Sunday, 26 April 2015

Kasparov v Short 2015

The 2 day Kasparov v Short match began overnight at the St Louis Chess Club. The first day saw 1 rapid game and 4 blitz games, which will be repeated on day 2. Both players came into the match with slight handicaps, Kasparov's being a lack of match practice, while Short's was possibly too much of it (plus a media storm to deal with).
At the end of the first day Kasparov lead 3.5-1.5. The players drew the rapid game, with Kasparov dominating the blitz 3-1.Even in the blitz game he lost, he was slightly better but ran out of time.
The other piece of news out of St Louis was the announcement of the "Grand Chess Tour" details. It was known that this event was being put together for a few months, but only now are the details being confirmed. For next year 3 events (St Louis, Stavenger, and London) are part of the series, but the prize pool of $1,000,000 is a big attractor. The field for each of these events will consists of all the worlds top rated players (with the exception of Kramnik who has other commitments), plus a couple of wild cards. Assuming that the series succeeds this year, there may be more events organised for 2016.

Kasparov,Garry (2812) - Short,Nigel D (2664) [E11]
Legends Rapid Match 2015 Saint Louis USA (1), 25.04.2015

A brutal day at the office

The Shamkir (Gashimov Memorial) is providing wonderful evening entertainment for chess fans around the world. For whatever reasons, the organisers seem to have the right mix of players taking part, and the fortuitous time difference between Australia and Azerbaijan means that the games are on in 'prime time' ie from 8pm until midnight or so.
Usually there is at least one game per round that has some fireworks, and tonight it was Adams Giri game. Adams played the g3 line against the Najdorf and for a while everything looked normal. Then Adams offered a pawn on the queenside, Giri snaffled it, Adams gained a tempo, and then it all kicked off. Adams pushed his h pawn, and suddenly Giri was in big trouble. It is not clear what he could have done to deal with the kingside pawn rush, but his attempts at defending, while unsuccessful, at least allowed Adams to show some nice tactical flourishes.  A nice win by Adams, his first of the tournament.

Adams,Michael - Giri,Anish [B80]
Shamkir, 25.04.2015

Friday, 24 April 2015

2015 World Teams Championship

The 2015 World Teams Championship is at its halfway point, but has a somewhat upside down look to it. The event is a 10 team round robin, and while it contains a number of chess 'power houses' they don't seem to be doing well at all.
The one familiar face at the top of the table is The Ukraine, who have won 4 of their 5 matches. They are tied with China (2014 Olympiad champions) closely followed by Israel and Cuba. But at the other end of the table, Russia, Hungary, Armenia and USA have all lost more matches than they have won.
Looking at the pairings I am not sure if the bottom teams will be able to climb back, as they have a few games amongst themselves. The key match will probably be the round 7 China - Ukraine pairing, with Israel and Cuba hoping for a drawn match so they can sneak past.
Live coverage of this strong event can be found at (NB If you visit this page you get a bonus history lesson as well)

Robot buys drugs with Bitcoins, gets arrested

Turns out that this is an old-ish story, but I only came across it today. The headline alone cracks me up, but the details of the story are just as fantastic.
A group of Swiss artists set up a computer to buy things on the "Darknet" (image what your grandmother thinks the internet is, and you get the idea). It was given an allowance of 100 euros worth of bitcoins, to purchase items at an online market. The items were intended to be part of a future art exhibition, and it seemed to be going swimmingly, until the robot decided to score some ecstasy. At this point the police swooped, confiscating the drugs, a Hungarian passport, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, and other sundry items that the robot had acquired. Eventually most of the items were returned, along with the robot/laptop, and no one was charged as the artists did not intend to use the drugs(!).
Lots of places to find this story btw (just search for variations on the headline) or read one version here.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A thing of beauty

Looking at Anand's win over Wesley So in round 5 of the Gashimov Memorial, the term 'a thing of beauty' immediately sprang to mind. Not wishing to repeat subject headings for this blog, I did a search to see if I had used this expression before. It turns out I have not used it as a subject heading before, but I did use it in a couple of posts, including a previous game by Anand. That was his win over Aronian in 2013, which I remarked upon in a column titled A Game for the Ages.
This game is equally as nice, with So being caught by some opening preparation, and a clever piece sacrifice. I am not sure how much Anand saw after he played 14.f4! but the whole attack seemed to just flow. While So was able to hold off the worst of it, he still ended up in a losing ending, which Anand had no trouble winning.

Anand,Viswanathan (2791) - So,Wesley (2788) [C84]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2015 Shamkir AZE (5.2), 21.04.2015

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

My brain wasn't wired right

Nigel Short has become the latest "Chess story du jour", after his comments concerning men's and women's chess was picked up by the main stream media. As a provocative main stream topic he probably could not have done any better, and I suspect this debate will run on for a bit.
I am not going to weigh into the substance of the debate, simply because it is not my area of expertise. By that I am focusing on the single quote "Men and Women's brains are had-wired very differently ... ", which is quite a definitive claim. And to make such a claim (or to disprove it) requires a  specialisation in neuro-science, or at least access to the relevant literature.
In my own personal experience, I haven't noticed a difference between the way males and females play the game. I've never looked at a move (or a game) and thought "that move was particularly male". Strong moves are strong moves, and weak ones are weak, and that is generally all I have seen. The closest manifestation I have seen to gender affecting style has curiously been in the area of over compensation, where female players are coached/rewarded for playing aggressively, as though they would not develop this talent naturally.
And to prove nothing at all, here is a game played this evening between myself and Alana Chibnall. The fact that the game ended in a draw probably shows we are chess players of comparable strength, but given the collection of mistakes that occurred at various points, I am not sure what this strength really is.

Press,Shaun - Chibnall,Alana [C43]
Murphy Memorial, 21.04.2015

Carlsen's Legacy

Even though he is still a young man, I think Magnus Carlsen is going to leave a significant legacy behind him. Looking at his tournament games for the last 4 or 5 years, this legacy may well be that he rendered opening theory unimportant. It seems that in tournaments (less so than matches) his choice of openings is driven by a desire not to be put into any opening category, while aiming to reach a middle game where he can play interesting moves. In the Shamkir event his last to games were a Dutch Stonewall (this could be called unfashionable) and a g6 Ruy Lopez (certainly unusual).
On one level it is almost a throwback to the Larsen strategy of losing 1 game to win 2 (as opposed to drawing all 3), although in Carlsen's case it is more draw 1 game to win 2. And whether this is a conscious decision of Carlsen's, but it is also as if he is the 'Anti-Kasparov', rejecting the Kasparov approach of finding a concrete evaluation for every opening he plays.
Of course you have to be a rare talent to pull this off, but Carlsen seems to be fine so far. And one group of people happy with his approach, book publishers. For now almost every opening book published can include a game by Carlsen, and in most cases, a game he wins.