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    Entries in Veselin Topalov (31)

    Friday
    Apr212017

    Shamkir, Round 1 Pairings

    Grenke will have a run for its money when it comes to publicity in the chess world, as the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir gets underway in a few hours. Here are the round 1 pairings: 

    • Radoslaw Wojtaszek (2745) - Vladimir Kramnik (2811)
    • Veselin Topalov (2741) - Michael Adams (2761)
    • Wesley So (2822) - Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2772)
    • Sergey Karjakin (2783) - Pentala Harikrishna (2755)
    • Pavel Eljanov (2751) - Teimour Radjabov (2710)

    Will So win yet another tournament, and will his undefeated streak continue? Will Kramnik bounce back from a mediocre performance in Zurich, and will the presence of his bestest bud Topalov ruin his tournament? Or will a relative outsider win the laurels? Make your predictions now.

    Sunday
    Feb262017

    Catching Up: Gibraltar

    Yes, it's almost ancient history by now, but not quite. I'd mentioned the Gibraltar tournament when it started and never intended to provide daily coverage, but at least three things are worth addressing: the final results, the master classes, and Hou Yifan's protest.

    First then, results: Hikaru Nakamura came from behind to win the main tournament in a playoff over Yu Yangyi and then David Anton Guijarro. Anton led the field by half a point going into the last round, and after a draw with Mickey Adams he was caught by Nakamura and Yu. Anton had the highest TPR of the event, so the format for the playoff required Nakamura and Yu to play a pair of rapid games for the right to play another pair of rapid games with Anton for the title.

    The rapid games were both drawn, so they went on to blitz, and there Nakamura defeated Yu 2-0. The final went more smoothly for Nakamura, drawing with Black and defeating Anton with White to win the title.

    Second, master classes: Hou Yifan and Veselin Topalov gave special, prepared lectures during the tournament; this is a tournament tradition. They (and the 2016 master classes as well) can be accessed here.

    Third and finally, Hou Yifan's protest. Judit Polgar decided in her earliest teenage years to forsake the world of women's chess and to focus only on playing in the best events she could. Her decision paid off, as she became not simply the strongest female player in the world by a significant margin, but one of the best players in the world, period, peaking at #8.

    Hou Yifan took longer to come to the same point, but her dissatisfaction with how FIDE conducts the women's world championship and the realization that she has to play stronger opponents to improve has recently brought her around as well. So imagine her surprise and dismay when after nine of the 10 rounds at Gibraltar, seven of her games were against women. She had complained about it earlier in the event, but she made her displeasure even clearer in the final round, uncorking this immortal game:

    Hou Yifan - Lalith Babu M R:

    1.g4? d5 2.f3? e5 3.d3 Qh4+ 4.Kd2 h5 5.h3 hxg4 0-1

    What's wrong with this, you ask? Plenty.

    (1) Protesting in the last round comes too late to fix the problem.

    (2) Protesting when facing a male opponent, the "kind" of opponent she expected to play, doesn't make any sense.

    (3) The loss costs other players money. Given the reasonable likelihood of a draw in the course of a normal game, the players who tied for a prize with Lalith were potentially cheated out of some money.

    (4) Throwing a game, as opposed to forfeiting (a la Fischer in game 2 in 1972 or Kramnik in game 5 of the 2006 world championship match) is unethical.

    (5) No proof or even evidence was supplied to show that the pairings had been rigged by the organizers. As they pointed out, and no doubt pointed out to her if she raised the issue earlier in the tournament, they are done by computer. Pairing programs have been around for decades, and it would be easy to replicate their results.

    (6) The organizers have been fans of Hou Yifan's for years, and as noted above had invited her to give one of this year's Master Class lectures. Why would they suddenly act antagonistically towards her? It doesn't make much sense.

    I add that I'm a fan of hers, and approve wholeheartedly of her decision to eschew the women's world championship cycles to focus on becoming the best player she possibly can. Her frustration was understandable, but the protest doesn't seem to be defensible.

    Sunday
    Nov132016

    Champions Showdown, Day 3: Anand, Topalov Lead After the Classical Stage

    The double round robin portion of the Champions Showdown concluded in St. Louis on Saturday, and the stage finished with Viswanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov tied for first. Anand led after day two and drew both games today. Against Topalov in round 5 (the first game of the day) Anand had a chance to press late in the game, but for the most part his games were balanced and the draws were justified. That left him at +1, and the question was whether he would be caught - or passed - by Topalov or Hikaru Nakamura.

    In round 5, Nakamura defeated Fabiano Caruana, and thereby joined Anand at +1. Nakamura's novelty was met by a logical plan, the only problem was that Caruana was a tempo shy of successfully implementing it. 18.Qb3 was a good move, winning a pawn, and Nakamura confidently converted his advantage.

    With a draw against Topalov in round 6 he'd tie Anand for first in the stage, and a win would put him in clear first. Instead, Topalov won a very good game, thereby concluding the classical portion tied for first.

    Sunday they play rapid chess; meanwhile, the games are here, with my notes.

    Thursday
    Nov102016

    Topalov Leads After Day 1 of the Champions Showdown

    After two rounds of game/60 (with a five-second time delay each move) Veselin Topalov is the early leader of the Champions Showdown. In round 1 he defeated Fabiano Caruana in a remarkable game, and the day's other games were all drawn. The other round 1 game saw Viswanathan Anand outplay Hikaru Nakamura up to a point, but Nakamura's resilient defense and Anand's time trouble allowed the American to escape. In round 2 Topalov had White again, this time against Anand, but without achieve anything substantial. Caruana was on the verge of winning a fantastic game against Nakamura, but once again a combination of resilient defense and his opponent's (severe) time trouble let him survive a second straight game where he was in trouble with Black.

    The games, with my comments, are here.

    Thursday
    Nov102016

    Champions Showdown, Starting Now!

    It's Veselin Topalov vs. Fabiano Caruana and Viswanathan Anand vs. Hikaru Nakamura, starting now in St. Louis. As mentioned a few days ago, this is a three-part tournament: two classical round robins, followed by a double round robin in rapid, concluding in a quadruple round robin in blitz.

    Official site here.

    Friday
    Nov042016

    2016 Champions Showdown in St. Louis

    There is that little match in New York coming up, it's true, but in St. Louis there will be a very strong and entertaining event overlapping for part of the world championship match. The 2016 Champions Showdown in St. Louis runs from November 10-14, a three-stage tournament featuring Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand, Hikaru Nakamura, and Veselin Topalov. The first three days are for a classical round robin, day four will feature a double round robin with a rapid time control, and the last day will be a quadruple round robin in blitz.

    It'll be a great few weeks for chess fans - especially in the United States. (Apologies to European readers and others who will stay awake to crazy hours of the morning following all the action.)

    Thursday
    Aug112016

    Sinquefield Cup at the Break: Topalov Leads with Plus-Two

    Wednesday was a rest day for the participants in the Sinquefield Cup, and before that was round 5. In the two previous rounds all the games were drawn, and the first four (of five) games to finish on Tuesday also finished peacefully. One game remained, between Veselin Topalov and Ding Liren, and although Topalov was winning earlier and still had some advantage, it seemed to be headed for a draw as well. But that's when it got interesting, as you can see for yourself.

    Round 6 is today, with these pairings:

    • So (3) - Topalov (3.5)
    • Aronian (3) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)
    • Giri (2) - Anand (3)
    • Nakamura (2.5) - Caruana (2.5)
    • Ding Liren (2) - Svidler (1.5)

    Wednesday
    Nov112015

    Topalov Interview (Updated)

    Some interesting reflections by the world's current #2 on chess as a profession, the role of computers, creativity, Carlsen, the Candidates and...well, you know who. Interestingly, Veselin Topalov still claims to be undecided about his participation in next year's Candidates, even though his declining would give Mr. You Know Who his slot in the event. That may be likely relative to the odds of Vladimir Putin resigning the Russian presidency and promoting Garry Kasparov in his place, but barring an incredible event the odds are pretty close to zero that he would willingly give Vladimir Kramnik his spot in the Candidates.

    UPDATE: As a bunch of people have reminded me, it would be Dmitry Jakovenko who would take Topalov's spot in the Candidates' Tournament should he decide not to participate, and not Mr. You Know Who. Thanks to my alert readers!

    Monday
    Aug242015

    Sinquefield Cup 2015, Round 2: Topalov Leads After Another Exciting Round

    There were "only" three wins today at the Sinquefield Cup, but they were exciting and eventful games all featuring the world champions. Veselin Topalov outplayed Hikaru Nakamura, and is now the only player with a perfect score. Their game was a 4.d3 Berlin, and while it went into an ending rather quickly it was of a very different character than the ending of the main line Berlin. Nakamura's 15...f5 was a mistake, at least from a practical point of view. He won a pawn but gave Topalov two terrific bishops, and the former FIDE champion eventually regained his material, with interest. Theirs was the last game to finish, but Topalov was in control almost from start to finish.

    Another game where the winner enjoyed control through most of the game was Alexander Grischuk vs. Viswanathan Anand. Grischuk essayed the London System, an opening he generally uses in blitz rather than classical games, but based on a blitz game the same players had last year Grischuk thought it would be worth a try in a slower game as well. He was right. Anand hadn't looked at the opening in a serious way, and Grischuk soon enjoyed a serious and long-lasting advantage. Both players had improvements here and there, but in general White was always for choice and Anand didn't even make it to the time control before having to surrender. Anand is now 0-2, and for Grischuk this was his first-ever win against Anand in a classical game.

    A game where the winner was only in control after the final move was the tragedy or farce between Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen. Their game was a complicated Ruy Lopez that was unclear for the first half of the game, but as Caruana entered serious time trouble (he had something like 70 seconds to make his last 13 moves) Carlsen played worse and had to go from time trouble to almost equally catastrophic time trouble as well. In the scramble that followed Caruana was always better, and the question - barring a loss on time or a catastrophic blunder - was whether the advantage would be serious by the time the players reached the time control. Unfortunately for Caruana, his last move, on the last move of the time control with both players down to a couple of seconds or so, was a gross blunder. The move was played practically as a reflex action, and it lost the game on the spot. A tragedy for Caruana, but the clock is part of the game.

    The other two games were drawn. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave didn't achieve anything against Levon Aronian, while Anish Giri may have had some chances against Wesley So but didn't manage to take advantage of them.

    The games, with my comments, are here, and these are the pairings for round 3:

    • So (.5) - Grischuk (1)
    • Aronian (1.5) - Giri (1.5)
    • Carlsen (1) - Vachier-Lagrave (1.5)
    • Nakamura (1) - Caruana (0)
    • Anand (0) - Topalov (2)

    Thursday
    Jun252015

    Norway Chess 2015, Final Round: Topalov Draws, Wins the Tournament; Hammer Beats Carlsen

    Another exciting super-tournament is now history, and the winner of the Norway Chess tournament of 2015 is the resurgent Veselin Topalov. Coming into the round he only needed a draw with Viswanathan Anand to clinch clear first, and he got it with ease as they played a known variation resulting in a draw by repetition.

    As Anand could have taken (clear) first place with a win, it would be easy to criticize this choice. But this was not a match and he was not in a zero-sum game situation. If he lost - and he had the black pieces - he would slip from at worst a three-way tie for second to potentially fourth place. Moreover, Anand's style and repertoire with black is generally classical and not based on strategically risky lines against 1.d4 like the King's Indian or the Modern Benoni. So while it would have been entertaining for us as spectators to see him go for broke in the last round, it's hard to criticize his decision to bring a successful tournament to a conclusion and to see if anyone would join him in a tie for second, half a point behind the winner.

    Two players had their chances, and one succeeded. If Hikaru Nakamura could defeat Levon Aronian with black, he'd catch Anand; likewise if Anish Giri could upend Fabiano Caruana with the black pieces. Remarkably, both had their chances, but only Nakamura reeled in the full point. Giri drew and finished in clear fourth, a point and a half ahead of Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. (Vachier-Lagrave drew with Alexander Grischuk.)

    The fifth game featured two players having bad tournaments, but bad in different ways and for different reasons. The player with the white pieces, Jon Ludwig Hammer, was alone in last place coming into the last round with just two points out of eight. This wasn't really a shock, as he was the lowest-rated player by a considerable margin, but as he had squandered many opportunities along the way he still had serious grounds for regret. The other player was the world champion, Magnus Carlsen. His score of 3.5/8 was terrible by his standards, but it seemed that he was playing his way into form after the catastrophe in round 1 and his getting clobbered in rounds 2 and 4. He had won convincingly in rounds 5 and 8, and looked good in round 6 as well even though that game only finished in a draw. With a win over his countryman and regular second, Carlsen could at least end the tournament with an even score and +3 over the last five rounds.

    But Hammer had his own ambitions. Before and during the tournament he offered two statements about what a good tournament would look like. The (probably) more serious statement was that he wanted to score at least three points; more jocularly, he said he'd be willing to lose every game as long as he beat Carlsen. In the end, then, it was a success: he got exactly three points out of nine and beat Carlsen - without having to lose the remaining games. He didn't even come in clear last place, but finished tied for last with Aronian, only half a point behind Carlsen and Grischuk.

    The games, with my notes, are here, and these are the final standings (the player listed first in case of a tie had the better tiebreak score):

    • 1. Topalov 6.5 (of 9)
    • 2-3. Anand, Nakamura 6
    • 4. Giri 5.5
    • 5-6. Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave 4
    • 7-8. Carlsen, Grischuk 3.5
    • 9-10. Aronian, Hammer 3

    Next stop: Dortmund, which starts on Saturday.