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    Friday
    Oct292010

    Other Events: Unive, Cap D'Agde, Spice Cup and the USCL

    The Crown Group of Unive is more of the same, and that's a good thing - except for Tiviakov. He lost once again, this time to tournament leader Vachier-Lagrave, while Shirov won spectacularly against Giri to jump back into second. After five (of six) rounds, the standings are: Vachier-Lagrave 4, Shirov 3, Giri 2.5, Tiviakov .5.

    At Cap D'Agde the semi-finals are set. Le Quang Liem won a nutty match against Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son. Perhaps there was a relay problem, but it looked like LQL lost the first game in a winning position. Even if it was on time that's surprising, because they were playing with a 10 second increment and it wasn't a particularly complicated position. He won game two with Black, and then it was on to blitz. Games three and four were drawn, and then game 5 was really ridiculous. LQL won a pawn, and the only question seemed to be whether he'd win or NNTS would draw. Instead, LQL walked into an elementary tactic, a knight fork that cost him the exchange. NNTS won a pawn as well, and so it was rook and two pawns against bishop and two pawns. White (NNTS) had no weak pawns and LQL had no passers. In short, White "can't" lose and should probably win. Right? No, of course not. NNTS gave up a pawn, refused to force a draw, and went on to lose the ending. It's not surprising that he was unable to recover from that disaster, and was crushed in the last game.

    The other semi-final was more straightforward. Game 1 between Ivanchuk and Polgar got tactical quickly, and Ivanchuk did a much better job of working things out. Polgar was forced to give up her queen for insufficient material compensation, and although it took a while to force her resignation the result was never really in doubt. In game 2 Polgar played the Reti, which doesn't really seem her style, and soon she was in trouble. By move 19 she was down a pawn for nothing, and Ivanchuk had no trouble winning this game either.

    The semi-finals look like this: Nakamura takes on Le Quang Liem in the first match tomorrow, and then Bu Xiangzhi will take on Ivanchuk. Interestingly, if the favorites win we'll have a rematch of the 2008 event, when Nakamura beat Ivanchuk in the final.

    An interesting event on US soil that I'll mention but probably not cover any further is the Spice Cup in Lubbock, Texas. The A-Group is very strong, and should be an excellent learning experience for Eugene Perelshteyn and especially Ray Robson, while the B-Group will give some talented young Americans the chance to make GM norms (and in one case a GM or IM norm).

    Finally, another US chess event, the 2010 season of the US Chess League, is now at a critical stage: the playoffs start this next week. You can find the brackets here. It isn't the Bundesliga, but a sign of its strength is that the St. Louis team, which includes three GMs - one of whom is Hikaru Nakamura - didn't even qualify for the post-season. (Granted, Nakamura was often away playing elsewhere, but still!)

    Friday
    Oct292010

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: The Sweeper Sealer Twist

    It's a funny name invented by Hans Kmoch, but when you watch the show you'll understand what the term means. More importantly, you'll know the concept and have some idea of how it works and how to use it! Have a look here: the show is free (free registration required) and will be available for a month or so.

    Friday
    Oct292010

    Nanjing, Round 9: Carlsen Wins Again, Clinches First

    Magnus Carlsen is once again the winner of the Pearl Spring tournament in Nanjing, China, and once again he's doing it with a big score (though it won't be as big as last year's win, no matter what happens in the last round). Still, his wins this year all remind me of really bad sports movies, where the action is choreographed to let the hero succeed against embarrassingly poor resistance. Today Topalov had an edge most of the way, but then finished the game like this: 23.Kg2?! (23.Qf1 was clearly better for White), 24.Qc5? (going from pleasantly better to worse), 26.R1c2? (now he's clearly worse), 31.Rxb2 (going from equal [thanks to a peculiar Carlsen mistake] to worse again), 32.Rc3?? (throwing away at least one pawn and probably two, resulting in a lost position) and 33.Rc7?? (losing a piece). Again, obviously, this is not Carlsen's fault, but it's a far cry from his best tournaments where his opponents err under heavy pressure. This was Topalov committing suicide without any pressure at all.

    The other games were rather mundane. Vugar Gashimov played 5.Re1 against Viswanathan Anand's Berlin Defense, but unlike Carlsen in round 7, he never came close to achieving anything with it. Etienne Bacrot kept pace with Anand in second with a draw; he was unable to parlay White against tailender Wang Yue's Petroff into anything serious.

     

    Standings After Round 9:

    1. Carlsen 6.5

    2-3. Bacrot, Anand 5

    4. Gashimov 4

    5. Topalov 3.5

    6. Wang Yue 3

     

    Last round pairings: Wang Yue - Topalov, Carlsen - Gashimov, Anand - Bacrot

    Tournament website here, games (with my comments) here.

    Thursday
    Oct282010

    Other Events: Vachier-Lagrave Leads Unive; Nakamura, Bu Advance to the Cap D'Agde Semis

    The aggressive play in the Unive Crown Group has continued (post-round 1) with decisive results in both of today's games. Tiviakov continues to suffer as the tournament's designated pinata, with Giri wielding the stick in this round. Tiviakov's kingside was compromised in the middlegame, and his king paid the price in a queen and rook ending. As for the leaders, Shirov once again went for fire on board, but Vachier-Lagrave put it out (or if you prefer a different direction for the metaphor, it was Shirov got burned) and won with Black. The game was a Grünfeld where Black's play on the center and queenside was more effective than White's kingside attack. After 4 of 6 rounds, Vachier-Lagrave has 3 points, Giri 2.5, Shirov 2 and Tiviakov just the half point from round 1.

    As for Cap D'Agde, Nakamura defeated Hammer in the first semi (2-0) and Bu Xiangzhi triumphed over Pelletier in the second (1.5-.5). In game 1 of the first match, Hammer blundered a piece in what looked like a pretty drawish position, and in the second he was obliged to self-destruct in an inferior but defensible position (as a draw was no worse than a loss as far as the match was concerned). Likewise, the first game of the second match also finished on a blunder, with Pelletier simply hanging his knight in a position that was inferior but not resignable. Tomorrow we'll have the other semi-final matches: Truong Nguyen Ngoc - Le Quang Liem and Judit Polgar - Vassily Ivanchuk.

    Thursday
    Oct282010

    Nanjing, Round 8: Three Draws

    There were three draws today, but they came about in very different ways. Bacrot didn't seem to have any taste for play after yesterday's loss to Topalov, so against Gashimov he played the Exchange Slav (this doesn't guarantee a draw, but it doesn't hurt if that's your aim) and then went for a repetition right in the opening.

    In Wang Yue-Carlsen, it was Carlsen who clearly had the draw on his mind - perhaps a little too much. Wang Yue wasn't that cooperative, but after his careless 22nd move Carlsen escaped with a draw and consolidated his hold on first place.

    Finally, in Anand-Topalov neither White nor Black seemed at all eager to draw. Topalov played a wonderfully complicated piece sac, and it just turned out that when the smoke had cleared Anand was up a full rook but unable to avoid perpetual check.

     

    Standings After Round 8:

    1. Carlsen 5.5

    2-3. Bacrot, Anand 4.5

    4-5. Topalov, Gashimov 3.5

    6. Wang Yue 2.5

     

    Round 9 Pairings: Bacrot - Wang Yue, Gashimov - Anand, Topalov - Carlsen. This looks like the field's last real chance to close on Carlsen, though the last round pairing Anand - Bacrot is certainly of importance in the battle for second.

    Tournament site here, games (with my notes) here.

    Wednesday
    Oct272010

    Other Events: Unive and Cap D'Agde (Updated, with a Correction)

    If the Unive tournament were a nature documentary, then Sergei Tiviakov would be the weak deer that gets separated from the herd and devoured by the lions. He lost to Shirov in round 2, and this time he lost (with White) to Vachier-Lagrave. Giri-Shirov was a long draw where first Giri and then Shirov got to press.

    At the end of the first cycle Shirov and Vachier-Lagrave lead with 2/3, Giri has 1.5, and Tiviakov has .5. They take tomorrow off (I think) and start the second cycle on Friday. (UPDATE: If there is a rest day, it's not today: they're playing now [Thursday morning]. HT: Mark Crowther.)

    As for Cap D'Agde, they're off today, but resume tomorrow with two of the four quarter-final matches. First up is Nakamura-Hammer, and then Bu Xiangzhi takes on Pelletier. On Friday, the other semis are Truong Nguyen Ngoc vs. Le Quang Liem (bad luck for the Vietnamese fans) and then the "old-timers" Polgar and Ivanchuk. (Thanks to all who wrote in with the pairings.)

    Wednesday
    Oct272010

    Nanjing, Round 7: Bacrot Loses, Carlsen Almost Beats Anand

    It's too soon to say that Topalov has finally awakened, but he did obtain his first win of the tournament. His victim was Bacrot, who had been in clear second before the round. Topalov played Gelfand's sharp 7.d5 pawn sac in the Queen's Indian and produced a novelty, but Bacrot was doing fine until his two-stage blunder with 28...Bc5 and 29...Qxc5. After Topalov's 30.Rd5, the game was basically over.

    Carlsen could have practically clinched first with a win over Anand, and he came close. Carlsen tortured Anand for hours, but on move 63 he not only missed a win, he allowed Anand to escape for good. Still, Carlsen is in great shape to win the tournament with three rounds to go.

    The third game, Gashimov-Wang Yue was a long battle that could have been drawn a lot sooner, but Wang Yue's attempts to push in what could have been a trivially drawn position almost earned him a loss.

     

    Standings After Round 7:

    1. Carlsen 5

    2-3. Bacrot, Anand 4

    4-5. Topalov, Gashimov 3

    6. Wang Yue 2

     

    Round 8 Pairings: Wang Yue - Carlsen, Anand - Topalov, Bacrot - Gashimov

    Official site here, games (with my comments) here.

    Tuesday
    Oct262010

    Three Great Studies: Solution Time!

    Near the end of my review of the 4th edition of Harold van der Heijden's Study Database (quick summary: it's excellent, buy it), I offered three classic endgame studies for your solving pleasure. All three have beautiful solutions and help illustrate why this genre deserves attention not only from specialists but "regular" tournament players as well.

    Here they are again:

     

    Korolkov 1951: White to move and win.


    Mitrofanov 1967: White to move and win.

     

    Timman 1994: White to move and win.


    The solutions are here. I present the solutions twice: the first time with my talking through the solutions, the second time with the solutions as you'll see them in the van der Heijden database. (Speaking of which, for more information, testimonials, etc., have a look here.)

    Tuesday
    Oct262010

    Other Events: Unive, Cap D'Agde

    Play in the Crown Group at Unive was 180 degrees different from yesterday's: the games were exciting and hard-fought. Alexei Shirov went headhunting against Sergei Tiviakov's 3...Qd6 Scandinavian, and the decapitation was complete in just 26 moves. Savage chess at its best! Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's game with Anish Giri finished peacefully, but only after 45 moves of a Semi-Slav, Anti-Moscow Gambit. As always in that line, the play was very sharp, so the spectators had nothing to complain about.

    After two rounds then, Shirov leads with 1.5, Tiviakov is in last with .5, and the other two are in between.

    In Cap D'Agde, the preliminaries finished, and on Thursday the elimination matches will begin. The qualifiers from Group A were Hikaru Nakamura (6.5/7), Bu Xiangzhi (5.5), Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (4) and Judit Polgar (3.5). From Group B, Vassily Ivanchuk and Le Quang Liem had 5.5 while Jon Ludvig Hammer and Yannick Pelletier finished with 4. (I'm not sure who plays whom in the knockout matches, though, so readers can help out here.)

    Tuesday
    Oct262010

    Nanjing, Round 6: Carlsen Still Leads, Anand Wins

    On television, it's common for a stuntman or magician to say "Don't try this at home; I'm a trained professional" before performing some risky (or at least risky-looking) trick for the audience. One wouldn't normally associate that warning with chess, but in the case of Bacrot-Carlsen I think it's appropriate. With Black, Carlsen headed directly for an endgame where his opponent had the bishop pair, more space and the better structure. It's a prescription for misery against a grinder like Carlsen, but as the "grindee" Carlsen didn't seem to have much trouble holding the game against Bacrot. He apparently knew what he was doing, but I wouldn't recommend copying him!

    Bacrot was his nearest rival, and thanks to the draw Carlsen maintains his half-point lead. Anand closed to within a point of Carlsen with his second win of the event, this one coming against Wang Yue. The opening was a bit odd: Anand produced a very risky-looking novelty (12...c5), and if White played 13.dxc5 it looks like Black must find (or have found, at home) some nice moves just to keep White's advantage manageable. Instead of 13.dxc5, however, Wang Yue played 13.Qa4? and was simply worse after 13...Qd7. Within four moves Black had the bishop pair, pressure and a better pawn structure, and Anand went on to win a pretty routine game.

    Gashimov-Topalov was absolutely insane. Topalov's prep looked lousy again, and White had a very dangerous initiative in the early middlegame. That changed after Gashimov's too slow 22.Qg3. Topalov's 22...Ng4! joined the fight for the initiative, and after that it was wall-to-wall complications. Both sides made errors, but all things considered they did extremely well to negotiate the tactics as well as they did. In the end, it was a very hard-fought draw.

     

    Standings After Round 6:

    1. Carlsen 4.5

    2. Bacrot 4

    3. Anand 3.5

    4. Gashimov 2.5

    5. Topalov 2

    6. Wang Yue 1.5

     

    Round 7 Pairings: Gashimov - Wang Yue, Topalov - Bacrot, Carlsen - Anand

    Official site here, games (with my comments) here. A note about the annotated games. In all three games you'll see one game reference prefixed by "Relevant:" and another by "Predecessor:". Those are generated automatically by ChessBase 11 (hot off the "press") when you click the light bulb icon (for "Find the the theoretical novelty and annotate with similar games").