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    Friday
    May012015

    The Russian Team Championship is Underway

    Team events, at least or especially those not involving national teams, tend to draw less attention than super-tournaments, even when there are at least as many elite players in the latter as in the former. (The paradox of choice, perhaps?) Such might be the fate of the Russian Team Championship, which started today, but that would be a pity. Even if you don't know one team from another and couldn't care less about that, this seven-round event includes Vladimir Kramnik (2783), Levon Aronian (2770), Dmitry Jakovenko (2744), Radoslaw Wojtaszek (2738), Peter Svidler (2734), Leinier Dominguez (2729), Wang Yue (2726), Dmitry Andreikin (2723), Ian Nepomniachtchi (2716), Anton Korobov (2708), Vladimir Malakhov (2706) and a slew of players in the upper 2600s including Alexei Shirov (2691), who is about to finish off Kramnik.

    Live games can be watched here, here or here.

    Friday
    May012015

    More "Across The Board"

    The BBC Radio 4 network has a new series of "Across the Board" episodes coming out next week; interviewees include Garry Kasparov (on Tuesday) and Rex Sinquefield (on Wednesday).

    HT: Marc Beishon

    Friday
    May012015

    Nakamura Recaps His U.S. Championship Win

    Here.

    Tuesday
    Apr282015

    The Grand Chess Tour

    This came out in St. Louis on Friday, the day before the Kasparov-Short match started. Wholly independent of FIDE (though one presumes they will still rate the tournaments), a lucrative three-tournament series will begin this year featuring nine "permanent" players and one wildcard. Here's the press release:

    INAUGURAL GRAND CHESS TOUR UNVEILED IN SAINT LOUIS

    SAINT LOUIS (April 24, 2015) – There is a new, gold standard for international chess competition, providing more opportunities for the world’s best chess players to compete on a grand stage.

    The world’s most prestigious, international chess events are combining efforts to establish a gold standard for the inaugural Grand Chess Tour, an annual competitive circuit for ten of the world’s top grandmasters. The announcement was made today at a press conference held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

    The Grand Chess Tour is an affiliation between the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (Sinquefield Cup), Tower AS (Norway Chess) and Chess Promotions Ltd. (London Chess Classic), combining the organizational efforts of three elite events into one unified competitive structure. The partnership aims to raise worldwide awareness for each prestigious tournament, as well as for the tour.

    The inaugural 2015 Tour will kick off in June as a three-event cycle, beginning with Norway Chess 2015, followed by the Sinquefield Cup in August/September, and finishing with the London Chess Classic in 2015.

    Norway Chess 2015 - Stavanger, Norway, June 15 – June 26, 2015 Sinquefield Cup - Saint Louis, USA, August 21 – September 3, 2015 London Chess Classic - London, England, December 3 – December 14, 2015

    Based on FIDE's January 2015 rating list, the Grand Chess Tour invited the world’s top-ten international grandmasters, eight of whom agreed to appear in all three international events. A ninth grandmaster, who will also play the entire tour, will be added at a later date. The tenth and final grandmaster will be selected as a wildcard by each organizing host.

    Each of the three 2015 Grand Chess Tour events will award individual prize funds of $300,000, with competitors also tallying points toward a tour prize fund of $150,000; the overall tour champion will receive an additional $75,000. The total prize fund for the circuit is $1,050,000.

    The participating players are:

     World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, Norway  Fabiano Caruana, Italy  Alexander Grischuk, Russia  Veselin Topalov, Bulgaria  Viswanathan Anand, India  Levon Aronian, Armenia  Anish Giri, Netherlands  Hikaru Nakamura, USA

    “The Grand Chess Tour was created with just one goal in mind: Demonstrating the highest level of organization for the world’s best players,” said Tony Rich, Executive Director of the CCSCSL. “Featuring the world’s strongest chess professionals fighting for massive prize funds, along with a full spectator experience led by world-class commentary, this circuit sets forth an internationally coordinated effort that casts a shining spotlight on global chess competition.”

    “It’s an honor to be among the giants of chess organizers,” said Joran Aulin-Jansson with Tower AS (Norway Chess). “Having the world’s best chess players in one circuit is a great way to fuel excitement for the future of chess.”

    “The London Chess Classic is delighted to be part of this new venture which we feel sure will greatly add to the public interest in top flight chess,” said Malcom Pein, Director London Chess Classic.  “We look forward to the Grand Chess Tour climaxing in London and to further tournaments joining the GCT in coming years."

    Participating tournaments are identified as the gold standard for international event organization, setting the model for player conditions, prize funds and spectator experience. Each of the events will cater to live audiences, as well as offer streaming broadcasts complete with grandmaster commentary.

    For more information, visit www.grandchesstour.com.

    Tuesday
    Apr282015

    China Wins World Team Championship

    Considering that the Chinese team won last year's Olympiad in Tromso, it's not all that surprising that they won the World Team Championship this year as well. Their team went an undefeated +6=3 to come in first with 15 match points, well ahead of the runner-up team from Ukraine which went +5-2=2 (12 points) and the third-placed Armenians (+5-3=1, 11 match points). On board 1 they were led by 22-year-old Ding Liren (TPR 2794), who is now 11th in the world (2757.4 - I think both marks are records for Chinese players, but I could be wrong about this), while the top score (7/9) and highest TPR (2825) was turned in by 15-year-old wunderkind Wei Yi. He's now 2717.5 and #34 in the world.

    Russia and the U.S. tied for fourth-fifth on match points (10 apiece, based on identical +4-3=2 scores), with Russia coming out ahead on board points. Still, the U.S. team's Aleks Lenderman gets some bragging rights, as he had the largest rating gain of the tournament, picking up 19 Elo points (thanks to a 2788 TPR) to reach a 2636 rating. After a draw with Yu Yangyi, a loss to Zoltan Almasi and a draw with Sergei Movsesian he caught fire, finishing with wins over Samy Shoker, Emil Sutovsky, Vasil Ivanchuk and Lazaro Bruzon.

    Some other outstanding TPRs: Levon Aronian (2805 - probably his best performance in quite some time), Yuriy Kryvoruchko (2799) and Yuniesky Quesada Perez (2783). Here are the full team scores for the event:

    • 1. China 15 (23 board points)
    • 2. Ukraine 12 (21)
    • 3. Armenia 11 (18)
    • 4. Russia 10 (20.5)
    • 5. USA 10 (19.5)
    • 6. Hungary 9 (17)
    • 7. Israel 8 (18.5 - more than Armenia, which shows that when you win can be more important than how often you win)
    • 8. Cuba 7 (16.5)
    • 9. India 7 (16)
    • 10. Egypt 1 (10)

    Monday
    Apr272015

    Garry Kasparov Wins the Battle of the Legends 8.5-1.5

    As already noted in the previous post, Garry Kasparov went through Nigel Short like a hot knife through butter in their Sunday games, blanking Short 5-0 and winning the overall contest by a massive 8.5-1.5 score.

    Game 6, the first played on Sunday, was a rapid game, and it was competitive. Short enjoyed an advantage most of the way, but his 33rd move was a mistake. Kasparov's minor pieces soon dominated, and White's extra exchange played no role; in fact, Kasparov's 38th move, declining the opportunity to regain the exchange, was the right thing to do. Excepting a one-move hiccup on on move 42, Kasparov took over and won the ending convincingly.

    In the blitz games, things just got worse and worse for the Englishman. In the first, Short played a provocative opening, and when Kasparov - as White - was able to embed pawns on c5 and d6 Black was condemned to a miserable existence for the rest of the game. He defended resiliently for a while, but when he chose 37...gxf5, giving White's knight the spectacular e4 square thanks to 38.exf5 in reply, it was all downhill and Kasparov won easily. That gave the ex-champ a 5.5-1.5 lead and thus clinched overall victory with three games to go.

    Game 8 was very exciting. Kasparov played a Classical Sicilian, a line he seldom played (if ever) during his official career. His 13th move was especially interesting, inviting the obvious 14.e5 in reply. That's what Short played, and soon they banged out a series of moves finishing up with Kasparov's 21...Rd8. Black was better, but it wouldn't have been decisive just yet had Short played 22.b3. He instead pushed the b-pawn two squares, after which he was simply lost. 22.b4 gave White's king luft, but that's the only good thing it accomplished for White. The pawn was lost, White's king was exposed, and Kasparov finished the game with flair.

    Game 9 was a sort of combination of a Reversed Philidor and King's Indian Attack against Short's French. Kasparov built for the kingside attack while Short tried to break through and break in on the queenside. Perhaps Black would have been fine had he tripled his heavy pieces on the b-file and entered (with 23...Qb7, aiming to move the rook to b3 or b2), but he didn't and he wasn't. Just a couple of moves later Kasparov was winning, and he finished the game off with an impressive display of power chess.

    Finally, game 10 was yet another disaster for Short, his seventh loss in a row in the match. He was worse with White after 13.f4, and after 16...d5! it was clear that Kasparov was in his charge. The losing move came on move 21, when Short played 21.Nc2 rather than do something to pre-empt Black's idea of ...Ng4, ...Qh5 and mate. Kasparov conducted the final attack in great style (23...Bd7 was especially nice) and mated Short's king in the middle of the board.

    In all, it was a fantastic performance by Kasparov, who could quite possibly have won the match with a 10-0 score. Unfortunately for Short, he slept very poorly during the match, having just traveled from Thailand, and that only impeded his performance, especially on the second day. Even so, Kasparov gave a remarkable display of power chess, and showed flashes of his former brilliance - especially once he decided after game 6 to just go for attacking chess, as in his youth. I watched the match in person, and was extremely impressed by what I saw - and more than I would have been listening to the commentators or seeing computer evaluations. It seems that the computer approved strongly of his play in those last four games, but there's still nothing like seeing and experiencing the game in the raw. It was only blitz, but it was inspiring.

    Monday
    Apr272015

    Shamkir, Round 9: Carlsen Wins His Game And The Tournament (Updated with Games)

    Sunday was a great day for the two highest-rated players of all time. Garry Kasparov crushed Nigel Short 5-0 on the second day of their match in St. Louis, while Magnus Carlsen defeated Rauf Mamedov to guarantee himself of clear first in the Gashimov Memorial, no matter what Viswanathan Anand did. As it turned out, Anand drew, so Carlsen finished in clear first a full point ahead of Anand, with the outstanding score of 7/9. Anand finished with 6 points, and both players were undefeated. Both players gained 13 rating points (rounding up, as FIDE will), and hold the top two spots on the rating list.

    All the other games were drawn, though Anish Giri had outplayed Vladimir Kramnik from an even endgame before messing it up on move 77. Here, then, are final standings:

    • 1. Magnus Carlsen 7
    • 2. Viswanathan Anand 6
    • 3-4. Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana 5
    • 5-6. Vladimir Kramnik, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 4
    • 7-10. Michael Adams, Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Rauf Mamedov 3.5

    UPDATE: The games, with notes to Carlsen's win over Mamedov, are here.

     

    Sunday
    Apr262015

    Shamkir, Round 8: Anand Cuts Carlsen's Lead to Half A Point With A Round To Go (Updated with Games)

    Coming into today's round with a one point lead and just two rounds to go, and with the black pieces, Magnus Carlsen's job was a rather Hippocratic one: first, do no harm. He kept things under control against Wesley So and achieved a draw without too much trouble. It was a good result against a player who had until the previous round looked like his main challenger for first place.

    Instead, that honor goes to his two-time world championship match opponent, Viswanathan Anand, who defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov on the white side of a Spanish Four Knights. First Anand made progress in the center, and then sacrificed the exchange for a pawn and loads of kingside play. He enjoyed a serious advantage, but didn't manage to make the most of it. Several moves before time trouble Mamedyarov managed to equalize, though proving and maintaining it wasn't going to be easy. Short of time, he bashed out his last two moves, and they were both mistakes. He was losing at this point, but even so his next two moves were also errors, and it was time to resign after White's 43rd move.

    In other games: Vladimir Kramnik finally stopped the bleeding and even managed to win his game, against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and got back to -1 in the tournament. Michael Adams also improved his hitherto unfortunate tournament with a win, in his case over Anish Giri. Finally, Rauf Mamedov continued his very solid tournament with a draw against Fabiano Caruana.

    One round remains; here are the pairings:

    • Mamedyarov (3.5) - Adams (3)
    • Caruana (4.5) - Anand (5.5)
    • Carlsen (6) - Mamedov (3.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (3) - So (4.5)
    • Giri (3) - Kramnik (3.5)

    UPDATE: The games, with comments, are here.

     

    Saturday
    Apr252015

    Kasparov Leads the Battle of the Legends 3.5-1.5

    The two-day rapid & blitz exhibition match between Garry Kasparov and his erstwhile challenger Nigel Short began today/yesterday/Saturday in St. Louis, and at the halfway point Kasparov leads the "Battle of the Legends" 3.5-1.5.

    In game 1, the rapid game, Kasparov had White and enjoyed a winning advantage much of the way in a Bogo-Indian. Short hung in there, and as time dwindled away Kasparov had to reconcile himself to a draw. This was followed by four blitz games, which were dominated by Kasparov.

    In the first, Kasparov found a nice pawn sac on the black side of an English, took over the initiative and finished with a strong attack. A note about the game score: I haven't checked TWIC, but on Chess24's website their record of the game finished prematurely. Here's how it ended: 33.gxf4 Qh5 34.Rxe3 dxe4 35.Qh2 Rg8+ 36.Kh1 e2 and only here did Short resign.

    The second blitz game was won by Short, but in peculiar fashion. Kasparov was better all the way on the white side of a Nimzowitsch Defense, but simply forgot about the clock and lost on time. Oops.

    Kasparov immediately struck back in the third blitz game, winning convincingly if not quite perfectly against Short's Nimzo-Larsen (1.b3). White quickly obtained a structural advantage, but this was always outweighed by Black's activity and kingside attacking chances.

    Finally, Kasparov broke through with White on his third try. It wasn't a particularly clean game, and from a theoretical standpoint Short was doing fine with the semi-offbeat Chigorin. Nevertheless, the ex-champ outplayed him - several times - and finally brought home the full point.

    Kasparov's two point lead could easily have been more, and while it's a significant edge he also led his last exhibition match with Short, several years ago, by two points with just three games remaining. He promptly lost the next two games before pulling out the finale, so Short's fans shouldn't give up hope.

    Saturday
    Apr252015

    Shamkir, Round 7: Carlsen Leads Anand By A Point With Two Rounds To Go (Updated with Games)

    Magnus Carlsen barely won in Wijk aan Zee and in the Grenke Chess Classic earlier this year, but right now it appears that he has everything under control in Shamkir. After 7 rounds he has an undefeated +4 score, up from yesterday's +3 after a convincing win over the collapsing Vladimir Kramnik. Carlsen's 13.Qc2 was an interesting novelty in a 4.d3 Anti-Berlin, and Kramnik was up to the challenge. He reacted well and saw the right move and the right idea on move 19, but then got attracted to another idea. Unfortunately for him, what he saw rested on several miscalculations, and the result was a much worse, possibly losing position. Carlsen finished him off powerfully, and for possibly the first time in his career (at least in classical chess) Kramnik has lost three games in a row.

    If Wesley So could have defeated Fabiano Caruana he'd have remained just half a point behind and in good shape going into his game with Carlsen today/tomorrow (Saturday). It didn't happen: Caruana continued his newfound resurgence and won his second straight game, and they are now both on +1.

    In clear second now is Viswanathan Anand, whose good win over Michael Adams brought him to +2. Anand is continuing to play well, and can make as good a case as anyone to be the #2 player in the world.

    The other two games were drawn. To no one's surprise, the Azerbaijan Derby between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Rauf Mamedov was drawn, but despite the game's speed and its concluding in a perpetual check, it was a real game - one Mamedyarov could and probably should have won. Finally, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri drew their game as well.

    It's late and I'm having difficulty posting the games, so I'll try to do that in the morning/tomorrow. Meanwhile, here are the pairings for round 8:

    • Adams (2) - Giri (3)
    • Kramnik (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3)
    • So (4) - Carlsen (5.5)
    • Mamedov (3) - Caruana (4)
    • Anand (4.5) - Mamedyarov (3.5)

    UPDATE: The games are here.

     

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