You can find a short video here with Vladimir Kramnik discussing the Berlin Defense in the context of his match with Levon Aronian. One especially insightful remark notes that just because someone (e.g. Aronian) plays an opening successfully with one side doesn't necessitate being adept at that same opening (e.g. the Berlin) from the other side of the board. With some openings it's probably not so difficult, but with others, like the Berlin, he's probably spot on. I played a few Berlins with Black and felt pretty comfortable there, but it didn't translate into much when I played White. Conversely (and at a much, much higher level) I recall that for all the time Garry Kasparov put into meeting the Berlin with White, he was beaten badly when trotting it out against Judit Polgar. Considering both her generally less than sterling opening preparation (compared to Kasparov) and Kasparov's colossal plus score against her in their other head-to-head games (an otherwise undefeated 14-2 in his favor), Kramnik's comment is worth thinking about. Maybe we assume we'll know what to do when confronted with our own favorite openings, but this assumption might be misguided.
In other news, the Latvian Gambit is awful, as Abby Marshall kindly details in her Chess Cafe column this month. She advocates Leonhardt's 4.Nc4 (after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5?? 3.Nxe5 Qf6) while I've been partial to 4.d4 (which she also likes), but there's more than one way to skin this cat. Happy hunting!
Last year Israeli GM Lev Psakhis was in terrible health, in need of a liver transplant. Psakhis, for those of you who weren't around in the 1980s, twice won the USSR Championship (and back to back!), once tying for first with Garry Kasparov, whom he defeated in their individual game. He was considered a tremendous talent, and while he never lived up to the promise of those early results he has had a successful career since then as a player, author and trainer.
Nevertheless, the battle last year was for his life, and at the moment, having received the needed liver transplant, he seems to be doing well, all things considered. There's an interview with him (in Russian) that you might check out (through Google Translate if need be; maybe Chess in Translation will help out?), in which he discusses his health and offers a few words about the upcoming Anand-Gelfand match, Hou Yifan and some other topics too.
(HT: Chess Today)
We move boldly on to part XXIV of our series on the "Quick" Ruy, which I hope to finish before receiving solicitations from AARP. (I remain optimistic!) We've been looking at the Archangelsk variations and are now 2/3 of the way through with the Neo-Archangelsk, which begins 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5. Last time we examined lines where White plays Nxe5 before Black gets in ...d6; this time, we look at positional lines starting with 7.c3 and 7.a4.
While the most principled lines are the sharpest and most theory-intense, it's possible for White to "just play chess" too, and some players will find that the most attractive option. So for those who do, or for those who play this with Black and need to know what to do about it, this week's ChessVideos show is for you. Next time, we move on to the absolute main line, which can arise after various move orders, e.g. 7.a4 Rb8 8.c3 d6 9.d4 Bb6 10.Na3 0-0 11.axb5 axb5 12.Nxb5.
The video is available for free (free registration is required, if you haven't done it already) and on-demand for the next month or so. Enjoy!
In late April Veselin Topalov played a simul in Vienna, Austria against eight opponents under the age of 18. (Only four of the youngsters were themselves Austrian.) He won pretty comfortably with a 5-3 score, winning four games, drawing two and losing two. Ironically, the losses came in the same opening (the Classical King's Indian) - once with each color - and to the highest and lowest-rated players in the event. GM Richard Rapport defeated him with Black, while Martin Huber beat him on the white side. Those games, along with what was possibly his nicest win, over Tadeas Kriebel, can be replayed here, with brief notes.
[HT: ChessVibes Openings]
The Capablanca Memorial in Havana, Cuba, is one of the great traditional events on the chess calendar, with this year marking the 47th edition of the tournament. (The great man himself died in 1942.) This year's lineup includes Vassily Ivanchuk, who is a regular at this tournament and a 5-time winner, along with Leinier Dominguez, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Viktor Laznicka, Vladimir Potkin and Yuniesky Quesada. This double round-robin is both the smallest and strongest Capablanca Memorial I can remember, but that's mitigated by the presence of a second, concurrent 10-player GM round robin and a very strong open event as well.
Play starts on Friday.
The top ten on the new FIDE rating list is the same as the March edition, though some of the places changed. Sergey Karjakin gained 13 points to reach #6, and further down Viktor Bologan gained 29 points (and incredibly gained 16 more points this quarter that didn't get rated in time - what a colossal jump in two months!) to reach #28 in the world - #18 on the Live list. That's a remarkable achievement for anyone, and even more for a man who turned 40 this past December.
Indeed, there's good news for the over-the-hill gang. Going by the Live list, five players are in the top 21: Viswanathan Anand (42 years old, #4 on both lists), Vassily Ivanchuk (43, #10 on both), Bologan (40, #18 Live, #28 official), Michael Adams (40, #19 on both) and Boris Gelfand (43, #21 Live, #20 official). And it's good that the 40+ set is reasonably well-represented, as the Anand-Gelfand World Championship match is just a few weeks away!
The finale of the Aronian-Kramnik match was an exciting draw that was generally in balance until, where both sides had some chances (especially perhaps Kramnik). Levon Aronian stuck to his great 1.e4 experiment, and Vladimir Kramnik stuck to his trusty Berlin Defense. Rather than banging his head against the Wall endgame a third time, though, Aronian switched to 4.d3. For a while it was a calm maneuvering struggle, but not for long. Kramnik's plan for ...d5 started making things interesting, and then Aronian's 19.a5 sharpened the game further.
A complicated and roughly balanced endgame ensued shortly thereafter, but after Aronian's 30.c4?! Rd3 31.b4? Rxe3! he was suddenly in trouble. He drew with some work after 32.Rxe3 cxb4 33.Rg3 e3, but had Kramnik chosen instead 33...Ne7! 34.Rxb4 Bc7! White would have been in huge trouble.
After missing his one chance, Aronian was able to save the position, and so the game finished peacefully, as did the match as a whole. A good show for the spectators, and hopefully the players got most of what they hoped for as well, too.
The game, with my comments, can be replayed here.
Vladimir Kramnik didn't get a lot with the white pieces, and it seemed that an early draw and a rapid game was in the spectators' future. He kept pressing, however, and the game grew increasingly interesting - though still ultimately even. So, after an (ultimately) entertaining draw, the match is now tied at 2.5-2.5 with one game remaining. (Note: that game starts two hours earlier, at 1300 local time in Zurich/7 a.m. ET.)
In this week's ChessVideos show, we continue our theoretical investigations in the Ruy, moving on to the Neo-Archangelsk variation that arises after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5. In this video, which is part one of three on the Neo-Archangelsk, I do three things.
First, I compare this with the regular, old Archangelsk with 6...Bb7. In quite a few lines Black is better off in the Neo- version, but not in every case; the old line has its distinctive points as well.
Second, I offer an overview of the Neo-Archangelsk, so viewers get a sense of the lay of the land, outlining the territory for the next two shows as well.
Finally, we get to the meat, examining lines with a quick Nxe5: 7.a4 Rb8 and now both 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.d4 and 8.axb5 axb5 9.Nxe5 Nxe5 10.d4. These are important sidelines, and if you play either color of the Neo-Archangelsk you'll want to know these variations!
The show is free as always (registration is required but free, easy and one-time-only) and will be available on-demand for the next month or so.