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    Entries in Magnus Carlsen (299)

    Tuesday
    Aug282018

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 9: Caruana, Carlsen, and Aronian Share First; Caruana-So Playoff Tomorrow for the GCT Final

    What an eventful round! After two rounds (and three rounds out of four) with only draws, today there were two wins, and both of them saw the winners catch Fabiano Caruana in first place.

    Had Caruana won his last round game against Wesley So, he'd have taken clear first. The game was a staid Petroff, and though Caruana obtained a tiny edge with Black it was nowhere near enough to achieve anything serious, and the game finished in an uneventful draw. That guaranteed Caruana at least a tie for first, but four other players - two of whom faced each other - had the opportunity to catch him in the lead.

    Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk both entered the round half a point behind Caruana, so if either player beat the other they'd tie for first. An equal but unbalanced position went completely out of control when Aronian offered a gutsy semi-bluff of a rook sac on move 18. Grischuk was relatively short of time even before the sac, and never managed to consolidate his material advantage. He'd alternate, making a series of good defensive moves followed by the occasional error, and after a total of three errors he was lost. Fortune favored the brave, and Aronian caught Caruana.

    Magnus Carlsen was also rewarded, but not so much for bravery as for doing his thing. He had a slight advantage against Hikaru Nakamura, and while the position was objectively drawn Carlsen had nothing to lose and everything to gain by continuing to try, and eventually it paid off. It has to be said that Nakamura's 62nd and 66th moves were very strange. My guess is that he believed the setup he went for was drawn, and was therefore willing to burn all his bridges to head for it. Considering that the position prior to those decisions was only barely worse and had a big margin for error, this was a needlessly risky decision. As it turned out, he missed something, and the result was a technical win that Carlsen successfully executed. That made it a three-way tie for first.

    If Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had managed to defeat Viswanathan Anand with the black pieces it would have been a four-way tie. But this wasn't going to happen. Anand enjoyed a slight edge in a very theoretical line of the Open Ruy, and Mamedyarov was never going to do more than work his way to a draw after some suffering - which is what happened.

    Finally, in the one game that didn't matter in the race for first, Sergey Karjakin barely avoided a fourth loss in the tournament when he held a rook ending two pawns against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. (Today's games, with my notes, are here.)

    Will there be a playoff tomorrow? Yes...but not to settle the race for first. The rules called for a three-way tie to resolved by a drawing of lots to eliminate one of the players, followed by a playoff involving the other two. Apparently Carlsen was less than thrilled with this idea, and proposed either a three-way playoff or shared first. As I understand it, the other two players were on board with Carlsen's rejection of the scheme presented in the rules, but one of the two was against the playoff and preferred the shared crown.

    My guess is that the objection came from Caruana, and with good reason: he's already committed to a playoff against So for the fourth and final slot in the Grand Chess Tour final. Therefore the three leaders are also the three champions, each of them a repeat champion. Here are the final standings from the tournament:

    1-3. Aronian, Carlsen, Caruana 5.5 (out of 9)
    4. Mamedyarov 5
    5-7. Grischuk, Vachier-Lagrave, Anand 4.5
    8. So 4
    9-10. Karjakin, Nakamura 3

    And these are the final overall standings for the Grand Chess Tour:

    1. Nakamura 34.5
    2. Aronian 34
    3. Vachier-Lagrave 31
    4-5. Caruana, So 26
    6. Karjakin 25.5
    7. Mamedyarov 25
    8. Grischuk 18
    9. Anand 15

    The Caruana-So tie will be settled by a pair of 25'+10" games, and if it's still tied there will be up to three pairs of 5'+3" games. After that, the arbiter and the players will decide on another way of resolving the tie (presumably an Armageddon game, but who knows).

    Saturday
    Aug252018

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 7: Caruana Narrowly Survives Against Carlsen, Continues to Lead As All Games Are Drawn

    While more than half the field remained in contention for first entering the round, the only game most fans really cared about was the world championship preview between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. Caruana entered the round half a point of Carlsen and three other contenders, but had to face him with the black pieces.

    It has been an interesting year for the two. Since Caruana won the Candidates in March they've played three times. The first game was in the Grenke Chess Classic several days after the Candidates. Caruana had white, the game was drawn, and Caruana won the tournament a full point ahead of Carlsen. Then they played twice in Norway, once in blitz (that was to determine pairings) and once in the "real" event. Carlsen had white in both games and won both games. He finished ahead of Caruana in the blitz event, but in the main event Caruana again won the tournament and again finished ahead of Carlsen. Reminiscent of Vladimir Kramnik and Garry Kasparov back in 2000, the two players were #1 and #2 in the world, but the player who did better against the rest of the world (Kasparov then, Caruana now) did worse in the critical head to head matchup against his main rival.

    So how would Caruana fare this time? Would he manage to hold on with Black, preserving his lead in the tournament and his confidence heading into the match? And what if he won? That would not only be a huge boost to his confidence, but would be an epochal moment on the rating list, marking the first time since 2010 or 2011 that anyone passed Carlsen for the #1 spot. On the other hand, a Carlsen win would be great for his confidence and bad for Caruana's, and would let the world champion leapfrog the challenger into at least a tie for first.

    As it turned out, Caruana could feel satisfied with the result but little else. Carlsen had a little surprise for Caruana in the opening, and he was able to parlay the resulting edge into a winning queenless middlegame with shocking ease. Everything was going swimmingly, but maybe Carlsen counted his chickens too quickly. (At one point Carlsen took a bizarre trip to the "Confessional" booth where he didn't say anything, just put his finger to his lips in a "shh" gesture, as if quieting Caruana's fans. Classy. I guess he could have chosen more tasteless gestures, so we have something to be thankful for.) Caruana found some nice defensive resources, and while Carlsen didn't make any major, overt errors a string of inaccuracies allowed his opponent to sneak out with a draw.

    The remaining games finished in draws, with no one missing any major opportunities (at least none that I noticed). The games are here (I've only annotated Carlsen-Caruana), and tomorrow's pairings for the penultimate round look like this:

    • Vachier-Lagrave (3.5) - Aronian (4)
    • Nakamura (2.5) - Karjakin (2)
    • Mamedyarov (4) - Carlsen (4)
    • Caruana (4.5) - Anand (3.5)
    • Grischuk (4) - So (3)

    Monday
    Aug202018

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 2: Four Calm Draws and a Carlsen Grinder

    After the excitement of round 1, round 2 of the Sinquefield was mostly a wet blanket. Four games were drawn without much ado, and the last game, between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin, could very easily have finished in a fifth draw as well. But Carlsen avoided it, finding ways to create fresh problems for the "Minister of Defense." Karjakin grimly hung on, and when Carlsen himself missed some opportunities it looked like a draw would still be the result. It should have been, but after having solved the most difficult problems Carlsen could pose Karjakin self-destructed in a position where there were no threats. Instead of maintaining the status quo, Karjakin's 77...Kc6?? blundered the a-pawn, and then it wasn't a draw any more.

    Carlsen thereby caught up with the first round's winners, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Levon Aronian, to share the early tournament lead with 1.5/2. The round 2 games (with my comments) are here; the round 3 pairings look like this:

    • Aronian - Carlsen
    • Mamedyarov - Caruana
    • Vachier-Lagrave - So
    • Nakamura - Grischuk
    • Karjakin - Anand

    Saturday
    Jun232018

    Krauthammer on Chess

    Charles Krauthammer was a well-known political commentator in the U.S. who died of cancer this past week at the age of 68. Of relevance to this blog, he was also a huge chess fan, who on more than one occasion devoted his political column to our great game. A memorial "best of" list included this column by Krauthammer on the 2016 World Chess Championship as one of ten columns they chose to memorialize.

    R.I.P., and may other mainstream commentators of whatever political stripe be as generous to our game as he was.

    Sunday
    Jun032018

    Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

    A tip of the hat to John Cole and David McCarthy, both of whom let me know about this choice quote from Magnus Carlsen after round 5, speaking of his 12-game history with Wesley So: “To be honest, usually nothing happens in these games. I can't remember him ever being close to beat me [sic]. If I want a draw, I will often get it easily.”

    Perhaps it would be smarter (and more polite) to avoid such comments in the future, at least with opponents who aren't fellow trash-talkers like Anish Giri. Then again, the quote comes from a tweet by Tarjei Svensen; perhaps Carlsen's words weren't meant for public consumption (or for public consumption in English?), and so it's his fault too if this gave So a bit of extra motivation before his one-sided victory in game 6.

    Saturday
    Jun022018

    Norway Chess, Rounds 3-5: Carlsen Leads, Ding Withdraws

    It was a tough break for Ding Liren - literally - when he had a bicycle accident while riding with his father during the free day after round three. He fractured his hip and had to withdraw. That's very unfortunate for him, and I'm sure we're all united in wishing him a full and speedy recovery. Fortunately for the tournament standings, he had drawn all three of his games, so from a fairness perspective the effect of his withdrawal will be minimal.

    To the chess. We left off after round 2; in round 3, as in round 1, Magnus Carlsen was the sole winner. (All the round 2 games were drawn, so Carlsen was also the sole winner in the entire tournament through three rounds.) He defeated Levon Aronian in a 5.Re1 Anti-Berlin, a variation that's often tragically dull. This time the play was more interesting, and while Aronian's time trouble blunder on move 27 sped things up Carlsen already enjoyed the upper hand. All four of the draws were very interesting, and some of the players were under pressure, but no one missed any wins on the way to the peaceful outcome.

    Then came the rest day, which worked out well for most of the players - though not for Ding, as mentioned already, although he and Viswanathan Anand took first in, of all things, a cooking competition for the players.

    In round 4, it was the day of the Gruenfeld - or rather, the day to beat the Gruenfeld, as Sergey Karjakin defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov on the white side of Classical lines. Aronian thereby returned to 50%, while Karjakin went to +1. Hikaru Nakamura didn't get anything with White against Magnus Carlsen, and they drew quickly, while Viswanathan Anand and Wesley So played a game that was probably in both players' computers beforehand.

    Finally, in round 5, gravity took over as Fabiano Caruana beat Karjakin, bringing them both to 50% from opposite directions. The other three games were more or less mutually comfortable draws, so the standings at the moment see Carlsen at +2, Mamedyarov and MVL at -1, and the other six players (or seven, counting Ding) are on 50%. Here are the pairings for round 6:

    • So (2/4) - Carlsen (3.5/5)
    • Aronian (2.5/5) - Caruana (2/4)
    • Nakamura (2/4) - Vachier-Lagrave (1.5/4)
    • Anand (2/4) - Mamedyarov (2/5)
    • Karjakin (2.5/5) has the bye.

    Tournament site here, games (with comments to three of the decisive games) here.

    Monday
    May282018

    Norway Chess, Round 1: Carlsen Beats Caruana; Other Games Drawn

    This is no way to throw down the gauntlet to the world champion! First Fabiano Caruana loses to Magnus Carlsen in the blitz, and then today - much more importantly - he lost to him in round 1 of the 5th Altibox Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger. In fact the challenger didn't play badly; he was just outplayed by the champion. Caruana was in a challenging but tenable position on move 25 when he played the natural but mistaken 25...Rc7. After that, Carlsen never let him back into the game. Very impressive.

    Impressive, and good enough for sole first, as the other four games were drawn. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played a short but interesting game in a Gruenfeld sideline, while Wesley So and Sergey Karjakin played a longer, quieter game that also finished peacefully. So enjoyed an edge throughout, just not enough of an edge to sufficiently trouble the "Minister of Defense". Viswanathan Anand and Levon Aronian, who are unexpectedly the bottom seeds in this ridiculously strong tournament, drew a 4.d3 Anti-Berlin where Aronian's 8...a6 was a beautiful and surprising zwischenzug. Aronian achieved a comfortable draw.

    The fourth draw was another story. Hikaru Nakamura outplayed Ding Liren in the middlegame, but carelessly allowing Black's queen to reach e2 surrendered a winning advantage. Nakamura even overpressed and gave Ding a chance to come out of the game with good chances for the full point, but Black's error on move 30 gave Nakamura the chance to win brilliantly. He missed the tactic, unfortunately (I say this not so much because I'm taking sides but because it would have immortalized the game, or at least the combination), and the game finished in a perpetual.

    The games are here; I've commented on Carlsen-Caruana and Nakamura-Ding. (I can't promise daily commentary, but we'll see how it goes.) Here are the pairings for round 2:

    • Karjakin (.5) - Carlsen (1)
    • Caruana (0) - Mamedyarov (.5)
    • Ding (.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (.5)
    • Aronian (.5) - So (.5)
    • Nakamura (.5) - Anand (.5)

    Saturday
    Apr282018

    Shamkir, Rounds 8 & 9: Carlsen Beats Giri in Round 8, Draws Ding Liren in Round 9, and Wins the Tournament

    The man is the world chess champion for a reason. More than one reason, even if we construe those reasons broadly. One reason is that (most of the time) he plays the best chess, and the other is that (most of the time) he's the best player in clutch situations. Even having a mediocre tournament starting with four draws, Magnus Carlsen flipped the switch, won three out of his next four games, and took clear first.

    When we left off in round 7 he had just defeated the previous tournament leader, Veselin Topalov, and took over the lead himself. Topalov, Anish Giri, and Ding Liren were all half a point behind. In round 8 Carlsen again took matters into his own hands when it came to his main rivals, and he defeated Giri with Black in an impressive game. Not only did this do wonders for his status in the tournament, but it also gave him the advantage in his head-to-head battle with Giri (in Classical chess) for the first time in their rivalry. (I've annotated the game here.)

    Meanwhile, Topalov lost his second straight game, this time with White against Radoslaw Wojtaszek. That eliminated him from contention, but Ding Liren stayed close with a win against Rauf Mamedov. Ding was the one pressing in the game, but it was headed for a draw until Mamedov's 37...Kh6. (37...Kf6 should hold.) He took perfect advantage of the error and won, and since he was due to play Carlsen in the next round, his fate remained in his own hands.

    It was not to be. Carlsen had the white pieces and played one of the dullest lines available to ensure that Ding would have no winning chances. Cynical, sure, but highly recommended: the point is to win the tournament. So by the end of the event it was a fine tournament for both Carlsen and Ding, both of whom are undefeated in Classical chess for the whole of 2018.

    In other results from round 9: all the games were drawn quickly except for Sergey Karjakin's game with Topalov, which was neither quick nor drawn; Karjakin won in 49 moves. (Had they drawn, there would have been a six-way tie for 3rd-8th.) After a great start, Topalov lost his last three games and even lost rating points by the end. (As for Carlsen, he managed to gain four tenths of a rating point, which will be rounded down to the status quo ante come May 1.) And in round 8, there was one other decisive game not mentioned above, and that was David Navara losing his fourth game in a row.

    Final Standings:

    • 1. Carlsen 6/9
    • 2. Ding Liren 5.5
    • 3. Karjakin 5
    • 4-7. Radjabov, Mamedyarov, Wojtaszek, Giri 4.5
    • 8-9. Mamedov, Topalov 4
    • 10. Navara 2.5

    Thursday
    Apr262018

    Shamkir, Round 7: Carlsen Beats Topalov, Takes Over First Place

    The guy is world champion for a reason, it seems. Despite having a seemingly lackluster tournament while Veselin Topalov has generated most of the excitement, Magnus Carlsen's win in round 7 of the Gashimov Memorial has put him in clear first with two rounds to go, half a point ahead of Topalov, Anish Giri, and Ding Liren. Topalov was doing fine out of the opening and through the early middlegame, but 22...dxc5 and 25...Rd8 were pieces in a dubious plan that led him astray. After Carlsen's 27.Be4 serious accuracy was required from Topalov, and when he played 27...Bxc4 rather than the necessary 27...Kf8 he was lost. There were glitches in Carlsen's technique prior to the time control, but after Topalov's 38...Bxh5 Carlsen was winning again, and made no further errors.

    Giri drew with Black against Rauf Mamedov to remain half a point out of first, and Ding made it a three-way tie in second by defeating tournament punching bag David Navara. Everyone experiences bad form at times, and in this tournament it's his turn.

    The Carlsen-Topalov game (with some commentary) can be replayed here. Here are the pairings for round 8:

    • Radjabov (3.5) - Karjakin (3.5)
    • Topalov (4) - Wojtaszek (3)
    • Giri (4) - Carlsen (4.5)
    • Ding Liren (4) - Mamedov (3.5)
    • Mamedyarov (3) - Navara (2)

    Tuesday
    Apr242018

    Shamkir, Round 5: Topalov Wins Again; Carlsen Wins Too

    After Veselin Topalov spoiled all the amity of the Gashimov Memorial by winning a game in round 4, Magnus Carlsen decided in round 5 that he too would be a spoilsport.He played a funny anti-Sicilian sideline (2.Nc3 d6 3.d4) against Radoslaw Wojtaszek, and it worked beautifully - at least once Wojtaszek played 11...h4? Carlsen missed various improvements, but still won pretty easily. (As you can see for yourselves; I've annotated the game here.)

    Meanwhile, Veselin Topalov won again, this time defeating David Navara. Topalov sacrificed a pawn in return for the bishop pair, and it paid off in the end. Topalov is at plus-two, but he could have been plus-four. A good finish over the last four rounds could give him one of his best results of the 2010s.

    Now that there have been three decisive games out of 25, the players need a rest, and that's what they'll get on Tuesday. Wednesday the action resumes, with the following pairings for round 6:

    • Radjabov (2.5) - Wojtaszek (2)
    • Karjakin (2.5) - Carlsen (3)
    • Topalov (3.5) - Mamedov (2.5)
    • Giri (2.5) - Navara (2)
    • Ding Liren (2.5) - Mamedyarov (2)