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    Monday
    May032010

    President's Cup Blitz: Mamedyarov Beats Kramnik in a Playoff

    Here, thanks to Chess Today, are the final standings in the President's Cup blitz tournament in Baku. (You'll recall that in the main event, a rapid tournament, Kramnik, Mamedyarov and Kamsky finished with 5/7, but Kramnik won on tiebreak.)

    1-2. Mamedyarov, Kramnik 10.5 out of 13; Mamedyarov won the playoff 2-0.

    3. Radjabov 9.5

    4. Guseinov 8.5

    5. Safarli 8

    6-8. Kamsky, Sutovsky, Mamedov 7.5

    9. J. Polgar 6.5

    10-11. Rasulov, Bajarani 4

    12. Allahverdiev 3.5

    13. S. Rahmanov 2

    14. T. Mamedyarova 1.5

     

    N.B. There were supposed to be 16 players, but I guess two didn't show up.

    Sunday
    May022010

    Great Chess Under the Radar: The Italian Team Championship

    The Italian Team Championship took place this weekend, and it featured such stars as Alexei Shirov, Francisco Paco Vallejo and Fabiano Caruana.

    Games and further info here.

    Sunday
    May022010

    Game 6, With Notes

    It was uneventful in one sense, as neither player managed to secure a tangible plus, but both Anand and Topalov played inventively; Anand in trying to secure a meaningful edge, Topalov in trying to resist it. My notes only manage to scratch the surface, but I hope readers will find them helpful. Have a look.

    The score at the halfway point stands in Anand's favor, 3.5-2.5. Game 7 is on Monday, and Anand will have White again.

    Saturday
    May012010

    Kramnik Wins the President's Cup On Tiebreak

    The very strong rapid event in Baku, the President's Cup, finished today in a success for ex-world champ Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik, along with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Gata Kamsky, finished with 5 out 7, but Kramnik had the best tiebreaks and was declared the winner. (I'm not sure what the tiebreaker was, but the three players did an ouroboros: Kramnik beat Kamsky, Kamsky beat Mamedyarov, and Mamedyarov beat Kramnik.)

    Other scores: Teimour Radjabov 3.5, Judit Polgar & Emil Sutovsky 3, Rauf Mamedov 2 and Gadir Guseinov 1.5.

    There will be a blitz tournament there tomorrow with 16 players. I don't know who the other eight players will be, but it sure looks like it's going to be a very strong event.

    Games, pictures and more info here.

    Saturday
    May012010

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: Attacking the Deserted King

    There are positions where a player amasses a whole herd of pieces at the enemy king's doorstop. In such cases it's obvious that a big attack is on the way. But sometimes there isn't any such buildup, and yet an attack is possible and may very well succeed. How is this possible?

    One answer is that although the prospective attacker may have but a few pieces in the vicinity of the opponent's king, it might be that the defender has even fewer pieces to protect it. I believe that this explains how Topalov got crushed in game 4 against Anand from what looked like a fairly innocuous position, and it likewise helps explain the success of Larry Christiansen's brilliant attack against Yasser Seirawan in a 1978 contest.

    The games are instructive, entertaining and beautiful, so have a look here. The show is free (free registration required) and will be available on demand for the next month or so.

    Saturday
    May012010

    Game 6 is Underway (Updated at 12:25 ET - Draw Agreed)

    Yet another Catalan! Topalov returned to the variation he used in game 2, and - as I had expected for game 4 - Anand varied first. Here are the moves:

    1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 a6 6.Ne5 c5 7.Na3 cxd4 8.Naxc4 Bc5 9.0-0 0-0 10.Bg5 (This move is exceedingly rare - there's only one game with it in the database. In game 2, Anand played the more standard 10.Bd2, and after 10...Nd5 11.Rc1 Nd7 12.Nd3 Ba7 13.Ba5 Qe7 14.Qb3 Rd8 played the controversial 15.Qa3.) 10...h6 11.Bxf6 Qxf6N (In the one earlier, IM-level game, Black played 11...gxf6 and drew a longish game but without any real trouble.) 12.Nd3 Ba7 13.Qa4 Nc6 14.Rac1 e5 15.Bxc6 b5 16.Qc2 Qxc6 17.Ncxe5 Qe4 18.Qc6 Bb7 19.Qxe4 Bxe4 20.Rc2 Rfe8 21.Rfc1 f6 22.Nd7 Bf5 23.N7c5 Bb6 24.Nb7.

    Topalov's last move was a little questionable, I think, as the big swap 23...Bxc5 24.Rxc5 Bxd3 25.exd3 Re2 26.R5c2 Rae8 27.Kf2 Rxe2 28.Rxe2 Kf7 probably held without too much trouble, while now he's stuck with the dud dark-squared bishop. But maybe I'm wrong, and should remember Dorfman's rule (the worst bishop is better than the best knight). We'll see!

     

    10:30 Update

    We've had only three half-moves since the initial post, but I'll elaborate a bit on the position. We've seen 24...Bd7 25.Nf4 Rab8, and the last move in particular might be questioned. Why not 25...Rac8 instead, trying to vaporize all the rooks? In that case, Black seems to hold pretty easily, e.g. 26.b4 Rxc2 27.Rxc2 Rc8 28.Rxc8+ Bxc8 29.Nd6 Bg4 30.Kf1 Bc7 31.Nb7 Kf7 32.a3 Bc8 33.Nc5 g5 34.Nd5 Bd8 with a draw. White's knights look fantastic, but they can go no further and have no targets, but they do at least neutralize Black's bishops. The pawn on d4 isn't in any trouble (e.g. 35.Ke1 [aiming to continue Kd2-d3xd4] 35...f5 36.f3 [36.Kd2?? Be6-+] 36...Be6 37.e4 dxe3 38.Nxe3 Bb2 39.Kd2 Bc8=), and there's nothing else to do.

    So why does Topalov reject this, when White's minor pieces are more active than Black's and White controls the c-file? Call it a study in calculated risk. First, the c-file may be open, but to what end? As long as the meaningful penetration points for the rooks are covered, it may look nice but doesn't amount to anything serious. Second, he believes in the bishops. With only bishops vs. knights, in a pawn structure like this, there isn't very much to hope for, but with the addition of rooks there are many more tactical possiblities. Third, the half-open e-file may end up as much an asset for him as the c-file is for Anand, if not more. And fourth, even if he loses a pawn somewhere - if it opens the board for the bishops it could very well be worth it. Finally, again, even if he loses a pawn, holding the ending with two bishops vs. two knights may not be the end of the world - think of all the Marshall Gambit endings Black holds with the bishops against a bishop and knight.

    Topalov's decision is a little risky then, but there are enough avenues of possible compensation that it's worth trying.

    N.B. While typing this, three more half-moves have appeared 26.Nd6 Re5 27.Nc8. My guess is that Black will not allow the exchange on b6, and this too merits a brief discussion. The point, made implicitly two paragraphs ago, is that the Bb6 may not be active now, but could be active later, and has the more immediate value of controlling c5 and c7 against a rook invasion.

     

    11:10 Update:

    Topalov is resolute! Anand continues to give him seemingly favorable opportunities to exchange pieces, but Topalov prefers to be slightly worse with dynamic chances to having a dead equality. After 27.Nc8, the game has continued 27...Ba5 (as predicted) 28.Nd3 Re8 29.Na7 Bb6 30.Nc6 Rb7 31.Ncb4 a5 32.Nd5. It seems that Anand's 29th move was inaccurate, and that 29.Nd6 Re6 30.Nf5 maintained a little pressure.

    After 29.Na7 Bb6 30.Nc6, Topalov could have taken the pawn: 30...Bxc6 31.Rxc6 Re2. White would have full compensation after something like 32.Rc8+ Rxc8 33.Rxc8+ Kf7 34.Ra8 a5 35.Rb8 Re6 36.Rb7+ Kf8 37.Kg2, but nothing more. Instead, 30...Rb7 keeps things a bit more interesting, though Anand is not in any danger here.

     

    11:45 Update

    The position is heading for a draw pretty rapidly. We've had the following moves since our last update:

    32...a4 33.Nxb6 Rxb6 34.Nc5 Bf5 35.Rd2 Rc6 36.b4 axb3 37.axb3 b4! 38.Rxd4 Rxe2 39.Rxb4 Bh3 40.Rbc4 Rd6.

    White is up a pawn, but the weakness of his back rank makes the draw a piece of cake. The key move, of course, was 37...b4. On other moves, White plays b4, keeping his pawn on a dark square and Black's b-pawn on a light square. Then the pressure will continue indefinitely. After 37...b4, there is no danger and no White pressure. From here, there's little White can do. If, for instance, he plays 41.Rh4, then 41...Rc2 42.Ra1 (42.Rxc2?? Rd1#) 42...Rxc5 43.Rxh3 Rd4 followed by ...Rb4 will regain the pawn with a trivial draw.

    White has just played 41.Re4, and after 41...Rb2 continued 42.Ree1. This ultra-safe approach should guarantee an easy draw after something like 42...Rdd2 43.Ne4 Rd3 44.Rc3 Rxc3 45.Nxc3 Rxb3 46.Nd5 and Nf4, taking care of the back rank worries.

     

    12:10 Update

    A few moves ago, Topalov turned down the chance to draw by repetition, and now we may be in for an exercise in futility. Here are the latest moves:

    42...Rdd2 43.Ne4 Rd4 44.Nc5 Rd2 45.Ne4 (Repetition?) 45...Rd3 (No thanks.) 46.Rb1 Rdxb3 47.Nd2 Rb4 48.f3 g5

    At this point it's pretty ridiculous for Topalov to drag it out, as White will just trade rooks, protect the knight, play Kf2-e2/e3 and then activate his rook. There's just nothing here.

     

    12:25 Update - Game Drawn

    Here are the final moves: 49.Rxb2 Rxb2 50.Rd1 Kf7 51.Kf2 h5 52.Ke3 Rc2 53.Ra1 Kg6 54.Ra6 Bf5 55.Rd6 Rc3+ 56.Kf2 Rc2 57.Ke3 Rc3+ 58.Kf2 Rc2 1/2-1/2

    Overall, it was a very good game, but the position from the opening was too static for either player to create anything real. The burden of proof is now on Anand to find something for the next game, on Monday, when he'll again have White.

    I'll have the fully annotated version up later today - stay tuned for that, as well as the final results from the President's Cup in Baku.

    Saturday
    May012010

    Game 6: Prediction Time

    Game 6 is in the morning, and we'll continue our burgeoning tradition of trying to guess the opening of the next game.

    So: World champion Viswanathan Anand leads by a point, and has nothing to complain about with his White results - he won both games. Both were Catalans, but while it doesn't seem that he obtained any advantage in the opening of the first, Veselin Topalov either disliked the sort of position he got, felt that Anand had an improvement waiting in that same line, or simply felt that the line he switched to in their second Catalan game (game 4 of the match) would be more effective. In fact it was less effective, and he was badly outplayed.

    Will Topalov switch openings this time? He hasn't really obtained "his" kind of position, but on the other hand it's too early in the match and the score is too close to switch to something as strategically risky as the Modern Benoni unless he feels very comfortable with his preparation there. So I predict that he'll allow another Catalan, but I don't believe he'll repeat the variation from the last game.

    But what do you think?

    Saturday
    May012010

    President's Cup, Day 2: Kamsky Leads

    After five rounds at the President's Cup in Baku, Gata Kamsky leads with 3.5 points, half a point ahead of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Vladimir Kramnik and - surprisingly - Emil Sutovsky. Teimour Radjabov and Judit Polgar have 2.5, Gadir Guseinov 1.5, and Rauf Mamedov has 1.

    More info, games and pictures here.

    Friday
    Apr302010

    Game 5 is Drawn; Anand Leads 3-2

    Anand again drew comfortably in the same line of the Slav tested in game 3, though with an odd twist. Anand varied first with 15...h5, and after a series of logical moves that looked like normal prep, Topalov made a tactical error that allowed Black to equalize immediately. Ironically, Topalov simply forgot his preparation on move 22, as Anand did on move 23 in game 1. Instead of a nagging edge, he got nothing, and while Black's unambitious play almost gave Topalov a second chance to start torturing him, the accurate 36...Rd7! maintained the balance, and a draw was soon agreed.

    Anand thus leads 3-2 and will have White in the next two games. If he can make use of this to gain another point, Topalov will be in huge trouble. We'll consider this a bit more, later; for now, here's today's game, with my annotations.

    Friday
    Apr302010

    Game 5 is Underway (12:30 Update - Game Drawn)

    My guess about the opening was basically right, as the players again went into the 6.Ne5 e6 7.f3 c5 variation of the Slav. Anand varied first, however, with 15...h5 instead of 15...h6, which changes the character of the game. The Kramnik plan is out: White can grab the bishop pair whenever he wants it, but the rest of Black's army is well placed and it's not trivial for White to make progress.

    One thing I'm finding a little strange so far is the time usage. After 22 moves, Anand has used 54 minutes, but the players have been following the computer's main line, making fairly obvious moves, since Anand's 15...h5 "novelty". (Scare quotes because the idea is typical and obvious enough for even me to mention it in my notes to game 3.)

    Here are the moves so far:

    1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Ne5 e6 7.f3 c5 8.e4 Bg6 9.Be3 cxd4 10.Qxd4 Qxd4 11.Bxd4 Nfd7 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.Bxc4 a6 14.Rc1 Rg8 15.h4 h5N 16.Ne2 Bd6 17.Be3 Ne5 18.Nf4 Rc8 19.Bb3 Rxc1+ 20.Bxc1 Ke7 21.Ke2 Rc8

     

    10:00 Update

    From the diagrammed position, Topalov made a mistake. With 22.Rd1 he would maintain his edge in the position, but instead he played 22.Bd2?!. There's nothing wrong with the move in its own right, as it develops the piece, clears c1 for the rook in some lines, etc., but it has a tactical flaw. Anand spotted it quickly: 22...f6!

    Topalov faces a trilemma. If he does nothing, Black plays ...Bf7 and he's fine: the e-pawn is safe and he keeps his bishops. If he takes on g6, he gets the bishop pair but it's still equal; if anything, Black has the more pleasant side of things thanks to the loose pawn on h4. And third, taking on e6 doesn't do anything either. Let's look at both captures:

    (a) 23.Nxe6 Bf7 24.Nd4 Bxb3 25.Nxb3 Rc2 (The hanging b-pawn is what makes this whole thing work, and is the reason why 22.Bd2 was inaccurate.) 26.f4 and Black is completely equal after either 26...Ng6 or 26...Ng4 27.Rb1 Rc4, regaining the pawn. 26.f4 isn't forced, but it might be best. 26.Rb1 is obvious, but after 26...Nc4 27.Rc1 Nxd2! 28.Rxc2 Nxb3 Black's chances are better.

    (b) 23.Bxe6 Rc2 24.Rb1 Nc4! 25.Bxc4 Bxf4 26.Rd1 and Black can draw in his sleep with either the obvious 26...Rxb2 or the slightly fancy line 26...Bxd2 27.Bd3 Rxb2 28.Rxd2 etc.

    In short, Black is 100% okay here, and in some lines it's even White who is a little worse.

     

    10:45 Update

    Following the moves 23.Nxg6+ Nxg6 24.g3 Ne5 25.f4 Nc6 26.Bc3 Bb4 27.Bxb4 Nxb4 28.Rd1 Nc6 we've reached a thoroughly drawn position. If anything, Anand has the symbolic edge here, but there's no real danger for either player. Normally, this would be a good moment to agree to a draw, but rules are rules, especially when they are arbitrary, senseless and self-imposed. So unless the players engineer some kind of repetition soon, we'll be treated to a multi-hour exercise in futility. Good times.

     

    11:30 Update

    Not many moves have taken place, but there have been some interesting points since the last update. We've seen the following: 29.Rd2 g5 30.Kf2 g4 31.Rc2 Rd8 32.Ke3 Rd6 33.Rc5 Nb4

    The first interesting choice was 29...g5. It took advantage of the clumsy situation of White's pieces - White's rook was unable to move to the kingside files, thanks to the king standing in its way. White therefore played 30.Kf2 to prevent Black's rook from penetrating (30...gxf4 31.gxf4 Rg8 32.Bd1), but after 30...g4 the h-pawn is safe from the bishop's gaze.

    31.Rc2 kept Black's knight at home, and Black switched to the newly opened d-file with 31...Rd8. (He could have tried 31...Na7, but while I don't see a win for White in the B vs. N ending, it's an extremely dubious idea for Black.) White covered the entry points with 32.Ke3, and 32...Rd6 prepared to swing the rook over to b6, for instance, after a preliminary ...Na5.

    The key question is what happens after 33.Rc5, and that's just what Topalov played. The answer is the counterattacking 33...Nb4, threatening ...Rd3+, and this is in a way a draw offer - White could retreat with 34.Rc3, Black with 34...Nc6, and then they could do it all over again. The move to play on is 34.Bc4, but even that might not achieve anything after 34...Nc2+ 35.Ke2 Nd4+ and so on. We'll see. Here's the current position:

     

    12:00 Update

    Since last time the following moves have been played: 34.Rc7+ Kd8 35.Rc3 Ke7 36.e5 Rd7 37.exf6+ Kxf6 38.Ke2 Nc6.

    If you were hoping for a repetition when you saw 34.Rc7+, you'll have to wait. Topalov used it as a tempo-gainer to bring his rook back to c3, in preparation for the aggressive 36.e5. It's odd that after 36...Rd7(!) 37.exf6+ Kxf6, Black has several weak-ish pawns, all on light squares, and the position remains completely equal. Topalov continued with the prophylactic 38.Ke2, sidestepping any annoying checks on d3 or d5, but 38...Nc6 clogs the c-file while introducing possibilities like ...Nd4+ or even ...Rd4-b4. White can keep trying, though, and rest assured that he will.

     

    12:30 Update

    The final moves were 39.Ke1 Nd4 40.Bd1 a5 41.Rc5 Nf5 42.Rc3 Nd4 43.Rc5 Nf5 44.Rc3 1/2-1/2.

    White's 39th and 40th moves seemed to take striving to avoid the draw to the point of exaggeration, but even so Black had nothing special, and rather than trying to make something of his microscopic edge Anand went for the repetition.

    It was a pretty easy game for Anand, and thus a success in that sense, but the theoretical battle remains unresolved. Perhaps Topalov will repeat this line and remember to play 22.Rd1 next time (apparently he simply forgot his preparation, according to a commenter's report on this post originating from Cheparinov). That's several days away, however, as Anand will have White in the next two games.

    Stay tuned for the next post, which will feature the game with fuller annotations.