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    Entries in Magnus Carlsen (252)

    Thursday
    Oct052017

    2017 Speed Chess Championship: Carlsen vs. Guseinov

    The final match of the round of 16 is over, and Magnus Carlsen is through to the quarterfinals. Carlsen won 20.5-5.5, and if anything the match was even more lopsided than the score would suggest. (The replay of the broadcast is here.)

    Here are the pairings for the quarterfinals, in bracket order:

    Carlsen - So
    Grischuk - Vachier-Lagrave
    Nakamura - Caruana
    Nepomniachtchi - Karjakin

    The next match will be on October 23 at 1 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CET, viewable live on www.chess.com/TV.

    Sunday
    Oct012017

    Isle of Man, Final Round: Carlsen Draws Quickly to Clinch Clear First; Nakamura, Anand Tie for Second

    As at least one chess blogger suggested yesterday, a draw between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura was very likely, and it would quite possibly be a short draw. Sure enough, it took just 18 moves and less than half an hour for them to repeat moves and call it a tournament. Carlsen thus clinched clear first with 7.5/9, while Nakamura guaranteed himself at worst part of a four-way tie for second.

    Viswanathan Anand joined the tie by beating Hou Yifan with surprising ease. It's not so surprising that Anand would beat Hou, especially with the white pieces, but it is surprising given the insipid line he chose against her Petroff. He was able to build from a tiny initiative, and after a brief flurry of complications won a pawn, which he converted in a queen and rook ending.

    The other players who could have caught Nakamura drew their games. This was not so surprising in the all-2700 clash between Richard Rapport and S.G. Vidit, but it was much more surprising that Pavel Eljanov couldn't defeat the hitherto little-known and much lower-rated Indian GM S.D. Swapnil. He was close for a while, but couldn't put him away. So all four players finished with 6.5 points, and were caught by five others, including Vladimir Kramnik, Fabiano Caruana, Mickey Adams, Emil Sutovsky, and Alexei Shirov.

    It was a good comeback for Kramnik, who repaired some of the damage done earlier in the tournament, but still lost 8.4 rating points overall. On the other hand, it was a great event for his surprise conquerer, James Tarjan, who demonstrated his fine eye for cheapos once again in defeating Alexandra Kosteniuk today. He finished with 5.5 points, gained 30 rating points, and had an excellent TPR of 2671 - which was 11 points higher than Kramnik's.

    The top TPR of the tournament belonged to Carlsen, of course, who achieved an outstanding 2903 TPR. (Caruana and Nakamura were tied for second, with 2831 TPRs, and Anand was next at 2806. Then Swapnil and Aleks Lenderman finished with 2768 TPRs - big congrats to both of them.) Carlsen added 11.4 points to his rating, and what was recently a tenuous gap between him and his closest pursuers has expanded again, and he is 36.4 points ahead of world #2 Levon Aronian.

    The full results are here, and a final selection of games from this tournament is here.

    Saturday
    Sep302017

    Isle of Man, Round 8: Carlsen Crushes Caruana, Leads Nakamura by Half a Point Entering the Last Round

    And since they haven't played so far, that means that they're paired for the last round. If Hikaru Nakamura can defeat Magnus Carlsen, he takes clear first; if not, Carlsen takes clear first. Nakamura's career record against Carlsen is extremely bad, as just about everyone knows, but it hasn't been that bad the last couple of years. However, he'll have the black pieces tomorrow, and I suspect he'll be satisfied with a draw, even a quick draw, unless he gets a really promising position out of the opening. The young Nakamura would try to win at all costs, but these days he's less willing to burn his bridges against anyone and everyone. With a draw, the worst he would do is share 2nd-5th places, in which case he makes a little less than £12,000, and a maximum of £25,000. If he wins, he makes £50,000, but if he loses, it'll be in the low four figures - not exactly cab fare, but it will feel like it. It's possible that Carlsen will feel ambitious, but I doubt it: better to pocket the money and clinch the victory - his first victory in a classical tournament this year.

    Enough speculation; time for a recap. Fabiano Caruana had White against Carlsen today, and surprised the champ with 15.g4. After a long thought Carlsen played 15...Qe7, which was apparently a surprise for Caruana. White was better for a while, but starting with 22.Bc2 he lost the thread, and Carlsen was all over him. Caruana was already lost when he played 35.Qe3??, which lost on the spot to 35...Bf4. A very convincing victory by Carlsen, and a game Caruana would like to forget.

    Nakamura had an easier time of it with White against Emil Sutovsky. Sutovsky played the Queen's Gambit Accepted, which isn't his normal repertoire choice (that would be the Gruenfeld). Nakamura was surprised by 8...c5, but not impressed by it. Once Nakamura spotted 16.d5 he understood that Black was busted, and he went on to win comfortably.

    The remaining game featuring players who could have kept pace with Nakamura was S.G. Vidit-Pavel Eljanov, which finished in a short, probably correct draw. Maybe White could have kept a pull with 29.Qc6, but after 29.Qxf7+ Kxf7 30.Rd5 Rc8 they called it a day.

    Vidit and Eljanov has 6/8; here's how the other six-pointers got there. Viswanathan Anand defeated Laurent Fressinet with Black in a Giuoco, Richard Rapport beat Ivan Sokolov when the latter blundered in an equal position, S.D. Swapnil defeated Nigel Short in one long game while Hou Yifan beat Sebastian Bogner in another. Hou is now one win away from surpassing her previous career best rating of 2687. Unfortunately for her, this will be difficult, as she'll have Black against Anand in the last round.

    Leading last round pairings:

    Carlsen (7) - Caruana (6.5)
    Anand (6) - Hou (6)
    Eljanov (6) - Swapnil (6)
    Rapport (6) - Vidit (6)

    Lower boards of interest: Vladimir Kramnik overcame S.P. Sethuraman with great difficulty, but overcome he did to reach 5.5 points. He'll have Black against Gawain Jones in the final round. Varuzhan Akobian and Aleks Lenderman had a spectacular draw that Akobian should have won. Both players are also on 5.5 points, and will face Caruana and Peter Leko, respectively. Jan Timman finally lost a game, to David Howell, blundering horribly in a slightly worse position. Alexei Shirov showed a little of his trademark "fire on board" style, outfoxing Alexandra Kosteniuk in a complicated middlegame. He too is at 5.5 and will have White against Howell in the last round. Finally, Tarjan rides again, drawing Vishnu Prasanna (2543) with Black. He'll finish the tournament with the white pieces against Kosteniuk (2552).

    Some games (with varying degrees of commentary) here; tournament site here.

    Friday
    Sep292017

    Isle of Man, Rounds 5-7

    But mostly rounds 6 and 7. My comments about round 5 will be limited to the difficulties experienced by two members of the semi-old guard: Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand. Kramnik's travails were already noted in the preceding post, while Gelfand's suffering began in that round. After a solid 3-1 start, he lost in round 5 to S.P. Sethuraman, and from a position that would normally be impossible to lose. He was clearly better in a rook and bishop ending with even material, but hallucinated his way into a lost bishop ending a pawn down.

    In round 6, he doubled down on this, losing to Anna Zatonskih from a winning position. To her credit, she made things tricky in time trouble and devised a dastardly trap, but normally Gelfand would have cashed in on at least one of the winning positions he enjoyed in the game. After this, he took a bye to stop the bleeding.

    Speaking of players who needed byes, Hou Yifan took one after playing her fourth female opponent in a row, and has bounced back against the men, winning in round 6 and 7. She has five points and plays Sebastian Bogner in round 8.

    Another player who has bounced back a bit is Kramnik, who won with White in round 6 (no problem there - he has gone 3-0 with White, albeit against much lower-rated opposition) and then finally won a game with Black in round 7, employing the Benko Gambit for the first time in his life (or so said the commentators at one moment; is should be checked to see if he transposed into one via a King's Indian or a Benoni). Despite all his miseries in the tournament, he has 4.5 points and will play Sethuraman in round 8.

    James Tarjan, one of the players who contributed to Kramnik's earlier sorrows, has continued to play well. He bounced back from his unnecessary loss to Niclas Huschenbeth in round 4 by drawing with Sabino Brunello (2555), beating Pavel Tregubov (2589), and drawing with Rasmus Svane (2595). His 4-3 score is good for a 2654 TPR.

    Still one more member of the old guard deserves some praise: Jan Timman. Like Tarjan, he's both 65 and has the initials "J.T." More relevantly, he has also had success against elite players. No wins over 2800s, but four draws against players who are or have been rated over 2700. That's a fine result, and he has gone undefeated so far. He gets another 2700 in round 8, David Howell.

    Two noteworthy norm aspirants are Aman Hambleton and Ramesh Praggnanandhaa. Hambleton is well-known for his mighty beard, which he intends to keep until he achieves his third GM norm. He had been in the running until he lost a defensible ending to Gabriel Sargissian in round 6. Praggnanandhaa is a 12-year-old who has already achieved a 2500 rating (and is already the youngest IM ever, achieved at the age of 10 years, 10 months, and 19 days), but has no norms. If he can achieve them in the next five months or so, he can break Sergey Karjakin's record for the youngest GM ever. He was in the running until round 7, but his loss to Varuzhan Akobian probably put an end to his hopes in this tournament. He's playing an untitled 2384 in round 8, which seals it.

    Now let's turn to the leaders. Going into round 6 there were two tournament leaders, Pavel Eljanov - who won this tournament last year - and the world champion, Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen cheekily played Owen's Defense with Black, albeit against 1.Nf3 rather than 1.e4 (after the latter move it's considered somewhat dubious), and won with remarkable ease. That gave him the clear lead, and although he only drew against the fast-rising Indian star Santosh Gujrathi Vidit in round 7 (with difficulty, with White) he's still half a point ahead of his pursuers.

    The most notable among them is perhaps Fabiano Caruana, who will have White against Carlsen in round 8. He drew in round 6 and defeated Gawain Jones in round 7, thanks largely to some fine preparation. He has 5.5/7, as does Hikaru Nakamura, Eljanov, Vidit, and Emil Sutovsky.

    Another half a point back is a large group that includes Viswanathan Anand and Hou Yifan, along with the U.S. players Akobian and Aleks Lenderman. Lenderman remains undefeated after drawing his last four games; his TPR is 2793, 6th highest in the tournament. (The top two TPRs, by a long way, belong to Carlsen and Caruana at 2893 and 2873, respectively.) Unfortunately for American fans, Akobian and Lenderman are paired for round 8.

    Here are the leading pairings for round 8:

     

    • Caruana (5.5) - Carlsen (6)
    • Nakamura (5.5) - Sutovsky (5.5)
    • Vidit (5.5) - Eljanov (5.5)

     

    Finally, here is a selection of games from the past three rounds.

    Saturday
    Sep092017

    World Cup, Round 3, Day 1: Mostly Draws, But Carlsen Lost

    As is usual on days when classical chess is being played at the World Cup, the drawing percentage is very high. Today 12 of the 16 games were drawn, and one of the decisive "games" was Anton Kovalyov's forfeit (discussed in the preceding post). Overall though, the draws were livelier than in round 2 - even the three shortest draws looked like real games and not play-acting on the way to tiebreaks on Monday.

    The three decisive games all involved top players: Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, and Levon Aronian. Aronian outplayed Maxim Matlakov, inducing weaknesses all over the board. After Matlakov lost a center pawn he indirectly defended a pawn on the queenside, only to resign in danger of getting mated on the kingside.

    So had an easy time of it against Francisco Vallejo Pons, winning quickly with Black. Vallejo played a hyper-aggressive line against the Caro-Kann that the computers dislike and that scores badly, and his "improvement" led to his being lost after 13 moves. It's possible that he mixed up moves somewhere, but even so, it's hard to see what he had in mind or why he chose the line. Maybe his idea could work in a short time control game, but in a slow game So had plenty of time to make sure that everything was covered.

    Finally, Carlsen had White against the first of China's super-prodigies and 2700-level GMs, the half-forgotten Bu Xiangzhi. He'll be remembered after this game, especially if he manages at least a draw tomorrow with White and thereby eliminates Carlsen from the Cup. Bu went for a Marshall Gambit-style pawn sac in the Italian Game, followed immediately by a piece sac. Both were sound, and the proper result with best play would have been a draw. Carlsen's 21.Bxd5? was a big mistake, and while Bu gave Carlsen a chance to save the game after 29...h5?, Carlsen returned the favor on the next move and was well and properly dispatched.

    Here are the three decisive games, plus the draw between Vassily Ivanchuk and Vladimir Kramnik.

    Monday
    Aug212017

    Carlsen on Playing in the World Cup

    Here.

    Friday
    Aug112017

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 9: Vachier-Lagrave Defeats Nepomniachtchi and Wins the Tournament Outright

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had the best chances of anyone coming into the round to emerge as the sole tournament winner, and he came through with a smooth positional win over Ian Nepomniachtchi. It was a little cheeky of Nepo to play the Najdorf against the world's top specialist in that variation, and it was interesting to see MVL avoid the most theoretical lines in reply. Vachier-Lagrave went for one of the stock positional plans, aiming to swap all the minor pieces except for a white knight (to plant on d5) and a black bishop (destined to suffer either from restriction or irrelevance on the dark squares). Having achieved the plan, he had little trouble converting his advantage, and by the time Nepomniachtchi resigned only Levon Aronian could catch him.

    And that was only in theory. Aronian played very sharply with Black against Magnus Carlsen, but Carlsen defended well while accumulating positional advantages elsewhere. By the time MVL won, Aronian was struggling for a draw, but couldn't achieve it. That left Magnus Carlsen half a point behind Vachier-Lagrave, and with mixed feelings at the end of the tournament. Overall he played well and finished strongly, but he could very easily have finished the clear winner with a +5 score, had he not blundered away a winning position against Vachier-Lagrave in round 4 on his way to a loss, and had he converted a winning rook ending against Hikaru Nakamura in round 6.

    Carlsen shared second place with Viswanathan Anand. The good news for Anand was that his opponent was Wesley So (this wouldn't normally be good news, but So had a very bad tournament by his standards), but the bad news is that he was playing Black. The game was a fairly short draw, and if anything So could have pushed a little harder than he did. Overall, though, it was a fine tournament for the former world champion.

    Sergey Karjakin could have joined the tie for second with a win over Nakamura, but with Black that wasn't going to be easy. The game was pretty balanced throughout, with Nakamura enjoying the initiative until almost all the pieces were hoovered off the board.

    Finally, Peter Svidler's quest to win a game finally bore fruit. After losing in round 1 and drawing his next seven games, Svidler reached 50% with a win over Fabiano Caruana.

    Final Standings:

    1. Vachier-Lagrave 6 (of 9)
    2-3. Carlsen, Anand 5.5
    4-5. Aronian, Karjakin 5
    6. Svidler 4.5
    7. Caruana 4
    8. Nakamura 3.5
    9-10. So, Nepomniachtchi 3

    Monday
    Aug072017

    2017 World Cup Pairings Are Up

    Oh the excitement! Will Magnus Carlsen succeed in his quest to earn a world championship match against himself? The first obstacle in his way is unrated Nigerian FM Oluwafemi Balogun, and assuming he wins that match there will be six more rounds of knockout matches before he qualifies for the Candidates. (The whole mess of pairings can be seen here in tree form, or you can go here for something that's a bit easier on the eyes.)

    The event runs from September 2-28, and the two finalists qualify for the Candidates. I assume - or at least I hope, for sanity's sake, that Carlsen will not be eligible for the Candidates. That would be amusing, but also kind of stupid, unless winning the Candidates means that he doesn't have to defend his title in this cycle in a world championship match. Anyway, on the assumption that he's ineligible for the Candidates (but then why does he get to play in the World Cup?), I guess that if he's a finalist the two players who lose in the semi-finals will have a match for the second Candidates' spot. (And if I'm wrong, I trust that someone will correct me.)

    Monday
    Aug072017

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 5: Carlsen, Anand Win to Come Within Half a Point of Vachier-Lagrave

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is taking his lead into the rest day on Monday, with the last two world champions hot on his heels. Vachier-Lagrave did his best to extend his lead with the white pieces against Levon Aronian, but Aronian defended extremely well. After a long tactical sequence MVL found himself in an ending with a bishop and knight for a rook and a pawn. In the middlegame that material (im)balance generally favors the minor pieces, but in the ending it's generally more equal, as the relatively empty board gives the rook maximum scope for activity. So the game finished in a draw, leaving MVL with 3.5 points out of 5.

    Magnus Carlsen bounced back after yesterday's loss to Vachier-Lagrave by defeating Wesley So, something that has become a good habit for the world champion this year and a very bad one for the American champ. Things looked good for So out of the opening - a Scotch - but the exchanging sequence starting with 19.Bf4 proved mistaken. It was better to protect the pawn with 19.b3, maintaining for the moment the tension in the center. Once the series of exchanges came to an end, Black's position was more active than White's. White's a-pawn soon dropped, and after a couple more moves White had lost a second pawn as well, without obtaining serious compensation in return.

    The game of the day, however, was unquestionably Viswanathan Anand's spectacular win over Fabiano Caruana. Caruana was doing well out of the opening, but things started going south after Anand's 19.f4. Black's best was 19...Bd5, aiming to meet 20.e4 with 20...Bc4, with unpleasant pressure against White's center. Instead, he played 19...Bg4, aiming for complications his position couldn't justify. After 22...Rxe2 Black is winning if White doesn't have anything special, but he did: 23.f7+ Kf8 24.Bxg7+! Kxg7 25.Qc3+ and now Caruana's 25...Re5(?) was met the attractive and crushing 26.Qd4!, more or less winning on the spot after 26...Qg5 27.Rc5! Instead, 25...Qe5 would have been more resilient, but after 26.Rxe2! Qxc3 27.Re8 White should win, e.g. 27...Qd4+ 28.Rf2 Qxb4 29.f8Q+ Qxf8 30.Rfxf8 Rxd3 31.Rg8+ Kf7 32.Ref8+ Ke7 33.Ra8 the ending is a win. Great chess by the former champ, and he's back in the hunt.

    Sergey Karjakin's game with Ian Nepomniachtchi finished peacefully, but was noteworthy for two reasons. The primary reason was Karjakin's intriguing two-step with his bishop. First 5.Bd3 in the Austrian Attack against the Pirc, a line that has been known for many decades (though generally with 5.Nf3 first and 6.Bd3 next), but then after 5...0-0 6.Nf3 Nc6 he played the incredible 7.Be2!? Karjakin claimed in the post-game interview that he had forgotten some of the analysis, so we'll have to see if this was a one-off joke or if this will prove an important new wrinkle. The second noteworthy aspect was that Nepo nearly won with Black. Had he done so, he would have made it back to 50% - an excellent score in light of his 0-2 start.

    Finally, the game between Hikaru Nakamura and Peter Svidler finished in a draw. It had been heading there, but a Svidler error gave Nakamura some serious chances to at least push for a win. He tried, but Svidler defended well and saved the game.

    As already noted, Monday is a rest day. Here's what the round 6 pairings look like for Tuesday's action:

    • Caruana (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3.5)
    • Carlsen (3) - Nakamura (2)
    • Karjakin (2.5) - Anand (3)
    • Aronian (2.5) - So (2)
    • Nepomniachtchi (2) - Svidler (2)

    Friday
    Aug042017

    Sinquefield Cup, Day 2: Three More Wins; Carlsen, Caruana, and Vachier-Lagrave Lead

    It was another exciting round at the Sinquefield Cup, and thanks to a pair of blunders by Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana, a very long one.

    But first things first: Ian Nepomniachtchi once again got into trouble in the opening, and lost for a second time. With White against Wesley So, Nepomniachtchi hoped to make use of the extra space provided by his Maroczy Bind setup, but he was unable to restrict Black's activity. His 17th move was an outright error, and while it didn't lose material it allowed So to reach a position where White's structure was beset by weaknesses. So won one pawn, and then another, and when Nepo resigned on his 40th move he was about to go three pawns down. So bounced back nicely from his first round loss, while Nepomniachtchi remains with the score he had before the tournament started.

    World champion Magnus Carlsen demonstrated excellent form against his last challenger, Sergey Karjakin, outplaying him in excellent style. It's easy to look at places where the computer's evaluation of Karjakin's position drops and say "here is where he went wrong", but none of the errors was obvious in its own right, even in retrospect, and the players themselves had a difficult time pinpointing the critical errors. Carlsen just played very well. Carlsen has 1.5/2, and Karjakin fell to 50%.

    The games Peter Svidler vs. Viswanathan Anand and Hikaru Nakamura vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were both fairly clean draws, and in both cases Black managed to solve his problems from the get-go. MVL is +1, Svidler is -1, and Anand and Nakamura remain on 50%.

    So that leaves Aronian-Caruana, which almost certainly would have ended in a draw in a few moves had Aronian not played 33.Ke2??, losing a piece after 33...Bb4! followed by 34...Re8, winning a piece. By itself, this didn't ensure a long game, just one with a different result. Had Caruana played 40...g5+, a logical and pretty obvious move that he had more than enough time to find, the game would have ended quickly, and maybe even immediately.

    Instead, after 40...Bd2?, Caruana (with Black) was left with a rook, dark-squared bishop and - critically - an h-pawn against Aronian's rook and doubled g-pawns. Blunders aside, this gave Caruana two "normal" ways to win: (1) Win both White pawns without trading anything, and win with rook, bishop and h-pawn against rook. (2) Trade rooks, stalemate White's king, and thereby force White to play g4-g5, allowing Black to play ...hxg5 and thereby eliminating the specter of a king + bishop + h-pawn vs. king draw. White would be happy to trade rooks if he lost one or both g-pawns (provided that losing the pawns didn't come by a pawn capture), otherwise not.

    Caruana eventually managed to win in a third, somewhat surprising way. He won the g4-pawn on move 74, and after a long stretch where he didn't seem to be making any progress, he finally found a way to put an end to the game. His 106th move, 106...Bd6!, won White's remaining pawn, but allowed White to eliminate Black's h-pawn as well. That was the good news for Aronian, but the bad news is that the resulting rook + bishop vs. rook ending was won for Black. White's king was in a mating net, and after 110...Rc4+ Aronian decided that 7 hours was long enough, and resigned. Aronian thus fell back to 50%, while Caruana joined Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave on +1.

    Round 3 Pairings:

    Anand (1) - Carlsen (1.5)
    So (1) - Nakamura (1)
    Caruana (1.5) - Nepomniachtchi (0)
    Karjakin (1) - Aronian (1)
    Vachier-Lagrave (1.5) - Svidler (.5)