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    Entries in Magnus Carlsen (239)

    Thursday
    Jun152017

    Norway Chess 2017, Round 8: Draws on Top and a Spiky Tail

    It looks like Magnus Carlsen's reign at the top of the rating list will continue for at least another tournament, as his risky play against Sergey Karjakin paid off. Worse for much of the leadup to the first time control, Carlsen's luck finally started to change when Karjakin erred on move 40. That error wasn't fatal, but Karjakin's 41st move - played after a 27-minute think(!) - was. Very strange.

    That took Carlsen out of last place, which he shared with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but it didn't get him out of the tie with MVL. Vachier-Lagrave defeated one of yesterday's heroes, Vladimir Kramnik, and Kramnik's loss was reminiscent of his previous loss to Levon Aronian (in round 6). In both cases he had superb preparation with Black, rattling out 20 moves and achieving a fine position. But as in the earlier game, it wasn't even close to being good enough to achieve a draw (or more). Vachier-Lagrave outplayed Kramnik to reach a superior but not yet winning double rook ending, and then Kramnik, like Karjakin, made his fatal error after the time control.

    So the new tailender is Karjakin, with three points out of eight. Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave are tied with Viswanathan Anand with three and a half points apiece; out of the race for first but also out of the cellar. Anand drew quickly and comfortably with Black against Levon Aronian, who was and remains the tournament leader. Hikaru Nakamura is still in clear second after his short draw, with White, against Wesley So.

    Nakamura could have been caught in second by Anish Giri, had the latter won with White against Fabiano Caruana. He was better throughout, but despite the bloated numbers your engine might display he was never winning the bishop vs. knight ending. Giri played on a long time, hoping for a miracle or for his 24-year-old opponent to die of old age, but once it was clear that neither was going to happen he reconciled himself to the draw.

    There's one round to go, and here's how the final round pairings shake out:

    • Karjakin (3) - Vachier-Lagrave (3.5)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Nakamura (5)
    • So (4) - Aronian (5.5)
    • Kramnik (4) - Giri (4.5)
    • Anand (3.5) - Carlsen (3.5)

    Wednesday
    Jun142017

    Norway Chess, Rounds 6 & 7: Aronian Surging Forward With a Bang, Carlsen Going Out With a Whimper

    Round 6 (on Monday) and round 7 (on Wednesday) were both exciting and eventful, and after a slow start the Norway Chess tournament has become very lively. There were two wins in round 6 and three in round 7, and it's nice to see that the decisive games have all been well-played by the winners.

    Hikaru Nakamura had been leading after round 5, but he was caught in round 6 by Levon Aronian, who promptly went by him with a second straight win in round 7. In round 6 Aronian beat Vladimir Kramnik pretty badly on the white side of a Semi-Tarrasch when the latter underestimated the danger to his queen on g4. That was a clean victory, slightly contrasted with his win over Sergey Karjakin in the next round. Aronian was never in danger, but his play was rather speculative. Karjakin got caught up in the speculative atmosphere, which proved unfortunate. In particular, 28.Rg6 only managed to get the rook in trouble, and in the lead up to the time control things went from bad to worse, and Aronian dispatched him most efficiently.

    Things are going even more poorly for Magnus Carlsen, who is tied for last place with 2.5 points out of 7. He lost in round 7 to Kramnik, who bounced back nicely from his loss to Aronian with a surprisingly easy win against the world champion. This put Kramnik back into second place on the rating list, and what's incredible is that he's only 6.4 points out of first. Carlsen has been #1 in the world on every list since July 2011 (and on most of the lists going back to January 2010), but he's just one more loss and one more Kramnik (or Wesley So, or maybe even Aronian win) from falling to #2. Back to the Kramnik-Carlsen game: Kramnik played sharply, but Carlsen was fine until his 25th move. After 25...Bxf2+ he would have been fine with correct play; after 25...Qxf2+, however, and his further error on move 27, he was simply lost, and Kramnik was up to the challenge.

    Kramnik is tied for third place with Anish Giri, with four points, half a point behind Nakamura and a full point behind Aronian. Giri played the Accelerated Dragon/Dragon hybrid against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in round 7, and while MVL is one of the best calculators in the world and a player who loves sharp, imbalanced positions this just wasn't his day. He neither took proper care of his king nor got his own attack off the ground fast enough, and lost a short, one-sided game.

    The last decisive game of rounds 6 and 7 came from round 6. Viswanathan Anand (the last person not named "Magnus Carlsen" to be classical world champion or rated #1 in the world [in classical chess]) repeated the same anti-English line he lost with against Giri in round 4, but this time he was fully successful with it against Fabiano Caruana. Caruana's queenside play got nowhere, while Anand successfully broke through on the kingside on the way to a queenside mating attack.

    The decisive games mentioned above can be replayed here, with my comments. Here's what's coming up in round 8:

     

    • Nakamura (4.5) - So (3.5)
    • Carlsen (2.5) - Karjakin (3)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) - Kramnik (4)
    • Aronian (5) - Anand (3)
    • Giri (4) - Caruana (3)

     

     

     

    Tuesday
    Jun062017

    Norway Chess Starts Today (Tuesday); Carlsen Crushes the Field in Pre-Tournament Blitz

    The Norway Chess tournament gets underway today (Tuesday) with an elite field of 10 players that includes the world champion (Magnus Carlsen), the two previous world champions (Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik), three world #2 players (the current one, Wesley So, and erstwhile consistent #2s Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian), last year's world championship runner-up and the current world blitz champion (Sergey Karjakin), plus a pair of former (and quite possibly future) 2800s (Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri).

    As is common (but not universal) nowadays, tournament pairings were set based on results in a pre-tournament blitz competition. Carlsen started out with draws against Nakamura and Anand, and nearly ran the table after that, giving up a draw to Kramnik in round 7 and beating everyone else. His score of 7.5/9 put him two points clear of Nakamura and Aronian, with Vachier-Lagrave alone in fourth with 5 points. Kramnik and Karjakin tied for the critical fifth spot (the top five finishers get an extra game with the white pieces in the main event), and Kramnik got it on tiebreaks by defeating Karjakin in the last round. Both finished with 50% - a good result for Kramnik, who was winless and -2 after five rounds. After Karjakin, Anand and So finished with 4 points apiece, Caruana with 3 and a winless Giri lost his last five games to finish last with 1.5 points.

    The games and the blitz tournament video can be accessed here (for now). Here are the pairings for round 1 of the main event:

     

    • Carlsen - So
    • Nakamura - Giri
    • Aronian - Caruana
    • Vachier-Lagrave - Anand
    • Kramnik - Karjakin

     

    The world's #1 vs. the world's #2: not a bad way to start the tournament! The action begins at 10 a.m. ET = 4 p.m. local time in Norway = 3 p.m. CET.

    Predictions? I've been going with So lately, but Carlsen has been beating him lately  and seems strongly motivated, so I'm going with the champ this time around.

    Friday
    Apr212017

    Morozevich on Carlsen (and More)

    Fans of Magnus Carlsen might take Alexander Morozevich's claim that players like Vassily Ivanchuk and Ian Nepomniachtchi are more talented than he (Carlsen) is, but they shouldn't. Many factors go into being the best, and even if Morozevich's assessment of Carlsen's talent is correct, that's only one part of the story, and "Moro" has plenty of other things to say in praise of the World Champion. (And it isn't as if he's saying that Carlsen is very talented!)

    Friday
    Apr212017

    Catching Up: Zurich, Grenke

    The Korchnoi memorial event in Zurich finished a few days ago, and Hikaru Nakamura won this combined rapid & rapid event. (The first stage was a slow rapid: 45' + 30", and the second was 10' + 5" - a rapid rapid.) The slower portion finished with Hikaru Nakamura and Ian Nepomniachtchi tied in first with 10/14 (5/7 in normal scoring, but as the slower games counted for twice as much as the blitz, the scoring was doubled), a point ahead of Viswanathan Anand and two points ahead of Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler.

    At the shorter time control Nakamura again went 5/7, winning the second portion of the event outright and thereby taking overall first as well. It came down to the wire though, as Nepomniachtchi had White against Grigoriy Oparin. Oparin is young, strong, and talented, but for now he was badly outrated by everyone except for local player Yannick Pelletier. He and Pelletier were the tailenders, so things looked good for Nepo. Had he won he'd have tied for first, and presumably would have had a playoff against Nakamura. Instead, Oparin won, giving Nakamura his third consecutive victory in Zurich.

    Final Combined Standings:

    • 1. Nakamura 15/21
    • 2. Nepomniachtchi 14
    • 3. Anand 13.5
    • 4. Svidler 12
    • 5. Kramnik 11
    • 6. Gelfand 9
    • 7. Oparin 5.5
    • 8. Pelletier 4

    Grenke: This tournament got off to a bang when Hou Yifan won her first two games, over Fabiano Caruana and Georg Meier, to take a full point lead over a field that also included Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Levon Aronian as well. Incredibly, she was close to winning in round three against Carlsen as well, but psyched herself out and let him escape his bad position rather easily with a draw.

    Her punishment was deserved and came in the very next round. Vachier-Lagrave had a much smaller advantage against her than she had against Carlsen, but he kept prodding and testing until she finally cracked. It took 68 moves, but he got the full point, pushing her out of first. The next day she gave up a draw to one of the two players in the event who are lower-rated than she is, so she has fallen out of contention for tournament victory.

    And yet...she is still tied for second, with Carlsen and Caruana, with 3/5, a point behind Levon Aronian. Aronian drew with Meier and Carlsen in the first two rounds, and then went on a tear, winning three in a row. He has defeated MVL, Mathias Bluebaum, and Arkadij Naiditsch. In the next round he plays Hou Yifan, with White. Will he make it four in a row, or will she bounce back and turn this into the tournament of her life?

    Carlsen also has an interesting pairing, with Black against Naiditsch. Carlsen is a favorite, of course, but in the last few years Naiditsch has given him trouble. Naiditsch upset the world champion in the 2014 Olympiad, with Black, and took a couple of games off of him in the same tournament two years ago. As for Caruana, he'll have Black in the next round against Bluebaum.

    Monday
    Apr102017

    St. Louis Wins the Pro Chess League

    This is "old news", as the well-known oxymoron has it, and as the final pairing was announced here earlier it's likely that any readers who were interested then already know how things turned out. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness: the St. Louis Arch Bishops won the inaugural PRO Chess League rapid tournament (15 minutes/game, plus a two second increment added after every move), a team event that stretched from early January through the end of March. The team was led by Wesley So, and in the final they defeated the Norway Gnomes, led by Magnus Carlsen.

    Both So and Carlsen had enormous scores over the course of the season, and both were 3-0 leading into their head-to-head matchup in the final round of the team match. (Each team has four active players, and each player faces every member of the opposing squad.) Carlsen won that game - with the black pieces, at that! - but as St. Louis had already clinched overall victory So may have been a little less circumspect than normal. Even if that's true, however, it was a nice feather in Carlsen's cap to remind the world's hottest player who's boss.

    Sunday
    Mar052017

    Magnus Carlsen Documentary

    The film came out last year, and many of you may have seen it already. I just noticed it on Netflix and watched it there, so those of you who have it and haven't yet seen the movie now have your chance.

    Sunday
    Feb262017

    My World Chess Column for this Weekend: All the Chess from The Simpsons' Magnus Carlsen Episode

    This was a lot of work, but I think or at least hope you'll all agree that it was worth it. Did I mention that it was a lot of work? Have a look: all the chess from last Sunday's episode of "The Simpsons", with Magnus Carlsen.

    Sunday
    Jan292017

    Wijk aan Zee 2017, Round 12: So Still Leads Entering the Last Round

    But barely. Wesley So entered the last round with a half-point lead over Wei Yi and more against everyone else, and with White against Wei Yi decided to play it safe. Black went for a well-known line of the Queen's Gambit Declined called the Peruvian Variation (I think) that results in Black's having a structure that appears as ugly as sin but which turns out to be very difficult to beat. In the game Wei Yi had no trouble keeping the draw, which meant that he remained half a point behind So, who guaranteed himself of a clear lead heading into the last round.

    Unfortunately for So - and for Wei Yi too, for that matter - both Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian won and also came to within half a point of So. Carlsen was in serious trouble against Pavel Eljanov, who played a great game for 28 moves. Eljanov has played a very good tournament so far, but he has failed to convert several better-to-winning positions, and this one he even managed to lose. His 29th move was a serious error, giving away the advantage, and his 37th to 39th moves left him lost. Carlsen played the ensuing rook endgame just about perfectly to stay within striking range of the leader.

    As for Aronian, his opponent, Loek van Wely, like Eljanov managed to play very well the first half of the game but not the second. Van Wely's queen moves from 22...Qd8 through 27...Qxe4 left him with a lost position, and Aronian did a fine job of navigating the complications to near perfection.

    The remaining games were drawn, several of them quietly, and in any case none of them left the protagonists with a shot at first place. So after the customary link to the day's wins, with my notes, here are the pairings for the final round:

    • Andreikin (5) - Aronian (7.5)
    • Wei Yi (7.5) - Wojtaszek (5)
    • Nepomniachtchi (5) - So (8)
    • Carlsen (7.5) - Karjakin (6.5) - !
    • Giri (6) - Eljanov (6.5)
    • Rapport (4.5) - Adhiban (6.5)
    • Van Wely (2.5) - Harikrishna (6)

    I don't know what the tiebreak situations will be in case two or more players wind up sharing first, so if some enterprising reader (we all know who that is) wants to inform us, he's welcome to do so. Hopefully for the sake of my patriotic prognostication So will make it simple by winning in the last round.

    As for the Challengers Group, the chances of the U.S. national anthem (probably metaphorically) playing took a bit hit as Jeffery Xiong went from clear first to a tie for third after losing to Tari while all his closest rivals - Markus Ragger, Gawain Jones, and Ilia Smirin all won. Ragger and Jones are tied for first, while Smirin and Xiong are tied for third-fourth half a point behind. But the good news for Xiong is that he's the only one of the four with White in the last round, and his opponent has the lowest score of the leaders' four opponents. Here are the critical pairings:

    • L'Ami (6.5) - Ragger (8.5)
    • Lu Shanglei (7.5) - Jones (8.5)
    • Hansen (7) - Smirin (8)
    • Xiong (8) - Bok (5)

    Tuesday
    Jan242017

    Wijk aan Zee 2017, Round 9: So Still Leads After Almost All the Games End in Draws

    It was a quiet round in terms of results, with six draws in seven games, but there was plenty of turbulence within the games themselves. Magnus Carlsen defeated Loek van Wely pretty easily (clearly better out of the opening, a pawn up 10 moves later, in a clearly winning rook ending about another 10 moves after that followed by a smooth conversion). That brought him back where he was before his loss to Richard Rapport in the previous round; namely, within half a point of the leader, Wesley So.

    So had White in a Vienna Variation of the Queen's Gambit against Levon Aronian, and as the latter was well-prepared it was soon obvious that the game would finish in a draw. So remained in clear first with 6/9, while Aronian was a point behind.

    Two players had an excellent chance to catch up with So. Pavel Eljanov was clearly winning against Dmitry Andreikin in a fantastically complicated game, but couldn't put him away and the game finished in a perpetual. Wei Yi's game with Baskaran Adhiban was quieter (to be fair, most of Tal's games would have been quieter than the Eljanov-Andreikin adventure), but in this game too the player nipping at So's heels should have won, but didn't.

    Of the remaining draws, Ian Nepomniachtchi also failed to convert a winning advantage, though unlike Eljanov and Wei Yi he is nowhere near the top of the tournament table. His fortunate opponent, Penteala Harikrishna, isn't quite in the leading group, but is still close enough to make a run in the last four rounds. As for Anish Giri vs. Richard Rapport and Radoslaw Wojtaszek vs. Sergey Karjakin, those were correct draws.

    My analysis of Carlsen-van Wely is here, and these are the pairings for round 10 (which won't be in Wijk aan Zee, in an implicit rebuke to my labeling this tournament in the traditional way rather than after its current sponsor, Tata Steel):

    • Aronian (5) - Rapport (3.5)
    • van Wely (1.5) - Giri (4.5)
    • Harikrishna (4.5) - Carlsen (5.5)
    • Adhiban (5) - Nepomniachtchi (3.5)
    • Eljanov (5.5) - Wei Yi (5.5)
    • Karjakin (5) - Andreikin (4)
    • So (6) - Wojtaszek (4)

    Things are tightening in the Challengers Group after the co-leaders scored .5/2 between them. Ragger only drew with White against Tari, while Jones was mated by Xiong. Smirin defeated Van Foreest with Black, so now he and Ragger share first with 6.5/9, half a point ahead of Xiong and Jones, a further half a point ahead of Hansen and Lu Shanglei.