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    Entries in Magnus Carlsen (167)

    Monday
    Jun222015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 5: Topalov Wins Again; Carlsen, Aronian Win Their First

    The Norway Chess tournament has passed the halfway point, and Veselin Topalov continues his success. When he's not playing Norwegians, he wins cleanly; when he does, he hangs in there and waits for miracles to happen. And that's what happened in round 5. Topalov was in all kinds of trouble with Black against Jon Ludwig Hammer. Maybe he was never flat out lost, but it was close! Topalov finally took over the advantage from move 42 on, yet Hammer defended well and was on the verge of a draw after 73 moves. All he needed to do was play 74.f5, a move that any club player could find and that requires calculating a grand total of two moves ahead. Instead, Hammer played 74.Kc6?? and had to resign after the obvious 74...Ke6. A blind spot for Hammer?

    Yes, but perhaps it was a literal blind spot. It was suggested, very plausibly, that Hammer didn't really look up when Topalov played 73...Ke7 and assumed that Black had played 73...Bb8 instead. In that case, 74.Kc6 would have been the only move. Hammer's haste cost him the game, and completely unnecessarily, especially since he had 15 minutes left on his clock when that happened.

    With the win Topalov leads the second-placed Hikaru Nakamura by a point with an impressive score of 4.5/5. Nakamura started the round half a point behind, but after a draw with Viswanathan Anand the gap doubled. Anand is a further half a point back, tied for 3rd-4th with Anish Giri, who in turn drew comfortably with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

    The other two games finished with a winner, and like Hammer-Topalov those victories had a tinge of the accidental to them. In fact, all three games were decided by hasty moves, though in the two games we haven't yet described that haste was due to time trouble. Levon Aronian had an opening edge against Fabiano Caruana, but Caruana had equalized and the game was headed for a draw as the first time control neared its end. 39...Qg6 would have sealed the deal, giving Caruana full, safe equality and the ability to reach the second time control without any big worries. Instead, he thought he spotted an opportunity and quickly played 39...Qxg3+. It's a nice little tactic, and...it loses. Black wins a pawn for the moment, but White's king achieves maximum activity and ransacks all of Black's queenside pawns. Caruana fought on to move 60, but there was no saving the game.

    Finally, Magnus Carlsen had been having a dreadful tournament with only half a point out of four, and despite this he showed his resilience by winning in classic Carlsen style. Alexander Grischuk had managed to equalize, though as usual with Grischuk he didn't manage to do this without getting into time trouble. With the game about to reach the point where a club player could hold Grischuk's position Carlsen tried one last idea: 26.c5! Grischuk could and should have held this, but without time it was far from trivial. Carlsen obtained a very usable edge, though perhaps not yet enough to win the game. On move 40, it was time for another trick: 40.f4. This may not have been the very best move, and had Grischuk replied correctly he probably would have saved the game. Time trouble killed him, though, and 40...exf4?? made it easy for the world champion. (The games, with my notes, are here.)

    Carlsen has awakened, and while it's almost impossible for him to contend for first it's not too late for him to do some damage. Next up, he has the white pieces against one of his usual "customers", Hikaru Nakamura. If Nakamura had White it might be a great opportunity for the American to get a '1', but with Black it may be another story. We'll see; meanwhile, here are the pairings for round 6:

    • Grischuk (2) - Topalov (4.5)
    • Caruana (2) - Hammer (1)
    • Giri (3) - Aronian (2)
    • Anand (3) - Vachier-Lagrave (2.5)
    • Carlsen (1.5) - Nakamura (3.5)

    Saturday
    Jun202015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 4: Magnus Who?

    Magnus Carlsen has been dominating the chess world for years now, including great results last year (winning world championships in three different sub-disciplines) and this (winning every event he has entered). But in the Norway Chess tournament, a tournament that owes its existence to the prominence of its national hero, he has come a-cropper. In 2013 and 2014 he failed to win as Sergey Karjakin won the two inaugural editions of the tournament, and Karjakin's absence this year hasn't improved a thing for Carlsen.

    First he lost to Veselin Topalov on time from a winning position because he was unaware that there wasn't a third time control. Then he got thumped by Fabiano Caruana and his outstanding preparation. In round 3 he failed to win a won game against Anish Giri, who never stops rubbing in the fact that Carlsen has never yet beaten him, and then today, in round 4, he was crushed by Viswanathan Anand in a Breyer Ruy. Anand played very well, winning with a nice attack, but Carlsen did not play anywhere near his usual standard.

    Carlsen thus has just half a point from four games, is in last place and has pitched away 19.5 rating points thus far. At this point we can forget about Carlsen winning the tournament and ask instead of he can achieve a more modest goal like getting back to 50%. With three white games in the next four rounds, including one against his traditional "customer" Hikaru Nakamura, plus the chance to play his countryman Jon Ludwig Hammer in the last round, he'll still have a shot at the more modest goal if he can get his mind together. Saturday is a rest day, and that's bound to help. Whatever happens, he'll be back in the saddle soon, striking fear into all his opponents, but it's interesting and remarkable to see that even the highest-rated player of all time can have an inexplicable slump.

    Meanwhile, let's return to the top of the crosstable. Veselin Topalov is alone in first place with 3.5/4 after a convincing victory against Levon Aronian. Topalov seemed like a spent force 2-3 years ago, but now he's back near his peak rating and is #2 in the world. An impressive comeback! He was lucky in this tournament in round 1, but since then he has earned his points cleanly, and deserves his spot at the top.

    Hikaru Nakamura is in second, half a point behind, after his draw with Anish Giri. Nakamura had Black in a very theoretical line, and while Giri emerged with some advantage it wasn't enough to parlay into a win. Giri and Anand are tied for third with 2.5/4.

    Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were both on 50% coming into the round, and after they drew with each other in a well-played 6.h3 Najdorf they ended the round the same way.

    Alexander Grischuk is also at 50%, thanks to a win over Jon Ludwig Hammer. The opening was anything but traditional, and it was Grischuk who navigated the uncharted waters better than his opponent. Grischuk is known for his excellent theoretical preparation, but I've seen him play some fantastic chess from original, even bizarre (and certainly untheoretical) positions. Hammer is tied with Aronian at -2; not good, but not quite last place.

    (The games are here, with my notes.)

    After the rest day the action will resume on Sunday, with the following games:

    • Carlsen (.5) - Grischuk (2)
    • Nakamura (3) - Anand (2.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2) - Giri (2.5)
    • Aronian (1) - Caruana (2)
    • Hammer (1) - Topalov (3.5)

    Wednesday
    Jun172015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 2: Caruana Beats Carlsen, All Other Games Drawn

    Last year it looked like Fabiano Caruana was rapidly gaining on Magnus Carlsen, but when Caruana cooled off and Carlsen came back it looked like the gap between the champion and his challengers was as big as ever. It's still too early in the tournament to say that Carlsen's dominance is disappearing, but Caruana's very impressive and comprehensive win over Carlsen today suggests that the chase pack isn't that far back, either.

    Caruana was born in the United States, represented Italy for the past 10 years while often living elsewhere in Europe and has been coached by a Belgian and a Ukranian (among others), but maybe we should call him "Mr. Berlin". While White has been struggling to find anything in the Berlin endgame while Black players have been suffering somewhat against the 4.d3 line, Caruana has been finding great ideas for both sides. Yesterday a great new idea against 4.d3 gave him a pretty easy draw against Anand, and today a strong idea in the Berlin ending posed powerful problems with which Carlsen couldn't cope. (Overdoing the alliteration? Probably. Always avoid alliteration, they say.)

    With the win Caruana jumped back to #2 on the live rating list while joining the four round 1 winners (Nakamura, Giri, Topalov and Vachier-Lagrave) in a five-way tie for first. The other four games were drawn, so Carlsen is temporarily in clear last place with an 0-2 score.

    About those other four games: if yesterday it was offense that triumphed, today it was the defense. (Or, if you prefer, today the offense faltered.) Levon Aronian had good winning chances against Alexander Grischuk after the latter made a tactical slip, but couldn't take advantage. (Admittedly, the opportunity was a very subtle one.)

    Anish Giri had some edge against Viswanathan Anand, but it wasn't much. He was up an exchange for a pawn, but Anand's compensation was such that Giri decided to return the material in pursuit of a draw. He was a bit careless about the way he did this, however, and then Anand had some winning chances in a rook ending. Maybe he never had a win, but Anand himself opined that he could at least have posed Giri more serious problems than he did.

    Continuing the theme, Veselin Topalov had a significant (but not decisive) advantage against Hikaru Nakamura for a long time, and the commentators though that his winning chances were better than his opponent's drawing chances. Nakamura is nothing if not resilient, however, and Topalov wasn't even able to come close to a win.

    Finally, Jon Ludwig Hammer had a very big advantage against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and looked sure to convert. This was the one game (aside from Caruana-Carlsen, of course) where someone really did have a decisive advantage, but once again the defense held. Vachier-Lagrave held by "a millimeter...by a miracle", as Vladimir Kramnik would say, but even so Hammer is the leading Norwegian scorer in the tournament so far with half a point to his name. (I wouldn't bet a single penny that this will remain the case.)

    The games are here, the tournament site is here, and the round 3 pairings are as follows:

    • Nakamura (1.5) - Caruana (1.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (1.5) - Topalov (1.5)
    • Carlsen (0) - Giri (1.5)
    • Aronian (.5) - Hammer (.5)
    • Anand (1) - Grischuk (.5)

    Tuesday
    Jun162015

    Norway Chess, Round 1: Ladies & Gentleman, Boys & Girls: Show Up On Time and Know the Rules

    Once upon a time things were very simple if you played in a grandmaster tournament. The first time control was 40 moves in two and a half hours, and from then on it was always 16 moves per hour, repeating. There were no increments and there was no time delay, and the game would be adjourned after five hours of play. Simple. Nowadays, who knows?

    Apparently not Magnus Carlsen.

    There was an announcement before the start of the game that the time control was 40 moves in two hours, without increment, then one additional hour for the rest of the game with 30 seconds increment per move. Unfortunately for Carlsen, he didn't show up for the announcement and apparently didn't read the rules anywhere else, either, and he apparently assumed that the common but not universal practice of a 15-minute time bonus after move 60 would be in effect. It wasn't, so although he had played a good game and was on the verge of winning against Veselin Topalov, he lost on time while thinking about his 61st move. It was a horrible way to lose, slightly reminiscent of Hikaru Nakamura's "orange juice game" several years ago. Errare humanum est strikes again!

    That marred an otherwise very exciting first round of the Norway Chess supertournament, especially for the home fans. Overall, four of the five games were decisive, and the other three wins were all by White. (As should have been the case in Carlsen-Topalov as well.) Even the one draw was theoretically significant and had some interesting lines behind the scenes, so the spectators were well-rewarded with their time.

    Anish Giri squished Alexander Grischuk in a Rossolimo, though he unnecessarily gave Grischuk one chance to survive. Fortunately for Giri, his opponent was in his usual extreme time trouble and immediately replied with a virtual blunder, after which the win was a matter of course.

    Nakamura defeated Jon Ludwig Hammer on the white side of an English, creating a strategically complicated game that Hammer couldn't navigate as well as his opponent. The home team thus got off to an 0-2 start.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave built on yesterday's success in the blitz with a win over Levon Aronian, whose struggles the past couple of years don't seem to be ending. Aronian forgot his preparation in a sharp line of the Ragozin, and the best he could do after the opening was to transition into a queen and rook ending two pawns down. Aronian resisted well, but MVL's technique was up to the job.

    Finally, the one draw was a 4.d3 Berlin between Viswanathan Anand and Fabiano Caruana. Caruana introduced something new with 6...bxc6, offering a pawn for very concrete counterplay. Anand responded in a practical way, returning the pawn in exchange for safety and a better structure, but Caruana's activity and ultimately the opposite-colored bishops let the American hold the draw without too much trouble. (The games are here, with my brief notes.)

    So there was lots of excitement, and there is also some excitement on the rating list. Nakamura is now #2 in the world, Caruana is #3 and Topalov snuck ahead of Anand at #4. The top five are all over 2800, which is, I think, an all-time first. Will it continue? We'll see, starting with the round 2 pairings:

    • Grischuk - Aronian
    • Giri - Anand
    • Topalov - Nakamura
    • Caruana - Carlsen
    • Hammer - Vachier-Lagrave

    Wednesday
    Jun032015

    Amazing Time Wasters

    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.

    Tuesday
    Jun022015

    A Carlsen Interview

    I haven't watched this one, but only read the excerpts here. The article is subtitled "I make a move & I really don't know why", which is one of those sentences that sound profound and awe-inspiring but is in fact routine and practically universal. Most of the time, for most human chess players, moves or candidates moves just come to mind and we investigate them. Differences in the number and average quality of the candidate moves will vary with how much we know, but that doesn't mean that we are consciously generating those moves by any conscious algorithmic process.

    This is true in practically every area of our life, including speech and writing. Think about the words you speak. Did you engage in some sort of conscious step-by-step process to select those words? If by some semi-miracle you did, then what conscious step-by-step process did you use to the select the words you used in going through the process of selecting the spoken words? An infinite regress looms here. By the time a chess player has reached an ordinary club standard, he is just as unlikely to follow an explicitly algorithmic process of move selection as a grandmaster.

    Saturday
    May232015

    Carlsen Gives a Blindfold Clock Simul

    It's more show than chess, or for those who already find chess a trivial activity this is triviality squared. But if you're pining for something new in chess before the Grand Prix resumes on Sunday, here you go:

    HT: David McCarthy

    Sunday
    May032015

    Carlsen Interview

    Mostly tabloid-ish, but with a few nuggets of interest to more serious chess fans as well.

    Monday
    Apr272015

    Shamkir, Round 9: Carlsen Wins His Game And The Tournament (Updated with Games)

    Sunday was a great day for the two highest-rated players of all time. Garry Kasparov crushed Nigel Short 5-0 on the second day of their match in St. Louis, while Magnus Carlsen defeated Rauf Mamedov to guarantee himself of clear first in the Gashimov Memorial, no matter what Viswanathan Anand did. As it turned out, Anand drew, so Carlsen finished in clear first a full point ahead of Anand, with the outstanding score of 7/9. Anand finished with 6 points, and both players were undefeated. Both players gained 13 rating points (rounding up, as FIDE will), and hold the top two spots on the rating list.

    All the other games were drawn, though Anish Giri had outplayed Vladimir Kramnik from an even endgame before messing it up on move 77. Here, then, are final standings:

    • 1. Magnus Carlsen 7
    • 2. Viswanathan Anand 6
    • 3-4. Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana 5
    • 5-6. Vladimir Kramnik, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 4
    • 7-10. Michael Adams, Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Rauf Mamedov 3.5

    UPDATE: The games, with notes to Carlsen's win over Mamedov, are here.

     

    Saturday
    Apr252015

    Shamkir, Round 7: Carlsen Leads Anand By A Point With Two Rounds To Go (Updated with Games)

    Magnus Carlsen barely won in Wijk aan Zee and in the Grenke Chess Classic earlier this year, but right now it appears that he has everything under control in Shamkir. After 7 rounds he has an undefeated +4 score, up from yesterday's +3 after a convincing win over the collapsing Vladimir Kramnik. Carlsen's 13.Qc2 was an interesting novelty in a 4.d3 Anti-Berlin, and Kramnik was up to the challenge. He reacted well and saw the right move and the right idea on move 19, but then got attracted to another idea. Unfortunately for him, what he saw rested on several miscalculations, and the result was a much worse, possibly losing position. Carlsen finished him off powerfully, and for possibly the first time in his career (at least in classical chess) Kramnik has lost three games in a row.

    If Wesley So could have defeated Fabiano Caruana he'd have remained just half a point behind and in good shape going into his game with Carlsen today/tomorrow (Saturday). It didn't happen: Caruana continued his newfound resurgence and won his second straight game, and they are now both on +1.

    In clear second now is Viswanathan Anand, whose good win over Michael Adams brought him to +2. Anand is continuing to play well, and can make as good a case as anyone to be the #2 player in the world.

    The other two games were drawn. To no one's surprise, the Azerbaijan Derby between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Rauf Mamedov was drawn, but despite the game's speed and its concluding in a perpetual check, it was a real game - one Mamedyarov could and probably should have won. Finally, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri drew their game as well.

    It's late and I'm having difficulty posting the games, so I'll try to do that in the morning/tomorrow. Meanwhile, here are the pairings for round 8:

    • Adams (2) - Giri (3)
    • Kramnik (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3)
    • So (4) - Carlsen (5.5)
    • Mamedov (3) - Caruana (4)
    • Anand (4.5) - Mamedyarov (3.5)

    UPDATE: The games are here.