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    Friday
    Jan132012

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: Rubinstein's Pawn Endings

    The great Akiba Rubinstein (1882-1961) was perhaps the strongest player never to have a chance to play for the world championship, and a giant of early 20th century. In addition to his great practical strength in the middlegame, his openings were remarkably modern while in the endgame he had few if any peers.

    He was most famous for his rook endings, but he won some classic pawn endings as well, and in this week's ChessVideos show I take a look at three of them. They're very instructive, and clearly illustrate that small advantages in a king and pawn ending are often enough to win the game. (You'll also have a good workout if you stop the recordings to try to solve the positions for yourself.)

    So have a look: the show is free, as always (free registration required), and will be available on-demand for the next month or so.

    Friday
    Jan132012

    Topalov Interview

    ChessVibes' series of pre-Wijk aan Zee interviews concludes with a chat with former FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov. He seems surprisingly mellow - almost a little too mellow and unambitious. Maybe he's just trying to stay under the radar; we'll see, starting tomorrow, when Wijk aan Zee gets underway!

    Thursday
    Jan122012

    Timman Interview

    ChessVibes has a nice interview with Dutch GM Jan Timman, a former world championship finalist. Timman is playing in the B-group in Wijk aan Zee starting Saturday, and I appreciate his attitude about his chances there. He's realistic about where he is now, at 60 and some years separated from his time at the top, but this realism isn't a depressed fatalism. He is confident about his ability to play good games and doesn't rule out the possibility a successful result. I hope he has one!

    Wednesday
    Jan112012

    Wijk aan Zee 2012 Starts Saturday

    For many years now, and hopefully for many more, January means it's time for the great chess festival in Wijk aan Zee. As usual, the overarching event includes three 16-player round-robin events, featuring above all a super-tournament for the A-group. The B-group is extremely strong as well, and the C-group includes some powerful players as well, but it's the elite A-group that garners the bulk of the attention.

    The last two world champions, Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, aren't playing, but despite the absence of the world's #4 and #3 players, respectively, the top group is immensely strong. The world's #1 and #2 players, Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, are both playing, as are former FIDE champion Veselin Topalov, Sergey Karjakin and Hikaru Nakamura. All five players are past winners of the event, and Nakamura is the defending champion.

    Teimour Radjabov is the third seed, Vassily Ivanchuk is playing as well (it's hard to believe he has never won this tournament! [Update: He has won the event, as a couple of readers pointed out. I shouldn't have trusted my source!]), and so are Vugar Gashimov, Gata Kamsky, Fabiano Caruana, David Navara and Loek van Wely. Finally, two other players are worth singling out in a special way: Boris Gelfand is only the ninth seed, but as he will face Anand for the world championship in a few months his participation is noteworthy. It will be interesting to see what kind of form he's in and how much of his preparation he (seems to) be hiding. [And a second update: Though no one wrote in on this one, Gelfand is also a former winner - he was co-champ way back in 1992.] Finally, the third-to-last seed and second Dutch representative, Anish Giri, just won Reggio Emilia, so he won't be a stealth participant this time around!

    In the B-group there aren't any 2700s, but several players are close and/or have broken that barrier before. The top seeds are Lazaro Bruzon, Vladimir Potkin, Alexander Motylev, Sergey Tiviakov and Pentala Harikrishna. Dutch legend and former A-group regular Jan Timman is playing, and although he's not the player he was he's still a strong and interesting competitor. Also worth noticing is Ukranian prodigy Ilya Nyzhnyk, though his progress this past year hasn't been as dramatic as in years past.

    In the C-group there are two fairly clear favorites: the second seeded Maxim Turov and above all the slowly unretiring Matthew Sadler, whose recent good results have put him back into the world's top 100. If his unretirement had started a bit sooner he probably would have received an invite to the B-group, but it will be nice to see him in action either way. (Speaking of Sadler, here's a long interview that's worth reading.)

    Play starts Saturday. Predictions, readers?

    Sunday
    Jan082012

    Responding to Rajlich, Rybka and Riis: The ICGA Strikes Back

    Recently Søren Riis wrote a four-part article in defense of Rybka programmer Vasik Rajlich against the International Computer Games Association's (ICGA's) charges that Rajlich plagiarized code. (To read Riis, here are part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.)

    The ICGA has not ignored Riis's apologia, and both its president David Levy and University of Sydney mathematician Mark Watkins have authored replies. Levy's, which can be downloaded here, is shorter, more rhetorically based, while Watkins' more significant and meaty reply gets down into the technical details.

    (HT: "Vladimir")

    Friday
    Jan062012

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: Quick Ruy XVII; Part Five on the Open Ruy

    If this gets any "quicker" today's teenagers will be grandparents by the time I finish. Nevertheless, the "Quick" Ruy series marches on, and in this week's installment I complete my look at 9.Nbd2 against the Open Ruy - at least when it doesn't transpose into a 9.c3 variation - which is what we'll look at next time. If you play the Open Ruy with either side, I'd recommend having a look!

    The show is free, as always (one-time only free registration is required), and will be available on-demand for the next month or so.

    Friday
    Jan062012

    Reggio Emilia, Round 10: Giri Draws the Game and Wins the Tournament

    Life is good for Anish Giri, just 17 and a half years old and winning elite tournaments! Reggio Emilia 2011/12 is his first major success, but it's not going to be his last. After a bumpy -2 start, Giri scored four wins and a draw in rounds 5-9 to enter the last round tied for first with Hikaru Nakamura and Alexander Morozevich.

    With White against Fabiano Caruana in the last round, he played very safely and the game was draw in just 28 moves. That seemed like a potentially dangerous strategy, with Nakamura and Morozevich playing the ice-cold Vassily Ivanchuk and Nikita Vitiugov, respectively, but it worked out perfectly. Ivanchuk ground Nakamura down on the white side of a Berlin, and it was only fitting that as Nakamura had ruined Ivanchuk's tournament at the end of the first cycle, Ivanchuk repaid the favor at the end.

    Anything was possible in the Vitiugov-Morozevich battle, and in a long tactical sequence it was Morozevich who had the objectively better position. In mutual time trouble he first missed a likely win, and after further inaccuracies wound up in a lost endgame an exchange down. He had his chance, but couldn't cash it in.

    Thus Giri took clear first with 16 points (on the 3-1-0 scoring system used in this event), one more than Caruana, Morozevich and Nakamura. Ivanchuk finished with 12 and at least a nice finish, while Vitiugov concluded his first super-event with 8 points and a last-round win.

    Games, with comments, here.

    Friday
    Jan062012

    Volokitin Wins Donostia

    The Donostia tournament in San Sebastian, Spain commemorates the centennial of the famous 1911 and slightly less famous 1912 tournaments held in that city. 1911 was Jose Capablanca's brilliant European debut, and he won the event over Akiba Rubinstein and many other notable players of the day; while 1912 saw Rubinstein take first place, half a point ahead of Aron Nimzowitsch and Rudolf Spielmann.

    As you may recall, the 2011/2012 edition was characterized by the (near-)novelty of having opponents play both games of their mini-matches simultaneously, and to continue doing so in the rapid and blitz tie-break games if necessary. It was also quite strong, with (I believe) seven players rated over 2700 and several other former members of the club as well. There were seven knockout rounds, and after the first three the final 16 included the top 11 seeds.

    It was at this point that they started to drop. Second seed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov lost 2-0 to Granda Zuniga, despite having the better position and a huge time advantage on both boards. Eleventh seed Andrei Volokitin defeated the fifth-seeded Arkadij Naiditsch, and in a very mild upset the ninth seed Viktor Laznicka defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

    In round 5 the two upsets were Laznicka knocking off the top seeded Vugar Gashimov while Volokitin eliminated the third seed, Ruslan Ponomariov. That set up the semi-final matches Viktor Laznicka-Alexander Moiseenko (the fourth seed) and Leinier Dominguez (seventh seed)-Andrei Volokitin.

    Once again, the underdogs won, and then Volokitin defeated Laznicka 2-0 in the final to take first place. This is probably the greatest success of his chess career thus far, and although the event wasn't rated I'm sure it will be a tremendous boost to his confidence and will hopefully push him over 2700 in the near future.

    Friday
    Jan062012

    Northern California International

    The Northern California International is an impressive open event (by U.S. standards) that's underway, primarily intended for titled players and norm seekers.

    The early star of the show was IM Greg Shahade, who started out with a pair of wins over FMs and then continued with wins over GMs Alejandro Ramirez and Axel Bachmann. That put him in clear first, and he maintained his half-point edge over the field with a draw against top seed Georg Meier. That put him in excellent shape for a GM norm, and although he lost last night to Sam Shankland, who is now in clear first, he still has very good chances to achieve it.

    Thursday
    Jan052012

    In Defense of Rajlich and Rybka, Continued and Concluded

    For those interested in the seeing the remainder of Dr. Søren Riis's apologia for Vasik Rajlich, Rybka's programmer, part 3 and the conclusion, part 4, have been published on the ChessBase site.