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    Saturday
    Nov132010

    Tal Memorial, Round 8: Mamedyarov in Clear First with a Round to Go

    Wang Hao seemed to feel guilty about his win over Boris Gelfand yesterday, and perhaps that affected his play today. Against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov he had achieved at least equality, but a series of second-best moves compounded by a blunder led to a bad loss.

    Mamedyarov, Wang Hao and Levon Aronian had entered the round tied for first, but they finished it in three distinct places. Aronian had White in a Ragozin QGD against Alexander Grischuk, and although Aronian was armed with an interesting new idea Grischuk was ready (or in good form) and succeeded in neutralizing it.

    So Mamedyarov took a half point lead over Aronian, and the latter was joined in second place by Sergey Karjakin, who won in crushing style against Vladimir Kramnik's Petroff. Kramnik played the first new move of the game, but considering how things went one would be forgiven for thinking it was Karjakin who produced the novelty. Kramnik did have one chance to save the game after a Karjakin error on move 21, but he repaid the favor on the next move and lost quickly.

    Also losing very quickly was Pavel Eljanov, who is alone in last place. Alexei Shirov sacrificed his structure for lots of activity, and Eljanov, clearly in bad form, was unable to produce a coherent defense. The game finished in just 25 moves.

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura was unable to maintain a bind against Boris Gelfand's Cambridge Springs Defense, and although the game went 44 moves it could have been agreed drawn much sooner.

    Standings After Round 8:

    1. Mamedyarov 5.5

    2-3. Aronian, Karjakin 5

    4-6. Grischuk, Nakamura, Wang Hao 4.5

    7. Kramnik 3.5

    8. Shirov 3

    9. Gelfand 2.5

    10. Eljanov 2

    Last Round Pairings:

    Grischuk - Nakamura

    Eljanov - Aronian

    Kramnik - Shirov

    Wang Hao - Karjakin

    Gelfand - Mamedyarov

    Tournament site here, games with my comments here.

    Friday
    Nov122010

    Tal Memorial, Round 7: Four Draws and a Suicide

    With two rounds to go, there are three leaders in the Tal Memorial: Aronian, Mamedyarov and now Wang Hao. Aronian pushed Nakamura but couldn't break him, while Mamedyarov had to fight to avoid being broken by Kramnik in their game. As for Wang Hao, he played very well, outplaying Gelfand in what started out as an equal ending. Step by step he improved his position and created new problems for his opponent to solve, and on move 75 Gelfand finally resigned. There's just one problem, and it's that the position appears to be a draw.

    It's not a trivial draw, mind you, and perhaps Gelfand would have eventually lost on the board, too. But at the moment when he resigned, he only needed to find 75...Ke6!, after which the struggle (practically speaking) would have continued indefinitely without any obvious resolution in sight. Gelfand probably missed this idea, and as a result he's now tied for last place with Eljanov and Shirov.

    He might have even fallen below them, as they both had their opponents in some difficulties. Karjakin's attempts to make something out of nothing against Eljanov could have backfired, while Grischuk's ill-advised decision to win the exchange against Shirov eliminated his advantage and forced him to defend for almost 70 more moves to save the game.

    Standings After Round 7:

    1-3. Aronian, Mamedyarov, Wang Hao 4.5

    4-6. Nakamura, Karjakin, Grischuk 4

    7. Kramnik 3.5

    8-10. Shirov, Eljanov, Gelfand 2

    Round 8 Pairings:

    Nakamura - Gelfand

    Mamedyarov - Wang Hao

    Karjakin - Kramnik

    Shirov - Eljanov

    Aronian - Grischuk

    Games, with my comments, here.

    Friday
    Nov122010

    Tal Memorial, Round 7: What Happened in Wang Hao-Gelfand?

    According to the official site, Gelfand resigned. ICC, where I was watching, dutifully repeated the information, and while I wasn't listening, apparently the GM commentary agreed. That's all nice, except that the final position is drawn, not lost. It's not impossible that Gelfand panicked himself out of half a point, but before I report it I'd like to hear from someone with firsthand information whether this actually happened.

    Thursday
    Nov112010

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: King and Pawn Endings in Opening Theory

    In this week's show, I take a look at two opening variations where the theory goes all the way into king and pawn endings (and in one case, even beyond that!). The lines are fascinating in their own right, but it's also an occasion to draw some other conclusions as well. Rather than give any spoilers, though, I'll just encourage you to watch.

    The video is here, is free to watch (free registration required) and will be available on-demand for the next month or so.

    Thursday
    Nov112010

    Annotations for Rounds 4 and 5 of the Tal Memorial Now Available

    Here's the round 4 post, and here's round 5. Both now include the round's games, with commentary.

    Thursday
    Nov112010

    Tal Memorial, Round 6: Four Quick Draws and a Mamedyarov Win

    Today's round was pretty weak stuff, but 5 good rounds out of 6 isn't a bad proportion. Four of today's five games were drawn quickly, but the one game that went the distance was significant. Mamedyarov was able to neutralize Eljanov's queenside majority and then put his kingside majority to good use, and with the win he's now tied with Aronian for first place. (Side note: Aronian also lost ground on the Live Top List, falling back below Anand into third place. Still, if he wins tomorrow, that should put him into clear first.)

    Standings After Round 6:

    1-2. Aronian, Mamedyarov 4

    3-6. Karjakin, Grischuk, Nakamura, Wang Hao 3.5

    7. Kramnik 3

    8. Gelfand 2

    9-10. Shirov, Eljanov 1.5

    Round 7 Pairings:

    Aronian - Nakamura

    Grischuk - Shirov

    Eljanov - Karjakin

    Kramnik - Mamedyarov

    Wang Hao - Gelfand

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

    Thursday
    Nov112010

    New England vs. Miami for the USCL Finals (Revised)

    Last night saw the US Chess League Semi-Finals, with one tough match and one easy one. Miami didn't have too much trouble dispensing with Arizona, 3-1, but Boston vs. "New England" (i.e. Boston 2) was a real battle. Boston won on board 3 and New England on board 4 without too much trouble, but there was plenty of drama on the top two boards, brought about by Boston's need to win the match outright. (New England had draw odds for the match based on their better regular season record.) On board 1, Christiansen (BOS) had some winning chances against Shankland (NE), but it was far from clear that he could win. [DM: This next sentence is a revision.] On board 2, Sammour (BOS) missed a win against Hungaski (NE) early in the game, and although the subsequent ending was about even Hungaski pushed and was rewarded when Sammour was faced with the loss of the exchange or mate. With heroic play Christiansen managed to win his game after all, but at this point it was too late: New England advanced with the 2-2 tie.

    The final match will be on Saturday, November 20.

    Wednesday
    Nov102010

    Grischuk to Take Carlsen's Place in the Candidates

    Couldn't resist mentioning this before calling it a day on the blog: Alexander Grischuk had been the next qualifier in line in the Grand Prix, so with Magnus Carlsen's withdrawal Grischuk got to take his place. More here.

    Wednesday
    Nov102010

    The Tal Memorial, Round 5: Four Draws, An Eljanov Win, and My Own Tal "Tribute" (UPDATED: Annotated Games)

    Several of the games were very hard-fought, and both Aronian (against Karjakin) and Nakamura (against Shirov) came close to victory. Ultimately, the only winner was Eljanov, whose victory over Gelfand put both at -2.

    I'd normally have a lot more to say about the round, but my own "tribute" to Tal is getting in the way. Mikhail Tal was not only known for his great chess and exuberant style, he was also known for having some pretty bad luck with his health. (Sometimes the problems were self-inflicted, but not always.) My "accomplishment" was getting a case of food poisoning (thanks, unnamed restaurant I'll never patronize again!). The fun started at 4 a.m., and while I've had it worse than this this has been bad enough, and I've enjoyed all the characteristic pleasures of the experience. I think the worst is over - at least I hope so - but I'm still sleepy, sore, and a bit queasy. So this will have to do for today, sorry.

    UPDATE: Here are the games, with comments.

    Tuesday
    Nov092010

    The Chess Today Puzzle: A Follow-Up

    It looks like the readers didn't have much trouble finding the second solution to this position:

    It's White to move in the 1962 game Roos - Ferry, which ended 1.Nh6+ Kh8 2.Qg8+! Rxg8 3.Nf7+ Kh7 4.Ng5+ Kh8 5.Rh6+! Bxh6 6.Rh7#.

    The second solution, which I like better, runs 1.Rh6! We can note three variations:

    (A) 1...Qxb3 2.Rh8+! Bxh8 3.Nh6#

    (B) 1...Qc1+ 2.Kh2 Bxh6 3.Ne5+ Kh8 4.Ng6# (or 3.Ng5+ Kh8 4.Rh7#)

    (C) 1...Be5 2.Ng5+ Qxb3 3.Rg6+ Kh8 4.Rh7#

    Line (A) is especially nice, but all the lines are elegant and faster than the game continuation, though in various lines Black has spite moves (e.g. 3...Qc4 followed by ...Rf7 in line (B)) that can drag the mate to six moves, as in the game.

    This second solution caught my eye because I had seen it in the analysis of a different game 27 years ago. In The Test of Time, Garry Kasparov recounts his team's adventures in the Lucerne Olympiad in 1982, and presents the following position.

    It's from the game Schneider - Tal, and here Schneider missed his chance for glory. Tal, trying to avoid a draw, has just played 29...Kh8-g8??, and now White could have taken advantage with 30.Qxh6!! The queen obviously cannot be captured due to mate in two (30...Bxh6? 31.Nxh6+ Kh8 32.Rxf8#), and the threat is of course 31.Qh8+! Bxh8 32.Nh6#. Black can avoid one of these mates, but his position will be dead lost in any case.

    Unfortunately for Schneider, he played 30.g3? and went on to lose. A pity, not only for the lost win and for who the win was against, but for the chance to beat Tal with such a nice combination! (You can replay the full game, plus the Roos - Ferry analysis, here.)

    The moral of the story for us, however, is the one mentioned earlier today, in this post: study and review your tactics, because having these themes somewhere in your memory will pay off down the road!