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    Wednesday
    Dec302009

    Nyzhnyk "Whynz" Groningen; Crazy Chess in Reggio Emilia

    13-year-old Ilya Nyzhnyk dispatched Andrei Deviatkin pretty convincingly in the last round of Groningen, and thereby won the tournament by a full point and picked up (at least) his second GM norm in the process. Here comes yet another prodigy! His score of 7.5/9 (with a 2741 TPR) pushed him a point ahead ahead of Jan Werle and Dmitri Reinderman, who tied for second.

    Meanwhile, in the big event at Reggio Emilia, the great action continued. This wasn't true of the Landa-Safarli game, drawn in 15 moves, but the other four games were terrific.

    (1) Almasi-Jobava was a Rauzer (vs. the Classical Sicilian) where White's enduring pressure against Black king resulted in a king hunt. Black's king was normally placed on b8 as late as move 39 (though since Black had initially castled short, that was itself a potential sign of trouble), but when the game ended on move 46 it was very unhappily located on c4.

    (2) Bologan-Brunello was interesting in part because Brunello was trying one of the lines he advocates in his book. His 16...Ba8 is given as a novelty in his book, but after 17.Ba7 c5 he only considers 18.Nd5 (clearly better for Black at the end of his analysis) and 18.Qe2 (ultimately slightly better for Black, he argues). Bologan's 18.b4 isn't given, and while it looks like a good idea it's probably not a refutation. Brunello was in pretty good shape through most of the game, but 29...Nd5? took him from clearly better to slightly worse and 34...Qd5?? lost on the spot.

    (3) Vocaturo beat Caruana in a game that was first strategically and then tactically complex. The advantage went back and forth most of the way, but the game was decided after Vocaturo's ingenious 33.Rae1. Objectively, Black was probably better after this exchange sac, but White did a better job of adjusting to the radically different game and won when Caruana got too optimistic about his counter-attack.

    (4) Kamsky-Godena: This was some sort of weird Dadaist chess. Look at these positions:

    Finally, after half-ignoring each other 27 moves, Black played 27...g5 in the last diagrammed position and the game exploded. Godena played very well, and even had the advantage. Fortunately for Kamsky, Godena missed or underestimated his chances, and was satisfied to force a perpetual check.

    Here are the standings after Round 3:

    1-4. Almasi, Godena, Kamsky, Safarli 2

    5-7. Caruana, Landa, Jobava 1½

    8-9. Vocaturo, Bologan 1

    10. Brunello ½

    The four interesting games, with my comments, are here.

    Wednesday
    Dec302009

    This Week's ChessBase Show: Morphy vs. Staunton

    On the eve of Magnus Carlsen's becoming the official #1 on the FIDE rating list, it seems like a good moment to reflect on the first notable chess prodigy of the modern game, Paul Morphy (1837-1884).

    Western Europe was the center of chess activity, but Morphy, who grew up in the relative chess wasteland of Louisiana, came to Europe as a 21-year-old and destroyed all opposition. Or at least he tried to. While most of Europe's best tried their hand, including the rusty but gallant Adolf Anderssen, another of Europe's chess heroes (pictured below) did not.

    As my readers undoubtedly know, that's a rare color photograph of Howard Staunton (1810-1874), who repeatedly encouraged Morphy to expect a match, but delayed it over and over again and then had the chutzpah to claim that the fault was Morphy's. (On the other hand, he never accused Morphy of consulting with (Alexander) Fritz during restroom breaks, so he does get some credit.) As it turns out there were several good reasons for Staunton to avoid a match, and if he had forthrightly admitted them at the time and put an end to it that would have been a lot better. First of all, he was out of practice. Second, he had genuine health problems, and avoiding a strenuous and stressful match made sense. Finally, he really was busy with his work as a Shakespeare scholar, and that undoubtedly added to the stress. (For more details about the match that wasn't, Wikipedia has a good treatment, here.)

    At any rate, while they never did play a match or even any one-on-one games in private (unlike Fischer and Karpov...just kidding!), they did play a couple of consultation games against each other. Morphy partnered with Thomas Barnes, while Staunton teamed with John Owen. (An interesting aside about Owen can be read at the link given in the last paragraph. Apparently when Morphy and Johann Löwenthal were playing a match, Owen - who was Morphy's second - disparaged Morphy and encouraged his opponent. This led Morphy to challenge Owen to a match, giving him the substantial handicap of pawn and move. Morphy destroyed him, winning it 5-0 with two draws. When it came to competitiveness, Michael Jordan had nothing on Morphy.)

    Now where was I? (You can tell I'm enjoying this.) Oh yes, Morphy & Barnes vs. Staunton & Owen. Barnes was a very good player in his own right (he scored 2 out of 8 against Morphy in even-up games, and went 1.5/2 in games where Morphy played with under some sort of handicap [blindfold in one game, simuling in the other]), but it's likely that the games were pretty nearly Morphy vs. Staunton battles, with the added players there to allow Staunton a face-saving out. At any rate, Morphy's team won both games, which probably didn't motivate Staunton to get back into form any time soon.

    As you can probably guess from my long and colorful intro, we're going to look at one of these games in this week's ChessBase show. The game where Morphy and Barnes had White was especially interesting, and did credit to both sides. While Morphy+ got an edge after Staunton+'s bad opening, the defense stiffened. Rather than pursuing the advantage by positional means, Morphy(+) went for a very deep but only intuitively calculated idea, and the game turned into a race between White's attack and the speed at which his center collapsed. Ultimately, White won, but there were some adventures along the way.

    We'll explore those adventures tonight - Wednesday night - at 9 p.m. ET (= 3 a.m. CET) on the Playchess server. Just log on at the given time, go to the Broadcast Room, and look for Morphy-Staunton under the Games tab. Hope to see you there, even if you're a Staunton fan!

    * Photo credits here and here.

    Tuesday
    Dec292009

    The Daily Update: 7 Event Winners (and More)

    A slew of events finished today, in time for their participants to return home for the new year. (But not the new decade, which despite the pronouncements of the press [at least here] does not begin until 2011! [There was no year zero.])

    1. Russian Championship (Men): Grischuk drew quickly to clinch clear first. He needed that bit of cushion, too, as Svidler won in the last round to finish a mere half point back. Their scores with 6.5 and 6 out of 9, respectively, with TPRs of 2852 and 2809. Vitiugov came in third with 5 points, after destroying Khismatullin in the last round. (Full scores, crosstable and games here.)

    2. Russian Championship (Women): What might have been dramatic was a complete fizzle: the Kosintsevas played their ultra-quick draw as always, and Gunina-Galliamova was a five minute handshake as well. The relative standings remained in place, so Galliamova won with 7.5/9 (and a 2709 TPR), half a point ahead of Nadezhda Kosintseva and a point ahead of Gunina. (Same set of details as with the men at the same place.)

    3. Pamplona: This had event added four more winners to our tally, as all the leaders drew in the last round. Georg Meier had the best tiebreak score, so if there was a trophy it went to him. As far as the basic scores were concerned, however, it was a four-way tie at 6/9 between Meier, Zuniga, Laznicka and Georgiev. The only man to win in the last round was also had a win of sorts in the tournament: Roi Reinaldo Castineira achieved his first GM norm in the tournament.

    4. Groningen: Our seventh event winner was Jan Timman, who won the last game of his match with Robin van Kampen to take the overall victory with a 2.5-1.5 score. Meanwhile, Ilya Nyzhnyk leads the Open tournament with a round to go. His 6.5/8 puts him half a point ahead of Reinderman, Werle and Deviatkin, and will definitely give him his second GM norm if he draws or wins in the last round.

    5. Reggio Emilia: The first-round winners drew quickly: Caruana his game with Almasi in 14 moves, while Safarli and Kamsky drew each other in 30. That allowed Godena and Jobava to join the tie by beating Vocaturo and Bologan, respectively.

    Monday
    Dec282009

    The Daily Update: Stop the World, I Want to Get Off

    There's far too much chess going on! Here's the summary:

    (1) Russian Championship - Men:

    Grischuk won (a Berlin against Jakovenko) while Svidler only drew (against Alekseev, who will face Grischuk tomorrow), so with a round to go Grischuk is guaranteed at least a tie for first. The day's other winner was Riazantsev, so now he has caught up to Sjugirov (or dragged the latter back) and is now "only" tied for last.

    (2) Russian Championship - Women:

    Galliamova again drew with a Kosintseva (Tatiana this time), and since Nadezhda Kosintseva won Galliamova's lead is down to half a point. The latter has 7, the former 6.5, and the last round pairings are most interesting. Galliamova will face Gunina (5.5 points), who is in third (and I think she's due for Black), while N.K. will face her sister (in fourth with 5 points). I've never seen a real game between them, and a quick check of my databases confirms this: 13 games, 13 draws, and the longest one went 15 moves (the last six of which were back and forth checks in a well-known variation leading to perpetual). I hope that if they play the game out tomorrow and it's decisive that it will also be legitimate.

    In the battle of TPRs, Grischuk is up to 2875, Galliamova down to 2771.

     

    (3) Pamplona:

    Granda Zuniga and Georgiev both drew their games, but Meier and Laznicka won theirs, so now it's a four-way tie (5.5/8) heading into the last round! Georgiev and Zuniga play each other, while Meier gets Alsina Leal and Laznicka faces Mirzoev.

     

    (4) Groningen:

    There are two main events going on there, a major open and a match between Jan Timman and Robin van Kampen (he's a 15-year-old Dutchman with a near-GM rating).

    After 7 (of 9) rounds in the Open, Dmitri Reinderman and Ukranian prodigy Ilya Nyzhnyk are tied for first with 5 points, half a point ahead of Werle, Swinkels, Greenfeld, Chadaev, Nijboer, Brandenburg and Giri.

    In the Timman - van Kampen match, Timman won game 1 with White, van Kampen returned the favor in game 2 (in a very nice game at that), and game 3 was drawn. There's one game to go.

     

    (5) & (6) Hastings and the Rilton Cup:

    These are a pair of opens that have just gotten underway.

     

    (7) Reggio Emilia:

    This is a strong round-robin that started today, and it kicked off with a bang: only two of the five games were drawn, and all three wins were with the black pieces.

    First the bad news for the Italians: Sabino Brunello (author of the very good book Attacking the Spanish) lost a textbook same-colored bishop ending to Azeri GM Eltaj Safarli, while Daniele Vocaturo lost to Gata Kamsky. I'd have to take a closer look, but my impression is that Vocaturo got too enthused about his attacking possibilities and underestimated Kamsky's counterplay in the center. Ironically, the losing move may have been the defensive 37.Qf3, when the unabashed 37.f6 would have maintained equality. (Likewise on move 41, f6 again would have been his best chance.)

    The good news for the Italians (and nostalgic but forsaken Americans) is that Fabiano Caruana won, and against no less a player than Viktor Bologan. Caruana played extremely sharply, engaged in all sorts of fascinating material transactions, and crashed through with an attacking win. There were some inaccuracies by both players, in time trouble, but overall it was a very good game by Caruana.

    The other two games were also interesting, but both Landa-Jobava and Almasi-Godena were both drawn.

    Monday
    Dec282009

    A Review of Nigel Davies’ Play the Catalan

    Nigel Davies, Play the Catalan (Everyman, 2009). Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    Introduction:

    It’s rather odd, I think, that an opening like the Catalan has received so much attention by chess authors the past few years. It’s certainly an interesting opening (or at least it can be!), but it’s neither spectacular nor simple to play and understand. Worse still, it doesn’t lend itself to quick victories either, especially in its absolute main line. Yet despite this there have been a slew of books on the Catalan this decade. It started slowly with Raetsky and Chetverik in 2003, but it’s turning into a flood. In 2008, John Donaldson revised (with Carsten Hansen) his A Strategic Opening Repertoire, devoted in good part to the Catalan. In 2009 Boris Avrukh and Nigel Davies both wrote on it, and in early 2010 Jonathan Hilton and Dean Ippolito have a work on Wojtkiewicz’s repertoire coming out with the Catalan as the focus. This is good news for non-professionals who are diehard Catalan fans (both of them), but what about the rest of us? And aren’t we in danger of getting buried under this mountain of information? I’ll answer both questions in the remainder of this review.

    Part 1: Who Cares About the Catalan?

    It is possible to go through a lifetime as a chess player – even a very active chess player – and never have a Catalan with either color. (Or at least almost never. At the big time, Bobby Fischer had only one Catalan, and he was to blame for playing it with White, albeit at the age of 14. At the “medium time”, I too have only had one in tournament play.) But any of us who play 1…d5 and 2…e6 (or 1…Nf6, 2…e6 and 3…d5) are liable to face it, and that’s a pretty fair number of us.

    From the white side, it’s not a bad weapon to have on hand. It can be very solid, and those solid lines aren’t too tough to play. That makes it a useful choice against higher-rated players. Another benefit has been more than hinted at, and it’s that a great many people are wholly unfamiliar with it. That combination of solidity and surprise makes for good value. It’s true that not all the lines are solid, and the sharper lines will require some study. (It’s not clear why this ought to be a problem, as if everything in life should come easily to us – but of course, not to our opponents – but for some it will be. Go take up the Latvian.) Even so, once we’ve done our study and accrued some experience, we’ll generally have the better of those sharp positions.

    In sum, then, while it’s not necessary to learn the Catalan, many Black players should know something about it, while White players may wish to take it up as a weapon – both on its own merits and for the surprise value.

    Part 2: Why Davies’ Book?

    If you’re a strong player, then what you need is Avrukh’s 1.d4, Volume 1. That book is the Rolls-Royce of the Catalan (though it includes other openings as well), written for players up to and including grandmasters. It presents a very deeply worked out repertoire with a great deal of original analysis. When it comes to the quality of the material published, it’s one of the best opening books I’ve ever owned. It’s not for everyone, though, in part because it assumes a fairly high understanding of the game. Anyone can use the moves that are there, but Avrukh implicitly assumes that you’ll know what to do with the positions he gives you. (You won’t always, unless your level is near his.)

    Nigel Davies’ Play the Catalan aims at a less elite readership. While Davies offers some of his own ideas and opinions, he’s not trying to create his own theory but to give his readers an understanding of the broad lay of the land. By way of comparison, take what we might consider the absolute main line of the Catalan: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 0-0 6.0-0 dxc4 7.Qc2 a6 8.Qxc4 b5 9.Qc2 Bb7. Avrukh considers only one move here, and that’s 10.Bd2. It’s the most popular move at the top, and Avrukh spends 39 large pages examining it. Davies considers it too, albeit only in a single, fairly short chapter. (I don’t know how many pages it is, since I have the e-book. My guess is that it’s about 15-20 [much smaller] pages long.) On the other hand, Davies also considers 10.Bf4 (which he thinks may be more suitable for club players) and 10.Bg5. Furthermore, he considers the very important alternative 8th move 8.a4, along with important deviations even earlier (on moves 7 and 6). All of this variety is quite unusual from a book written from one side’s point of view, but it’s welcome.

    Another manifestation of Davies’ flexible approach comes in an early chapter on move orders. Some players may prefer to avoid lines where Black takes and holds on to the c-pawn, and for them he offers several bits of advice as to which way – if any – they should enter a Catalan. I think this is an excellent feature of the book.

    The book is well-organized, and – appropriately – the vast majority of the main games are from 2007 and 2008, so Davies has done his research. Overall, my impressions of the book are positive, and I can recommend it to interested players under 2200. It wouldn’t be much fun if I didn’t have something to complain about, however, so here goes. (Let me preface this by saying that it doesn’t detract from the quality of the book’s purely chess material. I raise the following issue because it seems to represent a typical attitude I find both mistaken and harmful to those who adopt it.)

    [***WARNING: RANT ALERT***]

    One thing struck me in a funny way, and it was that Davies seems to suffer from a strange inversion of the gambit-writer’s affliction. Authors advocating garbage openings often do their best to ignore unpleasant moves and evaluations when they benefit the other side, preferring to perfume the dung heap with prevaricating puffery like “with lively play for the three sacrificed pieces” and “the Latvian Gambit will confuse your opponent” (ignoring that the confusion came about because he thought the other person preferred not to lose like a dog). Anyway (and exaggerating a bit), Davies almost runs screaming in the opposite direction, bending over backwards to find resources for the other guy and apologizing for what seem to be the best lines as far as current GM practice is concerned.

    For instance, about the 10.Bd2 line mentioned above and his coverage of it, Davies writes that “[f]rom a club player’s point of view this chapter should be seen as nothing more than fodder for building pattern recognition and as a point of reference from which to follow top-level Catalan games.” And later in that same chapter, he says that “10.Bd2 is not really suitable for club players with a life outside of chess, as there are subtle new developments coming through all the time.”

    Instead, he recommends 10.Bf4 and 10.Bg5: “Although the lines in this section may not have as much bite as 10.Bd2 at super-GM level, White should carefully consider the advantages offered by their relative rarity. Players at every level forget what to do against unfashionable lines, and as there are fewer games played, they require less maintenance.”

    Yes, 10.Bd2 is quite fashionable…at the top. But in club play? I doubt that most of the players at my club could even identify the Catalan, and if I showed up one week and saw them engaged in theoretical disputes over the 10.Bd2 line I’d probably conclude I was dreaming, had been drugged, or had somehow missed the start of the Millennial Reign. So rather than use the alleged advantage of surprise as an excuse to push secondary lines, why not encourage readers to play the main lines, especially given that there are unifying concepts among all the 10th move alternatives? In other words, why not say something like this:

    “The 10.Bd2 line is very popular at the super-GM level, and there are subtle new developments coming through all the time. To keep up with all the new material isn’t really suitable for club players with a life outside of chess, but that’s OK, you can play it anyway. Your opponents will also have a life outside of chess, so they’ll be even less likely to keep up with the new theory. (Why would they, when they probably won’t have a Catalan with either color, except against you?) Second, you will have a good understanding of the opening, so even if you’re faced with a surprise you can still find good moves and know what to do once the opening is over. Third, in this variation of the Catalan new ideas for Black only serve to equalize, but so what? Equality doesn’t mean it’s a draw, and once again, if you understand the positions better than your opponents – and you probably will – then “equality” won’t mean very much for them. Knowing an opening is much more than memorizing the latest and greatest sequence of moves. Finally, while you probably won’t be able to keep up with current theory (and shouldn’t try), your understanding of and experience with the 10.Bd2 line means that if you take some time a couple of times a year to check out what’s new in super-GM play, you’ll have a pretty fair idea of what it is they’re up to. You’ll know what White’s and Black’s main goals are, and can interpret new moves and ideas insofar as they promote those goals.”

    Certainly there are times when Davies’ policy is the right one. I wouldn’t recommend, say, the Botvinnik System to a club player, especially if he only reaches the position after 5.Bg5 once every 20 games. That would be a ridiculous waste of his time. But in the context of the Catalan, this discussion strikes me as rather funny. Does Davies think while club players will be taken by surprise with 10.Bf4 and 10.Bg5, they’re all rubbing their hands together in gleeful anticipation of 10.Bd2, waiting to unleash some 10-megaton bomb in reply?

    Here’s a possible reply: What I’ve said might be right for games featuring sub-2000 players, but as you move up the food chain and start playing experts and masters, one will find savvier, better prepared opponents. Fair enough. But then our “Catalaner” is also likely to be an expert or master, and thus more likely willing and able to spend a bit more time in prep, too. So again, why not spend a little time (not every waking hour) checking in on the latest 10.Bd2 theory a couple of times a year?

    Let me close on a conciliatory note. I don’t think Davies would endorse the idea that the reader shouldn’t do any further research, and I don’t think the amateur should spend hours each week mastering ultra-complicated and trendy variations which comprise only a small portion of his repertoire. We’re both somewhere in the middle, and the question is where to draw the line. Each reader has to decide that for himself, but I’m perhaps more inclined than Davies to push him in the direction of main lines, at least when doing so doesn’t require inordinate amounts of work.

    [***END OF RANT***]

    Overall, it strikes me as a useful book for club players interested in picking up the Catalan. Even masters can learn something from it, but their sights should ultimately be set on Avrukh’s masterwork. But the target audience is below that, and I think the typical club player can benefit from the book. Recommended.

    Sunday
    Dec272009

    Magnus Carlsen in Time Magazine

    A brief interview with world #1 Magnus Carlsen can be read here, on TIME Magazine's website. Surprisingly, in the right sidebar on that page you'll find a list of their most read stories, and the Carlsen piece is #4. It can't be Norway's massive population that accounts for this, so it looks like good news for chess. (Either that, or TIME is doing really terribly except among chess players.) Odder still, #8 is a 1972 essay entitled "Why They Play: The Psychology of Chess". It's not a very good piece, IMO, and some of the remarks about Soviet chess are surpassingly stupid.

    Examples are easy to find. Here's a first:

    "In fact, some chess experts claim to see, in many of Spassky's games, as in Botvinnik's, a gray sameness that reflects much of Communist Russia's culture and character."

    In fact their styles were very different, and Spassky's style was often praised for its universality, and he won a great many beautiful games. To my mind, a player to whom he could be compared today, stylistically, is Anand, which gives you an idea of how dumb the comment was. But even waiving that, what in the world is a "gray sameness" supposed to mean, as applied to anyone's chess style? Presumably it's a style that is in some way dull, but it's hard to see how that would apply to the man who developed the Botvinnik System. Now for a second example:

    "The U.S.S.R. has produced few, if any, romantic, slashing players like Alekhine, who grew up under the Czars. Instead, modern Russian players tend to concentrate on establishing strong defensive positions. This, it has been suggested, may reflect a national feeling of threat by encirclement. Certainly the Russians seldom launch a blitzkrieg early in the game, preferring to win by attrition and a later counterattack. Consciously or not, this could be a re-enactment of both Napoleon's 1812 campaign and the 1941-45 war in which Hitler's blitzkrieg was eventually defeated by Russian doggedness. Furthermore, Soviet players seem to be more willing than most to settle for a draw, which salvages half a point, rather than going for broke and risking the loss of a whole point."

    Okay, first of all, percentage-wise, there are very few "romantic, slashing players" anywhere, and certainly Fischer wasn't one of them. But come on: Tal? Bronstein? Stein? Nezhmetdinov? The remarks drawing a comparison with the wars were pretty silly, and I don't really buy the point about the Soviets being draw-happy either. (My guess is that the journalist heard about Curacao 1962 and turned it into a universal thesis.)

    There's more than enough Freudianism (but I repeat myself) in the article, but if all press is good press, then maybe there's hope for tournament chess to catch on with the broader public. (If only our federation knew what to do with it.)

    Sunday
    Dec272009

    The Daily Update: Russian Championship, Pamplona & More

    In the Russian Championship, Alexander Grischuk slowed down with a draw, but it didn't help Peter Svidler, who only drew his game as well. In fact, four of the five games were drawn, with only tailender Alexander Riazantsev managing a win over pentailender (to coin a word, meaning next-to-last) Sanan Sjugirov. (Sjugirov has had a remarkably volatile tournament, following a long draw in round 1 with six consecutive decisive games.) Here are the scores after round 7 of 9:

    1. Grischuk 5

    2. Svidler 4½

    3. Vitiugov 4

    4-7. Jakovenko, Khismatullin, Tomashevsky, Alekseev 3½

    8. Timofeev 3

    9. Sjugirov 2½

    10. Riazantsev 2

     

    In the Women's Championship, Alisa Galliamova resumed her winning ways, and her 6½/7 score gives her a 2844 TPR - 12 points higher than Grischuk's! Still, it won't be easy with top seed Tatiana Kosintseva left on the schedule.

     

    In Pamplona, Julio Granda Zuniga entered the round half a point ahead of Georg Meier and Kiril Georgiev. Granda drew with Meier and thus held him off, but Georgiev won his game and entered a tie for first. They both have 5/7, and have yet to play.

     

    Several other events are ongoing or about to start, but the strongest one I'm aware of is Reggio Emilia, which starts on Monday. It's a strong field, including Italian #1 Fabiano Caruana and the man who started the year as America's #1, Gata Kamsky. It has been a tough year for Kamsky, who started it with a 2700+ rating and the chance to fight for the world championship, but must now work his way back into the rarified air of the super-elites. Here's hoping he does it.

    Saturday
    Dec262009

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: Alekhine-van Mindeno, Part 2

    In the previous week's show I took an in-depth look at a position from the 1933 simul game Alekhine-van Mindeno, doing my best to analyze it on spec without any assistance from a chess engine. Some variations were accurately calculated and assessed, and a few - fortunately not too many! - weren't. I invited others to join me in trying to analyze it for themselves too (again, without computer help) and to find my mistakes and come up with better ideas. (And many did.)

    In this week's show, we see the finished product. I take a look at what I got wrong (as well as confirming what parts were correct), we get to see the best lines of play, and finally, we see how the actual game finished. Those of you who watched last week's show will want to see this, but even those who didn't will enjoy it in its own right.

    The show is free, available on-demand and requires no special software. You're just a click away...

    Saturday
    Dec262009

    The Daily Update (Two Day Edition): Spassky-Korchnoi, Russian Championships and Pamplona

    There are still other events going on, but the following are the most prominent among them.

    First, the Boris Spassky - Viktor Korchnoi match ended in a 4-4 tie. Spassky won game 7 yesterday - the third straight game in the match won by Black - and today they players agreed to a quick draw. While neither player was what he used to be, the match was surprisingly entertaining. For Spassky especially it was a good result, as he, very much unlike Korchnoi, has been inactive for a long time. For his opponent, it must have been slightly disappointing. It seems that age has taken a further toll on Korchnoi's play this past year, and that's especially sad for those of us who remember him as one of the world's super-elite.

    The players had Christmas off in the Russian Championships, and today the status quo at the top was mostly maintained. Alexander Grischuk defeated Sanan Sjugirov to remain in clear first, and Peter Svidler beat Artyom Timofeev to stay half a point behind. The other three games were drawn, which means that Nikita Vitiugov dropped out of the tie for second and is half a point behind Svidler.

    In the Women's Championship, Alisa Galliamova drew with Nadezhda Kosintseva and remained a point ahead of her rival. That's not bad, of course, but it means the end of her perfect score; now she "only" has 5.5/6 and a 2832 TPR. (In the men's championship, only Grischuk has a better TPR at the moment.)

    In Pamplona, Julio Grand Zuniga's bid for perfection came to an end yesterday. He lost with White to IM Roi Reinaldo Castineira and only drew today with Daniel Alsina Leal. Despite this, he continues to lead with 4.5/6, half a point ahead of Georg Meier and Kiril Georgiev.

    Friday
    Dec252009

    Merry Christmas!

    I hope all my readers have a wonderful day today and enjoy their food, friends, family and even their loot - especially if it's chess loot! Even more than that, I wish all of you a blessed day, one in which you are aware not only of the love of friends and family but of God's love, too. For some of you this will be as natural as breathing, for some a struggle, and some will find this suggestion somewhere on the scale between challenging to absurd. I have been there myself and can identify!* Be that as it may, I wish you the best on this day, and look forward to rejoining you here on Saturday.

     

    * Those who deem theism in general (and Christianity in particular) a questionable or even intellectually hopeless pursuit from the get-go might find this book extremely interesting. The title makes it seem touchy-feely, but it isn't: the author's primary focus in most of the book is with intellectual history and (non-technical) philosophical argumentation.