Jingoism or patriotism? Let's be kind and assume it's the latter, as my column this week looks at some recent achievements by two of the United States's top young talents, Jeffery Xiong and Sam Sevian.
It's a wee bit early to crown anyone as the 2030 World Champion, but if you'd like an early candidate born in this decade you could do worse than to suggest 3-year-old Mikhail Osipov.
Sure, he lost, but it was to Anatoly Karpov. Not bad for a near-toddler!
538 refers to a subsite on ESPN's webpage, run by Nate Silver and his merry band of statisticians. There's an article on the match there now, and the one statistical claim they offer is that Magnus Carlsen has a 38% chance of winning the match in 12 games, Sergey Karjakin only a 10% chance, with a 52% probability that the match will go to tiebreaks. (The odds for each player in those tiebreaks wasn't offered.)
HT: Ron Fenton
It took ten games, but Magnus Carlsen finally got his first win, and thereby evened up the match with two games to go. It wasn't a perfect game, but it was a good, hard-fought, well-earned victory by Carlsen in his signature style, posing problem after problem and turning a tiny advantage into a 75-move win.
The big question, which will undoubtedly be addressed in the press conference, is why Sergey Karjakin twice rejected an idea that would have given him a draw (or an advantage, if Carlsen chose to play on): on both moves 20 and 21 the move ...Nxf2+ forces White to repeat moves or stand worse with a material deficit. So it was a good win by Carlsen, but if Karjakin ends up losing the match he may have years of nightmares and regrets about his missed opportunities in games 9 and 10.
Game 11 is on Saturday (Friday is a rest day), and then game 12 is on Monday after a further rest day. Meanwhile, here is game 10, with my notes. (They're not as thorough as they could have been for a grand battle like this, but it is Thanksgiving here in the U.S.)
Sergey Karjakin still leads by a point with three games to go, but today he had a great chance to give himself a two-point lead over Magnus Carlsen.
The game was a very theoretical Neo-Archangelsk (aka the Malaniuk Variation, the Tkachiev Variation, the Yurtaev Variation...or maybe something else) that followed a Nakamura-Kasimdzhanov game from 2014 until Carlsen's 21...cxb3. Play carried on without anything too dramatic happening until move 38, when the general contours from 20 moves ago were still in place. White had an extra, passed d-pawn and the bishop pair, which was compensated by Black's healthy pieces and White's very ugly kingside pawn structure.
Here, Carlsen made a bad but understandable decision to reroute his knight to f5. Short of time, he played 38...Ne7, and now Karjakin thought for around 25 minutes, using almost all his remaining time. He had two options: 39.Bxf7+ and 39.Qb3. The latter move was best, and probably what he would have played with less time on the clock. Instead, he had enough time to delve and (I conjecture) spot some subtle resources for Carlsen that he didn't manage to overcome to his own satisfaction at the board, and so he chose 39.Bxf7+. As it turns out 39.Qb3 would have won, or at the very least have given him very serious winning chances, while his 39.Bxf7+ allowed Carlsen to reach a drawn ending.
A narrow escape for the champion, who was also in trouble in game 5 after missing real opportunities in games 3 and 4. Not all is lost for him, of course: he still has White in games 10 (tomorrow/today = Thursday) and 12, and only needs one win to force a rapid playoff. Only three games remain, but there have been at least three world championship matches where a player won in the final game to save his title, so it can be done. (The three are Lasker-Schlechter in 1910, Kasparov-Karpov from Seville in 1987, and then Kramnik-Leko in Brissago in 2004.)
The game, with my notes, is here.
The TCEC Season 9 Superfinal is a 100-game affair, and after 50 games an early iteration of Stockfish 8 is leading handily against Houdini 5, 28-22, with nine wins against three losses. Every game pair has the engines taking opposite sides of the same preselected opening line, which makes Stockfish's lead even more impressive. Two of Houdini's three wins came in openings where Stockfish won its white game as well. So barring some really big improvements coming down the pike from Houdini or Komodo, it looks like the free engine, Stockfish, is also the best one.
Liliana Najdorf, Najdorf x Najdorf (Russell Enterprises, 2016). 208 pp., $24.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
Even when I was a kid 35-40 years ago, the name "Najdorf" (pronounced "nigh-dorf", but often mispronounced "nodge-dorf") was much more closely associated with the opening variation in the Sicilian rather than with the man himself, the Polish-born Argentinian grandmaster Miguel Najdorf. This is how it was in the United States, at least; perhaps in Europe and especially South America things were different. It's true that even in the early 1980s Najdorf (1910-1997) was already quite old by the standards of professional chess, but given his greatness as a player and his larger than life persona, his relative obscurity in the broader chess world is unfortunate.
The book Najdorf x Najdorf (presumably this is to be read as "Najdorf by Najdorf"?) is not a chess biography, though there are 25 games. One is his immortal game with Glücksberg, annotated by Najdorf himself, twelve of his best and most notable games annotated by Jan Timman (who also supplied the Foreword). These 13 are given after the biographical portion, and there are another twelve distributed throughout the rest of the book. (These are briefly annotated by Taylor Kingston, who also translated the book, fact-checked it, and included various appendixes.) In addition to those 25 games, there are also two brief fragments from Najdorf's games, along with the famous Alekhine-Böök game. There is therefore enough chess material to satisfy fans looking for great games and looking for a hint of how strong he was throughout his career.
The heart of the book, however, is the biography; mostly a memoir, authored by his daughter Liliana. Najdorf had two families: one in Poland, which was destroyed by the Nazis, and then a second one in Argentina. Najdorf was Jewish, and was playing in the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires when the Germans invaded Poland. Najdorf did what he could from Argentina to rescue his wife Genia and infant daughter Lusia, but he could not save them. During and then after the war Najdorf stayed in Argentina, remarrying and having two more daughters, Mirta and Liliana. (He outlived his second wife, Eta, who died of natural causes in 1982, and a third wife, Rita, as well; she died in 1996, one year before he did.)
Some attention is given to Najdorf's chess career, but not too much, and what's there isn't of the usual "and then he went there and scored X/Y, taking 1st place, and then he traveled to..." material characteristic of chess biographies. Three themes run throughout the book: Najdorf's families, Najdorf's adventures (which includes chess but isn't limited to it), and Najdorf's gargantuan personality. Any chess player who has read stories about Najdorf will have some idea about Najdorf's gregariousness and volubility, and these traits pervaded his entire life, both for good and for ill. It helped make him rich as an insurance salesman and businessman, and made him friends and gave him influence with people of all stations all over the world. When it came to his personal relationships, especially with those in his family, however, it sometimes made things difficult, and that is clearly true in his relationship with Liliana.
This does not mean that it was a bad relationship, only one with difficulties. In the Prologue, Liliana calls him a "crazy, intolerable, marvelous old man", and at the end of chapter 1, which is also a sort of prologue, she says this:
To say he was larger than life strikes me as an understatement. I look for synonyms that will help me to define him, and in those words I find him: passionate, disproportionate, ostentatious, gigantic, extraordinary, overwhelming, marvelous. Wise.
I must have inherited his tendency to excess, because I cannot choose, and I feel that every one of these adjectives fits.
It is a book for you if you are interested in the human side of chess, and the actual chess content is a nice bonus.
Neither Lasker-Schlechter nor Anand-Gelfand managed to finish with all draws, and now Carlsen-Karjakin won't either. Sergey Karjakin opened the scoring with a win, and now leads 4.5-3.5 with four games remaining (assuming the match goes its full length and doesn't go to tiebreaks).
Magnus Carlsen had White and played the Zukertort System of all things, trying as always both to surprise Karjakin and to reach a position with play. He may have surprised Karjakin, but when it came to creating chances he was less successful. If anything, it was Karjakin who had a little opportunity on move 19, and maybe Karjakin's decision to forego this chance, as well as some other opportunities in the match, dulled Carlsen's sense of danger.
Carlsen kept taking risks, avoiding options on moves 24, 28, and 31 that would in each case have led to a speedy draw. Carlsen finally went too far with a blunder on move 35. Both players were in time trouble though, and Karjakin blundered right back on move 37, restoring equality.
After the time control Carlsen could have drawn more than one way, but unfortunately for him he recovered his appetite and once again started playing for more. In fact this was more dangerous for him than for Karjakin, but even after a sloppy 49th move the position remained defensible. On move 51, however, he erred again, and after two precise moves by the challenger the game was over.
Will Carlsen stage a successful comeback, or will Karjakin's lifelong ambition be realized? We'll see starting on Wednesday, as Tuesday is a rest day. Meanwhile, here is today's game, with my annotations.
Sergey Karjakin wasn't having much success as White in the Ruy Lopez, so today he tried something different and played 1.d4. The game started as a Slav that quickly transposed into a Queen's Gambit Accepted, and while the opening was different the result was the same as in all the other games of the match so far: a draw. Maybe Karjakin had a chance for a small edge early on with 11.Qxd8+; after his 11.Nd2 it was Carlsen who was a little better. That didn't last very long, but even so, after 16...Rc8 Carlsen invited Karjakin to win a pawn at the cost of allowing an essentially drawn (just about dead drawn) ending. The game ended after 33 moves, and tomorrow (Monday) it will be Carlsen's turn to see if he can make something of the White pieces.
Here's today's game, with my notes.
That makes six out of six. It's good for building the tension!
Game six was, like game 4, a Closed Ruy, but after 8...0-0 9.h3 Bb7 10.d3 Carlsen went for a Marshall approach this time with 10...d5. His 14th move was a novelty, and while there are a couple of spots where Karjakin might seek improvements in the future, Carlsen had no trouble at all as the game actually went. After three very long and tough games, this one was very short, finishing in just 32 moves, and gave the players half a rest day before the official one on Saturday. (The game, with my notes, is here.)
The match is half over, and in keeping with rules that have been standard for several matches the color order now switches: Karjakin will have White in the odd-numbered games, starting with game 7, today (Sunday).