Entries in Garry Kasparov (43)
The BBC Radio 4 network has a new series of "Across the Board" episodes coming out next week; interviewees include Garry Kasparov (on Tuesday) and Rex Sinquefield (on Wednesday).
HT: Marc Beishon
As already noted in the previous post, Garry Kasparov went through Nigel Short like a hot knife through butter in their Sunday games, blanking Short 5-0 and winning the overall contest by a massive 8.5-1.5 score.
Game 6, the first played on Sunday, was a rapid game, and it was competitive. Short enjoyed an advantage most of the way, but his 33rd move was a mistake. Kasparov's minor pieces soon dominated, and White's extra exchange played no role; in fact, Kasparov's 38th move, declining the opportunity to regain the exchange, was the right thing to do. Excepting a one-move hiccup on on move 42, Kasparov took over and won the ending convincingly.
In the blitz games, things just got worse and worse for the Englishman. In the first, Short played a provocative opening, and when Kasparov - as White - was able to embed pawns on c5 and d6 Black was condemned to a miserable existence for the rest of the game. He defended resiliently for a while, but when he chose 37...gxf5, giving White's knight the spectacular e4 square thanks to 38.exf5 in reply, it was all downhill and Kasparov won easily. That gave the ex-champ a 5.5-1.5 lead and thus clinched overall victory with three games to go.
Game 8 was very exciting. Kasparov played a Classical Sicilian, a line he seldom played (if ever) during his official career. His 13th move was especially interesting, inviting the obvious 14.e5 in reply. That's what Short played, and soon they banged out a series of moves finishing up with Kasparov's 21...Rd8. Black was better, but it wouldn't have been decisive just yet had Short played 22.b3. He instead pushed the b-pawn two squares, after which he was simply lost. 22.b4 gave White's king luft, but that's the only good thing it accomplished for White. The pawn was lost, White's king was exposed, and Kasparov finished the game with flair.
Game 9 was a sort of combination of a Reversed Philidor and King's Indian Attack against Short's French. Kasparov built for the kingside attack while Short tried to break through and break in on the queenside. Perhaps Black would have been fine had he tripled his heavy pieces on the b-file and entered (with 23...Qb7, aiming to move the rook to b3 or b2), but he didn't and he wasn't. Just a couple of moves later Kasparov was winning, and he finished the game off with an impressive display of power chess.
Finally, game 10 was yet another disaster for Short, his seventh loss in a row in the match. He was worse with White after 13.f4, and after 16...d5! it was clear that Kasparov was in his charge. The losing move came on move 21, when Short played 21.Nc2 rather than do something to pre-empt Black's idea of ...Ng4, ...Qh5 and mate. Kasparov conducted the final attack in great style (23...Bd7 was especially nice) and mated Short's king in the middle of the board.
In all, it was a fantastic performance by Kasparov, who could quite possibly have won the match with a 10-0 score. Unfortunately for Short, he slept very poorly during the match, having just traveled from Thailand, and that only impeded his performance, especially on the second day. Even so, Kasparov gave a remarkable display of power chess, and showed flashes of his former brilliance - especially once he decided after game 6 to just go for attacking chess, as in his youth. I watched the match in person, and was extremely impressed by what I saw - and more than I would have been listening to the commentators or seeing computer evaluations. It seems that the computer approved strongly of his play in those last four games, but there's still nothing like seeing and experiencing the game in the raw. It was only blitz, but it was inspiring.
The two-day rapid & blitz exhibition match between Garry Kasparov and his erstwhile challenger Nigel Short began today/yesterday/Saturday in St. Louis, and at the halfway point Kasparov leads the "Battle of the Legends" 3.5-1.5.
In game 1, the rapid game, Kasparov had White and enjoyed a winning advantage much of the way in a Bogo-Indian. Short hung in there, and as time dwindled away Kasparov had to reconcile himself to a draw. This was followed by four blitz games, which were dominated by Kasparov.
In the first, Kasparov found a nice pawn sac on the black side of an English, took over the initiative and finished with a strong attack. A note about the game score: I haven't checked TWIC, but on Chess24's website their record of the game finished prematurely. Here's how it ended: 33.gxf4 Qh5 34.Rxe3 dxe4 35.Qh2 Rg8+ 36.Kh1 e2 and only here did Short resign.
The second blitz game was won by Short, but in peculiar fashion. Kasparov was better all the way on the white side of a Nimzowitsch Defense, but simply forgot about the clock and lost on time. Oops.
Kasparov immediately struck back in the third blitz game, winning convincingly if not quite perfectly against Short's Nimzo-Larsen (1.b3). White quickly obtained a structural advantage, but this was always outweighed by Black's activity and kingside attacking chances.
Finally, Kasparov broke through with White on his third try. It wasn't a particularly clean game, and from a theoretical standpoint Short was doing fine with the semi-offbeat Chigorin. Nevertheless, the ex-champ outplayed him - several times - and finally brought home the full point.
Kasparov's two point lead could easily have been more, and while it's a significant edge he also led his last exhibition match with Short, several years ago, by two points with just three games remaining. He promptly lost the next two games before pulling out the finale, so Short's fans shouldn't give up hope.
Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short famously played a world championship match in 1993 (won easily by Kasparov), not to mention a rapid match in 1987 (also won easily by Kasparov) and then a rapid and blitz match in 2011 (won by Kasparov thanks to a win in the final game). Now, for some reason, they're going to do it again.
The match will take place April 25 and 26 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, with each day starting with a rapid game (25' + 10" delay; using time delay rather than increment is a horrible custom foisted upon us in the U.S. by our beloved federation) followed by four blitz games (5' + 3" delay). I suppose it's good publicity for the St. Louis club, a chance for Kasparov to erase the stain of his near-collapse in the 2011 match (he led by two with three games to go, then promptly lost two straight games) and a chance for Short to finally slay the man he once called a "hairy ape". (I think this was shortly after Kasparov's famous quip, when he was asked who the winner of the Short-Timman final candidates match would be and how his championship match with that winner would go. His reply: "It will be Short and it will be short.")
Hopefully Kasparov will be in good form and can still show something of his old class; having him show up just to lose to someone he had a +22 score against in classical games would be a pity.
HT: Allen Becker.
In the famous 1999 edition of the Wijk aan Zee tournament, Garry Kasparov had a seven-game winning streak that included what may be his most famous game ever, his attacking gem against Veselin Topalov. Amazingly, he rated his later win over Peter Svidler even more highly, which shows what great form he was in. His play in the tournament was lauded as one of his best ever results, and it was the first of a long series of super-tournament wins for the then-world champion. One can pile on the praise, but what's generally forgotten about that event is that Viswanathan Anand finished only half a point behind the winner, and he - unlike Kasparov - went undefeated.
I bring this up because something similar is happening this time around. Magnus Carlsen has been leading the current edition for quite a while now, thanks to a six-game winning streak, and he has elevated his already stratospheric rating even higher. But meanwhile, almost as if in the distant background, Wesley So is just half a point behind. As in the 1999 tournament, the leader has lost one game while the runner-up has gone undefeated, and the leader's title, rating, streak and presence has sucked up most of the attention. But it's a close competition, and as the current tournament has two rounds yet to go it isn't over yet. (And as we saw in the Qatar Masters, having a six-game winning streak doesn't guarantee first place - just ask Anish Giri and Vladimir Kramnik.)
So was a point back entering the round, but he cut the gap in half by beating Ivan Saric in what was to me a rather strange game. Saric played a sideline of the Zaitsev Ruy with Black, but even though there wasn't too much theory to master (at least relatively speaking) he seemed unprepared for So's 18th move. His initial reaction was correct, but on his 20th move he played a novelty that left him clearly worse and living on the edge, and his 23rd move lost a piece to a short combination.
Carlsen had White against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and had the pleasure of playing not one but two lines against the latter's Gruenfeld! (It started out as a 7.Be3 Classical line, only to transpose six moves later into the 7.Nf3 + 8.Rb1 variation.) Carlsen got a good position and started to outplay his opponent, but despite winning a pawn he couldn't manage to push him over the edge.
Anish Giri defeated his countryman Loek van Wely on the white side of a Pirc. Giri found some nice tactical ideas, and even though one of them made his life more difficult than it needed to be, he was in control pretty much throughout the game and was a deserved winner. That put him into a tie for third place with Vachier-Lagrave, half a point behind So.
Ding Liren is also in that third place tie after an absolute gift from Radoslaw Wojtaszek. Wojtaszek was better throughout (though maybe never quite winning), and pressing for hour after hour. Had he played g4 on move 59 or 60 he would have kept some winning chances, but after that he needed to show a little caution. Unfortunately, he uncorked the blunder 62.Bb7??, forgetting that Black could have ideas too (this is psychologically understandable when all the winning chances have been yours for the past four hours), and after 62...b5 the game was essentially over. Wojtaszek played three more moves, but there was nothing to be done. Chess can be cruel!
The day's last winner was Hou Yifan. That was her first win of the tournament, and if you've been following the events you can probably guess who her opponent was...Baadur Jobava. He's having the tournament of his life, in a bad way, with just 1.5 points out of 11, and has lost 35.7 rating points and dropped 25 spots on the rating list. Today he was worse but not lost in a queen and bishop ending, but that changed when he blundered the bishop to a simple fork on move 39.
In the department of draws, Levon Aronian was had an enduring edge against Vasil Ivanchuk but couldn't reel him in, while Fabiano Caruana couldn't make anything out of his small edge against Teimour Radjabov.
- van Wely (3.5) - Jobava (1.5)
- Radjabov (5.5) - Hou Yifan (4)
- Ivanchuk (6.5) - Caruana (6.5)
- Vachier-Lagrave (7) - Aronian (5)
- Ding Liren (7) - Carlsen (8)
- Saric (3) - Wojtaszek (5)
- Giri (7) - So (7.5)
There are two huge games there, and the chase pack really needs to see a win by Ding Liren as Carlsen will have White against Saric in the last round.
In the Challengers' group it was Wei Yi's turn to pull ahead. The 15-year-old has 9/11 after defeating Bart Michiels, half a point better than David Navara, who could only draw against Valentina Gunina. Sam Shankland won his game with David Klein to take sole possession of third place, half a point ahead of Robin van Kampen (who lost to Salem Saleh) and Vladimir Potkin, who won in bizarre style against Jan Timman.
Timman had to defend a long time, but finally reached a relatively comfortable position with rook and pawn against rook and bishop. Maybe Potkin would eventually win the pawn and reach rook and bishop vs. rook, but while players do sometimes win that ending Timman is a great endgame expert who was writing articles on that ending before Potkin was even born. But see for yourself what happened, starting from the position after Timman's 73rd move. Everything is healthy, and then he plays 74...Kd6-c7 and 75...Kc7-d8, which is absurd and then some, and then there's the insane 76...Re6?? to cap it all off. Assuming this actually happened and isn't a DGT error on steroids, all I can come up with was that Timman thought that 77.Bxe6 would be stalemate. But really, the whole thing is nuts, and I hope someone who was at the tournament today or has read an eyewitness report can shed some light on this.
In one of the sillier stories in the chess world, Garry Kasparov played a two-game rapid match with Japanese IM and Shogi legend Yoshiharu Habu, and of course won 2-0. The silly part is Kasparov's remark that he had "everything to lose". While it would be a little embarrassing for a player of Kasparov's stature not to win 2-0, there was objectively little chance that it would happen. Further, while his opponent could take justifiable pride in such a result, who would really care about the result of a rapid exhibition match played nine years after Kasparov's retirement from serious chess? Kasparov's place in chess history wouldn't be dented in the least by an accident in such an event. Finally, if there was really everything to lose, then why participate? Perhaps Kasparov should read a book on decision-making before agreeing to any more such events in the future.
In general I'm a pretty decent player, an FM who has repeatedly come close to getting IM norms, but compared to Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand I'm of course a fish - and a small fish at that. So while I hope that what I do know, combined with conscientious work and the judicious use of the computer enables me to say things that are sensible and at least occasionally insightful, there's always the very real danger that the gap between me and them will lead to every so often to comments that are completely off the mark.
One such comment was about Anand's choice of opening line today; in particular his decision to head for the quasi-endgame with the queen trade. It seemed to me both dubious in its own right and all the more so as a way for him to play against Carlsen. Perhaps I'm the stopped clock that's right twice a day or the blind squirrel who found a nut, but on this occasion I can at least enlist Garry Kasparov in support of my claim. A few minutes ago, he offered these tweets:
It's even harder to understand Anand's opening choice today than the blunders. I looked at this line for my match vs Kramnik in 2000. Bad.
I remember looking at Bf4 and this h-pawn push and it's miserable for Black. Especially against Magnus, bizarre blunder today aside.
It will be very hard for Anand to come back. There was an exchange of terrible openings in g3 & g6 [DM: game 3 and game 6], doubt it will happen again.