, Miguel Najdorf, Bent Larsen and Vassily Smyslov. Anyone whose start in chess goes back to the 1980s or earlier will know these names very well; these are the sorts of people who would be playing in events like the Sinquefield Cup today. The interviews are not really about this or that chess event, however, but about their lives. All or almost all of the players went through various traumas in their lives (war and the brutality of the USSR, most notably), and each man is interesting as an individual and not just for his sporting successes.

    The next section is on Karpov and Kasparov, and will probably be more interesting to those who weren't around when they ruled the earth, chessically speaking. For those of us who were, we might feel about Kasparov and Karpov - at least as they were in those years - the way Botvinnik did. Botvinnik trained both when they were young (more so Kasparov than Karpov), and in conversation with Sosonko in the early '90s said this: "With whom would I like to remain on a desert island, Karpov or Kasparov? I would say this: I now have quite good relations with Karpov. But if I had to choose between Karpov the champion and Kasparov the champion, I would prefer to remain alone on this desert island."

    After that the crown princes of the day, Vladimir Kramnik (also trained for a time by Botvinnik) and Viswanathan Anand are interviewed, and then two female stars get their turn: Xie Jun (the first of a series of women's world champions from China) and Judit Polgar. Finally, the Fischer encounter and Kasparov's reflections on Fischer-Spassky 1992 close out the volume.

    These interviews offer a sort of time capsule of the chess world and some of its leading figures from 20-30 years ago, a time when chess was going through radical changes (faster time controls, the end of adjournments, the early rise of computers and databases) and a time of a changing of the guard. The generations culminating with Fischer were finally on their way out, and while Kasparov and Karpov still held sway the next generation after them was starting to make its presence felt. But whether you are interested in the book out of nostalgia or from a love for chess history, I think you'll find the book a pleasure. Highly recommended.

     

    Tuesday
    Jul072015

    So Gets Spot in St. Louis's Sinquefield Cup

    This was apparently announced today during the live broadcast of the U.S. Junior Championship: Wesley So will get the wildcard spot for the St. Louis leg of the Grand Chess Tour, the Sinquefield Cup. That tournament starts August 21, and the other nine players are Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Veselin Topalov, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

    Tuesday
    Jul072015

    Svidler on the Archangelsk (Updated)

    For those of you who aren't Chess24 premium members, there's a bit of fresh bait dangling before you in the form of a new opening series by Peter Svidler. This one is the Archangelsk Variation starting with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5. His two previous opening series, on the Gruenfeld and on the Closed Ruy with 6.d3 (the same moves as above through 5.0-0, then 5...Be7), were both very well-received, especially the one on the Gruenfeld.

    The preview (which is really too short) is here, and to see more there's a choice: buy the series for $14.99, or become a Premium Member for $10.99 a month or $99 a year. (Maybe try it for a month, see how many videos you can watch - there are way more series than just those offered by Svidler - and then go longer if you like them.)

    Update: As Macauley Peterson notes in the comments, there is a substantial clip available to watch for free, here, and it's worth the time to check it out even if you're not particularly interested in either side of the Archangelsk.

    Tuesday
    Jul072015

    Artemiev Wins Russian Championship Qualifier

    Vladislav Artemiev may not quite be at Wei Yi's level, but at the age of 17 and rated 2672 he's clearly a promising prospect. You can read about his victory in the Russian Higher League here. The report includes some game fragments and a full game, lists the full field for the Russian Championship (which takes place from August 8-21), and also gives the lineup for another tournament he's playing in that starts this weekend. That event features the U.S.'s own current super-prodigy, Sam Sevian, who is still but 14 years old and rated 2578. Yikes.

    Monday
    Jul062015

    Lenderman Wins World Open in a Playoff

    Congratulations to Aleks Lenderman, who beat Rauf Mamedov in an Armageddon playoff to win the title of World Open Champion (and an extra $300). Eight players tied for first with 7/9 and won $5162.50 apiece: Lenderman, Mamedov, Ilya Smirin, Alexander Ipatov, Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, Illia Nyzhnyk, Romain Edouard and Axel Bachmann.

    Sunday
    Jul052015

    Dortmund 2015, Final Round: Caruana Wins Again

    And wins in more than one way: he wins the game (his fifth in a row!) and the Dortmund tournament (for the second straight year and third time overall). Fabiano Caruana's final score of 5.5/7 matched last year's total, earned him 11 rating points and should give him some confidence going into the Sinquefield Cup six weeks from now.

    Not all of his wins in the tournament were works of art; clean, logical and error-free victories where the advantage grew bit by bit, but his last round victory was a work of art. His opponent, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, entered the last round half a point behind Caruana, and so a win would give him first place in the tournament. Spoiling for a fight Nisipeanu went for the Evans Gambit, but Caruana was well-prepared and stood a bit better in the early middlegame. He managed to increase his advantage over the next few moves, and on move 25 the game went from being an impressive practical achievement to something for the ages. Caruana devised a brilliant tactical idea even the engines have difficulty finding in light of the defensive/counterattacking idea chosen by Nisipeanu in the game. The combination, which you can replay here, is reminiscent of the famous old game Ortueta-Sanz, as noted by Caruana himself after the game. (You can replay both games, with my notes, here.)

    That settle the race for first, but the other games were also interesting. Vladimir Kramnik had been in the running for first through most of the tournament, and was still in contention for second. A win over Wesley So would have given him clear second, and a draw would have given him shared second with Nisipeanu. He equalized and then some with Black in a Berlin ending, and seemed to have good winning chances until his 28th-30th moves, each of which was inaccurate-to-bad. He was much worse, but with both players in serious time trouble he managed to get back to equal again. The position remained complicated, however, and in the second time control So outplayed him and picked up the full point. Oddly, while So defeated both Caruana and Kramnik in this tournament, he was lagging a long ways back through most of it and it was a big surprise to see that he finished second on tiebreaks ahead of Nisipeanu. A very decent result, if an uneven one, and thus the Americans finished 1-2 with Nisipeanu in nominal third.

    The other two games were drawn, though not smoothly. Hou Yifan had excellent winning chances against Ian Nepomniachtchi and Georg Meier had Arkadij Naiditsch dead in the water, yet neither player could convert their advantage.

    Here are the final standings:

    • 1. Caruana 5.5 (out of 7)
    • 2. So 4
    • 3. Nisipeanu 4
    • 4. Kramnik 3.5
    • 5. Naiditsch 3
    • 6. Nepomniachtchi 3
    • 7. Hou Yifan 2.5
    • 8. Meier 2.5