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    Entries in Veselin Topalov (29)

    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.

    Monday
    Jun222015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 6: Topalov Wins Again!

    The score (5.5/6!) and the all-time high rating suggest that the Veselin Topalov of the mid-2000s is back. Is he? I have my doubts, but he's still playing at a very high level and showing his best chess in at least the past five years. In today's round 6 action he won, though with an undue amount of help from Alexander Grischuk. Not all the "credit" goes to Grischuk, however. Topalov obtained an edge with Black, but 16.Nb5 was a gift horse without any hidden soldiers inside. (Perhaps next Grischuk could have offered a large wooden badger...) Topalov accepted the gift and won the game, though it took the further error (which should not be thought of as a gift) 28.Rxg3 to turn Black's advantage into a decisive one.

    There was one other winner on the day, and that was Viswanathan Anand. The ex-champ is looking like he could be headed for a third match with Carlsen, with his convincing victory over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave being only the latest bit of evidence. It seemed that Vachier-Lagrave was poorly prepared for Anand's opening choice, There was an earlier game between David Navara and the aforementioned Grischuk in the same line and in which the same Bxh6 sac occurred, and there too White won. Maybe MVL was overly trusting of his computer's evaluation (see my notes for more details) and maybe he missed the earlier game because it came about through a slightly different move order. Whatever the story, Black had to be ready for Anand's 19.Bxh6, and he wasn't. The result was a smooth victory for White.

    Magnus Carlsen needed a win to remain mathematically alive in the race for first, and with the white pieces against Hikaru Nakamura he couldn't have picked a more convenient opponent - at least in theory, based on their lopsided score in classical chess. (It's something like 11-0 in Carlsen's favor, not counting draws.) Carlsen was slightly careless in the opening, allowing Nakamura to equalize fully, but as as is usually the case in Carlsen's games that wasn't the end of the story. Carlsen managed to win a pawn and get his fans (and the engines) revved up about his chances. This was only an illusion, however. Nakamura was able to reach a rook and three vs. rook and four scenario with all the pawns on the same side and the defender's pawns arranged in the ideal f7/g6/h5 formation. The game went 95 moves, of which the last 50 or so were unnecessary. (Carlsen was right to try; I'm merely noting that he never came close to posing Black any real problems.)

    The other two games were drawn. Fabiano Caruana had a huge advantage early in the game against Jon Ludwig Hammer, but slipped up and let his opponent escape. Anish Giri tested Levon Aronian in the razor-sharp Vienna Variation (an important sub-line within the Ragozin), and Aronian had done his homework. As often happens in such openings, a series of complications suddenly resolves after a series of exchanges, resulting in a drawn, playless ending.

    The games, with my notes to the first three games, are here. The tournament website is here, and these are the pairings for round 7:

    • Nakamura (4) - Grischuk (2)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) - Carlsen (2)
    • Aronian (2.5) - Anand (4)
    • Hammer (1.5) - Giri (3.5)
    • Topalov (5.5) - Caruana (2.5)

    Monday
    Jun222015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 5: Topalov Wins Again; Carlsen, Aronian Win Their First

    The Norway Chess tournament has passed the halfway point, and Veselin Topalov continues his success. When he's not playing Norwegians, he wins cleanly; when he does, he hangs in there and waits for miracles to happen. And that's what happened in round 5. Topalov was in all kinds of trouble with Black against Jon Ludwig Hammer. Maybe he was never flat out lost, but it was close! Topalov finally took over the advantage from move 42 on, yet Hammer defended well and was on the verge of a draw after 73 moves. All he needed to do was play 74.f5, a move that any club player could find and that requires calculating a grand total of two moves ahead. Instead, Hammer played 74.Kc6?? and had to resign after the obvious 74...Ke6. A blind spot for Hammer?

    Yes, but perhaps it was a literal blind spot. It was suggested, very plausibly, that Hammer didn't really look up when Topalov played 73...Ke7 and assumed that Black had played 73...Bb8 instead. In that case, 74.Kc6 would have been the only move. Hammer's haste cost him the game, and completely unnecessarily, especially since he had 15 minutes left on his clock when that happened.

    With the win Topalov leads the second-placed Hikaru Nakamura by a point with an impressive score of 4.5/5. Nakamura started the round half a point behind, but after a draw with Viswanathan Anand the gap doubled. Anand is a further half a point back, tied for 3rd-4th with Anish Giri, who in turn drew comfortably with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

    The other two games finished with a winner, and like Hammer-Topalov those victories had a tinge of the accidental to them. In fact, all three games were decided by hasty moves, though in the two games we haven't yet described that haste was due to time trouble. Levon Aronian had an opening edge against Fabiano Caruana, but Caruana had equalized and the game was headed for a draw as the first time control neared its end. 39...Qg6 would have sealed the deal, giving Caruana full, safe equality and the ability to reach the second time control without any big worries. Instead, he thought he spotted an opportunity and quickly played 39...Qxg3+. It's a nice little tactic, and...it loses. Black wins a pawn for the moment, but White's king achieves maximum activity and ransacks all of Black's queenside pawns. Caruana fought on to move 60, but there was no saving the game.

    Finally, Magnus Carlsen had been having a dreadful tournament with only half a point out of four, and despite this he showed his resilience by winning in classic Carlsen style. Alexander Grischuk had managed to equalize, though as usual with Grischuk he didn't manage to do this without getting into time trouble. With the game about to reach the point where a club player could hold Grischuk's position Carlsen tried one last idea: 26.c5! Grischuk could and should have held this, but without time it was far from trivial. Carlsen obtained a very usable edge, though perhaps not yet enough to win the game. On move 40, it was time for another trick: 40.f4. This may not have been the very best move, and had Grischuk replied correctly he probably would have saved the game. Time trouble killed him, though, and 40...exf4?? made it easy for the world champion. (The games, with my notes, are here.)

    Carlsen has awakened, and while it's almost impossible for him to contend for first it's not too late for him to do some damage. Next up, he has the white pieces against one of his usual "customers", Hikaru Nakamura. If Nakamura had White it might be a great opportunity for the American to get a '1', but with Black it may be another story. We'll see; meanwhile, here are the pairings for round 6:

    • Grischuk (2) - Topalov (4.5)
    • Caruana (2) - Hammer (1)
    • Giri (3) - Aronian (2)
    • Anand (3) - Vachier-Lagrave (2.5)
    • Carlsen (1.5) - Nakamura (3.5)