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    1948 World Chess Championship 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 Rapid & Blitz World Championship 2014 Russian Team Championship 2014 U.S. Championship 2014 World Championship 2014 World Rapid Championship 22014 U.S. Championship 60 Minutes A. 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    Thursday
    Jun262014

    Jobava-Mamedyarov From The World Rapid Championship

    Every now and then the past few days I've been browsing some of the many games from last week's World Rapid Championship, and some have caught my eye. One exceptionally impressive game was the round 4 battle between Baadur Jobava and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, won in brilliant style by the creative young Georgian grandmaster. As usual, he punted a slightly offbeat opening (the Veresov with 3.Bf4), and is also usual he managed to orient himself better in the unfamiliar setting than his opponent.

    In this game, Jobava went all-out for the initiative, and managed to turn it into a sustained attack. Keeping it going required energetic and imaginative play, and rather than continuing to load on the adjectives I'll invite you to have a look and see for yourself. Very impressive chess, especially when played with a time control of game in 15 minutes, with only a ten second increment per move!

    Tuesday
    Jun242014

    Tactics Time: Guseinov-Carlsen From the World Rapid Championship

    Watching the video coverage of round 2 of last week's World Rapid Championship, I found myself especially curious about the following position, which arose after Gadir Guseinov played 16.c3 against Magnus Carlsen:

    Black has a pretty fair amount of force pointed at White's king, so it wouldn't be too surprising if Carlsen had something here. Does he? Have a look, take your time, and when you think you've got it all worked out, click here.

    Sunday
    Jun222014

    Regan on the Radio

    The level of detail in this radio interview is far, far, far, far less than in the Chess Life profile mentioned here, but it's still nice to see Ken Regan and his chess-related work featured in the mass media.

    HT: Brian Karen

    Saturday
    Jun212014

    Magnus Carlsen: Triple World Champion!

    The Rapid & Blitz World Championships have concluded, and Magnus Carlsen, the classical world chess champion, is now also the world champion in rapid and blitz play. While the margin of victory wasn't particularly large in either event, his play was consistently strong and he was the deserving winner of both events.

    In the rapid, he lost one game - to Viswanathan Anand(!), though by a blunder in a better position, and finished with 11/15, half a point ahead of Fabiano Caruana, Anand, Levon Aronian and Alexander Morozevich. Caruana took the silver on tiebreaks; Anand the bronze.

    In the blitz, his one loss came on the first day, to young Chinese GM Lu Shanglei. On the second day he was briefly surpassed by Ian Nepomniachtchi, who won six games in a row, but in the end Carlsen finished with an impressive 17/21, good for a one point margin of victory over Nepomniachtchi and Hikaru Nakamura (who finished second and third, respectively); they were in turn two points ahead of their closest pursuer, Le Quang Liem, who was last year's world blitz champion.

    Sunday
    Jun152014

    The World Championship Will Be In Sochi

    So we have something new for the world championship match this coming November between titleholder Magnus Carlsen and challenger (and former champ) Viswanathan Anand. The match won't be in Norway or India, or FIDE favorites Elista or Khanty-Mansyisk. Instead, they'll face off in Sochi, Russia, which may not be entirely controversy free either. It had to be somewhere though, and without alternative sponsors it's probably good to get this taken care of as soon as possible.

    Sunday
    Jun152014

    World Rapid & Blitz Championship Starts Tomorrow (Monday)

    The World Rapid & Blitz Championship starts Monday, and it is incredibly strong. Participants include Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Levon Aronian, Alexander Grischuk, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura (who is #1 on both the rapid and blitz rating lists), Sergey Karjakin and on and on it goes. It ought to be very entertaining!

    Sunday
    Jun152014

    Norway Chess: Karjakin Wins Again!

    [Sorry about the delay - I was otherwise engaged yesterday. All of you probably already know what happened, but for completeness' sake we'll write a quick wrap-up and pretend what follows is news.]

    There was plenty of drama in the final round of the Norway Chess tournament, with three players vying for first place; two of them facing each other. Sergey Karjakin led by half a point over Fabiano Caruana - who had the white pieces against him in the last round - and Magnus Carlsen, who had White against bottom seed Simen Agdestein. Thus while Karjakin led it would be hard to describe him as the favorite.

    Indeed, Karjakin could easily have finished in third place. While Carlsen didn't get anything against Agdestein through the first time control, the latter faltered soon afterwards. Releasing the tension with 42...bxc4+ was a significant step in the wrong direction, and "consistent" play led to a speedy loss. Meanwhile, Karjakin's 31st move was an error, and had Caruana centralized his knight to e4 rather than violating old Tarrasch's maxim with 32.Na4 Karjakin would have been in trouble. Instead, Caruana lost the thread, and was completely lost by the end of the time control.

    So Karjakin is once again the winner of an event the Norwegian organizers presumably designed to showcase their star, the world champion. I believe I've asked the question before, and wonder what the stats are about how players in matches and round-robins fare in their home countries, given a multinational field.

    Moving on from brief ruminations about a possible home field disadvantage, let's quickly summarize the other results. Veselin Topalov missed a big chance to win his third game in the second half of the tournament, though it was only there for one move. Levon Aronian should have played 23...c5, when he would have had only a slight disadvantage. Instead he played 23...Bg7?, when either 24.d5 or 24.Qxb5 axb5 25.d5 would have given White a big advantage. (Topalov seemed to think it was just winning when he mentioned it in the post-game press conference.) Fortunately for Aronian, Topalov played 24.h4?, and this time Black played 24...c5 - now with equality.

    Vladimir Kramnik went loaded for bear against Alexander Grischuk's Gruenfeld, and energetic and imaginative attacking play was about to lead to success. All Kramnik needed to do was play 31.fxg6 and he would be winning or at least close to winning. The main idea is that after 31...hxg6 32.d7 Black cannot play 32...Rd4 because of 33.Rxg6+; this resource was unavailable to Kramnik after 31.d7? Rd4. After a further error (32.Qf3 instead of 32.Qc2 or the cool 32.fxg6! Rxd3 33.gxf7+ Kh8 34.Rxd3=) Kramnik was lost, and indeed went on to lose the game. Kramnik started the tournament +2 and finished -1 - another disappointing result for the ex-champ in 2014.

    Finally, Anish Giri and Peter Svidler put disappointing tournaments to bed with a 20-move draw by repetition.

    Final Standings:

    • 1. Karjakin 6/9
    • 2. Carlsen 5.5
    • 3. Grischuk 5
    • 4-5. Caruana, Topalov 4.5
    • 6-9. Aronian, Svidler, Giri, Kramnik 4
    • 10. Agdestein 3.5

    As Carlsen himself stated after the event, Agdestein's last place wasn't really a fair result, but he was unable to convert many superior positions. Had he done so, he might have been the tournament victor or at least have been in the running. Anyway, it was an entertaining event, and next up is the world rapid & blitz championship, starting tomorrow.

    Thursday
    Jun122014

    Norway Chess, Round 8: Karjakin Beats Kramnik, Leads Entering the Final Round

    It was a crazy round at the Norway Chess tournament today, with big swings in most of the games. The most pronounced drop came in Peter Svidler vs. Magnus Carlsen, where Carlsen was coasting to a quick and easy win until the very bad and wholly unnecessary 24...Rfxf4; plenty of other moves would have maintained a winning advantage.

    Levon Aronian didn't have quite the advantage Carlsen did, but he was probably winning as well against Fabiano Caruana. After the game Aronian suggested 28.Qc3 instead of his 28.Bxd5, and even after 28.Bxd5 exd5 White would have kept control with 29.Qb5+. The key was not to move his knight, but Aronian admitted to missing Caruana's idea with ...Qd2 (see move 31 in the game), after which the position was simply drawn.

    Alexander Grischuk enjoyed a significant and enduring advantage against Anish Giri, but instead of going for Re8-b8 on moves 36 or 38 played 38.Nxf5 instead. While winning a pawn, it forced his rook to defend against Black's b-pawn from a passive rather than an active location, and Giri was able to draw by a thread.

    Simen Agdestein - Veselin Topalov was a game without a hill-shaped evaluation graph. For once Agdestein was in trouble in the tournament, and unlike several of his opponents, he was unable to escape once he was in the hole. Topalov jumped back to 50%, while Agdestein dropped to -1.

    Finally, the most important game in terms of the standings: Sergey Karjakin beat Vladimir Kramnik to take over clear first. For most of the first time control it looked stably equal, and one would normally expect Kramnik to hold an equal technical position with ease. It didn't happen, in part because it didn't remain technical. Shortly before the end of the first time control Karjakin won Black's a-pawn for his f-pawn, resulting in both players having significant pawn majorities on opposite flanks. Here Karjakin outplayed Kramnik, and won very deservedly.

    And so it's deja vu all over again. Karjakin won this tournament last year, and now he leads with a round to go. It's also reminiscent of this year's Candidates' tournament, where Karjakin started poorly but came on like gangbusters at the end. It would be too soon to make any declarations, however, as he has a tough pairing while Carlsen in particular has a comparatively easy one. Here are tomorrow's last round pairings:

    • Carlsen (4.5) - Agdestein (3.5)
    • Giri (3.5) - Svidler (3.5)
    • Kramnik (4) - Grischuk (4)
    • Caruana (4.5) - Karjakin (5)
    • Topalov (4) - Aronian (3.5)
    Tuesday
    Jun102014

    Mikhail Tal's Best Games 1 (1949-1959): The Magic of Youth

    Tibor Karolyi, Mikhail Tal's Best Games 1: The Magic of Youth (Quality Chess, 2014). 447 pp. 24.99/$29.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    First, a disclaimer: I had a little involvement in the project, offering some old analysis, hunting down some source material and helping him find a contact or two, as I recall. Apparently I offered some helpful encouragement as well, as Tibor offered a very kind sentence in the book's acknowledgements:

    I am also grateful to Dennis Monokroussos, whose love for Tal's magic reminded me that it was worth the effort to complete the project.

    So be aware that I'm not a disinterested and dispassionated reviewer, nor will I pretend to be. Instead, I'll offer a brief overview of the book's contents, give some reasons why readers may wish to buy the book, and leave it at that.

    The book is the first of three volumes by Karolyi on Mikhail Tal's chess career, and covers the period from his beginnings in the game through his victory in the 1959 Candidates' tournament, a success that gave him the right to face Mikhail Botvinnik for the world championship a year later. (Tal won, in case you were wondering.) Tal's early years featured his most energetic and daring chess, and even now his best games from that period have an entrancing effect on chess fans. The effect on his contemporaries was even more striking - they simply had no idea of what to do with him, and one after another they collapsed against him.

    This is all well-known, and many of Tal's early games are well-chronicled classics. So why another book on Tal? First, because there are more games here than just the well-loved favorites. Karolyi presents 69 main games, and many more are incorporated within them.

    Second, Karolyi is a deep and dedicated analyst, and in conjunction with the latest engines has made many new discoveries, some of which are genuinely beautiful. This is true even of the most explored games. The games are very well-annotated, but not to anything approaching distracting Huebnerian depths.

    Third, Karolyi shows Tal as a complete player and not just someone who could successfully drag his opponents into the swamp of complications where 2 + 2 = 5; he could also play outstanding positional chess and construct technical masterpieces. The book therefore paints not only a more detailed picture of Tal, but a richer one too.

    Fourth and relatedly, the positional and technical games are often instructive, so the book's value for training purposes isn't limited to tactics. (Of course, tactical training is available, and in abundance.)

    Fifth, there's plenty of biographical material. Karolyi goes through Tal's career a year at a time tracing his development as a chess player, discussing the background of his life (family, progress through school, his relationship with his great and almost lifelong trainer Alexander Koblencs, new anecdotes, and more.

    While not a reason in itself to buy the book, there are some other neat goodies besides, like summaries of Tal's play over each past year and a valuable classification index pointing the student or trainer to various motifs in his games. In all, the book constitutes a major contribution to the literature on Mikhail Tal, and I can recommend it to all chess fans (though I'd suggest that weaker club players not worry about going too deeply into the analysis, but only as far as they feel inclined to).

    Tuesday
    Jun102014

    Nakamura-Navara Match: Nakamura Wins 3.5-0.5

    Hikaru Nakamura finished his 4-game match with David Navara on a high note, winning the game to complete a very convincing victory. (To Navara's credit, he maintained a sense of humor, setting up a self-mate on the final move.) With this success Nakamura picked up 12 rating points and has moved up to #5 on the live rating list. Well done!

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