Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Grand Tour

Apologies for the somewhat sporadic blogging recently. Apart from work keeping me busy, an upcoming overseas trip is also taking up my time. Starting on Wednesday (7th December), I, accompanied by my son, will be off on a 9 week trip to the UK. Unsurprisingly, there will be a heavy chess component to the trip, with the London Chess Classic, Hastings International, a 4NCL weekend (and weekender), plus Gibraltar Masters all on the schedule. For some events we will be playing, while for a couple of others I will be an arbiter.
I will be blogging on the trip, so hopefully I can provide some on the spot coverage of these events. Given my current form I suspect my rating might take a bit of a hammering, but as most of these events have been on my to-do list for a number of years, I'm pretty sure the loss of ratings points will be worth it.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Carlsen wins World Championship after playoffs.

The 2016 World Championship Match ended today with Magnus Carlsen winning the playoffs 3-1 over Sergey Karjakin. The final two games of the playoffs were both won by Carlsen, after Karjakin blundered in time trouble in game 3, and rolling the dice in game 4, got mated with a nice queen sac.
While the final day had plenty of excitement, the match itself was fairly dull. A narrow choice of openings and strategy by both players resulted in fairly risk free chess, with Carlsen trying to convert small advantages, while Karjakin seemed happier to defend. Of course if Carlsen had converted some advantageous endgames earlier in the match Karjakin may have been forced to change his approach to stay afloat, but as it was, this situation only occurred in the very final game.
This is Carlsen's third World Championship win, and his narrowest. The cycle to determine the next challenger starts anew, and while I still hope for a Carlsen v Caruana match, there may be a number of other players trying to change that.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Mark Taimanov 1926 - 2016

Mark Taimanov, Grandmaster, former USSR Champion, and noted concert pianist, has passed away at the age of 90. One of the worlds top players from the 1950's to the 1970's he qualified for two Candidates series, but famously lost to Fischer in 1971, 6-0. For a while after that match he was on the outer with the USSR government, but after Fischer beat Petrosian and Spassky, was somewhat rehabilitated.
Born in 1926 he became a GM in 1952 and was an active player until 2003. Away from chess he was also an acclaimed concert pianist, often performing with his first wife, who he met as a 19 year old music student.
Taimanov was also noted as an opening theoretician, with a number of opening lines baring his name. The Taimanov Sicilian is the most well known, but he also had lines in the Gruenfeld, Modern Benoni and the Nimzo Indian named after him.
In the following game he defeated Walter Brown with a nice attack, possibly because Browne did not play the Taimanov variation (4. ... Nc6). After wrecking Browne's pawn structure, Taimanov found some nice attacking moves and Browne's position eventually collapsed.

Taimanov,Mark E (2500) - Browne,Walter S (2555) [E54]
Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee, 1981

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Off to the playoffs

Thinking I would have plenty of time to follow Game 12 of the World Championship Match, I resisted the urge to set an early alarm. In a sense I'm glad I did, because although I missed all of the final game, I missed all of the final game.
As dramatic last round battles go, this wasn't it. The opening was familiar (Ruy Lopez Berlin), the middlegame was perfunctory (the ending was reached by move 21), and the result almost pre-ordained (shaking hands on move 30).
So playoffs tomorrow, which in my opinion, has never been a satisfactory way of determining a world champion.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Last game strategy

So the World Championship Match comes down to game 12, although playoffs are a distinct possibility. And it is the existence of playoff games that have certainly changed how final World Championship games are now played.
In an earlier time, a tied match meant that the Champion retained the title. Therefore, if the match reached game 24, it was a do or die game for at least one player. In the case of the Karpov v Kasparov matches, Kasparov won the title in 1985 by winning game 24 (and the match 13-11), and retained the title in 1987 by repeating the feat, but in this case drawing the match 12-12.
In both cases there was a sense of anticipation about what strategies both players would employ, but in both games, Kasparov did not deviate from his normal style, a wise decision as it turned out.
I suspect this will also be the case for game 12 of Carlsen v Karjakin, as a switch to rapidplay games may be agreeable to both sides. Probably 1.e4 will be played although there is also scope for a real surprise. Back in 1987 I can remember see "Guess the Opening for Game 24" competition at the Melbourne Chess Club, and while most choices were pretty main stream, one enterprising soul plumped for 1.g4!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The one Castro game?

With the passing of Fidel Castro, I did a quick search to see if he had played any recorded games of chess. Turns out I could only find a single game, and one in which both players seemed to play poorly. Usually the existence of a single game for a person rings some alarm bells as well, as games like this often turn out to be faked. However I've seen the same game in a couple of sources, and while not ruling out that they both came from the same source,  I've decided to show it here.
It looks like it was played during the 1966 Olympiad in Havana, although not as part of the Olympiad. Castro had black and was losing for most of the game. But whether by luck, or his opponent realising who he was playing, the game turned on a single move, when his opponent allowed a mate in 1!

Terrazas - Castro,Fidel [C34]
Havanna, 1966

Even Stevens

The 2016 World Championship Match is now back on level terms after Magnus Carlsen beat Sergey Karjakin in Game 10. Like most of the games in the match it involved a lot of patient manoeuvring, but unlike previous games, Karjakin was not able to defend a worse position. That is not to say it was all one way traffic, with Carlsen once again running the risk of over finessing the position, rather than pushing for a more direct win. However Carlsen created too many weaknesses for Karjakin to defend, and eventually the pawns began to fall.
Tomorrow is another rest day, before Karjakin starts with the White pieces for the last time (unless the match goes to tie breaks). This may be his last big chance to claim the title, as anything other than a win would leave Carlsen better placed going into the final game.

Carlsen,Magnus (2853) - Karjakin,Sergey (2772) [C65]
WCh 2016 New York USA (10), 24.11.2016