The (just-completed) Women's World Championship brought Georgian great Nona Gaprindashvili (women's champ from 1962-1978) to mind, so my World Chess column this week takes a look at a brilliant tactical slugfest she won on her way to the top.
Raymond Smullyan was primarily a mathematician and logician, but he achieved a degree of fame in the chess world for his ingenious retrograde analysis puzzles. The idea is that one is given a position, and the task is not to figure out what to do next, but what must have happened for the current position to arise, for it to be legally possible. Ken Regan has a couple of recent posts on Smullyan on his blog, here and here. (They're not only about Smullyan, though, but the second one in particular presents a couple of retrograde problems from Smullyan's work, though the first is given with a small modification by Regan.)
Smullyan was a very entertaining writer, so if those retrograde analysis puzzles pique your interest I'd heartily recommend checking out or getting his books on the subject (here and here - but find a cheaper copy, obviously).
Raymond Smullyan, R.I.P.
Not much happened today in the final rounds of the Women's World Championship and the Aeroflot Open. The final classical game of the former event was drawn in 24 moves, so Anna Muzychuk and Zhongyi Tan will finish things off in a rapid (and if necessary, blitz) playoff tomorrow.
As for Aeroflot, Nikita Vitiugov gave up trying to leapfrog Vladimir Fedoseev pretty quickly, agreeing to a draw with White in just 20 moves. It's easy to criticize his decision, but his moves were reasonable and in the final position the following line looks forced: 20...Rxd4 21.Qxd4 Qxd4 22.Rxd4 Bxa3 23.Ra4 Bd3 24.Rb3 Bc2 25.Rbxa3 Bxa4 26.Rxa4 and then most likely 26...Rd8, when Black's active rook makes up for White's (about to be) passed a-pawn. Evgeny Najer also failed to win (with Black against Yu Yangyi), so Fedoseev took clear first with 7/9, half a point ahead of Vitiugov, Najer, and Vladislav Kovalev, who defeated Denis Khismatullin with the black pieces in a strange game.
The womens' world championship has had some action (unlike the late, unlamented Grand Prix event in Sharjah - Chess24 has an interesting tournament post-mortem here) in the finale, as Anna Muzychuk finally lost her first game of the entire tournament in her second game with Zhongyi Tan. Very much to her credit, she immediately bounced back with a crushing win in game 3, and tomorrow's game 4 could decide the title. (Unless it's a draw, in which case they go to rapid - and, if necessary, blitz tiebreaks.)
The Aeroflot Open is likewise one round away from completion, and after another win Vladimir Fedoseev continues to lead by half a point, with 6.5/8. Only two players remain on his heels: Nikita Vitiugov and Evgeny Najer. Vitiugov has white against Fedoseev in round 9, while Najer has black against Yu Yangyi. Yu, Denis Khismatullin, Vladislav Kovalev, and Baadur Jobava each have 5.5 points.
The Grand Prix tournament in Sharjah ended today (now yesterday for many if not most of you) and finished in a three-way tie for first between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and Alexander Grischuk, all of whom finished with 5.5/9. Hikaru Nakamura, Ding Liren, Michael Adams, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Dmitry Jakovenko all finished half a point behind.
The final, 4-game match at the Women's (knockout) World Championship between Anna Muzychuk and Zhongyi Tan began today (yesterday) and finished in a draw; Muzychuk had White.
Finally, the Aeroflot Open is well underway, and after 7 of 9 rounds the leader is the young Russian star Vladimir Fedoseev. He has 5.5 points, half a point more than Nikita Vitiugov, Baadur Jobava, Maxim Matlakov, Evgeny Najer, Ernesto Inarkiev, Denis Khismatullin, and Vladislav Artemiev.
This was a lot of work, but I think or at least hope you'll all agree that it was worth it. Did I mention that it was a lot of work? Have a look: all the chess from last Sunday's episode of "The Simpsons", with Magnus Carlsen.
There are plenty of things wrong with the 2017 Women's World Championship:
1. It should be a Women's World Cup, like the "men's"/open event, not a championship. (Naturally, if you think the open World Cup should be the World Championship, then you'll find this a feature instead of a bug.)
2. It absolutely should not be held in Iran for geopolitical reasons.
3. It should not be held in Iran because of the hijab. If it were merely a matter of respectful or professional attire, like men in certain occupations having to wear a suit and tie, that would be one thing, but this goes well beyond that. Note: My point here is that FIDE has no business forcing non-Muslim women (or even Muslim women who disagree with Iran's interpretation of what women must wear) to comply with a country's distinctive religious dictates as a precondition for playing in an event they have qualified for on their merits as chess players.
4. Top players like Hou Yifan and Humpy Koneru aren't playing, and from the U.S. Irina Krush and Nazi Paikidze are sitting it out as well. Whoever's "fault" it is doesn't matter; it still detracts from the intrinsic interest of the event.
But the show goes on, and the finalists are Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine and Zhongyi Tan of China. It has been a great few months for Muzychuk, who recently won the women's world championships in both rapid and blitz, and who has made it to the final, ironically enough, without needing to play a single tiebreaker. Zhongyi, by contrast, has had lots of tiebreaks, twice scraping through an Armageddon game.
The Grand Prix is a big deal, as the top two finishers overall qualify for the next Candidates event. So it matters. Unfortunately, as a spectacle for the fans, the inaugural event of the 2017 Grand Prix, taking place in Sharjah in the UAE, has been a dud. There have been tons of draws, most of them very short (around 30 moves or fewer), with most players preferring the safety of the peleton.
The high percentage of draws is slightly surprising, both given the combativeness of contemporary chess and the unusual format chosen for this tournament. Past years have seen only round robins, but this tournament is a nine-round, eighteen-player Swiss. With one round to go, here are the standings:
- 1-2. Vachier-Lagrave, Grischuk 5
- 3-7. Nakamura, Mamedyarov, Adams, Nepomniachtchi, Jakovenko 4.5
- 8-13. Aronian, Ding Liren, Li Chao, Vallejo Pons, Rapport, Hou Yifan 4
- 14-15. Eljanov, Salem 3.5
- 16-17. Tomashevsky, Hammer 3
- 18. Riazantsev 2.5
In addition to the ongoing Women's World Championship and Grand Prix tournament in Sharjah, there's a high-level league competition that's nearing its end. The PRO Chess League sponsored by Chess.com is winding down (it finishes on March 11), and while it's only rapid play (15'/game, plus 2" increments per move) some of the world's absolute elite is participating, including Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, and Fabiano Caruana - the world's three highest-rated players.
In last week's World Chess column, I cover one game from that event, Wesley So's win over Cristian Chirila. So grinds out a win in a long same-colored bishop ending, and while Chirila could have drawn with best play it was still a very impressive performance by So - good technique both objectively and from the practical perspective as well. It, and the league's games in general, are very much worth a look.