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    Entries in Boris Gelfand (75)

    Wednesday
    Sep252013

    Updates on Ongoing Events

    1. FIDE Grand Prix (Men): After four rounds it's time for the first rest day in this, the final Grand Prix event of the 2012-2013 cycle. Recall that this event has greater competitive signficance only if either Alexander Grischuk or Fabiano Caruana takes clear first, in which case that person will qualify for the next Candidates' event (rather than Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who has already played his full complement of Grand Prix events in this cycle). Grischuk and Caruana played in round 4, and Grischuk was winning and really should have collected the point. It looks like the win slipped when he played 39.gxh3, hoping that the quantity of pawns would suffice and outweigh the slight cost to their quality that capture entailed. It was a plausible decision - who wants to allow a "coffin nail" like the pawn on Black pawn on h3 to survive? - but apparently a mistaken one.

    The draw left Grischuk at -1 and Caruana at +1. The latter is in third, half a point behind Boris Gelfand, who won in round 3, and Vassily Ivanchuk, who was rather lucky to win in round 4 against Laurent Fressinet. Fressinet was completely winning early on, but he lost the game a little at a time.

    In sum, from someone who is completely impartial: guys born in the 1960s still rule the chess world!

    2. FIDE Grand Prix (Women): Humpy Koneru continues to lead - solo at the moment - after 7 of 11 rounds. Her score of 5.5 points puts her half a point ahead of her fellow Indian Harika Dronavalli and the Ukranian Kateryna Lagno.

    3. World Junior Championships: There's one round to go, and while it's still technically a two-player race in the Open (Boys') division it's nearly a done deal. Top seed Yu Yangyi has a fantastic score of 10.5/12 and leads second seed and defending champion Alexander Ipatov by a full point. Yu has White in the last round too, so he's a pretty big favorite to get at least a draw and clinch the title. In the Girls' section it's a little closer, but Aleksandra Goryachkina is a pretty big favorite to win the title. Her 9.5 points gives her a half point lead over Zhansaya Abdumalik, and in addition she (Goryachkina) will have White in the last round against a player rated 200 points lower while Abdumalik has the black pieces against a higher-rated opponent.

    4. Topalov-Laznicka Match: This finished nicely for Veselin Topalov, who won both games 4 and 6 with Black while drawing game 5 with White. As a result of this Hou Yifanesque performance in the second half of the match, he defeated Viktor Laznicka by a 4-2 margin.

    Thursday
    Jul042013

    Beijing Grand Prix, Round 1: Topalov Beats Gelfand

    It's only round 1, but Veselin Topalov must be very happy to beat one of his main competitors, Boris Gelfand, and with the black pieces too. It's a nice way for him to start his final grand prix event of the current cycle.

    Other round 1 results in Beijing: Karjakin won with Black against Giri, Grischuk won with Black against Kamsky (so much for the fourth of July!), and the other three games (Morozevich-Wang Yue, Ivanchuk-Wang Hao and Leko-Mamedyarov) were drawn.

    Tuesday
    Jun252013

    Is Chess Really A Young Man's Game?

    Jacob Aagaard has some doubts. Therein he takes issue with Garry Kasparov, uses Boris Gelfand as a shining example and offers some good advice to those of us who aren't kids. (The advice isn't bad for kids, either.) It's worth your time, as are most if not all of his "training tips" posts.

    Monday
    Jun242013

    Happy Birthday, Boris Gelfand

    The Israeli super-GM turns 45 today, but to judge only by Boris Gelfand's results the last few years one might think he was an up-and-comer like Magnus Carlsen. Thanks, Boris, for the great chess and for inspiring middle-agers to realize that one can play his best chess well past the days of his youth!

    A bio and links to many of his games, including a number of "notable" ones are here; lovers of flashy games might especially enjoy the 1998 win over Shirov along with the wins over Shabalov and Karjakin.

    Sunday
    Jun232013

    Gelfand Wins The Tal Memorial

    On the eve of his 45th birthday, Boris Gelfand added another major success to his already packed resume by winning the extremely strong 2013 Tal Memorial. After six rounds he was in second place, half a point ahead of Magnus Carlsen (and others) and half a point behind Hikaru Nakamura. In round 7 he defeated Nakamura with Black, and as Carlsen only won one game in the last three round (in round 8, against...Nakamura) and none of the other pursuers made a serious run, Gelfand finished in clear first with 6/9. The man is having a great run, and his rating has achieved a career peak of 2773. Not bad for an "old" guy!

    Magnus Carlsen finished in second with 5.5, and three players finished another half a point back. Shakriyar Mamedyarov was one of them, and he had some real winning chances against Carlsen in the last round. Had he won, he would have leapfrogged the Norwegian into second place. Fabiano Caruana is the second member of the trio, and he finishes the tournament on the verge of becoming the 7th player to break the 2800 barrier. (His rating will be 2796 when the next list comes out.) The third member of the triumvirate was a surprise, Dmitry Andreikin. Andreikin drew eight games and defeated Vladimir Kramnik when the ex-champ blundered his queenside away.

    The remaining players all have cause for disappointment. Nakamura went from first to sixth by losing his last three games, the last to then-tailender Alexander Morozevich. Sergey Karjakin's -1 score wasn't a disaster but it wasn't cause for celebration either, especially after his recent triumph in Norway. Morozevich's score of 3.5 was leavened only by the last round win - his only win of the tournament - and by the fact that he finished even with world champion Viswanathan Anand, whose only win was against Morozevich. Finally, the tournament was an unmitigated disaster for Vladimir Kramnik, who finished winless at -3. I'm sure he'll rebound from London, but he hasn't yet.

    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)

    Tuesday
    Mar262013

    Candidates Tournament, Round 9: Gelfand Beats Aronian, While Carlsen Holds Off Kramnik And Leads

    With five rounds to go, Magnus Carlsen finished today's round of the Candidates with a double dose of good news. First, though under serious pressure from Vladimir Kramnik, he managed to survive a pawn down to keep a full point lead over the ex-champion. Second, Levon Aronian, with whom he (Carlsen) was tied coming into the round, lost to Boris Gelfand. That leaves Carlsen in clear first with three white games left and no more games against his main rivals. Good news for him, and bad news for Aronian and Kramnik.

    In the other games, Vassily Ivanchuk played more quickly against Teimour Radjabov, and was rewarded with his first win of the tournament. Finally, the game between Peter Svidler and Alexander Grischuk was a spectacular draw that was far more interesting (if less competitively significant) than the Kramnik-Carlsen and Gelfand-Aronian battles. You can check it out, with my notes, here.

    Standings After Round 9:

    1. Carlsen 6
    2. Aronian 5.5
    3. Kramnik 5
    4-5. Gelfand, Grischuk 4.5
    6. Svidler 4
    7. Ivanchuk 3.5
    8. Radjabov 3

    Round 10 Pairings (Wednesday; Tuesday is a rest day):

     

    • Carlsen - Gelfand (Gelfand is 2-0 this cycle; but 3-0?)
    • Aronian - Ivanchuk (Also interesting, now that Ivanchuk seems to have realized that practicality has its place.)
    • Radjabov - Svidler
    • Grischuk - Kramnik (Kramnik is rapidly running out of opportunities, and may have to take some risks with the black pieces.)

     

    Sunday
    Mar242013

    Candidates Tournament, Round 8: Kramnik, Grischuk and Gelfand Win

    The second cycle of the Candidates' tournament got underway, and with a bang. This round reprised the pairings from round 1 (with colors reversed), and with very different results. In round 1 all the games were drawn, but this time only the battle between the leaders, Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, finished peacefully. Carlsen generally tries to create open-ended play out of the opening, but for once he failed in that respect. Aronian was able to kill the play on the black side of an Open Catalan, and so they remain tied for first.

    Their lead shrunk to a full point in the wake of Vladimir Kramnik's win over Peter Svidler. They have had many battles in the Exchange Gruenfeld over the years, with Kramnik winning a pretty fair percentage with the white pieces. White's most obvious advantage in the Exchange Variation is his mass of central pawns, and in this game Kramnik was able to use it to squeeze Svidler into submission.

    Alexander Grischuk defeated Vassily Ivanchuk in a rather sad game. Ivanchuk was doing fine over the board up until the very end, but once again got into desperate - and needless - time trouble and flagged. This was Grischuk's first win in the event, and it brought him back to 50%.

    Boris Gelfand also won his first game of the event, making it back to a -1 score. He thoroughly and speedily outplayed Teimour Rajdabov with the black pieces, finishing in crushing style.

    The games can be replayed here, with my comments.

    Standings After Round 8 (of 14):

    1-2. Carlsen, Aronian 5.5
    3. Kramnik 4.5
    4. Grischuk 4
    5-6. Svidler, Gelfand 3.5
    7. Radjabov 3
    8. Ivanchuk 2.5

    Round 9 Pairings:

    • Kramnik - Carlsen
    • Svidler - Grischuk
    • Ivanchuk - Radjabov
    • Gelfand - Aronian

    Saturday
    Feb232013

    Zurich Chess Challenge, Round 1: Two Draws

    Round 1 of the Zurich Chess Challenge is history, and not the sort of history that will be studied years later. As expected, Vladimir Kramnik played something a little offbeat with White (1.Nf3 c5 2.b3), undoubtedly saving his real preparation for when it counts - next month's Candidates' tournament. Boris Gelfand didn't have much trouble with this, and were it not for the tournament rule that if players agree to a draw in fewer than 40 moves they must play an exhibition rapid game immediately afterward, they probably would have called it a day much sooner than they did. To be fair, Kramnik did try a bit, but there was little to be had.

    The game between Fabiano Caruana and Viswanathan Anand was more interesting. Anand has had some trouble over the years against the 6.Be3 e5 7.Nf3 anti-Najdorf line - most recently earlier this month against Caruana in the Grenke tournament. Today he came out of the opening in good shape, and after 22...d5! he had equalized. Caruana managed to keep causing problems though, and after 31.g4! Qc8 32.Rb1! Anand had some difficulties with his semi-stranded rook on c2. Fortunately for Anand, Caruana was very short of time, and by the end of the first time control (completed after each side's 40th move) Anand wound up with an extra pawn. Caruana eventually held the draw, but it's clear that the world champion failed to make the most of his chances.

    You can replay the games here (with my annotations to Caruana - Anand). Tomorrow's (Sunday's) pairings are Kramnik - Anand and Gelfand - Caruana.

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