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    1948 World Chess Championship 1959 Candidates 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 Capablanca Memorial 2016 Champions Showdown 2016 Chess Olympiad 2016 Chinese Championship 2016 European Club Cup 2016 Isle of Man 2016 London Chess Classic 2016 Russian Championship 2016 Sinquefield Cup 2016 Tal Memorial 2016 U.S. Championship 2016 U.S. Junior Championship 2016 U.S. Women's Championship 2016 Women's World Championship 2016 World Blitz Championship 2016 World Championship 2016 World Junior Championship 2016 World Open 2016 World Rapid Championship 2017 British Championship 2017 British Knockout Championship 2017 Champions Showdown 2017 Chinese Championship 2017 Elite Mind Games 2017 European Team Championship 2017 Geneva Grand Prix 2017 Grand Prix 2017 Isle of Man 2017 London Chess Classic 2017 PRO Chess League 2017 Russian Championship 2017 Sharjah Masters 2017 Sinquefield Cup 2017 Speed Chess Championship 2017 U..S. 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    Saturday
    Nov242018

    Notre Dame to Trash the Trojans

    This is it, the end of the regular season. Notre Dame needs just this last victory, over hated rival USC, to complete a perfect regular season and assure themselves as a trip to the playoffs. The destruction begins presently, televised on USC.

    Go Irish!

    Friday
    Nov232018

    Ju Wenjun Wins the Women's World Championship - Again

    (That's twice in one year, which is ridiculous. (FIDE's fault, but thankfully they're putting an end to the idiocy.))

    Congratulations to Chinese GM Ju Wenjun, who had to win game 4 with Black against Kateryna Lagno just to force tiebreaks. She passed that test with flying colors, and then this morning it was on to tiebreaks. The first two rapid games finished in draws, in both cases thanks to opposite-colored bishops (which also saved Lagno in the third classical game), and the third tiebreak game should have been drawn in the same way as well. For whatever reason (ambition? pessimism about the opposite-colored bishop ending?) Lagno rejected that defensive approach, and lost the ending rather badly. (23.Bxb2 drew on the spot, and then 27.Bb2 was closer to a necessity. Technically White was only lost after 36.Ba5 - 36.Bd6 probably still held - but by then the degree of difficulty was unnecessarily high.) In game 4 Ju had White and obtained a big advantage, but let it slip away, perhaps because she wanted to be solid first in the de facto draw-odds situation. The position was about equal until Lagno's 34th move, which was an incredibly one-move blunder: 34...Qg6?? hung the queen. (The games of the final match can be replayed here, without notes.)

    An anticlimax, but overall very much a deserved and well-earned victory in the women's world championship tournament to complement her 5.5-4.5 women's world championship match victory over Tan Zhongyi this past May.

    Friday
    Nov232018

    World Championship, Game 10: Another, Tense, Draw

    The tension ramps up as the draws continue. Happy day-after-Thanksgiving, readers, and please excuse my Thanksgiving-related delay in posting about this game.

    It was Fabiano Caruana's turn to play White, and as in game 8 it was a Sveshnikov Sicilian. The first 11 moves were repeated, and then Caruana varied from 12.Bd2 with 12.b4, immediately implementing the typical plan of queenside expansion. Magnus Carlsen went for a blocking plan with 12...a6 followed by 13...a5, and then started his kingside play on move 16.

    The race was on, initially in White's favor, and on move 24 Caruana missed the one and only chance either player had in this game. Instead of the defensively-minded 24.g3 he should have greedily grabbed a pawn with 24.Bxb5. The point is not so much to take a pawn as to make the a-pawn a beast. Missing (or more likely, rejecting) this one opportunity, the game remained tense and complicated almost to the very end, but both players showed excellent form. A complicated middlegame gave way to a tricky and unbalanced double rook ending, and only well into the second time control did it fizzle out to a draw. (My analysis of the game can be replayed here.)

    The players have a rest day today, and the penultimate game takes place tomorrow (Saturday). After that the usual pattern is broken and there will be one more rest day before the last game on Monday. (Or rather, the last game if the match doesn't finish in a tie. If it does there will be one more rest day followed by tiebreaks on Wednesday.)

    Thursday
    Nov222018

    On the Chess Boom in Norway

    Here's an interesting if slightly condescending piece in the New York Times (HT: Howard Sample), on a chess boom in Norway that is of course thanks in good part to Magnus Carlsen's successes, but not only to them. Could this be reproduced in the United States, if when Fabiano Caruana defeats Carlsen and takes his title?

    Thursday
    Nov222018

    Women's World Championship: Ju Wenjun Misses a Chance to Equalize the Final Match

    Ju Wenjun came very close to winning in game 3 of the final match against Kateryna Lagno, and probably should have won it. (Her last best chance was 48.Rb7!) Lagno won game 2 to take the lead in this four-game match, and in this, her final game with Black, did what practically no one would recommend for anyone to do in that case: she played the King's Indian. It's a playable opening to be sure, but not one that bespeaks solidity. But more important than playing solid openings is playing the sorts of openings one feels comfortable with. Nevertheless, White had plenty of chances, was soon better, and was very close to obtaining a win.

    But no luck, and now Ju will have to win the final game with Black to force tiebreaks. If she doesn't succeed, her reign as champion will end, and Lagno will win the women's championship title for the first time in her career.

    Tournament website here.

    Thursday
    Nov222018

    World Championship, Game 9: Carlsen Lets an Advantage Slip; Draw #9 Results

    It's not as if neither player is obtaining any advantages, but so far no one is converting on them. This time it was Magnus Carlsen's turn to get the upper hand, thanks in part to good preparation and also to Fabiano Caruana's highly committal and somewhat questionable decision to play 17...Bxf3(?!). The resulting mass liquidation gave Carlsen a serious plus, his first meaningful advantage since game 1. Unfortunately for Carlsen and his fans, his hasty 25.h5(?) let Black off the hook, because 25...gxh5! followed by ...h4 (maybe he missed this?!) left White's king as exposed as its counterpart. (The game, with my abbreviated comments, can be replayed here.)

    The ninth straight draw set a record for the most draws at the start of a world championship match, breaking the record from the 1995 Kasparov-Anand match. Unlike that match, which was a best-of-20 contest, there are only three games left here until a possible rapid (and blitz) playoff. Will anyone win a game?

    Tuesday
    Nov202018

    Women's World Championship: Lagno Wins Game 2 of the Final

    Now Ju Wenjun has a test. For the first time in the entire competition, she has lost a game; fortunately for her, she did it in the finals, which are best-of-four rather than best-of-two like all the preliminary rounds. So she still has a chance, and with her second and last white game (unless she reaches a playoff) in the next game it may be do-or-die for the defending champion.

    Event website here.

    Monday
    Nov192018

    World Championship, Game 8: An Open Sicilian Results in Another Draw

    At last we were treated to an Open Sicilian, as Fabiano Caruana finally put the Rossolimo on the shelf and met Magnus Carlsen's 2...Nc6 Sicilian with 3.d4. As most commentators (myself included) expected, Carlsen went for a Sveshnikov Sicilian, and (not necessarily as expected) Caruana went for the secondary line with 7.Nd5.

    Of course Carlsen was prepared for this line, but Caruana's preparation went deeper, and he didn't have a real think until move 20. He wound up with a serious advantage, too, until the unnecessary prophylactic move 24.h3 gave Carlsen the tempo he needed to get his counterplay going. White more or less had to force a queen trade, and his advantage after this was too small to give him any serious hopes of winning. With just rooks and opposite-colored bishops remaining, Caruana offered a draw with his 38th move, and it was accepted.

    Only four games remain, and we'll see game 9 on Wednesday, as tomorrow (Tuesday) is a rest day. Here's game 8, with brief notes.

    Monday
    Nov192018

    Stockfish Wins Chess.Com Computer Championship (Blitz)

    Stockfish won easily, with 178/300; none of the other three engines reached an even score. Komodo scored 144.5, Lc0 139.5, and Houdini finished fourth of four in the final stage of Chess.com's Computer Chess Championship, blitz edition. Stockfish only lost eight games of 300 while winning a chessically appropriate 64 - very impressive!

    Monday
    Nov192018

    The Pop Quiz/Unexpected Hanging Paradox, Chess Edition

    I've always enjoyed puzzling through philosophical paradoxes, and one that I would sometimes mention to students was the so-called pop quiz paradox. The way it works is this: the teacher tells his students that there will be a pop quiz next week, where a pop quiz is defined as one whose specific date cannot be predicted. (The unexpected hanging paradox is the same thing, except that it's a prisoner's being hanged that will be the unpleasant, unpredictable surprise.) It might come on Monday, it might come on Friday, or any day in between. It will happen, it won't be announced beforehand, and it can't be predicted with certainty beforehand.

    But with this definition a problematic result ensues. Suppose, the students reason in advance, that it hasn't happened after next Thursday's class. Then it would have to be on Friday, but since Friday is impossible (it would be predictable with certainty) it wouldn't be a pop quiz. (We're assuming here and throughout that both the teacher and the students are fully rational, and are aware that the other partie(s) are fully rational as well.) Therefore, the students know on Wednesday that since it can't happen on Friday, it would have to happen on Thursday. But if it has to happen on Thursday, then once again it's not a pop quiz. And since this reasoning can be repeated, it can't be on Wednesday, Tuesday, or Monday either. In fact, one could have an infinite number of days, and all can be ruled out one by one. This seems nuts, however - obviously if a teacher tells the students that there will be a pop quiz some time during the semester or the school year, it's clear that the students can be surprised, even if the reasoning purports to show that a pop quiz is impossible. So something is going wrong somewhere.

    Anyhow, I was thinking about Fabiano Caruana's chances to win the match during the classical portion, and wondering when exactly he should "panic" about the possibility of the rapid (and possibly blitz) playoff. (I'm assuming he's a relatively heavy underdog in the rapid and a serious underdog in the blitz, if it comes to that. And by "panic" I mean that he should take some extra - but not suicidal - risks to increase the possibility of a decisive classical game.) Certainly by game 12 it will be time to take some extra risks, but what about before that?

    Now, let's suppose that Magnus Carlsen will know when Caruana is in a panic situation, and that this knowledge can be used to give his chances a serious extra boost. (This may not be true, but let's suppose it is for the sake of the thought experiment.) If that's correct, then it seems that we'll have another version of the pop quiz paradox. Caruana won't want to wait until game 12 to panic, because then Carlsen will know and will have an extra edge. But then after game 10 Carlsen will know that Caruana can't wait until game 12, and must therefore panic in game 11. But then that's bad for Caruana as well...and so on, all the way back to game 1. So how do we resolve this? And speaking outside the bounds of the paradox, when should Caruana panic (in the sense above) if the match is tied?