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    Entries in Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (28)

    Wednesday
    Jan242018

    Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 10: Dog Bites Man (Giri Draws, Everyone Else Wins)

    That's not strictly true; rather, it's that all the players in contention won (except for Wesley So, who was playing another contender).

    Anish Giri entered the round half a point ahead of Magnus Carlsen and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, a point ahead of Vladimir Kramnik, and a point and a half ahead of So and Viswanathan Anand. Giri had the white pieces, but was unable to achieve anything against Sergey Karjakin, and the game finished in a speedy draw. Everyone else (except for So) took advantage.

    Let's start with the big dog: Carlsen, against So. Despite playing with White he got nothing out of the opening and was maybe a little worse. But So, one of his regular patrons, played too submissively (18...Nd4 was a move repeatedly noted by Carlsen as an example of this unfortunate tendency), and Carlsen escaped to a better ending a pawn up with rooks and opposite-colored bishops. That should have been a draw, but So didn't play it as well as he could have. Still, Carlsen decided to transform it into another ending - which again should have been drawn with best play, but where best play wasn't at all easy to achieve. Carlsen gave up his bishop for a couple more pawns, and So was unable to solve the problems of that new ending. It wasn't a masterpiece by Carlsen, but it was a great illustration of why he's the #1 player: his mental strength and his ability to keep posing new problems, hour after hour, and to take advantage when even the strongest opponents slip, far exceed his competitors' abilities in those respects.

    Case in point: Kramnik vs. Maxim Matlakov. Kramnik won and posed lots of interesting problems for Matlakov, but time after time Kramnik would meet his opponent's error with one of his own. Kramnik is an all-time great, and he's not doing badly here, either, but his current form isn't going to win the Candidates, never mind a world championship match against Carlsen. For his sake, hopefully it's just a matter of rust, and he'll be fully ready in March.

    Kramnik is half a point behind the leading triumvirate, so let's return to the leading triumvirate. We haven't mentioned Mamedyarov's game yet, a 21-move bludgeoning of Peter Svidler. Svidler had White and played the unusual 6.Bf4 in the Ragozin. That wasn't a problem by itself; in fact, Svidler defeated Giri with it in 2015. But after 6...Ne4 his 7th move was a strange novelty that probably wasn't prepared beforehand. (What he meant to do, or what he was getting mixed up, isn't clear.) After this Black had the initiative, but it wasn't out of control until 11.Bg2(?). After this Black was better, and after 15.Qb3? (I suspect Svidler would add the second question mark) 15...Na5 followed by ...Nc4 the game was just over. Mamedyarov played well, but Svidler was unrecognizable.

    Finally, Gawain Jones's tournament is starting to crumble a bit. After losing a won position against Carlsen in round 8 and failing to convert a won position against Hou Yifan in round 9 (though he was also lost at one point against her as well), he ran into some excellent preparation against Anand in this round, round 10. I'm not sure if Jones really was prepared for Anand's idea, but if he was he mixed something up and was lost almost right away. Anand won convincingly with the black pieces, and although he's a point behind the leaders he's playing well and will have two white games of the remaining three.

    Tomorrow (Thursday) is the second and last rest day of the event (they played in Groningen today; it's back to Wijk for the remaining games). Today's games, with my notes to all the aforementioned games but the very long adventure story that was Carlsen-So, are here. (The other two games were Wei Yi-Caruana, which was a short draw; and Hou Yifan-Adhiban, which was a very long draw.) And here are the pairings for round 11, on Friday, featuring above all a clash between two of the leaders, Mamedyarov vs. Carlsen:

    • Anand (6) - Hou Yifan (2)
    • So (5.5) - Jones (4)
    • Mamedyarov (7) - Carlsen (7)
    • Matlakov (4) - Svidler (4.5)
    • Karjakin (5.5) - Kramnik (6.5)
    • Caruana (4) - Giri (7)
    • Adhiban (3) - Wei Yi (4)

    Sunday
    Jan212018

    Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 8: Giri Beats Mamedyarov, Carlsen Blunders a Piece and Wins Anyway; All Three Lead

    Did we jinx Shakhriyar Mamedyarov? Did he, like Icarus, fly too close to the sun? If it was too soon yesterday to crown him the heir apparent, it's likewise too soon today to say that he's getting dragged back to the chase pack behind Magnus Carlsen. What we can say is that his one point lead over the rest of the field at Wijk aan Zee is gone after a terrible game against Anish Giri. Giri started off 2-0, and after a series of mostly very short draws, apparently thought it might be fun to try to win again once again - and he succeeded. He's now tied for first with Mamedyarov, and...

    Magnus Carlsen. Just about everything about his win over Gawain Jones was absurd. First, he said he was surprised by Jones's Dragon. That would make sense if one changed one word in the last sentence: Jones (or rather, Jones's). Jones wrote two major books on the Dragon a couple of years ago, and has played more than 100 games with it that have reached the databases. It's not that Jones can't play any other opening - he does - but for the Dragon to come as a surprise to any of his opponents is crazy. Even crazier is that Carlsen just blundered a piece, full stop, on move 17. It wasn't some sort of Alpha Zero-deep idea; it was what an old friend of mine would call a stick-an-ice cream cone-on-your-forehead moment. But the biggest absurdity of them all is it hardly mattered. Jones was winning, but six moves later the position was unclear, and another six moves later Carlsen was completely winning. Jones may be the lowest-rated player in the field, but he's still a great chess player in the mid-2600s. He had an even score in the tournament coming into this game, but no matter: Carlsen can blunder a piece against a 2640-50 player in good form and still win going away. (It's reminiscent of the New England Patriots in the NFL, whose combination of excellent play and seeming deal-with-the-devil quality and quantity of good luck over the past 17 years or so is mind-boggling.)

    In other games, featuring (comparatively) normal human beings, most of the other games were drawn, and most of them were quick draws. Only one other game had a winner, and that was Fabiano Caruana coming back from a lost position against Hou Yifan to gain the full point. Caruana has had a horrible tournament, which included the first part of his game in this round, but fortunately for him Hou is having an even worse tournament. She still has just one point, and lost 19 rating points in the tournament so far.

    Here are the games, and here are the pairings for round 9, on Tuesday: 

    • Jones (3.5) - Hou Yifan (1)
    • Anand (4.5) - Carlsen (5.5)
    • So (5) - Svidler (4)
    • Mamedyarov (5.5) - Kramnik (5)
    • Matlakov (4) - Giri (5.5)
    • Karjakin (4.5) - Wei Yi (3)
    • Caruana (3) - Adhiban (2) 

    Some comments on the round 9 games, going from top to bottom.

    Jones-Hou Yifan: It's a nice opportunity for Jones to get back on track against a player who is really suffering. If he can get back to 50% it would be a terrific achievement.

    Anand-Carlsen: Anand has done pretty well against Carlsen lately, so this could well add some intrigue to the tournament.

    So-Svidler: So has been lurking close to the leaders. Svidler is not an easy pairing for anyone, but if he can win it could put him into a tie for first.

    Mamedyarov-Kramnik: Or not: Mamedyarov has a very good score against Kramnik - the ex-champ is pretty close to becoming an official "customer". As long as he's able to play his normal chess without being too discouraged from the Giri loss, he'll have excellent chances to gain a full point. (How good is his score? From 2013, including all time controls, Mamedyarov's score is +8-1=6, and four of those draws were in 2013. And just counting classical games, Mamedyarov has scored 3.5 points in the last four games.)

    Matlakov-Giri: Giri hasn't shown any ambition with Black in this tournament, so unless Matlakov self-destructs quickly a draw can be expected.

    Karjakin-Wei Yi: If Karjakin hopes to compete for first he has to start winning, and Wei Yi hasn't played particularly well so far. We'll see if Karjakin has any ambition left for the tournament, or if he's already looking ahead to the Candidates.

    Caruana-Adhiban: I'm sure Caruana will play for the full point, to boost his confidence and his rating going into the Candidates. The first half of the tournament (after his round 1 draw with Carlsen) was awful, but if he can salvage it with a strong finish he can feel good about his chess heading into the second biggest event of the year.

    A note about the Challengers' tournament. Anton Korobov had been a convincing leader, with his only real rival Vidit Gujrathi a full point behind. No longer: Korobov lost with White (from a winning position) against Bassem Amin, and now he and Vidit share first with 6/8. The winner gets promoted to the Masters' tournament next year, so there's a lot at stake for them in the last five rounds.

    Saturday
    Jan202018

    Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 7: Mamedyarov Wins Again, Leads by a Full Point

    Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had a great 2017 (apparently he had the best TPR for the entire year - see the last entry), and he's starting 2018 the same way. With his easy win today over Wei Yi he has scored a hat trick, moving to +4 overall and a full point lead over his closest pursuers. The tournament still has six rounds left and Mamedyarov will face Carlsen soon, but for now everything is coming up roses for him.

    He was not the only winner on the day - there was a lot of blood spilled on the boards. Viswanathan Anand came into the round tied for second, but lost badly, with White, to Vladimir Kramnik. Now it's Kramnik who is part of a second-place tie. Another player who has entered the tie for second is Magnus Carlsen, who defeated tournament tailender Hou Yifan. Carlsen had a significant advantage early on but let it slip. Hou defended well for a long time, but Carlsen kept posing problems and eventually broke his opponent's resistance. The other two players in the tie are Wesley So and Anish Giri, who faced each other today. Giri fought his way out of a difficult position and made a draw.

    The final decisive result saw Sergey Karjakin defeat Fabiano Caruana. Caruana seemed to blunder a pawn shortly after the opening, and Karjakin converted without much trouble. Karjakin is half a point out of the tie for second, while Caruana is near the bottom with a -3 score.

    The day's other games were draws between Maxim Matlakov and Baskaran Adhiban, and between Gawain Jones and Peter Svidler. Jones is the lowest rated player in the event, far lower-rated than everyone but Hou and Adhiban (who are in last and next-to-last, respectively), but it doesn't look like it. He's still on 50%.

    The games (some annotated, some not) are here. These are the round 8 pairings:

    • Hou Yifan (1) - Caruana (2)
    • Adhiban (1.5) - Karjakin (4)
    • Wei Yi (2.5) - Matlakov (3.5)
    • Giri (4.5) - Mamedyarov (5.5)
    • Kramnik (4.5) - So (4.5)
    • Svidler (3.5) - Anand (4)
    • Carlsen (4.5) - Jones (3.5)

    Saturday
    Jan202018

    Mamedyarov's Recent Rise

    Here's an article on the ChessBase website detailing Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's successes over the past year, and every day he's doing better and better. He has won three straight games at Wijk aan Zee and is on +4 overall. He leads the tournament by a point, and is the world's #2 (2817.5!) by a healthy margin - almost 20 points! - and is only about 18 points behind Magnus Carlsen. Of course, he's not the first player to be #2 behind Carlsen since the latter took over the #1 spot at the start of the decade and became the world champion in 2013. I might be misremembering something, but I think all of the following players have been #2 at some point, often looking as if they would be the one to knock the Norwegian out of first: Viswanathan Anand, Veselin Topalov, Vladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wesley So, and I think Alexander Grischuk also briefly hit #2. (Maybe Hikaru Nakamura, too.)

    Now it's Mamedyarov's turn, and with the Candidates coming up in a couple of months it's a good time to start peaking. The one dark cloud for him is his very bad score against Carlsen. In classical chess it's 5-1 with seven draws, and five of those draws plus Mamedyarov's one win came by 2008. In rapid and blitz it's even more depressing, including a 3.5/4 in blitz and 1-0 in rapid for Carlsen in 2017. But Mamedyarov doesn't have to worry about that until he wins the Candidates, and if he does, then it will be a nice problem to have.

    Friday
    Jan192018

    Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 6: Mamedyarov the Sole Leader

    It was a strange round as White managed to parlay three winning positions into a glorious total of half a point. Two of the leaders, Anish Giri and Viswanathan Anand, faced off briefly before calling it a day, giving Shakhriyar Mamedyarov to take the lead by himself with a win over Baskaran Adhiban.

    It seemed instead that Mamedyarov was headed for the third place tie. Adhiban got to the time control with an edge, and after Mamedyarov's 41st move Adhiban's advantage was enough to win. But there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip, and Adhiban first lost the win, then the advantage, then equality, and finally his last chance to fight for survival. When it rains, it pours, and now Mamedyarov is in clear first with +3 while Adhiban is tied for last at -4.

    The day's other winner was Wesley So, and he too was losing with Black. Wei Yi's enterprising chess had him in great shape for a win and a +1 score overall, but he fell to pieces in time trouble. So is now tied for second place with Giri and Anand.

    Vladimir Kramnik could have been a part of that tie as well, but he gave away a big advantage (like Adhiban and Wei Yi, he too had White) and Gawain Jones slipped away. Kramnik remains at +1, while Jones is playing over his head and retains an equal score.

    The most exciting draw of the round, and probably the most exciting game, period, was Peter Svidler's game with Magnus Carlsen. There were plenty of tactics, sacrifices, and material imbalances, and both sides were simultaneously attacking each other's king. Better yet, their personal post-mortem was caught on video - see below. (I've done my best to include their analysis in the game file, too.)

    The other two games (Fabiano Caruana vs. Maxim Matlakov and Hou Yifan vs. Sergey Karjakin) were "clean" draws, i.e. there were no big errors or missed chances.

    The games, with my analyses of four of the games, are here. The video follows the round 7 pairings, which are: 

    • Carlsen (3.5) - Hou Yifan (1)
    • Jones (3) - Svidler (3)
    • Anand (4) - Kramnik (3.5)
    • So (4) - Giri (4)
    • Mamedyarov (4.5) - Wei Yi (2.5)
    • Matlakov (3) - Adhiban (1)
    • Karjakin (3) - Caruana (2) 

    Wednesday
    Jan172018

    Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 2

    I won't offer a full summary of the round 2 action, but here are the games, some of which have been annotated for your entertainment and instruction. Rounds 3 and 4 will gradually make their appearances as well.

    If you can remember all the way back to round 1, there were three winners: Giri, Kramnik, and Anand. The first two faced off, and while Giri has generally been one of Kramnik's customers, in this round the roles were reversed. Giri had all the fun, and Kramnik collapsed badly before the end of the time control. The world champion notched his first (and through round five, only) victory of the event against Adhiban. Adhiban plays lively chess, but perhaps hoping for a solid draw against the world champion played the Scotch Four Knights with White. Carlsen equalized without any problem, and when Adhiban failed to play 25.c3 his position fell to pieces. The third winner on the day was Mamedyarov (at the moment the world's #2 player); he defeated Hou Yifan (who is having a terrible tournament with just half a point out of five). I didn't analyze this last game, but did offer some comments on the marathon battle between Wei Yi and Svidler. Wei Yi was on the verge of winning, but a moment of carelessness allowed the 45-time Russian champion to eke out a draw. (Yes, I'm exaggerating; he has "only" won eight Russian titles.)

    Wednesday
    Jan172018

    Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 5: Anand, Giri, and Mamedyarov Lead Heading into the First Rest Day

    We'll catch up on the earlier rounds soon, maybe even tonight, but let's begin with round five. This round makes a misnomer of my subject line, as it was played in Hilversum, and between the inconvenience of travel and the anticipation of tomorrow's rest day it might have inspired some of the players to take an unofficial day off. Jones-Giri and Matlakov-Karjakin won't bring any new fans into the chess world. Anand's draw with Wei Yi was short but real, as far as I can tell: it looks like spectacularly good preparation by Black rather than mutual non-aggression.

    The other four games were harder fought, and three had a decisive outcome. The marquee matchup between Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik was a long draw that was always around equal. Kramnik outplayed Carlsen a little bit, but only enough to get the better half of a drawn rook ending. It was a good, correct game in which Kramnik correctly did what Carlsen always does: try to draw blood from a stone.

    Now to the decisive games. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Peter Svidler both won, against Fabiano Caruana and Hou Yifan, respectively, and in both cases their opponents fell apart in time trouble. For Caruana it was grave time trouble, and what was an equal position after 27 moves was lost after 32. Svidler's game was shocking. He was clearly better early on, and missed an almost trivial win on move 22 that would have ended the game immediately. After a further error the position was equal, and the players kept exchanging mistakes as they approached the time control. After Svidler's 38.Rc7 (which was tricky but objectively bad) Black could have saved the game with 38...Nxh3+ 39.Kh2 Rxe5!, but she missed this and resigned right after the time control.

    Finally, Wesley So ground out a win against Baskaran Adhiban in a rook ending. Like the games described in the previous paragraph, there were some serious errors here too that shifted the evaluation back and forth, and Adhiban made the final mistake.

    The games, with my comments, are here. On now to the pairings for round 6, on Friday:

    • Hou Yifan (.5) - Karjakin (2.5)
    • Caruana (1.5) - Matlakov (2.5)
    • Adhiban (1) - Mamedyarov (3.5)
    • Wei Yi (2.5) - So (3)
    • Giri (3.5) - Anand (3.5)
    • Kramnik (3) - Jones (2.5)

    Thursday
    Nov232017

    Updates: TCEC Superfinal, Palma Grand Prix

    It's still early in the superfinal of season 10 of the TCEC, but so far it's looking pretty one-sided. After 14 games (of 100), Houdini has won four and lost none, drawing 10. (Okay, technically it's +3 =10, but game 14 is a foregone conclusion in Houdini's favor, and it might finish the second after I upload this post.) Unfortunately, we weren't treated to a Houdini-asmFish match, but regardless, this is an impressive performance so far by Robert Houdart's program.

    As for the Grand Prix tournament in Palma de Mallorca, the leaderboard is even more crowded. Those in first, or in the second-place tie, all drew, maintaining the status quo amongst themselves, while even more players managed to jump into the huge tie for second. Levon Aronian still leads - now with four points out of six (with three rounds to go), and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura, Ding Liren, Peter Svidler, Pentala Harikrishna, and Dmitry Jakovenko are all still tied for second with three and a half points...and so too are Evgeny Tomashevsky and Richard Rapport.

    Tomashevsky's win was especially noteworthy, as it came at the expense of Teimour Radjabov. Radjabov entered the event hoping to qualify for the Candidates with a sufficiently strong result here, but now he's at -1, tied for 11th place. He hasn't yet been mathematically eliminated from contention, because if, say, he wins his last three games while all the other games are drawn he'd qualify, that isn't a particularly likely scenario. At least he can take comfort knowing that if he doesn't make it, his countryman (and, I think, friend) Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is guaranteed to qualify for the Candidates.

    As for Vachier-Lagrave, the good news is that he's in second; the bad news that it's a tie for second-ninth. If the tournament ended now, he'd be out of luck. He had Black in round 6, so at least he'll (probably) get the white pieces twice in the last three rounds. If he does qualify, it will come at Alexander Grischuk's expense, which would make for a double misfortune for him. Not only would he not qualify this way, but he's missing out at the chance to get in by the wildcard: the organizers already gave the spot to his fellow Russian Vladimir Kramnik.

    Wednesday
    May242017

    Three Interesting Recent Games

    I'm not going to analyze any of the three, mainly to avoid domesticating them. Each impressed and amazed me in its own way. The first, Najer-Mamedyarov, is a tactical tour de force by the hottest player in chess. (Don't peek, students!) The second, Ding Liren vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, featured a surprising sacrifice of a full exchange in the opening. The entire game was a mess, and the only thing that was clear is that Black was very fortunate to come away with half a point. The third game, between Hou Yifan and Jon Ludwig Hammer, was another matter. I watched a few moves early on in the rook vs. knight ending that arose after Black's 49th move, and was sure that it was a draw. A few hours later, I saw that Hou had won it (on her way to an excellent +1 result in the Grand Prix) and could hardly believe my eyes. Brilliancy by Hou or insanity by Hammer? I'll let you figure it out by yourself; I'll offer my own guess in the comments if anyone else offers one first.

    Games here.

    Thursday
    Apr272017

    Shamkir: Mamedyarov Leads After Five Rounds

    Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has been a beast in Shamkir, and enjoyed a half-point lead going into yesterday's rest day. His win over Pavel Eljanov in round 3 was huge, as Eljanov had led with 2/2. In fact Mamedyarov was a bit lucky, as Eljanov enjoyed a winning position after the first time control, and would have been on the way to victory with 44.e7. The position was very tricky though, and White's error allowed Black to equalize. The game remained complicated and equal for another ten moves or so, until Eljanov's 54.Qe4, which was the beginning of his slide into a lost position. (56.Rd5 was the fatal error.)

    In round 4 there was only one decisive game, which was Vladimir Kramnik's wild victory over Pentala Harikrishna. Kramnik's 24.Rd5 followed by 25.Rxe5 randomized the position, and although his rook sac wasn't completely sound such an evaluation is a bit too academic. A computer would have eaten Kramnik's lunch, but in the realm of flesh and blood it's much more difficult to work through all the craziness as time ticks away. In the lead-up to the time control, Harikrishna lost his way (the sensible-looking 36...Kf8 was a serious error; apparently only 36...Qb3 maintained equal chances), and Kramnik won.

    Not only did this help Kramnik's tournament standing, bringing him into a four-way tie for second (with Eljanov, Michael Adams, and Veselin Topalov), it also vaulted him ahead of Wesley So into second place in the live rating list. In round 5, So fixed that, very impressively outplaying Kramnik himself. It was play like this that got So into second place on the rating list in the first place, and the win put him back there.

    Topalov also lost - was demolished, in fact - by Sergey Karjakin in an impressive attacking game. Only Eljanov and Adams remain within half a point of Mamedyarov, but with four rounds left almost anything is still possible. Here are the pairings for round 6, which starts in a few hours.

    • Kramnik (2.5) - Mamedyarov (3.5)
    • Adams (3) - Harikrishna (1.5)
    • Wojtaszek (2) - Radjabov (2)
    • Topalov (2.5) - Eljanov (3)
    • So (2.5) - Karjakin (2.5)

    The games mentioned above can be replayed here, but sans annotations (unfortunately).