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    Thursday
    Jun042015

    Informant 123: A Short, Positive Review

    I've been reviewing the latest issues of Chess Informant for quite some time now, and the favorable trend continues with this look at Informant 123. If you don't want to skim through the details, here's the bottom line: the Informant is a very sensible purchase for serious tournament players rated 2000 and up, for ambitious young players rated at least 1800, and for correspondence players - who have probably already purchased it.

    For those of you familiar with old-time Informants, some features remain: a couple of hundred games given with languageless annotations, a recap of the best game and the best novelty from the previous issue, a set of tactical puzzles and endgames for solving and a list of the main tournament results from the period covered in the issue. (In this case, from late 2014 through the end of January 2015, as far as I can tell.) But nowadays and for quite some time a huge chunk of the periodical consists of a series of articles written in the King's English, or something close enough to it. Here's a rundown of that material:

    1. Alexander Morozevich takes a deep look at the sharp and newish exchange sac line in the QGA starting with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 b5 4.a4 c6 5.axb5 cxb5 6.Nc3 a6 7.Nxb5 axb5 8.Rxa8 Bb7 9.Ra1 e6. If you play either side of this variation at a serious level, you may want the issue for this article alone.

    2. Ernesto Inarkiev takes a look at three of his games from the Moscow Open.

    3. Ivan Sokolov looks at some highlights (and one lowlight) from Magnus Carlsen's play in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year, examining more than half of his games from the tournament.

    4. Mihail Marin's "Old Wine in New Bottles" column delves into the Hedgehog, using the Wojtaszek-Jobava game from Wijk aan Zee as a jumping-off point on his way to an examination of some classics involving Miles, Gheorghiu and from his own practice as well.

    5. Rafael Leitao looks at several games from the 2015 Brazilian Championship.

    6. Julio Sadorra looks at some games played in the Philippines in late 2014.

    7. Emanuel Berg, who has been establishing himself as an important theoretician of late, takes a look at the trendy Najdorf line 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.g3; alas, there is no mention of Nepomniachtchi's 8.Ng1.

    8. Alexander Ipatov analyzes five games, all involving young, promising players.

    9. Turning to the endgame, specialist Karsten Mueller looks at a series of single-rook endings, several of which seem simple at first sight. This apparent simplicity is deceptive, but by focusing on activating the rook, whether on offense or defense, we will generally improve our chances of a favorable result.

    10. Back to the opening: Christian Bauer offers a survey of the Nimzowitsch/Pirc Defense line 1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 g6.

    11. Vasilios Kotronias continues his monster series on the 2.c3 Sicilian for Black; this installment includes chapters 17 and 18! This time around he examines 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Na3 and 5.Bc4.

    After that it's time for the traditional sections (games, combinations and endgames, all mentioned above) rounded off by nine endgame studies by Yochanan Afek.

    Despite my recommendation, I have a criticism or at least a query. On the issue's webpage, it also claims that there is coverage of the Wijk B tournament by Sam Shankland and an article by Sulskis and Colovic on the Zurich Chess Challenge. I found neither in my e-copy, and checked both the PGN and the ChessBase databases therein. Perhaps it is present in the proprietary Informant version of the database, but as I cannot integrate that database with ChessBase (and I assume very few of my readers can, either) I haven't checked it.

    Thursday
    Jun042015

    Logical Chess: Error by Error

    Irving Chernev's old book Logical Chess: Move by Move is a pretty good book for the post-beginner. There is lots of explanatory prose, and the simple attacking and positional themes in the games offer useful oversimplifications for new players looking for some way of imposing structure on the chaos of a chess game. For this reason I occasionally use the book when working with low-rated students who haven't seen many (sometimes any) examples of professional chess.

    As I said, the book oversimplifies, which is okay, but already in game one there are some more serious errors as well. The first two took me only a couple of moments to spot when I showed the game to a student, but the last one was a real surprise. The game is Von Scheve-Teichmann, and White resigned in this position.

    It certainly looks lost, doesn't it? Von Scheve obviously thought so, Teichmann probably thought so as well (he could have varied earlier had he seen a problem here), Chernev goes with the flow and while I thought of an interesting idea while waiting for my student to come up with Black's last move (17...Bxf2) I assumed it was just a last joke before dying. Nope! While running an engine later to confirm that my earlier thoughts about the game were correct, I discovered that the seemingly conclusive finish was in fact anything but. See if you can work out where flesh has faltered and silicon succeeded. The answers, along with the full game and the earlier errors I alluded to, can be found here.

    Thursday
    Jun042015

    French Team Championship

    As is usual for these league events the teams are constructs united only by a common thr€ad - who know$ what it might be? When super-GMs are involved, however, it gains in interest even if we don't know one team from another and don't care, which brings us to the ongoing French Team Championship. (Chess24 coverage here.) The big guns for hire here include Wesley So, Anish Giri, Arkadij Naiditsch, Dmitry Jakovenko, and Radoslaw Wojtaszek as well as French stars Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Etienne Bacrot. Another French participant is Sebastien Feller, back after a multi-year suspension from FIDE events for cheating. Hopefully he will be on the side of the angels from here on out.

    Another French player named Sebastien - Sebastien Tranchant - is having a terrific event. Despite a 2275 rating he has scored 3/5, including draws against two GMs he probably should have beaten. Here is one of them, a crazy draw against the strong Dutch GM and erstwhile 2700 Ivan Sokolov. (HT: Thomas Richter)

    Wednesday
    Jun032015

    Amazing Time Wasters

    No, I'm not talking about (more than) 99.99% of the internet, though I could be. Instead, I'm referring to an interesting phenomenon in chess that has increasingly caught my attention of late: moves that appear to waste a tempo in the opening for what seems at first like absolutely no good reason. Further, in most of the cases, the pattern is similar: a piece moves to a square, then a move or so later proceeds to a square it could have reached on the previous turn. I've cataloged five instances of this for you here; readers are invited to offer examples of their own.

    Tuesday
    Jun022015

    Another U.S. Chess Prodigy: 14-Year-Old Jeffery Xiong Wins the Chicago Open and Becomes a GM

    Tuesday
    Jun022015

    Wei Yi Wins Chinese Championship

    This finished several days ago, but still deserves reporting. Despite losing in the last round, 15-year-old Wei Yi (who has since turned 16) won the Chinese Championship and is now #29 in the world, with a 2721 rating. This is ahead of Magnus Carlsen's rating at the same age, so while it would be premature to declare Wei Yi a future world champion his future looks very bright.

    Tuesday
    Jun022015

    A Carlsen Interview

    I haven't watched this one, but only read the excerpts here. The article is subtitled "I make a move & I really don't know why", which is one of those sentences that sound profound and awe-inspiring but is in fact routine and practically universal. Most of the time, for most human chess players, moves or candidates moves just come to mind and we investigate them. Differences in the number and average quality of the candidate moves will vary with how much we know, but that doesn't mean that we are consciously generating those moves by any conscious algorithmic process.

    This is true in practically every area of our life, including speech and writing. Think about the words you speak. Did you engage in some sort of conscious step-by-step process to select those words? If by some semi-miracle you did, then what conscious step-by-step process did you use to the select the words you used in going through the process of selecting the spoken words? An infinite regress looms here. By the time a chess player has reached an ordinary club standard, he is just as unlikely to follow an explicitly algorithmic process of move selection as a grandmaster.

    Tuesday
    Jun022015

    Fischer Fun: The New Champ with Bob Hope

    Good times.

    Tuesday
    Jun022015

    More on the Coming Fischer Movie

    The director and star interviewed on the upcoming Bobby Fischer movie, "Pawn Sacrifice":

    HT: Glenn Snow.

    Friday
    May292015

    Bobby Fischer Movie Trailer

    Here's a fresh take on Bobby Fischer and chess in general: it makes one craaaaaaaazy! Hollywood is nothing if not creative, fair and nuanced. (It also makes total sense to have the allegedly 5'9" Toby Maguire play the 6'2" Fischer.) The sad thing is that we'll all probably see the movie.

    More here.

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