Links

This form does not yet contain any fields.
    1948 World Chess Championship 1962 Candidates 2.c3 Sicilian 2.f4 Sicilian 2011 European Team Championship 2011 Russian Championship 2012 Capablanca Memorial 2012 Chess Olympiad 2012 European Women's Championship 2012 London Chess Classic 2012 U.S. Junior Championship 2012 U.S. Women's Championship 2012 US Championship 2012 Women's World Chess Championship 2012 World Rapid and Blitz Championships 2013 Alekhine Memorial 2013 Beijing Grand Prix 2013 European Club Cup 2013 European Team Championship 2013 FIDE World Cup 2013 Kings Tournament 2013 London Chess Classic 2013 Russian Championship 2013 Tal Memorial 2013 U.S. Championship 2013 Women's World Championship 2013 World Blitz Championship 2013 World Championship 2013 World Rapid Championship 2013 World Team Championship 2014 Russian Team Championship 60 Minutes A. Muzychuk A. Sokolov aattacking chess Abby Marshall Accelerated Dragon ACP Golden Classic Adams Aeroflot 2010 Aeroflot 2011 Aeroflot 2012 Aeroflot 2013 Agrest Akiba Rubinstein Akiva Rubinstein Akobian Alejandro Ramirez Alekhine Alekhine Defense Alekseev Alena Kats Alex Markgraf Alexander Alekhine Alexander Grischuk Alexander Ipatov Alexander Khalifman Alexander Morozevich Alexander Onischuk Alexander Stripunsky Alexandra Kosteniuk Alexei Dreev Alexei Shirov Alexey Bezgodov Almasi Amber 2010 Amber 2011 Amos Burn Anand Anand-Carlsen 2013 Anand-Gelfand 2012 Anand-Gelfand World Championship Match Anand-Topalov 2010 Anastasia Bodnaruk Anatoly Karpov Andrei Volokitin Andrew Martin Andrew Paulson Android apps Anish Giri Anna Ushenina Anna Zatonskih Anti-Marshall Lines Anti-Moscow Gambit Antoaneta Stefanova apps April Fool's Jokes Archangelsk Variation Arkadij Naiditsch Arne Moll Aron Nimzowitsch Aronian Aronian-Kramnik 2012 Artur Yusupov Astrakhan Grand Prix 2010 attack attacking chess Austrian Attack Averbakh Baadur Jobava Bacrot Bangkok Chess Club Open Bazna 2011 Becerra Beliavsky Benko Gambit Bent Larsen Berlin Defense Biel 2012 Bilbao 2010 Bilbao 2012 Bilbao 2013 bishop endings Bishop vs. Knight Blackburne blindfold chess blitz Blumenfeld Gambit blunders Bobby Fischer Bologan Book Reviews books Boris Gelfand Boris Spassky Borislav Ivanov Borki Predojevic Boruchovsky Botvinnik Botvinnik Memorial Breyer Variation brilliancy British Championship Bronstein Bronznik Brooklyn Castle Browne Brunello Budapest Bundesliga California Chess Reporter Camilla Baginskaite Campomanes Candidates 2011 Candidates 2011 Candidates 2012 Candidates 2013 Candidates 2014 Capablanca Carlsen Caro-Kann cartoons Caruana Catalan Cebalo Charlie Rose cheating Cheparinov chess and education chess and marketing chess cartoons chess history chess in fiction Chess Informant chess lessons chess psychology chess ratings chess variants Chess960 ChessBase DVDs ChessBase Shows ChessLecture Presentations ChessLecture.com ChessUSA ChessUSA blog ChessVibes ChessVideos Presentations Chigorin Variation Chinese Chess Championship Christiansen Christmas Colle combinations Commentary computer chess computers correspondence chess Corsica Cyrus Lakdawala Danailov Daniil Dubov Dave MacEnulty Dave Vigorito David MacEnulty David Navara Davies Deep Blue Deeper Blue defense Delchev Ding Liren Dmitry Andreikin Dmitry Gurevich Dortmund 2010 Dortmund 2011 Dortmund 2012 Dortmund 2012 Dortmund 2013 Doug Hyatt draws dreams Dreev Dutch Defense DVD Reviews DVDs Dvoirys Dvoretsky Easter Edouard Efimenko Efstratios Grivas endgame studies endgames Endgames English Opening Esserman Etienne Bacrot European Club Cup 2012 European Individual Championship 2012 Evgeni Vasiukov Evgeny Sveshnikov Evgeny Tomashevsky Exchange Ruy Fabiano Caruana Falko Bindrich farce FIDE Grand Prix FIDE ratings Fier fighting for the initiative Finegold Fischer football Francisco Vallejo Pons Fred Reinfeld French Defense Ftacnik Gajewski Gaprindashvili Garry Kasparov Gashimov Gata Kamsky Gelfand Geller Geneva Masters Georg Meier GGarry Kasparov Gibraltar 2011 Gibraltar 2012 Gibraltar 2013 Gibraltar 2014 Giri Grand Prix Attack Greek Gift sacrifice Grenke Chess Classic 2013 Grinfeld Grischuk Grob Gruenfeld Defense Grünfeld Defense Gulko Gunina Guseinov Gustafsson Gyula Sax Hans Ree Harika Dronavalli Haworth Hedgehog Hennig-Schara Gambit Henrique Mecking HHou Yifan highway robbery Hikaru Nakamura Hilton Hjorvar Gretarsson Hort Horwitz Bishops Hou Yifan Houdini 1.5a Howard Staunton humor Humpy Koneru Ian Nepomniachtchi Icelandic Gambit Igor Kurnosov Igor Lysyj Iljumzhinov Ilya Nyzhnyk Imre Hera Informant Informant 113 Informant 114 Informant 115 Informant 116 Informant 117 Informant 118 insanity Inside Chess Magazine Ippolito IQP Irina Krush Ivan Sokolov Ivanchuk J. Polgar Jacob Aagaard Jaenisch Jaideep Unudurti Jakovenko Jan Timman Jay Whitehead Jeremy Silman Jimmy Quon John Grefe John Watson Jon Lenchner Jonathan Hawkins Jonathan Speelman Jose Diaz Judit Polgar Julio Granda Zuniga Kaidanov Kalashnikov Sicilian Kamsky Karjakin Karpov Karsten Mueller Kasimdzhanov Kasparov Kavalek Ken Regan Keres KGB Khalifman King's Gambit King's Indian King's Tournament 2010 Kings Tournament 2012 Kirsan Ilyumzhinov KKing's Gambit KKing's Indian Klovans Komodo Korchnoi Kramnik Kunin Larry Evans Larry Kaufman Larry Parr Lasker Lasker-Pelikan Latvian Gambit Laznicka Le Quang Liem Leinier Dominguez Leko Leonid Kritz lessons Lev Psakhis Levon Aronian Lilienthal Linares 2010 Lombardy London 2009 London 2010 London 2011 London Grand Prix London System Lothar Schmid Luke McShane Macieja Magnus Carlsen Main Line Ruy Malakhov Malcolm Pein Mamedyarov Marc Arnold Marc Lang Marin Mariya Muzychuk Mark Crowther Marshall Marshall Gambit Masters of the Chessboard Mateusz Bartel Max Euwe Maxime Vachier-Lagrave McShane Mega 2012 mental malfunction Mesgen Amanov Michael Adams Miguel Najdorf Mikhail Botvinnik Mikhail Tal Mikhalchishin Miles Minev miniatures Miso Cebalo MModern Benoni Modern Modern Benoni Moiseenko Morozevich Morphy Movsesian Müller music Nadareishvili Naiditsch Najdorf Sicilian Nakamura Nanjing 2010 Navara Negi Neo-Archangelsk Nepomniachtchi New In Chess Yearbook 104 New York Times NH Tournament 2010 Nigel Short Nikita Vitiugov Nimzo-Indian NNotre Dame football Norway Chess 2013 Notre Dame football Notre Dame Football Nov. 2009 News Nyback Nyzhnyk Olympics 2010 Open Ruy opening advice opening novelties Openings openings Or Cohen P.H. Nielsen Parimarjan Negi Paris Grand Prix passed pawns Paul Keres Pavel Eljanov pawn endings pawn play pawn structures Pesotskyi Peter Heine Nielsen Peter Leko Peter Svidler Petroff Philadelphia Open Phiona Mutesi Pirc Piterenka Rapid/Blitz Polgar Polgar sisters Polugaevsky Ponomariov Ponziani Potkin poultry Powerbook 2011 problems progressive chess QGD Tartakower QQueen's Gambit Accepted queen sacrifices Queen's Gambit Accepted Queen's Indian Defense Radjabov Ragger rapid chess Rapport Rashid Nezhmetdinov rating inflation ratings Ray Robson Regan Reggio Emilia 2010 Reggio Emilia 2011 Reshevsky Reti Rex Sinquefield Reykjavik Open 2012 Richard Reti Robert Byrne robot chess Robson Roman Ovetchkin rook endings RReggio Emilia 2011 rrook endings RRuy Lopez RRuy Lopez sidelines Rubinstein rules Ruslan Ponomariov Russian Team Championship Rustam Kasimdzhanov Ruy Lopez Ruy Lopez sidelines Rybka Rybka 4 S. Kasparov sacrifices Sadler Sakaev Sam Collins Sam Sevian Samuel Reshevsky Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2011 Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2012 satire Savchenko Schliemann Scotch Four Knights Searching for Bobby Fischer Seirawan self-destruction Sergei Tiiviakov Sergey Karjakin Sergey Shipov Shakhriyar Mamedyarov Shankland Shipov Shirov Short Sicilian Sinquefield Cup sitzfleisch Slav Smith-Morra Gambit Smyslov Spassky spectacular moves Speelman sportsmanship Spraggett St. Louis Invitational stalemate Staunton Stockfish 4 Stonewall Dutch Suat Atalik Super Bowl XLIV Sutovsky Sveshnikov Sveshnikov Sicilian Svetozar Gligoric Svidler sweeper sealer twist Swiercz tactics Tactics Taimanov Tal Tal Memorial 2009 Tal Memorial 2010 Tal Memorial 2011 Tal Memorial 2012 Tal Memorial 2012 Tarjan Tarrasch Tarrasch Defense Tashkent Teimour Radjabov Terekhin The Chess Players (book) The Week in Chess Thessaloniki Grand Prix Three knights Tim Krabbé time controls Timman Timur Gareev Tomashevsky Tony Miles Topalov traps TWIC types of chess players Ufuk Tuncer underpromotion Unive 2012 University of Notre Dame upsets US Championship 2010 US Championship 2011 USCF ratings USCL V. Onischuk Vachier-Lagrave Vallejo van der Heijden van Wely Vasik Rajlich Vasily Smyslov Vassily Ivanchuk Vassily Smyslov Velimirovic Attack Veresov Veselin Topalov video videos Vienna 1922 Viktor Bologan Viktor Korchnoi Viktor Moskalenko Viswanathan Anand Vitaly Tseshkovsky Vitiugov Vladimir Kramnik Vladimir Tukmakov Vugar Gashimov Vugar Gashimov Memorial Wang Hao Wang Yue Watson Welcome Wesley Brandhorst Wesley So Wijk aan Zee 2010 Wijk aan Zee 2011 Wijk aan Zee 2012 Wijk aan Zee 2013 Wijk aan Zee 2014 Wilhelm Steinitz Willy Hendriks Winawer French Wojtkiewicz Women's Grand Prix Women's World Championship World Champion DVDs World Cup World Cup 2009 World Cup 2011 World Cup 2011 World Junior Championship World Senior Championship WWijk aan Zee 2012 Yasser Seirawan Yates Yermolinsky Yevseev Yu Yangyi Yuri Averbakh Yuri Razuvaev Zaitsev Variation Zaven Andriasyan Zhao Xue Zug 2013 Zukertort System Zurich 1953 Zurich 2013 Zurich 2014

    Entries in 2013 Alekhine Memorial (7)

    Wednesday
    May012013

    Aronian Wins Alekhine Memorial On Tiebreaks Over Gelfand

    Coming into the last round of the Alekhine Memorial, Boris Gelfand led Viswanathan Anand, Levon Aronian, Mickey Adams and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave by half a point. Gelfand faced Anand in the last round, played it safe with the white pieces, and Anand drew without much trouble. That eliminated one rival and made it such that no one could catch him unless he or they won their games.

    Unfortunately for Gelfand, Aronian defeated Vachier-Lagrave in a generally impressive game, finishing with some very nice tactics. Through the first 28 moves, everything was going smoothly, and had Aronian played 29.d6 he would have been well on his way to a clean victory. Instead, 29.Rxb8+ was a mistake, and after 29...Rxb8 30.Rxa7 Bxc3! 31.Rxd7 Rb4 Vachier-Lagrave had reached an objectively drawn position. This is a pure abstraction though, and would remain so as long as White's d-pawn was alive and dangerous. After 32.d6 Rxc4 33.Be7 some care was required.

    Black's best move would have been 33...f6, immediately eliminating all the dark-squared mating nets around Black's king and allowing it to join in the fight against White's d-pawn. Maybe there's a sly trap both players thought was winning, but I'm not seeing it. Instead, it just looks like a relatively straightforward draw, e.g. 34.Ra7 Kf7 35.Bd8+ Ke6 and now White seems to have nothing better than 36.d7 Rd4 (36...Rf4 first is an interesting finesse, threatening mate starting with 37...Bd4+. White plays 37.g3 and only then Black's rook goes to d4. The point is that after the same moves given in the 36...Rd4 line, the presence of a White pawn on g3 makes it easier for Black to liquidate the kingside and draw. Remember that he can give up everything he has for White's kingside pawns, his bishop included, and then draw with his king parked in the a8 corner.) 37.Bb6 Rxd7 38.Rxd7 Kxd7 39.Bxc5, when White's outside passer won't give him any serious winning chances.

    Vachier-Lagrave played 33...Kg7 instead, and while it wasn't losing it kept him in danger. For one thing, it keeps the king away from the d-pawn; for another, it doesn't yet save the king from possible mating nets. After 34.Ra7 Black had to play 34...Re4!, and it still seems that he should hold the game. White can promote: 35.d7 Rxe7 36.d8Q Rxa7, but it appears that Black has a fortress, despite the presence of White's a-pawn. Of course if it's exchanged for Black's c-pawn the result is a dead draw, so let's see what happens if White tries to keep it: 37.Qd5 Bf6 38.Qc4 (threatening to start making progress with a2-a4) 38...Ra3! Now White's only winning idea is to bring the king over to b1, so the queen can go to c1 to push Black's rook away. (And even that is just a first tiny step.) This plan is incredibly slow, however, and Black has many ways to deal with it - just pushing the kingside pawns, for instance, easily generates sufficient counterplay.

    Unfortunately for Vachier-Lagrave (and Gelfand and their fans), but fortunately for Aronian (and his fans and for those of us who can appreciate the aesthetics of his winning combination), Black played the losing move: 34...Rd4(?). It looks like an obvious blunder, but Black had a nice trick in mind. After 35.d7 Rd1+ 36.Kf2 Vachier-Lagrave played 36...c4!, a move with not just one but two points. The first, obvious point (though not so obvious when you have to think it up several moves in advance) is that if Aronian promotes (36.d8Q??) then Black saves the game with 36...Rxd8 37.Bxd8 Bd4+ and 38...Bxa7. But the really brilliant point was that if Aronian had played something obvious like 36.Rc7(?) Black has a de facto perpetual check! 36...Rd2+ 37.Kf3 (37.Ke1?? Rxd7+ and it won't be a perpetual; Black will simply win) 37...Rd3+ 38.Kg4 h5+ 39.Kf4 (39.Kh4 Bf6+ 40.Bxf6+ Kxf6 41.Rxc4 Rxd7=) Rd4+ 40.Ke3 Rd3+ etc.

    But Aronian was up to the challenge, and played the only clear winning move: 37.g3! This eliminates the perpetual, allows Black to play ...Bd4+ if he wants (which he doesn't, as 38.Ke2 Bxa7 39.Kxd1 is a trivial win). The remaining moves were pretty simple, and in the final position White plays 43.Ra8 and starts pushing the a-pawn, with our without first interpolating Rc8.

    The reason all this was bad news not just for Vachier-Lagrave but for Gelfand as well is the same reason why the last round of the London Candidates was a triumph for Magnus Carlsen despite his loss: tiebreaks. The same one, in fact, that cost Kramnik in London: it was number of wins of that determined the official winner of the event: Carlsen then and Aronian now. As then, and even before then - I've expressed similar complaints going back to the introduction a few years ago of chess tournaments with 3-1-0 scoring - I object to privileging a win and a loss over a pair of draws. Going +1, -1 doesn't show that someone played better chess or more enterprising chess than the player who drew twice; it doesn't even necessitate more fighting spirit. (Look at some of Kramnik's events here, or Nakamura's marathon draws in Zug.) It's impossible to discern anything about a game's quality just by knowing that it was drawn. What one does know, however, is that decisive games contain mistakes. So we know that the player who went +1 -1 made at least one error, and we don't know that his win was of particularly high quality. Maybe his opponent made a gross blunder in a perfectly good position.

    It's also true that the draws might have been fightless and dull while the decisive games were dazzling and daring. It could be, but the point is that we don't know this a priori without looking at the games, and the games hadn't been played when the decisions about tiebreaks were being made. I'd prefer to skip out on tiebreaks altogether, either having co-champions when possible or a playoff when necessary. If tiebreaks are necessary though, I'd propose eliminating the "most wins/losses" tiebreaker or putting it much further down the list. (And why isn't head-to-head the first tiebreaker? It wouldn't have affected anything here or at the Candidates', but when it is relevant how is that not the most obvious and natural way to distinguish the players? Still another idea, aiming for objectivity over the kinds of dumb luck rewarded by the Sonneborn-Berger tiebreak: what about factoring in something like Ken Regan's Intrinsic Performance Ratings, both for the player's moves and his opponent's? It's not perfect, but it at least tries to isolate the most relevant factor: the quality of a player's moves.)

    Rant over. In other games, Kramnik was successful today where he wasn't yesterday, this time winning the 7-hour game. Adams (his opponent) was doing fine for a long time, but a couple of loose moves between moves 30 and 40 got him in trouble. 33.Ne2 would have been better than 33.Nf1, but the bigger culprit was 36.Nd5? Adams must have missed or underestimated Kramnik's 36...f4! It's antipositional and ugly as sin, but it sets up the threat of ...c6, exploiting the knight's lack of squares to win the b-pawn. (Note that ...c6 needed to be prefaced by ...Be5, as White could have met 37...c6? with 38.Nf6!=.) From there it was a long, hard grind, and while Kramnik in general handled the ending extremely well and was a deserved winner, he seems to have erred on moves 61 and 65. I'm not 100% sure that Adams could have drawn even then, but at the very least Kramnik endangered the win.

    In both cases Adams returned the favor; the first with inaccuracies on moves 62 and 64; the second with 70.Rf5. I'm not sure Kramnik is winning after the immediate 70.Rf8, e.g. 70...Rd3+ 71.Kc2 Re3 72.Nf6+ Kg6 73.Ng4 Rg3 74.Ne5+. White's setup is incredibly effective: the f- and g-pawns are frozen and the poor Black king can't go to its otherwise ideal square, h5, on account of Rh8#. The h-pawn has a little freedom, but it's limited. Continuing a bit: 74...Kg7 75.Rf7+ Kh6 (75...Kg8 76.Kd2 h3 77.Rf6 eventually comes to the same thing) 76.Rf8 h3 77.Kd2 Kg7 78.Rf7+ Kg8 79.Rf6 may just be drawn. When Black's king goes to the 7th rank, White plays Rf7+ and then goes to f6 or f8 - whichever rank is opposite Black's king. If there is a win in there, it's not easy to find. Anyway, Adams missed this chance and played 70.Rf5(?), after which Kramnik only had to find the simple but nice finesse 70...Rd3+! and only after 71.Kc2 Rg3. With the king on d1 White could capture and draw, but with the king on c2 it's an elementary win for Black. Adams played a few more moves, and then resigned.

    Nikita Vitiugov and Ding Liren slugged it out in the Anti-Saemisch Gambit line of the King's Indian. For a while Vitiugov looked like he would be able to keep the material and win, but he never quite figured out how to extinguish his opponent's activity and the game finally ended in a draw. There are various improvements available to White, but the last chance to keep winning chances was with 32.Rc1 rather than 32.Rd1. After 32.Rd1 Rc4 followed by doubling on the 2nd rank, the game was equal. The difference is that if Black goes for the same plan with 32.Rc1 Rd4 White has 33.Rc6. In the 32.Rd1 Rc4 version, 33.Rd6 is ineffective due to 33...Bd4+, when White is lucky that he can still draw. In the 32.Rc1 Rd4 version, 33...Bd4+ is illegal, so White is winning. 32...Rd4 isn't forced, but White can still fight for the full point.

    Finally, the game between Peter Svidler and Laurent Fressinet also finished in a draw. Fressinet was better most of the way and probably could have pushed a bit more, but in general it looked like the players were happy to vacuum up the board and draw at move 40 - which they did.

    Final Standings:

    1-2. Aronian (first on tiebreaks), Gelfand 5.5
    3. Anand 5
    4-8. Vitiugov, Fressinet, Kramnik, Adams, Vachier-Lagrave 4.5
    9. Ding Liren 3.5
    10. Svidler 3

    Tuesday
    Apr302013

    Gelfand Leads the Alekhine Memorial With One Round to Go

    It isn't over yet, though. Boris Gelfand just survived against Vladimir Kramnik today, and thereby finished round 8 in clear first at the Alekhine Memorial with five points. He had been tied with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but the latter lost to Nikita Vitiugov and finally fell out of first. Vachier-Lagrave is only half a point behind Gelfand, and so are the members of the "A-Team": Michael Adams, Levon Aronian and Viswanathan Anand. (That's what I take to be the current tiebreak order; no implicit ranking should be inferred!) Two players, Vitiugov and and Laurent Fressinet, are a further half a point back with four points apiece, but they are shut out of the race for first, as the final round clash between Gelfand and Anand guarantees that someone will finish the tournament with at least five and a half points.

    A few words about the two main games before giving the full final round pairings. First, in Vachier-Lagrave vs. Vitiugov White didn't obtain an advantage out of the opening, but he wasn't in any trouble either until 31.Bd1?, unnecessarily giving away a pawn. Simply 31.Qd1 or 31.Qe2 would have maintained equal chances. Even then it wasn't over, and although Vitiugov kept making progress bit by bit the advantage grew to decisive proportions only after 42.Bf1?, allowing 42...f3. (Maybe White should lose after better moves in the long run, but after 42.Bf1 the "run" was likely to be short.) By the time of 47.Bxb7 White was clearly lost, but the move chosen forced White to resign just two moves later, faced with the choice of mate in one or the loss of the queen.

    As for Kramnik-Gelfand, one of Kramnik's chronic besetting sins (a failure to win won positions) struck again. He played well in the opening, inducing Gelfand to sac the exchange for a pawn. Gelfand's position was incredibly solid, but no problem: Kramnik started to grind and grind and grind, and after more than six hours of play he finally had his chance. He had made steady progress during the second time control (from moves 41-60), and in the third and final time control he at last had his chance after 63...Rxa5? 64.Rh8 would have won Gelfand's knight and the game along with it. (64.Rh8 Rc5 65.Rh5+ Nf5 66.Rg6 and there is no defense to Rgg5 followed if necessary by Kg4, or if 64...Ra3 then 65.Rh6! finishes the job, as Black either leaves the knight and loses it or moves it but allows 66.Rh5 [either mate in one or two, depending on where the knight moves] or 66.Rb/he6#, in case of 65...Nf5.)

    Kramnik played Rh8 several moves later, and as the players grew short on time he continued to have chances, though none as clear as 64.Rh8. His 72nd move was inaccurate though (72.Kg4 kept some hope alive), but it was based on his hallucinatory 73rd move. Indeed, if it weren't for 73...Rxe3 Gelfand could resign, but of course it was there. With his last pawn gone, the position was simply drawn, and a slightly bewildered Kramnik acceded to the draw.

    Final Round Pairings (with player scores in parentheses):

    • Svidler (2.5) - Fressinet (4)
    • Gelfand (5) - Anand (4.5)
    • Adams (4.5) - Kramnik (3.5)
    • Vitiugov (4) - Ding Liren (3)
    • Aronian (4.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (4.5)

    Monday
    Apr292013

    Alekhine Memorial, Rounds 6 and 7

    The 2013 Alekhine Memorial finished the Paris portion last Thursday, and recommenced yesterday in St. Petersburg, Russia. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave started round 6 half a point ahead of Michael Adams, Levon Aronian, Laurent Fressinet and Boris Gelfand; and that's just how he finished the round as all five games were drawn. Four of the games were pretty uneventful, but the action and pathos in the Aronian-Adams clash made up for it.

    After 26 moves the position was approximately equal but imbalanced, and would have remained so after 26.Qd3 followed by 27.Ne3. Instead, Aronian was attracted by 26.Nxh6+, but this was an outright error, and soon he was completely lost. Practical chances remained though, as Adams' king was somewhat exposed and time was running short before the time control, and after Aronian's 37.g4 the Englishman had one last hurdle to clear. The cleanest solution would have been 37...Kf7, when 38.Qxf5 Rxh2+! leads to large material gains or a quick mate, while 38.gxf5 Qb2 39.h4 (39.Qg2 is "best" but pointless, as Black trades queens and rooks and will enjoy an effortless conversion) 39...Ne4 40.Qg4 Nf2+ and game over.

    Unfortunately for Adams, who would have caught up with Vachier-Lagrave with a win, he fell for Aronian's trick by playing 37...fxg4?(?), and after 38.Rxf6+ Qxf6 39.Re1+ Kf7 40.Qd5+ Kf8 41.Re5! it was too late; the position was drawn. Adams went for the best try: 41...Rxh2+ 42.Kxh2 Qxf4+, but after Aronian's accurate 43.Kg1! (43.Kg2?! Qf3+ 44.Qxf3+ gxf3+ [check!] 45.Kxf3 and now Black can prevent Re6 with 45...Kf7 or 45...Rg6. It's still a draw, but Black can press a bit more than in the game.) 43...Qg3+ 44.Kf1 Qf3+ 45.Qxf3+ gxf3 46.Re6! the worst was over and Aronian held.

    Vachier-Lagrave still leads after round 7, holding a draw with Black today against Adams, but he is no longer the sole leader. With a complicated win over Ding Liren, Gelfand has pulled into a tie for first with two rounds to go. The Chinese player seemed to be doing well out of the opening, an Averbakh King's Indian, but (citing Judit Polgar's commentary) he got into deep trouble with the combination of 26...c4, 31...f6 (31...g5!?) and 35...Kh8 (35...Qe5 was her suggestion and, for that matter, the move I was considering while watching the game. I haven't checked any of this with engines though, so while you're welcome to note improvements please avoid casting aspersions - this is just a quick summary and not a detailed analysis). Gelfand might have made things easier on himself in converting his advantage (another plausible-looking Polgar suggestion: 43.Bd1, aiming to create mating threats after [an eventual] Bc2), but all the same, he managed to reel in the full point.

    Viswanathan Anand exchanged places with Fressinet by defeating him in a complicated game. Early on Fressinet seemed to be doing very well, but a crazy tactical skirmish led to an ending with both sides having a queen and rook and several passed pawns in front of their kings (which had castled on opposite flanks). Anand's pawns were faster, and Fressinet could only stop (or slow) them by allowing White's pieces to acquire dominating posts. Faced with mate or the loss of a full rook, Fressinet resigned, and the champ closed to within half a point of the leaders.

    Standings After Round 7 (of 9):

    1-2. Gelfand, Vachier-Lagrave 4.5
    3-5. The A-Team (Adams, Anand, Aronian) 4
    6. Fressinet 3.5
    7-8. Vitiugov, Kramnik 3
    9. Ding Liren 2.5
    10. Svidler 2

    Round 8 Pairings:

    • Fressinet - Aronian
    • Vachier-Lagrave - Vitiugov
    • Ding Liren - Adams
    • Kramnik - Gelfand
    • Anand - Svidler

    Saturday
    Apr272013

    Zug, Alekhine Memorial Updates

    Saturday is a rest day for the participants in the FIDE Grand Prix tournament in Zug (we're between playing days there, so is this a zwischenzug?), while the players at the Alekhine Memorial have Friday and Saturday off as their tournament moves from Paris, France to St. Petersburg, Russia.  Let's take the opportunity then for a quick scoreboard update:

    Zug: After eight rounds of 11, the standings are as follows:

    1. Topalov 5.5
    2. Ponomariov 5
    3-4. Caruana, Karjakin 4.5
    5-7. Kamsky, Morozevich, Nakamura 4
    8-10. Giri, Leko, Mamedyarov 3.5
    11-12. Kasimdzhanov, Radjabov 3

    Two quick comments about ratings. After his loss to Viswanathan Anand in the 2010 World Championship match, Veselin Topalov's play and his rating took a bit of a nosedive, and his results right after a fairly long break weren't especially good either, as I recall. Lately though, he has been playing very well again, and he has worked his way back up to #4 in the world. Going in the opposite direction is Teimour Radjabov, who entered the Candidates' as the world's #4 player. He finished last there and his tied for last here, and has lost a staggering 46 rating points between the two events. (A note to readers only familiar with USCF or ICC ratings: FIDE ratings, especially for top players, are far more stable. Losing a game to a peer doesn't cost 16 points or so, but only around five points. So if you want to "translate" his last month into USCF "language", imagine your rating going down 150 points or so. Yikes!)

    Round 9 Pairings (Sunday):

     

    • Giri - Kasimdzhanov
    • Leko - Karjakin
    • Kamsky - Caruana
    • Topalov - Mamedyarov
    • Nakamura - Morozevich
    • Radjabov - Ponomariov

     

    Alekhine Memorial:

    Here the standings are a bit of a shock. The leader is not world champion Viswanathan Anand, nor is it world #2 Levon Aronian. Vladimir Kramnik started with an impressive win in round 1, but since then it has been a bit of a nightmare for the ex-champion. One won't find the leader in the ranks of near-champions, whether of the absolute sort (Boris Gelfand) or the FIDE variety (Michael Adams). No, the leader after the French segment, five rounds into this nine-round tournament, is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave! Can he keep his lead to the end of the tournament? I doubt it, but with only Aronian left on his schedule among the super-big guns, he might not be as big an underdog as one might otherwise suspect.

    Standings After Round 5:

    1. Vachier-Lagrave 3.5
    2-5. Adams, Aronian, Fressinet, Gelfand 3
    6. Anand 2.5
    7-9. Kramnik, Vitiugov, Ding Liren 2
    10. Svidler 1

    You might be surprised to see Fressinet up there, but he earned it by butchering Kramnik in round 5 - with Black, no less. Among the leader's games, Vachier-Lagrave's win over Ding Liren (which certainly involved home prep, as he acknowledged in his post-game comments) was a positional classic in which he managed to keep Black's king's bishop and king's rook out of the game from start to finish. (In this it was an interesting reversed echo of a famous win of his against Morozevich from Biel 2009. There it was Vachier-Lagrave whose rook was frozen for a long time, but in that game he finally managed to disentangle everything and pull out the win, despite having been lost early on. Another echo of Vachier-Lagrave's win over Ding Liren pertained to the concluding mating attack, which somehow reminded me of Kramnik's win over Topalov from their blindfold game in the 2003 Melody Amber tournament.)

    Speaking of Kramnik and tournament leader Vachier-Lagrave, their game in round 3 had some surprising moments. Kramnik seemed on his way to a typical smooth win: a strong opening idea led to enduring pressure and then an extra pawn. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the textbook victory, and it happened, as Dr. Tarrasch intimated long ago, in a rook endgame. Where exactly, I'll leave to you to discover; my interest right now is in pointing out where it didn't happen.

    Here's the position after 38...Kd5. Kramnik continued 39.Rb1, which allowed Black to get in 39...h5 right away. White has two possible winning strategies here in general. One is to use zugzwang to force Black back. For instance, if Black's rook retreats, White may push b4-b5, and if Black continues with ...Kc5 White's idea is to follow up with e3-e4, and after everything is traded White's king will devour Black's kingside. The other idea is to play e4 with check; that is, while Black's king is still on d5 (and White's pawn is still on b4). After ...fxe4+ Ke3 White will meet a "pass" move with Rd2+ followed by Rd4 and taking the e-pawn.

    For the first strategy to succeed, White must put Black in zugzwang, and that will only happen once Black's h-pawn has gone to h5. For the other strategy, however, there's no reason for White to wait, and there may be good reason for him to hurry. Which strategy would you choose? What should Kramnik do?

    In the game, Kramnik played 39.Rb1, opting for the first strategy. After 39...h5 40.Rb2 Rb6 the consistent move would be 41.b5, but by this point he realized that after 41...Kc5 42.e4 Rxb5! 43.Rxb5+ Kxb5 White isn't winning. Strange, but true! Here's a variation to illustrate the basic point: 44.exf5 Kc6! 45.f6 Kd7! 46.Ke4 Ke6 47.f7 Kxf7 48.Kf5 and now 48...h4! 49.Kxg4 hxg3 leads to an elementary draw.

    Perhaps Kramnik lacked the time to calculate that variation before the time control, though my recollection was that he had a fair amount of time left. By now he understood that it didn't work and reverted to the second plan: 41.Rb1 Rb5 42.Rb2 Rb6 43.e4+ fxe4 44.Ke3, but here Vachier-Lagrave obtained sufficient counterplay to hold the balance with 44...h4! 45.gxh4 g3.

    But what if Kramnik had gone for e4+ immediately, while Black's pawn was still on h7? Dutch chess legend Jan Timman was doing the English-language commentary for the tournament website, and proclaimed that the idea won, and Mark Crowther cites him approvingly. Specifically, Crowther (citing Timman) claims that from the diagrammed position the variation 39.e4+ fxe4+ 40.Ke3 h5 41.Rd2+ Ke6 42.Rd4 results in a winning position for White. Quoth Crowther: "It's hard to understand why Kramnik didn't do this."

    Well, I can think of two reasons why he didn't. The first is that he probably believed he had calculated the variation 39.Rb1 h5 40.Rb2 Rb6 41.b5 out to a win, which reminds me of a joke I heard a couple of decades ago from a comedy tape called something like "How to be a Jewish Mother". One of the "techniques" went like this:

    Step 1: Buy your son two sweaters.

    Step 2: When he wears one of them, ask "What's the matter, don't you like the other sweater I bought you?"

    As Crowther seems to recognize that Kramnik didn't realize until it was too late that 41.b5 (in the 39.Rb1 line) didn't win, I'm not sure what he expected him to do - especially as there's no way for Kramnik to wear both sweaters.

    Now for reason #2: the Timman/Crowther line doesn't win! Timman was a really great player for many years and is still a very good grandmaster, but his online commentary was more him having a fun time with his friend Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam than an exercise in hardcore analysis, and he wasn't using an engine. This was a case where Ronald Reagan's slightly oxymoronic adage "trust, but verify" should have been employed: Timman is a legend, but the computer will give you the truth about such a position. (Not that Timman or even Crowther couldn't have worked things out with a bit of elbow grease.) Or to go another way with the trust angle, would it make more sense to trust the computer-less analysis of a fully motivated, fully concentrated Kramnik (rating: 2800+) or that of a very relaxed, informal Timman (rating: 2576)?

    Let's get down to business: after 39.e4+ fxe4+ 40.Ke3 h5 41.Rd2+ Ke6 42.Rd4 White is not winning, because 42...h4! draws. The idea is to undermine the f-pawn, and the ensuing Black counterplay will let him hold the balance. White has plenty of options, but to at least give the most obvious one we have 43.Rxe4+ Kf5 44.gxh4 g3 45.Kf3 (45.Rc4 Kg4) 45...g2 46.Re1 Rxb4 with an elementary draw, as Black will win White's f-pawn. (You can replay these lines and a little more besides, here. [Using the software I don't want to. Sometimes a guy has to pick his battles.])

    Finally, before sending this post into the world and myself to the land of Nod, here are the pairings for Sunday's round 6 games:

    • Vachier-Lagrave - Gelfand
    • Aronian - Adams
    • Fressinet - Vitiugov
    • Kramnik - Anand
    • Ding Liren - Svidler

    Sunday
    Apr212013

    The Daily Update: Zug, Alekhine Memorial

    In the battle of the dueling super-tournaments, it was the Alekhine Memorial that was, appropriately enough, more memorable in today's action. For a second straight day all six games in the FIDE Grand Prix tournament in Zug finished as draws. As usual the games were almost all very interesting, but a win could not be found. They'll have a rest day tomorrow, and hopefully come Tuesday some (metaphorical) blood will be spilled.

    Zug may have been forgettable, but we'll always have Paris. Three of the five games finished with a winner, each featuring one of the absolute elite. The first game to finish was a short draw between the two Frenchmen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Laurent Fressinet, but the other draw was more interesting. Boris Gelfand found a remarkable idea against Peter Svidler that might have been part of his (Gelfand's) preparation for the Anand match. The tactical sequence with 13...h5, 14...h4 and 15...Nxh2 was unusual and effective, and allowed him to essentially equalize once the complications had played themselves out.

    Now for the wins. Nominal top seed Levon Aronian came up with a new or at least rare idea against Ding Liren in a Chebanenko Slav when he played 12...Bc4, but it didn't seem to work out very well. Alexander Grischuk (now #4 in the world, thanks to a great result in the recent Russian Team Championship and the last game discussed below) was the English-language commentator on the tournament website, and his opinion was pretty clear, that White had a pleasant and enduring advantage after that. Maybe, according to Grischuk, that advantage could have best been preserved by 22.Bd6 rather than 22.h3, but even so Aronian's life was never going to be easy. 32.Nd5 was a spectacular move, and then 36.Nxd5! and especially 37.Bxg7! were key follow-ups. After 42.Re1 Ding Liren was a rook down, but Aronian's king was defenseless against the coming rook lift, and Black resigned four moves later.

    Vladimir Kramnik bounced back from the last-round trauma of London with a win over Nikita Vitiugov. Round about move 34 or so it looked like a draw would be inevitable. Material was even, and although Black's queenside pawns were split White's b-pawn looked plenty vulnerable as well. Whether it should have been a win or not, I don't know, but what soon made the key difference was Vitiugov's inability to bring his bishop back into play. Kramnik centralized his knight, improved his queenside pawns, and then engineered the nice breakthrough with 45.b5, quickly deciding the issue.

    Finally, world champion Viswanathan lost to Mickey Adams for the second time in the last few months, again with White and from what had been a pretty decent position. Anand looked to have some pressure against Adams' queenside pawns, but Black managed to liquidate his way to safety. According to Grischuk, Anand should have played 31.Re5, prioritizing the capture of Black's queenside pawns. Then the draw would have been routine. After 31.Re6 Black had winning chances, and he made the most of them.

    Sunday
    Apr212013

    Alekhine Memorial Starts Today

    The big chess continues! The FIDE Grand Prix tournament in Zug is a big deal, but the Alekhine Memorial, which sees play get underway today, is even bigger - at least at the top. The tournament is a 10-player round robin that starts in Paris, France and concludes in St. Petersburg, Russia. Play starts today at 8 a.m. ET, which is to say that it will run simultaneously with the Zug tournament. I haven't managed to find the pairings, so here's the player list:

    • Levon Aronian (2809)
    • Vladimir Kramnik (2801)
    • Viswanathan Anand (2783)
    • Peter Svidler (2747)
    • Boris Gelfand (2739)
    • Michael Adams (2727)
    • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2722)
    • Nikita Vitiugov (2712)
    • Ding Liren (2707)
    • Laurent Fressinet (2706)

    I suspect that this crew won't quite have the energy and drive of the Zug participants, but we'll see. Hopefully chess fans will be spoiled out of our minds over the next two weeks!

    Saturday
    Mar092013

    A New Super-Tournament: The Alekhine Memorial

    There have been various Alekhine Memorials over the years (most famously in 1971, co-won by the young Anatoly Karpov and Leonid Stein), but this is the first one that's a super-tournament in the contemporary sense. It will take place from April 21 to May 1 in two locations, opening in Paris, France and concluding in St. Petersburg, Russia. As far as I know, that too is a first for an Alekhine Memorial, but it makes a certain sense as Alexander Alekhine lived in both countries (though in his case he started in Russia and went to France). Here is the participant list:

    • Viswanathan Anand
    • Vladimir Kramnik (who is Russian but lives in France!)
    • Levon Aronian
    • Peter Svidler
    • Boris Gelfand (so far, the list includes the world champion and half the candidates)
    • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
    • Laurent Fressinet
    • Michael Adams
    • Nikita Vitiugov
    • Ding Liren

    (HT: Chess Today)