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    1948 World Chess Championship 1959 Candidates 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 London Chess Classic 2014 Petrosian Memorial 2014 Rapid & Blitz World Championship 2014 Russian Team Championship 2014 Sinquefield Cup 2014 Tigran Petrosian Memorial 2014 U.S. Championship 2014 U.S. Open 2014 Women's World Championship 2014 World Championship 2014 World Junior Championships 2014 World Rapid Championship 2015 Capablanca Memorial 2015 Chinese Championship 2015 European Club Cup 2015 European Team Championship 2015 London Chess Classic 2015 Millionaire Open 2015 Poikovsky 2015 Russian Team Championship 2015 Sinquefield Cup 2015 U.S. Championship 2015 Women's World Championship KO 2015 World Blitz Championship 2015 World Cup 2015 World Junior Championship 2015 World Open 2015 World Rapid & Blitz Championship 2015 World Team Championships 2016 2016 Candidates 2016 Capablanca Memorial 2016 Chess Olympiad 2016 Chinese Championship 2016 Sinquefield Cup 2016 U.S. Championship 2016 U.S. Women's Championship 2016 Women's World Championship 2016 World Championship 2018 Chess Olympiad 22014 Sinquefield Cup 22014 U.S. Championship 2Mind Games 2016 60 Minutes A. 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    Monday
    Jun062016

    Viktor Korchnoi, 1931-2016

    Sad news, but unfortunately not unexpected. Viktor Korchnoi, one of the greatest players of the 20th century, most certainly the greatest senior player ever, and one of the strongest players never to become World Champion, died earlier today at the age of 85.

    Much more on this later.

    Sunday
    Jun052016

    10,000 Hours vs. Talent

    It's not really "versus", of course, though it's sometimes portrayed that way. Inborn talent, if it exists, is never sufficient by itself to make someone a professional in any challenging field; hard work is required. But is it all hard work? Sometimes fans of the Anders Ericsson's "10,000 Hour Rule" make it seem that way (provided the hours in question are spent on so-called deliberate practice), but the arguments that talent exists and makes a difference continue - plausibly - to exist. In support of the latter, here's something new to chew on.

    Saturday
    Jun042016

    Shamkir, Round 9 + Tiebreaks: Mamedyarov Wins, Caruana Collapses

    Chess is a tough, sometimes cruel game. 40, 50 excellent moves can all be for nought after a single mistake, and likewise tournament victory can slip away after a lapse or two. Something like that was the case for Fabiano Caruana in this tournament, except that tournament victory slipped away after leaving points on the table in no fewer than six games. Such lapses may be something of a habit for Caruana - off the top of my head I can think of rounds 8 and 9 from the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, the last two rounds of this year's Candidates tournament, and now rounds 6-8 of this tournament plus the first three games in the tiebreak with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Maybe this is why Magnus Carlsen is #1 and Caruana is still in the peleton, and why Sergey Karjakin will be playing for the world championship this November and Caruana won't be.

    If the foregoing is correct - and maybe a more thorough comparison of Caruana's results will show that it isn't - then it is a problem in need of a solution. Improved stamina? A stronger killer instinct at the board, or at least a more assertive presence at the board? He's still young enough to work on and correct the problem; again, assuming that there really is a problem.

    Let's get back to objective matters and recap the round and the subsequent tiebreak. Caruana entered the round tied for first with Anish Giri, half a point ahead of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Caruana drew comfortably with Black against Karjakin, who chose an innocuous line against Caruana's Open Ruy. Mamedyarov was much less peacably inclined against Giri, and ground out an impressive win against the hitherto undefeated Dutchman. It was Mamedyarov's third win in a row (he beat his countryman Eltaj Safarli in round 7 and then Caruana in round 8), and it earned him a playoff against Caruana for the title.

    Before getting to the tiebreaks, a review of the other games. Pavel Eljanov had an advantage against Teimour Radjabov, but didn't manage to convert it: a draw. Pentala Harikrishna had a winning advantage against Safarli after playing an excellent first part of the game, but a string of inaccurate-to-awful moves from move 30 to move 36 resulted in a loss in the second time control. Finally, Hou Yifan's efforts to escape the cellar backfired. She overextended with the white pieces against Rauf Mamedov, and eventually her positional weaknesses cost her the game.

    On to the tiebreaks. First there were a pair of rapid games, and in both of them Caruana had a large, even winning advantage. The result: two draws. It was on then to a pair of blitz games, and here the tournament's outcome was finally decided. The first blitz game was a nervy affair that generally trended in Mamedyarov's favor, but Caruana had a chance to win this one too. Afterwards Caruana had several chances to draw the rook ending (some easy, some less easy), but at the end of a very long day at the end of a long tournament it's understandable that he didn't manage to save a blitz game. Mamedaryov won that game, and then needed only a draw in the rematch - with White - to secure tournament victory. In fact he could have won that game in the opening. He found a great tactical shot, but missed a key follow-up that would have left him a piece ahead. His decision to take the cynical route a few moves later with 21.Bxd4 could have backfired against an in-form Caruana, who did outplay him for a while in an endgame with rooks and opposite-colored bishops. Caruana couldn't quite squeeze enough from the position, and then a moment of carelessness left him lost (or nearly lost) again. Mamedyarov was happy to coast in with a draw though, and that was how that game finished, leaving Mamedyarov the winner of the third Vugar Gashimov memorial tournament in Shamkir, Azerbaijan.

    All the games from the final round and the tiebreaks are here, with my comments.

    Final Standings:

    • 1. Mamedyarov 6
    • 2. Caruana 6
    • 3. Giri 5.5
    • 4. Karjakin 5
    • 5. Mamedov 4.5
    • 6-8. Harikrishna, Radjabov, Safarli 4
    • 9. Eljanov 3.5
    • 10. Hou 2.5

    Saturday
    Jun042016

    Another Puzzle From Hort & Jansa's *The Best Move*

    A few weeks ago I mentioned the puzzle book by Vlastimil Hort and Vlastimil Jansa, The Best Move. It is a fine old work (from 1980), rightly acclaimed and featuring a nice mix of positions to solve. Almost all of them are reasonably challenging, but their character differs: some focus on judgment, some on a deep tactical point, some involve little tricks, and so on. Even the way the tasks are posed is often clever, managing to perform that most difficult of tasks in a tactics book; namely, not giving away half the solution in the question.

    Here's an interesting puzzle I came across a week or two ago, #60 in the book.

    Here's the task:

    Black to move.

    1. Black is (a) better, (b) equal, (c) worse.

    2. Black's best move is (a) 1...Bc8, (b) something else.

    The solution is here.

    Saturday
    Jun042016

    A GM Norm For Awonder Liang

    The American Continental Championship has two rounds to go, but already after round nine 13-year-old U.S. IM Awonder Liang has achieved a grandmaster norm; his first, I believe. He has scored 6 points thus far, with a score of +1 -1 =4 vs. GMs (the win was against Lazaro Bruzon!) and a 3-0 score against everyone else (an IM, an FM, and the 1792 he played in round 1). With a FIDE rating of 2406 it'll take him a while to reach the 2500 standard necessary for the title (along with the other norms), but the 27-point rating gain thus far in the event is a good step in that direction.

    (HT re the GM norm to Allen Becker.)

    Friday
    Jun032016

    Smoke, Yes, But Fire?

    Here's a piece on Kirsan Iljumzhinov that suggests something seedy about his management of FIDE (such rumors have swirled around Ilyumzhinov for 20 years or so now), but unless I'm missing something I don't see anything that's new or that constitutes evidence of wrongdoing. (I'm not proclaiming his innocence; just noting that the article rehashes old accusations without offering anything new that would put him out of business.)

    HT: Marc Beishon

    Friday
    Jun032016

    Shamkir, Round 8: Caruana Loses to Mamedyarov, Shares First With Giri With A Round to Play

    What could have been a victory lap for Fabiano Caruana has turned into a struggle to survive in the Vugar Gashimov memorial tournament in Shamkir. After giving up draws in rounds 6 and 7 from positions he should win, Caruana lost unnecessarily - with White, even - to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in round 8. Mamedyarov equalized in a Sveshnikov Sicilian, and then outplayed Caruana in a heavy piece endgame.

    Suddenly there is all to play for, as Caruana is now only tied with Anish Giri for first, while Mamedyarov is just half a point behind and Sergey Karjakin a point back. Better still for dramatic purposes, but much worse for Caruana, he has Black against Karjakin in the last round, while Giri has Black against Mamedyarov.

    In fact, Giri had good chances to take sole possession of first, playing White against tailender Hou Yifan. Giri enjoyed an advantage from early on, but although he tried for a long time - 103 moves in all - she defended excellently and saved the game.

    As for Karjakin, he drew very easily with Black against Eltaj Safarli, and they split the point in just 22 moves. It was an easy day at the office for him, but with the draw Karjakin is mathematically eliminated from any possibility of a first-place tie. On the flip side, he's guaranteed of at least a tie for second place if he defeats Caruana tomorrow.

    The other two games, Teimour Radjabov vs. Pentala Harikrishna and Rauf Mamedov vs. Pavel Eljanov, were also drawn, with no one experiencing any real danger on the way to the handshake.

    Here's Caruana-Mamedyarov (with my comments), and here are the final round pairings:

    • Mamedyarov (5) - Giri (5.5)
    • Karjakin (4.5) - Caruana (5.5)
    • Harikrishna (4) - Safarli (3)
    • Eljanov (3) - Radjabov (3.5)
    • Hou Yifan (2.5) - Mamedov (3.5)

    Friday
    Jun032016

    This Week's World Chess Column: Remembering Arturo Pomar

    I noted the passing of Spanish legend Arturo Pomar in a recent post; in this week's World Chess column I go further and take a look at some noteworthy games from his career.

    Friday
    Jun032016

    Shamkir, Round 7: Caruana Misses a Big Chance

    There were two decisive results in the antepenultimate round of the Vugar Gashimov memorial tournament in Shamkir, and there should have been three or even four.

    There was only one non-game in the round, and surprisingly it wasn't the all-Azeri match between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Eltaj Safarli. Why exactly this was a real game while all of the other intra-national games featuring the home players were short, effortless draws is a mystery to me, but Mamedyarov came to play. Unfortunately for Safarli, he played a very poor game and was in trouble after just 12 moves. Mamedyarov dominated for a long time, but his knight misadventure 32.Nc6 and 33.Nd8 gave Safarli a couple of chances to save the game. Perhaps due to time pressure, he didn't succeed, and Mamedyarov was winning easily by the end of the time control.

    The one short draw was instead between Sergey Karjakin and Teimour Radjabov, and there wasn't much to see there. The other two draws were full of life, however, and that includes the game between Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri. Caruana entered the round half a point ahead, and with a win the tournament would have been on ice. The players seemed to be prepared almost to move 30, but then the adventures started. Giri's foolhardy 31st move exposed his king to grave danger, and he was very fortunate that Caruana didn't venture Qf7 on either move 35 or 37. (Time pressure?) Luckily for Giri, Caruana allowed a threefold repetition, and the question of first place remains open.

    The other draw was less significant for the top places, but was an interesting battle all the same. Pentala Harikrishna managed to draw with Rauf Mamedov, but despite having the white pieces he was in trouble for a long time and probably lost at one or two moments.

    Finally, in the battle of the tailenders Pavel Eljanov escaped the cellar by defeating Hou Yifan, who is now in last place half a point behind Eljanov and Safarli. Eljanov played very aggressively and it paid off, and the game finished with an attractive, study-like win.

    The two decisive games, plus Caruana-Giri, are here (with my comments).

    The round 8 pairings look like this:

     

    • Giri (5) - Hou Yifan (2)
    • Mamedov (3) - Eljanov (2.5)
    • Radjabov (3) - Harikrishna (3.5)
    • Safarli (2.5) - Karjakin (4)
    • Caruana (5.5) - Mamedyarov (4)

     

    Thursday
    Jun022016

    The Current World Chess Column: A Tribute to Vugar Gashimov

    The tournament in Shamkir is a memorial to Vugar Gashimov, and it's not just the man (as a man) who deserves to be remembered, but the man as a chess player as well. Accordingly, a small tribute here, hopefully one of many to be written in the years to come.

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