Thursday, 27 November 2014

Not according to plan

Having gushed a little about Kramnik's decision to play in the Qatar Masters, I can see why he might be having second thoughts about the whole excursion. Normally the first round of any swiss is a bit of a massacre, but for such a strong event like the Qatar Masters, this isn't always the case.
For Kramnik, used to knowing his opponents (and their openings) in advance, Stelios Halkias (2519) might have been a bit of an unknown quantity. Doubly so when Halkias played the Evans Gambit, still a popular choice for club hackers, and the odd World Champion (G. Kasparov).
It turned out to be an inspired choice, as Kramnik never got more than equality in the game, and Helkias was possibly a bit better when he went for a draw by repetition. As a result of the slow start Kramnik ends up on Board 31(!) for the second round, and it may be a few rounds before he catches up with the leaders.

Halkias,Stelios (2519) - Kramnik,Vladimir (2760) [C51]
Qatar Masters Open Doha (1.2), 26.11.2014

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

2014 Qatar Masters

The 2014 Qatar Masters starts this evening. It is billed as the strongest Open for 2014, and the field does look very strong. The top half of the 154 player field is rated above 2520, and the top 14 players are all 2700+. The event is offering a first prize of $25,000 and with a total prize pool of $100,000 it is no surprise that the tournament has attracted a stellar field.
Top seed is Anish Giri, just ahead of surprise entrant Vladimir Kramnik. While his participation in this event has been known for quite a while, it has been a long time since he has played an Open Swiss. While some of the top players will occasional play in an event like Gibraltar, Kramnik has previously not been part of this group. Of course the overall strength of the field might help him avoid the problem of playing an uneven strength field, but even then, it will be interesting to see how he copes with preparing for unfamiliar opponents.
Australia has one participant in the tournament IM Rishi Sardana, although WIM Emma Guo will also be there, but only as a spectator. Home page for the tournament is and you can find links to live coverage, games and results from there.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Know the classics

In yesterdays post I mentioned the game Selzniev v Alekhine from 1921, which contained a similar idea to Anand's exchange sacrifice against Carlsen. This game was used as an example of the exchange sacrifice in  Euwe's and Kramer's "The Middle Game Volume 1". Annotating the game, the authors said the sacrifice (20 ... Rb4) was perfectly sound as in return for the material lost Black has (a) A protected passed pawn, (b) the two bishops, (c) White's weak a and c pawns as targets and (d) the c5 square. Alekhine himself thought this was in fact worth more than the exchange.
Nonetheless it took quite a while for Alekhine to covert his position into a winning one. He had to trade one advantage (position) for another (material), but in doing so he was able to retain enough of an edge to eventually wear his opponent down.

Selezniev,Alexey Sergeevich - Alekhine,Alexander [A47]
Triberg-A Triberg (3), 09.07.1921

Monday, 24 November 2014

2014 World Championship - Carlsen Wins

Magnus Carlsen has retained his World Championship title, with a win over Viswantahan Anand in the 11th game of their match. The final score of 6.5-4.5 (predicted here) was closer than the 2013 Match, which Carlsen won by a 3 point margin.
Game 11 saw Anand try and play more aggressively, after the by now familar Ruy Lopez Berlin Variation. Sensing that this was his final chance Anand played an exchange sacrifice on Move 27. While both players criticised the decision after the game, the idea did have an historical precedence, being played by Alekhine against Selesniev in 1921. In the current game Carlsen was able to find enough tactics to neutralise Anand's hoped for counterplay, and then win the subsequent endgame.
With this win Carlsen holds the title for the next 2 years. The next candidates tournament is 18 months away, and while Anand is eligible to play in that event, most of the early money is going on Fabiano Caruana to be Carlsen's next challenger.

Carlsen,Magnus (2863) - Anand,Viswanathan (2792) [C67]
WCh 2014 Sochi RUS (11), 23.11.2014

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A 'blogworthy' game

One of the juggling acts you have to perform when writing a blog is decide what is content worthy of publishing. It is a little easier writing a chess blog, as chess has a built in ranking system which attaches importance to players, tournaments or games, based on the ratings of the subjects. So news about the World Championship is going to be a big deal no matter what happens, but more local events have to be judged a little more closely.
This also goes for the games I publish on the blog. I usually try and publish at least one game a week, as the front page only keeps the last 7 articles posted. I try and keep the choice fairly broad but I do have 2 distinct biases. One is games from Super GM events and matches, especially from players I like (such as Aronian or Svidler). The other is of course my own games, as essentially this is a blog about what I find interesting in chess.
Apart from what I find myself, I also get helpful suggestions from chess playing friends. Often at Street Chess or the ANU Chess Club a game is finished with a suggestion to 'put it on your blog'. 'Bloggable' or 'blogworthy' are other adjectives attached to games in which the winner is particularly proud. Usually I need to independently confirm that the game is indeed publishable, although I will sacrifice quality for curiosity.
For today's game I am actually choosing one of my own, played on Saturday at Street Chess (G/15m). It was an opening that I usually am on the black side of (The Two Knights) but I decided to try it from the other side of the board. 8.Qf3 is unusual but sound, although 8. ... Rb8 is considered the best reply. The idea behind Nc4-a3 was to try and pick up the exchange, but it left the c pawn unprotected, allowing the tactical shot 15. Nc5 Black thought for quite a while trying to find a way out of the mess, but failed to find a escape route. She decided to resign at that point only to be met with the annoying 'I think I will put that on my blog'

Press,Shaun - Chibnall,Alana [C58]
Street Chess, 22.11.2014

Saturday, 22 November 2014

2014 World Championship - Games 9 & 10

It seems that the early excitement has passed in the 2014 World Championship Match, and we are seeing a slow slide to a Carlsen victory. Both games 9 and 10 were drawn, with Anand not putting Carlsen under any serious pressure. There was some excitement in Game 10 when Carlsen allowed Anand to make a seemingly strong pawn push, but Anand passed up the opportunity, deciding to play it safe. Once this moment passed Carlsen had no trouble equalising and a draw was agreed on move 32.
Tomorrow sees Game 11 and it may be this is where the match ends. Anand needs to try something to claw back his point deficit, but in doing also gives Carlsen greater winning chances. On the other hand there is a school of thought (espoused by the denizens of Street Chess) that Anand may be happy to finish with -1, as a way of saying that he is still a credible threat to Carlsen. I lean towards the former scenario btw.

Anand,Viswanathan (2792) - Carlsen,Magnus (2863) [D97]
WCh 2014 Sochi RUS (10), 21.11.2014

Friday, 21 November 2014

2015 Australian Junior Chess Championship - Early birds

The 2015 Australian Junior Championship is starting in a little under 2 months. Currently there are 74 entries for all events, but that number will grow substantially in the next few weeks. One important milestone coming up is the cut-off for early entries. To take advantage of the early bird discount entries need to be received by the 3rd of December 2014, and paid for on the 6th. After that the entry fee goes up by $20 for most events. If you are planning to book accommodation through the organisers, you will also need to get onto this early, as space at the tournament venue (Canberra Grammar School) is limited.
Full information on the tournament, including online entry forms and accommodation booking forms, are available at the tournament website