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    Entries in Dortmund 2015 (8)

    Sunday
    Jul052015

    Dortmund 2015, Final Round: Caruana Wins Again

    And wins in more than one way: he wins the game (his fifth in a row!) and the Dortmund tournament (for the second straight year and third time overall). Fabiano Caruana's final score of 5.5/7 matched last year's total, earned him 11 rating points and should give him some confidence going into the Sinquefield Cup six weeks from now.

    Not all of his wins in the tournament were works of art; clean, logical and error-free victories where the advantage grew bit by bit, but his last round victory was a work of art. His opponent, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, entered the last round half a point behind Caruana, and so a win would give him first place in the tournament. Spoiling for a fight Nisipeanu went for the Evans Gambit, but Caruana was well-prepared and stood a bit better in the early middlegame. He managed to increase his advantage over the next few moves, and on move 25 the game went from being an impressive practical achievement to something for the ages. Caruana devised a brilliant tactical idea even the engines have difficulty finding in light of the defensive/counterattacking idea chosen by Nisipeanu in the game. The combination, which you can replay here, is reminiscent of the famous old game Ortueta-Sanz, as noted by Caruana himself after the game. (You can replay both games, with my notes, here.)

    That settle the race for first, but the other games were also interesting. Vladimir Kramnik had been in the running for first through most of the tournament, and was still in contention for second. A win over Wesley So would have given him clear second, and a draw would have given him shared second with Nisipeanu. He equalized and then some with Black in a Berlin ending, and seemed to have good winning chances until his 28th-30th moves, each of which was inaccurate-to-bad. He was much worse, but with both players in serious time trouble he managed to get back to equal again. The position remained complicated, however, and in the second time control So outplayed him and picked up the full point. Oddly, while So defeated both Caruana and Kramnik in this tournament, he was lagging a long ways back through most of it and it was a big surprise to see that he finished second on tiebreaks ahead of Nisipeanu. A very decent result, if an uneven one, and thus the Americans finished 1-2 with Nisipeanu in nominal third.

    The other two games were drawn, though not smoothly. Hou Yifan had excellent winning chances against Ian Nepomniachtchi and Georg Meier had Arkadij Naiditsch dead in the water, yet neither player could convert their advantage.

    Here are the final standings:

    • 1. Caruana 5.5 (out of 7)
    • 2. So 4
    • 3. Nisipeanu 4
    • 4. Kramnik 3.5
    • 5. Naiditsch 3
    • 6. Nepomniachtchi 3
    • 7. Hou Yifan 2.5
    • 8. Meier 2.5

    Saturday
    Jul042015

    Dortmund 2015, Round 6: Caruana Wins Again, Kramnik Lets Nisipeanu Escape

    After a bumpy start, Fabiano Caruana is looking like the player he was around this time last year, and with his fourth consecutive victory he is in the driver's seat to win Dortmund again - and might match last year's score of 5.5/7. For now, it's 4.5/6 after his win over Hou Yifan. Hou decided to sac a pawn in the opening to alleviate some pressure, and was doing a good job of hanging in there until she preferred the decentralizing 28...Ndb6 to 28...Nde5. Caruana took immediate advantage, breaking in the center and heading for Black's king. Hou had to sac the exchange for counterplay, but it wasn't enough. Ironically, her activity allowed her to recoup the material, only to walk into a mating attack.

    Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu could have kept pace with Caruana by defeating Vladimir Kramnik, but that was never in the offing. Instead, it was Kramnik who outplayed Nisipeanu and could have won in a tough rook ending. It seems his last chance to convert the full point came on move 52 (or move 54, had Kramnik decided to head back to the same position). According to the tablebases the obvious 52.Kxf4 was a winner, which is not to say that it was a trivial win. Kramnik may have missed or underestimated Nisipeanu's 54...f3, after which White no longer had even practical chances for the full point. Nisipeanu is out of at least a share of the lead for the first time in the tournament, but as he's only half a point behind and gets White against Caruana in the last round he still has a chance to be the hero of the tournament. As for Kramnik, he is now a full point behind Caruana and is mathematically eliminated from contention for first, though with a win tomorrow he would do no worse than tie for second.

    In the other games Ian Nepomniachtchi won his first game in the tournament, grinding down Arkadij Naiditsch in a technical battle, while Georg Meier had a meaningful advantage against Wesley So but played it safe and let the American escape. As Meier had and lost even bigger advantages against Caruana and Kramnik in this tournament, his trepdiation was understandable.

    Here are the pairings for the last round:

    • Nisipeanu (4) - Caruana (4.5)
    • So (3) - Kramnik (3.5)
    • Naiditsch (2.5) - Meier (2)
    • Hou Yifan (2) - Nepomniachtchi (2.5) 

    Friday
    Jul032015

    Dortmund 2015, Rounds 4 & 5: Nisipeanu Has a Different Co-Leader Every Day

    Let's get caught up on Dortmund, which is now 5/7 over after round 4 on Wednesday, a rest on Thursday and round 5 today. Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu continues to lead, as he has the entire event, but now he has company. After three rounds he was alone in first with 2.5/3, but was caught in round 4 by Vladimir Kramnik and in round 5 by Fabiano Caruana. Let's review the action.

    In round 4 Nisipeanu had Black against Ian Nepomniachtchi, and after a slight advantage see-sawed between the two players Nepomniachtchi was the last player to get an edge, but it was unusable. An extra pawn in a rook + three vs. rook + two ending with all the pawns on the same side is almost always drawn, and this wasn't a difficult hold for Nisipeanu.

    Meanwhile, Kramnik managed to keep just enough tension in the position to outwit Georg Meier, who yet again lost half a point or more from a good position. Meier played the Anti-Berlin line 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1, which looks unpretentious but isn't as insipid as it seems. Kramnik did manage to equalize, but in his desire to push for a win he had to take some fairly serious risks. Meier enjoyed a clear advantage leading up to the time control, and had he played 35.R5e4 or 35.gxf4 Rxf4 and then 36.R5e4 things might have turned out differently. When the time control came the position was about equal, but the danger was mostly on Meier's side. The game was lost in one move: 50.Ke2; after 50.a4 it would remain equal, and there were other moves that would have kept the game going. Such collapses are very possible in complicated positions, even after the time control; in fact, Kramnik lost in similar fashion in round 5. More on that later; for now, Nisipeanu and Kramnik were the co-leaders with 3/4.

    Fabiano Caruana also gained ground on Nisipeanu, winning his second straight game to get to half a point out of first. His victim was Arkadij Naiditsch, who was only a little worse until he played 25...Bxc5; it would have been better to play 26...Rc8 straight away rather than doing so after swapping the bishops. The difference was that Caruana anchored the rook on c5 with 27.b4, and when Black traded rooks White had a passed pawn. Not all was lost until Naiditsch played 35...a5, however; 35...e5 or 35...Kf6 followed by 36...e5 would have kept the game going. In the game Naiditsch quickly lost a piece, and that was that.

    Finally, Hou Yifan and Wesley So had an interesting battle in a Classical Caro-Kann. Hou was starting to outplay So, but 31.Ka2 allowed a nice tactical sequence that led to a draw.

    On to round five, when the marquee matchup with Kramnik - Caruana. The opening was a Fianchetto Gruenfeld with ...c6 and ...d5 which quickly left theory. (That's probably a good thing, as the variation tends to be pretty dull.) Kramnik's whole plan with 12.Re1, 13.Bxe4, 14.Nxe4 and especially 15.Qc2? was a bit of a disaster, and from there on out Kramnik was pretty much reduced to swindle mode. Remarkably, his resilient play succeeded and when Caruana played 23...e6 Kramnik had made it back to objective equality. Not practical equality, as the burden on him to find the right moves was more difficult, but objective equality was a real achievement. He kept up his end of things for a good while, but eventually things went astray. First, it's pretty difficult to make a move like 28.Kd4!, but the idea is that if 28...Qg2 White now has time to take on h6 and give perpetual before Black mates White's wandering king. Even so he was still alright until move 31, when 31.Nd2 fatally weakened his king. He needed to play either the greedy 31.Rxc5 or 31.Qe5 followed by 32.Rb8, simplifying the position for the sake of the king. After his error Caruana regained the initiative, and the rest was one-sided.

    Kramnik had won three in a row, but that streak came to an end with Caruana's third straight win. As a result of the latter's win he leapfrogged the former and found himself tied for first. His co-leader, Nisipeanu, had White against Meier, but got little from the opening and the game was clearly, almost self-evidently headed for a draw as soon as move 18. They continued until move 42, surprisingly (even if they're using the Sofia rules players in such contexts normally construct some sort of repetition to get the thing finished), but there could never have been any doubt, especially after the rooks came off at move 30.

    In the other games, So beat Nepomniachtchi on the white side of a King's Indian-turned-Modern Benoni. So's kingside play was gaining ground, and the end was expedited by Nepo's inaccurate exchange sac before the time control. Finally, Hou Yifan drew in a good fight with Black against Naiditsch. She equalized and then some early on, and it seemed that she would have enjoyed some advantage with the obvious 17...Nd3 (instead of 17...Na6). Her not playing that was rather mysterious, but even so she was doing fine for a very long time. Finally, somewhere in the second time control, she got into a little trouble in a major piece ending. Had Naiditsch played 54.e4 he would have enjoyed decent winning chances. Fortunately for Hou he didn't, and she wrapped up the draw confidently after that.

    Here are the pairings for the penultimate round, tomorrow:

    • Caruana (3.5) - Hou Yifan (2)
    • Nepomniachtchi (1.5) - Naiditsch (2.5)
    • Meier (1.5) - So (2.5)
    • Kramnik (3) - Nisipeanu (3.5)

    Tuesday
    Jun302015

    Dortmund 2015, Round 3: Three Wins and the Leader Draws

    It was another day full of fight and craziness in Dortmund, and in the end the chase pack drew closer to the leader, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. Nisipeanu gave up his first half point in the event, but although he had White it was his opponent, Hou Yifan, who had whatever winning chances there were. The key moment was Black's 21st move. If Hou wanted to play for a win she'd have to make go pawn-snatching, taking either on b2 or a2. Both moves seemed to be alright, but with White's pieces clustering around her king she took a practical decision that more or less forced a perpetual check some moves later.

    That was a good result for both players, in different ways, and it benefited the rest of the field too as it brought the leader back to the pack. The first player to exploit this was Arkadij Naiditsch, who won his second game of the tournament with Black (sandwiching a loss with White!). The victim this time was Wesley So, who got in trouble in several stages. First, allowing 18...d4 gave Black tremendous activity. It wasn't fatal though, and probably didn't even promise Black any advantage, but it made the position more challenging for White - especially against a dangerous attacker like Naiditsch. Second, 21.Ra1 was a clear error, ceding the c-file. So had to do something about the threat of 21...Rxc1 followed by 22...Qe1+ 23.Rxe1 Rxe1#, and 21.Ra1 fulfilled that task. It would have been better to play 21.g3, however, taking care of the back rank without conceding the file. There was an exchange of errors on move 24 (I'm guessing that both players missed 24...Nf4 25.Qh6 Qf6!, threatening especially 26...Bf8), and the final, now fatal, error came on move 26 when White grabbed the a-pawn. White is still kicking after 26.Qf3, though Black will have the upper hand. After 26.Qxa6? the rest was a massacre, and Naiditsch finished in style.

    That put Naiditsch at 2/3, and he was joined there by Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik beat Ian Nepomniachtchi with some tactical confusion. Kramnik had a significant advantage out of the opening but when it slipped away around move 25 the game remained equal through the time control. Kramnik did maintain an initiative, however, and with his rook and knights hopping around the Black king Nepo needed to stay on high alert. Black's fatal error was 46...Be5, when 47.Nb7 (with the idea of 48.Nd8 and 49.Rf7#!). While Black was able to stop that threat, there were too many other threats that he couldn't, and Kramnik soon reached a completely winning knight ending.

    Finally, Georg Meier let a full point slip away against Fabiano Caruana. Meier was winning and then some, right up until the time control. By then it was equal while remaining complicated, and Meier didn't manage to retain the balance. A tough loss for him; he could quite easily have had 2.5/3 by now.

    Here are the round pairings:

    • Caruana (1.5) - Naiditisch (2)
    • Hou Yifan (1) - So (1)
    • Nepomniachtchi (1) - Nisipeanu (2.5)
    • Meier (1) - Kramnik (2)

     

    Monday
    Jun292015

    Dortmund 2015, Round 2: Nisipeanu Wins Again and Leads by a Point

    There have been years when the Dortmund super-tournament was something of a drawfest; this was especially so when Vladimir Kramnik was in his hyper-solid phase as world champion and Peter Leko played every year as well. This year the balance seems to have swung completely the opposite direction, with only the technician Georg Meier serving as a counterweight to a bunch of very aggressive players. In round 2 three of the four games were decisive, and the result is that Romanian-German GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu leads with a 2-0 score.

    His win over Arkadij Naiditsch wasn't smooth, as he was first better with the black pieces (in fact, all three wins in the round were by Black), then just about lost, and then won as Naiditsch lost his way. The material was imbalanced and once Black got his center pawns coordinated and rolling it was all trouble for White.

    The top seed, Fabiano Caruana, lost to Wesley So in a Najdorf, which is pretty much how things go for Caruana in that opening. His score with White in the Najdorf is just abysmal, and I think his super-GM peers are going to be lining up to play it against him until he figures it out and gets a good feel for it.

    The third was a beautiful win for Vladimir Kramnik against Hou Yifan, featuring a great rook sacrifice the top (active) female player declined. It didn't matter. Black's pieces were so active that even with queens off the board Hou soon capitulated.

    Finally, Ian Nepomniachtchi outscored everyone else in the round with the white pieces, "managing" to draw against Georg Meier. A Steinitz French grew sharp but ended peacefully in a perpetual check.

    After two rounds Nisipeanu has 2, Caruana and Hou have half a point each, and everyone else has a point. Today was a rest day, and tomorrow (Tuesday) round 3 will take place, with the following pairings:

     

    • Meier - Caruana
    • Kramnik - Nepomniachtchi
    • Nisipeanu - Hou Yifan
    • So - Naiditsch

     

    Saturday
    Jun272015

    Dortmund 2015, Round 1: Germany Dominates

    It was an almost shocking start to the first round in Dortmund as the German players scored 2.5/3 - and probably should have went 3-0 - while the three big guns managed just half a point between them.

    Top seed Fabiano Caruana was the only one of the top three to score, drawing easily with Black against Ian Nepomniachtchi. Indeed, he had good chances to win, but short of time leading up to the control on move 40 the advantage slipped away.

    Vladimir Kramnik had White against Arkadij Naiditisch in a Semi-Tarrasch, and as generally happens in Naiditsch's games tactics quickly tend to dominate. I'm not sure when and where Kramnik started to miss things, but at the very least it seems that he missed Naiditsch's great move 24...Nd3. The knight cannot be captured (e.g. 25.Qxd3? Rxf3 26.Qd1 Qe3+ 27.Kh1 Qxc1 28.Qxc1 Rf1+ 29.Qxf1 Rxf1#) and the alternatives, though better, are also insufficient. Kramnik fought on through his 57th move, but the game was decided long beforehand.

    For Wesley So it was even worse, as Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu was winning as early as move 13 and wiped him out with a brutal attack in just 28 moves. It was odd to see So think for 23 minutes on his 12th move, only to (apparently) miss White's rejoinder and then think for another 20 minutes. Instead of 13...Ne5, which met a brutal refutation, 13...Nd8 would have limited White to a normal small advantage.

    Finally, Georg Meier enjoyed a nagging edge in a Catalan against Hou Yifan for a long time - throughout the game, really - and could have hoped for more. On move 50 he could have moved his king to c5, when his majesty would have posed a double threat: collecting Black's queenside pawns and helping his e-pawn towards promotion. Instead 50.Ke3? allowed 50...Nc1, allowing Hou to escape into a drawn rook ending.

    Round 2's pairings are as follows:

    • Caruana - So
    • Naiditsch - Nisipeanu
    • Hou Yifan - Kramnik
    • Nepomniachtchi - Meier

    Saturday
    Jun272015

    Dortmund 2015 Underway

    After a day off, it's back to super-tournament action. Fabiano Caruana, Vladimir Kramnik (going for his 11th victory in this tournament!) and Wesley So headline the action in this eight player round robin the Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Dortmund, Germany. The first round started less than an hour ago, with the following pairings:

    • Georg Meier (2654) - Hou Yifan (2676)
    • Vladimir Kramnik (2783) - Arkadij Naiditsch (2722, but 2690 on the live list after a mega-disastrous French League)
    • Ian Nepomniachtchi (2720, 2710 after losing points in the Capablanca Memorial) - Fabiano Caruana (2805, 2797 after Norway Chess)
    • Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu (2654) - Wesley So (2778, 2780 on the live list)

    Saturday
    Apr042015

    Recap of Everything: Women's World Championship, Aeroflot and the U.S. Championships

    (Not literally everything, of course; that might take a while.)

    The women's world championship tournament could have come to an end today, and it was close. Natalia Pogonina lost the previous game and needed to make something of her last white in game 3. After a very complicated opening resulted in a middlegame where Pogonina had a piece for three pawns, it seemed that she had the better chances for a good while. To keep and try to grow that advantage, she needed to try f4-f5 at some moment - on move 29, for example - in order to open lines for her extra piece and to clear f4 for the knight. When she delayed too long her opponent, Mariya Muzychuk, was able to lock up the white pieces and steadily encroach into her opponent's territory. I don't know if she was ever winning, but she was close. Pogonina's 43.f5 was perhaps a case of better late than never: it didn't offer her any winning chances by this point, but it had some of the same virtues as before; in particular helping the sidelined knight from h3 return to the fray. White soon returned the piece, and although she didn't get all three of her pawns back she was still able to save the game. Tomorrow Pogonina will have to win with Black to force tiebreaks; otherwise, it's over and Muzychuk is the new world champion.

    About the Aeroflot Open I will say very little. Only this: Daniil Dubov defeated Lu Shanglei in the last round to tie for first with Ian Nepomniachtchi, who only drew his game. Unfortunately for Dubov, Nepomniachtchi had the better tiebreaks, which meant the latter won the big prize: qualification to the Dortmund super-tournament at the end of June.

    On to the U.S. Championships. Today the marquee matchup took place between Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, and it was a dramatic game. So was doing alright until his 28th move, 28...g5, which he regretted the moment Nakamura played 29.f4. This gave White a significant edge, but it didn't last long. After 29...gxf4 30.Qf2 Nh4 Nakamura blundered with 31.Bxf4?/??, missing the shot 31...Nf3+. In a move Nakamura went from clearly better to clearly worse, but despite a prolonged bout of head-shaking he kept his concentration and defended well. So enjoyed a tax-free extra pawn in the endgame, but Nakamura managed to reach a rook ending. All rook endings are drawn, according to the ancient wisdom of our forebears, so Q.E.D. In fact, all six games on the "men's" side were drawn. Nakamura and Robson remain the co-leaders with 3/4.

    In the women's section there were only two draws. One was round 3 co-leader Rusudan Goletiani's game against Paikidze. That allowed Katerina Nemcova to take over clear first with 3.5/4, thanks to her win with Black against Alisa Melekhina. Goletiani is in clear second, while Paikidze, Irina Krush (who defeated Apurva Vikud) and Sabina Foisor (who defeated Annie Wang) have 2.5 points. Tatev Abrahamyan won her second straight game, and she has 2/4.