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    Tuesday
    Oct072014

    Baku Grand Prix, Caruana and Gelfand Lead After Five Rounds

    The last two rounds of the Baku Grand Prix have been a bit slow, at least when it comes to wins and losses. In today's round 5 action all the games were drawn, and only in the game between Hikaru Nakamura and Leinier Dominguez did anyone have serious winning chances. (Nakamura was pressing there and had a winning advantage at one point.)

    In round 4, before the first rest day, there were more opportunities for a decisive result, but only in the game between Fabiano Caruana and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov did someone manage to convert the advantage. Caruana was the winner (I've annotated the game for you here), and in the process he caught up with Boris Gelfand in first place. After five rounds they lead with 3.5 points apiece, good enough for a half point lead over Nakamura and Peter Svidler and a point plus over the next four players in the table.

    The round 6 pairings are:

    • Kasimdzhanov (2.5) -Andreikin (1.5)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Svidler (3)
    • Grischuk (2) - Radjabov (2)
    • Dominguez (2) - Mamedyarov (1.5)
    • Tomashevsky (2.5) - Nakamura (3)
    • Karjakin (2.5) - Gelfand (3.5)

    Saturday
    Oct042014

    Notre Dame 17, Stanford 14

    Was there ever any doubt? (I mean, aside from needing to convert on a 4th and 11 with about a minute left to come from behind to win the game. Piece of cake.) That should vault them in the standings on their inevitable path to #1.

    Record so far: 5-0.

    Next victim: North Carolina.

    Tune time!

    Saturday
    Oct042014

    Baku 2014: Gelfand Leads With 2.5/3

    Boris Gelfand is the oldest player in the field by a pretty significant margin - he's 46, and no one else is even in their 40s - but he nevertheless continues to play at the very highest level. After bludgeoning Dmitry Andreikin in round 1 he has continued well with a fascinating draw with Fabiano Caruana in round 2 on the black side of a Najdorf followed by a win over Alexander Grischuk in round 3. This puts him in clear first in Baku with 2.5/3, half a point ahead of Caruana, Peter Svidler and Hikaru Nakamura.

    Both of Gelfand's last two games, and in fact many games in this event, have been marred by time trouble. Of course the clock is part of the game, but it seems to be especially challenging for the players in this event as they are not using an increment (at least until move 60), which is extremely rare nowadays. The harshest finale of all was the end of the Gelfand-Grischuk game, where Gelfand let the win slip in time trouble only to see Grischuk lose on time making the last move of the control. (See the first video on this page, and go to approximately the 5:58 or 5:59 mark to see the final moments.)

    Other victories so far: in round 2 Svidler defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (when the latter blundered in time pressure) and Nakamura beat Andreikin, while in round 3 there was Gelfand's win and Sergey Karjakin's victory over Leinier Dominguez, when the latter collapsed in time trouble from what was an equal and even somewhat drawish position.

    There were a number of other games where one side really should have won, but - often in time pressure - let the moment slip. To return to the remarks above, the (now) unusual time controls are probably at least in fair part responsible for this. (More precisely, the players' lack of comfort with these controls.) Now, one might object that, first, the total amount of time under either this control or one with less time but with increments would be roughly the same; second, the players would have been in time trouble by the point in the game where they blundered either way. (In fact, if they had used the same amount of time up to that point, maybe even more serious time control.) But having played with both time controls with some regularity I can report that the feel in each case, when one is short of time, is quite different. Knowing that you'll always have a fresh 30 seconds waiting for you after your move is a relief, and gives you some extra comfort during the move you're making. You can focus your full attention on the move at hand when there's an increment; when there isn't one must also devote energy to the problem of apportioning one's time - a big distraction in time trouble, when there aren't enough mental resources for multitasking.

    Round 4 is tomorrow, and then Monday will be the first rest day. Tomorrow's pairings are Kasimdzhanov-Svidler, Andreikin-Radjabov, Caruana-Mamedyarov, Grischuk-Nakamura, Dominguez-Gelfand and Tomashevsky-Karjakin.

    Saturday
    Oct042014

    Notre Dame to Put the Cardinal on the Rack

    ...or on the spit. Either way, the #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will send the #14 Stanford Cardinal reeling in the polls after today's massacre. The demolition starts at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on NBC.

    Thursday
    Oct022014

    Baku Begins: Caruana (Of Course), Gelfand Win

    The inaugural tournament of the 2014-2015 Grand Prix series started today in Baku, with the following results:

    • Gelfand - Andreikin 1-0
    • Nakamura - Svidler 1/2-1/2
    • Mamedyarov - Radjabov 1/2-1/2
    • Dominguez - Kasimdzhanov 1/2-1/2
    • Tomashevsky - Grischuk 1/2-1/2
    • Karjakin - Caruana 0-1

    The first game was rather strange, or can be seen as a confirmation of something rather strange. In interviews after the 2013 World Cup and the 2014 Candidates, Andreikin described himself as "having no openings". That's a bizarre admission (and an even stranger state of affairs) for a top GM to make, but it does seem to be the truth. Today he went into a line known to be dangerous for Black, and made a new move that made his position even worse. I don't know if Gelfand had specifically prepared for Andreikin's new move, but either way he slaughtered him in just 23 moves.

    Nakamura-Svidler was a short draw - all the draws today were short, barely making it over the 30 move minimum - but it was not the sort of phony non-effort that used to be called a "grandmaster draw". In fact Svidler was doing very well, but made the wrong choice on move 27 and let Nakamura escape with a draw.

    Mamedyarov-Radjabov, however, was a grandmaster draw. They are countrymen and friends playing in their native land, so this isn't surprising. Their tournament will begin tomorrow.

    Dominguez-Kasimdzhanov was short and bizarre. Kasimdzhanov was much better in the early middlegame, but somehow lost the threat and was worse. On move 25 he made an outright blunder, but Dominguez didn't punish it. Even so, Dominguez was now much better, but his final move - move 30 - threw away the advantage and they agreed to a draw with plenty of life still in it.

    Tomashevsky-Grischuk was a normal draw. Not a grandmaster draw or a see-saw battle with blunders, but a typically modern game. White followed an opening line that had seen success in the past, Black found a good new move that neutralized White's plan, and soon they shook hands and called it a day.

    Finally, Caruana picked up where he left off, results-wise, by winning with Black against Karjakin. This was not, however, a kind of repeat of his supreme mastery at the Sinquefield Cup. Karjakin played very well through much of the game and at one point his advantage was beginning to get serious. Near the time control, however, Karjakin started losing the thread and never recovered. From what I understand, however, this was in part due to some sort of technological quirk. Karjakin was relaxing backstage while it was Caruana's move, and remained for 15 minutes. Apparently Caruana had moved, but the monitor had not updated, and so Karjakin simply lost a bunch of time on his clock. If the loss was in part due to wholly unnecessary time trouble, that's a pity.

    The games, with my comments, are here. I definitely won't be doing this for most of the tournament, but I had a little time today and thought it would be nice to get others interested in this super-event as well. (Maybe I should ask for volunteers for at least some of the remaining rounds?)

    Monday
    Sep292014

    The Final Interview of Mikhail Tal

    I suspect that this interview would be interesting even if it turned out to be his penultimate or even antepenultimate one, as Mikhail Tal was invariably fascinating, witty and intelligent when communicating with the public.

    Topics include Mikhail Botvinnik (on their matches and computer chess), Bobby Fischer (including a self-undermining remark about what Tal would not mention about Fischer lest he expose him to unfair criticism), Garry Kasparov, the phenomenon of future world champions almost all growing up without their fathers, and Viktor Korchnoi and matters parapsychological.

    One amusing quote illustrating his wicked sense of humor:

    A couple of years ago I've [sic] been to Argentina, and one local grandmaster told me that he recently played blitz with Fischer, and "can you imagine, Misha, he won all the games!" Then I learned that you don't have to be Fischer to do that!

    Ouch. I should add that while it's funny, Tal rarely took shots at opponents in print, generally speaking graciously of his opponents. So this is a rare exception, and it should be noted that he left the grandmaster's identity a secret.

    [HT: Brian Karen]

    Monday
    Sep292014

    Urban Chess in the Big Apple

    Here's a so-called human-interest story (as opposed to most stories, which are presumably written for the birds - or perhaps for the birds' owners), brought to you by reader Marc Beishon.

    Monday
    Sep292014

    Shirov vs. Sveshnikov

    Both are Latvians grandmasters who love sharp play, but as Alexei Shirov is 200 points higher rated and 22 years younger than Evgeny Sveshnikov, their six game (g/50) match this weekend looked unlikely to be much of a contest...and it wasn't. Shirov blew him away, 5.5-0.5.

    Shirov administered a whipping in the other direction late last year when he smashed Russian teenager Daniil Dubov 5-1, but he'll come up on a real test in a few weeks...or will he? On this page's "Future Events Calendar" it mentions a match between Shirov and Anish Giri due to run from October 12-18. That's wonderful, but Giri is also scheduled to play in the Grand Prix tournament in Baku from October 1-15. As I doubt he'll leave early for the sake of the Shirov match and don't expect him to try a simul, there seems to be a difficulty here. Hopefully some accommodation will be found, and the Giri-Shirov match will come off without a hitch.

    Monday
    Sep292014

    Which Engine Should You Choose?

    As I recall, I linked to an article on this topic some months or maybe around a year ago, and now with a new edition of Komodo on the market a new article has been written. The author addresses the big three engines: Stockfish 5, Komodo 8, and the aging but still worthwhile Houdini 4. His conclusion, in a nutshell, is that if one is engaging in serious, deep analysis and not just basic tactical checking then one should of course download Stockfish, as it's free, and if one must choose between Komodo 8 and Houdini 4 the former is the better choice due its positional strength.

    Sunday
    Sep282014

    Notre Dame 31, Syracuse 15

    It was a pretty ugly game, in which Notre Dame's offense either played brilliantly (e.g. Everett Golson came within one completion of equaling the all-time NCAA record of 26 consecutive pass completion) or ineptly (five turnovers!). They were more than strong enough for Syracuse, but can't afford to be this sloppy against the cream of their schedule - that includes their next opponent.

    Record so far: 4-0.

    Next victim: Stanford.

    Tune time!

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