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    1948 World Chess Championship 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 Chess Olympiad 2016 Chinese Championship 2016 Sinquefield Cup 2016 U.S. Championship 2016 U.S. Women's Championship 2016 Women's World Championship 2016 World Championship 2018 Chess Olympiad 22014 Sinquefield Cup 22014 U.S. Championship 2Mind Games 2016 60 Minutes A. 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    Thursday
    Apr142016

    U.S. Championships Start Today!

    At 1 p.m. local time in St. Louis (= 2 p.m. ET) the U.S. Championships get underway in St. Louis. Both the Championship and the Women's event are 12 player round robins finishing April 25 - April 26 in case of a playoff, and don't forget that after the event, on the 28th and 29th, there will be a blitz event that might include the big three (Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Wesley So) and definitely includes none other than Garry Kasparov. (I hope for his sake he has been training hard.)

    The Championship is incredibly strong, with three players in the top 10 (the aforementioned Mssrs. Caruana, Nakamura, and So), and the second tier of Gata Kamsky, Alexander Onischuk, Ray Robson, and Sam Shankland isn't exactly chopped liver. On the Women's side, it looks likely to be another battle to the death between Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih, who between them have won the last 10 women's championships. Krush has won the last four, but they've almost always come down to the wire and Zatonskih is the very slightly higher-rated player.

    Here are the first round pairings for the main event: 

    • Fabiano Caruana (2795) - Varuzhan Akobian (2615)
    • Sam Shankland (2656) - Akshat Chandra (2477)
    • Wesley So (2773) - Gata Kamsky (2678)
    • Hikaru Nakamura (2787) - Aleksandr Lenderman (2618)
    • Alexander Shabalov (2528) - Ray Robson (2663)
    • Alexander Onischuk (2664) - Jeffery Xiong (2618) 

    It's a good time to be a fan of U.S. chess! Tournament predictions? Nakamura is the defending champion, and he and Gata Kamsky have won the last seven between them. So only started playing in the U.S. Championship last year and Caruana is a rookie, so the Nakamura-Kamsky streak isn't as relevant as it would otherwise be. My prediction is that Nakamura will win.

    Monday
    Apr112016

    Svidler Interview

    Here's an interview with Peter Svidler. It's not bad, but a good part of the fun is seeing the link to a 1989 video where you can see him and Kramnik as very young teenagers.

    Saturday
    Apr092016

    Another Karjakin Interview

    Here. The headline is "I am not afraid of Magnus!", but that doesn't even rise to the level of "dog bites man". Even if the mere thought of Magnus Carlsen caused him to break into a cold sweat, he's not going to say that he's intimidated in any way. Moreover, while the headline makes it sound as if Karjakin was making a bold proclamation, laying down the psychological gauntlet, the fact is that he said it only after about 27 questions about Carlsen culminating in an assertion from someone else (Daniil Dubov) that he - Karjakin - wasn't afraid of Carlsen. Karjakin simply agreed, without an exclamation point.

    Instead, the really juicy bit, though it's only a possibility and not a settled fact, is that Vladimir Kramnik might end on Karjakin's team. If it happens, that would be a huge boon for Karjakin. Kramnik is on the short list of the world's best-prepared players, and his experience would be invaluable to Karjakin as well. The battles between Kramnik and Carlsen over the years have been good ones, so while a match between the two would have been best a proxy war of sorts wouldn't be a bad substitute. It hasn't happened yet, though, and I suspect that even if it does we won't hear about it until after match, and even then maybe not unless Karjakin wins it.

    Saturday
    Apr092016

    British Chess Magazine, a la the Informant

    This is likeliest to be of interest to my readers in the U.K., but as the British Chess Magazine (BCM) is also available in a download version a broader audience might find it interesting as well. The Informant people have entered into a partnership with the hoary BCM (it goes back to 1881), and the result looks good.

    I received the January 2016 issue, and from a physical standpoint it reminds me of New In Chess before they went to the large pages. The BCM issue is slim - only 66 pages (68 pages if one counts the front and back covers) and the pages are approximately 9" x 6.5". A little small, but the glossy pages and full color throughout create an attractive layout.

    More importantly, the content is excellent - it's a serious chess magazine. The issue centers on the London Chess Classic (LCC) and the associated events, and while there is plenty of text there is very little fluff. GM Luke McShane looks at Magnus Carlsen's path to victory in the LCC, while GM Pentala Harikrishna examines Anish Giri's and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's performances in the same event. (Recall that they tied for first with Carlsen, pre-playoff.) GM Karsten Mueller looks at two Berlin "endgames" from the tournament, after which GM Stuart Conquest offers some general thoughts about the Berlin. (His short article concludes, somewhat incongruously, with a mate in two problem.)

    Moving from the top of the field to the bottom, IM Andrew Martin looks at a couple of losses suffered by tailender Veselin Topalov, and young IM Yang-Fan Zhou surveys the openings from the LCC.

    From there it's on to other UK events. GM David Howell won the British Knockout Champoinship, and he analyzes one win from each of his matches - the semi-final vs. Gawain Jones and the final vs. Nicholas Pert. GM Pert in turn analyzes one of his wins from his semi-final match against Jonathan Hawkins. GM David Smerdon looks at Benjamin Bok's last round victory in the LCC FIDE Open against Alex Lenderman. Had Lenderman won, he'd have taken clear first; instead it was Bok who won the game and tournament victory.

    Nine tactical puzzles follow, and then there's a mini-report on the London Super Rapidplay, won by McShane with 9.5/10. From the same tournament, GM Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant shows her win over Jon Ludwig Hammer. After that are a couple of reports on talented youngsters in the UK, and then a fun article by Informant CEO (and new BCM co-editor) and FM Josip Asik writing about his victory with Hikaru Nakamura in the Pro-Biz Cup after the LCC, defeating teams with Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, and Michael Adams.

    Stylistically and in its content it looks quite good. It isn't designed for novice players, but I think that's probably a good thing. The disparity in strength between entry-level tournament players and strong club players/weak professional makes it very difficult for a magazine to cater to everyone, and BCM doesn't try to. I'd estimate the intended audience as 1800-1900 and up, with persevering types a little lower-rated (but not much!) able to get something if they go through the games carefully. With that caveat, I recommend it to British readers, and readers elsewhere might want to snoop on the magazine as well.

    Friday
    Apr082016

    Informant 127: The 50th Anniversary

    Every year in our lifetimes will be the 50th anniversary of something or other. This year, 2016, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the "Star Trek" franchise, for example, and while the 50th Super Bowl takes place next year the 50th Super Bowl season begins this fall. Former FIDE World Champion Alexander Khalifman turned 50 in January, and there are some lesser known players who also reach the half-century mark this year. Tigran Petrosian successfully defended his world championship title against Boris Spassky back in 1966, and last but not least, it is also the golden anniversary of the Chess Informant.

    The latest issue is #127 - not exactly a nice, round number - and it exemplifies the blend of traditional Informant sections with newer material. To their credit, the editorial staff is willing to experiment and take risks in each issue, trying to improve it rather than resting on their laurels. Not every issue is as good as its immediate predecessor, but the general trend has been an upward one for some years now, and will likely continue in the right direction.

    Here's a synopsis of the contents of the present issue. First, the core elements are in place: 200 deeply languagelessly annotated games, nine combinations for solving and another nine endgames for solving (unfortunately, the solutions are given on the opposite page rather than overleaf; the publishers should waste a page if necessary to avoid the possibility of readers accidentally or semi-accidentally spotting the solutions). These are all taken from the period covered in the issue, which in this case is from November 2015-February 2016. The issue also begins, as usual, with the winner of the best game and best novelty prizes from the previous volume.

    Those features go back a very long time. More recent but still well-established features are a series of nine studies for solving along with GM Mihail Marin's "Old Wine in New Bottles" column. (This month he looks at the ability of the world's best players, well before Magnus Carlsen was a gleam in his parents' eyes - or in one case before his parents even existed - to persevere to the end, trying to wring out every chance to win a game.)

    Other recurring columnists are Pentala Harikrishna ("The New Romantics"), Emanuel Berg ("Mirroring"), and Karsten Mueller ("Endgame Strategy"). Harikrishna looks a pair of complicated games, one of which remained tense throughout while the other exploded into fireworks; Berg looks at a pair of games in the Portisch/Hook Variation of the Winawer (with ...Qa5-a4), one won by each side; and Mueller investigates 11 endgames from the London Chess Classic.

    Unfortunately, Alexander Morozevich did not write a column for this issue, but among the new columnists Sergei Rublevsky and Ivan Sokolov are strong players and fine analysts in their own right - though not of "Moro's" caliber. (Bring Moro back if you can, guys.) Rublevsky, a Candidate in 2007, writes about 4...Bb4+ against his beloved Scotch, and doesn't think White has much to worry about in that direction. Sokolov writes about the major open tournaments in Qatar and Gibraltar. It should be noted that tournament reports are a common feature in the newest issues of the Informant, giving the periodical a bit of a magazine-like flavor.

    Along those lines, GM Aleksandar Colovic (I'll henceforth scrap the "GM", as all the articles are by grandmasters) writes about the quasi-rapid/quasi-classical tournament in Zurich (won by Hikaru Nakamura) while S. P. Sethuraman and Basssem Amin take a last look or two at the World Cup.

    One final column, before turning to those devoted exclusively to opening theory, is Dragan Solak's article on the king. Rather than uncritically embracing the conventional wisdom about king safety, he notes and informally categorizes different sorts of kings (the "ghost" king, the "chicken" king, the "explorer" king, and so on). The idea is that the king can often take care of itself and occasionally achieve offensive aims, even in situations where one wouldn't expect it.

    Turning to the openings, Vassilios Kotronias's 80-part series on the 2.c3 Sicilian ended in the last issue, and he's probably in a sanatorium somewhere recovering his strength. (Like Morozevich, I hope he will be compelled to return to work very soon!) This time around, there are four articles. Aleksander Delchev writes on the "Snake English" (if you hadn't come across that label before, it applies to 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nb6 6.e3), Spyridon Kapnisis writes on the Scandinavian (more specifically, the line beginning 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Be2 Nc6 5.d4 0-0-0 6.Be3), Milos Pavlovic writes on the main line Marshall (from its beginning[!], after 11.Rxe5 c6), and Aleksandr Mista explores the 5.Qb3 Gruenfeld (more specifically: 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qb3 dxc4 6.Qxc4 0-0 7.e4 Nc6 8.Be2 e5 9.d5 Nd4 10.Nxd4 exd4 11.Qxd4 c6).

    As usual, I recommend it to any and all serious players rated 2000 and up, and wouldn't want to discourage players who are somewhat lower-rated and willing to work from picking up a copy. Below 1800, though, it's probably too tough to be worth it. As usual, I like what I've seen so far, but do think that the issue would be improved by keeping at least one super-GM involved (they had Kasparov for a time and then Morozevich). It would probably help sales, but more than that, it's great to see how a really top player thinks about the game when he's willing to really dig deep and say something substantive to the general public.

    One other, very minor criticism: the cover art looks like a propaganda poster from the bad old Soviet Union (or worse). Hopefully the proud, buff standard bearer won't remain there throughout this, their jubilee year!

    More, including ordering information, here (print/CD) and here (download).

    Friday
    Apr082016

    This Week's World Chess Column: The Resilience of Karjakin and Khalifman

    As those who have watched my various video lecture series over the years are probably aware, I'm a fan not just of what's new in chess, but of the game's history as well. So in my column this week I make reference to Sergey Karjakin's gritty performance in last year's World Cup - without which he wouldn't have made it to the Candidates and a World Championship match with Magnus Carlsen - and use that as a springboard to remember Alexander Khalifman's amazing run to the FIDE (knockout) World Championship title in 1999.

    Friday
    Apr082016

    Grand Chess Tour: Karjakin Out, Carlsen (Partially) In

    Read more here. The bit that's getting all the attention is a tweet from London Chess Classic organizer Malcolm Pein. In response to a tweet from (Norwegian) Tarjei J. Svensen, who expressed the view that Sergey Karjakin's decision to skip the Norway Chess supertournament was "disrespectful...towards the organizer, the players and the entire chess world", Pein upped the ante:

    Preparation? Nah - he's just chickening out - pathetic, pleased we didn't invite him to Grand Chess Tour

    I'm inclined to agree with Pein's choice of the word "pathetic", but think it should be applied to his comment instead. Svensen has a point, though it's a little overstated (for one thing, the player who gets to take his spot is getting a great opportunity and a nice payday), but "chickening out"? If there's one thing Karjakin has a reputation for, it's that he is an extraordinarily resilient fighter. It also seems remarkably unwise of Pein to alienate someone who might be the world champion at year's end. (He's an underdog, but it certainly isn't impossible for him to win the title.)

    Maybe the moral is that forums like Facebook and Twitter can make fools of us all.

    Wednesday
    Apr062016

    Grischuk Defeats Aronian 11.5-9.5

    Alexander Grischuk defeated Levon Aronian 11.5-9.5 in their quarter-final match in Chess.com's Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship. It was a hard-fought match, and generally well-played, too. Grischuk dominated overall, and was close to winning many more games than he did, but Aronian's tough defense (sometimes aided by Grischuk's characteristic time trouble) kept the match close, and with two games left the match was tied. The penultimate game was key, a marathon battle that saw Aronian start with an extra pawn and a lead on time. Grischuk had the bishop pair, and slowly but surely managed to fight his way back to equality and a likely draw. But the battle continued, and after some final adventures Grischuk pulled out the win.

    In the semi-final Grischuk will play the winner of a similar match between Magnus Carlsen and the winner of a qualifying tournament, and before the latter match the other quarter-final matches will take place: Hikaru Nakamura vs. Pentala Harikrishna on May 4 and Fabiano Caruana vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on May 10.

    The full Grischuk-Aronian match, with commentary by GM Robert Hess and IM Danny Rensch, is available here.

    Wednesday
    Apr062016

    Karjakin Drops Out of Norway Chess Due to Exhaustion and Carlsen Prep

    Sergey Karjakin has dropped out of the Norway Chess supertournament, which starts in about a week and a half (on April 18). The reasons are exhaustion (not just from the Candidates, but from the whirlwind of press activity he has had in its wake) and because he is (already!) preparing for his World Championship match with Magnus Carlsen in November. (This is a very good sign: Karjakin is taking this as seriously as he ought to, and the result should be a great match. Carlsen will rightly be a favorite, but I don't think he's so much of a favorite that he can beat peak Karjakin without playing something near his absolute best.)

    Withdrawing at this late date puts the organizers in a bit of a bind, and it is also unpleasant for whoever takes his place - probably but not yet definitely Jon Ludwig Hammer. Of course it's a great opportunity for him, but having less than two weeks rather than two months to prepare isn't very helpful for the (by far) weakest player in the field, excepting Nils Grandelius who won a spot in a qualifier a few weeks ago.

    Wednesday
    Apr062016

    Komodo 9.42, Get It While You Can

    Nearly a year ago I purchased Komodo 9 and a one-year subscription, meaning that whenever a new version came out during that time it could be downloaded for no further cost. I have no complaints about the engine, but their notification policy is less than impressive - there are no notifications. (This despite my requesting to be put on a list, and the representative for the company agreeing to do so!) When a TCEC competition is ongoing it's easier to notice when an upgrade comes out, but nowadays it's easier to miss. Version 9.4 came out March 18, and by accident I discovered that a further mini-upgrade came out March 21 - version 9.42.

    So for those of you who might have bought the one-year subscription when version 9 first came out, be sure to download the latest and greatest version - it is stronger than its predecessor, and the year is coming to an end in about 3 weeks.

    [N.B. The title should not be taken to imply that the Komodo program is disappearing. As far as I know, the company is in good health and they will continue improving their engine indefinitely.]