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    Friday
    Aug042017

    Mikhail Tal Simul Game

    The video is from a simul Mikhail Tal gave at Labate's Chess Center in Anaheim, California, back in 1988. I played in this simul as well, but alas: I don't appear in the video. My board was directly or almost directly across from David Lucky's (then David Glicksman), and by the time the camera panned to that side, my game had finished. (I lost.)

    Does anyone know if there's a fuller video, or can anyone get in touch with David Lucky to find out?

    Friday
    Aug042017

    Other Events: The British Championship, Gelfand-Inarkiev

    1. Luke McShane entered round 7 of the British Championship in clear first. He drew with Black against Danny Gormally, giving the winner, if any, of the game between Jonathan Hawkins and John Emms to catch him. Emms won, with Black, and is now tied for first with McShane. Both have six points, and will face off in round 8, the penultimate round, with Emms having White. Gormally, Craig Hanley, Gawain Jones, and Nicholas Pert are all half a point back. Jones will have White against Pert, Hanley has White against Gormally. Could the 50-year-old Emms, the 8th seed, win his first British Championship? It's certainly possible.

    2. Gelfand-Inarkiev. Their second classical game was drawn, but Gelfand had a non-trivial advantage through much of the game. He remains ahead, 1.5-.5.

    Friday
    Aug042017

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 3: Five Draws and Some Missed Opportunities

    There were no winners in today's round, but in several games one player got close.

    Starting from the top, in the battle of world champions, Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen seemed on their way to a routine draw when Anand blundered a pawn with 39.Rac2?! Ra4 40.Nb3?, missing the simple 40...Rxb3 41.Rxb3 Nd4. Unfortunately for Carlsen, Anand had studied his Dvoretsky* and knew very well how to defend the rook + three kingside pawns + a-pawn vs. rook + three kingside pawn ending, and the game inevitably finished peacefully. 60.g4! was an especially nice touch that made it easy, a trick worth remembering.

    That was the last game to finish, and it kept Carlsen tied for first with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Fabiano Caruana. MVL could very well have finished the day in clear first, as he obtained a huge advantage against Peter Svidler. But somewhere around move 30 he started letting the advantage drip away, and the critical moment came when he played 32.Kh2?, walking into the nice tactic 32...d5!, intending 33...Rb4. After that it was Svidler's turn to look for an advantage, but not seeing anything concrete (e.g. with 40...Rd8) he forced perpetual.

    Caruana also had good winning chances, in his game with Ian Nepomniachtchi. The game was very sharp, a kind of Closed Sicilian that followed the traditional pattern: White throwing everything at Black's king while Black hurries to break through on the queenside. Caruana, with White, never had anything that was completely clear, but there were some promising options - Qe3 on moves 29 and, to a lesser extent, move 30 - would have given Nepo more to worry about. Instead he won the exchange, but Black's compensation was evident and enough to induce Caruana to repeat moves - especially as the American player was very short of time.

    Wesley So's game with Hikaru Nakamura was more like Carlsen's game than MVL's or Caruana's. The game appeared to be headed for a draw until Nakamura lost/unnecessarily sacrificed a pawn, but with good defensive technique Nakamura kept things under control and held the half-point.

    That leaves Levon Aronian vs. Sergey Karjakin. In this game, and this game only, no one had even a whiff of a winning chance. The game finished quickly by repetition in only 23 moves.

    Here are tomorrow's pairings:

    Carlsen (2) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)
    Caruana (2) - Karjakin (1.5)
    Aronian (1.5) - Anand (1.5)
    Svidler (1) - So (1.5)
    Nepomniachtchi (.5) - Nakamura (1.5)

    * Yes, I mean this seriously, referring to the great Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual. Many GMs have lauded the book; not as something they studied when they were little kids, but as a book they worked through as strong GMs. The particular endgame in question is one that has been deeply worked out over the past 15-20 years, and Dvoretsky was one of the analysts who helped make that happen.

    Friday
    Aug042017

    Sinquefield Cup, Day 2: Three More Wins; Carlsen, Caruana, and Vachier-Lagrave Lead

    It was another exciting round at the Sinquefield Cup, and thanks to a pair of blunders by Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana, a very long one.

    But first things first: Ian Nepomniachtchi once again got into trouble in the opening, and lost for a second time. With White against Wesley So, Nepomniachtchi hoped to make use of the extra space provided by his Maroczy Bind setup, but he was unable to restrict Black's activity. His 17th move was an outright error, and while it didn't lose material it allowed So to reach a position where White's structure was beset by weaknesses. So won one pawn, and then another, and when Nepo resigned on his 40th move he was about to go three pawns down. So bounced back nicely from his first round loss, while Nepomniachtchi remains with the score he had before the tournament started.

    World champion Magnus Carlsen demonstrated excellent form against his last challenger, Sergey Karjakin, outplaying him in excellent style. It's easy to look at places where the computer's evaluation of Karjakin's position drops and say "here is where he went wrong", but none of the errors was obvious in its own right, even in retrospect, and the players themselves had a difficult time pinpointing the critical errors. Carlsen just played very well. Carlsen has 1.5/2, and Karjakin fell to 50%.

    The games Peter Svidler vs. Viswanathan Anand and Hikaru Nakamura vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were both fairly clean draws, and in both cases Black managed to solve his problems from the get-go. MVL is +1, Svidler is -1, and Anand and Nakamura remain on 50%.

    So that leaves Aronian-Caruana, which almost certainly would have ended in a draw in a few moves had Aronian not played 33.Ke2??, losing a piece after 33...Bb4! followed by 34...Re8, winning a piece. By itself, this didn't ensure a long game, just one with a different result. Had Caruana played 40...g5+, a logical and pretty obvious move that he had more than enough time to find, the game would have ended quickly, and maybe even immediately.

    Instead, after 40...Bd2?, Caruana (with Black) was left with a rook, dark-squared bishop and - critically - an h-pawn against Aronian's rook and doubled g-pawns. Blunders aside, this gave Caruana two "normal" ways to win: (1) Win both White pawns without trading anything, and win with rook, bishop and h-pawn against rook. (2) Trade rooks, stalemate White's king, and thereby force White to play g4-g5, allowing Black to play ...hxg5 and thereby eliminating the specter of a king + bishop + h-pawn vs. king draw. White would be happy to trade rooks if he lost one or both g-pawns (provided that losing the pawns didn't come by a pawn capture), otherwise not.

    Caruana eventually managed to win in a third, somewhat surprising way. He won the g4-pawn on move 74, and after a long stretch where he didn't seem to be making any progress, he finally found a way to put an end to the game. His 106th move, 106...Bd6!, won White's remaining pawn, but allowed White to eliminate Black's h-pawn as well. That was the good news for Aronian, but the bad news is that the resulting rook + bishop vs. rook ending was won for Black. White's king was in a mating net, and after 110...Rc4+ Aronian decided that 7 hours was long enough, and resigned. Aronian thus fell back to 50%, while Caruana joined Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave on +1.

    Round 3 Pairings:

    Anand (1) - Carlsen (1.5)
    So (1) - Nakamura (1)
    Caruana (1.5) - Nepomniachtchi (0)
    Karjakin (1) - Aronian (1)
    Vachier-Lagrave (1.5) - Svidler (.5)

    Thursday
    Aug032017

    Other Events: British Championship; Gelfand-Inarkiev, The Sequel

    Six rounds of the British Championship are in the books, and after defeating top seed and three-time British champion David Howell the leader is Luke McShane. McShane was (and is) a very talented player who decided on a non-chess career; despite that, he has been over 2700 and leads this event, a nine round Swiss, with 5.5 points. Two-time champion Jonathan Hawkins is in a tie for second half a point behind, along with John Emms(!) and Danny Gormally. Howell, 2012 champ Gawain Jones, and seven others have 4.5.

    Last year Boris Gelfand and Ernesto Inarkiev squared off in a classical and rapid match that Gelfand won decisively, winning each time control 4-2 and going undefeated until the very last game. This year, for some reason, they're doing it again, and Gelfand has started off with a win. (The first game is here.)

    Wednesday
    Aug022017

    Sinquefield Cup, Day 1: Aronian, Vachier-Lagrave, and Karjakin Start with Wins

    It was not a dull first round at the Sinquefield Cup - despite the presence of two Closed Ruys and two Giuoco Pianos out of the five games. As long as players are willing to fight, the games will get interesting, and so they did.

    That said, the liveliest game was the one non-1.e4 game. Levon Aronian played the English against Ian Nepomniachtchi, and while the line was one Nepo said that he himself had prepared to play with White, he apparently couldn't remember what to do against it with Black. His decision on move 11 to sac his b-pawn was iffy, and 14...Bxc3 only made things worse. His position went further downhill after 16...Be6, which can fairly be described as the losing move. Aronian had no trouble from there, winning more material every few moves until Nepomniachtchi gave up on move 29, down a bishop and a pawn.

    The other two wins came from the Italian Game. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was better against Wesley So much of the way, but So was mostly okay until he played 32...f5. Opening the board favored MVL and his bishops, and left So in a precarious position. The decisive error came on move 40, when So played 40...Kd8? instead of repeating with 40...Kf6. The upshot was that he trapped his own rook, so that in the final position the otherwise desirable 43...Nxb6 would be met by 44.Bxb7, collecting the aforementioned rook.

    The other Italian victory was Sergey Karjakin's win over Peter Svidler. White didn't achieve an opening advantage, but often a playable, interesting position is victory enough. Karjakin's 16.c4 was visually pleasing, creating a row of White pawns from a4 through e4, and more importantly it gave Black a host of moves and plans to choose from. Svidler burned a pretty fair amount of time on this move (and about an hour in total from moves 13-17, inclusive), and chose a mistaken idea starting with 16...exd4. White's queenside clump of pawns on the a- and b-files soon proved decisive, and although it wasn't the best move it's fitting that the game finished with 39.a7, moving the pawn next to his adjacent passer on b7.

    The other games were drawn. The marquee matchup between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana (with Caruana playing White) was a well-played and well-fought draw in a Closed Ruy with 6.d3. Only the game between Viswanathan Anand and Hikaru Nakamura may deserve a little bit of criticism, as Nakamura was meaningfully better (with Black) in a 4.d3 Anti-Berlin when the draw was agreed. It isn't as though Nakamura hasn't displayed his fighting prowess at the chess board for around two decades, so if he is in need of some slack for the draw, we should speedily and wholeheartedly give it to him.

    Here are the round 2 pairings:

    Carlsen (.5) - Karjakin (1)
    Aronian (1) - Caruana (.5)
    Nakamura (.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (1)
    Svidler (0) - Anand (.5)
    Nepomniachtchi (0) - So (0)

    Wednesday
    Aug022017

    Ara Parseghian, 1923-2017, R.I.P.

    Ara Parseghian was one of the greatest football coaches in Notre Dame's history, and in the history of college football, period. This was not because he was a Notre Dame coach; in fact, he revitalized what had been a struggling program. He was successful wherever he went, and by all accounts - and more importantly - was a decent human being.

    Rest in peace.

    Wednesday
    Aug022017

    Parity Chess!?

    Murali A V from India writes in to share a chess variant of his devising, which he calls "Parity Chess". Fans of chess variants may want to have a look.

    Wednesday
    Aug022017

    Sinquefield Cup: Starting Momentarily

    The 2017 Sinquefield Cup gets underway today in St. Louis, starting at 1 p.m. local time (= 2 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CET). Here are the pairings: 

    • Caruana (2807) - Carlsen (2822)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2789) - So (2810)
    • Aronian (2799) - Nepomniachtchi (2751)
    • Anand (2783) - Nakamura (2792)
    • Karjakin (2773) - Svidler (2751)

     A strong field, needless to say, with the world's top three, six of the world's top 8, seven of the top 10, and eight of the top 12. And all 10 are in the top 16.

    Predictions? I'm going to fudge and say it's whoever has the best score out of Carlsen, Caruana, and Aronian after round 1.

    Wednesday
    Aug022017

    Biel 2017: Hou Yifan Wins!

    In one of the greatest results of her career - if not the greatest, apart from women's world championship events - Hou Yifan has won the 2017 edition of the Biel GM Tournament.

    After five of nine rounds, when we left off, Etienne Bacrot was in clear first with four points, and Hou was half a point behind. In round 6 Bacrot drew and Hou was defeated by Pentala Harikrishna, who along with David Navara was the top seed entering the tournament. That kept Bacrot in clear first with 4.5 points, Harikrishna in second with 4 (along with Ruslan Ponomariov, who defeated Navara), and Hou (but not only Hou) with 3.5. In the next round, however, everything went up in the air. Harikrishna drew, and Hou defeated Bacrot to leave them all tied for first with 4.5 points, and they were joined there by young IM Nicos Giorgiadis. Giorgiadis defeated Noel Studer to make it a four-way tie for first, with Alexander Morozevich and Ponomariov just half a point behind after the former beat the latter.

    In round 8 Hou and Harikrishna won again, against Rafael Vaganian and Ponomariov, respectively. Bacrot and Giorgiadis dropped half a point back after drawing with Navara and Peter Leko, respectively, and they were caught by Morozevich after he defeated Studer. Thus Hou and Harikrishna led with 5.5 points entering the final round, with Bacrot, Morozevich, and Giorgiadis half a point behind.

    Hou kept on winning! She beat the hitherto undefeated Giorgiadis (who easily made a GM norm in any case, if he needed it), and Harikrishna blundered against Bacrot and lost. (He had probably missed that after 21.Bc5?? Bxf5 he couldn't recapture with the queen because of the simple fork 22...Rd5, so he had to let Black's queen into h2. That proved decisive as well.) That guaranteed clear first for Hou, and since Morozevich lost to Leko it meant that Bacrot finished in clear second, half a point back.

    Hou finished the tournament rated 2669.6, gaining 17.6 points for her efforts. She's got a ways to go to get back to her career high rating of 2687.5, but she's certainly going in the right direction.

    Final Standings:

    1. Hou Yifan 6.5 (from 9)
    2. Bacrot 6
    3. Harikrishna 5.5
    4-7. Ponomariov, Leko, Giorgiadis, Morozevich 5
    8. Navara 4
    9. Vaganian 2
    10. Studer 1