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    Saturday
    Oct092010

    The Best Chess No One Sees: The 2010/11 Bundesliga Season is Underway

    More info and replayable games here.

    Saturday
    Oct092010

    Notre Dame 23, Pitt 17

    It's bad that we even let them get that close, but it's another step in the right direction.

    Next week's victim: Western Michigan.

    All together now:

    Saturday
    Oct092010

    Live Top List Updated Already

    In the early days of the Live Top List, Hans Arild Runde would update it daily. For a while now that hasn't been the case, but it's great to see that today's Bilbao games have already been factored in for a very timely update. Here's the news:

    Carlsen is still #1, but he's down from 2810 to 2805.1. Anand's draw has pushed him below 2800 for the moment, to 2799.3, and Kramnik is on the verge of overtaking Topalov for fourth place. (Aronian is #3 at 2793.8, Topalov is 2785.5, and Kramnik 2785.2.) Shirov gained .7 and is still #11 with a 2751.5 rating.

    If Anand beats Carlsen tomorrow, he's the new #1! It's not so likely to happen with Anand having the black pieces, but who knows? Mr. G-Star has not looked terribly impressive since becoming one of the beautiful people, and if he overpresses against Anand (trying to make up for today's loss) it could cost him.

    Saturday
    Oct092010

    Notre Dame to Whip Pitt: The Bludgeoning Starts in an Hour

    On NBC at 3:30 ET, for those of you fortunate enough to have coverage of Notre Dame football. Those of you deprived of this great privilege, or for anyone just curious to read more about today's game, have a look here.

    Saturday
    Oct092010

    Bilbao, Round 1: Kramnik Beats Carlsen; Shirov-Anand Drawn

    Vladimir Kramnik jumped to the early lead in Bilbao with a positional masterpiece against Magnus Carlsen. With White in a Queen's Indian (no Catalan for a change, thank goodness), Kramnik obtained a space advantage and some prospects based on a knight vs. bad bishop imbalance. Carlsen's position was unpleasant but tenable, but the young fashion model didn't want to sit passively and lashed out with the mistaken 29...d5? He was in real trouble after that, and after 35...Ra5 the game could no longer be saved. Kramnik's final move, 45.Rd1!, practically stalemated Carlsen's entire army, and the youngster picked the right moment to resign.

    Alexei Shirov achieved nothing with White against World Champion Viswanathan Anand's Berlin Defense. Early on it was clear that a draw was the only possible result, and then it was just a matter of engineering a position that could be drawn under the Sofia Rules. Needless to say, they coped with the task without too much difficulty, although Anand's approach seemed a little more complicated than necessary.

    After one round, Kramnik leads with 3 points (Bilbao scoring!), Anand and Shirov have 1, and Carlsen has 0. Tomorrow's pairings are Carlsen-Anand and Kramnik-Shirov. The tournament site is here, and the games, with my comments, are here.

    Saturday
    Oct092010

    Bilbao Starts Today (Saturday)

    The first round of this 4-man double round-robin starts today (Saturday) at 10:30 a.m. ET/4:30 p.m. CET.

     

    Here are the pairings for all six rounds:

     

    Round 1: Kramnik - Carlsen, Shirov - Anand

    Round 2: Carlsen - Anand, Kramnik - Shirov

    Round 3: Shirov - Carlsen, Anand - Kramnik

    Rest Day

    Round 4: Carlsen - Kramnik, Anand - Shirov

    Round 5: Carlsen - Shirov, Kramnik - Anand

    Round 6: Anand - Carlsen, Shirov - Kramnik

     

    Tournament site here.

    Predictions? I'm guessing that they're going to use the 3-1-0 scoring system again, so you might want to keep that in mind.

    Thursday
    Oct072010

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: Viewer Games & Questions

    It's a pretty diverse collection of games and positions this time around: there are opening questions about the Grünfeld and Ruy, and games involving pawn breaks, big but vulnerable centers, completely open centers, and a bishop vs. pawn ending. There's no thematic unity whatsoever, but you're bound to find something of interest!

    The show can be viewed here and can be watched free (free registration required) and on-demand for the next month or so.

    Thursday
    Oct072010

    Janis Klovans, 1935-2010

    Latvian GM and correspondence GM Janis Klovans died a couple of days ago, on Tuesday. He's not as well known as some of his countrymen (most obviously his great contemporary Mikhail Tal), but he was a very impressive figure in his own right, winning the Latvian Championship 9 times and the World Senior Championship three times, for starters. His list of scalps includes players like Tal (more than once), Karpov, Bronstein, Shirov, Ivanchuk and many other extremely strong players, and this doesn't even cover his achievements in correspondence chess.

    To learn more about this man, who also helped train the young Shirov, have a look at this nice memorial article over at ChessVibes. The article concludes with 44 of his notable wins; you can replay it there or download the PGN (here's a direct link to the download).

    Wednesday
    Oct062010

    A Review of Shirov's 6.Bg5 Najdorf DVD

    Alexei Shirov, Sicilian Najdorf 6.Bg5 (ChessBase, 2010). Running time = 7 hours.

    Alexei Shirov has done dozens of DVDs for ChessBase, and there are consistent features among all of them. First, of course, they tend to feature his games, and this in turn means that viewers will see some extremely entertaining chess. Second, while he has analyzed the games beforehand, he tends not to use notes during the recordings. While this makes his presentations a bit more spontaneous, it has its dark side too. Shirov will sometimes pause for a fairly long time as he tries to remember his analysis, or to figure out some new position, or to figure out where he made a wrong turn after forgetting his actual analysis. And sometimes, he simply blunders in his on-the-fly analysis. Third, when they are openings-based DVDs (as they generally are), one gets an interesting mix of useful information and moments where Shirov refuses to say more because it's where his important secrets are.

    These general features are present here, too, but we can add some remarks and qualifications on their application to the DVD I'm reviewing. First, this DVD includes four games not played by Shirov, as they helped fill in important theoretical details to lines he hasn't had in his own practice. Second - and this is excellent - the ChessBase people error-checked his videos before sending the product to market, and as a result there's a final 45 minute video at the end of the disk presenting updates and corrections to the earlier clips. Finally, about Shirov's habit of saying that he won't say anything more about a given line (at least for the moment), viewers should take this as a very useful hint: we now at least know two very important things: first, that this, in the considered opinion of one of the word's absolute best players, is the place to go digging; second, that other games to reach that position must be critically flawed for one reason or another, or he would have presented them as the truth. This is very helpful for research-minded viewers!

    To the DVD itself: there are 16 clips covering various lines starting with the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5. There's an intro, then fourteen game clips (12 from the original recording sessions in August 2009, one add-on from a different recording session, and a later game recorded in late February), and then the bonus update (recorded right after Wijk aan Zee, in late February).

    The material breaks down like this:

    6.Bg5 Nbd7 - one clip (plus some important new material in the update based on his game with Dominguez in Wijk aan Zee 2010).

    6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 Nbd7 10.g4 - three clips. Two are on the old main line, Perenyi Variation: 10...b5 11.Bxf6 Nxf6 12.g5 Nd7 13.f5 Nc5 14.f6 gxf6 16.gxf6 Bf8 17.Rg1, and one covers 10...h6.

    6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nbd7 (the Gelfand Variation) - seven clips. Of these, four feature 8.Qe2, the other three 8.Qf3; at the end of those clips he pronounces himself unsure which of those moves is better. (On the other hand, 8.Qe2 fares better in the games he presents, seems fresher, and was his [successful] choice against Berg last week in the Olympiad.)

    6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 (the Poisoned Pawn Variation) - two clips, plus further discussion in the update video. He still has ideas against this, but opined that both 10.f5 and the again popular 10.e5 both lead to nothing more than a draw with best play, according to his analysis. (This isn't news about 10.f5, but might be about 10.e5.)

    6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qc7 (the Kasparov Variation) - one clip.

    About 7...b5 (the Polugaevsky Variation) he says very little: he gives only 8.e5 dxe5 9.fxe5 Qc7 10.exf6 Qe5+ 11.Be2 Qxg5, expresses a preference for 12.0-0 over 12.Qd3, recommends having a look at the database (Leko's games in particular - see his 2001 wins over Ghaem Maghami and Ivanchuk) in particular, and asserts that White is better.

    He has even less to say about 7...Nc6, as he hasn't had any games with it and doesn't want to give up any of his prep before getting to use it. He confines himself to the remark that it is "unrefuted" until the additions video, where he gives 8.Nxc6 bxc6 9.e5 h6 10.Bh4 g5 11.fxg5 Nd5 12.Ne4 Qb6 as an interesting, sharp position.

    Without going into much detail - that's what the DVD is for - I'll note one interesting area of overlap with Lubomir Ftacnik's new book for Quality Chess, The Sicilian Defence. One of Ftacnik's main lines for Black against 6.Bg5 runs like this: 6...e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Be7 9.Qf3 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 Qc7, and Shirov discusses this position as well in the additions clip via the move order 7...Be7 8.Qf3 h6 9.Bh4 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 Qc7.

    Ftacnik examines some other moves deeply, but his ultimate main line, which is Shirov's as well, continues 11.Be2 b5 12.Bxf6 Nxf6 13.e5 Bb7 14.Qg3 dxe5 15.fxe5 Nd5 16.Nxe6 fxe6 17.Qg6+ Kd7 18.Bg4 Qxe5 [It's hard to believe, looking at such a position, that Black isn't losing by force, but the ...Qg5+ resource keeps him kicking.] 19.Nxd5 Qg5+. Here Ftacnik thinks 20.Ne3+ is White's best try for a meaningful advantage, but he also looks at Shirov's line 20.Qxg5 Bxg5+ 21.Kb1 Bxd5 22.Rxd5+ (as played in T. Hansen (2423) - Nguyen Huynh Minh (2477), Budapest 2008). Ftacnik doesn't seem terribly worried about the ending, though he does acknowledge that the presence of the rooks reduces the drawing tendencies of the opposite-colored bishops, but Shirov thinks that White has "quite good" winning chances and views this as the way to handle the line.

    The DVD will not tell you everything you need to know to handle the 6.Bg5 Najdorf with either side, but it will give you valuable information, opinions and hints that will give you a leg up on those who are working with books and databases alone. Recommended for 6.Bg5 fans and their victims.

    Ordering information here.

    Tuesday
    Oct052010

    A Review of Khalifman's Opening for White According to Anand, Vol. 13

    Alexander Khalifman, Opening for White According to Anand 1.e4, Vol. 13. (Chess Stars, 2010.) 380 pp. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    In a recent review of Nikita Vitiugov’s The French Defence: A Complete Black Repertoire, I was fairly critical. One point of contention was that Vitiugov seemed to ignore many non-Russian sources, to the book’s detriment. This is sometimes true of Chess Stars books in general, and it might be true of Alexander Khalifman’s Opening for White According to Anand 1.e4, vol. 13, but if so it doesn’t matter a bit, at least as far as I’ve been able to tell so far. It looks like Khalifman has done an excellent job, and based on what I’ve checked I have no qualms about recommending this book to strong (say, 1900-2000 rated and up) players interested in either side of the lines he covers.

    The material in this, the penultimate volume in the series, covers the Scheveningen Sicilian and the Scheveningen-style Najdorf (to use Emms’ term). That is, it covers lines starting from 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 and 5…a6 6.Be3 e6. (There’s also a chapter on 5…a6 6.Be3 and then everything but 6…e6, 6…e5 and 6…Ng4. The last two moves will be the topic of volume 14.)

    For those unfamiliar with the series, Khalifman, in keeping with the “Anand repertoire” theme, is presenting heavy-duty mainline theory, supplemented by his own analytical work. He has been semi-retired from practical play for almost a decade, but is still very strong and was a 2700 player at his peak (cf. his greatest result, when he won the FIDE World Championship in 1999, defeating Gata Kamsky, Judit Polgar and Boris Gelfand among others). There are no intro sections explaining general plans; there are no diagrams with arrows or illustrative games (except when they can be buried in the paragraphs of analysis). There is prose, and it does offer some guidance (e.g. an explanation as to what’s going on, why White is better in a given position, or what a typical short-term plan might look like). But if you’re a 1500 trying to understand the opening in some conceptual way, this isn’t the place to start. The books are great, but they’re not primers.

    The book is essentially an extended argument for the English Attack*, which he advocates whenever possible; that is, a setup with Be3, f3, Qd2, g4, 0-0-0 followed by hacking the Black king to bits. It’s a very principled approach, and while there are a handful of lines in the book (mostly early on) that force White to do something a little different, most of the book’s nearly 400 pages are finesses and variations on the English Attack themes.

    This approach has been popular for a quarter of a century, so it goes without saying that there’s a ton of theory for Khalifman to organize, assess, and improve on. How did he do? As far as I can tell, extremely well! I compared his findings with those of Lubomir Ftacnik’s in the latter’s brand-new The Sicilian Defence (Quality Chess, 2010) and with ChessPublishing.com’s findings (over the past couple of years) where the sources overlapped. In no case did Khalifman come out second-best, and I wasn’t able to bust the lines I checked, either. (See the game file for details.) His work was thorough, up-to-date and demonstrated adept use of engines. Highly recommended for 1800s and up playing these lines with either color.

    * Interestingly, Khalifman writes in the preface that he, Konstantin Aseev and Leonid Yudasin all played the “English” Attack a year before the Brits took it up. All went on to become strong GMs (or more), but because they were still masters at that time he thinks the idea was undervalued by the general chess public until the British GMs started using it.