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    Thursday
    Nov152018

    Chess.com Computer (Blitz) Chess Championship: An Update

    I believe this is my first update of the competition to cover the final stage of the blitz edition of the Chess.com Computer Chess Championship, which includes all and only the top four engines: Stockfish, Komodo, Houdini, and Lc0. Or maybe Lc0 and Houdini. The current scores, with all the engines having played 98 games, are these: Stockfish 60, Komodo 48, Lc0 44.5, and Houdini 43.5. In other words, only Stockfish has a plus score, so it's an inverse-Lake Wobegon competition.

    Only 404 games to go.

    Thursday
    Nov152018

    This Week's Free ChessLecture Video, By Yours Truly

    Once a week ChessLecture.com offers a free video to anyone with an account there - even a free account - and this week's video (which will be available not just this week but the subsequent week as well, until the next Monday (November 26) is one I recently recorded. Entitled "Nervous Start to a World Championship Match", it aimed to show two things: first, that world championship challengers often started their matches very badly (often due to nerves and the newness of the big stage), but they very often recovered from their bad starts to contend and even win their matches.

    Case in point was game 1 of the 1963 match between Tigran Petrosian, the challenger, and long-time champion (less a couple of one-year interruptions) Mikhail Botvinnik. Petrosian played terribly in game 1 (he himself later said that he played the game like a "first category" player) and was beaten in (mostly) impressive style by Botvinnik. But Petrosian subsequently regained his bearings, and went on to break Botvinnik down over the course of the match, eventually winning 12.5-9.5.

    Have a look here.

    Thursday
    Nov152018

    Women's World Championship: Down to the Semi-Finalists

    To lead with the lede, the semi-finals of the 2018 Women's (Knockout) World Chess Championship look like this: Ju Wenjun vs. Alexandra Kosteniuk, and Mariya Muzychuk vs. Kateryna Lagno. The first player is the current women's champion, and the next two are ex-champs.

    I won't bother summarizing the action since the last blog post mentioning the event, but here are a number of recent highlights and lowlights from the competition.

    Thursday
    Nov152018

    Shenzhen Finishes in a Three-Way Tie; MVL First on Tiebreak

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave took first on tiebreaks over Anish Giri and Ding Liren in the Shenzhen Masters (aka the 2nd Du Te Cup). I'm not a fan of determining first place in round-robins by tiebreaks, but that said, it was the only tiebreak method that I think is relevant: head-to-head scores. Giri drew his four games with MVL and Ding (it was a double round-robin), but MVL won his second game with Ding to have the best score in the mini-round robin of the top three.

    It was an odd tournament, with very few wins overall - just six games out of 30. Ding beat Radoslaw Wojtaszek in round 5, lost to MVL in round 7, and beat Yu Yangyi in round 8. Yu beat Nikita Vitiugov in round 5; Vitiugov beat Wojtaszek in round 7, and Giri beat Wojtaszek in the final round. (Up to that point he was the only player who drew all his games.)

    The tournament came close to achieving Lake Wobegon status. Not all the "children" were above average, but half were while 2/3 of the other half (Yu and Vitiugov) were average. Only poor Wojtaszek really took it on the chin, going -3 (3.5/10).

    The most noteworthy aspect of the tournament was that Ding Liren's very long unbeaten streak finally came to an end after 100 games, when he lost to Vachier-Lagrave. More on the streak, and the apparent surviving record streak held by Sergei Tiviakov, here.

    Wednesday
    Nov142018

    Tata Steel Masters: Nakamura Wins the Rapid; Loses the Blitz to Anand in a Playoff

    Since today is a rest day for the World Championship match, and since two of the major events running alongside the match have just finished, it's a good day to do some catching up. Let's begin with the Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz tournament - or rather, tournaments, as the results were not combined.

    When we last looked (or rather, reported) the Rapid tournament was 2/3 over and Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian shared the lead with 4.5/6, a point ahead of Pentala Harikrishna. In round 7 the co-leaders each drew their game while Harikrishna lost, but in round 8 Nakamura's draw was enough to give him the lead when Harikrishna defeated Aronian in a very long (95-move) game. Harikrishna won again in round 9, but it left him half a point back when Nakamura's draw his final game. Had Aronian defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov he'd have caught back up to Nakamura, but he only managed a draw and a tie for second place. It was of course an excellent result for Nakamura, and a funny one: he drew all his games on the first day, won all three games the second day, and then closed with three more draws.

    Final Rapid Standings:

    1. Nakamura 6/9
    2-3. Harikrishna, Aronian 5.5
    4-5. So, Mamedyarov 5
    6. Karjakin 4.5
    7-8. Anand, Vidit 4
    9. Sarin 3
    10. Ganguly 2.5

    After a rest day, it was time for the blitz, a double round-robin featuring the same cast of characters but with one exception: Nihal Sarin went out, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa came in. Nakamura continued his excellent form, finishing the first day (= the first round-robin) with an undefeated 6.5/9. Wesley So generally doesn't do well in super-elite blitz events, but after a slow start of 1.5/4 he finished on fire to wind up with 6. Levon Aronian had 5.5, and Viswanathan Anand had 5.

    In round 10 Anand caught So by defeating him, but he didn't gain ground on Nakamura or Aronian, both of whom won their games. Aronian won again in round 11, and so did Anand, while So drew and Nakamura lost to Harikrishna. Nakamura and Aronian were tied at 7.5, Anand had 7, and So trailed with 6.5. In round 12 Nakamura drew with Aronian, Anand drew with Sergey Karjakin, and So beat Praggnanandhaa, bunching all four players to within half a point of each other (Nakamura and Aronian with 8, Anand and So with 7.5).

    In round 13 Nakamura drew with So, while Anand and Aronian both won. Anand thus caught up with Nakamura, and from here until the end of the tournament they matched each other result for result. So trailed them by half a point, and for the moment Aronian led them by half a point.

    Nakamura and Anand both won in round 14 while Aronian drew, producing a three-way tie for first, while So's loss to Harikrishna took him out of the running, as he trailed the troika by a point and a half. From here on out we'll just track the top three.

    In round 15 Anand and Nakamura won again while Aronian drew (with So), putting Aronian half a point behind, but he immediately got it back when Anand and Nakamura drew with each other in round 16 while Aronian beat Mamedyarov. Two rounds to go, and three leaders.

    Aronian slipped half a point behind again when he drew with Karjakin in round 17, while Anand and Nakamura defeated Harikrishna and Vidit, respectively. In the last round Nakamura came very close to defeating Praggnanandhaa but couldn't quite do it, while as White Aronian failed to beat Anand. Aronian thus came in third, and Anand and Nakamura went to a blitz (3'+2") playoff.

    In the first game, Anand was generally the one pressing, and he managed to handle the chaos of the players living off the increments better than Nakamura, winning a tough rook endgame. In game two Nakamura was pressing, but Anand defended very well for a long time to save the point.

    For Anand the victory was especially sweet, as the event was held in Kolkota, in his native India. His joy was evident in the post-match interview with Tania Sachdev, and I commend that interview (and the tiebreaks, even if you don't want to watch the whole stream of the last day) to your viewing pleasure.

    Final Blitz Standings:

    1. Anand 12.5/18 (and 1.5-0.5 over Nakamura in the playoff)
    2. Nakamura 12.5
    3. Aronian 12
    4. So 10
    5-7. Harikrishna, Vidit, Mamedyarov 8
    8. Karjakin 7.5
    9. Ganguly 6
    10. Praggnanandhaa 5.5

    Some games caught my eye, of which I present a small selection.

    Wednesday
    Nov142018

    Videogate?

    Fabiano Caruana has had the best of the opening battles so far in his world championship match with Magnus Carlsen, but that may come to a screeching halt. Apparently someone royally screwed up, whether on his team or on the St. Louis Chess Club staff - or both. Some of Caruana's preparation was apparently shown during a promotional video, and while it was soon taken down it wasn't taken down soon enough for that information to get out to the wider public, and ultimately to team Carlsen as well. Uh oh.

    For more on this potential disaster, see here (HT: Marc Beishon) and here.

    Wednesday
    Nov142018

    World Championship, Game 4: A Short Draw

    The games are getting shorter, and for the first time in the match the players called it a day before the end of the first time control. The fourth consecutive draw left the match tied 2-2 going into the second rest day; game 5 will be on Thursday.

    Magnus Carlsen varied from his first move in game 2, going from 1.d4 there to 1.c4 this time around. Fabiano Caruana played 1...e5, and essayed the trendy 6...Bc5 in the Reversed Dragon line. He has played this move on several prior occasions, and the game followed a 2017 game between Wesley So and Caruana through Carlsen's 11th move. While Carlsen could have predicted the opening, it seemed, oddly enough, that Caruana was at least as well prepared as his opponent.

    The critical moment came quickly, on move 15. The obvious move, which White's last several moves were building up to, was 15.b5, but after thinking for almost 20 minutes Carlsen went in a different direction, got almost nothing, and offered a draw (which was accepted) on move 34.

    The tension is building, and so is the mystery of what happened to the Carlsen of the early to mid-2010s? He doesn't look sharp at all. Still, he isn't trailing, and he's the only one who has had clear winning chances up to now. So there's nothing to panic about, but Carlsen fans may have a bit of unease. (On the other hand, Caruana's fans have much more reason to be concerned...more about this in a coming post.)

    Enjoy tomorrow's rest day; here's the game, with my (abridged) commentary.

    Tuesday
    Nov132018

    World Championship, Game 3: Caruana Squanders an Advantage, Draws

    The subject line is a little harsh, but Fabiano Caruana did miss out on a moderate chance in game 3 of his world championship match with Magnus Carlsen. The opening went very successfully for him in another Rossolimo Sicilian - much better than it did in the first game - and Carlsen was headed for a long, unpleasant, and not necessarily successful defensive outing. Unluckily for Caruana, his 15th move was a serious inaccuracy, and after several further, smaller infelicities Carlsen even managed to take a slight edge. Caruana had to defend and did a good enough job of it, and the players split the point shortly after the first time control.

    The match thus remains tied, now 1.5-1.5, and Carlsen will have game 4 tomorrow. Here is today's game, with my comments (which are abbreviated relative to those received by subscribers).

    Saturday
    Nov102018

    Notre Dame 42, Florida State 13

    That was easy for Notre Dame, even without their starting quarterback. Next week will be a bigger test for the #3 Fighting Irish.

    Record so far: 10-0.

    Next victim: #13 Syracuse.

    Tune time!

    Saturday
    Nov102018

    World Championship, Game 2: Caruana Presses, Draws Comfortably with Black

    It was a bit of turnabout is fair play in game 2 of the world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and his challenger, Fabiano Caruana. In game 1 Caruana was surprised in the opening and soon on the defense, despite having the white pieces, and had to hold the draw a pawn down in a rook ending. That same scenario characterized game 2, changing only "Caruana" to "Carlsen" and "1" to "2".

    There were several disanalogies, however, that come out in a fuller account. First, Carlsen had the first opening surprise in game 2 - a mild one - in that he started with 1.d4 rather than 1.e4. Second and more significantly, Carlsen was never in serious trouble, while Caruana was completely lost for a time in the first game. And third, while Carlsen played the drawn pawn-up rook ending for a very, very long time, Caruana's "effort" was perfunctory at best, and the entire game went fewer moves than the portion of game 1 that consisted of Carlsen's flogging a dead (or at least mostly dead) horse.

    It was a successful day for Caruana, who has probably vanquished any psychological scars from the first part of game 1, and can spend tomorrow's rest day worrying about his openings. He got nothing with White in the first game, and it remains to be seen if today's 10...Rd8 is a serious move that can stand the test of time or just a clever one-off.

    Here's game 2, with light notes; the more detailed subscriber version (and video) will be sent out later.

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