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    Thursday
    Oct042018

    TCEC Season 13 Finale: Stockfish vs. Komodo

    Coming soon to an internet near you.

    Thursday
    Oct042018

    Arkady Dvorkovich, FIDE President

    It was a close race, won by Arkady Dvorkovich over de facto incumbent Giorgios Makropoulos, 103-78. What about Nigel Short? He gave his final speech and then withdrew, endorsing Dvorkovich (and receiving a VP appointment after Dvorkovich won). Is this a good thing? It may depend on whether one thinks that FIDE's many sins are primarily due to Russian corruption (in which case you'll worry about Dvorkovich) or Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and his team (in which case you'll be delighted that Makropoulos is out). Of course, the two possibilities aren't mutually exclusive. But let's hope for the best and see what Dvorkovich does. At least his track record with the Russian Chess Federation has been promising, so there are some grounds for hope.

    More on the election here.

    Wednesday
    Oct032018

    On Ilyumzhinov and Tomorrow's FIDE Presidential Election

    For those who are new to the party, here's a brand spanking new article on outgoing FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, rehashing some of his old shenanigans (both those he admits and those which are only alleged) and offering en passant a little information about tomorrow's (Wednesday's) Presidential elections.

    HT: Ross H.

    Tuesday
    Oct022018

    Olympiad, Round 8: U.S. in Clear First

    In the Open section, that is. The women are in a five-way tie for third - more on that later.

    Entering round 8 (of the Open) three teams led: the U.S., Azerbaijan, and Poland. The first two teams faced off, while Poland took on Armenia. The U.S. team didn't get off to a disappointing start, as Hikaru Nakamura obtained a serious advantage against Arkadij Naiditsch but had it slip away after an inaccurate 28th move. That game finished in a draw, and then Wesley So lost to Teimour Radjabov. It was a remarkably easy win for Radjabov, too: he collected a weak pawn and converted his advantage in a heavy piece ending. The U.S. had its work cut out for it, but it came through. In the match of the Olympiad, the world's #2 and #3 players - Fabiano Caruana and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, respectively, faced off. Caruana had White and obtained a moderate plus and permanent pressure in a deep theoretical line of the Open Ruy. Mamedyarov's position was fine - for a computer - but the continuous pressure against his king eventually cost him the game. (N.B. With the win, Caruana is only 4.5 points behind Magnus Carlsen on the rating list. A strong finish for Caruana will put him at #1 on the list, the first time in seven years, I think, that anyone else has had the top spot.) Finally, Sam Shankland was quickly better with Black against Rauf Mamedov in an Italian Game, but converting the advantage took forever and a day. It took 96 moves before Mamedov finally forced to throw in the towel, and that's okay: Shankland can take tomorrow off if he's too tired to play.

    On to Armenia-Poland. On board 1 Levon Aronian had good chances to beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda, but the latter escaped with a draw. On board 2 Radoslaw Wojtaszek never had much (and generally had nothing) against Gabriel Sargissian: another draw. On boards 3 and 4, as on board 1, White had some advantage, but those games also finished in a draw. Poland thus fell behind the U.S. team, but is ahead of everyone going into round 9, when they will face the leaders.

    In other top matches: India beat the Czechs thanks to a win by Sasikiran over Stocek on board 4; Germany beat Spain thanks to Fridman's board 3 win over Lopez Martinez; England beat Israel thanks to McShane's board 2 victory over Rodshtein, France beat Ukraine on account of Bacrot's win against Kryvoruchko on board 2, and China won their match against the Netherlands when Bu Xiangzhi defeated van Wely on board 3. In all five matches, the victory given was the only one of the match!

    Here are the top pairings for round 9:

     

    • Poland (7) - USA (7.5)
    • Azerbaijan (6.5) - China (6.5)
    • India (6.5) - Armenia (6.5)
    • Germany (6.5) - France (6.5)
    • England (6.5) - Norway (6)

     

    In the Women's section, Armenia led entering the round but was dispatched by Ukraine 3-1. China crushed Romania by an even more impressive 3.5-.5 margin, and joins Ukraine in the lead. They already played (recall Ushenina's failure to hold a drawn rook ending against Huang Qian, allowing the Chinese to draw the match), so they'll drop down to teams in the next score group. That includes the U.S., which defeated Italy 3-1. Other important results: Georgia 1's shocking 3-1 loss to Kazakhstan, Hungary's 3-1 win over India, and Azerbaijan's 2.5-1.5 win over Georgia 2.

    Top Women's pairings for round 9:

     

    • Kazakhstan (6.5) - China (7)
    • Azerbaijan (6.5) - Ukraine (7)
    • USA (6.5) - Hungary (6.5)
    • Armenia (6.5) - Iran (6)

     

    Games: I'll try to catch up on them tomorrow.

    Tuesday
    Oct022018

    Stockfish, Stockfish

    Stockfish won Chess.com's 2018 Computer Chess Championship, defeating Houdini 120-80 (+44 -4 =152) in the final match. (HT: Anon) The games were played with a 15'+5" time control, and it's clear for now that neither Houdini nor Komodo is able to compete with Stockfish. (Leela Chess Zero is another story; it's getting consistently better.) For now I don't see a website with the results, so if a reader can supply that it would be appreciated.

    Stockfish is also leading in the penultimate stage of TCEC 13 with 38.5/55, with Komodo three points behind, Houdini a further three points back, and Fire yet another six points behind. So it looks like Stockfish's Superfinal punching back will be Komodo this time around, unless they've got some massive improvements ready to implement. (And in the meantime, the Stockfish team has already produced some serious improvements over the version that's currently in action. Programmers are allowed to switch to upgraded versions between stages, but not in the middle of a stage.)

    Tuesday
    Oct022018

    Olympiad, Round 7

    The match of the day was between the hitherto perfect co-leaders, Poland and Azerbaijan. They're still undefeated and still the co-leaders, but after a 2-2 draw (all four games were drawn as well), they're no longer perfect, and they've been caught by the U.S. The Americans faced an overperforming Croatian team, but the rating gap proved too much for the latter this time and the U.S. won 3-1, winning both white games and drawing the black ones. Ukraine-China and Germany-Netherlands were also 2-2 ties with every game drawn, and Israel vs. the Czech Republic was likewise drawn, but with White winning every game. Almost all of the higher-rated favorites won in the subsequent top matches, with Russia's failure to defeat Serbia a stunning exception. If anything, they were fortunate to save the match as Kramnik won his game only after his opponent blundered in a complicated position.

    Top pairings for round 8 (ongoing):

    • USA (6.5) - Azerbaijan (6.5)
    • Armenia (6) - Poland (6.5)
    • Czech Republic (5.5) - India (5.5)
    • Spain (5.5) - Germany (5.5)
    • Israel (5.5) - England (5.5)
    • France (5.5) - Ukraine (5.5)
    • China (5.5) - Netherlands (5.5)

    In the Women's section, the United States' dream run came to an end as they lost to Armenia 2.5-1.5. Armenia won both white games, and while our youngest and lowest-rated player, Jennifer Yu, came through to defeat her higher-rated opponent on board 4, Irina Krush only managed a draw against her opponent. In other top matches, Georgia 1 drew with India 2-2, China beat the Netherlands 3-1, Ukraine beat Iran 2.5-1.5 (but gave Anna Ushenina the day off), Italy and Azerbaijan played to a 2-2 tie, and the Romania women beat the Uzbeks 2.5-1.5.

    Leading Women's Pairings for Round 8:

    • Ukraine (6) - Armenia (6.5)
    • China (6) - Romania (6)
    • Georgia 1 (6) - Kazakhstan (5.5)
    • USA (5.5) - Italy (5.5)
    • Hungary (5.5) - India (5.5)
    • Georgia 2 (5.5) - Azerbaijan (5.5)

    And finally, here's a selection of games with very light notes, taken from readers Greg Steele (the first four suggestions are his, going back to round 6 and mainly focused on opening ideas that caught his attention) and Marc Beishon (mostly noting some blunders).

    Sunday
    Sep302018

    Olympiad, Round 6

    Just results for now; I'll leave game selection to all of you. The Azeris and the Poles share the lead with perfect scores, at least one of which will come to an end when they face off tomorrow. Azerbaijan defeated the hitherto surprisingly successful Czech team 3-1, with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov defeating David Navara on board 1 and Arkadij Naiditsch defeating Zbynek Hracek on board 3. Jiri Stocek had a chance to win one back against Rauf Mamedov on board 4, but didn't manage to pull it off.

    Poland defeated Ukraine by the minimum margin, 2.5-1.5, drawing three games while Jan-Krzysztof Duda beat Vassily Ivanchuk on board one. Anton Korobov probably should have won against Kamil Dragun on board 4, but before Ukranian fans despair about what could have been, they can console themselves in the knowledge that Kacper Piorun had an even more winning position against Yuriy Kryvoruchko that he failed to convert.

    The board three match was a draw between Israel and Germany. Israel was the favorite, but was never close to winning the match.

    On board 4, the U.S. had an easy time against the heavily outrated Bosnia & Herzegovina team, winning 3.5-.5.; only Hikaru Nakamura failed to win on board 3, despite outrating his opponent by almost 400 points.

    China eked out a win against Iran, 2.5-1.5, and Russia-India and England-France finished in 2-2 draws - and all eight games were drawn. Unfortunately, there was no match between Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik. Both played in the match, but Kramnik is playing board three for the Russians. (Board two in this match, as Alexander Grischuk took the round off, but with Anand on board one it didn't matter.) [UPDATE/correction: It was Sergei Karjakin, not Alexander Grischuk who took the round off. Grischuk has taken the entire Olympiad off.]

    Here are the top pairings for round 7: 

    • Poland (6) - Azerbaijan (6)
    • Croatia (5) - USA (5.5)
    • Ukraine (5) - China (5)
    • Germany (5) - Netherlands (5)
    • Czech Republic (5) - Israel (5)
    • Belarus (5) - Armenia (5)
    • India (4.5) - Egypt (5) 

    In the Women's section, the U.S. women faced the top seeded Indians, and were outrated on every board - by more than 100 points on boards 1 and 4. And yet they survived with a draw, with White winning every game. The Indians' white games were massacres, but Irina Krush and Jennifer Yu outplayed their opponents in longer games to save the match. Well done!

    Board 2 was a bit of a farce, as Ukraine drew with China. It was a very even match in terms of ratings, but when Mariya Muzychuk won on board 2 while the boards 1 and 4 games were drawn, Ukraine had the match in the bag. All that was needed was for Anna Ushenina to draw a routine rook and one pawn vs. rook and two pawns ending against Huang Qian. Maybe a club player could lose it on a bad day or in time trouble, but surely not a grandmaster and former women's world champion. Right? Well, she found a way - and it's more interesting than you might suspect.

    If you look at the game with engine evaluations you might be inclined to blame 119.Rb8, and it is indeed the losing move, objectively speaking. There's a "but" coming, however, and it has three parts. First, while I'm sure Ushenina spotted 119.Rb3 Rg2 120.Kd4, it's not really something you want to play, allowing the king to be cut off from the kingside. Second, in the game continuation, it's very possible to miss the nasty trick 124.Kf4 Re4# back on move 119 (or earlier), and if not for that Ushenina gets her draw. The third point is that the really bad idea, to my mind, was putting the king on e3. Leaving it on f2, and when it's forced to quit the second rank to go back to f1, would have kept her out of trouble. Playing 116.Kf2 would let her draw in her sleep, e.g. 116...Ra2+ 117.Kf1 Rd2 (to block side checks when the king advances) 118.Ra8 (a "pass" move to prove the point) 118...Ke4 119.Ra5 and there's just nothing for Black. 119...f4 120.gxf4 is a trivial draw; 119...Rd5 120.Ra4+ (just not 120.Ra3+?? Rd3-+) 120...Kf3 (120...Rd4 121.Ra5) 121.Ra3+ keeps Black at bay, and in case of 119...Kf3 White avoids the temptation of the taking on f5 and kicks Black's king back with 120.Ra3+. It's a draw. So while the engine-question marks go on move 119, White's 116th move was a poor practical decision. Errare humanum est.

    Back to the overview: Russia lost again, 3-1 to Armenia; Azerbaijan beat Latvia 2.5-1.5; Italy beat Cuba 3-1; and the top Georgian team eked out a 2.5-1.5 win over the Georgia 2 squad. The U.S., Georgia 1, and Armenian teams are tied for first with 5.5/6, and here are the leading pairings for round 7: 

    • Armenia (5.5) - USA (5.5)
    • India (5) - Georgia 1 (5.5) (For some reason Georgia 1 is on board 6. I assume it has something to do with their being the home team, but I don't know what the exact explanation is, especially since they're the fourth seeds, not sixth.)
    • China (5) - Netherlands (5)
    • Iran (5) - Ukraine (5)
    • Italy (5) - Azerbaijan (5)
    • Romania (5) - Uzbekistan (5)
    Saturday
    Sep292018

    Notre Dame 38, Stanford 17

    It was close for a while, but Notre Dame wore them down and in the end, won going away, 38-17. Notre Dame looked extremely good; it's not that Stanford turned into Stanfiat. (Or for the middle-aged among you, Stanyugo.)

    Congrats to the Fighting Irish, who have to go up at least a spot or two, getting closer to a top 4 spot that would get them into the playoff.

    Record so far: 5-0.

    Next victim: Virginia Tech, which will probably be ranked somewhere between 20 and 25 in the next poll.

    Tune time!

    Saturday
    Sep292018

    Notre Dame to Lower the Cardinal's Ordinal

    It's time for one of the biggest games of the year in college football as the #8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish hosts the #7 Stanford Cardinal tonight. The game (and the accompanying beating by the home team) starts at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight (approximately half an hour from now, as of this writing), televised on NBC. After Notre Dame wins they should make a nice jump in the rankings, while Stanford drops out of the top ten. Good times ahead.

    Saturday
    Sep292018

    Olympiad, Rounds 2-5: Selected Games, Part 2

    It's a sequel to the previous post, but the title is a misnomer as all the games here are from rounds 4 and 5. Enjoy!