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    Monday
    Nov302009

    World Cup: Round 4, Day 1: Mostly Draws

    And of the six draws, most of them were quite short. Still, there were some interesting games today, most notably Svidler's successful defense against Shirov. Mamedyarov also won (likewise with Black) against Laznicka, and you can find all the games, with my comments, here.

    Sunday
    Nov292009

    World Cup: Round 3, Day 3: Down to the Sweet 16

    Today's rapid games were very lively, and I hope the readers will take the time to replay some of the games. Let's note some of the highlights:

    Round 3.3 (the first of the four rapid rounds):

    Judit Polgar may have inferred from her win yesterday that Boris Gelfand has what boxing fans call a glass jaw; if so, she was mistaken. She threw the kitchen sink at him - the exchange, pawns, etc. - and he took it, held on, and won.

    The next four boards were draws: Gashimov-Li Chao, Svidler-Naiditsch, Laznicka-Bologan and Jobava-Grischuk. Svidler-Naiditsch was a lot of fun though, a wild Catalan where White gave up the queen and a pawn for a couple of rooks. The material and the play remained imbalanced throughout, and ultimately it was Svidler who had to prove the draw.

    Jakovenko beat Areshchenko very quickly in a Najdorf line involving a White queen sac. The culprit was Black's 22nd move. 22...Rc5 was probably necessary, to continue with ...Rxd5; after 22...h6 23.Rg1 Black was simply lost and resigned two moves later.

    Bacrot-Wang Yue was a dull draw between two of the most, um, solid players in professional chess.

    Eljanov-Malakhov confirmed the adage that in a bad position, all moves are bad. White was quickly reduced to woodshifting, and his final move, 31.Be1, walked into the crushing 31...Bxf4! Since the "best" move, 31.e4, leaves White in a hopeless position after 31...Rxe4! 32.Nxe4 Qxe4 33.Rc3 Bf5 anyway, it didn't really matter.

    Karjakin also won, outplaying Navara with Black.

    Finally, Caruana-Alekseev was a draw, a Modern Benoni that caught my eye due to Black's curious knight maneuver. After move 16, the knight from g8 had taken the following route: g8-f6-g4-e5-c4-a5-b3!

    Round 3.4:

    There were four draws this round: Gelfand-Polgar (quick and quiet), Naiditsch-Svidler (a very exciting game with Black's king under constant pressure; it was generally equal but White missed a chance with 52.Qe8+ Qf7 53.Qxe5), Areshchenko-Jakovenko (pretty even throughout in an Exchange Ruy ending) and Alekseev-Caruana (a neo-Archangelsk that had the sniff of Black home prep).

    Two of the wins were pretty amazing, but not for the moves played. That's because there weren't any! Li Chao-Gashimov and Wang Yue-Bacrot were both won by Black, automatically, because the Chinese players didn't make it to the board at time. The zero-tolerance rule strikes again.

    In the real games, Bologan-Laznicka was won by Black in a Hedgehog when White got sloppy. 20.a4 was ambitious but refuted by 20...a5 21.Ba3 d5! Bologan quite possibly saw it and counted on 22.Ncd5, but at the end of the long tactical sequence ending with 31...axb4 Black was winning, and won. Grischuk was better throughout against Jobava, but the win wasn't in the bad until 37...Rc6??, losing the rook to a simple two-mover. Malakov won again over Eljanov after the latter's panicky 32...Qe7 took him from a slightly worse middlegame to a lost ending. Finally, Karjakin also doubled up on Navara with a nice win in a Ruy.

    Round 3.5:

    Polgar was completely outplayed in the opening and early middlegame against Gelfand, so she went unashamedly into desperation attack mode. Unfortunately for her, Gelfand was again up to the challenge, won the game, and ended the match. Gelfand wins, 3.5-1.5.

    Li Chao showed up on time for his third rapid game with Gashimov, but lost again anyway. Gashimov wins, 3.5-1.5.

    Svidler went to the well one time too many, playing the same queen sac line of the Catalan against Naiditsch. Naiditsch varied first, but more importantly improved his handling of the middlegame, and Svidler went down with shocking ease. (Perhaps this is what happens when career 1.e4 players try changing?) Naiditsch led 2-1, with game four still to come.

    Laznicka won a study-like ending with pawns against a knight, completing his upset of erstwhile 2700 Bologan. Laznicka wins, 3.5-1.5.

    Jobava got nothing and had nothing against Grischuk, but down one and with his last White, he had to try and try and try. Persistence paid off when Grischuk lashed out with 61...b5 and further erred with 68...Kh7. Despite these errors, he had another chance to save the game (maybe) with the spectacular 74...Qe8!! - but this is hard to find 74 moves into one's third game of the day after a week of chess. The point is that after 75.Qxg6 there's 75...Rb2+!, taking advantage of the loose queen on g6. Black isn't in great shape after 76.Ka4 Ra2+ 77.Kxb4 Rb2+ 78.Ka3 Ra2+ 79.Kxa2! Rf2+ 80.Kb3 Qxg6 81.Ra8+ Rf8 82.b7 Qe8 (forced) 83.Rxe8 Rxe8 84.Nf3 Rb8 85.Nxe5 Rxb7+ 86.Kc4 Rc7 87.Kxd4. Missing this, White won and equalized the match score.

    The battle of the enkos was drawn, so going into the fourth rapid game Jakovenko led Areshchenko 2-1.

    Bacrot, like Gashimov, built on his forfeit win, winning the battle of paint drying against grass growing. Wang Yue played the Petroff, Bacrot one-upped (or one-downed) him with 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Qe2, and got absolutely nothing. (Shock, horror.) Wang Yue miscalculated when he played 28...c4 though, and after the tactics ended with 36.Bxc3 had a lost ending for his troubles. Bacrot converted, winning the game and the match. Bacrot wins 3.5-1.5.

    Eljanov was down 2-0, but he was absolutely winning against Malakhov in a crazy game three. He missed some easier wins along the way, but with 47.Re1 the point still would have been his for the taking. Instead, he played 47.Qd7??, allowing the drawing 47...Re2! (48.e8Q Rxe8 49.Qxe8 Qb7+ with perpetual). The game was abandoned here: a draw would make sense, but TWIC reports it a win for Black - perhaps Eljanov was so disgusted with himself he chose to resign instead. It doesn't matter: Malakhov wins the match either way, and there aren't even any rating points at stake. Malakhov wins 4-1.

    I'm not 100% sure that the last match was won with a 4-1 score, but the Karjakin-Navara match definitely was. Karjakin won with Black and advanced to round 4. Karjakin wins, 4-1.

    Finally, Caruana made his paisans happy with a win over Alekseev and took a 2-1 lead.

    Round 3.6:

    Grischuk-Jobava was a quick draw, sending their match to blitz games.

    Alekseev-Caruana was a draw too, but this was a near-miracle for Caruana. (47.f7, for instance, should do the trick.) Caruana wins 3.5-2.5.

    Jakovenko beat Areshchenko with Black, finishing off their match convincingly. Jakovenko wins 4-2.

    In the fourth remaining game, Svidler needed to win with Black to save the match. He did it, but not without a little help at a crucial moment. 37.Rh4!! is a move that will haunt Naiditsch for a while, as it wins almost right away. If the queen stays on the a1-h8 diagonal, it is lost, but if it retreats the other way, say to c5, then 38.Rf4+! is a killer: 38...Nxf4 39.Qh7+ and 40.Qxe7#, or 38...Ke8 39.Rxf8+ Kxf8 40.Qh8+ Kf7 41.Qh7+ Kf8 42.g6. Naiditsch was probably in serious time trouble at this point, because from here on his position deteriorated in a hurry, culminating with his blundering a rook in an already lost position.

    Blitz Rounds:

    The two matches to reach this point ended quickly and one-sidedly, with Svidler and Grischuk winning two easy games each against Naiditsch and Jobava, respectively. So: Svidler wins 5-3 and Grischuk wins 5-3.

     

    On to the sweet 16! Here are the pairings, with the players' ages in parentheses:

    Gelfand (41) - Vachier-Lagrave (19)

    Grischuk (26) - Jakovenko (26)

    Laznicka (21) - Mamedyarov (24)

    Vitiugov (22) - Karjakin (19)

    Gashimov (23) - Caruana (17)

    Ponomariov (26) - Bacrot (26)

    Svidler (33) - Shirov (37) (A pity this match is happening so soon.)

    So (16) - Malakhov (29)

     

    Who ever said chess was a young man's game?

    Speaking of the games, you can download them from this page.

    Sunday
    Nov292009

    Stanford 45, ND 38

    Business as usual. See ya, Charlie.

    Saturday
    Nov282009

    World Cup: Round 3, Day 2: Some Comebacks

    Only one player who didn't win yesterday won today, while three of yesterday's defeatees returned the favor. Polgar beat Gelfand with a kingside attack, Areshchenko won a model bishop ending against Jakovenko's Scotch, and Karjakin showed the power of passed pawns against Navara. Those three matches are thus headed to tiebreaks tomorrow.

    The six match winners are Vitiugov (over Sakaev), So (over Kamsky - no more Americans), Ponomariov (over Motylev), Mamedyarov (over Wang Hao), Vachier-Lagrave (over Yu Yangyi) and Shirov (the only of the winners who got there by winning game 2, over Tomashevsky).

    More results, and games here.

    Saturday
    Nov282009

    Nakamura Wins BNbank Blitz

    It was an organizer's dream - except for the finish. The BNbank blitz tournament in Oslo, Norway, was set up for a final match between national hero Magnus Carlsen, the world's top-rated player and newly crowned world blitz champion, and Hikaru Nakamura, who has long been the world's best blitz player on the internet.

    The first part of the event consisted of multiple round-robins, and both Carlsen and Nakamura won their sections. Carlsen gave up one draw, to Cmilyte, while Nakamura scored a clean 6-0. Then it was on to the quarterfinals, best-of-four matches that mirrored the round-robins: both won; Carlsen giving up one draw in defeating Jon Ludwig Hammer 2.5-.0.5 and Nakamura blanking Kjetil Lie 3-0. In the semis, they were equally unmerciful: Carlsen 3-0'd Emanuel Berg and Nakamura did the same to Peter Heine Nielsen.

    On to the final. In the first game, Nakamura's 12-0 run came to an end, as Carlsen beat him with the black pieces. In game 2, Carlsen was winning, and it looked like Nakamura was in for a thumping. It didn't happen. Nakamura not only managed to hold on, but when Carlsen lost a seemingly unloseable position (a pawn up in a knight ending!) the match was tied. (The culprit was 62.Kf6??, losing when 62.f4 would have won.) After this, Carlsen might have lost a little confidence, and Nakamura won games 3 and 4 as well, winning the match 3-1 and scoring a hefty 15-1 overall. Carlsen finished second, of course, and Nielsen defeated Berg 2.5-1.5 in their final match to take third.

    To see all of Nakamura's and Carlsen's games from the event (preliminaries and head-to-head), as long as the Nielsen-Berg games, go here (and close the pop-up). Next step, select BNb blitz 2009, and then expand each of the alphanumeric round links in turn (from the bottom up, if you want to go in chronological order) and then on the games within the links.

    Friday
    Nov272009

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: Some Amusing Moments from the World Cup

    A little light entertainment this week, as I present a couple of miniatures and an act of priceless self-destruction from the ongoing World Cup in my ChessVideos show this week. You can watch it here: it's free and available on-demand for the next month or so.

    Friday
    Nov272009

    World Cup: Round 3, Day 1: Many Wins, Few Upsets

    There was only one upset of any significance today, and the victim was the last American in the tournament, Gata Kamsky. Wesley So was his conquerer - with Black, no less - and he joins with seven other winners today. Here are the results:

    Gelfand - Polgar 1-0

    Vachier-Lagrave - Yu Yangyi 1-0

    Jobava - Grischuk ½-½

    Jakovenko - Areshchenko 1-0

    Bologan - Laznicka ½-½

    Mamedyarov - Wang Hao 1-0

    Sakaev - Vitiugov 0-1

    Navara - Karjakin 1-0

    Li Chao - Gashimov ½-½

    Caruana - Alekseev ½-½

    Ponomariov - Motylev 1-0

    Bacrot - Wang Yue ½-½

    Svidler - Naiditsch ½-½

    Tomashevsky - Shirov ½-½

    Kamsky - So 0-1

    Eljanov - Malakhov ½-½

    Rather than describe the games, I've simply commented on all of them - though in a few cases, the "comments" consist in marking the first new move with an "N". Also, the Mamedyarov game was not available when I produced my comments, so I can't help you there. But who else is commenting on all of the games? Have a look, here.

    Thursday
    Nov262009

    Ivanchuk, Polgar, Akobian Interviews

    The interviews above, and more, are all accessible from the World Cup home page. They're short and less than ideally translated, but they're better than nothing. Or at least, most of them are: the Ivanchuk interview has an almost apocalyptic tone. Here are some excerpts:

    To my mind I should leave the professional chess now. Chess becomes hobby for me from now on. As for the signed contracts, yes, I will play in all tournaments where I have to. Perhaps I will even participate in a tournament before the New Year. I should win SOMETHING! And that will be the end. No serious plans, no professional goals.

    ...

    • (Questioner:) It is well known – chess and Ivanchuk cannot exist separately.

    •  This is right but in the past. And now chess is killing me. Chess is playing against me! Chess is destroying me! I would take it easy if my opponent would be much stronger than me, or he will be better prepared. But my loss was so stupid, it is a destiny sign, which screams: “Vasya, leave it, it is not your business”.

    ...

    •  There is an impression that you put all stakes on this tournament?

    Maybe. But now I only feel that the world crashed down around me. Everyone is against me and I don't see the way out…

    Thursday
    Nov262009

    Carlsen, Nakamura This Saturday in Oslo

    There's a strong invitational blitz (3' + 2") tournament this Saturday in Oslo, Norway, starring Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura. It should be a lot of fun, but I am slightly worried that if Nakamura is going to go from America to Norway to America to London (for the real tournament there starting December 7) he may not be 100% when it really matters. That's for him to worry about; for us, we get an extra little show.

    More details here.

    Thursday
    Nov262009

    World Cup, Round 2, Day 3 (Tiebreaks)

    In round 1, 19 of the 64 matches went to tiebreakers; in round 2, it was 16 of 32. You'd think that with fewer mismatches in this round, we'd have some more mega-marathons, but it wasn't to be: 13 of the 16 tiebreaks were settled in the rapid games, and the three remaining matches finished after a single pair of blitz games. Here's a recap of the day's action, by matches:

    Svidler-Nyback: Svidler continued the momentum and asserted his dominance, beating Nyback 2.5-0.5 in the rapid games. The first tiebreak game was especially nice, the second a picturesque draw, and the finale saw Nyback have some chances before going down. Svidler, 3.5-1.5.

    Ponomariov-Akobian: Ponomariov won the first game with the sort of Karpovian chess that had people talking when he was a teenager, but Akobian toughened up, drawing the next two games. The fourth playoff game was imbalanced, but Akobian's 23.Qb6?? put an end to his ambitions. Ponomariov, 4-2.

    Eljanov-Inarkiev: A strange match. After a normal draw in the first game, game two saw Inarkiev lose (on time?) with White in a very promising, maybe even winning position. In game 3, Eljanov played very creatively, sacrificing a couple of exchanges, but failed to cash in on a number of opportunities. One clear case came after Black's erroneous 64...Kg8, when after 65.Ne6 Qf6 he should have played 66.Qc8+. If 66...Kh7, then 67.Ng5+ Kh6 68.Qg8 Qg7 69.Nf7+ is easy, while 66...Kf7 loses to the subtle 67.Ng5+ Kg7 68.Qb7+! when Black get to choose between seeing 69.Qh7#, 69.Nh7+ winning the queen and 69.Qb3+ picking up the rook. After all the adventures were over, the game wound up a draw. Game four could have been won by Eljanov too, after Inarkiev's blunder 25.Rc3??, but he was satisfied with a match-clinching draw. Eljanov, 3.5-2.5.

    Karjakin-Timofeev: Karjakin won fairly easily, drawing the first and third playoff games with Black without much trouble, winning game 2 with White in good quasi-Ruy Lopez fashion, and drawing the last game with ease (though he could have had more after Timofeev's 28...dxc5??). Karjakin, 3.5-2.5.

    Shirov-Fedorchuk: Mr. Fire On Board took out yesterday's angst out of his opponent's hide, whipping him in three convincing games. The last was especially humiliating. Fedorchuk produced a questionable novelty on move 7, definitely went wrong two moves later, blundered on move 10 and resigned on move 14. Ouch. Shirov, 4-1.

    Dominguez-Caruana: I have no idea what happened here, but it's either a mini-miracle or a scandal. The first game was a good draw, and game two was drawn as well, though here Caruana was pressing with Black. White held on the weaker side of an opposite-colored bishop ending, and while that imbalance doesn't guarantee the weak side a draw, it can certainly help. The third game was drawn too, and one would certainly have thought this about the fourth game as well. In the final position Dominguez, with White, has a rook and a pawn, Caruana a rook and the chance to regain that pawn on his next move. The result: 0-1. What?? I've looked everywhere I can think of, but haven't seen any explanation. I guess Dominguez must have lost on time, but with the increments it's hard to know where that could have plausibly happened. Could he have spent more than ten seconds considering 62.Rh6, then seen that it loses to 62...Rxf6+, and then played 63.Rxh2 as his flag fell? I could believe that from an 1800, maybe, but not (normally) a 2700. If anyone knows or finds out what actually happened, please let us know! Caruana, 3.5-2.5

    Vachier-Lagrave - Meier: With Black, Meier achieved "recipe" draws in the 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 French, and although he only scraped out a draw with White in game 2 he had the match in his hands in the fourth playoff game. He had numerous winning chances, but when he chose 34.Qe3 instead of 34.Qb5+- and then played 35.Re2?? instead of repeating with 35.Qe2=, Vachier-Lagrave escaped with a very fortunate win. Vachier-Lagrave, 3.5-2.5.

    Fressinet-Alekseev: A pretty comfortable win for Alekseev, who won the first two games and probably could have won the third if he needed to. The second game was amusing: in an equal position Fressinet played ...h5, then ...h4, then ...hxg3. White recaptured with the f-pawn and promptly killed him with an attack on the f-file. Alekseev, 3.5-1.5.

    Khalifman-Tomashevsky: Khalifman did himself no favors, drawing with White in the first game with just 12 moves, and suffered his deserved punishment by losing a long and painful second game in an opposite-colored bishops ending. In game 3, Khalifman exerted himself, properly, and it was an exciting game...but ultimately drawn anyway. Tomashevsky could have won in the fourth game, had he found 37.Ne7, but he drew and that was enough. Tomashevsky, 3.5-2.5.

    Navara-Shabalov: In the first game, Navara won with White against Shabalov's English Defense-turned-Dutch, as Black's positional weaknesses proved weightier than his attacking chances. Navara won in game two as well, but the match wasn't over: Shabalov won with Black in the third game, and in just 17 moves! He gave it a great try in the last game, but Navara held the draw and pulled out the match. Navara, 3.5-2.5.

    Malakhov-Smirin: Malakhov had a bit of a scare in the first game, a thriller with passed pawns all over the place. White - Malakhov - wound up down three pawns but able to draw thanks to the miracle of opposite-colored bishop. In game two, however, he proved that opposite-colored bishops don't guarantee a draw, and he won that one. Finally, he won the third game as well, and this time opposite-colored bishops played no role whatsoever. Malakhov, 3.5-1.5.

    Areshchenko-Rublevsky: After the players took turns winning with White and Areshchenko pulled a Khalifman by drawing the third game with White in just nine moves (unless that's a relay problem), Rublevsky was in a good position to pull out the match. He was better in the fourth game, but 57.g3? got him into trouble, and when he pulled back to equality he blundered with 76.Qh2?? and was eliminated. Areshchenko 3.5-2.5.

    Vitiugov-Milos: A thriller! The younger and higher-rated Vitiugov was rolling: he out-techniqued his opponent to win in game 1 and then crushed Milos in game 2 after the latter's 19...Ng4(?). But the "old" guy (Milos is 46) fought back, winning games 3 and 4 to force a blitz playoff. The drama continued there too: Milos was better in the first blitz game, blundered, and still managed to hold a draw. The Rocky story came to an end in the sixth playoff game, however, when he blundered the exchange and, at the end of the game, the queen. Vitiugov 4.5-3.5.

    Bologan-Cheparinov: Another match with a mystifying result. The first game was drawn, but round 2 is given as a draw, even though Cheparinov is completely winning. If the result was given as a win for Bologan, I'd understand: it would mean that Cheparinov lost on time. But I don't know how to interpret this in any sensible way. Maybe the result was simply mismarked? In any case, Bologan won the next two games (game 3 in style, game 4 despite playing "Kramnik's" Center Counter with 3...Qd6 and 5...g6). Bologan 4-2 or 3.5-2.5.

    Li Chao-Pelletier: After a couple of draws, Pelletier managed to lose the third game, which was a remarkable achievement. The explanation, of course, is that he wanted too much to win, and "forgot" that he had an actual opponent. Fortunately for him, his opponent gave it all away in the sequel. Li Chao was better or equal through the fourth game, but 45...Bxa5? lost the game, and it was on to the blitz. Pelletier held the draw with Black in the first game, but in the very sharp sixth game Li Chao's defense was better than Pelletier's offense, and the Chinese player advanced. Li Chao, 4.5-3.5.

    Nisipeanu-Polgar: The two players had very similar ratings, and are also similar in that neither's openings are especially trustworthy. Game one was a clean draw, Polgar outplayed Nisipeanu in game 2, was crushed in game 3, and drew quickly in game 4, going to the blitz. In the first blitz game Polgar had pressure, but nothing more, until Nisipeanu went Santa Claus and started donating his pawns. In the finale, Nisipeanu pressed but could only achieve rook and bishop vs. rook. Defending this ending can be purgatorial, but I've never seen a player cause his opponent fewer problems in that ending than Nisipeanu did against Polgar. Even though she had to defend this ending for 77 moves, he still failed to win or even come close to winning, and so she advanced. Polgar, 4.5-3.5.

    Here are the pairings for Round 3, which starts tomorrow:

    Gelfand - Polgar (!)

    Vachier-Lagrave - Yu Yangyi

    Grischuk - Jobava

    Jakovenko - Areshchenko

    Bologan - Laznicka

    Mamedyarov - Wang Hao

    Vitiugov - Sakaev

    Karjakin - Navara

    Gashimov - Li Chao

    Alekseev - Caruana

    Ponomariov - Motylev

    Wang Yue - Bacrot

    Svidler - Naiditsch

    Shirov - Tomashevsky

    Kamsky - So

    Eljanov - Malakhov

     

    These pairings are given in bracket order, so you can figure out the subsequent pairings as well (e.g. the winner of Gelfand-Polgar plays the winner of V-L vs. YY). Care to make predictions for these matches and the tournament overall? Guess away!