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    1948 World Chess Championship 1959 Candidates 1962 Candidates 2.c3 Sicilian 2.f4 Sicilian 2011 European Team Championship 2011 Russian Championship 2012 Capablanca Memorial 2012 Chess Olympiad 2012 European Women's Championship 2012 London Chess Classic 2012 U.S. Junior Championship 2012 U.S. Women's Championship 2012 US Championship 2012 Women's World Chess Championship 2012 World Rapid and Blitz Championships 2013 Alekhine Memorial 2013 Beijing Grand Prix 2013 European Club Cup 2013 European Team Championship 2013 FIDE World Cup 2013 Kings Tournament 2013 London Chess Classic 2013 Russian Championship 2013 Tal Memorial 2013 U.S. Championship 2013 Women's World Championship 2013 World Blitz Championship 2013 World Championship 2013 World Rapid Championship 2013 World Team Championship 2014 Capablanca Memorial 2014 Chess Olympiad 2014 London Chess Classic 2014 Petrosian Memorial 2014 Rapid & Blitz World Championship 2014 Russian Team Championship 2014 Sinquefield Cup 2014 Tigran Petrosian Memorial 2014 U.S. Championship 2014 U.S. Open 2014 Women's World Championship 2014 World Championship 2014 World Junior Championships 2014 World Rapid Championship 2015 Capablanca Memorial 2015 Chinese Championship 2015 European Club Cup 2015 European Team Championship 2015 London Chess Classic 2015 Millionaire Open 2015 Poikovsky 2015 Russian Team Championship 2015 Sinquefield Cup 2015 U.S. Championship 2015 Women's World Championship KO 2015 World Blitz Championship 2015 World Cup 2015 World Junior Championship 2015 World Open 2015 World Rapid & Blitz Championship 2015 World Team Championships 2016 2016 Candidates 2016 Capablanca Memorial 2016 Champions Showdown 2016 Chess Olympiad 2016 Chinese Championship 2016 European Club Cup 2016 Isle of Man 2016 London Chess Classic 2016 Russian Championship 2016 Sinquefield Cup 2016 Tal Memorial 2016 U.S. Championship 2016 U.S. Junior Championship 2016 U.S. Women's Championship 2016 Women's World Championship 2016 World Blitz Championship 2016 World Championship 2016 World Junior Championship 2016 World Open 2016 World Rapid Championship 2017 British Championship 2017 Chinese Championship 2017 Geneva Grand Prix 2017 Isle of Man 2017 PRO Chess League 2017 Sharjah Masters 2017 Sinquefield Cup 2017 Speed Chess Championship 2017 U..S. 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    Wednesday
    Sep272017

    World Cup, Round 7 Tiebreaks: Aronian Defeats Ding Liren 2-0, Wins the Tournament

    A great event, especially for Levon Aronian, comes to a close. Ding Liren was in serious trouble in a couple of the classical games, so it's not too surprising that Aronian was able to break through at the shorter time controls. Despite the 2-0 triumph in the 25-minute games, Aronian was fortunate to win the second game, as Ding was winning at one point. (Replay the games here, with my notes.)

    This is Aronian's second World Cup victory - he also won the inaugural event in 2005 (the World Cup-like tournaments in the preceding years were FIDE World Championships). And while Ding was the runner-up, he is the first Chinese player to make the Candidates, so congratulations to both players. And a further congratulations to Levon Aronian, who will marry his very long-time girlfriend and fiancee Arianne Caoili this Saturday.

    Tuesday
    Sep262017

    Isle of Man, Round 4: Mostly Draws on the Top Boards

    There are no more perfect scores, as the four players coming into the round 3-0 drew their games. Rustam Kasimdzhanov split the point with Magnus Carlsen, and Aleks Lenderman did the same against his World Cup victim (and defending Isle of Man champion) Pavel Eljanov. Lenderman had the best chances of the four to collect a full point, but in the end could do no better than draw with an extra pawn in a rook ending.

    Most of the players with 2.5/3 drew, but three players made it to 3.5: Julio Grand Zuniga, Laurent Fressinet, and Santosh Gujrathi Vidit. A huge group of 28 players is another half a point behind.

    In other stories: Vladimir Kramnik defeated a very low-rated player (by his standards) to get back to 50%, while James Tarjan played very well for most of the game against Niclas Huschenbeth before finally going astray and losing in a double rook ending. In her fourth consecutive game with a female opponent, Hou Yifan won to get back to +1, and in round 5 she is playing...no one. At first I thought she might have withdrawn in protest, but it seems she has taken a half-point bye for the round.

    Some top pairings for round 5:

     

    • Carlsen (3.5) - Granda (3.5)
    • Eljanov (3.5) - Kasimdzhanov (3.5)
    • Vidit (3.5) - Lenderman (3.5)
    • Caruana (3) - Xiong (3)
    • Anand (3) - Grandelius (3)
    • Sargissian (3) - Nakamura (3)
    • Adams (3) - Shirov (3)
    • Sethuraman (3) - Gelfand (3)

     

    Fressinet (3.5) took a half-point bye.

    Tuesday
    Sep262017

    World Cup, Round 7 (Final), Day 4: Aronian Comes Close Again, but Tiebreaks are Coming after a Fourth Draw

    The white pieces aren't proving very helpful in the final of the World Cup. Levon Aronian hasn't achieved any advantage in his white games, while Ding Liren's tries in games 2 and 4 have nearly finished in disaster. After 23 moves Aronian was winning a pawn for nothing, and the only question was whether he'd manage to convert his advantage. He didn't, but it was close. (The game is here, with my notes.) So it's on once more to tiebreaks, and unless Ding Liren comes with better openings, Aronian will be a prohibitive favorite to win.

    Tuesday
    Sep262017

    Adventures at the Isle of Man

    This has really been an exciting and entertaining tournament so far, with some big upsets and great stories. We've already looked at some round 1 highlights, and we'll skip over round 2 to turn our attention to round 3.

    The first and biggest story: Vladimir Kramnik lost again, to James Tarjan! Tarjan is a grandmaster and was a fine player in his day - more than 30 years ago! He gave up the game in his early 30s and became a librarian, only re-emerging in the last three years or so. His results have been very good for a 65-year-old who quit playing for 30 years, but not up to his old standard. But today the American GM notched the biggest scalp of his career, upsetting a player rated nearly 400 points above him.

    When I was a kid I lost to Tarjan in an open tournament here in the U.S., and was he incredibly gracious to nobody me in the post-mortem. He was one of the nicest guys I came across, so I'm especially happy for him after his success today. Indeed, watch this video - you have to have a heart of stone not to be happy for the guy.

    Watch live video from Chess on www.twitch.tv

    This is good news for the U.S. in another way: Kramnik is now in a big hole in the race for the Candidates spots based on ratings. Unless something dramatic happens - and it might - those spots will go to Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So. More good news for the U.S.: Aleks Lenderman is 3-0, having defeated Francisco Vallejo Pons today when the latter failed to hold the notorious rook vs. rook and bishop ending.

    But back to feel-good stories of the Tarjan variety. You may recall that 70-year-old FM Zaki Harari had near-2700 GM Maxim Rodshtein beat in that round, but repeated moves rather than landing the knockout blow. Well, no problem: today he had another chance against a GM, Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant, and this time he won. Granted, she's not at Rodshtein's level, but it was still a major upset. Good for Mr. Harari!

    A sadder story, of sorts, is the unbelievable saga of Hou Yifan. You might recall at the start of the year she was extremely irritated at getting paired with seven female players in the first nine rounds, and she protested in round 10 by playing an absurd opening (against her male opponent) and resigning after five moves. There was no evidence that anyone had cooked the pairings to give her a disproportionate number of female opponents, but she wasn't so sure, and was certainly unhappy about it.

    Here we are, months later in a different location. Who do you suppose she has faced this time? Round 1: Alexandra Kosteniuk (draw). Round 2: Elisabeth Paehtz (win). Uh oh. Round 3: Nino Batsiashvili (loss). UH OH. If she doesn't withdraw or hire protestors to block access to the tournament hall, the absurdist drama will continue in round 4, when she's due to face Yuliya Shvayger. You've gotta be kidding. It's pretty incredible that between the two events she's facing 11 women in 14 rounds, even though they are heavily outnumbered by the male players in the tournament.

    At the top, Magnus Carlsen leads the small group of players with 3-0 scores; today he defeated American youngster Jeffery Xiong, though the win wasn't quite as convincing as it might have seemed. In round 4 he'll have Black against Rustam Kasimdzhanov, a former FIDE World Champion and Fabiano Caruana's second. The other 3-0 pairing is a World Cup rematch, with Lenderman getting White against Pavel Eljanov, who happens to be the defending champion of this tournament. 19 players have 2.5 points, including Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Viswanathan Anand.

    Some games here, with brief comments.

    Monday
    Sep252017

    World Cup, Round 7 (Finals), Day 3: A Short Day at the Office

    While Ding Liren eventually came under heavy pressure in his white game yesterday, he has had only slight difficulties in his black games - his preparation has been very good. Today we got the sort of Catalan-like English that occurred in one of Aronian's games with Vassily Ivanchuk - but with colors reversed. With White, Aronian varied from Ivanchuk's 8.d3 with 8.Qd3, which has also arisen in some very high-level games. 10.Qb3 left all the predecessors behind. White hoped for an edge with his bishops, especially the one on g2, but Ding first eliminated White's bishop pair and then blunted the Bg2 at the cost of an isolated pawn. After further exchanges the position was equal, and a draw was agreed on move 30. (The game, with my notes, is here.)

    The final classical is tomorrow; if anyone wins it, they win the World Cup; otherwise, it's on to tiebreaks.

    Monday
    Sep252017

    World Cup, Round 7 (Finals), Day 2: Aronian Misses a Big Opportunity

    Or several. The first 29 moves were what you'd expect: Ding Liren, with White, was playing solid, two-results chess, trying to maintain and grow a safe, small opening edge, while Levon Aronian's goal was to neutralize it and get out with a draw. That was the script, with the "draw" ending on the way, until Ding played the careless 30.Ncb3. After 30...b6 31.Nxc5 bxa5 Black's a-pawn posed a real problem for White. Objectively he was still in decent shape, but Aronian outplayed him and reached a won ending. Fortunately for Ding, there was never a stone-cold obvious way for Black to win, especially with only a handful of minutes on the clock (and after hours of play, after weeks of play), and Aronian missed his chances and allowed his indefatigable opponent to escape with a draw.

    The game, with my relatively light comments, can be replayed here. And here's Ding Liren, interviewed after the game:

    Monday
    Sep252017

    Svidler On His World Cup, and on Game 1 of Aronian vs. Ding Liren

    The audio isn't especially good, but it's worth watching if you can tolerate its choppiest moments. Have a look.

    Sunday
    Sep242017

    A Review of Mikhail Golubev's *Understanding the Sicilian*

    Mikhail Golubev, Understanding the Sicilian (Gambit, 2017). £19.99/$26.95. 239 pp.

    Long, long ago, in a galaxy very near this one - it was this one - both Mikhail Golubev and I worked for the online publication Chess Today. That overstates my role though: he wrote for them regularly, while I wrote the occasional book review. Still, it's worth mentioning that we were colleagues of a sort, for two reasons: first, for the sake of disclosure; second, because I came to understand quite a few things about him from seeing hundreds of examples of his work over a multi-year stretch.

    First, he's a diligent worker: I can't recall him ever "mailing it in". Second, while his work was always reliable, he was clearly passionate when it came to annotating games in his favorite openings and opening lines. If the game of the day was a King's Indian, or a 6.Bc4 Sicilian or in the Dragon, you knew he'd be enthusiastic and would have something to teach the readers.

    So it's not surprising that his new book, Understanding the Sicilian, would exhibit those virtues. On the bottom of the front page, we read "Practical lessons and detailed analysis from a lifelong Sicilian warrior", and it would have better or at least simpler to have subtitled or even retitled the book "My Life in the Sicilian". The book consists of 120 games by Golubev covering many variations of the Sicilian, but certainly not all of them. That the Dragon and various 6.Bc4 are well-represented are no surprise - he has written entire books on both systems. He has long been a fan of the Dragon with Black, while he uses 6.Bc4 against the Najdorf and the Classical systems. There are 46 Dragons in the book and another 29 in the 6.Bc4 systems.

    The remaining 45 games cover everything else, with the bronze medal going to the Taimanov, which shows up nine times. If you're looking for 6.Be3 against the Najdorf or Scheveningen, or 6.Bg5 against the Najdorf or Classical, you're out of luck. That aside, you'll find at least a little of almost everything else: the Alapin, the Closed Sicilian, the Kan, the Sveshnikov, the Accelerated Dragon and so on.

    Stylistically, he's an enjoyable writer. There are plenty of variations, but the prose is helpful and clear, and very honest. Golubev is honest almost to a fault, often writing with a good deal of generally mild self-deprecation. Some examples:

    After 21...Qxe5 22.Rxc6 White [Golubev] may be a bit better, but I had already used much more time than my opponent, and offered a draw, which was accepted. This was a decent Sicilian game and I would have been glad to play more like it (p. 90).

    A rare case where I agreed [to] a draw in a superior position not because of overall stupidity, but also because I felt ill that day (p. 108).

    Why did I not play the more precise 34....f3!-+? I hardly can understand now (p. 110).

    In this already approximately equal position White offered a draw, which I accepted. "It was just a bad game", as Nispieanu said after the game. That happened after another of our games, but this one was bad too (113).

    As is obvious from three of the four examples, the book is not a collection with only his wins. My quick count totaled up 40 draws and 23 losses. 57 wins makes for a clear majority, obviously, but it's just as obvious that this is not a vanity project. What comes across is his fascination with the Sicilian, both as a practical player and as a researcher. In this one is reminded of Lev Polugaevsky and his fantastic book Grandmaster Preparation, and sure enough, Golubev mentions both in the Introduction:

    In some cases the reader may rather learn what not to play, but this is also useful. Ironically, I have never played with Black the Polugaevsky Variation in the Najdorf System, even though the book by its inventor about his variation certainly had more influence on me than any other. Polugaevsky's passion, hard work, findings, doubts and disappointments provide a brilliant example of how one can be (or should be) devoted to 'his' systems.

    Polu was not his only influence, nor was he influenced only by researchers, but that influence is evident throughout the book.

    Enough meta-talk; what can you find in the book? There's a pdf sample here (or you can access it from the book's page).

    A decade ago I interviewed Golubev for the first edition of my blog. That version of the blog is no longer extant, but it seems that he kept a copy and posted it on one of his own sites. You can see it here; it includes one of his great Sicilian wins, which he has also annotated in the book. The notes aren't replayable there, but I still have the original and am posting it here. The analysis is similar to what's in the book, but there are some differences. On the whole, though, what you see here, both in style and substance, is what you'll find throughout the book.

    To sum up - no surprise here - I like the book and recommend it heartily to all Sicilian fans, whether they want to uphold it or crush it. It won't substitute for specific works on particular variations, but anyone who goes through this book will learn plenty about the variations he covers.

    Saturday
    Sep232017

    Notre Dame 38, Michigan State 18

    ...and MS's last 8 points were in garbage time, so the score could easily have been worse. ND called off the dogs when they went up 35-10 midway through the third quarter.

    Record so far: 3-1.

    Next week's victim: Miami of Ohio.

    Tune time!

    Saturday
    Sep232017

    Book Notice: Sergey Kasparov's *Doubled Pawns: A Practical Guide*

    Sergey Kasparov's Doubled Pawns: A Practical Guide isn't the sort of book most of us would sit down with and go through page by page, but it can be useful as a reference work. Think of it as a sort of encyclopedia rather than a novel, and you'll have the right idea.

    You might wonder why anyone would write a book about doubled pawns, and here I'll refer you to the last paragraph. There isn't some essence of doubled pawn positions that covers them all, some key, principle, or secret such that if you possess it, you'll understand how to play any and all positions with doubled pawns. That model won't work, and doesn't exist.

    What Kasparov does instead is to look at this sort of doubled pawn position and that, doubled pawns in opening x and opening y. In that context, the book makes sense, and becomes useful to those who play on either side of the opening in question.

    The book comprises 148 games distributed through 10 chapters, some devoted to specific openings and some not, though many of the non-specific chapters still cluster around a limited number of openings.

    Chapter 1 covers doubled pawns arising after ...g7xf6, which arises, for example, in the Bronstein-Larsen Variation of the Caro-Kann and in various Sicilians (e.g. the Richter-Rauzer line of the Classical).

    Chapter 2 covers structures resulting after hxg and axb, which often arises in the Caro-Kann and the Slav.

    Chapter 3 is on doubled pawns in the middle of the board. The first examples come from the line 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Bc4 Be6 7.Bxe6 fxe6, and diversifies into other openings, such as Italian-like Ruys where Black plays ...Be6, White takes with the bishop and Black recaptures with the f-pawn.

    Chapter 4 is on isolated doubled pawns (which could have included the doubled pawns in the Pirc-Philidor line mentioned in the previous paragraph). Several variations are covered, and the focus at the end is on the Short Variation in the QGD that came on hard times with the Carlsen-Kramnik game from the 2016 Norway Chess tournament (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 c6 6.e3 Bf5 7.Qf3 Bg6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.Qxf6 gxf6 etc.).

    Chapter 5, "Spanish" Formations, would have been better entitled "Doubled Pawns in the Exchange Ruy", as all the examples come from that variation. He looks at a variety of Black's conceptual options, so if you play either side of the variation you're likely to find this chapter especially valuable.

    Chapter 6 looks at a grab bag of captures away from the center - often exf3 or ...exf6 as in the 4...Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6 line of the Classical Caro-Kann.

    Chapter 7 concerns itself with doubled pawns on the c-file - think of Nimzo-Indian lines with ...Bxc3(+) bxc3 as your template.

    Chapter 8 is a long one on Rossolimo structures, with long sections on both ...dxc6 lines and those with ...bxc6. (There are further distinctions as well, but the big divide is between ...bxc6 and ...dxc6 structures.

    Chapter 9 looks at the doubled pawn structure arising in the current main line of the Petroff: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3.

    Chapter 10 rounds off the book, and is a grab bag of other ideas that don't fit in other chapters and are too short for their own chapters. There are sections on doubled f6/f7 pawns in Sicilian/Sicilian-like endings, doubled pawns in the Benoni, tripled pawns, doubled pawns in the Berlin, doubled pawns on the e-file (not like the ones in chapter 3), French structures, doubled pawns with opposite-colored bishops, and to close things a miscellany within the potpourri of the chapter.

    The book is most attractive as a reference book, and trainers especially might pick it up for that reason.