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Onischuk Vachier-Lagrave Valentina Gunina Vallejo value of chess van der Heijden Van Perlo van Wely Varuzhan Akobian Vasik Rajlich Vasily Smyslov Vassily Ivanchuk Vassily Smyslov Velimirovic Attack Vera Menchik Veresov Veselin Topalov video videos Vidit Gujrathi Vienna 1922 Viktor Bologan Viktor Korchnoi Viktor Moskalenko Vincent Keymer Viswanathan Anand Vitaly Tseshkovsky Vitiugov Vladimir Fedoseev Vladimir Kramnik Vladimir Tukmakov Vladislav Artemiev Vladislav Tkachiev Vlastimil Hort Vlastimil Jansa Vugar Gashimov Vugar Gashimov Memorial Walter Browne Wang Hao Wang Yue Watson Wei Yi Welcome Wesley Brandhorst Wesley So Wijk aan Zee 1999 Wijk aan Zee 2010 Wijk aan Zee 2011 Wijk aan Zee 2012 Wijk aan Zee 2013 Wijk aan Zee 2014 Wijk aan Zee 2015 Wijk aan Zee 2016 Wijk aan Zee 2017 Wil E. 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    Entries in Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (41)

    Saturday
    Oct132018

    Carlsen Playing Now

    For those wondering why I didn't blog about round 1 of the European Club Cup, it's because most of the matches were mismatches (as is typical for an Open Swiss) and because Magnus Carlsen didn't play. (Nor did Ding Liren, but the other 2800, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, did - and won.) Carlsen is playing now, in round 2, against former European Individual Champion and former (and current?) Ian Nepomniachtchi trainer Vladimir Potkin. Potkin has played very well, and through 27 and a half 8 moves Carlsen has absolutely nothing with White. Of course, this has been true of many games in Carlsen's career that he went on to win, and sure enough, as I'm writing this, Potkin has made a poor move giving his opponent an edge.

    In other 2800 games, Ding is playing his first game of the event, and has an endgame advantage against IM David Gorodetzky, while Mamedyarov took the round off.

    Thursday
    Oct112018

    Reminder: The European Club Cup Starts Tomorrow (Friday)

    It's not quite as strong as the Olympiad, but it's a monster event all the same. The 2018 European Club Cup has three 2800+ players, 17 players over 2700, 22 players at or over 2689, and so on. World Champion Magnus Carlsen is playing; likewise Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Ding Liren.

    Good times for chess fans.

    Saturday
    Sep082018

    Karjakin-Duda and Giri-Mamedyarov

    The last two matches of the 1/8-finals of the 2018 Speed Chess Championship are now history, and they were both very good, coming down to the wire. If you didn't watch the matches live but want to see them, without knowing what happened, we're here to serve. The Karjakin-Duda stream can be (re-) watched here, and Giri-Mamedyarov is here.

    UPDATE/Bonus: Another Chess.com super-event is underway now as well, the 2018 PRO Chess League All-Star Games. Have a look, but only if it doesn't interfere with your enjoyment of the Notre Dame game.

    Saturday
    Aug182018

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 1: Wins for Aronian and Mamedyarov

    The series in St. Louis has come to its culmination with the start of the Sinquefield Cup on Saturday. (Always avoid alliteration, I know.) 10 of the world's top 14 are playing, including the top 3 - which includes world champion Magnus Carlsen and his challenger, Fabiano Caruana.

    It was the world's #3 player who won first though, as Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - one of the hottest players in the world going back to the end of last year - took advantage of the suddenly ice cold Wesley So. Alexander Alekhine (world champion from 1927-1935 and 1937 until his death in 1946) used to boast that an opponent would have to beat him three times to win a game: once in the opening, once in the middlegame, and once in the endgame. On this occasion So managed to lose three times, once in each stage of the game. He came out of the opening with a poor (but not technically lost) position, immediately went wrong in the queenless middlegame with a miscalculated idea that wasted multiple tempi, and then after Mamedyarov tried taking a shortcut in the ending So missed a bonus chance to draw. It was a good game by Mamedyarov but a remarkably poor one for So. Hopefully he will bounce back from the problems he has suffered in St. Louis over the past week and return to his world-beating form straight away.

    Levon Aronian was the day's other winner. Surprising Sergey Karjakin (and just about everyone else) by playing 1.e4, he took the white side of the Berlin ending and ground his opponent down in a long (69 move) game. Overall it was a very good effort by Aronian, even if he was disappointed in himself for allowing Black to play ...g5 late in the game.

    In the day's draws, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had a better position against Magnus Carlsen for a while, before letting it slip. Then Carlsen may have been a little better, but there wasn't much he could do after MVL closed up almost all the lines on the board. Hikaru Nakamura had a little surprise for Viswanathan Anand in a well-traveled line of the QGD. He obtained an edge, but 19.Qe2 let Anand liquidate his way to a speedy draw. Finally, Fabiano Caruana and Alexander Grischuk played a very long game. Grischuk was slightly better in the middlegame, despite playing Black, but by the end of the first time control Caruana was winning. He either missed or underestimated his best plan, however, and Grischuk managed a narrow escape.

    Here are today's games, with my comments.

    Wednesday
    Aug152018

    St. Louis Rapid & Blitz: Nakamura Wins, Mamedyarov Trips, Vachier-Lagrave Comes up Just Short

    The last day of the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz was a thriller, almost coming down to the wire. As yesterday - in fact, as it was all tournament long - Hikaru Nakamura and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov went back and forth, neck and neck all day long. Only today, almost at the very end, did one player emerge as the clear leader.

    Nakamura and Mamedyarov started the day tied for first, with Fabiano Caruana a point and a half behind and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave two points back. MVL was the star yesterday, halving his deficit with a stellar 7-2 score. Caruana also had his moments yesterday, starting well and finishing with two wins after a rough middle patch. He started strong today, and when both Nakamura and Mamedyarov each went -1 in their first two rounds it looked like anyone's race. Both Caruana and MVL went +1 in those rounds, closing the gap to half a point and a full point, respectively.

    The key game for Caruana - at least the first key game - took place in today's third round. Caruana had White against Nakamura and started well, but 34.Rxc2 brought him from better to precariously equal. A difficult draw was still available on move 46 with 46.Qc3!!, but without much time it wasn't surprising that he failed to find it, and lost. Mamedyarov and Vachier-Lagrave both won, leaving Nakamura and Mamedyarov a point ahead of MVL and a point and a half in front of Caruana.

    Mamedyarov beat Caruana in the next round, essentially putting an end to Caruana's hopes for first; Nakamura drew with Viswanathan Anand and, in a shocker, Vachier-Lagrave suffered his first (and only) blitz loss of the tournament, misplaying an attack against Levon Aronian on the black side of a Byrne Attack Najdorf. Mamedyarov took the clear lead, Nakamura was half a point back, MVL went two points down and Caruana down two and a half points.

    The race immediately tightened, however, as Mamedyarov lost in round 5 to none other than Vachier-Lagrave. Meanwhile, Nakamura leapfrogged into first by defeating Alexander Grischuk and Caruana kept his very slim chances alive by defeating Anand. Now Nakamura was in first, half a point ahead of Mamedyarov, a point and a half in front of Vachier-Lagrave and two points ahead of Caruana.

    In round 6 MVL kept in striking range by defeating Caruana, while Mamedyarov caught up to Nakamura by defeating Sergey Karjakin while Nakamura only drew against Leinier Dominguez. Mamedyarov and Nakamura shared the lead, with MVL a point back and Caruana out of the picture two and a half points behind.

    In round 7 Nakamura took a full point lead by defeating Aronian, while Mamedyarov shockingly lost to Wesley So, a tailender throughout the event. Vachier-Lagrave fell off the pace after a draw with Karjakin, leaving him a point and a half behind Nakamura. But things were not as grim for the chase pack as it might seem, because Nakamura would have to face Mamedyarov in round 8 and MVL in the final round, round 9.

    In round 8 MVL drew again, with So again playing the spoiler role. Still, not all would be lost in the race for first if Mamedyarov could defeat Nakamura, and he enjoyed an advantage at various times in what was a crazy and very hard-fought game. With 42.Be5 Mamedyarov would have had Nakamura under serious pressure, and a few moves later 45.Kc3 would have maintained equal chances in a sharp ending. Instead, he played 46.Kd3, a fatal error that gave Black's rook the b3 square. Nakamura won a few moves later, taking advantage of (and winning) White's stuck bishop on c1. With a two point lead over both Mamedyarov and MVL with only one round to go, Nakamura clinched clear first.

    Nevertheless, Vachier-Lagrave kept fighting and played a very good game, outplaying Nakamura with Black in the last round to close the gap to a single point. Mamedyarov only managed a draw with Anand, which meant that he took a disappointing third place a point and a half behind Nakamura and half a point behind MVL.

    The games (without notes) are here, and these are the final overall standings:

    1. Nakamura 22.5/36
    2. Vachier-Lagrave 21.5
    3. Mamedyarov 21
    4. Caruana 20
    5. Aronian 18
    6. Karjakin 17
    7. Dominguez 16
    8. Grischuk 15.5
    9. So 15
    10. Anand 13.5

    Had the blitz portion been a tournament in its own right, Vachier-Lagrave would have been the clear winner. He scored a very impressive 13.5/18, gained 59 rating points, and is only two points behind Magnus Carlsen in the blitz ratings. And speaking of Magnus Carlsen, he will replace Leinier Dominguez as the wildcard in the next Grand Chess Tour event, happening in the same place and starting on Saturday. That is of course the Sinquefield Cup, a classical event that will mark the close of two different things: the qualification stage of the Grand Chess Tour (the top four overall in the Tour will fight it out in London in December) and the pre-world championship match battles between Carlsen and Caruana. (They will play in round 7, on Saturday, August 25; Carlsen has the white pieces. Full pairings here.)

    Incidentally, tomorrow (Thursday) there will be the informal "Ultimate Moves" "competition" at the St. Louis club, a series of fun chess events featuring the Tour participants along with the founder of the club, Rex Sinquefield, and his son Randy Sinquefield. The fun and games will start tomorrow at the usual hour: 1 p.m. local time in St. Louis/2 p.m. ET.

    Finally, you can see the Grand Chess Tour's overall standings here (remember, the top four overall qualify for London, and do so on an equal footing - their qualifying scores play no role once they're there) and the Tour points available in the Sinquefield Cup (which are greater than those given for all the previous GCT events) can be found in this PDF.

    Monday
    Aug132018

    St. Louis Rapid & Blitz, Day 3: Mamedyarov & Nakamura Lead Heading Into the Blitz

    There were more interesting games today as the rapid portion of the tournament came to a close. Both Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Hikaru Nakamura scored 2.5/3 today (or rather, 5/6 on the 2-1-0 scoring in effect for the rapid games) while day 2 leader Fabiano Caruana finished the day a point (half a point on traditional scoring) behind after a loss in round 7 and draws in rounds 8 and 9. Round 7 was critical, as Caruana gave away a won game - and certainly one that would normally be unloseable - after committing an anthologizable hallucination-style blunder against Leinier Dominguez.

    All the day's games, with my comments, are here. And here are the standings going into the blitz. (Remember, the rapid games count double, while the blitz games will be scored and counted in the conventional way. Tomorrow they'll have their first blitz round-robin, and on Wednesday the second round-robin with colors reversed.)

    1-2. Mamedyarov, Nakamura 12/18
    3. Caruana 11
    4-6. Karjakin, Aronian, Dominguez 9
    7-8. So, Vachier-Lagrave 8
    9-10. Anand, Grischuk 6

    Tuesday
    Apr172018

    A Mamedyarov Interview

    In which the world's #3 (#2 until very recently, and technically still is #2) talks about his performance in the Candidates tournament and looks forward to the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, which starts on Thursday.

    Monday
    Mar262018

    2018 Candidates, Round 13: Caruana Regains the Clear Lead

    Perhaps the rest day helped, or maybe it was good preparation. Or, maybe it's that Fabiano Caruana's opponent, Levon Aronian, is so out of form at the moment that it was enough for Caruana to play a decent game to obtain good winning chances. Whatever story we invent in all of its ex post facto glory, the facts are that Caruana rebounded from his painful loss to Sergey Karjakin on Saturday with an almost entirely clean and convincing victory over Aronian today. Since Karjakin was only able to draw his game against Wesley So, Caruana is in clear first, half a point ahead of both So and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who was given a massive present by Alexander Grischuk. Ding Liren is a full point behind after a lucky draw against Vladimir Kramnik. Amazingly, he's not yet mathematically eliminated from the race for first. But more about this below.

    First then, Caruana's win over Aronian. Caruana repeated the Anti-Marshall line 8.d3 d6 9.Bd2 played by Grischuk (also against Aronian) in the previous round. Aronian varied first, but it looked like either Caruana's preparation or just his feel for the position was better than his opponent's, and soon he was outplaying the great Armenian. On the verge of getting rolled up, Aronian made a good practical decision to sacrifice a piece. It shouldn't have worked, but Caruana's 29.N1e3?? needlessly endangered the win. (I recognize that the double question mark is pretty harsh; I defend that evaluation in the game file.) The problem wasn't easy to spot, however, and once Aronian missed his chance Caruana finished most convincingly.

    As for Karjakin, he never had a chance. When So has White and is determined to be solid, it's almost impossible to get a position where one can play for a win. Magnus Carlsen has managed to do it against him, but that's about it. Besides, Karjakin's classical style doesn't help much either when it comes to must-win situations with Black. He did try to get a sharp line against So's 4.Qc2 anti-Nimzo-Indian line, but So kept it safe and the draw was never in doubt.

    Meanwhile, Mamedyarov joined Karjakin in second. His game with Grischuk also looked like an inevitable draw, and had looked that way for a long time. Mamedyarov did just enough to keep the game from becoming a dead draw, and finally at move 34 Grischuk had to find the right move. He thought he had found a way to achieve an instant draw, but White's reply proved otherwise. Grischuk was tied with Mamedyarov entering the round, so if he had won he'd have had a shot. Not any longer.

    Finally, Kramnik showed how to play for a win with Black, and up until his 30th move had played a great game. Ding would have been lost after 30...Rxe7, and even after 32..Kg7 (or 32...Kh7) Kramnik probably would have won thanks to White's weak king. Instead, Kramnik allowed White to trade queens, and then his king wasn't an issue. The resulting ending was only a little better for Black, and Ding held the draw without much trouble.

    Caruana has 8 out of 13, Mamedyarov and Grischuk have 7.5, and Ding has 7. This site (HT: Chuckles) offers the odds of tournament success for each of the four, and (sacrificing a few decimal places) they are:

    • Caruana: 56.4%
    • Mamedyarov: 20.9%
    • Karjakin: 20.7%
    • Ding: 2%

    The site's author has more information and an explanation of his method, so you're encouraged to check out the full details there.

    Rapping things up over here...the games (with my notes) are here; and the final pairings, to determine the identity of Carlsen's challenger this coming November, are:

    • Grischuk (6.5) - Caruana (8)
    • Aronian (4) - So (5.5)
    • Karjakin (7.5) - Ding (7)
    • Kramnik (6) - Mamedyarov (7.5)

    Saturday
    Mar242018

    2018 Candidates, Round 12: The Tournament gets Karjaked

    Yes, it's a bad pun, and yes, I know the "j" in Sergey Karjakin's name is pronounced like a "y". I'm sticking to the dumb pun anyway. Who'd have thought that Karjakin, -2 after four rounds, would lead the tournament eight rounds later? What's that, you say, he's only tied for first? Incorrect. By beating "co-leader" Fabiano Caruana, Karjakin has the better tiebreaks, and given the tournament rules it means he would win the event if it finished right now. (Just as Magnus Carlsen advanced and Vladimir Kramnik didn't when they finished London 2013 with the same number of points.)

    Amazing. Karjakin has won four games in seven rounds, going from worst to first, and for the moment he has the pole position for a second straight title tilt with Magnus Carlsen. With White against Caruana and the latter's Petroff, Karjakin avoided nonsense like 5.Qe2 and went for the main lines, choosing 5.Nc3. After 10.a3 and 11.Nd4 there was a new position on the board, and it seems that he obtained an advantage. The critical idea that probably won him the game, and possibly a second shot at the title, was 17.Bxd5, sacrificing the exchange for a pawn and a nuclear bishop on d5, radiating power in every direction. Caruana didn't manage to cope with this piece, and by the time Karjakin picked up a second pawn for the exchange on move 31 Black's position was hopeless.

    Caruana's loss could have been Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's gain. Like Caruana, he had been undefeated all tournament long and had been in first or just half a point behind for a long time. Had he won with White against Ding Liren, he'd have been in sole first. Even a draw would have been acceptable: he'd have been in a three-way tie for first, and then he'd have been ahead on tiebreaks given his plus score against Karjakin and even record vs. Caruana. If, if, if. Ding didn't lose, and despite drawing all 11 of his games up to this point he didn't split the point either. Instead, he won, and now he's even with Mamedyarov, half a point behind the leaders.

    Ding took a page out of Kramnik's book (why not? Everyone else copies his openings) and played the Semi-Tarrasch. He equalized, and when Mamedyarov pushed to create a kingside attack Ding was able to push his queenside majority, make a second queen, and win.

    So four players lead or are within half a point of the lead. Did I say four? Make it five: we shouldn't forget Alexander Grischuk. If had defeated Levon Aronian he'd have been in the tie for first. He had a big chance on move 23, but rejected it for some reason and Aronian escaped with a draw. Still, Grischuk is within half a point of Karjakin and Caruana, so with two rounds to go more than half of the field still has a great shot at winning the tournament.

    The last game featured two players who are out of the running. Vladimir Kramnik had a winning advantage against Wesley So, but for the umpteenth time in the event left half a point (or more) on the table, and the game finished in a draw.

    The games (with my notes) are here. Sunday is a rest day, and the penultimate round will be played on Monday, with these pairings:

     

    • Mamedyarov (6.5) - Grischuk (6.5)
    • Ding Liren (6.5) - Kramnik (5.5)
    • So (5) - Karjakin (7)
    • Caruana (7) - Aronian (4)

     

    Thursday
    Mar222018

    2018 Candidates, Round 10: Mamedyarov-Caruana Drawn, Kramnik Wins Another Tactical Slugfest vs. Aronian

    Once again, for the third round in a row, play in the Candidates resulted in three draws and a decisive result in Vladimir Kramnik's game. Kramnik's results since round 3 have been atrocious - two draws and four losses. His last win was in round 3, against Levon Aronian, and now he has reprised it with a second win over Aronian. In fact, like the first game, this too was a thrilling tactical slugfest, but with some differences.

    For starters, Kramnik got a great position in the opening of the earlier game, but this time his opening play was poor while Aronian's was excellent, and Kramnik was in trouble even early on. He went all-out for a kingside attack, and after an Aronian inaccuracy on move 22 the position was unclear. Both players kept the balance in the Mikhail Tal-style middlegame that followed, and as often happened in Tal's games, the defender would stay alive for a pretty long time before collapsing on a relatively simple point. Aronian's mistake on move 36 wasn't the sort of thing one only spots on a good day or with an engine; normally one would expect Aronian to see the problem with his move in a blitz game. It's just the pressure of calculating move after move, hour after hour, exerting one's imagination to the utmost that gives rise to the occasional lapse, and alas for Aronian, he slipped. Kramnik is now at -1, not yet mathematically eliminated from the race for first, but - as he might way - it would be a "miracle" if he could win.

    The two players with the best chance to win faced off, with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov playing White against Fabiano Caruana. It was a Catalan - the theme opening for this tournament - but a very sharp line for a change. Had Caruana played ...h4 on moves 13 or 14 it would have been utter chaos on the board. Instead, after setting the fire with his play on moves 5-12, he called the fire department and ran around with an extinguisher, playing not for middlegame sparks but a drawish semi-middlegame, semi-endgame a pawn down. Mamedyarov may have missed a chance on move 17, but that aside it was a very well-played and interesting game from beginning to end.

    The other two games weren't particular interesting, and were drawn quickly. Though Alexander Grischuk had White and was within a point of Caruana, he didn't seem to have anything special prepared against Sergey Karjakin, and by move 15 it already seemed that he had given up on the game, which was drawn by repetition in 28 moves. Ding Liren vs. Wesley So was also drawn quickly. Surprisingly, while both Mamedyarov-Caruana and Grischuk-Karjakin were Catalans, the most devoted Catalan addict in the field, Ding Liren, avoided it against So, entering a conventional Queen's Gambit Declined. So went for an unusual pawn sac on move 9, and it worked perfectly. If there's an advantage to be had for White, it had to be demonstrated somewhere between moves 12-14. After 14.Kg1 Bxf3 15.Bxf3 e5 Black had completely equalized, and the remaining moves were necessary only for the sake of reaching move 30. White made his 31st move and offered a draw in a dead rook + three pawns vs. rook + three pawns ending.

    (All four games, with my comments, are here.)

    Four rounds remain, and Caruana still leads Mamedyarov by half a point; Grischuk is a further half a point behind, followed by Karjakin and tournament drawmeister Ding Liren. (He's 10 for 10, just four games away from joining the immortal Anish Giri.) It's not too late for any of them, but it's getting close. Here are the pairings for round 11:

    • Ding Liren (5) - Grischuk (5.5)
    • So (4) - Mamedyarov (6)
    • Caruana (6.5) - Kramnik (4.5)
    • Aronian (3.5) - Karjakin (5)

    One would expect the first two games to end in solid draws and the second two to be anything but. The first time around, both Kramnik and Karjakin lost to their rivals with White, in both cases - especially Kramnik's - doing great damage to their tournaments. If they win with Black - which won't be easy, especially for Kramnik - they're back in the hunt.