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    Wednesday
    Dec162009

    Chess Books for Sale

    In part to save the lives of the people living below me, lest they be crushed under the weight of my chess and other books, it's time to do a little house cleaning and clear out some of my stuff. I plan to add other titles from time to time, but the current list of books for sale can be found here.

    Wednesday
    Dec162009

    This Week's ChessBase Show: The Best of Levenfish

    Grigory Levenfish was one of the best players in the world in the 1930s, and as such excelled in all phases of the game. Many of us know of him for his line against the Dragon Sicilian (6.f4), and others know of his famous co-authored work on rook endings with Vassily Smyslov. But he was just as great a player as a theoretician - enough to win the Soviet Championship twice and to draw a match with Mikhail Botvinnik.

    That he is relatively unknown as a player nowadays is a pity, but we will endeavor to take at least a small step toward fixing that this week. In our ChessBase show tonight (9 p.m. ET Wednesday night = 3 a.m. CET Thursday morning), we will present some highlights from his great career, demonstrating his abilities as a tactician and as a technician. I'd normally make some comment here that the tactics will entertain and the endgames instruct, but I think you'll find the whole thing entertaining! (And instructive, too, but we're aiming to entertain.)

    To tune in, log on to the Playchess server at the hour given above, go to the Broadcast room and find "Levenfish Games" under the Games tab. Hope to see you there!

    Wednesday
    Dec162009

    Carlsen Wins London, Kramnik Second, Adams and Howell(!) Tie for Third

    I may present a couple of games tomorrow, but for now I'll limit myself to a summary of the results. The last round was again an exciting affair, and the final standings were in doubt until near the end.

    Nakamura - Kramnik was the first game to finish, and in a short but exciting 34 moves. Both sides played very well, and Kramnik had a little trap to avoid. If he played the greedy 20...Bh5, then he would have come under a withering attack. As Nakamura put it afterwards, "If Kramnik had played 20...Bh5 I would have won the brilliancy prize." He didn't, though, and the result was a draw that caught him up to Carlsen.

    Carlsen, however, was still playing, and his game went to move 71. It wasn't any sort of problem though, as he was better and then won a pawn; the only question seemed to be whether he would manage to pull out a win. Somehow, though, Carlsen really went off the tracks, and his position grew dangerous. (In fact, as he admitted after the game, he almost blundered into a mate!) In the end, both players held on, traded everything, and when bare kings were reached Carlsen had won the tournament by a point (on the 3-1-0 scoring system used in the event; half a point by normal scoring).

    There were two decisive games, and the result was that the winners found themselves tied for third. Ni Hua played a horrible opening and early middlegame against Howell, and was crushed, while Adams worked his old positional magic against McShane and then put out his opponent's tactical fires. Here, then, are the final standings:

    1. Carlsen 13 (5-2, +3 =4)

    2. Kramnik 12 (4.5-2.5, +3 -1 =3)

    3-4. Adams, Howell 9 (4-3, +1 =6)

    5. McShane 7 (2.5-4.5, +2 -4 =1)

    6-7. Nakamura, Ni Hua 6 (Nakamura went 3-4 on -1 =6 scoring, Ni Hua went 2.5-4.5 on +1 -3 =3)

    8. Short 5 (2.5-4.5, -2 =5)

    (Are these results really a good advertisement for this 3-1-0 nonsense?)

     

    So Carlsen has won, and just as importantly, ensured that he will be #1 on the next official rating list. He will be by far the youngest player to accomplish this, having just turned 19 a few weeks ago. I can't even remember the last time he lost a classical game, either: he went undefeated here, at the Tal Memorial, and and before that in Nanjing. His play here wasn't even particularly impressive after round 2, but even when he's playing relatively poorly his opponents still aren't beating him. It's better to be lucky and good! Given his youth and his coach, the future looks grim for his rivals.

    Kramnik had another good result and played the best chess in the tournament, by far, after round 1. He gained more rating points and is just a whisker behind Anand on the rating list. He is definitely a contender again - at least if anyone not named Carlsen will be able to fight successfully for the title in 2011 or so.

    Adams had an excellent result, showing glimpses of the form that made him one of the absolute best in the world from around 1997 to 2004. If anything it could have been better, as he failed to convert some advantages, including a probable win against Carlsen in round 6. I don't know if he passed Short on the rating list, as apparently neither man is over 2700 at this point, but it's quite possible that he did.

    Howell was what people call the "revelation" of the event; we'll see. It was certainly an excellent result by rating, and if he can build on this result it will be a real boon to English chess.

    Everyone else had a mediocre-to-bad tournament, though McShane was at least clever enough to have his mediocre result occur in a financially valuable way.

    More info on the tournament and the last round games here; the Live Top (Rating) List is here (see how your London and World Cup favorites fared).

    Monday
    Dec142009

    Müller & Meyer's The Magic of Chess Tactics, on DVD

    Some years ago (in 2002) Russell Enterprises published The Magic of Chess Tactics by GM Karsten Müller and FM Claus Dieter Meyer. It's an excellent though advanced book, presenting complicated tactical positions that offer a great deal of aesthetic pleasure as well as a great workout for the serious and strong student. (At least 2000, I'd say, if you want to most profitably use this as a for chess training.) It's a fine work, but it can be a little difficult at times checking through all the variations on a set.

    And now, you don't have to. Russell was good enough to allow Müller and Lamprecht to reissue an updated version on DVD with ChessBase. It contains all the material from the book, with a few recent additions and analytical updates, plus a pretty healthy number of the exercises presented in video format. (This is not instead of having them in game files, but in addition to it.) Müller presents 37 games/excerpts in video format, which makes for a really nice bonus. What you get, therefore, is an updated version of an excellent book with some terrific extras, so if you were inclined to get the book in the first place - or if you got it but underused it due to the perceived inconvenience - I can heartily recommend this DVD.

    More info here.

    Monday
    Dec142009

    London, Round 6: Kramnik, Ni Hua Win; Carlsen Escapes

    Today was already the penultimate round of the London Chess Classic, and the two man race drew nearer to a potential photo-finish. Vladimir Kramnik's preparation was clearly superior to Nigel Short's, as he (Kramnik) came out of the opening with a free and clear extra pawn. (If anything, Short was fortunate to get out that cheaply.) Meanwhile, Michael Adams, with Black, had outplayed Magnus Carlsen and was probably winning. It seemed that there were some very sharp lines where Adams could win, but after a long think he either couldn't work it out or got nervous. The way he chose to play gave him a risk-free advantage, but it wasn't enough to win. With the draw, Carlsen maintained a one-point lead (half a point in normal scoring) over Kramnik, with one round to go.

    Still in third, despite getting ground down by Ni Hua, is Luke McShane. It makes sense that he is a point ahead of Adams and Howell; after all, he's at -1 while they only have even scores. He was clever enough to lose three games while winning two, though, so on the 3-1-0 scoring system he has 7 points while they have 6 (along with Ni Hua, whose -1 score came by winning one and losing two).

    Nakamura, who drew with Howell, is in next to last with 5, while England's #1 is the tournament's #7 - Short has 4 points.

     

    Here are the last round pairings:

    Nakamura - Kramnik

    Ni Hua - Howell

    Adams - McShane

    Short - Carlsen

    Note: The round starts two hours earlier than all the other rounds.

     

    You can replay the games on the official site, here.

    Monday
    Dec142009

    Boris Gelfand Wins World Cup

    He pulled it out, but Ruslan Ponomariov didn't make it easy! The first rapid game was drawn, and then Gelfand won game 2 with White. When game 3 was drawn as well it looked like it would be over, as Gelfand only needed to draw with White to close it out. It didn't happen: Ponomariov sacrificed the exchange and his bishop pair carried the day. On to blitz, where Gelfand won with White after a Ponomariov blunder, only to blunder right back in the next game. On to another blitz mini-match, and again Gelfand won first with White. This time he held, winning with Black as well, and by a 7-5 overall score became the 2009 World Cup champion. (The games can be found here, but I'm not going to annotate this batch.)

    So, congratulations to Boris Gelfand! It was an impressive performance, not least because the guy's no spring chicken at the age of 41. Youths, beware of old age and treachery!

     

    This means that he qualifies for a Candidates tournament that will consist of the following players:

    Gelfand (World Cup champ).

    Aronian (Grand Prix champ).

    Kamsky (loser of the 2009 candidates match to Topalov).

    Topalov or Anand (whoever loses the world championship match next year).

    Carlsen and Kramnik (probably, based on the averages of their July 2009 and January 2010 ratings).

    The runner-up of the Grand Prix (as yet undetermined).

    Any 2700+ player the organizers decide to invite.

    (More details here.)

    Monday
    Dec142009

    London, Round 5: Carlsen, McShane Win

    Magnus Carlsen extended his lead at the London Chess Classic to 3 points (meaning one win) thanks to his win over Ni Hua. Carlsen missed his opponent's 10.Qh5, but held fast, gradually obtained a slight advantage, and when Ni missed the idea of bringing his king to e2, crashed through on the queenside.

    Vladimir Kramnik couldn't keep pace. With a win over bottom seed David Howell he'd have stayed within a point, but Howell played well and the result was a well-played draw. The battle for English supremacy between Michael Adams and Nigel Short was also drawn, but eventfully so. Short outplayed Adams well enough to gain an advantage with Black, and only strong defensive play kept the latter in the game. Near the end, Short nearly lost, missing a startling trick from his opponent. Fortunately (for Short), he had one defense, and it was enough.

    Finally, Luke McShane bit again, defeating Hikaru Nakamura with Black in a King's Indian. Nakamura was worse most of the way, but McShane misplayed his advantage and (dynamic) equality was restored. Unfortunately for the American, he played too quickly and gave his opponent a second chance to win the game, and win it he did.

    With two rounds to play, here are the standings:

    1. Carlsen 11 (+3 =2)

    2. Kramnik 8 (+2 -1 =2)

    3. McShane 7 (+2 -2 =1)

    4-5. Howell, Adams 5 (=5)

    6-7. Short, Nakamura 4 (-1 =4)

    8. Ni Hua 3 (-2 =3)

     

    Round 6 pairings look like this:

    Kramnik - Short

    Carlsen - Adams

    McShane - Ni Hua

    Howell - Nakamura

     

    The games, with my annotations, are here.

    Sunday
    Dec132009

    World Cup, Final Match, Game 4: Tiebreak Time

    The fourth and final classical game was drawn today, so Boris Gelfand and Ruslan Ponomariov will have to fight it out tomorrow in tiebreaks to see who earns an automatic berth in the intended Candidates tournament. Today's game wasn't bad, but Gelfand couldn't turn his slight space advantage in the Catalan into anything concrete, so the players called it a day on move 35. Tomorrow, expect blood!

    (Game here, with my comments.)

    Saturday
    Dec122009

    London, Round 4: Four Draws

    Four draws means everything is as it was, with Carlsen leading, Kramnik on his heels and the rest of the field eating their dust. Despite this, three of the four games were pretty routine draws, though probably not by choice.

    The game of the day, both in anticipation and in the event itself, was Carlsen-Nakamura. Carlsen came out of the opening - a Slav turned into some sort of QGA-like position - with an edge, but made no further progress. Nakamura managed to equalize and then even obtain a slight advantage of his own, but his slightly inaccurate 38th move allowed Carlsen to force a quick draw.

    Here, then, are the standings after four rounds; there are three to go:

    1. Carlsen 8 (+2 =2)

    2. Kramnik 7 (+2 -1 =1)

    3-6. Nakamura, Adams, Howell, McShane 4 (the first three have drawn all their games; McShane has won one and lost 2)

    7-8. Ni Hua, Short (-1 =3)

     

    Round 5 Pairings:

    Howell - Kramnik

    Nakamura - McShane

    Ni Hua - Carlsen

    Adams - Short (a good grude match for UK supremacy)

     

    Finally: the games, with my generally light comments, are here.

    Saturday
    Dec122009

    World Cup, Final Match, Game 3: Still Tied

    The first two draws were a bit quick and easy for Black, but Boris Gelfand had a little more work today to keep the balance against Ruslan Ponomariov. It's a very interesting Grünfeld-like game, and you can replay it, with my annotations, here. Tomorrow is the final classical game of the match, and if they're tied after that they'll have tiebreaks on Monday to determine the winner.