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    1948 World Chess Championship 1959 Candidates 1962 Candidates 2.c3 Sicilian 2.f4 Sicilian 2011 European Team Championship 2011 Russian Championship 2012 Capablanca Memorial 2012 Chess Olympiad 2012 European Women's Championship 2012 London Chess Classic 2012 U.S. Junior Championship 2012 U.S. Women's Championship 2012 US Championship 2012 Women's World Chess Championship 2012 World Rapid and Blitz Championships 2013 Alekhine Memorial 2013 Beijing Grand Prix 2013 European Club Cup 2013 European Team Championship 2013 FIDE World Cup 2013 Kings Tournament 2013 London Chess Classic 2013 Russian Championship 2013 Tal Memorial 2013 U.S. Championship 2013 Women's World Championship 2013 World Blitz Championship 2013 World Championship 2013 World Rapid Championship 2013 World Team Championship 2014 Capablanca Memorial 2014 Chess Olympiad 2014 London Chess Classic 2014 Petrosian Memorial 2014 Rapid & Blitz World Championship 2014 Russian Team Championship 2014 Sinquefield Cup 2014 Tigran Petrosian Memorial 2014 U.S. Championship 2014 U.S. Open 2014 Women's World Championship 2014 World Championship 2014 World Junior Championships 2014 World Rapid Championship 2015 Capablanca Memorial 2015 Chinese Championship 2015 European Club Cup 2015 European Team Championship 2015 London Chess Classic 2015 Millionaire Open 2015 Poikovsky 2015 Russian Team Championship 2015 Sinquefield Cup 2015 U.S. Championship 2015 Women's World Championship KO 2015 World Blitz Championship 2015 World Cup 2015 World Junior Championship 2015 World Open 2015 World Rapid & Blitz Championship 2015 World Team Championships 2016 2016 Candidates 2016 Capablanca Memorial 2016 Champions Showdown 2016 Chess Olympiad 2016 Chinese Championship 2016 European Club Cup 2016 Isle of Man 2016 London Chess Classic 2016 Russian Championship 2016 Sinquefield Cup 2016 Tal Memorial 2016 U.S. Championship 2016 U.S. Junior Championship 2016 U.S. Women's Championship 2016 Women's World Championship 2016 World Blitz Championship 2016 World Championship 2016 World Junior Championship 2016 World Open 2016 World Rapid Championship 2017 British Championship 2017 British Knockout Championship 2017 Champions Showdown 2017 Chinese Championship 2017 Elite Mind Games 2017 European Team Championship 2017 Geneva Grand Prix 2017 Grand Prix 2017 Isle of Man 2017 London Chess Classic 2017 PRO Chess League 2017 Russian Championship 2017 Sharjah Masters 2017 Sinquefield Cup 2017 Speed Chess Championship 2017 U..S. 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    Entries in Vladimir Kramnik (105)

    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)

    Thursday
    Jan182018

    Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 4: Wins for Kramnik, Wei Yi, and Matlakov

    Finally (since I covered round 5 yesterday), we have a look at the round 4 games from Wijk aan Zee. The games analyzed this time: the sharp Winawer French between Giri and Carlsen, Matlakov's win over Hou Yifan, Kramnik's win over Svidler.

    All caught up!

    Saturday
    Jan132018

    Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 1: Anand, Kramnik, and Giri Win

    For Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, the stories were similar: they played very well against strong but somewhat lower-rated opponents (Maxim Matlakov and Wei Yi, respectively), had some hiccups once they achieved a serious advantage, but eventually managed to convert anyway. Anish Giri's win over Hou Yifan was a bit different: they kept trading pieces all the way down to a king and pawn ending, and although the position was (and had long been) equal, Hou needed to make one precise move to hold the draw. Somewhat short of time, she failed to do so, and Giri joined the winner's circle in the last game of the day.

    The other games, including the marquee matchup between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, finished peacefully. Peter Svidler had some chances against Baskaran Adhiban but let them slip. Wesley So was surprised in the opening by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and chose a safe reply that allowed his opponent to equalize without any difficulty. Finally, Gawain Jones played a chicken line in the opening against Sergey Karjakin, with White offering a draw by repetition on move 12. Was this nervousness, fear, or a psychological trick? Karjakin declined the repetition, and Jones later obtained an edge, though only briefly, and the game was drawn before the first time control.

    In the Challengers event Korobov, Gordievsky, and Jorden Van Foreest all won, the latter defeating...Lucas Van Foreest. So much for brotherly love!

    The Masters (top section) games, plus Gordievsky's game and the battle of the siblings, are all here with my generally brief comments.

    Round 2 Pairings (Masters section only):

    • Hou Yifan (0) - Mamedyarov (.5)
    • Matlakov (0) - So (.5)
    • Karjakin (.5) - Anand (1)
    • Caruana (.5) - Jones (.5)
    • Adhiban (.5) - Carlsen (.5)
    • Wei Yi (0) - Svidler (.5)
    • Giri (1) - Kramnik (1)

    Monday
    Oct302017

    Kramnik Receives Organizer's Wildcard for Candidates

    More about this here: apparently Vladimir Kramnik wasn't lobbying for it, but he was given the organizer's wildcard for the 2018 Candidates, to be held next March in Berlin. He joins Sergey Karjakin (who qualified by virtue of losing the last world championship match), Levon Aronian and Ding Liren (World Cup finalists), and Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana (mortal locks to qualify by rating).

    Anyone who has read this blog regularly knows that I'm a big Kramnik fan, but this is just wrong. He's a great player who could contend for victory in the Candidates next March, and he should be in the conversation about who deserves the organizer's wildcard. For most of the year he looked set to qualify by rating, until faltering in events beginning with the World Cup. But there are still two slots to be determined based on the results of the final Grand Prix tournament starting next month.

    Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Alexander Grischuk lead in the overall standings, but they've already played their full complement of Grand Prix events. They could be overtaken by Teimour Radjabov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and while one might be able to make a case for Kramnik against Mamedyarov, Grischuk, and Radjabov there's nothing to be said in his favor compared to MVL when it comes to their 2017 campaigns.

    Vachier-Lagrave is nine points higher-rated than Kramnik at the moment, won the Sinquefield Cup (and had excellent-to-great results in Gibraltar, Sharjah, Paris [blitz], Leuven [rapid], and Dortmund), came within an Armaggedon game of qualifying through the World Cup, and will have come very close to qualifying by the Grand Prix as well. Thus MVL ultimately outshone Kramnik this year by rating, World Cup performance, Grand Prix performance (Kramnik didn't play, but that's also more to Vachier-Lagrave's credit: he's in the arena and Kramnik's not), and won a more prestigious non-qualifying event than Kramnik did.

    It would be fine to give Kramnik the wildcard after the Grand Prix finishes, assuming Vachier-Lagrave qualified. But before? This is terrible. Agon, which has the financial rights to the world championship and the qualifying cycle, is owned by a Russian, so it's less than shocking that they'd pick a Russian with the wildcard. There really need to be objective criteria for the wildcard, aside from the minimal requirement of a player's having achieved a 2725 rating at any point during the qualifying year. Obviously Kramnik's qualifications are much greater than that, but his qualifications, this year, don't hold a candle to MVL's.

    Friday
    Sep292017

    Isle of Man, Rounds 5-7

    But mostly rounds 6 and 7. My comments about round 5 will be limited to the difficulties experienced by two members of the semi-old guard: Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand. Kramnik's travails were already noted in the preceding post, while Gelfand's suffering began in that round. After a solid 3-1 start, he lost in round 5 to S.P. Sethuraman, and from a position that would normally be impossible to lose. He was clearly better in a rook and bishop ending with even material, but hallucinated his way into a lost bishop ending a pawn down.

    In round 6, he doubled down on this, losing to Anna Zatonskih from a winning position. To her credit, she made things tricky in time trouble and devised a dastardly trap, but normally Gelfand would have cashed in on at least one of the winning positions he enjoyed in the game. After this, he took a bye to stop the bleeding.

    Speaking of players who needed byes, Hou Yifan took one after playing her fourth female opponent in a row, and has bounced back against the men, winning in round 6 and 7. She has five points and plays Sebastian Bogner in round 8.

    Another player who has bounced back a bit is Kramnik, who won with White in round 6 (no problem there - he has gone 3-0 with White, albeit against much lower-rated opposition) and then finally won a game with Black in round 7, employing the Benko Gambit for the first time in his life (or so said the commentators at one moment; is should be checked to see if he transposed into one via a King's Indian or a Benoni). Despite all his miseries in the tournament, he has 4.5 points and will play Sethuraman in round 8.

    James Tarjan, one of the players who contributed to Kramnik's earlier sorrows, has continued to play well. He bounced back from his unnecessary loss to Niclas Huschenbeth in round 4 by drawing with Sabino Brunello (2555), beating Pavel Tregubov (2589), and drawing with Rasmus Svane (2595). His 4-3 score is good for a 2654 TPR.

    Still one more member of the old guard deserves some praise: Jan Timman. Like Tarjan, he's both 65 and has the initials "J.T." More relevantly, he has also had success against elite players. No wins over 2800s, but four draws against players who are or have been rated over 2700. That's a fine result, and he has gone undefeated so far. He gets another 2700 in round 8, David Howell.

    Two noteworthy norm aspirants are Aman Hambleton and Ramesh Praggnanandhaa. Hambleton is well-known for his mighty beard, which he intends to keep until he achieves his third GM norm. He had been in the running until he lost a defensible ending to Gabriel Sargissian in round 6. Praggnanandhaa is a 12-year-old who has already achieved a 2500 rating (and is already the youngest IM ever, achieved at the age of 10 years, 10 months, and 19 days), but has no norms. If he can achieve them in the next five months or so, he can break Sergey Karjakin's record for the youngest GM ever. He was in the running until round 7, but his loss to Varuzhan Akobian probably put an end to his hopes in this tournament. He's playing an untitled 2384 in round 8, which seals it.

    Now let's turn to the leaders. Going into round 6 there were two tournament leaders, Pavel Eljanov - who won this tournament last year - and the world champion, Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen cheekily played Owen's Defense with Black, albeit against 1.Nf3 rather than 1.e4 (after the latter move it's considered somewhat dubious), and won with remarkable ease. That gave him the clear lead, and although he only drew against the fast-rising Indian star Santosh Gujrathi Vidit in round 7 (with difficulty, with White) he's still half a point ahead of his pursuers.

    The most notable among them is perhaps Fabiano Caruana, who will have White against Carlsen in round 8. He drew in round 6 and defeated Gawain Jones in round 7, thanks largely to some fine preparation. He has 5.5/7, as does Hikaru Nakamura, Eljanov, Vidit, and Emil Sutovsky.

    Another half a point back is a large group that includes Viswanathan Anand and Hou Yifan, along with the U.S. players Akobian and Aleks Lenderman. Lenderman remains undefeated after drawing his last four games; his TPR is 2793, 6th highest in the tournament. (The top two TPRs, by a long way, belong to Carlsen and Caruana at 2893 and 2873, respectively.) Unfortunately for American fans, Akobian and Lenderman are paired for round 8.

    Here are the leading pairings for round 8:

     

    • Caruana (5.5) - Carlsen (6)
    • Nakamura (5.5) - Sutovsky (5.5)
    • Vidit (5.5) - Eljanov (5.5)

     

    Finally, here is a selection of games from the past three rounds.

    Wednesday
    Sep272017

    Tracking Kramnik's Ratings Progress for September 2017

    It has not been a good month for Vladimir Kramnik, from his early exit in the World Cup to an absolutely disastrous time at the Isle of Man. Today, he only managed to draw against Lawrence Trent (2427), coughing up another 4.1 rating points and going down a whopping 25.9 rating points for the month.

    Here's a helpful chart tracking Kramnik's recent rating progress.

    Of course, this happens to just about everyone sometimes, and it's the most maddening feeling in the world. You just have to wait it out; sooner or later, the ship rights itself.

    Tuesday
    Sep262017

    Adventures at the Isle of Man

    This has really been an exciting and entertaining tournament so far, with some big upsets and great stories. We've already looked at some round 1 highlights, and we'll skip over round 2 to turn our attention to round 3.

    The first and biggest story: Vladimir Kramnik lost again, to James Tarjan! Tarjan is a grandmaster and was a fine player in his day - more than 30 years ago! He gave up the game in his early 30s and became a librarian, only re-emerging in the last three years or so. His results have been very good for a 65-year-old who quit playing for 30 years, but not up to his old standard. But today the American GM notched the biggest scalp of his career, upsetting a player rated nearly 400 points above him.

    When I was a kid I lost to Tarjan in an open tournament here in the U.S., and was he incredibly gracious to nobody me in the post-mortem. He was one of the nicest guys I came across, so I'm especially happy for him after his success today. Indeed, watch this video - you have to have a heart of stone not to be happy for the guy.

    Watch live video from Chess on www.twitch.tv

    This is good news for the U.S. in another way: Kramnik is now in a big hole in the race for the Candidates spots based on ratings. Unless something dramatic happens - and it might - those spots will go to Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So. More good news for the U.S.: Aleks Lenderman is 3-0, having defeated Francisco Vallejo Pons today when the latter failed to hold the notorious rook vs. rook and bishop ending.

    But back to feel-good stories of the Tarjan variety. You may recall that 70-year-old FM Zaki Harari had near-2700 GM Maxim Rodshtein beat in that round, but repeated moves rather than landing the knockout blow. Well, no problem: today he had another chance against a GM, Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant, and this time he won. Granted, she's not at Rodshtein's level, but it was still a major upset. Good for Mr. Harari!

    A sadder story, of sorts, is the unbelievable saga of Hou Yifan. You might recall at the start of the year she was extremely irritated at getting paired with seven female players in the first nine rounds, and she protested in round 10 by playing an absurd opening (against her male opponent) and resigning after five moves. There was no evidence that anyone had cooked the pairings to give her a disproportionate number of female opponents, but she wasn't so sure, and was certainly unhappy about it.

    Here we are, months later in a different location. Who do you suppose she has faced this time? Round 1: Alexandra Kosteniuk (draw). Round 2: Elisabeth Paehtz (win). Uh oh. Round 3: Nino Batsiashvili (loss). UH OH. If she doesn't withdraw or hire protestors to block access to the tournament hall, the absurdist drama will continue in round 4, when she's due to face Yuliya Shvayger. You've gotta be kidding. It's pretty incredible that between the two events she's facing 11 women in 14 rounds, even though they are heavily outnumbered by the male players in the tournament.

    At the top, Magnus Carlsen leads the small group of players with 3-0 scores; today he defeated American youngster Jeffery Xiong, though the win wasn't quite as convincing as it might have seemed. In round 4 he'll have Black against Rustam Kasimdzhanov, a former FIDE World Champion and Fabiano Caruana's second. The other 3-0 pairing is a World Cup rematch, with Lenderman getting White against Pavel Eljanov, who happens to be the defending champion of this tournament. 19 players have 2.5 points, including Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Viswanathan Anand.

    Some games here, with brief comments.

    Saturday
    Sep232017

    Isle of Man, Round 1: Caruana Beats Kramnik UPDATE: Harari-Rodshtein Miracle Save

    There's plenty of chess remaining in this tournament (it's just round 1 at the Isle of Man), and Vladimir Kramnik is playing in at least one more event before the final rating tallies are in for the Candidates, but Fabiano Caruana helped himself a great deal today by defeating Kramnik in their round 1 matchup in the Isle of Man tournament.

    An obvious question: why in the world are Caruana and Kramnik playing in round 1 of an open tournament? The answer is that John Saunders persuaded the organizers to have random pairings for round 1. The upshot is that all sorts of pairings resulted: GMs vs. IMs, higher-rated GMs vs. lower-rated GMs, Magnus Carlsen playing a 2100, and in this case, two players from the world's top five facing each other.

    Pairings will return to normalcy tomorrow, but this experiment will have done its damage to Kramnik's chances. It's not just the loss, but all the low-rated players he'll face as a result of his so-called Swiss gambit. But congratulations to Caruana, who hasn't clinched a trip to Berlin but has greatly increased his chances of getting back there.

    As for the game, have a look here. A few games remain in round 1, most notably Zaki Harari, rated just 2027, enjoying the better chances against Maxim Rodshtein (2699 on the Live List).

    UPDATE: Rodshtein finally broke under the pressure, but in a totally won position with plenty of time on the clock Harari repeated moves. (At least it seems he had plenty of time, according to the transmission. Maybe it was inaccurate and Harari was living off the increment. But even if he was down to 31 seconds he could have done it - especially if he repeated once to gain a minute. In a low-pressure situation Harari probably would have found the right move in a 3-minute blitz game, maybe even in bullet) Harari repeated moves. He only needed to spot one good move, and it wasn't a difficult one, either. A real pity, but congrats to the massive underdog for gaining half a point and giving his elite opponent a real scare. Have a look.

    Friday
    Jul072017

    Kramnik On His Win Over Carlsen From Norway Chess, With Good Advice For Everyone

    The video may have lost some of its temporal urgency in light of Magnus Carlsen's impressive victories in Paris and Leuven, but not all. For one thing, those were not classical events. The more important matter is that we all have crises of form, and Vladimir Kramnik's remarks on that head should comfort us all.

    Friday
    Jun162017

    Norway Chess 2017, Round 9: Aronian Wins the Tournament

    It's shaping up to be a good year for Levon Aronian. First Wijk aan Zee, now Norway Chess! It looks like his slump is over, and he's once again going to be a contender for the world championship - as he should be. By holding a draw with Black against Wesley So he finished the tournament with an undefeated 6-3 score, with wins against the world's #1 and #2 players - Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik, respectively - plus Sergey Karjakin, the "vice champion". (This is not to be confused with a champion of vice rather than virtue.) He also crushed the 2800 barrier after some time below that bar, and is now the world's #4, 1.3 points behind Wesley So.

    Hikaru Nakamura was the runner up - or rather, the co-runner-up. Had he defeated Fabiano Caruana today he could have caught Aronian (and rejoined the 2800 club). Another effect would have been Caruana's ouster from the same club, but it didn't happen. Caruana prepared a new idea with White against the Poisoned Pawn Variation in the Najdorf, and while the computer finds a variety of equalizers for Black, human beings finding them over the board is another matter entirely. Nakamura was unable to negotiate all the complications, and lost a game that was as good as over long before the clocks were stopped.

    Sharing second with Nakamura, with 5/9, was the up-and-down Vladimir Kramnik. For the fourth round in a row, White won, and since he had the white pieces this time it was good news for him. His victim was Anish Giri, who also enjoyed and suffered a roller coaster of a tournament. Kramnik played an extremely provocative version of the Colle (a statement that sounds as funny as "an exciting London System" used to, but the richness of the royal game never cease to amaze), and it worked better than Kramnik could have dreamed. Giri is always - or now we should say, almost always - extremely well-prepared, but having sown the wind he wasn't ready for the whirlwind, and lost in just 20 moves.

    The other two games were short but not perfunctory draws. Sergey Karjakin was in trouble on the white side of a Najdorf against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and had MVL played 24...f5 followed by 25...e4 he would have been a favorite to win with his extra pawn. Instead, he blundered with 24...Rxd5, allowing Karjakin to bail out with a draw by repetition. The world champion, Magnus Carlsen, was also in trouble against his most recent predecessor, Viswanathan Anand. Had Anand played 23.e5 he would have had good winning chances. The opportunity was missed, and in the end it was Anand who was more forced to play for the draw than Carlsen.

    The games, with my annotations, can be replayed here. Here are the final standings:

    1. Aronian 6 (of 9)
    2-3. Nakamura, Kramnik 5
    4-6. Caruana, So, Giri 4.5
    7-9. Vachier-Lagrave, Anand, Carlsen 4
    10. Karjakin 3.5