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    Entries in Carlsen (50)

    Sunday
    Dec112011

    London 2011, Round 7: Leapfrogging Leaders

    Going into the round Hikaru Nakamura enjoyed a two-point lead over Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik and Luke McShane. Not a bad place to be, and although they had already had their byes and he was about to take his in round 7, you'd still expect him to be in good shape by round's end, right?

    Nope! After yet another massacre of the British (McShane counts as an honorary foreigner in this tournament), Nakamura dropped to fourth place with just two rounds to go. Magnus Carlsen was engaged in a tough tussle with Michael Adams, and despite having Black it was Adams who had the initiative much of the way. At some moment, however, Adams' queenside initiative came to an end, and in the meantime he underestimated Carlsen's sneaky threats on the kingside. Ultimately, Adams blundered with 35...Nc4, when 36.Rxd5 basically put an end to the proceedings.

    Vladimir Kramnik had his way with David Howell in a QGA sideline. Howell followed theory and made natural moves, but somehow - and even Kramnik wasn't really sure what went wrong - the former world champion had a nice edge. Howell's 19...Bc6 may have been the decisive error, costing him a pawn and eventually the game.

    Finally, McShane also won, and unlike his co-leaders he did it with Black. Nigel Short essayed the good old King's Gambit, but at some point got a bit too conservative. The compensation dried up and McShane took his extra material to the bank, eventually winning.

    Finally, Levon Aronian failed to get anything from the opening against Viswanathan Anand, and their game was soon drawn.

    Standings After Round 7 (on 3-1-0 scoring; note that Adams and Howell have played 7 games; everyone else only 6):

    1-3. Carlsen, Kramnik, McShane 12
    4. Nakamura 11
    5-6. Aronian, Anand 7
    7. Short 4
    8-9. Adams, Howell 3

    Round 8 Pairings:

    • Anand - Carlsen (already drawn)
    • Howell - Aronian
    • McShane - Kramnik
    • Nakamura - Short
    • Adams - bye

    Here's the tournament site for the London Chess Classic, and here are the round 7 games (without notes). Let me recommend ChessBase's report on the round, as it includes videos of the post-game press conferences. (Kramnik's was especially entertaining, and should prove a real eye-opener to fans who think that a super-GM's solidity has anything to do with his ability to imagine and calculate tactics!)

    Perhaps even more noteworthy in that report is the brief transcript (and audio clip) of Nakamura answering questions about his working relationship with Garry Kasparov. One doesn't suspect it's going in a fantastic direction - especially after this interview.

    Monday
    Dec052011

    London Chess Classic, Round 3: Carlsen, Aronian and McShane Win (Updated)

    Here's a recap of the round 3 action:

    First, Magnus Carlsen continued his recent ownership over Hikaru Nakamura, defeating him for the sixth time in the last year (five times in classical events). Carlsen built up a kingside attack in a Ruy-style Italian Game, with the obvious blow 31.Rxf6 followed by the subtle 33.Bh5! Qg7 34.Bf3 apparently deciding the issue.

    Levon Aronian won pretty easily against Nigel Short, whose 11...Nc6 gave his opponent the chance to create permanent pressure along the c-file. Black never escaped the enemy grip, and after 60 moves of suffering allowed Aronian to deliver mate.

    Viswanathan Anand had White against the ostensible tournament rabbit, David Howell, but he was extremely fortunate not to lose. Howell's 22...h5! pretty much put an end to Anand's attacking ambitions, and after that Anand had to suffer a lot. 32...Rb2 would have kept a large advantage for Howell. A move later Vladimir Kramnik, the day's guest commentator, asserted that Howell missed a win with 33...Rxd4 34.Rxd4 Qe6! 35.Rd1 d4 with the idea of ...d3, ...d2 and Re1. His assessment is right, but White has a simple but crucial improvement: 34.Qxe2. Black is still better there, but White isn't yet at death's door. Howell was in serious time trouble by this point, and by the time he reached the control after move 40, the position was drawn. Howell tried through move 65, and then reconciled himself to the result.

    Finally, Luke McShane defeated Michael Adams with Black in a long game. The key moment came on move 19, after McShane's 18...Bxh3!? Kramnik noted that he had found a good rejoinder "half an hour ago": 19.gxh3 Qxh3 20.Qe2 Ng4 21.Qf1! with the point that 21...Qxf3 22.Bd1 gets the queens off and regains the extra piece. After 22...Qxf2+ 23.Qxf2 Nxf2 24.Kxf2 cxd4 25.cxd4 exd4 Black has reasonable drawing chances, but White is better (Kramnik, and the computer agrees). Black has some alternatives along the way, but White is always fine. After only two minutes, however, Adams - with plenty of time left on his clock - let McShane get away with the free pawn, and eventually it was just a matter of technique.

    After three rounds, the standings look like this (bear in mind that Short, Anand and Kramnik have only played two games):

    1. Carlsen 7
    2. McShane 5
    3-5. Kramnik, Nakamura, Aronian 4
    6-8. Anand, Adams, Howell 2
    9. Short 0

    Round 4 Pairings:

    • Carlsen - Kramnik
    • Adams - Short
    • Anand - Nakamura
    • Howell - McShane
    • Aronian - bye

    Tournament website here, games (with light notes) here (that's the update).

    Monday
    Dec052011

    London Chess Classic, Round 2: Kramnik and Nakamura Join Carlsen in First

    Magnus Carlsen started the day in clear first at the London Chess Classic, but was precariously close to ending it in third. Luke McShane gave him all he could handle and then some, but an error on move 60 allowed Carlsen to save the game. Carlsen chose the Neo-Archangelsk against McShane's Ruy and was the first player to make a new move, but that didn't stop him from getting into big trouble and a serious time disadvantage by move 20. White was up a pawn with a positional advantage, and he maintained both deep into the endgame. The difficulty was in finding a breakthrough, and his careless 60th move allowed Carlsen to reach a pretty easily drawn rook ending.

    Theirs was the last game to finish, and by that point it was Carlsen catching up to Vladimir Kramnik and Hikaru Nakamura. Kramnik was the beneficiary of a terrible opening by Nigel Short. Short miscalculated once or twice, and his reward was a (White) bishop on b3 permanently locked out of the game by the arrangement of his and Kramnik's queenside pawns. Kramnik was effectively a piece up, and had little trouble bringing in the point.

    Nakamura's road was much rockier. He played very aggressively against Levon Aronian's Queen's Gambit Declined and was worse, even in trouble. Fortunately for Nakamura, Aronian got into serious time trouble and lost first his advantage and then the rest of his chances. He made the time control, but by then it was just a matter of mopping up for the American.

    Finally, David Howell and Michael Adams drew in an Anti-Marshall line where Black sacrifices the d-pawn anyway. Maybe both players missed some small chances, but overall it seemed like a "correct" and well-fought draw.

    World champion Viswanathan Anand had the bye, so in the following standings remember that his score, like Short's, is based on only one game and not two:

    1-3. Nakamura, Carlsen, Kramnik 4 (they're using 3-1-0 scoring)
    4-5. Adams, McShane 2
    6-8. Anand, Aronian, Howell 1
    9. Short 0

    Today's pairings are as follows:

    • Aronian - Short
    • Carlsen - Nakamura
    • Adams - McShane
    • Anand - Howell
    • Kramnik - bye (and thus helping with the commentary)

    Games, with notes to McShane-Carlsen and Short-Kramnik, here.

    Friday
    Nov252011

    Tal Memorial, Final Round: Carlsen Defeats Nakamura, Edges Aronian For First On Tiebreaks

    And so the latest edition of the traveling show comes to a close, to resume in a week or so in London. After a fair number of rounds with few to no wins, the players - except for Anand and his opponent (Gelfand on this occasion), of course - not only played some good fighting chess, they managed to draw some blood.

    The biggest game turned out to be Magnus Carlsen's win over Hikaru Nakamura, who has become a pretty regular client the last year or two. Nakamura had White in a Queen's Indian, an opening that's generally pretty solid (especially for White), but Nakamura's dubious pawn sac/blunder on move 15 and a follow-up error on move 21 soon left him with a technically lost position. Carlsen being Carlsen, that was a death sentence, and the opposite-colored bishops made the game last without putting the outcome in serious doubt.

    That put Carlsen into a tie for first with Levon Aronian, the clear leader coming into the round. Aronian was pushed very hard by Ian Nepomniachtchi, and had the latter won he would have come ahead of Carlsen on tiebreaks. In the end, Aronian held after 85 long moves in the last game of the tournament. Vassily Ivanchuk also had some opportunities to tie for first, but couldn't put Sergey Karjakin away, and they too finished half a point behind Carlsen and Aronian.

    The Gelfand-Anand non-game was already mentioned, while Crazy Kramnik went for it against Peter Svidler but lost. Kramnik's winless -2 score wasn't good, but he did play some fighting, enterprising chess in the tournament. As for Svidler, the win brought him back to 50%.

    Final Standings:

    1-2. Carlsen, Aronian 5.5 (Carlsen first on tiebreaks)
    3-5. Karjakin, Nepomniachtchi, Ivanchuk 5
    6-7. Anand (nine draws), Svidler 4.5
    8-9. Kramnik, Gelfand 3.5
    10. Nakamura 3

    Official site here. Some bad news: it at least looks like the traditional blitz tournament (which generally doubles as the world blitz championship) isn't being held this year. If not, maybe this has something to do with the plan to start rating blitz events at the start of the year - maybe the organizers didn't want to hold the last non-rated megablitz tournament in chess history. This is just speculation, and if I'm mistaken and the event is going to take place, I hope my readers will (gently) correct me!

    Saturday
    Oct222011

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: The Quick Ruy, Part XII

    This week we continue our "quick" look at the Ruy Lopez, now starring lines with 5.d3 and 6.d3. It's a surprisingly poisonous approach for White, one that has been successfully used all the way up the food chain to Magnus Carlsen. It can be used as a geniune weapon, and it's not at all clear that Black has some way of achieving a foolproof equality. (I'm not claiming that White has a certain edge, either, only that it's still a live option for White.)

    Additionally, it's practical for White, in two ways. First, it's comparatively easy to learn and understand, and it's not necessary to know all that much theory to do a reasonable job with it. Second - and this may be its biggest selling point - it cuts out the Marshall Gambit, the main lines of the closed, and even the Open if you play d3 on move 5. Objectively, I suspect that the main lines, when well-understood, give White his best chance of proving an edge. As an interim measure, however, and also for a bit of variety I think the d3-systems are worth trying from time to time - especially those who don't want to spend the time learning the rich but extensive theory of the Ruy's main lines.

    So you might have a look at my ChessVideos show this week, where I cover these d3 lines and present Carlsen's smashing win over Veselin Topalov from the Nanjing tournament that took place exactly a year ago come Tuesday. As always, the show is free (one-time free registration is required) and will be available on-demand for the next month or so.

    Tuesday
    Oct112011

    Sao Paulo/Bilbao Concludes: Carlsen Defeats Ivanchuk in a Blitz Playoff

    A four-way tie for first was possible entering the last round. If Hikaru Nakamura could bounce back from OJ-gate (Nod-gate?) to defeat Magnus Carlsen, and Levon Aronian could take down Vassily Ivanchuk, then those four would all tie for first and go on to a blitz tiebreak. That would have been entertaining, but both games were drawn (pretty easily in both cases - Carlsen with Black, Ivanchuk with White), resulting in a two-man playoff between Carlsen and Ivanchuk.

    Once the round finished (Viswanathan Anand's win over Francisco Vallejo was the last game to conclude, putting Anand in a tie with Nakamura and Aronian for third) they went on to a blitz playoff. Carlsen had White in the first game and initially had Ivanchuk on the ropes, but it wound up a draw. That was a hopeful moment for Ivanchuk's fans, especially after two pretty convincing losses to Carlsen in the slow games, but he couldn't build on it. Carlsen broke through on the kingside in the second game, and became the official tournament winner. A pity for Ivanchuk, after his great start in the tournament, but a great job of bouncing back from Carlsen after a slow start and the blown game with Vallejo from the first cycle.

    Final Standings (3-1-0 scoring, with traditional scores given in parentheses):

    1-2. Carlsen, Ivanchuk 15 (6 for Carlsen, 5.5 for Ivanchuk); Carlsen wins the playoff 1.5-.5

    3-5. Nakamura, Aronian, Anand 12 (5)

    6. Vallejo 10 (3.5)

    Tournament site here, (unannotated) games here.

    Monday
    Oct102011

    Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2011, Round 9: Carlsen Beats Ivanchuk, Plus Aronian and Vallejo Win

    A full report, to say nothing of the games, will have to wait until later today. (UPDATE: That time has come - see below.) In brief, though, Magnus Carlsen convincingly defeated Vassily Ivanchuk (for the second straight cycle), and catches him in first place with a round to go.

    Levon Aronian has long been kryptonite for world champion Viswanathan Anand, and it happened again today. It may have been good preparation rather than over the board genius, but one way or another Aronian destroyed Anand in just 25 moves.

    Remarkably, that puts Anand in clear, dead last place with a round to go, as Francisco Vallejo leapfrogged him out of the basement with a win over Hikaru Nakamura. Nakamura had been worse, but in mutual time trouble had fought his way out and could start enjoying an extra pawn. The only problem...Nakamura - of all people! - lost on time on move 40. (UPDATE: As already noted in another post, Nakamura had enough time to make a final move, but misunderstood or was misinformed by an arbiter and thought he had already made the time control. As a result he went for some orange juice, coming back to find he had lost on time.)

    So the current standings (in 3-1-0 scoring) look like this:

    1-2. Carlsen, Ivanchuk 14 (Carlsen leads on tiebreak with 5.5 points on "normal" scoring to Ivanchuk's 5)
    3-4. Nakamura, Aronian 11 (both have 4.5 in normal scoring)
    5. Vallejo 10 (3.5)
    6. Anand 9 (4)

    UPDATE: Here are the last-round pairings:

    • Ivanchuk - Aronian
    • Anand - Vallejo
    • Nakamura - Carlsen

    Tournament site here, games (with my comments) here.

     

    Saturday
    Oct082011

    Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2011, Round 8: Ivanchuk Draws; Carlsen, Nakamura Win

    In the first cycle, Magnus Carlsen was winning against Francisco Vallejo, but first missed the win and then lost on a blunder. This time, Vallejo came out of the gate in good shape, but Carlsen gradually improved his position, exploited Vallejo's ever-present time trouble and pulled out a win. This kept Vallejo in last, while Carlsen gained some ground on Vassily Ivanchuk.

    Also gaining grounds and maintaining a tie for second with Carlsen is Hikaru Nakamura. Not all was clean and clear in the first part of the game, but in the ending Nakamura beautifully outplayed Levon Aronian to take the full point. (Or rather, three points!) Aronian played on longer than etiquette would normally dictate, and it almost worked! Nakamura got a bit sloppy in the piece up ending, but at the key moment played 71.Nd7 (after serious thought), and it was good enough.

    Finally, Ivanchuk had some pull against the world champion, but Viswanathan Anand is a great defender and managed to use Ivanchuk's time trouble to equalize and perhaps a tiny bit more. It wasn't enough to play for a win though, and the game was drawn in a longish knight ending.

    Standings After Round 8 (of 10) (Remember, it's 3-1-0 scoring, traditional scoring is given in parentheses):

    1. Ivanchuk 14 (5)
    2-3. Nakamura, Carlsen 11 (4.5)
    4. Anand 9 (4)
    5. Aronian 8 (3.5)
    6. Vallejo 7 (2.5)

    Round 9 Pairings (on Monday; tomorrow is a rest day):

    • Carlsen - Ivanchuk (obviously a huge game for the final standings!)
    • Vallejo - Nakamura
    • Aronian - Anand

    Official site here, games (without comments today - sorry!) here.

    (Blog note: You'll see if you click on the games link that they are numbered 3999, 4000 and 4001. That's how many games and fragments (mostly games) I've presented since I started blogging in 2005. Most of the games have been annotated, so that's a lot of work over the years!)

    Saturday
    Oct012011

    Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2011, Round 5: Ivanchuk Loses to Carlsen, Still Leads at the Halfway Point

    It wasn't a good end to what had been a great first cycle for Vassily Ivanchuk. Already near the end of the opening he was struggling with White against Magnus Carlsen, and it was the relative strengths of the players' c-pawns that made the difference. White's pawn on c2 was weak and eventually dropped off; Black's pawn on c3 was a pillar of strength that diverted almost all of White's army. In the end Ivanchuk eliminated that pawn, but at the fatal cost of abandoning his kingside. That was Ivanchuk's first loss and Carlsen's first win; we'll see in a few days whether it marks the beginning of a new trend or just a bump in the road for one or both players.

    Viswanathan Anand has often had trouble against Levon Aronian, even with White, and decided to play 6.d3 rather than face the latter's beloved Marshall Gambit. For a while play was quiet, and after a brief tactical flurry it again calmed down. Aronian reached a pawn up rook ending, but with rook + g & h-pawn vs. the same several moves away the players called it a draw.

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura did his duty and beat Francisco Vallejo Pons. Unusually for the English Opening, Nakamura (with White) castled queenside, and Vallejo went on a sacrificial journey. It was exciting, but it never looked like it should work. Eventually Nakamura gave back almost all of the material, reaching a position with an extra pawn, better pieces and some attacking chances. Vallejo sacrificed some more, but to no avail: this time his opponent kept the material and the attack, and won.

    Now play stops until Thursday, giving the players time to pack their bags and travel from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Bilbao, Spain, where they'll play the second cycle of the double round-robin.

    Standings After Round 5 (on 3-1-0 scoring; normal scores given in parentheses):

    1. Ivanchuk 10 (3.5)
    2. Nakamura 7 (3)
    3-5. Anand, Aronian, Carlsen 6 (2.5)
    6. Vallejo 3 (1)

    Round 6 Pairings (on Thursday):

    • Ivanchuk - Nakamura
    • Carlsen - Anand
    • Vallejo - Aronian

    Official site here, games here.

    Thursday
    Sep292011

    Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2011, Round 3: Ivanchuk Leads, Carlsen Cracks

    As usual, Francisco Vallejo Pons was involved in a decisive game, and most of the way he was following the script. He lost his first two games and was well on the way to losing a third game, but a funny thing happened on the way to the finish. Magnus Carlsen had plenty of time - at least for a while - to find a win, but didn't manage. Vallejo had just about equalized when Carlsen uncorked an amazing blunder - a two-mover - and soon had to resign. Thanks to the 3-1-0 scoring system the win leapfrogged Vallejo out of the cellar, where Carlsen now resides! (Not for long, I expect.)

    More remarkable still, Carlsen has company there: the world champion. In this case, however, it was a more normal loss, albeit with White. Vassily Ivanchuk played the Schliemann (aka Jaenisch) against Anand's Ruy Lopez, and equalized without any obvious difficult against Anand's non-topical variation. Ivanchuk was doing well, and when Anand sacrificed (blundered?) a pawn for play the Ukranian was able to cool off his opponent's initiative and squeeze out the point in 69 moves. Ivanchuk is the clear leader with 2.5/3 (or rather, 7/9), and on the live rating list he's up to #5 in the world. (Incidentally, Aronian is within .3 of Anand for second, and isn't that far from Carlsen, either.)

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura played a Kamsky opening Kamskyishly and achieved a pretty comfortable draw with Black against Aronian.

    Standings After Round 3 (3-1-0 scoring first, normal scoring in parentheses):

    1. Ivanchuk 7 (2.5)
    2. Aronian 5 (2)
    3-4. Nakamura, Vallejo 3 (Nakamura 1.5, Vallejo 1)
    5-6. Anand, Carlsen 2 (1)

    Round 4 Pairings (for Friday; Thursday's a rest day)

    • Aronian - Ivanchuk
    • Vallejo - Anand
    • Carlsen - Nakamura

    Official site here; games (with some comments) here.