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    Friday
    May252012

    Karpov-Seirawan Coming in June

    Perhaps this is so Yasser Seirawan can justify a second edition of Chess Duels? (Kidding.) Unfortunately, Anatoly Karpov and Yasser Seirawan are going to play a three-stage match in St. Louis from June 9-13.

    First, a pair of classical games (40/90, SD/30+30") worth three points apiece. Second, two rapid games (25' + 5") worth two points apiece. Finally, ten blitz games (5' + 2") worth a point apiece. The winner (probably Seirawan, given that Karpov has been pretty much retired from serious chess for around a decade) gets $10k, the loser $7k. It's a nice payday for Seirawan, win or lose, but wholly unnecessary for Karpov, whose wealth is reportedly equivalent to at least hundreds of millions of US dollars and possibly in the BILLIONS.

    As someone who grew up in the era of Karpov reign, it's painful for me to watch him playing at least 200 points below his peak, playing worse than he did as a teenager. It reminds me of watching Larry Holmes beat the snot out of a slow, aging, overweight, Muhammad Ali who had already gone through several hard fights too many. Watching Karpov play badly doesn't add to the luster of the game and tarnishes his legacy, especially with newer fans who don't know any better. (Note: It wouldn't bother me at all if he still worked at the game, like Korchnoi or - to mention a closer age peer - Beliavsky. But he isn't; he is very busy doing lots of other things, with the result that when he does pop out every once in a while the result is generally a disaster.)

    Friday
    May252012

    The Highest Ratings Ever, Adjusted for Inflation

    According to this German site, Bobby Fischer has the record: 2787, with Garry Kasparov #2 at 2759, Anatoly Karpov #3 with 2722, Mikhail Tal in fourth at 2700 and Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik are tied for fifth-sixth at 2699. I'm not sure what their method is and am sure that Ken Regan would disagree with it, but it's at least an entertaining list.

    Many, probably most of us do believe that there has been some rating inflation, but even so it's hard to believe that even the Viktor Korchnoi of the late 1970s was stronger - measurably stronger, at that! - than Magnus Carlsen. Korchnoi's peak rating was 2695, while Carlsen is 2835, and our understanding of the game has developed since then. (Even Korchnoi now must know a lot more than he did then, even if at the age of 81 he can longer play with the same strength and endurance that he used to.)

    Friday
    May252012

    Robot Chess

    Who needs Battle Bots when you can watch robots playing chess in the park? Alexander Grischuk was on the undercard, Sergey Shipov provided live commentary, and Anna Sharevich went around interviewing people (but not, thankfully, singing "Piano Man"). Looks like fun!

    Thursday
    May242012

    Anand-Gelfand: Game 10 Drawn Quickly, The Match Remains Tied With Two Games To Go

    World champion Viswanathan Anand was unable to achieve much with the white pieces against Boris Gelfand in today's game 10. Anand decided to give the 3.f3 Gruenfeld a rest for the moment, and returned to 1.e4. Gelfand again offered the Sveshnikov rather than his erstwhile favorite, the Najdorf, but Anand varied from game 5 with 3.Bb5.

    It was the challenger who got off the first surprise, however, with the almost new 5...e5. Anand achieved a better queenside pawn structure, but after trying for a little while and refusing a draw on move 21 offered one of his own after his 25th move. Gelfand accepted, and so their world championship match is tied at 5-5, with two games to go in "normal time". Tomorrow is a rest day, and then Gelfand will have his last white game on Saturday. Sunday will be another rest day, and then on Monday Anand will have his crack at making white work.

    The match has been very even so far: both players have won a game and both players squandered an excellent winning chance. Gelfand has acquitted himself better than most of the prognosticators expected, but he may still be feeling a bit nervous at the prospect of a 6-6 tie, due to Anand's skill in rapid chess. On the other hand, Gelfand seems practically impossible to ruffle, and he has shown his mettle in high-pressure situations over the years - including in rapid tiebreaks - so while he must still be considered the underdog it would be a mistake to count him out.

    My annotations and an accompanying video will be available to subscribers later today.

    Wednesday
    May232012

    Game 9 Drawn: Gelfand Presses but Cannot Win; Match Tied 4.5-4.5

    I may tidy this post up later today, but here's a quick recap: Gelfand got a nice advantage out of the opening (a Nimzo-Indian, Karpov Variation), but his 19.c5 was excessively academic. Rather than enjoying a clearly favorable middlegame, he hoped that in the resulting endgame with queen vs. rook, knight and pawn (plus more pawns for both sides) he'd be able to use the principle of two weaknesses to break down Anand's attempted fortress. His judgment proved mistaken, but he still had the better of play, and showed no ill effects from the disaster in game 8.

    So the match is tied, game 10 is tomorrow, and - for subscribers - the materials will be available later tonight.

    Monday
    May212012

    Anand Levels Gelfand and the Match, Winning Game 8 in 17 Moves

    An odd world championship match just grew odder still. After 19 years without a win in classical chess against Viswanathan Anand, Boris Gelfand's patient, solid strategy paid off in game 7. He won and took the lead over the champion, 4-3, with just five games to go. At this point he could expect Anand to play more aggressively and to start throwing the kitchen sink at him, so it would have made sense to keep solid, weather the storm and maybe even give Anand the chance to overextend.

    So what happened? Just the opposite. Perhaps dizzy from success, Gelfand played uncharacteristically risky chess, like a man who had completely lost his sense of danger. The game grew wild in a hurry, and then Gelfand badly miscalculated a short sequence and lost immediately. What's especially odd is that if Gelfand's normal sense of danger had been present, he would have been more suspicious - surely Anand wouldn't overlook something so simple, would he? He didn't.

    The game was thus a disaster, but objectively Gelfand is still in reasonable shape in the match. It's tied at 4-4, with four games to go, and he can head into the rest day with the encouraging awareness that he can beat Anand. For Anand, today's game was an obvious positive, so if he can neutralize Gelfand's opening in game 9 he can look forward to the rest of the match with confidence.

    My back allowing, subscribers can look forward to my annotations and video and later this evening.

     

    Sunday
    May202012

    Krush Wins Women's Title in a Ghoulish Tiebreak

    Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush were tied at the end of the U.S. Women's Championship round-robin, so today they played a tiebreaker. It would go to an Armageddon game if necessary, but first they played a pair of G/25 (plus 5 second increments per move) rapid games. In the first, Zatonskih got nothing with White, pressed anyway, and lost. In the rematch, however, she played very well and obtained a winning attack. To break the attack, Krush offered an exchange, but Zatonskih went for more. Krush's reply was a blunder, and with a simple two-mover her opponent would win a rook, equalize the scores, and go on to the Armageddon game.

    Instead, after thinking for three minutes, Zatonskih missed it. By this point Krush had seen it and could be seen exhaling in relief, though even after this her position was awful. Zatonskih didn't handle the technical task to perfection, but was slowly but surely getting the job done. And then...she simply hung a rook. Maybe it was the sort of OTB equivalent of "pre-move": she expected that Krush was going to do something else, and simply carried out her intended move anyway, not noticing before reflexively executing what was now a blunder.

    A horrific reminder, in case anyone needed it, that errare humanum est.

    Sunday
    May202012

    Match On! Gelfand Wins Game 7, Leads 4-3

    After six less than scintillating draws, the 2012 World Chess Championship finally saw its first decisive result. Boris Gelfand defeated the champion, Viswanathan Anand, for the first time in a classical game since 1993(!), and has a 4-3 lead with five games to go.

    Gelfand varied from his earlier games with 6.c5, as expected by this commentator, and at least as importantly, met 6...Nbd7 with the rare 7.Qc2. Anand did not seem well-prepared for this line, and burned plenty of time trying to solve the problem of his bad light-squared bishop. He never managed to do this, and already felt quite frustrated by his position when he lashed out with 23...g5. This was a clear error, and soon Gelfand's position wasn't just comfortable; it was winning. Anand found some neat tricks at the very end to make it exciting, but Gelfand was up to the challenge and created his own mating net before Black could finish weaving his.

    Now the time for dull, bloodless draws is over. Will Anand manage to bounce back, as Garry Kasparov did against Anand himself back in 1995? There, in a 20-game title match, there were eight draws before Anand opened the first lead with a win in game 9. Kasparov promptly won games 10, 11, 13 and 14 on his way to a three point victory. So perhaps this loss will give Anand a feeling of freedom and a sense of increased motivation, and the match will come alive. Let's hope so!

    (Subscribers can expect my analysis and supplementary video later today. Those who would like to subscribe can do so, and will still receive the earlier materials, videos included.)

    Sunday
    May202012

    Nakamura Wins the 2012 U.S. Championship; Women's Title Undetermined

    The 2012 U.S. Championship is over, and Hikaru Nakamura made sure that the title would be his without a playoff. He had White against Yasser Seirawan, and won convincingly in an offbeat French (1.e4 e6 2.f4). As a result it didn't matter how Gata Kamsky did - even if Kamsky beat Robert Hess with Black, Nakamura would still finish half a point ahead. As it turned out, Hess drew, and so the final margin was a full point. Both players gained rating points, too, and now Nakamura is #6 in the world with a live rating of 2782.6. (If Anand draws a few more games with Gelfand, or loses one without winning any, Nakamura hits #5.)

    In other results, Onischuk-Shulman was a battle for third. The game was drawn, and so the players finished third and (tied for) fourth, respectively. Alex Lenderman and Varuzhan Akobian both won with Black, against Alejandro Ramirez and Gregory Kaidanov, respectively. As a result, they joined Shulman in that tie for fourth. Ray Robson would have joined them with a win over Alex Stripunsky, but their game was drawn.

    Final Standings:

    1. Nakamura 8.5 (of 11)
    2. Kamsky 7.5
    3. Onischuk 6.5
    4-6. Akobian, Lenderman, Shulman 6
    7. Robson 5.5
    8. Hess 5
    9-10. Kaidanov, Ramirez 4
    11-12. Seirawan, Stripunsky 3.5

    In the women's event, Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush both won, and finished the round robin tied for first with 7/9. As a result, they'll have a 2-game rapid (25' + 5") playoff on Sunday, and if that fails to determine a winner they'll have an Armageddon game with the players bidding on time.

    Friday
    May182012

    2012 U.S. Championship: Nakamura Defeats Kamsky, Leads With One Round To Go

    The penultimate round of the 2012 U.S. Championship was dramatic. Gata Kamsky had seized the lead with an impressive win in the previous round, while Hikaru Nakamura, who had a long and probably somewhat disappointing draw, was half a point behind. They were paired and Kamsky had White, which would seem to put him in the catbird seat for his third championship title in a row.

    So one would think, but Nakamura pulled out the win. Kamsky made some decisions that many spectators didn't grasp, but then spectators - even GMs - often find themselves confused by his play. By itself, that's not news, though it was interesting to hear Nakamura mention after the game that he generally failed to guess Kamsky's moves as well! Nakamura was better much of the way, but Kamsky's very active play kept things crazy, and he was in range of a draw despite a material deficit. What cost him was probably time trouble. Had Kamsky played 36.Nc5 the position would have remained equal; instead, he played 36.f3 and Nakamura took over again.

    In other games, Seirawan-Kaidanov, Lenderman-Hess and Akobian-Onischuk were all pretty easygoing draws. Shulman-Robson was also drawn but wasn't perfunctory. Theirs was a complicated and eventful struggle, and at the end when it seemed as if Shulman would win with an extra piece, Robson fought on and somehow managed to survive. Shulman was out of the running for first in any case, but this must have been very disappointing for him. Finally, Stripunsky's attack to build a kingside attack in a Closed Sicilian against Ramirez failed, but the counterattack succeeded and Ramirez won.

    Last Round Pairings:

    Nakamura (7.5) - Seirawan (3.5)
    Hess (4.5) - Kamsky (7)
    Ramirez (4) - Lenderman (5)
    Robson (5) - Stripunsky (3)
    Onischuk (6) - Shulman (5.5)
    Kaidanov (4) - Akobian (5)

    The women had the day off, so that everyone will finish together tomorrow (Saturday). Zatonskih and Krush are tied for first there, while it's still possible that the Championship proper could also finish in a tie. If either event finishes with a tie for first, tiebreaks will take place on Sunday.