Chinese superstar Wei Yi's rating has taken a bit of a hit the last couple of months, but he still seems very likely to be a big player in the chess world over the next decade or two. He's also one of the most entertaining players around, best known for winning brilliancies in sharp, highly theoretical lines. In my most recent column for the World Chess website I show one of his recent attacking gems, but also show that he can win beautiful positional games as well - see for yourself.
William Vallicella, author of the fine Maverick Philosopher blog, recalls a bit of chess fame he enjoyed thanks in part to my work on this blog. I'll let you read the story over there, and ask a favor of anyone who has Jovanka Houska's new book on the Caro-Kann: is the "Vallicella Trap" mentioned in this one?
Years ago psychologist Anders Ericsson proposed that to become elite in a field one needed, among other things, approximately 10,000 hours of "deliberate practice". This isn't just putting in one's time (e.g. watching videos and playing bullet chess) but working hard at challenging problems that help develop the relevant skills. Others have gotten rich by popularizing and, in some cases, slightly misrepresenting Ericsson's work, and even apart from that his claims have had their critics.
Ericsson is therefore out with a popular book (why shouldn't he get to cash in on his work?) that reiterates and clarifies his thesis, responds to objections, and offers suggestions about implementing deliberate practice. If you're curious about the topic and/or have followed the debates over the years, you might want to have a look.
I haven't been a big fan of helpmates, but the positions in this short article are just accessible enough to be interesting to fans of "normal" chess. It's nice to see that Pal Benko is still creating at the age of 87!
Not surprisingly, she finds the current Women's World Championship system unfair:
I am satisfied with my play in the match but I cannot say that I have only positive feelings – after all, to me the current Women's World Championship system seems to be unfair. And I believe I'm not the only one who thinks like this. It would be good if the current system changed to a more reasonable format. I am sure, a "real" World Championship Match would attract much more attention.
It turns out, however, that there is an actual reason why the current system is in place. It's a sensible reason too, though I'm not inclined to think it's a sufficiently good one:
Actually, last month I officially made a proposal to FIDE to change the format of the Women’s World Championship. I suggested three reasonable alternatives but the answer I received seems to indicate that my proposal was not accepted. The main reason why they want to stick to the current system is the fact that it is easier to find sponsors if you call the knock-out tournament “World Championship”. If you called it "World Cup" it would be extremely difficult to find sponsors.
So there you have it. Anyway, now that Hou has finished her degree look for her to make a big push for 2700 in the next year or two, after which she may well follow in Judit Polgar's footsteps and ignore women's events. (At least if the Chinese sports officials let her.) There's a bit more to the interview than this (but not much), so have a look.
The pro-Russia rah rah occasionally goes over the top, but in general Sergey Karjakin's post-Candidates tournament comments, compiled here from several interviews, are interesting and certainly worth a look.
By which I mean, why we don't: an article in the New York Times entitled "Masters of Chess, Not Self-Promotion", which seems more intent on proving the thesis than drawing a conclusion from the balance of the evidence. (The evidence he seems especially taken by: Fabiano Caruana wearing an overly large jacket at a pre-tournament gala and his expressed desire that he not be there. As many young people naively do, he trusted the journalist, not realizing that his admission would be used to show that chess players aren't media savvy. Trusting journalists, at least or especially those in the popular media, is a bad idea.)
The author does mention that Magnus Carlsen has been a very successful figure in terms of reaching the non-chess world, but then quickly returns to painting chess and chess promotion in a bad light, referring to the trouble with Agon and its attempts to maintain an exclusive broadcast of the games.
However, something good can come of this. It shows that chess players need to learn to speak to the non-chess media, so if the article ends up having that effect, it will have been worthwhile. (Lawrence Trent, are you paying attention?)
(HT: Howard Sample)
That's a bit too strong, as someone can have better chances than any other individual but not have better chances than the rest of the field combined. Still, even in the more modest sense Magnus Carlsen opined (in advance) that Sergey Karjakin was a slight favorite to win the Candidates in a very even field because of his defensive abilities, his resilience, and his strong preparation. He was right on the money!
Google translation here. (HT: Eyal)
The chess engines are at it again. Komodo 9.4 won an odds match against GM Joel Benjamin last week, 2.5-1.5. (HT: Vladimir) Joel Benjamin is a good GM, but not as active as he used to be and not as strong as Hikaru Nakamura, who lost an odds match to Komodo last year, so the odds he received were even greater than those given Nakamura:
- Five moves within the first four ranks.
- Rook for knight (a8 for b1, Wr moved to b1) and move.
- f7 pawn removed and two moves.
- Queen for two bishops.
The computer won the first game and drew the remaining three. Interestingly, Nakamura also did fine in the material odds games, but also lost the "free tempi" game (though he "only" got four moves). The next human sacrifice will be Eugene Perelshteyn in April; hopefully there will be a man-bites-computer story to tell for a change.
It isn't part of the Grand Chess Tour this year, but the Norway Chess Tournament (coming up in April) is still very much an elite event. Nine top players have been invited, and a qualifying event for the tenth spot just finished. Norwegian Jon Ludwig Hammer was the favorite and as a 2700 player (literally: 2700 on the dot) going into the tournament would have been a reasonable "a priori" invitee. Unfortunately for him, there was a qualifier and he didn't win it; instead, Swedish GM Nils Grandelius earned a spot in the main event. (HT: Marcus Uneson.)
The brutal field he'll be joining comprises Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Levon Aronian, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Veselin Topalov, Pavel Eljanov, Sergey Karjakin, and Pentala Harikrishna.