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    Monday
    Jul062015

    Lenderman Wins World Open in a Playoff

    Congratulations to Aleks Lenderman, who beat Rauf Mamedov in an Armageddon playoff to win the title of World Open Champion (and an extra $300). Eight players tied for first with 7/9 and won $5162.50 apiece: Lenderman, Mamedov, Ilya Smirin, Alexander Ipatov, Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, Illia Nyzhnyk, Romain Edouard and Axel Bachmann.

    Sunday
    Jul052015

    Dortmund 2015, Final Round: Caruana Wins Again

    And wins in more than one way: he wins the game (his fifth in a row!) and the Dortmund tournament (for the second straight year and third time overall). Fabiano Caruana's final score of 5.5/7 matched last year's total, earned him 11 rating points and should give him some confidence going into the Sinquefield Cup six weeks from now.

    Not all of his wins in the tournament were works of art; clean, logical and error-free victories where the advantage grew bit by bit, but his last round victory was a work of art. His opponent, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, entered the last round half a point behind Caruana, and so a win would give him first place in the tournament. Spoiling for a fight Nisipeanu went for the Evans Gambit, but Caruana was well-prepared and stood a bit better in the early middlegame. He managed to increase his advantage over the next few moves, and on move 25 the game went from being an impressive practical achievement to something for the ages. Caruana devised a brilliant tactical idea even the engines have difficulty finding in light of the defensive/counterattacking idea chosen by Nisipeanu in the game. The combination, which you can replay here, is reminiscent of the famous old game Ortueta-Sanz, as noted by Caruana himself after the game. (You can replay both games, with my notes, here.)

    That settle the race for first, but the other games were also interesting. Vladimir Kramnik had been in the running for first through most of the tournament, and was still in contention for second. A win over Wesley So would have given him clear second, and a draw would have given him shared second with Nisipeanu. He equalized and then some with Black in a Berlin ending, and seemed to have good winning chances until his 28th-30th moves, each of which was inaccurate-to-bad. He was much worse, but with both players in serious time trouble he managed to get back to equal again. The position remained complicated, however, and in the second time control So outplayed him and picked up the full point. Oddly, while So defeated both Caruana and Kramnik in this tournament, he was lagging a long ways back through most of it and it was a big surprise to see that he finished second on tiebreaks ahead of Nisipeanu. A very decent result, if an uneven one, and thus the Americans finished 1-2 with Nisipeanu in nominal third.

    The other two games were drawn, though not smoothly. Hou Yifan had excellent winning chances against Ian Nepomniachtchi and Georg Meier had Arkadij Naiditsch dead in the water, yet neither player could convert their advantage.

    Here are the final standings:

    • 1. Caruana 5.5 (out of 7)
    • 2. So 4
    • 3. Nisipeanu 4
    • 4. Kramnik 3.5
    • 5. Naiditsch 3
    • 6. Nepomniachtchi 3
    • 7. Hou Yifan 2.5
    • 8. Meier 2.5

    Saturday
    Jul042015

    Dortmund 2015, Round 6: Caruana Wins Again, Kramnik Lets Nisipeanu Escape

    After a bumpy start, Fabiano Caruana is looking like the player he was around this time last year, and with his fourth consecutive victory he is in the driver's seat to win Dortmund again - and might match last year's score of 5.5/7. For now, it's 4.5/6 after his win over Hou Yifan. Hou decided to sac a pawn in the opening to alleviate some pressure, and was doing a good job of hanging in there until she preferred the decentralizing 28...Ndb6 to 28...Nde5. Caruana took immediate advantage, breaking in the center and heading for Black's king. Hou had to sac the exchange for counterplay, but it wasn't enough. Ironically, her activity allowed her to recoup the material, only to walk into a mating attack.

    Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu could have kept pace with Caruana by defeating Vladimir Kramnik, but that was never in the offing. Instead, it was Kramnik who outplayed Nisipeanu and could have won in a tough rook ending. It seems his last chance to convert the full point came on move 52 (or move 54, had Kramnik decided to head back to the same position). According to the tablebases the obvious 52.Kxf4 was a winner, which is not to say that it was a trivial win. Kramnik may have missed or underestimated Nisipeanu's 54...f3, after which White no longer had even practical chances for the full point. Nisipeanu is out of at least a share of the lead for the first time in the tournament, but as he's only half a point behind and gets White against Caruana in the last round he still has a chance to be the hero of the tournament. As for Kramnik, he is now a full point behind Caruana and is mathematically eliminated from contention for first, though with a win tomorrow he would do no worse than tie for second.

    In the other games Ian Nepomniachtchi won his first game in the tournament, grinding down Arkadij Naiditsch in a technical battle, while Georg Meier had a meaningful advantage against Wesley So but played it safe and let the American escape. As Meier had and lost even bigger advantages against Caruana and Kramnik in this tournament, his trepdiation was understandable.

    Here are the pairings for the last round:

    • Nisipeanu (4) - Caruana (4.5)
    • So (3) - Kramnik (3.5)
    • Naiditsch (2.5) - Meier (2)
    • Hou Yifan (2) - Nepomniachtchi (2.5) 

    Saturday
    Jul042015

    Jonny Wins Meaningless Computer World Championship Title

    The real computer championship is the TCEC that has been taking place about twice a year, because practically every halfway decent engine participates and all the engines are running on the same hardware. (Season 8 will start in mid-August.) This event, which carries the unfortunate title of a world championship, is different and absurd. It was won by a program named Jonny; a good program to be sure, but one which ranks only 20th on the TCEC rating list (scroll down that page), 33rd on the somewhat outdated SSDF list, in the 50s on the CCRL list and on the IPON list Jonny ranks a glorious 71st.

    Well then, all this just means that the Jonny programmers did some stupendous work to improve their program, right? Not exactly. They just brought nuclear weapons to a gun fight, and still only won by a hair. Jonny scored an undefeated 7/8, half a point ahead of Komodo. (Stockfish wasn't there, which already makes it a fake world championship, as that program has taken first or second in the last five TCEC tournaments and is always flip-flopping with Komodo for the top spot on the rating lists.) Jonny beat Komodo in their one head-to-head game, in which it had white and won in 158 moves. Oh, and while Komodo ran on 24 cores, the second-heftiest total in the tournament, Jonny ran on 2400 cores. One suspects this may have played a role in the outcome.

    It's hard to see what the point of this event is, or at the very least why it should be called a world championship. Maybe if it's called a "freestyle" event or has some other moniker that suggests that it's an "anything goes" competition that would be fine, but a prestigious title like "world champion" shouldn't be available when the software isn't on a level or at least a very nearly level playing field. Anyway, the Jonny programmers should be congratulated on their superior ability to buy or rent computer hardware.

    HT: Brian Karen.

    Friday
    Jul032015

    Book Notice: Dvoretsky's For Friends & Colleagues, Volume 2: Reflections on My Profession

    Mark Dvoretsky, For Friends & Colleagues, Volume 2: Reflections on My Profession. (Russell Enterprises, 2015.) 257 pp., $29.95.

    About eight months ago I wrote a short notice on the first volume of this series, which was more straightforwardly autobiographical. This second volume isn't autobiographical at all, at least not in any overt sense. What we have instead is a collection of articles, many previously published in Russian and/or English over the last decade or so, offering both training material and reflections on training, training material, chess literature past and present. If you've read and enjoyed his Chess Cafe articles over the past 10-15 years or so, you'll enjoy this work, too, and if you're just interested in some fascinating and challenging material to enjoy or work on, this is a book you'll like.

    As usual with Dvoretsky's material, it's pitched at a very high level, so unless you're over 2000 and maybe at least 2100-2200, you're likely to find most of the analytical material a bit too challenging. (Sometimes IMs and GMs say that about his exercises, though most of the material in this book is only set to "stun", maybe "maim", but not "kill" or "vaporize".) There is a lot of "talky" material though, so some of his suggestions and reflections may be of interest even if you don't intend to work through the games and game fragments.

    In general though, I'm sticking to what I've written above. If you're a Dvoretsky fan, you'll probably like this book; if not, and you're not a strong (at least near-master and up) and ambitious player or a trainer, it's probably not the book for you.

    Friday
    Jul032015

    Dortmund 2015, Rounds 4 & 5: Nisipeanu Has a Different Co-Leader Every Day

    Let's get caught up on Dortmund, which is now 5/7 over after round 4 on Wednesday, a rest on Thursday and round 5 today. Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu continues to lead, as he has the entire event, but now he has company. After three rounds he was alone in first with 2.5/3, but was caught in round 4 by Vladimir Kramnik and in round 5 by Fabiano Caruana. Let's review the action.

    In round 4 Nisipeanu had Black against Ian Nepomniachtchi, and after a slight advantage see-sawed between the two players Nepomniachtchi was the last player to get an edge, but it was unusable. An extra pawn in a rook + three vs. rook + two ending with all the pawns on the same side is almost always drawn, and this wasn't a difficult hold for Nisipeanu.

    Meanwhile, Kramnik managed to keep just enough tension in the position to outwit Georg Meier, who yet again lost half a point or more from a good position. Meier played the Anti-Berlin line 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1, which looks unpretentious but isn't as insipid as it seems. Kramnik did manage to equalize, but in his desire to push for a win he had to take some fairly serious risks. Meier enjoyed a clear advantage leading up to the time control, and had he played 35.R5e4 or 35.gxf4 Rxf4 and then 36.R5e4 things might have turned out differently. When the time control came the position was about equal, but the danger was mostly on Meier's side. The game was lost in one move: 50.Ke2; after 50.a4 it would remain equal, and there were other moves that would have kept the game going. Such collapses are very possible in complicated positions, even after the time control; in fact, Kramnik lost in similar fashion in round 5. More on that later; for now, Nisipeanu and Kramnik were the co-leaders with 3/4.

    Fabiano Caruana also gained ground on Nisipeanu, winning his second straight game to get to half a point out of first. His victim was Arkadij Naiditsch, who was only a little worse until he played 25...Bxc5; it would have been better to play 26...Rc8 straight away rather than doing so after swapping the bishops. The difference was that Caruana anchored the rook on c5 with 27.b4, and when Black traded rooks White had a passed pawn. Not all was lost until Naiditsch played 35...a5, however; 35...e5 or 35...Kf6 followed by 36...e5 would have kept the game going. In the game Naiditsch quickly lost a piece, and that was that.

    Finally, Hou Yifan and Wesley So had an interesting battle in a Classical Caro-Kann. Hou was starting to outplay So, but 31.Ka2 allowed a nice tactical sequence that led to a draw.

    On to round five, when the marquee matchup with Kramnik - Caruana. The opening was a Fianchetto Gruenfeld with ...c6 and ...d5 which quickly left theory. (That's probably a good thing, as the variation tends to be pretty dull.) Kramnik's whole plan with 12.Re1, 13.Bxe4, 14.Nxe4 and especially 15.Qc2? was a bit of a disaster, and from there on out Kramnik was pretty much reduced to swindle mode. Remarkably, his resilient play succeeded and when Caruana played 23...e6 Kramnik had made it back to objective equality. Not practical equality, as the burden on him to find the right moves was more difficult, but objective equality was a real achievement. He kept up his end of things for a good while, but eventually things went astray. First, it's pretty difficult to make a move like 28.Kd4!, but the idea is that if 28...Qg2 White now has time to take on h6 and give perpetual before Black mates White's wandering king. Even so he was still alright until move 31, when 31.Nd2 fatally weakened his king. He needed to play either the greedy 31.Rxc5 or 31.Qe5 followed by 32.Rb8, simplifying the position for the sake of the king. After his error Caruana regained the initiative, and the rest was one-sided.

    Kramnik had won three in a row, but that streak came to an end with Caruana's third straight win. As a result of the latter's win he leapfrogged the former and found himself tied for first. His co-leader, Nisipeanu, had White against Meier, but got little from the opening and the game was clearly, almost self-evidently headed for a draw as soon as move 18. They continued until move 42, surprisingly (even if they're using the Sofia rules players in such contexts normally construct some sort of repetition to get the thing finished), but there could never have been any doubt, especially after the rooks came off at move 30.

    In the other games, So beat Nepomniachtchi on the white side of a King's Indian-turned-Modern Benoni. So's kingside play was gaining ground, and the end was expedited by Nepo's inaccurate exchange sac before the time control. Finally, Hou Yifan drew in a good fight with Black against Naiditsch. She equalized and then some early on, and it seemed that she would have enjoyed some advantage with the obvious 17...Nd3 (instead of 17...Na6). Her not playing that was rather mysterious, but even so she was doing fine for a very long time. Finally, somewhere in the second time control, she got into a little trouble in a major piece ending. Had Naiditsch played 54.e4 he would have enjoyed decent winning chances. Fortunately for Hou he didn't, and she wrapped up the draw confidently after that.

    Here are the pairings for the penultimate round, tomorrow:

    • Caruana (3.5) - Hou Yifan (2)
    • Nepomniachtchi (1.5) - Naiditsch (2.5)
    • Meier (1.5) - So (2.5)
    • Kramnik (3) - Nisipeanu (3.5)

    Friday
    Jul032015

    The World Open is Underway

    Because there isn't enough top-class chess going on, right? Website here; links to live games available from within in the site. After four rounds (of nine) Aleks Lenderman and Rauf Mamedov lead with 4/4; round five will start later tonight.

    Friday
    Jul032015

    The Game of the Century?

    A bit overblown, perhaps, but Chinese super-prodigy Wei Yi just won a really spectacular game against Lazaro Bruzon in round 2 of the Danzhou SuperGM tournament. See for yourself - the game is here, with my notes.

    Tuesday
    Jun302015

    A Review of Watson and Schiller's Taming Wild Chess Openings

    John Watson & Eric Schiller, Taming Wild Chess Openings: How to Deal with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly over the Chess Board (New in Chess, 2015). 430 pp., $29.95/€26.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    Let's start by addressing the authorship of this volume. To put things rather bluntly, John Watson has a reputation as a reliable and hard-working author, while Eric Schiller does not. Some of you have no doubt seen some pretty harsh reviews of Schiller over the years, but in fairness to him those critiques go back 16 years or more. Even if everything they said was right, that was a long time ago. I don't know about you, but I'd like to think that people won't hold mistakes I made 16+ years ago against me, so let's just evaluate this book on its merits and give him the benefit the doubt.

    The book is divided into six main sections: Bad Openings (first for White, then for Black), Ugly Openings (first White, then Black) and Good Openings (same story). The distinction between "Bad" openings and "Ugly" ones isn't entirely clear to me: they acknowledge that some Ugly openings are bad, while some of the Bad openings are as ugly as sin. Starting with the latter, is what they call the Senechaud Countergambit to the King's Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4 Bc5 3.Nf3 g5?) not just bad but too ugly even for a mother's love? Similarly, isn't the the "Brentano Gambit" to the Ruy (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g5?) both bad and ugly? Or 1.e4 g5, for that matter, or 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 f6 (in case you think I have it in for ...g5 lines and only ...g5 lines)? Most of the so-called Ugly openings aren't really bad, but what about 1.h3, 1.a4, 1.a3 e5 2.h3 and, of course, the absurdity that is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5?

    There are other classification issues as well. It's easy to see why the openings listed above would be classified as Bad, Ugly, or both, but what are openings like the Danish Gambit, the Goring Gambit, the Smith-Morra, the Colle, the Ponziani and the Milner-Barry Gambit against the French doing in the "Ugly" section? All of these lines involve classical principles involving central play and speedy development; it's hard to think of an opening that wouldn't count as ugly if these can't make the cut.

    So what openings count as "Good", and if good openings are here too then isn't this just going to be an encyclopedia of chess openings? It seems that the cut for being in the book is that while the line is playable it's a bit of a second-tier choice, like the Torre Attack, the Trompowsky or even...the Colle(!?). (Note: It's odd that the Torre and the Tromp are "Good" but the similar London System and Veresov with 3.Bg5 are considered "Ugly". De gustibus non est disputandum.)

    I'm a bit confused about what goes where, and I'm even more confused about the ordering of the lines. Within a given section, the procession from one line to the next isn't by ECO code or alphabetical order; it seems entirely haphazard. That's a little annoying, but as there are indexes in the back listing the lines in alphabetical order and, more importantly, by a move order tree, the situation isn't as bad as it could be.

    Another surprise. While many obscure lines are covered, the authors disregard 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5; the "Matrix" as it's sometimes called. Of course it's junk, but that doesn't stop them from discussing such theoretical hot topics as 1.h4, 1.e4 h6, 1.e4 g5, 1.e4 f5 and so on. As Hikaru Nakamura played this (1.e4 e5 2.Qh5) on multiple occasions in the mid-2000s, even in serious tournaments against elite opponents, this really is an omission. (Note: it's possible that this is covered in passing in some other section without making it into the index. For instance, the Jerome Gambit - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+? Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ - is covered at the start of an entry on the Evans Gambit, even though it isn't listed in the index. So maybe the same is true of the Matrix.)

    A different sort of thought. If the target audience includes the sorts of players who could worry about lines like 1.h4 or 1.e4 h6, sometimes even simple things ought to be explained. They generally are, but not always. For instance, in some early chapters featuring King's Gambit sidelines, it's probably worth noting that after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 Qf6 or 2...Bc5 or almost any other way of declining the gambit, White should avoid 3.fxe5?? because of 3...Qh4+, winning a rook or generating a powerful, often lethal attack on the white king.

    Ultimately, what we care about is the quality of the analysis. While I'm unsure about using the title of a (great) Spaghetti Western as an organizational principle for a chess book and find the random ordering a nuisance, the book will still merit an upturned thumb if the analysis fulfills the authors' mission to "provide a simple and safe way to approach the position, requiring little memorization and hopefully leading to a promising game". (They rightly make an exception for certain lines where sharp and precise replies are required.)

    To evaluate this, I spot-checked a number of lines I've played, faced, or investigated in the past. What I looked for was whether the recommendation was sound for the reader facing the line, whether the intended victim's moves were the best or at least reasonable and plausible rather than cooperative, and whether the proposed variation was practical for the relatively lower-rated audience the authors seem to have in mind.

    In the "Bad" division, I checked the Halloween Gambit, the Spike/Grob, the execrable Philidor Counter-Gambit and both 3.Nxe5 and 3.exd5 vs. the Elephant Gambit. Most of the lines I examined checked out, with at most minor improvements available for one side or another, but I did find a fairly big error in the 3.exd5 line of the Elephant. After 3...e4 4.Qe2 Nf6 (4...Qxd5 is objectively best but not an especially tricky and therefore not well-motivated approach - if Black wants to play conventional chess he can do a lot better than the Elephant Gambit! At any rate, I concur entirely with their treatment of that move.) 5.d3 Be7 6.dxe4 0-0 the authors recommend 7.Qd3, which they attribute to a T. Breyer and which, they say, is considered a refutation by Stefan Buecker. (Buecker is a German FM and theoretician who specializes in offbeat lines, many of his own devising.) With no further commentary they give the following, citing a game De Smet-Rehfeld, corr. 1989-91: 7...Na6 8.Be3 Nb4 9.Qc4 b5 10.Qb3 Nxe4 11.Bxb5 with a clear advantage to White. So they say, and maybe so the engines said when Buecker offered his obiter dicta, but the position looks pretty messy after 11...Rb8. In fact, the computer thinks that Black is better despite being two pawns down, and I'd be happy to take Black in such a position. Unfortunately for fans of the Elephant Gambit, White can improve on both moves 7 and 8, but the book's suggestion in this case isn't very good.

    One more "bad" opening, the "Orthoschnapp Gambit". Never heard of it? Me neither, at least by that name. It is, however, the goofy gambit against the French that I used to play from time to time and which I wrote about in the earliest days of this blog back in 2005: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3. This was a line I saw attributed to the aforementioned Buecker back in the 1980s, and that was all I knew of it. Their main line goes 4...dxe4 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.d3 exd3 7.Be3 g6 8.0-0-0 Bg7 9.Bxd3 Qe7 10.Nf3 0-0 and "White still has to prove that he has something concrete for the pawn."

    I suppose that's true, but White has a big lead in development, active pieces that are going to get even more active after Rhe1 and Bc4, and he has gotten Black out of anything even remotely resembling a typical blocked-up French Defense. This is the kind of position White wants and that Black wants to avoid, and I think even a pretty strong club players would find it easier to handle the white pieces. To their credit, Watson & Schiller give a better option for Black, though they don't give it as the main line. (I don't like when books do that, especially without a great reason. Most consumers of chess books are looking for information; we're not reading to soak up every jot and tittle of the narrative. With rare exceptions, the absolute main line should represent what constitutes best play for both sides.) They don't examine the way I preferred to handle the gambit, many many moons ago, but as that's also inadequate against good defense I'll let them look it up themselves, if they're feeling up to it, as a minor research project in case there's a later edition of this book.

    This review could go on forever, but by now you all probably have a pretty fair idea about the book and whether you'd want to get it. I'll leave you with one last suggestion of theirs, from a more mainstream line: the Smith-Morra Gambit. After 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 they offer 4...e6 5.Nf3 Bc5, a relatively rare antidote that has scored pretty well. About this, they say, among other things, that "out of the first 10 top-rated games [in the database], Black scores seven wins and the other three are draws! The surprise value will apparently persist, since the main two recent books advocating the Morra Gambit for White either don't mention 5...Bc5 at all or dismiss it without analysis. So this is a great opportunity to put your opponents on their own resources."

    It is a relatively rare line, that's true, though there are still 272 games with the position after 5...Bc5 in the database. But their first statement is misleading and their second statement is simply wrong - unless they know of two other, more recent books on the Smith-Morra I haven't heard about. First the misleading statement, about the statistics. It's true that if you click on the ELO tab for Black you get that figure with seven wins for Black, three draws and no losses. But that doesn't give you the highest-rated games per se. In fact, if you click on the ELO tab for White you get a similar result in the opposite direction, though it's not quite as impressive: three wins for White, six draws, and just one loss - and in that game Black was almost 200 points higher-rated.

    As for the second statement, I'm assuming that the "two recent books advocating the Morra Gambit for White" are the second edition of Hannes Langrock's The Modern Morra Gambit (2011) and Marc Esserman's Mayhem in the Morra (2012). Neither player dismisses 5...Bc5, but Esserman does fail to take the plan mentioned by Watson & Schiller into account. While he gives 5...Bc5 in various indexes, when it comes time for the specifics ...Bc5 ends up getting played on move 6, and in neither game does his material interact with Watson's & Schiller's. So they're more or less right there, though I think they slightly overstate their case.

    When it comes to Langrock's book, however, they're completely wrong, as Langrock has half a chapter on 5...Bc5. In fact, Watson and Schiller's error here is a little embarrassing, as of the three games Langrock uses to cover the variation one is the Chandler-Timman game used by W/S and a second is a correspondence game played by Schiller himself. So I'm not sure what Watson & Schiller had in mind when they talked about the books ignoring their proposed line, but let's get to the details.

    After 6.Bc4 W/S offer two moves. 6...Ne7 is their main line, but they also support 6...d6 as a useful finesse. In fact, after 6...d6 7.0-0 a6 8.a3 they offer a new and interesting idea: 8...Nf6. Instead, 8...Ne7 was played in the correspondence game Walker-Schiller alluded to above, and Black was massacred after 9.b4 Ba7 10.Bf4 e5 11.Ng5 and so on. Black's problem is that he can't castle because of 12.Qh5, and that problem is solved by putting the knight on f6 instead. After 8...Nf6 it's evident that White has enough compensation for the pawn, but perhaps not more than enough, and at least Black has taken the Morra gambiteer out of the book.

    As for 6...Ne7, Langrock gives 7.Bf4 as the most accurate move order (White should do this before Black plays ...Ng6), and after 7...0-0 8.0-0 both books consider several moves, but I'll stick to W/S's main move: 8...f5. Their line goes 9.e5?! (their punctuation) 9...a6 10.a4 Ng6 11.Bg5 Qc7 12.Qe2 [DM: This natural move goes unpunctuated, but it merits a question mark.] Nc6 13.Rfe1 Nd4 14.Nxd4 Bxd4 "and Black has a big edge, Ebeling-Utasi, Ravenna 1983". Perhaps so, but 9.e5 isn't so obvious that a non-dubious move shouldn't be mentioned, is it? Stockfish proposes 9.Bg5 and claims White has full compensation, while Langrock gives 9.Qc1 Nbc6 [DM: The engine suggests 9...b6] 10.Rd1 with compensation, e.g. 10...Qe8 (10...Qb6 11.Bg3 with compensation) 11.exf5 d5! (11...Nxf5 12.Nxd5 [sic] with an initiative) 12.Bd3 Nxf5 13.Nb5 Bb6 14.Bxf5 exf5 15.Nd6 Qe2 16.Rd2 Qe7 17.Rxd5 Be6 18.Rd2 (the position is equal, provided Black plays 18...h6, but no evaluation is given).

    Time to sum things up. There is much to protest in the organization of the book, and to my mind a broadly ECO-style ordering would have been an improvement. The indexes in the back are very useful, but it would be better not to need them. The selection is a bit of a grab bag, but in general I like the diversity of lines they include, especially the number of more serious sidelines like the Torre, the Tromp and some very mainstream gambits. That makes the book much more useful than it would have been with a bigger dose or proportion of nonsense lines like 1.e4 h6. Some of the research seems to have been careless and perhaps out of date - maybe they reused material from earlier books they had done on obscure and dubious openings. (I don't have their earlier books, but know of them, and on occasion they cite them.) On the other hand, I found some good ideas in their work as well, and it's clear that they haven't merely culled existing theory but have developed some of their own.

    So the book is a mixed bag, in my opinion, and while I can't give it a unqualified recommendation I do think it's interesting enough to buy if you have a fondness for offbeat openings. Even stronger players could use it as a first source in building a repertoire against some second-tier openings, as long as they do a little double-checking with the computer and their other sources along the way.

    Tuesday
    Jun302015

    Dortmund 2015, Round 3: Three Wins and the Leader Draws

    It was another day full of fight and craziness in Dortmund, and in the end the chase pack drew closer to the leader, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. Nisipeanu gave up his first half point in the event, but although he had White it was his opponent, Hou Yifan, who had whatever winning chances there were. The key moment was Black's 21st move. If Hou wanted to play for a win she'd have to make go pawn-snatching, taking either on b2 or a2. Both moves seemed to be alright, but with White's pieces clustering around her king she took a practical decision that more or less forced a perpetual check some moves later.

    That was a good result for both players, in different ways, and it benefited the rest of the field too as it brought the leader back to the pack. The first player to exploit this was Arkadij Naiditsch, who won his second game of the tournament with Black (sandwiching a loss with White!). The victim this time was Wesley So, who got in trouble in several stages. First, allowing 18...d4 gave Black tremendous activity. It wasn't fatal though, and probably didn't even promise Black any advantage, but it made the position more challenging for White - especially against a dangerous attacker like Naiditsch. Second, 21.Ra1 was a clear error, ceding the c-file. So had to do something about the threat of 21...Rxc1 followed by 22...Qe1+ 23.Rxe1 Rxe1#, and 21.Ra1 fulfilled that task. It would have been better to play 21.g3, however, taking care of the back rank without conceding the file. There was an exchange of errors on move 24 (I'm guessing that both players missed 24...Nf4 25.Qh6 Qf6!, threatening especially 26...Bf8), and the final, now fatal, error came on move 26 when White grabbed the a-pawn. White is still kicking after 26.Qf3, though Black will have the upper hand. After 26.Qxa6? the rest was a massacre, and Naiditsch finished in style.

    That put Naiditsch at 2/3, and he was joined there by Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik beat Ian Nepomniachtchi with some tactical confusion. Kramnik had a significant advantage out of the opening but when it slipped away around move 25 the game remained equal through the time control. Kramnik did maintain an initiative, however, and with his rook and knights hopping around the Black king Nepo needed to stay on high alert. Black's fatal error was 46...Be5, when 47.Nb7 (with the idea of 48.Nd8 and 49.Rf7#!). While Black was able to stop that threat, there were too many other threats that he couldn't, and Kramnik soon reached a completely winning knight ending.

    Finally, Georg Meier let a full point slip away against Fabiano Caruana. Meier was winning and then some, right up until the time control. By then it was equal while remaining complicated, and Meier didn't manage to retain the balance. A tough loss for him; he could quite easily have had 2.5/3 by now.

    Here are the round pairings:

    • Caruana (1.5) - Naiditisch (2)
    • Hou Yifan (1) - So (1)
    • Nepomniachtchi (1) - Nisipeanu (2.5)
    • Meier (1) - Kramnik (2)