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    Entries in Levon Aronian (54)

    Tuesday
    Nov252014

    St. Louis, Final Day: Nakamura Defeats Aronian in Blitz

    The "Showdown in St. Louis" between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura was tied after four classical games, so the winner in tonight's best-of-16 blitz match would win the event and $60,000, while the loser would "only" get $40,000. After a shaky first couple of games, Nakamura felt he got in the zone, while Aronian kept getting into time trouble and all the difficulties it tends to generate. Afterwards Aronian opined that while he's a good blitz player when it's 4'+2", 3'+2" - the time control used in this match - was a bit too fast for him. In the end Nakamura won 9.5-6.5, clinching match victory with two games to spare.

    In the GM norm event Sam Sevian drew his last game (a long game, not a quick handshake deal as in his previous game with the black pieces) and finished in clear first with 7.5/9, a ton of rating points and the grandmaster title. He is the youngest U.S. player to achieve the title, and the sixth-youngest of all time.

    Congrats to him, to Nakamura, and also to Michael William Brown who made norm in the concurrent IM norm event as well!

    Monday
    Nov242014

    St. Louis News, Day 4: Just Like Day 3

    In brief: game 4 of the match between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura was drawn, and thus they finished the classical portion of the match 2-2 - or rather, 8-8. (Classical games were worth 4 points each, while each blitz game tomorrow will be worth a single point.) That means that whoever wins the blitz part of their competition (16 games!) tomorrow will take match victory.

    Meanwhile, in the GM norm event 13-year-old Sam Sevian continues to make a mockery of the field. He took a very quick draw with Black in the morning round before dragging another bamboozled opponent to his death in his white game in the evening. His score is 7-1 and his TPR 2801. It isn't quite Fabiano Caruana at the Sinquefield Cup, but it's incredibly impressive all the same. With the white pieces he has been brutal, winning all five of his games; four with smashing attacks that went fewer than 40 moves.

    Sunday
    Nov232014

    St. Louis News: Nakamura-Aronian Draw Game 3, Sevian Keeps Rolling

    After a couple of wacky match games Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian drew game 3, leaving their match tied 6-6 with one more classical game to go before the blitz battles on Tuesday. Even this game had some ups and downs though, with first Nakamura and then Aronian briefly enjoying a strong plus before equality was restored.

    In the concurrent GM norm tournament, 13-year-old Sam Sevian was slowed down briefly in the morning round, drawing a tough game with an IM before beating GM Ben Finegold in the evening round in yet another tactically flashy game. He has blown past the 2500 rating level he needed to achieve his GM title, and right now has a fantastic 2873 TPR. (It's amazing to think that's pretty much just another day at the office for Magnus Carlsen.) It will be exciting to see if he can maintain and increase the level of tactical savagery he has displayed in this tournament as he grows as a player.

    Saturday
    Nov222014

    Ongoing & Completed Events: St. Louis (x3), Ukrainian Championship, Tal Memorial Blitz

    The ongoing world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand has drawn the lion's share of the chess world's attention the past couple of weeks, but some other interesting events have taken place in the meantime as well. Let's take a quick tour of the landscape.

    1. Aronian - Nakamura. This is the main event in St. Louis, a five day match with four classical games (worth four points apiece) followed by 16 blitz games (worth one point per game). Game 1 was won by Hikaru Nakamura, when Levon Aronian got into time trouble and lost what would normally be considered a very drawish position. Today the reverse happened: it looked like Nakamura wanted to squeeze blood from a stone, and to his surprise wound up in an ending that should still have been drawn but turned out to be more challenging. He lost, and so the match is tied 4-4.

    2. There are concurrent GM and IM norm tournaments in St. Louis, and the big story is taking place in the GM event, where 13-year-old Sam Sevian is about to earn - or perhaps, has now earned - his grandmaster title. He already had the three norms needed, and simply had to get his rating over 2500 at some point. He entered the tournament rated 2484, and his 4-0 start, including two wins over GMs, has brought him to the promised land. He won't be awarded the title on the spot, but he has now become the youngest American player in history to achieve the grandmaster title. Have a look at these two wins from the tournament, and you won't find his accomplishment at all surprising. Congratulations to him!

    3. The Ukranian Championship finished earlier today (yesterday now, for the Ukranians themselves), and after a dramatic last round Yuriy Kuzubov and Pavel Eljanov finished tied for first with 7.5 points out of 11, with Kuzubov finishing first on tiebreaks.

    4. Tal Memorial Blitz. This took place a week or so ago, but deserved to be mentioned. It was a 12 player double-round robin event spread over two days, and on day 1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had a fantastic score of 10/11, giving up just two draws. He received enough gifts for a couple of Christmases, and not all of them could be chalked up to his very great tactical resourcefulness. He had a big lead, but the next day he had only normal luck and scored just 6 points out of 11, but Alexander Grischuk couldn't quite catch up and finished half a point behind. Alexander Morozevich, Boris Gelfand and Sergey Karjakin tied for third. Video coverage links: day 1, rounds 1-6; day 1, rounds 7-11; day 2, all rounds.

    Friday
    Nov212014

    Aronian - Nakamura: Nakamura Wins Game 1 With White

    A good game for Hikaru Nakamura, but Levon Aronian will be disappointed by how many mistakes he made - including a blunder on the last move. More here.

    Thursday
    Nov202014

    Aronian - Nakamura Starts Tomorrow (Friday) (Updated)

    As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura are playing a five "round" match consisting of four classical games and a 16-game "round" of blitz chess. The action starts tomorrow at 2 p.m. local time (= 3 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CET) at the St. Louis Chess Club & Scholastic Center and runs through Tuesday. The prize fund is $100,000 and will be split 60-40.

    Predictions? Since they're calling it a five round match, I assume that even if one player wins the blitz 16-0 that still only counts as one point for match purposes. I think it's a coin flip, and will go out on a limb and say that the coin will land on its edge: the match will be drawn.

    Update: My assumption about the scoring system was wrong. Here's how it works: each classical game is worth four points and each blitz game is worth one, meaning the two stages are worth a total of 16 points each.

    Friday
    Nov072014

    Aronian - Nakamura at the End of the Month

    Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura will play a five "round" event consisting of four classical games followed by 16 blitz games in St. Louis in a few weeks, from November 21-25.

    More info here.

    Tuesday
    Sep092014

    Nakamura Defeats Aronian 3.5-2.5 in Chess960 Match

    This year's Sinquefield Cup festivities finally came to an end today with a six-game rapid (15' + 2") Chess960 match between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura, both of whom are former Chess960 world champions.

    There are some starting positions that favor White far more than is the case in regular chess, so each starting position in the match was repeated so that both players would have a chance to have White. To further ensure a fair match, the player starting each two-game series switched: Nakamura had White in game 1, Aronian White in game 3, and Nakamura White again in game 5. (I suppose there should have been eight games so that each player got to start two series, but perhaps time constraints got in the way.) The funny thing is that fears of an excessive advantage for the white pieces turned out to be unfounded, and one could jokingly say that Nakamura won the match by drawing game 1 with White; after all, Black won the next five games!

    As for a link...I couldn't find the games on the St. Louis website, and they didn't seem to have any video coverage today; likewise Chess24. You can download them from TWIC (go to the very bottom of the linked page), but whether you'll be able to replay the file depends on your chess software. If you're an ICC member you can replay them there (they're in the library Naka-Aronian960). Finally, while I was able to replay the games from the TWIC download to ChessBase, my attempt to upload the games to the web didn't work - their upload program isn't designed to handle Chess960's castling rules.

    Monday
    Sep082014

    Aronian, Studying the Classics, and the Dunning-Kruger Effect

    Chess24 has translated most of this interview with Levon Aronian, and while it's worth a quick look (also in the original) I'll just note one Q & A in particular:

    Question: Do you think it's important to study the chess classics? Or do you think that the use of technology has made an awareness of the famous games of chess history superfluous?

    Answer: I think it’s a matter of perception. Personally I always wanted to study classic games to find my own style. To find your individuality you have to seek out and get to know the classics. When you start to play chess you think you’re inventing something new; each player believes that, but in time you realise that a lot more has been played than you think. That process of studying games and finding something that can enhance your individuality is what I especially value in chess. And also its history: how, when and why it was invented fascinates me and I think that usually occurs with people who play it at a very high level. As for technology, it has changed the game a lot. It’s true that it’s caused a lot of people to ignore classic games, but I doubt anyone “at the top” can neglect that aspect of chess.

    Studying chess history doesn't stifle creativity, because human beings don't have the cognitive wherewithal to master the game. Even if we someday create a computer that solves the game, that still won't be enough. (Don't believe me? Have a look at entry 393 here and ask yourself how likely it is that you could win that, if "perfect play" from move 1 somehow resulted in the starting position of that monstrosity. And if your opponent deviates somewhere in the first, oh, let's say 500 moves or so, what then?) All the same, I've heard from club players over the years that they don't want to study openings or look at great players' games because then they wouldn't be creative and wouldn't be figuring things out for themselves. Is there anything to this idea?

    I think there's a nugget of truth to it, but it's mixed in with some mistaken ideas. Moreover, the part that's right can be extracted and transplanted into a context that includes learning from others. The bit that's right is that one should try to understand and figure out what's going on for oneself. The more we engage with the material and practice calculating and analyzing, the better we'll be, as long as we're getting feedback. And what's the feedback mechanism? A stronger player's analysis, whether that be from a human author (or coach, or some other competent player) or a chess engine. A test without feedback really isn't a test at all.

    So when you're studying an opening line, you might start from a given position and spend thirty minutes or more looking at the board, maybe moving pieces around, seeing what you can come up with, what problems you suspect are there, what plans come to mind and so on. That's where you start. But that's not the end of the story. Then crack open the opening book and see how things square with your thoughts. Maybe you had a good idea, but it can't be implemented for one reason or another, and therefore players have had to move on to different plans. Or perhaps you overlooked your opponent's idea completely. Or maybe you managed to figure out the main idea of the position, or one of the main ideas, and your grasp of the variation is excellent!

    Now, suppose your idea isn't mentioned, or it is but you think there's a good response to what the book (or article or whatever) says. Great: now switch on the engine and see what it comes up with, and continue your pursuit of the truth. You can do the same with studying classics, too: start the game at a certain point near the end of the opening, and go through the game in solitaire-chess style. Again, you're investing yourself, developing your skills and exercising your creativity, and once you're done you can compare your thoughts with those of the human annotator and perhaps with the computer.

    This procedure lets us learn from others while still satisfying our desire to figure things out for ourselves, too...or rather, to try to figure things out for ourselves. As noted above, chess is simply too deep for us to figure it out even cooperatively, let alone as a solo achievement. Indeed, when even the world's greatest players from Fischer to Carlsen (and Caruana!), and far more so their predecessors, make imprecisions and even mistakes on a regular basis, how can the rest of us avoid them? (In fact, engines still manage to beat each other, and there are much, much stronger than the best humans. So it's obvious that even they still make at least minor mistakes.)

    How can anyone think they can solve chess on their own? One interesting (and worrisome!) answer comes in the form of something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect (DKE). The nutshell summary is that people who are incompetent are often, maybe even typically, unable to recognize their own incompetence. (As we are all incompetent in many things, God help us all!) All of us who have watched "American Idol" and other "talent" shows have seen this in action when positively dreadful singers protest vociferously that they are really quite gifted. (Perhaps so, but it would be better if they gave their gifts elsewhere.)

    The DKE has three "official" components, according to David Dunning & Justin Kruger. Citing Wikipedia, Incompetent people

    1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
    2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
    3. [and] fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;

    Bad news indeed, but there is a fourth claim that offers us a ray of hope:

    • [Incompetent people can] recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill.

    All the more reason for us to train with an eye on what others have done. Study the classics, my friends!

    Saturday
    Sep062014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 10: Three Draws Finish The Tournament

    And fairly peaceful draws at that, but after nine very exciting rounds at the Sinquefield Cup it's hard to begrudge the players the relative day off.

    The first game to finish went only 19 moves and featured two of the most combative players in the world and a situation where one might normally expect a big fight, but it was not to be. Veselin Topalov was apparently surprised by the particular line of the Berlin Magnus Carlsen chose, and without making a dent on theory the game ended in a quick repetition. If Topalov had won he would have taken clear second and jumped to #3 on the rating list, but in the final position the players agreed that playing on would have entailed more risk for White than for Black.

    The second game to finish was Levon Aronian vs. Fabiano Caruana. Even in this game it was Caruana who had what slight chances there were for a decisive result, but fatigued and possibly a bit undermotivated he didn't play energetically enough and Aronian managed to equalize. Concerned he might even be getting a little worse, Caruana offered a draw at the first available moment, on move 30, and Aronian accepted, happy to put a very unsuccessful tournament behind him.

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave made it to the time control and a bit further, but the game was equal all the way (but with play) and the draw was a normal result there too. (All three games here, with some comments and game citations for the first two.)

    An anti-climax, yes, but what an amazing tournament for Fabiano Caruana! His final score of 8.5/10 put him three points ahead of the second-place finisher (Carlsen 5.5, Topalov 5, Aronian & Vachier-Lagrave 4, Nakamura 3). He gained 35 rating points to take second on the rating list by a massive 43 point margin, has reached a rating level previously achieved (and surpassed) by only Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov, and his 3097 TPR is unsurpassed in the history of chess (in events of this sort). Speaking of Kasparov, he himself said that this was the most amazing tournament performance he had seen, better than anything he achieved and even than Anatoly Karpov's 11/13 in Linares 1994. While I don't think it breaks his heart to put someone else's performance ahead of Karpov's, it is true that the players are getting better and better, and on top of that Caruana really had no lucky games; if anything, he was a bit unlucky against Carlsen in round 8 and Nakamura in round 9. (On the other hand, Karpov was close to winning three of the four games he drew in Linares, so we shouldn't be too quick to bury that event in the sands of time.) At any rate it was a fantastic performance by Caruana. Bravo!

    And now for dessert: rumors are floating that he may switch back to representing the USA. He was asked about it in the post-game press conference, and his "I don't want to say anything about this" seems like the kind of remark that suggests that it may in fact be in the works. (Yessssss!)

    Looking forward, it should be noted that while the Sinquefield Cup is over the festivities in St. Louis are not. First, the final press conference will begin momentarily. Second, on Monday they will have the "Ultimate Moves" competition. Here's how the tournament site describes it:

    Ultimate Moves will feature eight two-man teams made up of a GM and an amateur player each. The teams will compete in a double-round knockout bracket, with teammates alternating moves in games with a time control of 15 minutes and 2-second increments. Stay tuned for more details.

    Third and better still, Aronian and Nakamura are reportedly playing a 6-game Chess960 match on Tuesday, and as they are both former world champions at that version it should be especially entertaining to see.