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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 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 22014 Sinquefield Cup 22014 U.S. Championship 60 Minutes A. 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    Tuesday
    Nov112014

    World Championship, Game 3: Anand Strikes Back to Level the Match

    In last year's world championship match between the same players, the score was likewise 1.5-1.5 after three games, but the feeling is very different this time around. Having been totally outplayed in games 5-10 of last year's match and the first two games of this one, it looked as if Viswanathan Anand might be hopelessly outclassed by Magnus Carlsen. After today's game, there is hope and relief for Anand and his fans, and for everyone who wants to see a competitive match.

    In game 1 Anand tried to complicate the play and succeeded up to a point, and today he was even more successful. Carlsen went into a deeply theoretical line of the Queen's Gambit Declined with Black, but it was soon clear that Anand had done his homework and that Carlsen hadn't. Anand's preparation went up to at least his 22nd move, at which time he had a clear advantage and a huge lead on the clock. Some further precise moves like 26.Rc6! and 28.Ra1! put Carlsen under enormous pressure, and in a difficult position he cracked with 28...Ba5 and 29...Bxc7, losing serious material without achieving any counterplay whatsoever. In a hopeless position and just a few seconds left, Carlsen resigned on his 34th move.

    Carlsen is a very resilient player - one of the most resilient in top-level chess, if not the most resilient, so he will not crumble after this. But Anand needed this win very badly, and now that he should have his confidence up we could be in for a great match! (Those of you who feared a rout may want to take this opportunity to subscribe. The first step is to drop me a note via the "Contact" link on the sidebar.)

    The match site is here, and the game, with my light commentary, is here. (Much more detailed coverage, plus a video, will be sent out to subscribers later.)

    Tuesday
    Nov112014

    Petrosian Memorial: Grischuk-Kramnik Drawn; Grischuk Takes Clear First

    Alexander Grischuk finished the Petrosian Memorial facing Vladimir Kramnik, and if Kramnik had won the players would have concluded the event tied for first. Winning to order against Grischuk would be a difficult task for Kramnik even in his best form and with the white pieces, but with the black pieces and seeing Grischuk playing the best chess of his life this year it wasn't in, on, under or through the cards.* Kramnik tried a sharp line against the Catalan, one he had previously used successfully against Veselin Topalov, but an alert Grischuk noticed that instead of the theoretical 10.Bd6 White could play 10.Bc3 and more or less force a draw on the spot, as Black cannot afford to allow Nxb5. So Grischuk took clear first and Kramnik took clear second.

    Three players were tied for third entering the round, and two of them won. Boris Gelfand defeated Peter Leko with a nice breakthrough in a rook ending, and Levon Aronian won a complicated bishop ending against Ernesto Inarkiev. The third member of the pre-round triumvirate, Ding Liren, only drew with Morozevich. For Gelfand, going +1 was a nice rebound from the disaster in Tashkent (and a real accomplishment for a man playing in his third straight tournament, perhaps especially at his age), and it was a decent result for Aronian as well.

    Back now to the main show - the Carlsen-Anand match!

    * A little joke for those who caught Peter Svidler's discussion a week or so ago on "in the cards" vs. "on the cards".

    Monday
    Nov102014

    Petrosian Memorial, Round 6: Kramnik Beats Morozevich

    Alexander Grischuk continues to lead the Tigran Petrosian Memorial, but he is not yet guaranteed clear first. Levon Aronian put Grischuk under pressure in a Gruenfeld (Aronian was White), but Grischuk played very well to draw. He is at 5/6 (a great score good for a 3011 TPR), but thanks to Vladimir Kramnik's attacking victory over tailender Alexander Morozevich it's not over. Kramnik has 4 points and the good news for him is that he gets Grischuk in the last round. His bad news is that he gets Black, so Grischuk's a very strong favorite to finish the event on top.

    I've analyzed Kramnik's win over Morozevich here and provided the round's other three games (all drawn) as well. Also, Jeffrey Hall wrote in to mention a remarkable blunder in the round four game between Morozevich and Ernesto Inarkiev, so that's also included at the link above.

    Last Round Pairings:

    • Grischuk (5) - Kramnik (4)
    • Inarkiev (2) - Aronian (3)
    • Gelfand (3) - Leko (2.5)
    • Morozevich (1.5) - Ding Liren (3)

    Monday
    Nov102014

    Big Money Blitz in Sochi

    Once the Petrosian Memorial finishes in Moscow, most of the players (Ding Liren and Levon Aronian will be absent) plus four others will zip over to Sochi, site of the world championship, for a big money ($100,000) double round robin blitz (4' + 2") tournament on Thursday and Friday. The full lineup is here.

    Sunday
    Nov092014

    Petrosian Memorial, Round 5: Grischuk Wins Again!

    It isn't quite Fabiano Caruana's streak at the Sinquefield Cup, but Alexander Grischuk's score of 4.5/5 in the Tigran Petrosian Memorial (and 7.5 out of his last 8 games) is extremely impressive. Today's victim was Peter Leko, and although Leko is one of the most solid players in chess he was outfoxed in a complicated game and lost in just 33 moves.

    He hasn't quite managed to clinch even a tie for first yet, with two rounds remaining, as Vladimir Kramnik is "only" a point and a half behind after drawing with Levon Aronian. Aronian is on 50%, as is Ding Liren (who drew with Ernesto Inarkiev) and Boris Gelfand (who defeated Alexander Morozevich in a nice game).

    (Because I need to spend time working on the Carlsen-Anand analysis I won't take the time now to analyze the games from this round, but the two decisive games are worth your attention, so I'll post them here.)

    Round 6 Pairings:

    • Kramnik (3) - Morozevich (1.5)
    • Ding Liren (2.5) - Gelfand (2.5)
    • Leko (2) - Inarkiev (1.5)
    • Aronian (2.5) - Grischuk (4.5)

    Sunday
    Nov092014

    Carlsen-Anand, Game 2: Carlsen Wins After Anand Blunders in a Bad Position

    This is clearly not the way Viswanathan Anand hoped to start his second world championship match against Magnus Carlsen. The position he reached from the opening, a "Closed" Berlin (4.d3)  was reasonable enough, objectively speaking, but Carlsen found a nice plan to whip up a dangerous kingside initiative - 14.Ra3 was the clear signal, but the previous moves had prepared the plan. Anand defended well for a while, but 20...Bxf5 rather than the tactically clever 20...Kh8 (21.Rxf6 Qf7) was a big concession. Soon the players reached their second straight heavy piece ending, but this time Carlsen entered it with a large positional advantage. Carlsen's technique was not up to its usual incredibly high standard, but he was still in control when Anand played 34...h5??, which lost on the spot. Carlsen played 35.Qb7 and Anand resigned on the move.

    Anand's propensity to make concessions like 20...Bxf5 was part of what ruined his chances last year, and it looks like it's happening again. The trouble is that his keep-it-simple approach, one he has used to the point of cynicism over the years, has worked very effectively against everyone else in the chess world, at least since Garry Kasparov's retirement. Against Carlsen (as against Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov in their primes) it is a disaster. He accepts the concession, then ramps up the tension again until the opponent makes another concession, which he again accepts and starts the process all over again. Most players, even great ones, tend to relax at least a little once they've extracted some gain from their opponents; most, but not Carlsen. Anand must try not to let Carlsen get risk-free positions, where he is simply the best player in the world, and by a significant margin.

    For Anand to choose the Berlin against Carlsen is almost the exact inversion of Kasparov's problem in 2000 against Vladimir Kramnik. Kasparov kept banging his head against the Berlin ending, believing (with some justification, at least at the time) that White simply must be better there and thus sticking to the principled belief that he should keep at it. Had he switched to the less principled 4.d3, he might not have obtained any advantage but would have reached positions where his own natural gifts would be more likely to shine. For Anand, it's the opposite: he is playing the Berlin because he believes (with justification) that Black is doing fine there. That's true (or at least seems to be true at this point in time), but he is thereby heading into the kinds of positions where his opponent's gifts for chess are more likely to shine than his own. Giving Carlsen a position where he can just grind away with no risk at all is a ridiculously bad strategy. It's not that Carlsen can't play in sharper positions - of course he can - but there they can fight on a much more equal footing. So: if Anand has some Sicilian lines ready to go in his preparation, it's time to use them. Make Carlsen take strategic risks!

    The game, with some light annotations, can be replayed here. (Subscribers' coverage is coming later today. For non-subscribers, it's not too late to sign up!)

    Saturday
    Nov082014

    ASU 55, Notre Dame 31

    So much for any national championship hopes! What a ridiculous game: four turnovers gave Arizona State a 34-3 lead in the first half. Then Notre Dame finally started playing competently, and with six minutes left in the game had closed it to 34-31! ASU bounced back and scored a touchdown, then when ND was driving right back down a received bobbled a ball and turned it into a second pick-six for the defense. One more ND failure in the closing minutes resulted in the final score.

    Wait 'til next year!

    Record to date: 7-2.

    Next victim: Northwestern.

    In lieu of a tune, here's a dramatic interpretation of ND's turnover-prone play.

    Saturday
    Nov082014

    Notre Dame to Exorcise the Sun Devils Shortly

    The 8th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish are in sunny Arizona this afternoon to take on and dismantle the 11th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils in a must-win game to keep their playoff chances alive. (They need to finish in the top four in the rankings by season's end, which includes three more games after this one.)

    The exorcism begins at 3:30 p.m. ET, and will be televised on ESPN3.

    Saturday
    Nov082014

    Petrosian Memorial, Round 4: Grischuk's Winning Streak Ends as Everyone Draws

    Alexander Grischuk's three-game winning streak in the tournament and six-game streak overall concluded today after he drew with the black pieces against Ding Liren. The other games were drawn as well, and tomorrow's round 5 pairings look like this:

    • Aronian (2) - Kramnik (2.5)
    • Grischuk (3.5) - Leko (2)
    • Inarkiev (1) - Ding Liren (2)
    • Gelfand (1.5) - Morozevich (1.5)

    Pointless tournament link here; more useful info here.

    Saturday
    Nov082014

    Carlsen-Anand, Game 1: An Eventful Draw

    This year's world championship match got off to a much livelier start than last year's. This began from move 1, with Viswanathan Anand opting for 1.d4 rather than 1.e4. In the previous match his tries with 1.e4 led to nothing against Magnus Carlsen's Berlin, while 1.d4 in game 9 gave Anand his best shot with White in the whole match, notwithstanding the final result of that game.

    In that game from last year Carlsen headed for a Nimzo-Indian, but today he chose a Gruenfeld. After 4.cxd5 Nxd5 Anand opted for Smyslov's system with 5.Bd2, and obtained an active position where Black needed to exercise serious care to avoid concrete problems. So far, so good for the Anand game plan, but when Carlsen rose to the occasion and solved those problems Anand started to drift. Move by move as the time control approached Carlsen gained ground and it looked like he might be on the path towards another trademark boa constrictor victory. After the time control, however, Anand was able to tighten things up and chose an excellent defensive setup that enabled him to hold the game, although I suspect that Carlsen might have missed an opportunity for more.

    Both players have some grounds for satisfaction in the game: Anand was able to get an open fight and then later showed his ability to defend resiliently in his opponent's kind of position, while Carlsen can feel good about neutralizing his opponent's opening surprise with Black without too much trouble and then managing to seize the advantage as well.

    The game is here (with very light notes); game two will be tomorrow. Subscribers: more coverage is coming!