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    Entries in Magnus Carlsen (360)

    Tuesday
    Apr092019

    Gashimov Memorial, Final Round: Carlsen Wins Again

    In the end, the 2019 Vugar Gashimov Memorial was a complete triumph for Magnus Carlsen. While everyone else was getting the tournament over with, Carlsen played for keeps against Alexander Grischuk, and won his third consecutive game and fifth overall to finish the tournament with an undefeated 7-2 score. As a result he won the tournament by two points, achieved a ridiculous 2988 TPR, gained 15.8 rating points* and now enjoys a 44.4 point rating lead over Fabiano Caruana. Order in the chess world has been re-established.

    His victory over Grischuk was a masterpiece. It was hard to even figure out where Grischuk lost the game, both for Grischuk and this commentator. Carlsen's play was brilliant, most especially the pawn sacrifice set up by his 29th move. If you've ever wondered why GMs harp on the value of the bishop pair, this game offers a powerful demonstration of that theme. Have a look, learn, and especially enjoy - the game is here, with my comments. (The other games are there too, but without notes.)

    Here are the final standings:

    • 1. Carlsen 7 (of 9)
    • 2-3. Ding, Karjakin 5
    • 4-6. Radjabov, Grischuk, Anand 4.5
    • 7-8. Topalov, Navara 4
    • 9. Mamedyarov 3.5
    • 10. Giri 3

    * I'd say 16 points, but he's playing in the Grenke Chess Classic later this month, so it won't necessarily be rounded up.

    Tuesday
    Apr092019

    Gashimov Memorial, Round 8: Carlsen Crushes Karjakin, Clinches First

    It wasn't all that long ago that Magnus Carlsen's championship reign and his spot atop the rating list were in jeopardy. It wasn't that long ago according to the calendar, but the current reality is that he is the dominant #1 player in the world. After a sluggish start to Wijk aan Zee in January, he has turned on the afterburners, and with his fourth win in this event he has clinched clear first place in the 2019 Gashimov Memorial with a round to spare.

    His victim in this round was Sergey Karjakin, who entered the round just half a point behind Carlsen. Karajkin had White, too, making the matchup all the more interesting. He decided to join the crowd testing Carlsen's world championship prep in the Sveshnikov Sicilian, continuing the recent trend with 7.Nd5. Carlsen sacrificed the h-pawn for compensation, and absolutely hammered Karjakin to death with powerful play on the kingside and in the center. Some of what happened to Karjakin had to do with Carlsen's preparation, I think, but not all of it, and Carlsen's play was very convincing.

    Congrats to the champion, who leads Karjakin, Alexander Grischuk, and Ding Liren by a point and a half. He has picked up a dozen rating points so far, and has achieved a 2963 TPR thus far. I don't know if it'll hit 3000 if he defeats Grischuk in the last round, but it will be close.

    About Grischuk and Ding, they also won in round 8. In Grischuk's case, he won convincingly with White against David Navara; as for Ding, his win over Veselin Topalov was remarkable. Topalov was a pawn down in a rook ending, with all the pawns on the same side of the board, and his somewhat shaky play was still good enough to reach an ending of knight vs. rook, with no pawns on either side. It's generally drawn when the king isn't in the corner and the knight isn't cut off, but it was an in-between situation where the draw was precarious, not trivial. Ding did a great job of making Topalov's task difficult, and he eventually cracked.

    The other two games were drawn. In the case of Teimour Radjabov and Viswanathan Anand, it was a short, correct draw, but the battle between Anish Giri and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was anything but correct. Giri was winning practically out of the opening (18.e5 would have kept a decisive advantage), but let the advantage drip away, and near the end he was even in some trouble. Fortunately for him Mamedyarov's inaccurate 39th move let Giri off the hook.

    (The games are here, with my notes to Carlsen's and Ding's wins.) One round remains, and here are the pairings:

    • Anand (4) - Topalov (3.5)
    • Navara (3.5) - Radjabov (4)
    • Carlsen (6) - Grischuk (4.5)
    • Mamedyarov (3) - Karjakin (4.5)
    • Ding Liren (4.5) - Giri (2.5)

    Sunday
    Apr072019

    Gashimov Memorial, Rounds 6 & 7: Carlsen and Karjakin Vie for First

    Magnus Carlsen entered round 6 half a point in front of Sergey Karjakin and Viswanathan Anand, and exits round 7 with that same half point lead, still over Karjakin, with Anand having dropped a further point behind. Karjakin caught Carlsen in round 6, winning a very good game over Anand that was part good preparation, part excellent technique at the board. Carlsen only managed to draw against Ding Liren, and only after some anxious moments.

    Veselin Topalov got back to 50%, while Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's bad 2019 continues. Mamedyarov was alright most of the way, but a miscalculation on move 29 led to a loss. (29...Qe7 was equal.)

    The other two games - Anish Giri vs. David Navara and Alexander Grischuk vs. Teimour Radjabov - finished in draws. Grischuk had a nice advantage coming out of the opening, but 17.Bxc6 gave it away. (17.Ne1 was correct.)

    Carlsen bounced back in round 7, and in a big way, crushing Giri with a vicious attacking plan the Dutchman didn't see coming. After 16...c6 Giri expected 17.d4, and was seriously surprised by the champion's 17.f4 instead. He didn't react well, and was completely lost just a few moves later. Carlsen didn't find the best way to finish Black off, but given a slight chance to resist Giri almost immediately re-collapsed, losing before the time control.

    The other four games were drawn, including that of the co-leader, Karjakin. He had some difficulties in the opening against Navara, but was let off the hook by the Czech GM's 19.Nc3 instead of 19.Nd6. The right move would have given Navara a clear advantage; after the error, Karjakin drew without any further trouble.

    Mamedyarov-Ding was a long game that finished with a dramatic king and pawn ending that both sides played correctly, resulting in a drawn queen ending. Mamedyarov has been having a poor tournament, so it's to his credit that he stayed resilient through his long defensive task.

    Finally, Radjabov-Topalov and Anand-Grischuk were fairly uneventful draws.

    The games, with my notes to Karjakin's win in round 6 and Carlsen's win in round 7, are here. Here are the pairings for round 8, and it features THE pairing of the tournament: Karjakin-Carlsen:

    • Topalov (3.5) - Ding (3.5)
    • Giri (2) - Mamedyarov (2.5)
    • Karjakin (4.5) - Carlsen (5)
    • Grischuk (3.5) - Navara (3.5)
    • Radjabov (3.5) - Anand (3.5)

    Wednesday
    Apr032019

    Gashimov Memorial, Rounds 3 & 4: Carlsen Leads

    Magnus Carlsen pulled out in front with a win in round 3 to become the sole leader of the 2019 Vugar Gashimov Memorial. Viswanathan Anand also won in round 3, and the other three games in that round and all five games in round 4 were drawn. Thus Carlsen leads with 3/4, half a point ahead of Ding Liren and Sergey Karjakin.

    I've annotated all ten games here (to varying degrees of depth); hopefully that will make up for the delay in presenting round 3's material. And here are the pairings for round 5:

    • Grischuk (1.5) - Topalov (2)
    • Radjabov (2) - Karjakin (2.5)
    • Anand (2) - Giri (1.5)
    • Navara (1.5) - Ding Liren (2.5)
    • Carlsen (3) - Mamedyarov (1.5)

    Monday
    Apr012019

    Gashimov Memorial, Round 2: Carlsen, Ding Liren, and Karjakin All Win

    Yesterday's draws was not an indication of how things would go this time around. Three of the five games finished with a winner, and the fourth real game was also interesting.

    Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand were headed for a draw when things started to go badly wrong for the former champion. A series of tactical imprecisions, each relatively minor in its own right, resulted in a lost rook ending that Carlsen would have had no trouble converting.

    Another former Carlsen opponent from a world championship match, Sergey Karjakin, also won. He was in big trouble against Anish Giri early on, and would have lost quickly and possibly spectacularly had Giri handled his attack properly. Instead, he first played too slowly, and then played rashly, and suffered a painful defeat as a consequence. (He also lost a chance to break the 2800 barrier again.)

    Ding Liren was winning against Alexander Grischuk, then let Grischuk off the hook, and then won the game a second time. He is in sniffing distance of the #2 spot in the world rankings.

    I'm not sure if Veselin Topalov was ever winning against David Navara, but he had a significant advantage for most of the game and forced Navara to sweat it out for a long time.

    Finally, the "battle" between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Teimour Radjabov was as genuine as a politician's apology. They're good friends, players of the host country and were good friends of the player being celebrated by the tournament. In an event where not that much is at stake they can be counted on to split the point. The game went 41 moves, yes, and ended while everyone else was still wiping the sleep from their eyes.

    The tournament website is here, the games (with my comments to parts of Carlsen-Anand and Giri-Karjakin) are here, and these are the pairings for round 3:

    • Karjakin (1.5) - Topalov (1)
    • Grischuk (.5) - Giri (.5)
    • Radjabov (1) - Ding Liren (1.5)
    • Anand (.5) - Mamedyarov (1)
    • Navara (1) - Carlsen (1.5)

    Tuesday
    Feb262019

    Other Events: Aeroflot, Carlsen-Svidler, Ragger-Gelfand

    The Aeroflot Open is ongoing, and after 7 rounds of 9 there are three leaders: Kaido Kulaots, Krishnan Sasikiran, and Haik Martirosyan; each has 5.5 points. Sasikiran started 5-0, taking a full point lead over the field, which he maintained with his draw in round 6. In round 7 he was crushed by Martirosyan, however, and he was also caught by Kulaots when the latter won a long, strange game against Wei Yi. That game was equal for a long time, but Wei Yi didn't want to give up a draw with White against a GM rated 200 points below him. He got his wish, though not the way he wanted. Sometimes, we have to accept reality when we're higher-rated; wishing for a win won't make it so, even if we wish really, really hard.

    Remarkably, despite the relatively low leading score, only four players in the 101-player field are within half a point of the leaders. Here are the top pairings for round 8:

    • Sasikiran (5.5) - Kulaots (5.5)
    • Martirosyan (5.5) - Sarana (5)
    • Tabatabaei (5) - Petrosian (5)
    • Chigaev (5) - Wei Yi (4.5)

    Magnus Carlsen and Peter Svidler played a blitz match on Chess24, to go to the first player to win five games. (At least that's how I understood it. I think Svidler took it that the winner would be the first player to reach five points. It turns out that the match result didn't disconfirm either theory.) Carlsen won convincingly, winning the first two games, drawing game three, and then winning three in a row to go 5-0 in wins and 5.5-0.5 in overall score. Both players live-streamed the match, and since Carlsen decided to drop an F-bomb in his I'll let the readers look them up on their own. (No, I'm not scandalized by it, but why use that language for a presentation that would otherwise be suitable and even inspiring for little kids?)

    Finally, in a match that slipped under my radar until I caught wind of it in tonight's TWIC download, Austrian #1 Markus Ragger took on and crushed Boris Gelfand 4.5-1.5, winning games 1, 2, and 6 while drawing the rest. Gelfand's rating has taken a relatively big hit the last year and a half. (He was 2737 in September of 2017; after this match, he'll be down to 2660. It would have been 2655, but because Ragger had clinched match victory before the last game it wasn't rated.) Hopefully it is the pull of family life rather than a loss of ability that has taken its toll.

    Friday
    Feb222019

    Carlsen vs. Svidler this Sunday

    It's a gimmick, of course, on Chess24, celebrating their 5th anniversary and undoubtedly trying to bring in new viewers. Caveat emptor therefore, but it's a nice gimmick. More here.

    Sunday
    Jan272019

    2019 Wijk aan Zee, Round 13: Carlsen Draws, Wins the Tournament

    There wasn't much drama today in the final round of the 2019 Tata Steel Chess Tournament, either in the Masters Group or even in the Challengers event. There could have been. Anish Giri had the white pieces against Magnus Carlsen, and with a win he'd have vaulted Carlsen and taken clear first. And in the Challengers event Vladislav Kovalev was only half a point ahead of Maksim Chigaev and Andrey Esipenko. But there were no fantastic finishes. Carlsen drew with complete ease, and the question early on was only if he might win or at least try to win the game. And it was even worse in the Challengers event: Kovalev won in 24 moves when his opponent blundered into a mating attack, and for good measure both Chigaev and Esipenko lost their games. So Carlsen won the main event, Kovalev the Challengers, and the latter will be promoted to the Masters event next year.

    As for the rest of the Masters games: Richard Rapport blitzed Jorden Van Foreest off the board in just 21 moves, mostly due, I'd say, to the latter's poor preparation for the line that came up. (His novelty on move 12 - undoubtedly not the result of prior preparation, landed him in a lost position.) The other win took longer: Vladimir Kramnik once again went into self-destruct mode, avoiding a simple draw for a more complex position where only Sam Shankland could play for a win. Shankland took his chance and gave the former world champion his sixth defeat of the tournament. The remaining games were drawn between 19 and 35 moves. (The games, with my notes to Giri-Carlsen, the two decisive games, and Kovalev's last-round win are here.)

    Here are the final standings:

    • 1. Carlsen 9 (out of 13)
    • 2. Giri 8.5
    • 3-5. Nepomniachtchi, Ding, Anand 7.5
    • 6. Vidit 7
    • 7-9. Radjabov, Shankland, Rapport 6.5
    • 10. Duda 5.5
    • 11-12. Fedoseev, Mamedyarov 5
    • 13-14. Kramnik, Van Foreest 4.5

    And just for fun, the final standings of the Challengers group:

    • 1. Kovalev 10 (of 13)
    • 2-4. Gledura, Esipenko, Chigaev 8.5
    • 5-6. Korobov, L'Ami 7.5
    • 7-8. Maghsoodloo, Bareev 7
    • 9. (Lucas) Van Foreest 6
    • 10. Keymer 5.5
    • 11. Praggnanandhaa 5
    • 12-13. Saduakassova, Paehtz 3.5
    • 14. Kuipers 3

    Saturday
    Jan262019

    2019 Wijk aan Zee, Round 12: Carlsen Wins Again, Leads Giri By Half a Point Going Into Their Last-Round Showdown

    Last year Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri tied for first in the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, and in this year's edition they are once again the only contenders for first. Last year, Carlsen defeated Giri in a playoff; this year, a playoff is impossible, as Carlsen enters the round half a point ahead of his rival and they face off in the last round. (I suppose one could consider it a de facto playoff: an Armageddon game with a classical time control. If Carlsen wins or draws, he wins the tournament; if Giri wins, then he does.)

    They entered the round tied for first after Giri got a colossal gift from Sam Shankland, who resigned in a completely drawn position. In this round Giri got a second gift, as Teimour Radjabov offered a draw (which was of course accepted by Giri) in a won position. Not a dead or obviously won position, but a winning one all the same. Even with all the freebies Giri is enjoying, Carlsen still enters the last round as the sole leader after grinding out a victory against Jan-Krzysztof Duda. No freebies, just hard work: he obtained an advantage in the early middlegame and never let go. Duda didn't make it easy for him, but he was still forced to surrender after 71 moves.

    Ian Nepomniachtchi entered the round only half a point behind the leaders, but now he's a point and a half behind after getting clobbered by Shankland. Perhaps trying to hard to get a complicated and untheoretical position Nepo played an experimental line, a Pirc with ...e6. The combination of ...g6, ...Bg7, ...Nf6 and ...e6 generally don't go very well together (to oversimplify a bit: if you want to play a Pirc, avoid ...e6; if you want a Hippo, don't play ...Nf6), and they went dreadfully wrong in this game. Shankland played natural, healthy, aggressive chess, and won convincingly.

    Ding Liren and Viswanathan Anand could have remained a point behind Carlsen, had either defeated the other. That still would have left them mathematically eliminated from the race for first, after Carlsen's win, but at least they'd be a bit closer. It was a very good game, with Ding playing 1.e4 - an unusual first move for him - and having some deep preparation. Anand defended well, and 28...Rd6 was a beautiful idea that led to an ending where White's had no way to use his material advantage.

    Finally, Vladimir Kramnik made it two consecutive wins by defeating Vladimir Fedoseev in a queen and rook ending, while Shakhriyar Mamedyarov bled some rating points by drawing with Jorden Van Foreest. Kramnik is now "only" -18.7 for the touranment, while Mamedyarov is a ghastly -26 on the live rating list. And Santosh Vidit Gujrathi was winning against Richard Rapport, but after he missed the right way to prosecute his attack the game finished in a draw.

    The tournament site is here, the games (with light comments, though not about photons) are here, and these the pairings for the final round, tomorrow:

    • Giri (8) - Carlsen (8.5)
    • Nepomniachtchi (7) - Radjabov (6)
    • Kramnik (4.5) - Shankland (5.5)
    • Mamedyarov (4.5) - Fedoseev (4.5)
    • Rapport (5.5) - Van Foreest (4.5)
    • Anand (7) - Vidit (6.5)
    • Duda (5) - Ding (7)

    In the Challengers Tournament, the sole leader is Vladislav Kovalev, who came into the event as the second seed. He has 9/12, good for a half-point lead over 16-year-old Andrey Esipenko and Maksim Chigaev. Unfortunately for Chigaev and Esipenko, they're both playing Black against strong opponents (Gledura and Bareev, respectively) while Kovalev has White against bottom seed and co-cellar dweller Stefan Kuipers. One never knows for sure, but the odds of Kovalev's getting clear first and securing qualification to next year's top group look awfully good.

    Wednesday
    Jan232019

    2019 Wijk aan Zee, Round 10: Carlsen Defeats Anand, Enjoys the Clear Lead

    I warned you! After 21 straight draws, Magnus Carlsen finally broke the string with a win over Jorden Van Foreest and then another win over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and now he's back. His confidence has been restored, and he is putting in that extra bit of fight, causing his opponents as many problems as possible. Even Viswanathan Anand succumbed today in a long ending, unable to hold an objectively (but certainly not trivially) drawn knight endgame a pawn down.

    In that way he took care of one of the co-leaders, and with the unexpected help of Jorden Van Foreest the third co-leader, Ian Nepomniachtchi, was also kicked a point behind. Nepo seemed to have been surprised in the opening, chose a dubious line, and got crushed by a kingside attack. (While we're at it, pretty much the same thing happened today to Vladimir Kramnik, albeit in a very different line, as he was drubbed by Santosh Vidit Gujrathi.)

    Carlsen is in great shape, in clear first at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament with three rounds remaining, but there is still one player who is nipping at his heels. Anish Giri is only half a point behind after winning with Black against Vladimir Fedoseev in a game that was probably determined by White's time pressure.

    Perhaps the nicest win of the round was Richard Rapport's win against Jan-Krzysztof Duda. The game seemed headed for a draw, but Duda got greedy, careless, or both. His 32.Qd8? was both a bad move and a terribly impractical one. An easy draw was available with 32.Qb2, but his move threatened mate. The reason this was an impractical decision is that Rapport had at least a couple of moments where he could have bailed out and maintained equality if he couldn't find anything better. So Duda let Rapport play with house money: if Rapport finds a win, he wins; if not, he is in no worse shape than he would have been after 32.Qb2. Happily for chess fans, Rapport worked out the combination in full, and won in style.

    There were only two draws today, and while neither was thrilling they were decent games played to a logical end. Sam Shankland and Teimour Radjabov split their point, with neither player enjoying any real edge, while Ding Liren pressed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov before calling it a day on move 46.

    The games (with comments to the decisive games) are here. The last rest day is tomorrow, and on Friday we'll have round 11, with these pairings:

    • Radjabov (5) - Carlsen (7)
    • Giri (6.5) - Shankland (4.5)
    • Nepomniachtchi (6) - Fedoseev (4.5)
    • Kramnik (2.5) - Van Foreest (4)
    • Mamedyarov (4) - Vidit (5)
    • Rapport (4.5) - Ding (6)
    • Anand (6) - Duda (4.5)