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    Friday
    Jun192015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 3: Nakamura, Topalov Win, Lead

    Hikaru Nakamura has enjoyed a very good career score against Fabiano Caruana, and although Caruana made up some ground by beating Nakamura in St. Louis last year Nakamura struck back today against his countryman. It was a strange win, however, as Caruana was doing just fine and had reached an equal rook ending that seemed headed for a reasonably quick and straightforward draw. Near the end of the first time control, things got out of hand for the Italian-American (and in favor of the American who spends more time in Italy thanks to his Italian girlfriend) when he hit upon the dubious 38...b5 and the outright terrible 40...g5. Both moves weakened Black's structure, and the latter also invited White's rook in to cause lethal damage.

    That put Nakamura at 2.5/3 (and to #2 in the live ratings), the same score enjoyed by Veselin Topalov (now the world's #3). Topalov won with great ease against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on the black side of a Meran Semi-Slav, thanks to MVL's choosing a mistaken tactical idea starting with 20.Bd2. That move may not have been so bad in itself, but the plan to go for Nd5 and Ba5 failed completely. Two moves later, Black was winning, and White resigned after a further six moves were played.

    The remaining games were drawn, and that left Anish Giri alone in third place with 2/3. He was completely lost to Magnus Carlsen, whose lucklessness against Giri is a source of endless mirth to the young Dutchman. The only positive for Carlsen is that it wasn't a third straight loss.

    Levon Aronian was very happy with his position out of the opening against Jon Ludwig Hammer, but to his dismay Hammer played very well after that and managed to hold the game, with some effort. Some, but especially after 34.Re4 h5!, it wasn't too tough to save the game. White's rook was stuck for the rest of the game.

    Finally, Viswanathan Anand enjoyed an advantage against Alexander Grischuk much of the way, but didn't manage to convert it into anything substantial. Anand has been getting good positions, but his opponents have been slipping away.

    Tournament site here, games here (but without notes today).

    Here are the round 4 pairings:

    • Grischuk (1) - Hammer (1)
    • Topalov (2.5) - Aronian (1)
    • Caruana (1.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (1.5)
    • Giri (2) - Nakamura (2.5)
    • Anand (1.5) - Carlsen (.5)

    Wednesday
    Jun172015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 2: Caruana Beats Carlsen, All Other Games Drawn

    Last year it looked like Fabiano Caruana was rapidly gaining on Magnus Carlsen, but when Caruana cooled off and Carlsen came back it looked like the gap between the champion and his challengers was as big as ever. It's still too early in the tournament to say that Carlsen's dominance is disappearing, but Caruana's very impressive and comprehensive win over Carlsen today suggests that the chase pack isn't that far back, either.

    Caruana was born in the United States, represented Italy for the past 10 years while often living elsewhere in Europe and has been coached by a Belgian and a Ukranian (among others), but maybe we should call him "Mr. Berlin". While White has been struggling to find anything in the Berlin endgame while Black players have been suffering somewhat against the 4.d3 line, Caruana has been finding great ideas for both sides. Yesterday a great new idea against 4.d3 gave him a pretty easy draw against Anand, and today a strong idea in the Berlin ending posed powerful problems with which Carlsen couldn't cope. (Overdoing the alliteration? Probably. Always avoid alliteration, they say.)

    With the win Caruana jumped back to #2 on the live rating list while joining the four round 1 winners (Nakamura, Giri, Topalov and Vachier-Lagrave) in a five-way tie for first. The other four games were drawn, so Carlsen is temporarily in clear last place with an 0-2 score.

    About those other four games: if yesterday it was offense that triumphed, today it was the defense. (Or, if you prefer, today the offense faltered.) Levon Aronian had good winning chances against Alexander Grischuk after the latter made a tactical slip, but couldn't take advantage. (Admittedly, the opportunity was a very subtle one.)

    Anish Giri had some edge against Viswanathan Anand, but it wasn't much. He was up an exchange for a pawn, but Anand's compensation was such that Giri decided to return the material in pursuit of a draw. He was a bit careless about the way he did this, however, and then Anand had some winning chances in a rook ending. Maybe he never had a win, but Anand himself opined that he could at least have posed Giri more serious problems than he did.

    Continuing the theme, Veselin Topalov had a significant (but not decisive) advantage against Hikaru Nakamura for a long time, and the commentators though that his winning chances were better than his opponent's drawing chances. Nakamura is nothing if not resilient, however, and Topalov wasn't even able to come close to a win.

    Finally, Jon Ludwig Hammer had a very big advantage against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and looked sure to convert. This was the one game (aside from Caruana-Carlsen, of course) where someone really did have a decisive advantage, but once again the defense held. Vachier-Lagrave held by "a millimeter...by a miracle", as Vladimir Kramnik would say, but even so Hammer is the leading Norwegian scorer in the tournament so far with half a point to his name. (I wouldn't bet a single penny that this will remain the case.)

    The games are here, the tournament site is here, and the round 3 pairings are as follows:

    • Nakamura (1.5) - Caruana (1.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (1.5) - Topalov (1.5)
    • Carlsen (0) - Giri (1.5)
    • Aronian (.5) - Hammer (.5)
    • Anand (1) - Grischuk (.5)

    Wednesday
    Jun172015

    Capablanca Memorial, Round 3 Standings: Yu Yangyi Leads With 2.5/3

    Tournament site here, games here.

    Tuesday
    Jun162015

    Capablanca Memorial Underway (Updated)

    The 50th Capablanca Memorial is underway in Havana, Cuba, and after two rounds (of 10) Yu Yangyi, Pavel Eljanov and hometown star Leinier Dominguez* share the lead with 1.5/2. It's a very strong field, so even though the event is overshadowed by the goings-on in Norway it's worth keeping an eye out for this tournament as well.

    [N.B. I'm not sure that Dominguez is in a tie for first, as it seems to me that he's completely lost against Ian Nepomniachtchi in the final position of their round 2 game. Unless "Nepo" lost on time or was otherwise forfeited, the apparent result is more likely some sort of DGT error. (Not that that could ever happen, right?)]

    Update on the N.B.: The organizers are using some old and apparently somewhat buggy software to transmit the moves, and the game relayed to TWIC as Nepomniachtchi - Dominguez was from a different game from another section. (HT: Thomas Richter & Mark Crowther.)

    Tuesday
    Jun162015

    So Defeats Navara 3-1

    The "appetizer" for the Norway Chess tournament has concluded, and did so most satisfactorily for Wesley So. As in the first pair of games of his match with David Navara, so too in the second: he drew (reasonably) comfortably with Black before winning with White. So seemed to be in good form, and is now up to #8 in the world.

    Tuesday
    Jun162015

    Norway Chess, Round 1: Ladies & Gentleman, Boys & Girls: Show Up On Time and Know the Rules

    Once upon a time things were very simple if you played in a grandmaster tournament. The first time control was 40 moves in two and a half hours, and from then on it was always 16 moves per hour, repeating. There were no increments and there was no time delay, and the game would be adjourned after five hours of play. Simple. Nowadays, who knows?

    Apparently not Magnus Carlsen.

    There was an announcement before the start of the game that the time control was 40 moves in two hours, without increment, then one additional hour for the rest of the game with 30 seconds increment per move. Unfortunately for Carlsen, he didn't show up for the announcement and apparently didn't read the rules anywhere else, either, and he apparently assumed that the common but not universal practice of a 15-minute time bonus after move 60 would be in effect. It wasn't, so although he had played a good game and was on the verge of winning against Veselin Topalov, he lost on time while thinking about his 61st move. It was a horrible way to lose, slightly reminiscent of Hikaru Nakamura's "orange juice game" several years ago. Errare humanum est strikes again!

    That marred an otherwise very exciting first round of the Norway Chess supertournament, especially for the home fans. Overall, four of the five games were decisive, and the other three wins were all by White. (As should have been the case in Carlsen-Topalov as well.) Even the one draw was theoretically significant and had some interesting lines behind the scenes, so the spectators were well-rewarded with their time.

    Anish Giri squished Alexander Grischuk in a Rossolimo, though he unnecessarily gave Grischuk one chance to survive. Fortunately for Giri, his opponent was in his usual extreme time trouble and immediately replied with a virtual blunder, after which the win was a matter of course.

    Nakamura defeated Jon Ludwig Hammer on the white side of an English, creating a strategically complicated game that Hammer couldn't navigate as well as his opponent. The home team thus got off to an 0-2 start.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave built on yesterday's success in the blitz with a win over Levon Aronian, whose struggles the past couple of years don't seem to be ending. Aronian forgot his preparation in a sharp line of the Ragozin, and the best he could do after the opening was to transition into a queen and rook ending two pawns down. Aronian resisted well, but MVL's technique was up to the job.

    Finally, the one draw was a 4.d3 Berlin between Viswanathan Anand and Fabiano Caruana. Caruana introduced something new with 6...bxc6, offering a pawn for very concrete counterplay. Anand responded in a practical way, returning the pawn in exchange for safety and a better structure, but Caruana's activity and ultimately the opposite-colored bishops let the American hold the draw without too much trouble. (The games are here, with my brief notes.)

    So there was lots of excitement, and there is also some excitement on the rating list. Nakamura is now #2 in the world, Caruana is #3 and Topalov snuck ahead of Anand at #4. The top five are all over 2800, which is, I think, an all-time first. Will it continue? We'll see, starting with the round 2 pairings:

    • Grischuk - Aronian
    • Giri - Anand
    • Topalov - Nakamura
    • Caruana - Carlsen
    • Hammer - Vachier-Lagrave

    Monday
    Jun152015

    Norway Chess: Blitz Roundup and First Round Pairings

    Today's blitz tournament determined the pairing numbers, or rather, gave players the right to determine their pairing numbers for the Norway Chess main event, which starts tomorrow. The blitz tournament saw a huge number of blunders, so rather than summarize the action I'll stick to the results:

    • 1. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (!!) 6.5
    • 2. Hikaru Nakamura 6
    • 3-5. Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Viswanathan Anand (in that tiebreak order. The top five all guaranteed themselves an extra game with the white pieces.) 5.5
    • 6. Levon Aronian 5
    • 7. Alexander Grischuk 4
    • 8. Veselin Topalov 3
    • 9. Fabiano Caruana 2.5
    • 10. Jon Ludwig Hammer 1.5

    And now, the pairings for round 1, which start at 4 p.m. local time = 10 a.m. ET:

    • Giri - Grischuk
    • Anand - Caruana
    • Carlsen - Topalov
    • Nakamura - Hammer
    • Vachier-Lagrave - Aronian

    Predictions? I'll say Carlsen for the win, Anand to place and Nakamura to show.

    Sunday
    Jun142015

    Wei Yi Wins Leon Rapid Event

    Scary good, this young Chinese chap. Wei Yi won a small but strong rapid event in Leon. In the semi-finals he beat David Anton Guijarro 2.5-1.5 while Maxime Vachier-Lagrave defeated Ruslan Ponomariov by the same margin, and in the final Wei Yi beat MVL in yet another match to finish with the same score.

    Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to see him get a super-tournament invite. He just turned 16 and is rated 2723, ahead of Magnus Carlsen's pace (and everyone else's too) at the same age. Carlsen was invited everywhere at that age, but where is Wei Yi playing? Outside of China, only in opens and rapids, it seems. Not good, but kudos to the organizers in Leon for bringing him in.

    Sunday
    Jun142015

    Gelfand's Positional Decision Making in Chess: Buy It

    I already devoured the book on the Forward Chess app; the hardcover version ships on Wednesday. It's great, buy it, and rejoice that this is the first volume of at least three books Boris Gelfand will write in whatever series this is supposed to be for Quality Chess.

    Sunday
    Jun142015

    Norway Blitz Pairings Are Up

    The blitz portion of the Norway Chess supertournament takes place tomorrow starting at 5:30 p.m. local time/11:30 a.m. ET, and the pairings are up, here. Good times.

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