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    Wednesday
    Jan202010

    This Week's ChessBase Show: Remembering Colle

    The Belgian master Edgar Colle is best known for the eponymous Colle System, a placid-looking opening he turned into a dangerous attacking system. As is often the case with the openings named for players, most of us probably know a lot more about the opening than we do about the man who developed it into something poisonous.

    So let's fix that. In our ChessBase show this week we'll have a few things to say about the man and see him in action against an even more notable name, Ernst Grünfeld. Colle tried to play the Colle, but Grünfeld avoided the main line and went for a Queen's Indian setup. It didn't matter: Colle showed that he was more than a one-trick pony, and gave us a game of value. First of all, he demonstrates how White can build an attack against a Queen's Indian approach; second, he shows us what to do once the pieces are in place! Colle won in beautiful style - but you'll have to join me Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET (3 a.m. Thursday morning, CET) for the details.

    To watch, just log on to the Playchess server at the given time, go to the Broadcast room, and then find and select Colle-Grünfeld under the Games tab. Hope to see you there!

    Tuesday
    Jan192010

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 4: Shirov Goes Four for Four

    Alexei Shirov, once the darling of the chess public but now overshadowed by the three active world champions (past and present) and youngsters like Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura, is reminding us once again of his greatness as a player here and now. He won his fourth game today in "fire on board" style, using a questionable piece sac to confuse Jan Smeets as the time control approached. It worked: Smeets got into serious time trouble and collapsed, and Shirov's perfect run went to four games.

    Neither Carlsen nor Nakamura managed to win their games, though Carlsen probably could have with a little more accuracy. Carlsen was outplaying Nigel Short with White but erred badly on his 28th move, and after that Short held with ease. Nakamura had a tougher pairing and color: Black against Anand. Even so, he held very comfortably with the Dutch (maybe Topalov should take it up?!), and so he, like Carlsen, remained in second, albeit a full point behind Shirov.

    The youngsters were caught there by the oldster, Vassily Ivanchuk, who blew Loek van Wely off the board with a 6.Bg5 Najdorf. Van Wely's complete lack of success with the Najdorf in this event (against Nakamura and now Ivanchuk) reminds me of his Najdorfs about 8-10 years ago against players like Kasparov, Shirov, and Morozevich - he got blown away back then, too. I like that he sticks to his principles, and his losses are almost always very entertaining. For his own sake, though, he might want to be a bit more pragmatic against the super-elites.

    Dominguez-Leko and Karjakin-Caruana were model draws in the Ruy, but in very different ways. The first was a fascinating Marshall handled brilliantly by Leko, while the second was an Exchange Variation where Caruana's active defense stopped Karjakin from getting anything with his superior pawn majority.

    Finally, Kramnik-Tiviakov was a very poor game for ex-champ, who really doesn't seem to have found his form in this tournament. He didn't get anything from the opening, and Tiviakov was more successful in breaking through the center than Kramnik was on the kingside. Kramnik was in trouble, but in a winning position two errors in four moves let Kramnik eke out a draw.

    Standings After Round 4:

    1. Shirov 4

    2-4. Nakamura, Ivanchuk, Carlsen 3

    5-8. Anand, Dominguez, Karjakin, Kramnik 2

    9-11. Tiviakov, Caruana, Leko 1½

    12-13. Short, van Wely 1

    14. Smeets ½

     

    Round 5 Pairings (on Thursday):

    Leko - Anand

    Caruana - Dominguez

    Tiviakov - Karjakin

    Smeets - Kramnik

    van Wely - Shirov

    Short - Ivanchuk

    Nakamura - Carlsen

     

    The last three boards ought to be a lot of fun. Van Wely and Shirov have had some spectacular battles (though the most entertaining ones have come when Shirov had White), Short looks like an excellent possible victim for the streaky Ivanchuk, and the Nakamura-Carlsen rivalry may well be the major war of the next decade.

     

    In Group B, Ni Hua and Anish Giri drew with each other and remained tied for the lead with 3/4, half a point ahead of Harikrishna, L'Ami and Howell, all of whom won in round 4. (The other winner du jour was Nyback, who is the only player in the B group without a draw.)

    In Group C, Robson and Li Chao both won their games and lead with 3½/4, a full point ahead of five others.

    The tournament site is here, while the round 4 games, with my comments, are here (Group A only!).

    Tuesday
    Jan192010

    Bisik-Bisik with Garry Kasparov, Part 1

    Here, on the ChessBase site.

    Monday
    Jan182010

    The Second Highest Rating Ever

    ...now belongs to Magnus Carlsen, but only unofficially. According to the Live Top List, his current rating is 2813.8, which FIDE would round up to 2814. The highest FIDE rating ever belongs to Garry Kasparov, who achieved an insane 2851 during his miracle year of 1999. Topalov had held the second spot with a 2813 rating achieved in 2006, and still might if Carlsen goes even slightly backward in the remainder of Wijk aan Zee. Even if that happens, however, it's hard to believe that any figure but 2851 has a chance to withstand Carlsen's assault, and I doubt that it's going to survive in the long run either.

    The full list of 2700s is here, and it's especially remarkable to see that Bobby Fischer's 2785 peak still puts him at #8. Considering the rating inflation almost everyone believes has occurred in the intervening 28 years, Fischer's feat is even more amazing.

    Monday
    Jan182010

    Wijk aan Zee: Shirov's Comments to His Round 3 Win

    Are here.

    Monday
    Jan182010

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 3: Shirov Still Leads, Carlsen and Nakamura Chase

    It was a good day for the black pieces, as their users won four and drew three in the A-group. Of course, it helped that the players championing Black in this round included almost all the favorites.

    First and foremost, as long as he's leading, there's Alexei Shirov, who kicked Sergei Tiviakov's 2.Nc3 + 3.Bb5 Anti-Sicilian to the curb in a hurry. White's position never made a very good impression, and 24...Bxg2+ heralded doom for the white king. Seven moves later it had gone from f1 to b4, and with mate imminent Tiviakov called it a day.

    That gave Shirov a 3-0 score, but he's only half a point ahead of youngsters Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura. Carlsen had Black against Loek van Wely, and chose a dubious-looking sac against vW's Exchange QGD. (As I noted yesterday, very little of Carlsen's success can be attributed to his opening repertoire; the guy just outplays people from nothing.) Carlsen soon regained the pawn, then won a pawn and went on to win a double-rook ending. As for Nakamura, he played the Classical Sicilian against Nigel Short, and when the former mishandled the Boleslavsky line Black took over the initiative, won a pawn, and converted easily in a rook and bishop ending.

    The fourth win came from Vassily Ivanchuk, whose victory over Jan Smeets has him in clear fourth at 2-1. This was a Najdorf Sicilian with strong similarities to the Classical Rauzer, and on this occasion Black's queenside play and bishop pair proved more important than White's kingside clamp and extra pawn. White failed to pay enough attention to Black's attacking possibilities, and after 27...a4 28.Na1 b4 it was too late, and Smeets got rolled.

    The three draws were all pretty lame and featured the usual suspects: Leko with either color and Kramnik and Anand with Black. (This isn't to say that none of them ever plays for a win, only that they are relatively draw-friendly against their fellow elites under the given conditions.) Leko-Karjakin saw Gelfand's trendy pawn sac against the QID, but the ease with which Karjakin held suggests that it might soon say 2006-2010 on its tombstone. Caruana-Kramnik was - what else? - a Petroff, and Caruana didn't make the ex-champ break a sweat. Finally, there was Dominguez-Anand, and that was a long game - 77 moves. The number is a bit deceptive, however, as the game could have been agreed drawn on move 33. Dominguez had an extra pawn in a rook and bishop ending, but with all the pawns on the same side of the board and Black able to achieve an ideal defensive formation, together with the fact that swapping either the rooks or the bishops would keep the game a dead draw, this was just an exercise in going through the motions. It probably felt nice for Dominguez to "torture" the world champion without any possible danger, but unless Anand had a heart attack or died of boredom, there were no real winning chances either. (Those interested can see the games with Mark Crowther's brief comments here.)

    Standings After Round 3:

    1. Shirov 3

    2-3. Carlsen, Nakamura 2½

    4. Ivanchuk 2

    5-8. Dominguez, Karjakin, Anand, Kramnik 1½

    9-12. Tiviakov, Caruana, Leko, van Wely 1

    13-14. Smeets, Short ½

    Round 4 Pairings:

    Anand - Nakamura

    Carlsen - Short

    Ivanchuk - van Wely

    Shirov - Smeets

    Kramnik - Tiviakov

    Karjakin - Caruana

    Dominguez - Leko

     

    With the exception of Anand-Nakamura, it looks like a good opportunity for the rich to get richer.

    In the B-Group, Giri was held to a draw, so Ni Hua caught him at 2.5/3 by beating Nyback - with Black, of course. The group's only other winner was Harikrishna, who surprisingly managed to win Q+B vs. Q (no pawns) - with Black - against Anna Muzychuk.

    In the C-Group, Robson was also held to a draw and lost his perfect score. He was caught by Vocaturo, who demolished Van Kampen in 23 moves (with White!), and by Li Chao, who won quickly with Black against Plukkel. Other winners were Gupta, Swinkels and Lie.

    Tournament site here, TWIC page here.

    Monday
    Jan182010

    Nakamura-van Wely, Presented by Nakamura

    Monday
    Jan182010

    This Week's ChessLecture Show: Non-Traditional Queen Sacrifices

    We've all seen typical queen sacrifices, e.g. ones that force a quick mate, for instance, or that exchange the queen for a rook, minor piece and other compensation. But in my ChessLecture presentation this week, I take a look at some very different sorts of queen sacrifices seen in both games and studies. Have a look!

    Sunday
    Jan172010

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 2

    The action heated up today: there were no short, lame draws in the A group, and both Carlsen and Nakamura won their first games.

    Nakamura's win won the game of the day prize, and you can read his comments about it here.

    Carlsen-Smeets was fascinating too, a Botvinnik Variation Semi-Slav that saw Smeets continue the rehabilitation of a line thought dead years ago on account of a famous Kamsky-Kramnik game. Smeets' 25...Bc5 seems to be the first new move, and to all appearances he was doing fine and had prepared extraordinarily well. There was still lots of play in the position, however, and in spite of Kasparov and his database, Carlsen isn't #1 in the world because of his opening preparation. Carlsen kept creating problems for Smeets, who started going downhill with 30...Qd5. (30...c3 31.bxc3 Bxe3 32.Qxe3 Qxf6 33.Rb1 Kc8 34.Rxb3 Qxh6 35.Qxh6 Rxh6 is drawn, while experiments like 31.Bxd4 exd4 32.Qe7+ Qd7 look more dangerous for White than for Black.) A couple of moves later, 32...b5? was a fatal error. (As Peter Svidler insightfully noted in his commentary on ICC, when the pawn is on b6 Black's king is reasonably safe because it can hide from a rook on the a-file on both b5 and c6.)

    Black was thoroughly lost, but Carlsen gave him a reprieve with 38.Rf4? Had Black played 38...Kb6! White's options were a position with no advantage or returning the rook to d4. Unfortunately, the latter would have allowed a threefold repetition, so 38.Rf4 tossed away the win. Smeets had no time to work out his good fortune, however, and blundered the game.

    Neither Carlsen nor Nakamura is leading, however, because Shirov is now 2-0. He defeated Caruana in a rooks and opposite-colored bishop ending, grinding him down in 64 moves. Move 34 was a controversial moment, as Caruana eschewed the obvious 34...Ra8. On ICC, Svidler felt that the move would lead to an almost immediate handshake, while Caruana's decision not to go for a rook swap made the game go longer but without any positive purpose. Ultimately, I think Svidler is right (yes, it's brave of me to agree with one of the world's greatest players), but I also think that Caruana, possibly a little short of time leading up to the time control, may have been afraid of 35.Ra5 in reply. After 35...Rxa5 36.bxa5 White has an outside passer and his king can race to c5. So he might have felt that the trade was needlessly risky, and preferred a little passivity and suffering for the sure draw down the road. It's a reasonable decision, even if didn't work out this time.

    Now to the draws: Anand-Short was a Ragozin QGD that turned out very well for Short, but Anand managed to outplay him a little at a time. It wasn't quite enough, though, as Short just held on in a double rook ending.

    Ivanchuk-Tiviakov showed that the Scandinavian with 3...Qd6 is still viable. Ivanchuk got nothing, but like Anand and Carlsen, managed to outplay Tiviakov and gain an advantage. Like Anand and unlike Carlsen, however, he didn't get enough of an advantage to win, and Tiviakov held the rook ending.

    Kramnik-Leko was short but it wasn't dull, and it was only half-wimpy. Kramnik played very risky chess, and stood worse thanks to Leko's excellent defense. Fortunately for the former champion, Leko didn't feel like pushing his edge, and the game was drawn by repetition.

    Finally, Karjakin-Dominguez was a very sharp English Attack against the Najdorf, and it looks like Dominguez had the better of the theoretical battle before the game wound down to a draw, which leads me to a little tangent. Has the Kasparov era passed us by? I don't just mean this in the sense of Kasparov the player becoming a part of chess history, but maybe Kasparov the analyst is as well. Carlsen (working with Kasparov) and Karjakin (working with Kasparov's long-time permanent second Dokhoian) probably prepare as well as just about anyone else in professional chess, but it's not at all obvious that they prepare better than their rivals. They are every bit as likely to be surprised as to deliver the surprise, so it would appear that the colossal advantage in preparation Kasparov owned over his rivals for the last 20 years of his career has been eliminated or at least greatly diminished.

    A-Group Standings:

    1. Shirov 2

    2-3. Nakamura, Carlsen 1½

    4-10. Tiviakov, Dominguez, Karjakin, Anand, Ivanchuk, Kramnik, van Wely 1

    11-14. Smeets, Caruana, Leko, Short ½

     

    Round 3 Pairings:

    Dominguez - Anand

    Leko - Karjakin

    Caruana - Kramnik

    Tiviakov - Shirov

    Smeets - Ivanchuk

    van Wely - Carlsen

    Short - Nakamura

     

    In the B-Group, Giri won again, and leads with a 2-0 score. Ni Hua and Naiditsch, both of whom also won today, are half a point behind, and Nyback also won today to get back to 50%.

    In the C-Group, it's Robson who leads with a 2-0 score, half a point ahead of Li Chao, Vocaturo, Kuipers and Peng Zhaoqin. Li Chao and Vocaturo drew with each other, while Kuipers and Peng were the day's other winners (in addition to Robson).

    Full results, standings and games for all three groups can be found here. For my comments to Carlsen-Smeets and Shirov-Caruana, click here.

    Sunday
    Jan172010

    Book Notice: Dangerous Weapons: The King's Indian

    Everyman Chess has been putting out books in the "Dangerous Weapons" series for a few years now, and they're deservedly popular. It's in the same genre as New in Chess's "Secrets of Opening Surprises"; to wit, an effort to offer surprise weapons (that might be the name of some third publisher's series, borrowing one word from each of the two competitors) in mostly mainstream openings. The lines are not intended to be one-off throwaways, garbage lines that can only work by relying on the opponent's ignorance. Rather, the aim is to play sound, interesting lines that are either new and not yet well-known, or known but relatively unexplored. These lines generally have a special drop of poison (they are supposed to be "dangerous weapons", after all [are there "benign" weapons?]), but not always - sometimes they are worthy alternatives but aren't laden with any specially trappy ideas.

    Turning to the volume at hand, on the King's Indian, Richard Palliser, Glenn Flear and Yelena Dembo have put together a collection of 14 chapters focusing on 7 different variations of the King's Indian. While main lines in the broad sense are certainly covered, you won't find any discussion of super-theoretical lines like the Bayonet Attack or the 9.Nd2 Classical we've seen in the recent Beliavsky-Nakamura and Gelfand-Nakamura games. On the other hand, whether you play the King's Indian or play against it, this book will give you options before you have to worry about the aforementioned variations.

    This brings up another point, typical of this series: "weapons" are offered to both sides. While nine chapters are written from Black's point of view, that still leaves five chapters trying to help White. Further, from what I've seen so far, the authors are pretty fair. In lines intended for Black, the best White tries are discussed, and in at least one "Black" chapter the author acknowledges that White probably enjoys a small pull with best play from both sides.

    I've liked what I've seen so far, both of the series in general and this volume in particular. While I'll repeat my general advice that players under 1800 shouldn't worry too much about openings, except in a very general way, and focus on tactics and endgames, those who are interested in the King's Indian with either color but want to avoid tons of theory may want to investigate this book. (If you go here, you can get more information and download a sample in PGN.)