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    Thursday
    Jul202017

    Dortmund 2017, Round 4: Four More Draws - But Not All Draws Are Created Equal

    The relative standings in the 2017 edition of the Dortmund Sparkassen tournament remain the same: Mathias Bluebaum and Radoslaw Wojtaszek lead with +1 scores, Vladimir Kramnik and Wang Yue trail at -1, and the other four players are on 50%. But the leaders could have been on +2 instead, especially Bluebaum.

    The games Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs. Wang Yue and Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu vs. Kramnik ended relatively quickly and uneventfully, but Wojtaszek's game with Vladimir Fedoseev and Bluebaum's game with Dmitry Andreikin each went over 100 moves. In the former case the length was somewhat inflated, as the last 40 moves consisted of Wojtaszek hoping for a quasi-miracle in rook and knight vs. rook, but it wasn't coming. However, he did have a winning chance. While White - Wojtaszek - enjoyed the lion's share of the winning chances, both sides were hoping for the full point in a complicated ending. The beautiful 43...Re5!! would have forced a draw for Fedoseev; instead, his 43...Kf4? gave White a chance to win with 44.e7. That was an easier find than Fedoseev's move, and he did spot it, but missed something subtler a few moves into the variation.

    Bluebaum, by contrast, was winning against Andreikin for a very long time. This game bore some similarities to Wojtaszek-Fedoseev, in that there was a period where both players were simultaneously fighting for the win. When the smoke cleared, after mutual mistakes, Bluebaum had two rooks against Andreikin's rook, g- and h-pawn. It was a win, but not an easy one, even after Bluebaum won the h-pawn. Black's g-pawn was far advanced and well-protected, and the winning procedure was anything but intuitive, especially after many hours of play and not much time remaining on the clock. Andreikin was safe, according to the tablebases, once he played 87...g2, but he still needed to remain alert to the end. This culminated in a very nice - and forced - stalemate trick at the end: 120...Rf2+!! White took the rook and they called it a day, as after 121.Kxf2 g1Q+ 122.Rxg1 it's stalemate.

    Today is a rest day, and on Thursday the pairings are Wang Yue - Bluebaum, Kramnik - Vachier-Lagrave, Fedoseev - Nisipeanu, and Andreikin - Wojtaszek.

    Tuesday
    Jul182017

    Dortmund 2017, Round 3: Four Draws

    And fairly uneventful ones at that. Therefore Bluebaum and Wojtaszek continue to lead, now with 2/3; Fedoseev, Andreikin, Vachier-Lagrave, and Nisipeanu are on 50%; and Kramnik and Wang Yue are in the back of the pack with a point apiece.

    Round 4's pairings are Bluebaum - Andreikin, Wojtaszek - Fedoseev, Nisipeanu - Kramnik, and Vachier-Lagrave - Wang Yue.

    Tuesday
    Jul182017

    Wei Yi Wins Danzhou

    Catching up on one more tournament, China's greatest chess hope - at least for the time being - has once again demonstrated his current ability and promise for the future. Wei Yi, 18 years old as of about six weeks ago, won the super-tournament in Danzhou, China, with a score of 6.5/9. He was a point clear of Le Quang Liem, who like Wei went undefeated. Wei Yi's TPR was 2883, and he's now 14th on the live rating list. (His rating might drop a couple of tenths of a point from where it is now, as his last round draw with Le hasn't yet shown up on the site.) It's possible that he'll only win the event by a point, if Ding Liren can defeat Arkadij Naiditsch in their ongoing game, but no one can catch Wei at this point.

    When we last looked in on the tournament, after round 5, Wei Yi was on +3 after having defeated Yu Yangyi. In round 6 he won again, defeating Vladimir Malakhov with Black. His 13...Qe5 was a remarkable concept - something new in my experience, and, going above my pay grade, GM Alexander Baburin (in Chess Today) was also astonished by the idea.

    Congrats to the youngster on another success! More info on the tournament here.

    Tuesday
    Jul182017

    Geneva Finishes; Radjabov Wins

    When we last left off after round 7 of 9, Teimour Radjabov led the Grand Prix event in Geneva with 5/7; Pentala Harikrishna and Alexander Grischuk were half a point behind. Two rounds later, the tournament is over and Radjabov held on to his victory with a pair of draws against Alexander Riazantsev in round 8 (in just 12 moves), and more significantly against Ian Nepomniachtchi in the last round.

    Nepo had defeated Levon Aronian in round 8 when the latter went a bit too sac-crazy, and moved into the tie for second with Grischuk. (Harikrishna lost to Li Chao to fall out of the tie for second and out of contention for first.) With a win over Radjabov, Nepomniachtchi would take clear first (Grischuk drew with Anish Giri), but despite having the white pieces it was only his opponent who enjoyed winning chances before the game was drawn.

    Apart from the games already mentioned, most of the wins in the last two rounds took place on lower boards. In round 8, Giri and Michael Adams defeated Hou Yifan and Richard Rapport, respectively, in both cases with the black pieces. In round 9 Hou Yifan lost again, and so did Saleh Salem, to Peter Svidler and Aronian, respectively; in this cases the wins came with the white pieces.

    Full results and games here; overall Grand Prix standings and information here. The upshot is that Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Alexander Grischuk lead for the top two spots overall, which would mean qualification into next year's Candidates event, but they won't be playing in the last Grand Prix event of the year. That takes place in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and Teimour Radjabov, Ding Liren, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will all have their chances to leapfrog their way into qualification.

    Tuesday
    Jul182017

    Komodo 11.2 Now Available

    As a public service to those who bought one-year subscriptions to Komodo, be aware that Komodo 11.2 is hot off the presses.

    Tuesday
    Jul182017

    Awonder Liang Wins U.S. Junior Championship

    Awonder Liang recently became a grandmaster (or at least earned the title; it won't be awarded to him until later this year) at the tender age of 14 years and a month, making him the second-youngest U.S. grandmaster ever. His latest success was victory in the U.S. Junior Championship, coming from behind to pass Kayden Troff in the last round. Congrats to Awonder!

    Tuesday
    Jul182017

    Dortmund 2017 Underway: Bluebaum and Wojtaszek Lead After Two Rounds; Kramnik Tied for Last

    Vladimir Kramnik may be Mr. Dortmund, having won the tournament about 50 times (okay, only ten times, including ties), but it's a rocky start for him so far. In round 1 he had White against Vladimir Fedoseev, and the latter did well to maintain the balance in a very sharp position through move 17. Then Kramnik went insane with 18.Qh5??, sacrificing (blundering) a piece for completely inadequate compensation. It's not clear what Kramnik missed - maybe 21...h6, with the idea of 22...g6 - but despite his best efforts to confuse the issue he was down two pieces for less than nothing when he resigned after Black's 29th move.

    That was the only decisive game in the first round; unfortunately for Fedoseev, he promptly lost with to Matthias Bluebaum in round 2. It was not a perfect game, but Bluebaum played much better than his opponent. It was strange from the opening: perhaps Fedoseev forgot his analysis when he played 11...Nb6 in a well-known position. It's not a popular move, it doesn't score well, and the computer doesn't like it either. White quickly emerged with a clear advantage, and while Fedoseev briefly got back to being only slightly worse, his play from moves 18-22 made his situation worse and worse, and after 23.e5 was thoroughly lost.

    The day's other victory was by Radoslaw Wojtaszek at Wang Yue's expense. Through 31.Bb5 the position was equal - at least from a computer's point of view, but White's position was much easier to play. Black had to concern himself with White's chief threat of 32.Rb8, intending 33.Re8#, and played 31...Bg4 so as to plug up the back rank with 32...Bc8. This was a mistake. Black could and should have grabbed the h-pawn - 32...Rxh2 - and after 33.Rb8 f6 White has nothing concrete; the game probably would have headed for a draw. After 31...Bg4? 32.Ra8 Bc8 33.Rc6! broke down Black's resistance. If he plays 33...Rxc6, then after 34.Bxc6 there's no way to save the bishop without allowing 34.Re8#. For instance, if 34...Kd8, then 35.Bb7 wins the bishop; likewise 34...Bd7 35.Rb7. Wang Yue preferred 33...Kd8, but after 34.Rxc7 Kxc7 35.Ra7+ Kb8 36.Rxf7 White's c- and e-pawns were too strong, and Black gave up.

    The tournament started on Saturday; Monday was a rest day. Round 3 is on Tuesday, with these pairings:

    • Vachier-Lagrave (1) - Bluebaum (1.5)
    • Wang Yue (.5) - Nisipeanu (1)
    • Kramnik (.5) - Wojtaszek (1.5)
    • Fedoseev (1) - Andreikin (1)

    Friday
    Jul142017

    American Chess Magazine, Issue 3

    The United States of America imports most of its grandmasters from around the world (or at least it seems to) and many of its products from Asia (cars, electronics, toys, etc.), so it's only fitting that its best magazine would be produced by the good folks from Serbia. The third issue of the American Chess Magazine has hit the metaphorical stands, and like its predecessors it's a good one, worthy of your money even if you're not from the U.S.A.

    That said, the magazine, or at least this issue, is more U.S.-centric than the first two. The ACM is a young periodical finding its way in the world, and besides that it's natural that it would have a heavier weighting on American chess given that its centerpiece is the U.S. Championship. Make that Championships, plural: it is new U.S. Women's Champ Sabina Foisor who "wins" the cover; overall champion Wesley So has a much smaller, inset picture, probably because he was featured on the cover of the previous issue. Of the issue's 152 pages, 43 are dedicated to the Championships: 26 to the "men's" (Open) event, 17 to the women's. So deeply annotates one of his wins from the tournament, Ivan Sokolov deeply annotates three games from the tournament (including two of So's), Varuzhan Akobian (who was in contention for first up until the end) annotated two more, and then Jaan Ehlvest adds a report on some of the openings highlights from the tournament. As for the women's coverage, it focuses heavily, but not exclusively, on Foisor's result and games.

    After that comes a series of a la carte articles which, with one exception, have no intrinsic connection to U.S. chess:

    1. Vassily Ivanchuk takes a very close look at one of his games from the Gibraltar tournament this past January.

    2. John Fedorowicz starts a new column, inspired by Samuel Reshevsky's old Chess Life and Review column "The Art of Positional Play", entitled "The New Art of Positional Play". The first topic is "The Benoni Knight". Which knight is this, you ask? That's an excellent question. There's a picture at the start of the article with Black's pieces all in their starting positions and a White knight on b5, so you might think that it's White's queen's knight. Oddly, he never explicitly identifies the Benoni Knight, but on the third of the article's four pages the cat comes out of the bag. When White plays 15.Nc4-e3, "Fed" comments, "The second important knight move. White refuses to trade the "Benoni knight" and is able to use it on the kingside." At last! The knight was traded off a little later and without annotational fanfare, so I'm a bit confused about the title. But leaving that aside, it was an instructive game with notes that will be helpful to readers of vastly different ratings.

    3. Karsten Mueller offers a tribute to the late great trainer (and in the days of his playing career, strong practical player) Mark Dvoretsky. Dvoretsky was a big fan of the endgame, and Mueller shows a number of his achievements in that phase of the game, with a short supplement summarizing some of Dvoretsky's finds in the famous Karpov-Kasparov knight vs. bishop ending from their first, unfinished match.

    4. Alex Fishbein also writes an endgame column, "Mind Tricks in the Endgame". I won't offer spoilers here, but it's noteworthy that all but one of his examples are all taken from Candidates and World Championship events. Even the world's best are susceptible to psychological pitfalls!

    5. Now for something U.S.-centric, and semi-self-referential. The American Chess Magazine may be the latest American chess magazine, but what was the first? Chess historian John S. Hilbert takes a careful look at a priority dispute between two contenders, both of which started late in the year 1846: The Chess Palladium and Mathematical Sphinx and Charles H. Stanley's magazine, whose proper title is unclear. Hilbert's article is very entertaining and touches on much more than the issue of priority, but he does answer the question in the end. And the winner is...sorry, get the magazine.

    6. A carry-over from the previous issue: part two of Ernesto Inarkiev's look at the best games from the Carlsen-Karjakin match. (Spoiler alert: Carlsen won.) He takes a close look at two games that "got away": game 3, which Carlsen should have won, and game 9, which Karjakin should have won.

    7. FM Carsten Hansen has a column briefly discussing each of 10 noteworthy "books" - though this includes a two-DVD set, while at least one of the books doesn't seem particularly noteworthy based on his comments. But YMMV. I also note, with some amusement, that he praised a book that I also deemed worthy for general audiences, to the consternation of several critics. Watch out, Carsten!

    After this come a pair of advertisements dressed up to look like articles. Jon Edwards gives the reader a four-page tour of the goodies on Chess24, and Danny Rensch offers some reflections on the benefits of chess on the internet while smuggling in lots of implicit plugs for Chess.com. To be sure, both Chess24 and Chess.com are fine sites and very much worth considering - I have no problem with either of them, and have regularly mentioned events and articles from both. But are these really articles, or a new sort of advertising? I'd like to hear what other readers think about this.

    After the foregoing, the focus returns to the U.S.A. Joel Benjamin offers his opinionated musings, in this issue writing about "Things I Like, and Things I Don't Like", and much of his article addresses the youth movement in U.S. chess. Michael Rohde looks at a great win by Ray Robson over Alexander Shabalov from the U.S. Championship. Alex Fishbein reports on the Charlotte (North Carolina) GM/IM Invitational. Mackenzie Molner looks at the Philly Open, Daniel Parmet recaps the Clark Street Capital Invitational in Chicago (with annotations by three GMs and an up-and-coming FM)...and on it goes for another 25 pages. Finally, a five questions interview with GM and FIDE Senior Trainer Adrian Mikhalchishin rounds out the magazine.

    There's plenty of prose to go along with the all high-level games and annotations, lots of glossy pictures, reader comments, a tactics page and more besides. For any U.S. players who are even semi-serious about the game and have any curiosity about what's happening in U.S. chess, please subscribe! The periodical should be of interest outside the U.S. as well, but it would be a pity for those of us in the U.S. if the ACM were to go the way of the Sphinx or Stanley's chess magazine.

    Ordering info here.

    Thursday
    Jul132017

    Catching Up on Danzhou and Geneva

    We soldier on, despite the absence of readers submitting groans at our Geneva Convention pun in the last post. Very disappointing. (Maybe such word plays were prohibited by that Convention as cruel and unusual punishment? Sorry.*)

    Starting with Danzhou, when we left off after round 3 there were only two players who had a win to their names: Wei Yi, who had won two games, and Ding Liren, who had won one. They played in round 4 and drew, but Wei Yi was in some trouble for a few moves after playing 29...Bf6(?) rather than 29...Ne4. Keeping both pairs of rooks with 33.Re7 was more promising, aiming to set up the "blind pigs" (doubled rooks on the 7th rank, for those unfamiliar with that expression). Instead, Ding played 33.Re3, and Black played well to hold the single rook ending.

    Others took up the slack for them. Yu Yangyi, the second-highest rated Chinese player (after Ding Liren) at the start of the tournament (but see below) defeated bottom seed and tournament rabbit Lu Shanglei, while Le Quang Liem defeated Vladimir Malakhov. That left the day's winners tied for second with Ding, half a point behind Wei, but round 5 restored the previous pattern.

    Wei Yi guaranteed that he would remain in clear first for another round by defeating Yu Yangyi, and in the process he leapfrogged his opponent on the rating list. (He is now #14 on the list, at 2751.8.) The game itself is a treat, with Wei either uncorking some remarkable preparation or even more impressive over-the-board inspiration against his opponent's Petroff. (Most likely a combination of the two.) Black rose to the challenge until move 21, when he finally stumbled into one of White's many tactical tricks. 21...Be6 would have held the balance, but the natural 21...Bf5 ran into a nice trick: 22.Rh5! Unfortunately for White, that was only the second-best move. First playing 22.Bxf5 and only then (after 22...Qxf5) 23.Rh5! would have been even stronger. Still, White enjoyed an advantage, and with persistence and good technique Wei was able to break down Yu's resistance in the queen vs. rook and bishop ending that soon ensued.

    Ding Liren also did his job, defeating Ruslan Ponomariov with Black in a Nimzo-Indian. Ponomariov got in trouble in the opening, but avoided the worst when Ding grabbed the exchange after 18.f4 rather than maintaining the bind with 18...Nd3. Ponomariov was known as a great technician even in his teenage days (he was seen as a sort of second coming of Karpov in the late '90s and early '00s, in the years before, during, and just after he won the FIDE World Championship at the ripe young age of 18), but it was his opponent who showed better technique in this game. It wasn't perfect, but it was very good, and while we're on the subject of ratings Ding Liren jumped over Anand to reach 9th on the rating list.

    Over to Geneva (which Agon/World Chess is doing their best to publicize by putting everything but the live moves behind a paywall until the round is over). When we left off after round 5, early leader Teimour Radjabov had just been caught by Alexander Grischuk, and they played in round 6. (The event is a swiss.) They played in round 6, and while Grischuk pressed throughout with White he never came close to getting anything serious, and it finished in a draw.

    That allowed Pentala Harikrishna to make it a triumvirate at the top, when he defeated Levon Aronian with Black - impressive! That said, Aronian was better until he played 20.f4? (instead of 20.e3, which was a better way of neutralizing Black's own dreams of playing ...f4), and after the further error 22.e3? (too late!) Black took over in impressive style after the alert 22...Ne5! Ironically, Harikrishna soon achieved ...f4 despite White's best efforts, and when it came it was much stronger than it would have been had he allowed it on move 22.

    The day's other wins were on the lower boards. Nepomniachtchi defeated Inarkiev, Li Chao beat Eljanov, Riazantsev beat Rapport (with Black against the latter's favorite 1.b3), and Hou Yifan bounced back out of the cellar by defeating Salem (also with Black).

    In round 7, the game Harikrishna-Grischuk was drawn fairly quickly. It looked like it would be a thriller - a 6.h3 Najdorf that turned into a sort of Keres Attack-like position. The players castled on opposite sides and the race was on...until Harikrishna pulled the plug with 17.Bxc5 dxc5 18.Qxd8. Too bad - it could have been a spectacular game.

    Radjabov played more ambitiously, albeit in a slow-motion way against Peter Svidler. In his heyday, Ulf Andersson had some success with the Anti-Gruenfeld system 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.Nf3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Qxd1+ 7.Kxd1, most notably in his 1979 game with Marcelo Tempone, when Black played 7...c5. Against Svidler, Radjabov managed to achieve the same structure (and in fact, Andersson also used to play this way as well), and while Black has generally managed to draw in this variation it's not a particularly pleasant ending. Svidler was in trouble very soon, and the ending was amusing in a way. Radjabov had been tacking back and forth between attacks on Black's isolated a- and c-pawns. When the final blow came, it was on the b-file.

    In the day's other decisive battles, Alexander Riazantsev won a long game against Li Chao on the white side of a Schlechter Slav. The game was "drawn" for a very long time, but just because an ending is drawn by the tablebase doesn't mean it can be saved over the board by flesh and blood players. Li Chao's 71st move lost the game, but it's not exactly obvious at a glance that it loses while 71...Ke3 and 71...Kd4 draw. Finally, Saleh lost again, this time to Eljanov in a Modern Benoni.

    With two rounds to go, Radjabov leads with 5/7; Harikrishna and Grischuk are half a point behind, and Mamedyarov, Nepomniachtchi, and Riazantsev each have four points.

    * Not sorry.

    Tuesday
    Jul112017

    The Daily Update: Wei Yi Leads Danzhou

    The Geneva (chess) convention is off today, so that leaves Danzhou as the one super-event seeing action on Tuesday. Coming into the round there had been only one win in the first two rounds, by Wei Yi, and in round three he made it a double by defeating Ruslan Ponomariov with White in a Reti. Someone else finally won a game, though, and that was top seed Ding Liren. He defeated Lu Shanglei (Wei Yi's first round victim) with Black in an Italian. White often plays an early h3 in the Giuoco, and the plan demonstrated by Ding of going ...Ng4, ...Kh8, and ...f5 (with the knight retreating to h6 when kicked by h3) is a strong one that isn't as widely known as it ought to be, even among titled players. Italianistas, take note!

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