Here is an oddity: no one in the Danzhou super-tournament has lost more than two games, and yet one of the players with two losses, Ian Nepomniachtchi, is in clear first with 4.5/7. He lost in round 7, and also in round 2, but won all his remaining games excepting a draw in round 6. Three players are hot on his heels: Bu Xiangzhi, Wang Yue, and Pentala Harikrishna are just half a point behind with two games to go.
Entries in Ian Nepomniachtchi (12)
Surprise! Magnus Carlsen won his first two games today, the third day of the World Rapid Championship. - the second a heartbreaker for Vasil Ivanchuk, who was first better and then for a long time drawing before Carlsen somehow pulled it out - and that put him at a huge score of 10/12. From there three draws sufficed to win the tournament by a full point over his closest competitors. There were three of them, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimour Radjabov and Leinier Dominguez, and it was the last-named player who was the unlucky fourth. "Nepo" won the silver on tiebreaks and Radjabov garnered a bronze. Loads of players were another half a point behind, including such greats as Ivanchuk, Vladimir Kramnik Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
The World Blitz Championship starts tomorrow at the same venue and with most of the same players. It would be fun if Hikaru Nakamura and other top players in the Millionaire Open made the flight to Berlin, but that would really be a bit too crazy. Fun, but crazy.
Ian Nepomniachtchi won the Moscow Blitz Championship this past Sunday with a score of 14-5, half a point ahead of Dmitry Andreikin, who won their individual game. There's a nice report on it here, complete with the embedded video of the live coverage. (There's commentary in Russian by Sergey Shipov.)
I've been watching the video, a little at a time, and so far a couple of games have caught my attention. You can replay those games, with my light analysis and comments, here.
No, I'm not talking about (more than) 99.99% of the internet, though I could be. Instead, I'm referring to an interesting phenomenon in chess that has increasingly caught my attention of late: moves that appear to waste a tempo in the opening for what seems at first like absolutely no good reason. Further, in most of the cases, the pattern is similar: a piece moves to a square, then a move or so later proceeds to a square it could have reached on the previous turn. I've cataloged five instances of this for you here; readers are invited to offer examples of their own.
(Thank you, thank you; I'll be here all week.) The SportAccord World Mind Games concluded today, and the final stage of the chess competition was won by Ian Nepomniachtchi on the men's side and Hou Yifan on the women's. This last stage was the "Basque" tournament, a five double-round Swiss with each double round with each participant playing a pair of games simultaneously against the same opponent, one with each color.
Both Nepomniachtchi and Hou went undefeated and won their respective sections by a point and a half. "Nepo" scored 7.5/10 while Teimour Radjabov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov all wound up with 6. Radjabov won the silver and Vachier-Lagrave added a bronze to his silver medals in rapid & blitz. Alexander Grischuk won both the rapid & blitz events, but only scored 5.5 points here to finish tied for 5th-7th (out of 16), 6th on tiebreak.
In the women's section Hou's score was a dominant 8.5/10, and this time there was no race with Valentina Gunina, who came in 9th with 50%. Alexandra Kosteniuk came in second with 7 points, and Zhao Xue took third on tiebreak with 6 points to beat out Antoaneta Stefanova for the bronze.
The event produced many interesting games for chess fans, and since there aren't any more major events until the Tata Steel tournament (Wijk aan Zee) January 9, you've got a little extra time to catch up on all of them in between Christmas and Hanukah celebrations!
(1) I see Chess24 used the same lame joke for their title as well. It's hard to resist!
(2) Also from the Chess24 piece: fans of quick play will only have to suffer for 48 hours, as the European Rapid & Blitz championship starts on Friday.
(3) Actually, there's no need to suffer at all if you want to see top-level play, as the final stage of season 7 of the TCEC is underway, with the latest versions of Komodo and Stockfish duking it out once again for silicon supremacy. Komodo dominated the earlier stages while Stockfish looked shaky, but after seven games Stockfish leads 4-3. "Only" 57 games to go.
I haven't presented too many games lately, but I hope to rectify that somewhat over the holiday season. Let's start with a quick one, a speedy win by Ian Nepomniachtchi over Vassily Ivanchuk from the recently completed World Mind Games event in Beijing, China. This was from the rapid tournament, and illustrates what can happen even to a super-GM who inappropriately violates the rules of thumb we all learned early on about not moving our queen out too quickly and about not keeping our king in the center. These are not laws, of course, but only rules of thumb. Still, they are rules of thumb for a reason!
The last day of the 2013 Russian Championship was an exciting one. The spectators got their money's worth! Peter Svidler came into the last round with a half point lead over Vladimir Kramnik and Ian Nepomniachtchi, and had the challenging pairing of Black against Sergey Karjakin. Karjakin tested Svidler's Gruenfeld in the now-old, former main line of the Exchange Variation with 8.Rb1, and Svidler followed the old recipe to a draw.
That left Nepomniachtchi and Kramnik, who just so happened to be playing each other. Kramnik did much of the pushing, and was better for good chunks of the game, though never winning. A draw was just about always there for the taking, but no guts, no glory: he kept pressing, and with 67...Kh3 he was on his way over the edge. Maybe 69...Rd3 or 69...Ng4+ would have kept things together, but 69...b5? got him in trouble, and 71...Nf7 left him lost. (Maybe he didn't see that 75.Bd4 would stop all of his threats?) Nepomniachtchi's good defense and Kramnik's overextension allowed the former to catch Svidler, and so it was on to a rapid tiebreak - two g/15s.
In last year's Russian Championship tiebreak Svidler was eliminated, while Nepomniachtchi's previous tiebreak experience was a good one - he defeated Karjakin in 2010 to win the title of Russian champion. This time around, however, it was Svidler who came through to win his seventh(!) national championship. Svidler won the first game with White and was winning the second game too when Nepomniachtchi offered a match-conceding draw that was accepted.
Congratulations to Peter Svidler!
The semi-finals and the finals of the ACP Cup, a rapid k.o. event in Riga, Latvia, were played on Sunday, and Alexander Grischuk emerged victorious. He defeated Peter Svidler in his semi-final, 1.5-.5, while Ian Nepomniachtchi came back from a loss in the first game to defeat Ruslan Ponomariov 3-1 after their 3'+2" tiebreak games.
Grischuk and Nepomniachtchi drew their g/25s, so it was on to the blitz playoff. Grischuk started off with a win in his white game, and Nepomniachtchi returned the favor in the rematch. The next stage was an Armageddon game, with Grischuk getting White and five minutes against his opponent's four minutes and draw odds. Grischuk repeated the same funny anti-Gruenfeld line he used in the first blitz game (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.e3 0-0 5.Be2 d5 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.e4 Nb6 7.0-0 [White's 6th and 7th moves were played in reverse order in the earlier game]), and whatever its merits he managed to win this game too, and with it the tournament.
The World Blitz Championship is a 30-round event, or if you prefer a 15-round event with two games per round against the same opponent. It is broken up into two days, with the first 16/8 rounds taking place on Sunday and the last 14/7 on Monday. Sunday's action is over, and Le Quang Liem and Ian Nepomniachtchi are tied for first with 12/16, with the former beating the latter 1.5-.5 in the final match of the day. Ruslan Ponomariov is half a point behind, and then there is a group of four players at 10.5: Ivan Cheparinov, Ngoc Truon Son Nguyen, newly crowned World Rapid Champion Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Rauf Mamedov.
Some great players are present, but most of the world's absolute elite is unfortunately missing, probably due to the very crowded calendar of classical events. A pity, but this has been a very entertaining event all the same.
Veselin Topalov was the early leader in the Sberbank Rapid tournament, but he was bludgeoned nicely on day 2 by Sergey Karjakin, who wound up winning the tournament with 6.5/9, half a point ahead of Topalov.
Meanwhile, over in Khanty-Mansyisk, the World Rapid Championship is turning into a runaway for Ian Nepomniachtchi, who has given up a single draw each of the first two days. He has 9/10 and leads his closest pursuers (Ivan Cheparinov and Ildar Khairullin) by two points going into the last day and the final five rounds. (The live commentary with GMs Alexander Khalifman and Efstratios Grivas is pretty good and available on-demand, so if you have a little free time for chess spectating you might enjoy that.) After this finishes, the World Blitz Championship will take place at the same site (and with the same players? I'm not sure) on Sunday and Monday.