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    Monday
    Feb162015

    Tbilisi Grand Prix, Round 2: Five Draws and a Kasimdzhanov Win

    Rustam Kasimdzhanov had a significant advantage against Alexander Grischuk in round 1 before slipping and losing in time trouble, but in round 2 of the Tbilisi Grand Prix today he maintained his advantage and won against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

    The other five games were drawn, though not always smoothly. For instance, Alexander Grischuk won a pawn against Dmitry Andreikin and had good winning chances. Maybe Andreikin could have held even against perfect play, but Grischuk didn't find the best plan and let Andreikin off relatively easily.

    If you believe your engines, Anish Giri was winning against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but I wonder if the whole thing, from start to finish, was worked out to a draw by MVL with the assistance of his computer.

    Leinier Dominguez was surely winning against Peter Svidler, and with a bigger advantage than Giri had against Svidler when the latter resigned in their round 1 game. Svidler has been known on occasion to resign somewhat prematurely, but unfortunately for Dominguez this was not one of those days. Svidler defended like a lion for hours, and it paid off.

    Finally, the Teimour Radjabov - Baadur Jobava and Dmitry Jakovenko - Evgeny Tomashevsky games were both drawn without anyone getting into serious trouble, though this should not be understood as a claim that the games were "soft". They weren't.

    After two rounds Grischuk, Tomashevsky and Giri lead with 1.5/2, Vachier-Lagrave, Svidler and Jobava are tied for last with half a point, and the other six players are in between. Games (no notes) are here.

    Monday
    Feb162015

    Games Now Available

    ChessBase's online viewer is back up, so I've updated the last four posts with links to the relevant games in the usual format.

    Sunday
    Feb152015

    Tbilisi Grand Prix, Round 1 (UPDATED)

    Round 1 of the third Grand Prix event of the current cycle, held in Tbilisi, Georgia, kicked off today with a bang. Four of the six games were decisive, the two exceptions being Berlins with 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1. We'll say nothing more about them in this post!

    We begin with a noteworthy achievement: Anish Giri won with Black against Peter Svidler, and in the process became the 9th player in chess history with a FIDE rating over 2800. (It's not official yet, but will at least be immortalized on the Live List even if he doesn't manage to sustain it.) Amazingly, the 20-year-old Giri is just half a point behind Fabiano Caruana and the third spot on the list.

    The number two spot is held by Alexander Grischuk, who has increased the distance between him and Caruana by defeating Rustam Kasimdzhanov on the black side of a Noteboom Variation. This is not entirely to the credit of that interesting opening line, however. Kasimdzhanov enjoyed a clear advantage as late as move 29, but it was a complicated enough position that a couple of natural moves took him to equal and then lost within a space of three moves. When Kasimdzhanov resigned just a few further moves later, after 35 moves, he was already getting mated in three.

    Another win by Black, also in a late turnaround, was achieved by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. MVL stood better for much of the game in a 6.Be3 Ng4 Najdorf, but in what was probably mutual time trouble his mistakes were more frequent and more harmful than Mamedyarov's. Vachier-Lagrave made the time control and his 41st move, but then resigned.

    Finally, the white pieces managed to deliver in one game. Baadur Jobava played one of his oddball openings with Black against Evgeny Tomashevsky, and while he was slightly worse out of the opening he found the brilliant 15...Nxe5!!, which seems to equalize with perfect play. Unfortunately, he hadn't worked out all the details, and 17...Bxd4? resulted in a long forcing line where White was up a piece for two pawns. Whether White was winning at that point isn't clear, but Tomashevsky made steady progress and was winning by the end, even if might have been helpful to many of the fans to see how White could win against continued resistance.

    The tournament site is here, and as for the games...the same story as with the last post: we'll have to wait until ChessBase's online viewing page is again up and running. UPDATE: The games are here.

    Sunday
    Feb152015

    Zurich 2015, Round 2: Anand Beats Aronian With Great Preparation (UPDATED)

    The games between Vladimir Kramnik and Hikaru Nakamura and between Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana were both drawn, and while each had their moments the big game of round 2 in Zurich was between Viswanathan Anand and Levon Aronian. In their classical matchups Aronian has enjoyed a big plus score, most recently winning just eight days ago in the Grenke Chess Classic, but Anand has won the most important and the most spectacular games. (Important games: Mexico City 2007 and the Candidates' in 2014; spectacular games: Wijk aan Zee 2013 and to a lesser degree today's game.)

    Today's victory was the product of some outstanding opening preparation, almost surely done in the wake of his draw with Magnus Carlsen in game 10 of last year's world championship match. Aronian does play the occasional Gruenfeld, and after this game the amount of time he takes before trying it again is likely to increase. To his credit, Aronian's first five moves or so after the surprise were very good ones; his misfortune is that he needed to find a bunch more to come through safe and sound. Inevitably he erred, and Anand was able to finish things up at the board very quickly.

    That puts Anand into a tie for first with Nakamura with three points each after two rounds (they're using 2-1-0 scoring for the classical games; the subsequent rapid games will be scored in the usual way, with the overall totals tallied to determine a winner); there are three rounds to go. Tomorrow's pairings are as follows:

    • Aronian (1) - Kramnik (2)
    • Caruana (1) - Anand (3)
    • Nakamura (3) - Karjakin (2)

    I've analyzed the games, but the ChessBase online viewer is down (and has been for over a day); I'll post my analysis once it's back up. (UPDATE: It's back up, and the games are here.)

    Also of note: Viktor Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann played a two-game rapid match. The quality was low for the great players they once were (in Korchnoi's case, this wasn't long ago at all), but pretty high for players who will be 84 and 80, respectively, this March. Both players won with the white pieces; Uhlmann first and Korchnoi second.

    Saturday
    Feb142015

    Zurich 2015, Round 1: Caruana Self-Destructs Vs. Nakamura; Aronian Misses a Chance (UPDATED)

    Zurich 2015 opened with a battle between the champions, and it finished in a draw. Vladimir Kramnik held a relatively sedate Queen's Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation against Viswanathan Anand with patient defense, but the other two games were both livelier and more eventful.

    Levon Aronian and Sergey Karjakin contested a Meran, and the latter brought something new to the table. In a position that had arisen hundreds of times Karjakin produced a new move. It might be good one too, but as things transpired Aronian got the upper hand. The Armenian correctly offered a piece sac, and on move 24 had a choice: either take on f6 or give perpetual check. Aronian correctly assessed that the former was a draw and chose the second option; unfortunately for him there was a third choice: 24.Qg6+ Kh8 and now 25.Ng3! The best Black could do after that is an ending two pawns down and some drawing chances.

    The last game to finish was the first (and only) game with a winner. For most of the game that was likelier to be Fabiano Caruana, whose extra pawn counted for something. Caruana could have drawn at will, or even reached a pawn-up ending with no losing chances, albeit at the cost of reaching a position where his winning chances wouldn't be especially great either. As sometimes happens, the side who is better persuades himself to keep rejecting decent options that are drawish, and winds up pursuing paths that can lead to defeat. That's what happened here, as Caruana's position collapsed at the end of the time control. Caruana made it to move 41 just in time to realize that he was getting mated by force, and resigned a move later. Just to be clear, Nakamura did a very nice job of keeping things messy. Caruana's desire for more may have been what did him in, but he got a lot of help along the way from Nakamura. (All three games here, with my notes.) UPDATE: The games have been re-posted the usual way, here.)

    Because the classical stage will be followed by a rapid stage, these games are scored double. (The classical games are scored on a 2-1-0 system and the rapid will be scored in the traditional 1-.5-0 way.) Here, then, are the pairings for round 2, with the weighted scores in parentheses:

     

    • Kramnik (1) - Nakamura (2)
    • Karjakin (1) - Caruana (0)
    • Anand (1) - Aronian (1)

     

    Saturday
    Feb142015

    Resigning In A Drawn Position (Updated)

    There may be nothing worse in chess than resigning in a winning position, but resigning in a drawn position can't feel very good either. Naturally, it isn't always obvious that the position ought to be drawn, so vigilance is needed to the very end. A recent example occurred in the Azerbaijan Championship last month, in one of the games of the phenomenon that is Parviz Gasimov.

    Gasimov, who is 14, sported a rating of 1949 last October. Not bad. His rating in November? 2157. In December it was 2295 and by this January it was 2517. I'm not sure he'll manage to make 3000 by the end of March, but he has achieved something incredible even if he never gains another rating point in his life.

    Anyway, he won what was generally speaking a good game against the highly-rated FM Urfan Sevdimaliev, but a bit of carelessness - or maybe he was showing off? - right at the very end gave the latter a chance to save the game. (Have a look and see for yourself.) It's a pity for Sevdimaliev that he didn't find the draw, though the flip side is that it doubles the instructive value of the lesson: both the side that's winning and the side that's losing need to remain vigilant until the game is over.

    UPDATE: The game has been reposted in the usual format, here.

    Friday
    Feb132015

    Zurich 2015: Aronian, Caruana and Anand "Win" the Blitz

    In fact the blitz event was won only by Levon Aronian, scoring an undefeated 4/5, but as the primary aim in the blitz was to finish in the top 3 and thereby acquire an extra White game in the classical tournament starting tomorrow, Fabiano Caruana and Viswanathan Anand were in that important sense also winners by virtue of their second-place tie with 3.5 points apiece. Hikaru Nakamura finished with 2 points, while Vladimir Kramnik and Sergey Karjakin tied for last with just a single point each to their name.

    Pairing numbers were received and pairings were made, and this is what we have to look forward to tomorrow:

    • Anand - Kramnik
    • Aronian - Karjakin
    • Caruana - Nakamura

    Tournament site here.

    Thursday
    Feb122015

    Tbilisi Grand Prix Starts Sunday

    The third Grand Prix tournament of the 2014-2015 cycle opens Saturday and commences play on Sunday in Tbilisi, Georgia, and features the following players:

    • Alexander Grischuk (2810)
    • Anish Giri (2797)
    • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2775)
    • Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2759)
    • Peter Svidler (2739)
    • Dmitry Andreikin (2737)
    • Dmitry Jakovenko (2733)
    • Teimour Radjabov (2731)
    • Lenier Dominguez Perez (2726)
    • Evgeny Tomashevsky (2716)
    • Rustam Kasimdzhanov (2705)
    • Baadur Jobava (2696)

    The top two finishers in the overall Grand Prix automatically qualify for the next Candidates' event, and right now those spots are held by Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. Dmitry Andreikin is a relatively close third, however, and a big result here would give him a decent chance to qualify. Andreikin will not play in the final Grand Prix event (scheduled for Khanty-Mansiysk this May) while Caruana and Nakamura will be there. Also, Grischuk, Svidler and Tomashevsky scored as many points as Nakamura did in the Baku Grand Prix while skipping Tashkent; they too could conceivably equal or surpass Nakamura or even Caruana with a sufficiently strong performance in this tournament. The Candidates' spots are very much up for grabs! (More Grand Prix details and stats here.)

    Wednesday
    Feb112015

    Tkachiev on the Battle of the Chess Generations

    A little pop sociology here, to cleanse the palate before Zurich gets underway on Friday.

    Tuesday
    Feb102015

    Next Up: Zurich

    Despite its brevity, this year's Zurich Chess Challenge will still be a true super-tournament. There are only six players, but the "weakest" of them is rated 2760. Here's the lineup:

    • Fabiano Caruana 2810
    • Hikaru Nakamura 2792
    • Vladimir Kramnik 2783
    • Viswanathan Anand 2782
    • Levon Aronian 2774
    • Sergei Karjakin 2760

    If I understand the tournament website correctly, there will be a blitz tournament on Friday the 13th which will determine the pairings for the classical tournament. That will run from the 14th through the 18th, and then there will be a rapid event on the 19th. As I mentioned in an earlier post, octogenarians Viktor Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann will play also four rapid games with each other (two each on Sunday and Monday), so this should be a very entertaining event.