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    Entries in Anish Giri (35)

    Tuesday
    Apr192016

    Carlsen Wins Norway Blitz, Round 1 of the Classical Tournament Starts Today (Tuesday)

    The current trend of starting super-tournaments with blitz events used to determine the pairings is a very good one, and I hope it sticks around. It makes merit rather than luck the basis of color distribution, and it's also a treat for the spectators. (It probably helps the players warm up a bit too.)

    On Monday, the Norway Chess super-tournament had their blitz event, and Magnus Carlsen was a runaway train up until the final round. He started with 7.5/8, only giving up a draw to bottom seed and (co-) tailender Nils Grandelius, of all people. He defeated Vladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and all the other stars before suffering a defeat to his personal kryptonite, Anish Giri. Giri lost to Vachier-Lagrave along the way, but was otherwise undefeated and took clear second with 6.5/9. Vachier-Lagrave and Kramnik tied for third-fourth. The former lost to Carlsen and to Veselin Topalov, while Kramnik's only loss was to Carlsen (and he beat Topalov). Finally, Aronian's 50% score was good enough for fifth, making him the last player to be guaranteed an extra game with the white pieces. (Below him, Pentala Harikrishna finished with 4 points, Topalov with 3, Grandelius, Li Chao, and Pavel Eljanov with 2.5.)

    Here, then, are the pairings for round 1:

    • Kramnik - Grandelius
    • Carlsen - Harikrishna
    • Vachier-Lagrave - Li Chao
    • Giri - Eljanov
    • Aronian - Topalov

    Saturday
    Feb132016

    Zurich Blitz: Blitz Recap and Day 1 Pairings, Plus Gelfand-Morozevich

    The main event in Zurich starts today, Saturday, but before that the organizers had the players compete in a blitz tournament. This was entertaining for the spectators (both those on scene, including Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi[!], and the rest of us watching on the internet), of course, and it had the additional purpose of determining the pairings. Placement determined one's pairing number, and so the top three players will all have an extra game with the white pieces in the main event.

    Hikaru Nakamura won his first three games in this six-player round-robin before Alexei Shirov (barely) pulled out a draw in round 4 and Viswanathan Anand beat him in the final round. Those three finished with plus scores, and thus get the extra white game in the rapid round robin to follow. Nakamura (obviously) finished with 3.5/5, while both Anand and Shirov wound up with 3 (Anand took second on tiebreak). Vladimir Kramnik was next with 2.5, Levon Aronian scored only two points (but defeated Anand in their game), while Anish Giri brought up the rear with a winless 1/5.

    Because it's a rapid event (G/40' + 10"/move), there will be two games per day. (At least for the first two days; on day 3 there will be a rapid game followed by another blitz round-robin. Strange, but entertaining.) Here are the pairings for rounds 1 and 2; round 1 starts at 3 p.m. local time in Zurich (= 9 a.m. ET).

    Round 1:

    • Shirov - Kramnik
    • Nakamura - Giri
    • Anand - Aronian

    Round 2:

    • Kramnik - Aronian
    • Giri - Anand
    • Shirov - Nakamura

    There's an added bonus: Boris Gelfand and Alexander Morozevich will concurrently play a two-game match with the same time control.

    Hopefully the quality of the games will be high; whether it is or not, however, they're sure to be entertaining.

    Saturday
    Dec192015

    Qatar Masters Open Starts Tomorrow (Sunday)

    The second edition of the Qatar Masters, the strongest open tournament of the year (and probably ever) starts tomorrow - Sunday - and features a fantastically strong lineup. There are 18 players rated over 2700, including Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin and, skipping down several spots, the Chinese super-prodigy Wei Yi. The action begins at 3 p.m. local time (=7 a.m. ET).

    Seeing as it's the holiday season, however, I'm going to take a little vacation from blogging until the new year, and will enjoy the tournament purely as a fan, just like the rest of you. It's not impossible that I'll jump on here between now and 2016 (as a heads-up for my next column, for instance), but that aside, this might be it until next year. So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for a blessed 2016!

    Sunday
    Dec132015

    Grand Chess Tour Tiebreaks: A System Than Which None Lesser Can Be Conceived

    Having concluded my reporting on the proceedings, it's time to vent some spleen. Before doing so, it's important to note that nothing I will now say is intended to blame Magnus Carlsen or to deny that he was a deserving winner of the London Chess Classic. (I certainly don't think he's the deserving winner of the Tour, but again, that's not his fault.)

    I've already noted the unfairness of the playoff procedure which forced Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to engage each other for around three or four hours (including breaks between games) while Carlsen could rest, nap and/or prepare for his tired challenger. For that matter, I don't understand why it should have been a two-stage event. Using the Sonneborn-Berger tiebreak makes sense in a Swiss system event, where players face different opponents; in a round-robin it seems to me without value. Fine, player A beat player C while player B beat player D, where A and C finished in a tie while C outscored D by half a point. Why not criticize A for his relative incompetence in failing to beat D? And what if A beat C because C was fighting for first place and had to take undue risks? Also, maybe A had White against C while B had Black against both C and D. Why is A's performance more noteworthy? Still further: suppose A is higher-rated than B. Then B had a higher TPR than A; again, why isn't that the first criterion? It has the further benefit of not making A's and B's tiebreakers dependent on how C and D perform against players E through J.

    So those are two ways - one more particular, one more general - in which Carlsen was (greatly) benefited and Giri and Vachier-Lagrave were harmed by the tiebreak system in the London Chess Classic. Next, let's recap the way Giri and MVL were punished by the Grand Chess Tour's tiebreak system in the Sinquefield Cup while Carlsen was rewarded. That tournament was won by Levon Aronian, and after that there was a four-way tie for second between Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave and Giri (in tiebreak order). Rather than splitting the points for second through fifth places, the points were allocated as if each player had outscored those below him. As a result Carlsen obtained 10 Tour points, Nakamura 8, Vachier-Lagrave 7 and Giri only 6. As was widely noted at the time, the upshot was that Giri, who was undefeated and +3 in the first two Tour events (the first event was the Norway Chess tournament back in May), was behind Carlsen, whose cumulative score was -1. What a crock.

    Finally, Vachier-Lagrave got ripped off in his own special way by the Tour and its absurd policies. The London Chess Classic wasn't just important in its own right or even in its own right and for its implications for this year's Tour; it also had implications for next year's Tour invitees. So, you may ask, who gets to play in next year's Tour? The answer is that the top three finishers from this year's Tour, plus the next six players based on the average of their monthly ratings from February through December of this year, with their live post-tournament rating counting as another "month" to average. (As this year, so too next year will include a tenth wildcard spot for each tournament, decided by the organizers.) They are: 

    • Magnus Carlsen
    • Anish Giri
    • Levon Aronian
    • Vladimir Kramnik
    • Hikaru Nakamura
    • Fabiano Caruana
    • Viswanathan Anand
    • Veselin Topalov
    • Wesley So

    The first three were Tour qualifiers, the last six made it by rating. Carlsen finished with 26 Tour points, Giri with 23, and Aronian with 22. Vachier-Lagrave finished with 21 points, and before you say "hard luck, he just had to win rather than take second", here's some information for you: he took third. That's right: he beat Giri in the playoff and nevertheless took third in the tournament, behind him. (Incidentally, it wouldn't have mattered to Giri if their places were reversed, because Giri still would have qualified by rating, bumping Wesley So off the list.) So Vachier-Lagrave finished tied or better with Carlsen in all three tournaments (not counting the playoff), but somehow finished fourth and off of the 2016 Tour.

    There's enough steer manure here to fertilize a small country. FIDE has been guilty of incompetent and unfair practices over the years, but I don't think they've ever managed to pack so many brain-dead and unjust policies within such a small space in their entire history, and that's really saying something. Well done, Grand Chess Tour. Well done.

    Sunday
    Dec132015

    London Chess Classic, Playoff Semi-Final: Vachier-Lagrave Defeats Giri

    And then there were three. A fair playoff would have been something like a double round-robin with Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but very little about the organization of the Grand Chess Tour has had much to do with fairness. Therefore Carlsen got to sit back, relax and prepare a little while (and be guaranteed at least second place in the London Chess Classic) Giri and Vachier-Lagrave bashed heads over a three hour period for the right to play him. The unfairness, of course, isn't because it was Carlsen, who had the privilege of waiting because of his better Sonneborn-Berger score; it would have been an absurd privilege no matter who was the recipient.

    Giri went undefeated in all three events of the Tour, a pretty remarkable performance, and his solid play continued in the first of the two rapid games in the playoff. Giri essayed the Berlin (the semi-official opening of the tournament) and won a remarkably clean game (for a rapid time control), blockading White's kingside majority and convincingly demonstrating the superiority of his light-squared bishop to MVL's knight.

    All Giri needed was to draw with the white pieces, and unfortunately for him that's how he played in game 2. There are three classic psychological mistakes practically everyone makes at some point in their lives, and some people never seem to learn the lesson: (1) rushing in the opponent's time trouble; (2) assuming a winning position will automatically result in a win; (3) playing for a draw when one needs/wants a draw. Giri committed the third error, in spades. Rather than playing the position and making the best moves, Giri repeatedly called off the dogs whenever he could grab an advantage, trying cynically to make the position dull and achieve a draw. Vachier-Lagrave kept scrapping, never allowing the position to completely resolve itself, and Giri's situation grew worse and worse. In the end, the game was decided by time trouble, with the evaluation fluctuating between a serious advantage for MVL and a draw for Giri. Up until the last move, Giri could have survived - 59.Rh7 is still a draw, but 59.Rh8?? blundered a piece to the elementary 59...Rxe5. (Of course, it's elementary when one isn't running out of time, exhausted by a long day at the end of a tough tournament and in a press-filled situation.)

    That forced Armaggedon, and Vachier-Lagrave took the option to have Black in the last game. (White gets six minutes, Black 5 + draw odds, with no increments until after move 60, when the players get three seconds per move.) The level of play wasn't very high in this game, with both players surely exhausted by then, but MVL remained in control most of the way and won after Giri declined a charity repetition in a dead lost position.

    The games, with my comments are here; stay tuned for a post on the Carlsen vs. Vachier-Lagrave final.

    Saturday
    Dec122015

    London Chess Classic, Round 8: Giri Wins, Catches Vachier-Lagrave With One Round Remaining

    The race for tournament victory at the London Chess Classic, and overall victory in the Grand Chess Tour, remains very much up in the air with a round to go. Coming into the round Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was the sole leader, half a point ahead of four players. A precarious lead, and it didn't survive the round as Anish Giri managed to catch him by defeating Hikaru Nakamura. Nakamura was doing well in the first half of the game, but after 24...bxc3 Giri obtained an advantage that he steadily increased with excellent play straight through the end of the game.

    MVL had White against Michael Adams, but the unbreakable Englishman (eight draws!) held without any serious difficulties. The other three games were drawn as well, with adventures in every case. Levon Aronian was first clearly worse with Black against Alexander Grischuk, and then clearly better with a big time advantage to boot. Unfortunately for Aronian, he got careless in that nearly ideal situation, and his 35...hxg3?(?) allowed 36.Nh6+! with equality and, after 36...gxh6, an immediate draw by perpetual.

    Fabiano Caruana found an interesting new idea for White against Viswanathan Anand's pet line 10...Bd6 in the Open Catalan, and when Anand blinked White obtained a slight but enduring edge. Anand hasn't played very well the past few rounds, but today he was his usual outstanding self, defending very well and achieving a draw by elegant means.

    Finally, the game between Veselin Topalov and Magnus Carlsen was most curious and led to talk of changing the rules of chess! Carlsen played a most Carlsen-like game, and outplayed Topalov to reach an advantageous ending with each side having a rook, a knight and three kingside pawns. After Topalov's 39th move the pawns were fixed, with Carlsen enjoying the winning chances thanks to White's weak pawn on e5. Black was soon able to win the e-pawn at his leisure, but at the cost of trading the knights, which would result in an easily drawn R+3 vs. R+2 ending. So Carlsen had to try to immobilize and discoordinate White's pieces, create a second weakness and activate his own king. He was achieving all of those goals, but alas - there was a problem: the 50-move rule! The game was north of move 80, and while Carlsen was making progress Topalov's progress towards an automatic draw on move 89 was even speedier. Carlsen was compelled on move 84 to cash in, winning the e-pawn while allowing a trade of knights, and although White's king was slightly cut off from his pawns there was no way for Black to exploit it, and the game was drawn. (A fine defensive effort by Topalov, it should be noted, especially so given his otherwise disastrous play in the tournament.)

    Should the 50-move rule be modified for cases like this? It's hard to see how it could reasonably be done. The exceptions are very rare and practically impossible to specify in advance. The only even remotely plausible mechanism that comes to mind is to have a strong arbiter or a players' committee make a determination, but there are numerous problems with such an idea, including the introduction of an inappropriately high degree of subjectivity in what is as close as possible to an objective, merit-based game or sport.

    Anyway, the games (with my notes) are here, and these are the pairings for tomorrow's final round:

     

    • Anand (3) - Giri (5)
    • Adams (4) - Caruana (4)
    • Aronian (4.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (5)
    • Carlsen (4.5) - Grischuk (4.5)
    • Nakamura (3.5) - Topalov (2)

     

    Friday
    Dec042015

    London Chess Classic, Round 1: Giri Wins; Grischuk Escapes

    It was a reasonably entertaining first round at the London Chess Classic, though there was only one decisive result. Until pretty near the end of the round it looked Hikaru Nakamura was going to defeat Alexander Grischuk and Veselin Topalov might defeat Anish Giri, but the underdogs wound up scoring 1.5/2.

    First, the other three games. Magnus Carlsen surprised Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with a Sicilian, a Sveshnikov Sicilian in particular, and Vachier-Lagrave simply wasn't ready. He mixed up his prep, got nothing (maybe even a slightly worse position), and had to scrap a little to get out with a perpetual check.

    The second draw occurred between Viswanathan Anand and Michael Adams. Anand played 1.c4 and the game was a Reversed Dragon. In this game too Black was if anything the one with a slightly better position in the early middlegame, but Anand managed to hold without any serious difficulty.

    The last game to finish was Fabiano Caruana vs. Levon Aronian, a Ruy that turned into a sort of open Sicilian where White (Caruana) angled for the stereotypical good knight on d5 vs. a hapless dark-squared bishop. He was able to achieve the desired material imbalance, but as the knight could never reach the promised land Aronian held the draw without any real worries.

    Back to the headline games. Nakamura obtained a big advantage against Grischuk on the black side of the Berlin endgame, but uncharacteristically got into serious time trouble at an early stage. His advantage should have been decisive, but missing opportunities like 26...Rc8 and 31...Rh5 Grischuk managed to escape. Even in the final position Nakamura was a little better, but in a very murky position and still short of time he bailed out with a repetition.

    Finally, the Topalov-Giri tussle. Topalov played a sideline against Giri's Symmetrical Gruenfeld, and while he didn't obtain an advantage he did manage to sharpen the position. In the complicated middlegame that ensued Giri made only one significant error, 23...Nxc1, but that was enough to give White a serious advantage. Some of it ebbed away after inaccuracies on moves 25 and 27, but White was still better until he played 33.Qxa7?? From there Giri played the tactics perfectly (35...Qd5! was a key move) while Topalov failed to put up the strongest resistance (36.Ke1 was a much better try than 36.Bh5?), and after 40...Ne4+ he had nothing left to do but acknowledge the inevitable and resign.

    So far, no one is in obviously great form, but this may change in round 2. Today's games, with my notes, are here; tomorrow's pairings are as follows:

    • Giri - Adams
    • Aronian - Anand
    • Carlsen - Caruana
    • Nakamura - Vachier-Lagrave
    • Topalov - Grischuk

     

    Tuesday
    Nov032015

    So Wins Bilbao In A Playoff

    It wasn't the most exciting super-tournament in history...or this year, or in the last couple of weeks, but it did at least go to a playoff, where Wesley So managed to defeat Anish Giri 1.5-.5 in the blitz tiebreaks. Giri was better, even winning in both games, but a howler in the first (42...Nf4??) turned what was already then headed for a draw into a loss, while a missed shot in the second (39.Bg8+!) let So fight on and eventually pull out a draw. Congratulations to Wesley So, who despite being #10 in the world was the bottom seed in the event!

    This came only a pair of draws in the last classical round, which meant that So and Giri tied for first by winning one game and drawing the rest, while Viswanathan Anand and Ding Liren tied for last by losing just one game. (So much for the 3-1-0 system forcing fighting chess, a point I made repeatedly when this experiment started. That said, I was probably wrong in dismissing rules that forbid draw offers until move 30 or 40. Players can and do get around it whenever they want to, but in general it creates a general atmosphere of disapproval for such draws, and that rather than the rule itself seems to promote more fighting chess.)

    The tournament site (which unfortunately wasn't very good, and their transmission of the games was poor even by 20th century standards) is here.

    Friday
    Oct302015

    Bilbao Final Masters, Round 4: Anand Loses "The Worst Game of My Life" to Giri

    I didn't hear the comment myself; this was relayed on Twitter. Frankly, I'm sure that Viswanathan Anand has played worse games, and not only when he was a little kid. Still, his loss today to Anish Giri won't be going in the next edition of his best games book.

    It started going wrong quite early. Already slightly worse on the black side of an English, Anand's 10th move was a tactical oversight that cost him material to a two-move sequence. From here he could have played something like 12...b6 or 12...Qc7, pitching the h-pawn and trying to make do with an otherwise normal and healthy position. After relatively long thought on his 12th and 14th moves, he came up with an interesting and deep idea to give up his queen (and a couple of pawns) for a rook, knight, opposite-colored bishops and a possible fortress. And to some extent, it worked! Giri alternated between making progress and letting Anand successfully entrench, but on move 37 the final blow came when Anand tried to execute 37...Bc4 but...lost on time?! (Apparently they're not using increments in Bilbao, at least during the first time control.) It wasn't a banner day for the former world champion, but it seems more like a day ruled by Murphy's Law than his worst-ever game.

    Ding Liren has had a difficult tournament so far, and after defending against Giri for 172 moves in round 3, he seems to have gotten the hang of holding on in a difficult position. Wesley So had black in their encounter, but even so (no pun intended; one just gets tired of finding circumlocutions for that handy preposition when writing about GM W.S.'s games!) he was doing the pressing from early on. Ding defended extremely well, and one key element in that defensive effort was that if So played 48...Ne3, White could just manage to escape with 49.Rb8+ Kh7 50.Rxh4+ Kg6 51.Rb6+ Kg5 52.Rh8. All White's moves are forced to avoid a lost position, and the point is that he threatens h4 mate. After 52...Nxg2 (52...Rxg2+?? 53.Kh1 costs Black the rook on g2, as there's no "free" way to stop h4#) 53.Rbh6 (also forced) White regains the piece with 54.h4+. So played 48...Rxg4 instead, and the game was soon drawn by repetition.

    Giri and So are the co-leaders, each with six points (on the tournament's 3-1-0 scoring); Anand and Ding have three points apiece. The pairings for round 5, the penultimate round of the Bilbao Final Masters, are Giri-Ding and Anand-So.

    Monday
    Oct262015

    Bilbao Final Masters Starts Today (Monday)

    It's a small event, with only four players involved, but a very prestigious one. The Bilbao Final Masters is a double-round robin featuring Viswanathan, Anish Giri, Ding Liren and Wesley So. Play starts at 4 p.m. local time (= 11 a.m. ET) each day, with a rest day on Thursday in between the first and second cycle. The first round pairings are So vs. Ding and Anand vs. Giri.