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.
Entries in Alexander Grischuk (25)
Round 1 of the third Grand Prix event of the current cycle, held in Tbilisi, Georgia, kicked off today with a bang. Four of the six games were decisive, the two exceptions being Berlins with 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1. We'll say nothing more about them in this post!
We begin with a noteworthy achievement: Anish Giri won with Black against Peter Svidler, and in the process became the 9th player in chess history with a FIDE rating over 2800. (It's not official yet, but will at least be immortalized on the Live List even if he doesn't manage to sustain it.) Amazingly, the 20-year-old Giri is just half a point behind Fabiano Caruana and the third spot on the list.
The number two spot is held by Alexander Grischuk, who has increased the distance between him and Caruana by defeating Rustam Kasimdzhanov on the black side of a Noteboom Variation. This is not entirely to the credit of that interesting opening line, however. Kasimdzhanov enjoyed a clear advantage as late as move 29, but it was a complicated enough position that a couple of natural moves took him to equal and then lost within a space of three moves. When Kasimdzhanov resigned just a few further moves later, after 35 moves, he was already getting mated in three.
Another win by Black, also in a late turnaround, was achieved by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. MVL stood better for much of the game in a 6.Be3 Ng4 Najdorf, but in what was probably mutual time trouble his mistakes were more frequent and more harmful than Mamedyarov's. Vachier-Lagrave made the time control and his 41st move, but then resigned.
Finally, the white pieces managed to deliver in one game. Baadur Jobava played one of his oddball openings with Black against Evgeny Tomashevsky, and while he was slightly worse out of the opening he found the brilliant 15...Nxe5!!, which seems to equalize with perfect play. Unfortunately, he hadn't worked out all the details, and 17...Bxd4? resulted in a long forcing line where White was up a piece for two pawns. Whether White was winning at that point isn't clear, but Tomashevsky made steady progress and was winning by the end, even if might have been helpful to many of the fans to see how White could win against continued resistance.
The SportAccord World Mind Games is 2/3 of the way in, and so far it has been a success for two men and two women. Alexander Grischuk won both the rapid and the blitz competitions, with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave coming in second in both events. On the ladies' side Valentina Gunina won the rapid event while Hou Yifan came in second, and they switched positions in the blitz. Next up for the last two days, the "Basque" competition, wherein the competitors play two simultaneous games with their partners, one with each color.
Alexander Grischuk finished the Petrosian Memorial facing Vladimir Kramnik, and if Kramnik had won the players would have concluded the event tied for first. Winning to order against Grischuk would be a difficult task for Kramnik even in his best form and with the white pieces, but with the black pieces and seeing Grischuk playing the best chess of his life this year it wasn't in, on, under or through the cards.* Kramnik tried a sharp line against the Catalan, one he had previously used successfully against Veselin Topalov, but an alert Grischuk noticed that instead of the theoretical 10.Bd6 White could play 10.Bc3 and more or less force a draw on the spot, as Black cannot afford to allow Nxb5. So Grischuk took clear first and Kramnik took clear second.
Three players were tied for third entering the round, and two of them won. Boris Gelfand defeated Peter Leko with a nice breakthrough in a rook ending, and Levon Aronian won a complicated bishop ending against Ernesto Inarkiev. The third member of the pre-round triumvirate, Ding Liren, only drew with Morozevich. For Gelfand, going +1 was a nice rebound from the disaster in Tashkent (and a real accomplishment for a man playing in his third straight tournament, perhaps especially at his age), and it was a decent result for Aronian as well.
Back now to the main show - the Carlsen-Anand match!
* A little joke for those who caught Peter Svidler's discussion a week or so ago on "in the cards" vs. "on the cards".
It isn't quite Fabiano Caruana's streak at the Sinquefield Cup, but Alexander Grischuk's score of 4.5/5 in the Tigran Petrosian Memorial (and 7.5 out of his last 8 games) is extremely impressive. Today's victim was Peter Leko, and although Leko is one of the most solid players in chess he was outfoxed in a complicated game and lost in just 33 moves.
He hasn't quite managed to clinch even a tie for first yet, with two rounds remaining, as Vladimir Kramnik is "only" a point and a half behind after drawing with Levon Aronian. Aronian is on 50%, as is Ding Liren (who drew with Ernesto Inarkiev) and Boris Gelfand (who defeated Alexander Morozevich in a nice game).
(Because I need to spend time working on the Carlsen-Anand analysis I won't take the time now to analyze the games from this round, but the two decisive games are worth your attention, so I'll post them here.)
Round 6 Pairings:
- Kramnik (3) - Morozevich (1.5)
- Ding Liren (2.5) - Gelfand (2.5)
- Leko (2) - Inarkiev (1.5)
- Aronian (2.5) - Grischuk (4.5)
Alexander Grischuk's three-game winning streak in the tournament and six-game streak overall concluded today after he drew with the black pieces against Ding Liren. The other games were drawn as well, and tomorrow's round 5 pairings look like this:
- Aronian (2) - Kramnik (2.5)
- Grischuk (3.5) - Leko (2)
- Inarkiev (1) - Ding Liren (2)
- Gelfand (1.5) - Morozevich (1.5)
It wasn't all that long ago that winning streaks were matters of historical interest when considering the super-grandmaster level; suddenly they are in danger of becoming commonplace. Fabiano Caruana's 7-0 start to the Sinquefield earned him deserved notoriety, and now Alexander Grischuk is following in his footsteps. With another impressive (though imperfect) win, this time over Alexander Morozevich, Grischuk leads the Tigran Petrosian Memorial by a full point with a 3-0 score. (Pointless link here.) Moreover, this is his sixth consecutive win in conjunction with his previous event; the Baku Grand Prix several weeks ago, which he concluded with wins over Caruana(!), Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Leinier Dominguez Perez. (I've uploaded the games of his streak here.)
His rating is now 2807, and while he's still some distance behind Magnus Carlsen his recent surge, along with that of Caruana, Veselin Topalov (back to 2800) and Viswanathan Anand as well suggests that the peleton may be starting to close on Carlsen. I think this is good for chess whether they reel Carlsen in or not: if they do, it's good to have drama at the top; if they don't, it will hopefully be because Carlsen has pushed his game to a whole new level.
Back to this tournament. The other three games were drawn. Levon Aronian made Ding Liren sweat it out for a long time in the Symmetrical Gruenfeld, while Vladimir Kramnik had good chances against Peter Leko, but good defense held out in both cases. The last game, between Ernesto Inarkiev and Boris Gelfand, was also a Symmetrical Gruenfeld, but it never got too far out of balance before the players split the point.
Friday is a rest day, and play will resume on Saturday (when no one will be watching) with these pairings:
- Kramnik (2) - Gelfand (1)
- Morozevich (1) - Inarkiev (.5)
- Ding Liren (1.5) - Grischuk (3)
- Leko (1.5) - Aronian (1.5)
Thus far Alexander Grischuk and Vladimir Kramnik appear to be in good form at the Tigran Petrosian Memorial. Grischuk won his second straight game, defeating Boris Gelfand with the black pieces, while Kramnik won a very nice attacking game against Ernesto Inarkiev. Before getting too excited about their play so far (which has been excellent), it's fair to point out that their wins have come against the players who look most likely to be vulnerable. Inarkiev is the lowest-rated player by a considerable margin and had Black against both Grischuk and Kramnik, and in both games was much worse out of the opening. And Gelfand, the "old man" of the tournament at 46 years of age, is playing in his third consecutive tournament with scarcely a break.
Still, it's a good start for both, and especially so for Grischuk, who for the first time in his career has broken the 2800 barrier (it won't be official if he drops below 2800 by the end of the tournament, except in the annals of the online live rating lists). We'll see if he can keep things up tomorrow, when the pairings look like this:
Round 3 Pairings:
- Leko (1) - Kramnik (1.5)
- Aronian (1) - Ding Liren (1)
- Grischuk (2) - Morozevich (1)
- Inarkiev (0) - Gelfand (.5)
Alexander Grischuk is the early leader of the Tigran Petrosian Memorial after his convincing first round win over Ernesto Inarkiev. Inarkiev is the only non-2700 in the field, and as such is likely to get a lot of attention from the rest of the carnivorous field. Even so, it was surprising to see him come out of a quiet opening like the Reti with a clearly worse position. White enjoyed a huge space advantage, which he converted into the bishop pair and a superior pawn structure. Inarkiev wound up with an isolated c-pawn, and when it met its demise the resulting endgame was an easy win for Grischuk.
I'm not sure if any wins were missed in the other games, but in two of them the player with White was close to a win. Levon Aronian had Boris Gelfand struggling to stay alive in a rook ending, but Gelfand rose to the occasion and held. Peter Leko was clearly better against Alexander Morozevich, but was in serious time trouble before move 20 and repeated moves near the end of the time control. He was still better then, too, but may have been worried that if he avoided the repetition Black's control of the c-file might become the most important feature of the position. Finally, in the game Ding Liren-Vladimir Kramnik White always enjoyed a slight advantage in a Queen's Gambit Exchange Variation, but couldn't make anything of it and the draw was agreed right after the time control.
Round 2 Pairings:
- Kramnik - Inarkiev
- Gelfand - Grischuk
- Morozevich - Aronian
- Ding Liren - Leko
The Olympiad is in an especially fun stage for fans. It's far enough in that lots of top teams are battling with each other, but still early enough that a few semi-outsiders are still hanging on to their medal hopes. The Serbs and the Romanians are in the tie for the 3rd-12th places, and Bosnia, Canada and Qatar are among the teams giving the favorites a consistently hard time.
Overall though, the top teams are justifying their ratings. Azerbaijan, led by a very much in-form Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, crushed Georgia 3.5-.5. Cuba won by the same margin, but against the considerably lower-rated team from Kazakhstan. They will face off in tomorrow's games.
Top-seeded Russia has the best tiebreak score of the next group down, but while they defeated Uzbekistan it wasn't so easy. Vladimir Kramnik was crushed by Rustam Kasimdzhanov, but was avenged on board 2 when Alexander Grischuk whipped Anton Filippov with a beautiful attack. Ian Nepomniachtchi won on board 4 to put the Russians up 2-1, but Peter Svidler could very easily have lost to Marat Dzhumaev. Svidler put up great resistance, but Dzhumaev's position was clearly winning for a long time, and he could have won in spite of it despite Svidler's efforts. In the end though, Svidler's persistence paid off, and with the draw the Russians won their match 2.5-1.5.
Magnus Carlsen already played Levon Aronian, and today he took on Fabiano Caruana. In both games he had the black pieces, but this time - using the 3...Qd8 Scandinavian of all things - he managed to slowly grind Caruana down. (Caruana enjoyed a small advantage into the middlegame though, despite the sure surprise, so 3...Qd8 fans shouldn't try to wrest this game for propaganda purposes. The real lesson of this game is a familiar one: Carlsen can win against everyone playing just about anything.)
The United States defeated Paraguary 3-1, but unfortunately the Greeks lost Qatar 2.5-1.5. Drat.
In the women's section, nothing is new: China and Russia won their matches and remained perfect, a state of affairs that will finally come to an end next round when they play each other. Hou Yifan won her individual game, over a second GM (Judit Polgar has yet to play a GM in the open section, though she did play a highly-rated IM today), and remains perfect in the event. The American women beat the Estonians, so they're still very much in the medal hunt.
The download page for games and the tournament bulletin is here. If nothing else, do check out the Kasimdzhanov and Grischuk wins!