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    Entries in Reggio Emilia 2011 (10)

    Friday
    Jan062012

    Reggio Emilia, Round 10: Giri Draws the Game and Wins the Tournament

    Life is good for Anish Giri, just 17 and a half years old and winning elite tournaments! Reggio Emilia 2011/12 is his first major success, but it's not going to be his last. After a bumpy -2 start, Giri scored four wins and a draw in rounds 5-9 to enter the last round tied for first with Hikaru Nakamura and Alexander Morozevich.

    With White against Fabiano Caruana in the last round, he played very safely and the game was draw in just 28 moves. That seemed like a potentially dangerous strategy, with Nakamura and Morozevich playing the ice-cold Vassily Ivanchuk and Nikita Vitiugov, respectively, but it worked out perfectly. Ivanchuk ground Nakamura down on the white side of a Berlin, and it was only fitting that as Nakamura had ruined Ivanchuk's tournament at the end of the first cycle, Ivanchuk repaid the favor at the end.

    Anything was possible in the Vitiugov-Morozevich battle, and in a long tactical sequence it was Morozevich who had the objectively better position. In mutual time trouble he first missed a likely win, and after further inaccuracies wound up in a lost endgame an exchange down. He had his chance, but couldn't cash it in.

    Thus Giri took clear first with 16 points (on the 3-1-0 scoring system used in this event), one more than Caruana, Morozevich and Nakamura. Ivanchuk finished with 12 and at least a nice finish, while Vitiugov concluded his first super-event with 8 points and a last-round win.

    Games, with comments, here.

    Thursday
    Jan052012

    Reggio Emilia, Round 9: We're In For a Photo-Finish

    It's hard to tell if everyone's trying to win or no one is, but with one round to go in the 2011/12 edition of Reggio Emilia there's a three-way tie for first, and it's at least conceivable that no member of the troika finishes first!

    Hikaru Nakamura lost again - again with the white pieces - and his lead is no more. Gnash your teeth, Petroff-haters, as Anish Giri used that little-loved opening to outplay Nakamura from the opening on, winning convincingly. Perhaps Nakamura, like Vassily Ivanchuk, has simply run out of gas, while Giri's motor is purring like a muscle car's V-8. Thanks to his remarkable run of 4.5/5 (or rather, 13/15) he has caught up with Nakamura in first place.

    And they're not alone. Alexander Morozevich is also tied for first, and he missed an opportunity of sorts by only drawing with White against Ivanchuk. That's not an intrinsically unworthy result in the normal scheme of things, but Ivanchuk had lost four in a row coming into the game and would have seemed vulnerable. Fortunately for "Chuky", he was able to keep it all together and draw in comfort.

    That sums up the situation for the players in first, but as noted above it's possible that none of them actually wins the tournament. That's because Fabiano Caruana, who beat Nikita Vitiugov (why not? Everyone else has this tournament, except Ivanchuk), is a solitary point (a 3-1-0 scoring point) behind.

    Here are the last round pairings, with the players' point totals in parentheses:

    • Giri (15) - Caruana (14)
    • Vitiugov (5) - Morozevich (15)
    • Ivanchuk (9) - Nakamura (15)

    It's hard to know who the favorite is. Vitiugov is playing the worst chess, but he does have White against Morozevich. Ivanchuk isn't playing well either, but he's White, probably pulled himself together a bit today and is facing a player who may also be on the skids at the moment. Meanwhile, both Giri and Caruana are playing very well (Caruana has three wins and a draw the past four games), so although Giri beat Caruana with Black in the first cycle it's hard to see him as a big favorite at the moment.

    Predictions?

    The games, with my brief comments, are here.

    Thursday
    Jan052012

    Reggio Emilia, Round 8: Morozevich Beats and Closes in on Nakamura

    Round 8 was an oddity in the Reggio Emilia super-tournament. It's not that there were three decisive games; that seems almost par for the course, as rounds four through six were also drawless. Rather, the oddity came from the games, from two in particular.

    The most important game of the round was Nakamura-Morozevich. With a win, Nakamura could have just about put the tournament on ice, and a draw would have been pretty good as well. Instead he played the opening so poorly that after 15 moves he was down two pawns with no compensation to speak of, and Morozevich won with ease. Nakamura still leads Morozevich, but it's only by a point (on 3-1-0 scoring, which means that a Morozevich win would enable him to leapfrog past Nakamura if the latter only manages a draw).

    Ivanchuk continued to plummet as if an anvil had been tied around his chest. Perhaps hoping for a boring position and an easy draw, Ivanchuk played the London System against Caruana - but it didn't work. By around move 20, Ivanchuk was in trouble and by move 26 he was lost. The weirdest part came on moves 30 and 31 Ivanchuk gave up first his queen and then a rook in an absolutely absurd (and obviously intentional) way. Perhaps it was a way of expressing his distaste with himself; whatever the case, he has collapsed terribly - this was his fourth consecutive loss.

    Finally, Giri has really caught fire the past several rounds, going 3.5/4 after a poor start. Today he beat Vitiugov in nice style, sacrificing the exchange and a pawn for attacking chances, and they paid off. Vitiugov was able to return the material and eventually a pawn more to reach an endgame, but Giri's technique was good and he won.

    With two rounds to go, the standings look like this:

    1. Nakamura 15
    2. Morozevich 14
    3. Giri 12
    4. Caruana 11
    5. Ivanchuk 8
    6. Vitiugov 5

    The games, with my comments, are here.

    Wednesday
    Jan042012

    Reggio Emilia, Round 7: Two Quick Draws and an Ivanchuk Blunder

    Round 7 of Reggio Emilia was very strange. After three straight rounds with three decisive games, two of today's games (Morozevich-Giri and Caruana-Nakamura) were drawn by move 21! The third game could and probably should have been a relatively quick draw as well, but Vassily Ivanchuk hallucinated something or other against Nikita Vitiugov and lost a piece and, therefore, his third consecutive game. (In all three games he had the black pieces, but that's not really to blame, as he was winning in round 5 against Nakamura and should have drawn today.)

    With three rounds to go, Nakamura has 15 points (on 3-1-0 scoring), Morozevich has 11, Giri 9, Caruana and Ivanchuk 8 and Vitiugov 5.

    Games here, but without notes except for a brief discussion at the end of Vitiugov-Ivanchuk.

    Saturday
    Dec312011

    Reggio Emilia, Round 5: Nakamura Wins, Leads At The Halfway Point

    The remarkably agressive chess in Reggio Emilia continued in round 5 with three more decisive games.

    Anish Giri kicked off the day's bloodbath with a speedy win over Fabiano Caruana on the black side of a Petroff. Caruana's odd 7.c4 has been considered second-rate for a century, and while Giri's position might not have been better it was certainly easier to play. By move 23 Caruana had been completely outplayed, and 25...Nxf2 was the speedy coup de grace.

    The second winner was Alexander Morozevich, who bounced back from yesterday's loss to Vassily Ivanchuk with a win over Nikita Vitiugov. Vitiugov is finding it tough going in his first super-tournament. He put up a feisty defense against Morozevich for a long time, but White's b-pawn proved one trump too many for Black to survive.

    That left the last game, the battle between the leaders entering the round. Hikaru Nakamura had White against Ivanchuk, but had been outplayed from fairly early on and was in serious trouble near the end of the first time control. Nakamura's 34.Nc4 was a felix culpa, an objectively erroneous move that put pressure on Ivanchuk to find very accurate moves. He succeeded at first, but 37...Qg3+ gave away the win and then 40...Qf3+ gave away a draw - albeit one that was already very difficult to find. Nakamura coped with the technical problems in the second session, and won the game.

    As a result Nakamura put himself in clear first at the halfway point, and has vaulted into #6 on the live rating list. (It would have been #5, but because this event won't be rated for the official list coming out tomorrow - today, for those of you across the pond - so at the moment he's .1 beyond Radjabov.) Not bad for a day's work!

    Standings After Round 5 (remember, it's based on 3-1-0 scoring):

    1. Nakamura 11
    2. Morozevich 10
    3. Ivanchuk 8
    4. Giri 5
    5. Caruana 4
    6. Vitiugov 2

    January 1 is a rest day, and then they'll start it all over again on Monday, repeating the first cycle but with colors reversed. Meanwhile, enjoy the round 5 games (with some comments) here.

    Friday
    Dec302011

    Reggio Emilia, Round 4: Ivanchuk, Nakamura Lead

    All three games in round 4 of Reggio Emilia finished with winners and losers. Alexander Morozevich entered the round in clear first, but ended it in third after being outplayed by Vassily Ivanchuk. Ivanchuk built up a winning attacking position with White in a Ruy Lopez, and while the game got murky for a while he never really let Morozevich get back into the game. In a pleasant rarity, Morozevich let Ivanchuk deliver mate - very sporting of him!

    That put Ivanchuk into the lead, and he was joined there by Hikaru Nakamura. Anish Giri's 23.d6 was interesting at best and dubious at worst, and the follow-up 31.Qd5? left him with a lost ending. Nakamura won pretty easily after that, and he looks poised for a second strong result.

    Finally, Nikita Vitiugov's loss to Fabiano Caruana resembled Giri-Nakamura. Like Giri, Vitiugov embarked down an enterprising sacrificial path, but like Giri he played without sufficient energy, only to wind up in a hopeless ending down material.

    After four of ten rounds, Ivanchuk and Nakamura have 8 points (they're using 3-1-0 scoring), a point ahead of Morozevich. Caruana has 4, and Vitiugov and Giri are bringing up the rear with 2 points apiece.

    The games, with my (light) comments, are here.

    Thursday
    Dec292011

    The Daily Update: Reggio Emilia, San Sebastian, Stockholm and Hastings

    1. Reggio Emilia. Vitiugov-Giri and Morozevich-Nakamura were normal draws while Caruana-Ivanchuk was neither normal nor drawn. It looked like it would be drawn in a knight and three vs. bishop and three ending, but Ivanchuk poked and prodded with his king and bishop until he had at last extracted an error from the youngster. Caruana miscalculated something, or perhaps failed to calculate at all in time trouble, when he allowed Ivanchuk to swap down into a winning pawn ending.

    After three rounds, Morozevich continues to lead with seven points (on 3-1-0 scoring). Nakamura and Ivanchuk have five points apiece; Vitiugov and Giri have two while the hometown favorite (Caruana) has but a single point.

    Today's games, with notes to all three over the final stages, are here.

    2. San Sebastian. There was a preliminary round yesterday, but today the action began in earnest. The tournament is a seven round knockout event, with a unique twist: opponents play two games with each other simultaneously, one with each color. The thought is that having the white pieces first in a two game mini-match is a substantial advantage, so having the games played simultaneously eliminates that imbalance.

    As it's early yet, the heavy hitters haven't faced off yet, but the late rounds should be quite interesting as there are quite a few 2700s involved.

    3. The Rilton Cup. There are no super-GMs in this annual open event in Stockholm, Sweden, but it's decently strong as opens go, featuring 19 GMs. It looks like an excellent event for Scandinavian norm aspirants to attend each year.

    4. Hastings. The classic annual event is a Swiss event this year with 13 GMs amongst the 112 participants. The top British participant (and second seed overall) is David Howell, while the top seed and clear favorite is Wang Yue (2697).

    Wednesday
    Dec282011

    Reggio Emilia, Round 2: Morozevich Wins Again

    Today two of the three games in the 2011/12 edition of Reggio Emilia were drawn, but mighty Alexander Morozevich struck again - and again, with the black pieces, defeating Anish Giri with a brutal attack in the center. He now leads with a 2-0 score - or rather, 6-0, as they seem to be using the 3-1-0 scoring system borrowed from soccer.

    Hikaru Nakamura drew Fabiano Caruana; they have 4 points (1.5/2) and 1 point (.5/2), respectively. Vassily Ivanchuk's game with Nikita Vitiugov was also drawn, leaving Ivanchuk with two points thanks to his two draws and Vitiugov, like Caruana and Giri, with a single point based on their one draw.

    Today's games, including my notes to Giri-Morozevich (and a bad pun), can be replayed here.

    Tuesday
    Dec272011

    Reggio Emilia, Round 1: Nakamura, Morozevich Win

    The annual tournament in Reggio Emilia got off to an exciting start, though a sad one for the local fans. Fabiano Caruana had a great position against Alexander Morozevich and was well on his way to a win, but he outfoxed himself and miscalculated, and four-plus hours of very strong play was turned almost instantly to a zero for the game.

    Hikaru Nakamura also won, also with Black, but in a more conventional way. Against Nikita Vitiugov's 5.Bf4 in a QGD, Nakamura opted for a plan with a quick ...c4. White obtained a 2-0 preponderance of central pawns, but it was Black's queenside majority that proved more valuable. As if for the sake of completing the thematic picture, White resigned because Black's passed c-pawn was about to net an extra rook.

    Vassily Ivanchuk drew with Anish Giri in another QGD. Giri prepared an interesting exchange sac, hoping to round up or at least permanently immobilze Ivanchuk's knight on a8. It worked out well enough for a draw, but had Ivanchuk chosen 23.Rxf8+ Kxf8 24.Rd2 Black might have had to sweat a bit more.

    So they're off to a good start in Italy, and there's a strong tournament in San Sebastian starting today as well.

    Round 1 games, with my light comments, here.

    Monday
    Dec262011

    Reggio Emilia Starts Tomorrow (Tuesday)

    The annual tournament in Reggio Emilia has been growing stronger and stronger the past few years, and the lineup for the 2011/12 edition is exceptional. This double round-robin tournament starts tomorrow (8:30 a.m. ET in the US = 13:30 GMT), with the following participants (official ratings first, live ratings in parentheses):

    • Vassily Ivanchuk 2775 (2766)
    • Alexander Morozevich 2762 (2763)
    • Hikaru Nakamura 2758 (2759)
    • Nikita Vitiugov 2729 (2726)
    • Fabiano Caruana 2727 (2736)
    • Anish Giri 2714 (2714)

    Predictions?