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    Thursday
    Oct252012

    Unive, Round 4: Tiviakov Wins, Gains Ground on Nakamura

    The second cycle of the Unive Crown Group in Hoogeveen got underway today, and round 4 just finished. In the first cycle Hikaru Nakamura defeated Anish Giri in their game (as he had in the London Grand Prix), but this time Giri "held" with White. It was a pretty interesting Catalan, and those of you shopping for an anti-Catalan line with Black may wish to consider Nakamura's approach.

    Meanwhile, Sergei Tiviakov showed that while his opening choices are ludicrously predictable, they aren't automatically easy to handle. On this occasion, however, his opponent, women's world champion Hou Yifan, was well prepared. She came out of the opening in good enough shape, and thanks to 21...d4! 22.Bxd4 Nxd4 23.Qxd4 g5! stood better. Unfortunately for her, 25...Bf4 was an error. It's understandable that she was concerned about the threat of Qxf7+, but it turns out that 25...Ng3! was very strong. Black stands clearly better, and in case of 26.Qxf7+? Kh8 White has so many tactical liabilities that Black is winning.

    Instead, Hou played 25...Bf4?, and after the obvious and strong 26.Ne4! Tiviakov was in charge. There were plenty of mistakes the rest of the way - some of them huge - but Black was never able to get all the way back into the game, and White eventually won in a rook ending.

    After four rounds, Nakamura leads with 3 points. Tiviakov has 2.5, Giri 1.5 and Hou Yifan 1. Tomorrow's pairings are Tiviakov-Giri and Hou-Nakamura, and in the last round it will be Giri-Hou and Nakamura-Tiviakov.

    Thursday
    Oct252012

    (Possible) Cheating, USCL Style

    As several readers have pointed out, the United States Chess League had a (possible) cheating incident several days ago. As in the Bundesliga case this past weekend, there wasn't direct proof; indeed, the USCL announcement states that the investigators did not find compelling evidence of cheating. Still, the circumstantial evidence mattered, and there was a (severe) rules breach in any case. (I'm surprised that this was even possible though, as I thought that all the players were gathered together and supervised by a tournament director. Maybe that's just for the playoffs? If they're playing unsupervised from their homes, then that's pretty incredible, as all kinds of cheating is possible then. If the player was cheating under those circumstances, he deserves an award for being an especially dumb cheater.)

    Tuesday
    Oct232012

    Unive, Round 3: Nakamura Wins Again

    Hikaru Nakamura finished the first cycle of the Unive Crown Group in Hoogeveen with his second win in three games. Today he defeated Hou Yifan with the white pieces in a very sharp Schevingen line. After 5...e6 6.g4 h6 7.Rg1 Hou uncorked the new move 7...e5. It looks horrid at first sight, but in fact the concept is known from some similar positions (for example, on move 6). Nakamura went for a standard recipe (8.Bb5+ Nbd7 9.Nf5), and a few moves later the position took on a Perenyi-like character (compare the game sequence 11.g5 Nxe4 12.Nxg7+ Bxg7 13.Nxe4 with the variation 5...a6 6.Be3 e6 7.g4 e5 8.Nf5 h5 9.g5 Nxe4 10.Nxg7+ Bxg7 11.Nxe4).

    Resemblances notwithstanding, the position was very tactical and had to be played on its own merits. For a time both players handled the position well, but Hou made a fatal error with 19...Bxc2. There was no way to avoid some sort of material loss, but the right way was 19...Rah8. There Black loses the exchange, but she'll win a pawn and will have a pretty stable position once White's knight is gone. The game continuation netted Black two pawns for a piece, but it wasn't enough - or at least shouldn't have been. Both players handled the subsequent play inaccurately, but the "normal" result came to pass.

    The game between Anish Giri and Sergei Tiviakov was a Rubinstein French that finished in an unusual draw. Tiviakov's 22nd move may have looked like a blunder, but his superior minor piece together with White's brittle queenside gave him fully equal chances. If anything, Black could have continued at the end, as a line like 30...Qxe3 31.Rxe3 exf3! 32.Rxe8 fxg2 33.Rg1 (or 33.Rb8+ Kc6 34.Rc1+ Kd7 35.Rxb5 Rxb5 36.Rg1 Rb4 37.Rxg2 Rxd5) 33...Bf1 34.Re1 Kxc6 35.Rgxf1 gxf1Q 36.Rxf1 Rxd4 is marginally in Black's favor. I can't really see Giri losing that, but in the age of Carlsen it's getting a little tougher to know when a position is trivially drawn.

    I believe the players are taking tomorrow off, and then finish up on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. After three rounds, only Nakamura has won a game, while only Tiviakov has drawn all his games. (That should suffice to allow anyone to reconstruct everyone's score.)

    Monday
    Oct222012

    Ongoing and Completed Events: Unive & the Spice Cup

    In the Unive Crown Group in Hoogeveen today, both games were drawn. Hou Yifan pushed Anish Giri, but not all the way off the cliff. Hikaru Nakamura had no trouble with the black pieces against Sergei Tiviakov, but that doesn't mean he was close to winning, either. So Nakamura remains at +1 after two rounds, Giri at -1 and the other players are at 50%.

    As for the GM tournament at the SPICE Cup, that finished yesterday. Top seed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave took clear first with 6/10, half a point ahead of Ding Liren and Le Quang Liem. Wesley So finished with a 50% score, while Csaba Balogh and Georg Meier brought up the rear with four points apiece.

    Sunday
    Oct212012

    Kasparov-Deep Blue II: Another Perspective

    Much ink, and the digital equivalent, has been spilled on the subject of the second Garry Kasparov-Deep Blue match, won by the machine 3.5-2.5. Many, myself included, believe that Kasparov was still the stronger player at the time; his problem was that he managed to psych himself out by the time of game 6, which he lost horribly. That psychological collapse is believed to have started with his first loss in game two, when Deep Blue made a pair of surprisingly "human" moves: 37.Be4, which was human in a good way (a fine preventive move eschewing material gain to keep Black bottled up and without counterplay), and 44.Kf1, which allegedly blundered into an eventual perpetual check. (Kasparov, trusting the computer, resigned a move later.)

    It is clear that the game, and the mysteriousness of those two moves, affected him strongly. But according to statistician Nate Silver, Kasparov's psychological confusion began in game 1, when the computer made a rather silly move due to a bug. Silver thinks (or maybe reports) that Kasparov took this as a sign of the depth of Deep Blue's algorithm rather than as a bug, and the spooking began.

    Is it true? Who knows. It's an interesting story, though.

    (HT: Ken Regan)

    Sunday
    Oct212012

    Toiletgate, Bundesliga Style

    The latest Bundesliga season is underway, but not without controversy. Grandmaster Falko Bindrich took a few too many bathroom breaks for his opponents' comfort (first Pavel Tregubov, and then in Bindrich's next game, Sebastian Siebrecht complained), and the arbiter investigated, leading to Bindrich's forfeiture in the second game.

    I'm sure there will be more on this story soon; here, for now, is the story in a Google translation of a report on ChessBase's German-language site.

    Sunday
    Oct212012

    Unive Starts, Nakamura Wins

    Every year for some time now in Hoogeveen, their chess festival includes a four-player double round robin event. The usual formula called for a world champion, the world junior champion, a Dutchman and a woman*. (Preferably the women's world champion or the highest-rated woman.) They got the last two, but not the first two. Top dog in this year's Unive Crown Group is Hikaru Nakamura, who may have been #5 or #6 in the world when he got the invitation. Anish Giri is the #2 player in the world among those under 21, so I guess he's the ersatz world junior champ, though he also counts as a Dutchman, obviously. However, that status probably goes to Sergei Tiviakov, as he doesn't come close to fitting any of the other categories. Finally, they've usually invited Judit Polgar, but this time it's women's world champion Hou Yifan filling the role.

    Round 1 took place earlier today, and Nakamura got to work on repairing the damage done to his rating in his recent events by grinding down Giri on the White side of the 5.Re1 anti-Berlin. For a long time it had a (deserved) reputation as a deadly dull, non-threatening system (when White plays 7.Bf1, that is; 7.Bd3 lines are much sharper), but in recent years White has found ways to pressure Black. So it was here: Giri never quite managed to equalize, and finally went down after a lot of suffering. In the other game, Tiviakov had to suffer a little with Black in a Rubinstein French, but not too much. Hou Yifan wound up with the better half of an opposite-colored bishop ending, but it wasn't enough to win (or even close).

     

    * I have to admit, that formula always reminds me of former U.S. Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt's infamous remark about the diversity of an advisory panel. That was back in 1983, before the need for politically correct speech was as stifling as it is now, but by practically any standard his remarks were stratospherically impolitic.

    Sunday
    Oct212012

    Notre Dame 17 - BYU 14

    It was as ugly as could be, except that the final result was the right one. Notre Dame missed two field goals, committed numerous penalties - several of which were costly, committed turnovers, had a lousy kicking game in general...and still won. The key was that they played better as the game went on, and were strong enough to overcome the bad start. They won't be able to get away with this next week, but then with their usual quarterback playing and the rust off, they should bring their A-game.

    So: the season record is up to 7-0, with five victims left, not counting the bowl game. The next victim is Oklahoma University. For now, time for a tune, to be enjoyed more in relief than in celebration.

    Saturday
    Oct202012

    Notre Dame to Beat BYU, Beginning Soon

    At last, we return to the really important topic of this blog: Notre Dame football! The 6-0, 5th ranked Fighting Irish will tame the Brigham Young University Cougars (and then some) starting in about 40 minutes. Today's massacre will be televised on NBC; pre-game material can be found here.

    Saturday
    Oct202012

    Forthcoming: Kings Tournament, Women's World Championship

    Two events of note will start in November (maybe more, but at the moment I'm aware of these two). The first, the Kings Tournament in Romania, was originally scheduled for June before being postponed indefinitely. Now, according to Fabiano Caruana's Twitter account (HT: Chess Today), it's on again and will run from November 7 to 17. I'm not sure about the lineup, however. The tournament website still gives the six players who were to play in June: Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Teimour Radjabov, Sergey Karjakin, Vassily Ivanchuk and the "home" player Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. Unless they've added a player, at least one of the aforementioned stars will be sitting this one out.

    From kings to queens: the Women's World Championship. I really don't understand what FIDE is doing with that title, but it wouldn't be the first time I didn't understand their machinations. For many years the women's title, like the world championship (full stop) title, was decided in matches, with the champ keeping the title until a qualifier came through and knocked her off her throne. In recent years, they started employing knockout events, but when Hou Yifan (who won a knockout event in 2010) defeated challenger Humpy Koneru last year in a "normal" match, I thought they had reverted to the classical approach, especially as the "men's" title has since 2008.

    Apparently not! FIDE is holding another knockout world championship event this fall, running from November 20 through December 3 in good old Khanty Mansyiysk, Russia. (Brrrr!) Ironically, there's another path to the world championship: the winner of the 2011-2012 Women's Grand Prix, which finished last month, will play a match with the knockout winner in 2013. Guess who won the Grand Prix? Hou Yifan! So I'm hoping, if only to highlight the absurdity of all of this, that Hou wins the knockout, and gets to face herself in a match next year.*

    Anyway, here's the lineup for the upcoming knockout.

     

    * I'm sure some schoolmarm will inform me that there won't be a Hou vs. Hou match (even if she wins the K.O. event). Really??