Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Melody Amber, Round 11

As expected, Anand coasted in with a pair of quick draws, completing a sweep of both sections and therefore the overall crown. This result is just another confirmation of what has been clear for a long time: Anand is the king of rapid chess (with the exception of the now-retired Kasparov).

Despite Anand's non-games, and the last round siestas of others, there were a number of exciting games today, too, most notably the near-brilliancy between Evgeny Bareev and Vasily Ivanchuk.

Bareev,Evgeny (2709) - Ivanchuk,Vasily (2711) [D80]
Amber Blindfold (11.1), 31.03.2005

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bh4 Bg7 6.cxd5 Nxc3 7.bxc3 Qxd5 8.e3 c5 9.Qf3 Qd8 10.Bc4 0-0 11.Ne2 cxd4 12.exd4 Nc6N [12...Qc7 13.Bb3 Nc6 14.0-0 Na5 15.Rfe1 Nxb3 16.axb3 Bd7 has been played before and leaves White with just a small edge.] 13.0-0 Bd7 14.Rfe1 Rc8 15.Bb3 Na5 16.Nf4 Playing a series of very natural moves, White has already managed to achieve a large advantage. Black's e-pawn is under attack; more significantly, there's no convenient way to defend it. 16...Bf6 This keeps all the pawns protected, but White's access to Black's weakened kingside dark squares is more serious than Ivanchuk must have suspected. [16...Re8?? Takes care of the e-pawn, but only at the cost of something much worse: 17.Bxf7+ Kxf7 18.Ne6+ and White wins the queen.; If Black tries to prepare the Re8 idea in this way, the problem is that both the a- and b-pawns become vulnerable: 16...Nxb3 17.axb3 Re8 18.Qxb7 leaves White with an extra pawn and the better position. Note that 18...Rxc3 makes things even worse for Black after 19.Nd5 followed by Nxe7+.; 16...Nc6 is also possible, but it's an embarrassing move to play after 15...Na5. And even if he does play it, White has a huge advantage with 17.Re3 followed by doubling rooks and/or playing Nd5.] 17.Bxf6 exf6 18.Nd5? [Building with 18.Re3+/- improves, in light of the tactical possibility Black misses next move.] 18...Kg7? [18...Bc6 is the ideal move if it works. Does it? 19.Nxf6+ Kg7 20.Nh5+ gxh5 21.Qxh5 Nxb3 22.axb3 Qf6 23.Rxa7 Rfe8 It does: Black stands better.] 19.Re7 f5 20.Qf4 Nc6

It looks like Black has everything under control here: the knight is covering e5 and attacking the Re7, and once White retreats the rook Black plays Re8 or Be6, closing the e-file and the a2-g8 diagonal and chasing the White knight from d5. White will still have a clear advantage, but Black won't be in any immediate danger. 21.Rae1!! But Bareev has "seen" (it was the blindfold game) more deeply! What counts most is the activity of the White pieces and how many can swarm around the Black king, not just the abstract material value of a rook compared to a knight. By leaving the rook on e7, ...Be6 is prevented (21...Be6?? 22.R1xe6), ...Re8 is prevented and 21...Nxe7 gives the White queen access to the groovy e5 square. Since everything else is work, Black tries to grab and hold: 21...Nxe7 [21...Re8 22.Rxf7+ Kxf7 23.Nc7+ Kg7 24.Rxe8 Bxe8 (24...Qxc7 25.Rg8+ Kf6 (25...Rxg8 26.Qxc7+-) 26.Qh4+ g5 27.Qxg5#) 25.Ne6+ is the punchline.] 22.Rxe7 Re8 [22...Rc6 is a tougher try, but it fails to the brilliant 23.Qe5+ Kh6 24.Nf6! Be6 25.g4!!

and White wins, because 25...Qxe7 26.h4+- wins the queen, and Black cannot otherwise meet the threat of 27.g5+ Kg7 28.Nxh5+ Kg8 (or on 28...Kf8, if, for example, Black were to have moved the rook away, then 29.Qh8#) 29.Qg7# 26...fxg4 (26...Qxf6 27.g5+ Qxg5+ 28.hxg5+ Kxg5 29.d5 Rb6 30.dxe6 fxe6 31.Qg7+-) 27.Nxg4+ Bxg4 28.Qxe7 Kg7 29.d5+-] 23.Qe5+ Kh6 24.Qe3+ missing the win, but as Black can't avoid the repetition Bareev gets a second chance... 24...Kg7 25.Qe5+ Kh6

26.h4? which he misses, unfortunately. [26.g4!! The point of this funny little move is that the White queen can't check the king without chasing him back; on the other hand, the attack isn't going to get anywhere without another check to draw the king up. So the aim of 26.g4 is 27.g5+, when 27...Kxg5 (27...Kh5 28.Bd1+ Kh4 29.Qg3#) 28.Qf4+ (the queen is free to check!) Kh5 29.Nf6 is mate. Black can only prevent a quick mate with the drastic 26...Qxe7 , but then he is completely lost on crude materialistic grounds after (26...Rxe7 27.g5+ Kxg5 (27...Kh5 28.Bd1+ Kh4 29.Qg3#) 28.Qf4+ Kh5 29.Nf6#) 27.Nxe7 Rxc3 (27...Rcd8 28.gxf5 is even worse for Black, due to the threats of Bxf7 and f6 followed by Qf4+.) 28.Nxf5+ Bxf5 (28...gxf5 29.Qf6#) 29.Qxe8+-] 26...Rxe7! 27.Nxe7 Rxc3! 28.Qf6 Qb8 with the minor threat of ...Rc1+ and mate next move! Worse still, White can't even manage to stop the threat without allowing Black enough counterplay to draw, and that's just what happens: 29.g3 Rxg3+ 30.fxg3 Qxg3+ 31.Kh1 [31.Kf1?? Bb5+ 32.Bc4 Bxc4#] 31...Qh3+ 1/2-1/2

Round 11 summary:


Bareev-Ivanchuk 1/2-1/2
Gelfand-Anand 1/2-1/2
van Wely-Kramnik 1-0
Svidler-Topalov 0-1
Leko-Shirov 1/2-1/2
Morozevich-Vallejo 1/2-1/2


Ivanchuk-Bareev 1/2-1/2
Anand-Gelfand 1/2-1/2
Kramnik-van Wely 1-0
Topalov-Svidler 1-0
Shirov-Leko 1-0
Vallejo-Morozevich 0-1

Final Standings:


Anand 8
Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich, Topalov, Vallejo 6
Gelfand, Kramnik, Svidler 5.5
Shirov 4.5
van Wely 4
Bareev 3


Anand 7.5
Morozevich 7
Shirov 6.5
Ivanchuk, Leko, Kramnik 6
Svidler 5.5
Bareev, Topalov 5
Gelfand 4.5
Vallejo, van Wely 3.5


Anand 15.5
Morozevich 13
Ivanchuk, Leko 12
Kramnik 11.5
Shirov, Svidler, Topalov 11
Gelfand 10
Vallejo 9.5
Bareev 8
van Wely 7.5

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Melody Amber, Round 10

Surprise, surprise: Anand has clinched first place! Ok, it wasn't really surprising, nor was his coasting in with two quick draws. So we'll have to look elsewhere for excitement today, and the blindfold game between Vasily Ivanchuk and Alexander Morozevich, two of the world's most creative players, is a good place to find it:

Ivanchuk,Vasily (2711) - Morozevich,Alexander (2741) [C13]
Amber Blindfold Monte Carlo MNC (10), 30.03.2005

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.Qd2 b6 9.Bb5 Bb7 10.Nxf6+ gxf6 11.Qc3 c6N

A typically wild Morozevich idea. To judge from the sequel, however, being new, crazy, and produced by Morozevich doesn't entail that it's good. 12.Bxc6 Rc8 13.d5 0-0 [Of course 13...exd5?? fails to win a piece, as 14.Qe3+ not only saves the Bc6 but wins the Black bishop on b7.] 14.Nd4 Kh8 15.Qd2

It's not too early to pronounce Moro's novelty a failure: White's up a pawn, is more active and Black's pawn structure fails to inspire as well. Morozevich has a gift for creating tactical chaos, but Ivanchuk is more than up to the challenge the rest of the way. 15...Ba6 16.0-0-0 Ne5 17.Qh6 Rg8 18.dxe6 Nd3+ 19.cxd3 isn't bad, but [19.Rxd3 Bxd3 20.Bd7 Bg6 21.Bxc8 Qxd4 22.exf7 Bxf7 23.Bf5 may be even better.] 19...Qxd4 Ironically, White's Bc6 is again subject to a seemingly dangerous pin, and again turns out to be immune from capture. 20.exf7 Rg7 [20...Rxc6+ 21.Kb1 Bxd3+ 22.Ka1 and the dual threats of fxg8(Q)+ and f8(Q) are decisive.] 21.Kb1 Rxf7 22.Rhe1! Bxd3+ [22...Rxc6?? 23.Re8+ with mate next move.] 23.Ka1 Qxf2 24.Bf3 At last, the bishop is safe! Material is even here, but Black's pawn and especially king weaknesses leave Ivanchuk with a decisive advantage, albeit not the sort of advantage that wins on autopilot. 24...Bg6 25.h4 Qg3 26.a3 Bc2 27.Rc1 Qg6 28.Qf4 Rfc7 29.Re6 Bb3

Fancy, but worse than [29...Rc4 By playing 30.Re8+ Rxe8 (30...Qxe8?? 31.Qxf6+ Kg8 32.Bd5+ Qf7 33.Qxf7+ Kh8 34.Qf6#) 31.Qxc4 Be4 32.Qc7 White wins a pawn, but on an open board with only major pieces Black will have some drawing chances.] 30.Rxc7 Bxe6 31.Rxa7 White has an extra pawn, better structure, a menacing rook on the 7th (beware, for example, of Be4) and no major problem with his back rank. Still, in time trouble and with a position as open as this one, all three results remain possible. 31...Rc4 32.Ra8+ Kg7 33.Ra7+ Kh8 34.Qe3 [34.Qd2! Rxh4 35.Ra8+ Kg7 36.Qe1 Rc4 37.Qxe6 Rc1+ 38.Ka2 Qb1+ 39.Kb3 Qc2+ 40.Kb4 Qxb2+ 41.Qb3 Qd4+ 42.Kb5 Qc5+ 43.Ka6 and White is winning - but in time trouble, it's wise to avoid lines of this sort.] 34...Qf5 [34...Bg8 was necessary, when White's advantage after 35.b3 (35.Ra8 Rxh4 36.Qe1 (36.Bd5?? Rh1+ 37.Ka2 Qb1+ 38.Kb3 Qd1+-+) 36...Qg5 37.Rd8 Rc4! 38.Qe6 Rc1+ 39.Ka2 Re1!!=) 35...Rxh4 36.Kb2 Rh1 37.Be4 Qg4 38.Qf3 Qg5 39.Qc3 is relatively small.] 35.Qh6 Crushing. 35...Qg6 36.Ra8+ [The point is that Black either loses a piece or several pawns: 36.Ra8+ Rc8 a) 36...Bc8 37.Qf8+ Qg8 38.Qxf6+ Qg7 39.Qd8+ Qg8 40.Qxg8+ Kxg8 41.Bd5+ Ouch. (41.Bb7 is only very slightly more "thoughtful".) ; b) 36...Bg8 37.Qxg6 (37.Bd5! is a needless example of computer efficiency.) 37...hxg6 38.Rxg8+ Kxg8 39.Bd5+ Kg7 40.Bxc4+-; 37.Rxc8+ Bxc8 38.Qf8+ Qg8 39.Qxf6+ Qg7 40.Qd8+ Qg8 41.Qxb6 and the bad news for Black is that even here he'll have to give up the bishop if he doesn't want to accede to the queen trade with Qf6+.] 1-0

Round 10 summary:


Ivanchuk-Morozevich 1-0
Shirov-Bareev 1/2-1/2
Vallejo-Leko 0-1
Topalov-van Wely 1-0
Anand-Svidler 1/2-1/2
Kramnik-Gelfand 1/2-1/2


Morozevich-Ivanchuk 1-0
Bareev-Shirov 1/2-1/2
Leko-Vallejo 1/2-1/2
van Wely-Topalov 1/2-1/2
Svidler-Anand 1/2-1/2
Gelfand-Kramnik 0-1



Anand 7.5
Ivanchuk, Kramnik, Leko, Morozevich, Svidler, Vallejo 5.5
Gelfand, Topalov 5
Shirov 4
van Wely 3
Bareev 2.5


Anand 7
Leko, Morozevich 6
Ivanchuk, Shirov, Svidler 5.5
Kramnik 5
Bareev 4.5
Gelfand, Topalov 4
Vallejo, van Wely 3.5


Anand 14.5
Leko, Morozevich 11.5
Ivanchuk, Svidler 11
Kramnik 10.5
Shirov 9.5
Gelfand, Topalov, Vallejo 9
Bareev 7
van Wely 6.5


It doesn't compare with his epic struggles against Viktor Korchnoi and Garry Kasparov and his numerous successes in elite tournaments from the mid-70s to the mid-90s, but Anatoly Karpov's recent, convincing 6-2 match victory over the 2612-rated Romanian GM Andrei Istratescu was a heartening achievement for his long-time fans. Karpov rarely wins showy attacking games a la Shirov, but what he does, he does exceptionally well. The following game was particularly impressive; a fine model of winning with the two bishops.

Karpov,Anatoly (2674) - Istratescu,Andrei (2617) [E15]
Match Bucharest ROM (2), 21.03.2005

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.b3 Bb7 6.Bg2 Bb4+ 7.Bd2 a5 8.0-0 0-0 9.Nc3 d6 10.Qc2 Nbd7 11.Rfd1 Bxc3 12.Bxc3 Be4 13.Qb2 c6 14.Bf1 b5N 15.Nh4 d5 16.f3 Bg6 17.Be1 Qb6 18.cxd5 cxd5 19.Rac1 Rfc8

White has a slight but definite advantage here, due to his possession of the two bishops in the sort of position that favors them in the long term. White would like to trade all the major pieces, gain space, and finally open the position at the right moment to exploit the strength of the bishop pair. Watch, learn, and admire! 20.e3 Ne8 21.g4 Nd6 22.Bg3 b4 23.Rxc8+ Rxc8 24.Rc1 Rc6 25.Nxg6 hxg6 26.Rxc6 Qxc6 27.Qe2 Kf8 28.Qa6 Qxa6 29.Bxa6 Ke7

The first stage has been accomplished, and White has a real edge here. Converting it to a win is hard work, but Karpov's technique is excellent and worthy of emulation. 30.h4 This is a very good move for several reasons. First, it grabs space, which is a very good thing, even in the endgame. Second, it fixes the Black g-pawns, which if nothing else removes even more of the elasticity of Black's position. And third, Black has to worry about the advance of the h-pawn - in a future sequence without a Black knight covering e5, something like 1.Bxd7 Kxd7 2.h5 gxh5 3.gxh5 followed by 4.Be5 wins: 4...g6 5.h6; 4...f6 5.Bxf6; 4...Nf5 5.Bxg7! Nxg7 6.h6 followed by 7.h7 and h8(Q). Black can defend against that threat, for now, but he also has to keep the a5 pawn safe and beware of a useful central break from White as well. One problem he can handle and maybe two, but three is too much. And therein lies the advantage of the bishop pair - they can rapidly tack from one side of the board to the other, or even hit both sides at the same time, while the slow-moving knights struggle to get from one side to the other. 30...Nf6 Stopping h5 and, for the foreseeable future, e4. Of course, White could play g5 at some point, but that would be a very bad move, taking away the h5 possibility and giving up the f5 square. In short, g5 takes away much of the White position's elasticity. 31.Bd3 Kd7 Nothing's happening right away, so White is improving the placement of his pieces before deciding on anything, and now it's the king's turn. 32.Kf2 Kc6 33.Ke2 Nfe8 34.Kd2 With the king on d2 and bishop on d3, White no longer has to worry about a maneuver like ...Nb5-c3, as it can be met by either a4 (...bxa3?? Kxc3), sealing the queenside and fixing the a5 pawn, or better still, a3, when after the inevitable axb4 axb4, Black's b4 pawn is a serious weakness. In fact, even if Black doesn't play Nc3, White may still try to achieve a3 at some point, with the same purpose of softening up the Black queenside pawns. 34...Nb5 35.Be5 Another annoying move, from Black's perspective. Tricks with h5 are on again (1.h5 gxh5 2.gxh5 and then White's threatening 3.Bxb5+ Kxb5 4.Bxg7 Nxg7 5.h6, winning), and attempting to expel the predator on e5 with ...f6 only serves to lose the pawn on g6. 35...Nbd6 36.Bf1 Kb6 37.Kc2 Nb5 38.Bg2 And now e4 is inevitable. 38...Kc6 39.Kd3 Nbd6 40.e4 Now Black has something new to think about. If he takes on e4, then White will create a passed d-pawn, and between the passer and the d4 square for the king, the win will be a mere matter of time. So Black will try to hold tight, but then Black has to worry about both exd5, leaving Black with a potentially vulnerable d-pawn (note that Black can't avoid the isolani with 1.exd5+ Kxd5?? because 2.f4+ forces mate next move), and e5, grabbing more space and taking the defensively useful d6 and f6 posts from the knights. 40...Kd7 41.Bh3 Ke7 42.Bf1 Kd7 43.Ke3 Ke7 44.Bd3 Kd7 45.Bf4 Kc6 After some harmless tacking around, White finally commits to something. It might seem surprising that Karpov hasn't done anything, or hasn't seemed to - in fact, it might seem that Karpov hasn't done anything all game long! Two responses: first, Black's position is such that there really isn't anything he can do, so Karpov isn't taking any risks with this strategy, as any active plan by Black will hasten defeat. ("Activity" would involve moving pawns, and that would just make them targets, not attacking units.) Second, he's looking for the ideal setup before committing to action, and why not? Black can do nothing, so the only thing that can go wrong is White choosing the wrong plan. No reason for haste! 46.e5 Nc8 47.Bg5

And just like that, Black is losing, unable to meet the threat of h5 followed by (after ..gxh5 gxh5) Bh7-g8, picking off the f-pawn. 47...Nb6 48.Be7 Another nice move, again improving his position to the maximum before cashing in. The point of this move is, first, to prevent even a meaningless bid for counterplay like ...a4; second, after h5 gxh5 gxh5, to play Bf8, Bxg7 and h6. Beautiful technique by Karpov! 48...Nd7 49.h5 Nc7 and Black resigned - White takes twice on g6 and progresses from there, maintaining all the advantages of his position without a single concession. 1-0

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Melody Amber, Round 9

With two rounds (four games) to go, Viswanathan Anand has increased his lead to three points; barring a complete collapse, therefore, Anand can celebrate yet another impressive success on one of the great chess resumes of the era. Among active players, only two other players are even in the conversation, in my view: Anatoly Karpov, who isn't playing but whose recent match victory vs. Istratescu will be discussed in a post very soon, and Vladimir Kramnik, who won't be including this event in his next "greatest hits" collection. Here's the latest sour note:

Kramnik,Vladimir (2754) - Svidler,Peter (2735) [B46]
Amber Rapid Monte Carlo MNC (9), 29.03.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 d5 8.0-0 Qc7 9.Qe2 Bb7 10.Bd2 Bd6 [10...Nf6 11.Rae1 Be7 (11...c5 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.Nxd5 Bxd5 14.c4 Bc6 15.Bc3+/=) 12.Kh1 0-0 13.f4 dxe4 (13...c5 14.exd5 Nxd5 15.f5|^) 14.Nxe4 c5 15.Bc3 Qc6 '?' Ribli. (15...Nd5 16.Be5 Qc6 17.c4 Nb4 18.Bb1+/-; 15...Nxe4 16.Bxe4 Bxe4 17.Qxe4+/=) 16.Nxf6+ Bxf6 17.Bxf6 gxf6 18.Bxh7+ '!' Ribli. 18...Kh8 (18...Kxh7 19.Qh5+ Kg7 20.Qg4+ Kh8 21.Rf3+-) 19.Rf3 Qxf3 20.gxf3 Kxh7 21.Qf2 Rg8 22.Qh4+ Kg7 23.Rg1+ Kf8 24.Rxg8+ Kxg8 25.Qxf6 Bxf3+ 26.Kg1 Bd5 27.h4! Rf8 28.Kf2 c4 29.h5 1-0 Ioseliani,N-Portisch,L/Monte Carlo 1994/CBM 42/[Ribli]] 11.f4 Ne7 12.Kh1 0-0 13.e5 Bb4 14.Rf3 Bxc3

15.bxc3 [The stock sacrifice 15.Bxh7+ is easily refuted in this position: 15...Kxh7 16.Rh3+ Kg8 17.Qh5 f5 18.Bxc3 (18.Qh7+ Kf7-+; 18.exf6 Bxf6-+) 18...c5 19.Qh7+ Kf7 20.Rg3 Rg8-+; 15.Bxc3 certainly makes better sense on structural grounds, but maybe Kramnik didn't felt that (a) the bishop would be vulnerable to the advance of Black's queenside pawns, and (b) the pawn on c3 would help slow that advance. Here's some quickie analysis, non-computer-based analysis: 15...g6 a) 15...d4? 16.Bxd4 c5 17.Rh3+-; b) 15...c5? 16.Bxh7+ Kxh7 17.Rh3+ Kg8 18.Qh5 f5 19.exf6+-; c) 15...h6 16.f5 (16.Rg3!?) 16...Nxf5 17.Bxf5 exf5 18.e6 fxe6 19.Qxe6+ Qf7 20.Rg3 Qxe6 21.Rxg7+ Kh8 22.Re7+ (22.Rxb7+?? Rf6) 22...Qf6 23.Bxf6+ Rxf6 24.Rxb7 Re8=; 16.f5 exf5 17.e6 f6 18.Qe3 (18.g4 d4-+) 18...c5 19.Qh6 Nc6 20.Bxf5 d4 21.Rg3 Ne5 22.Ba5 Qg7 (22...Qxa5 23.Bxg6 Nxg6 24.Rxg6+ hxg6 25.Qxg6+=; 22...Qe7 23.Re1 looks unclear.) 23.Qxg7+ Kxg7 24.Bb6+/-] 15...c5 16.Rh3 [16.Bxh7+ won't come close without the bishop on the a1-h8 diagonal, supporting the exf6 capture after the inevitable ...f6 or ...f5. 16...Kxh7 17.Rh3+ Kg8 18.Qh5 f5 (here)] 16...h6 17.Qh5 [17.f5 looks fun, but I don't see the justification after 17...c4 (17...Nxf5 18.Bxf5 exf5 19.Rg3 gives White reasonable compensation.) 18.f6 cxd3 19.Qh5 Nf5 20.fxg7 Rfc8 21.Bxh6 Qxe5-+; The non-panicky 17.c4 , however, should be fine for White.] 17...f5 [17...c4 looks fine, too, as 18.f5 cxd3 19.Bxh6 g6 20.fxg6 fxg6 21.Qh4 Qxc3 22.Rg1 Rf7 should win for Black.] 18.exf6 Rxf6

19.Re1 [19.c4= Last chance!] 19...c4-/+ Now White's pieces go backward, Black's go forward, and the game ends in a hurry: 20.Bf1 Ng6 21.Qg4 Raf8 22.Rf3 e5 23.f5 Bc8 24.Kg1 Bxf5

Ugh. 25.Qg3 [25.Rxf5 would be great if White had a pawn on h3, but here it loses quickly to a back-rank tactic: 25...Rxf5 26.Qxg6 Qc5+ 27.Be3 Qxe3+ 28.Rxe3 Rxf1#] 25...Bxc2 26.Rxf6 Rxf6 27.h4 Be4 28.h5 Nf4 29.Qg4 Qf7 30.Bxc4 Bf5 0-1

Round 9 summary:


Gelfand-Topalov 1/2-1/2
van Wely-Anand 0-1
Svidler-Kramnik 1/2-1/2
Leko-Ivanchuk 1/2-1/2
Morozevich-Shirov 1-0
Bareev-Vallejo 0-1


Topalov-Gelfand 1/2-1/2
Anand-van Wely 1/2-1/2
Kramnik-Svidler 0-1
Ivanchuk-Leko 0-1
Shirov-Morozevich 1/2-1/2
Vallejo-Bareev 1/2-1/2



Anand 7
Morozevich, Vallejo 5.5
Kramnik, Svidler 5
Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Leko 4.5
Topalov 4
Shirov 3.5
van Wely 3
Bareev 2


Anand 6.5
Ivanchuk, Leko 5.5
Morozevich, Shirov, Svidler 5
Bareev, Gelfand, Kramnik 4
Topalov 3.5
Vallejo, van Wely 3


Anand 13.5
Morozevich 10.5
Ivanchuk, Leko, Svidler 10
Kramnik 9
Gelfand, Shirov, Vallejo 8.5
Topalov 7.5
Bareev, van Wely 6

The Karpov-Fischer Hoax

Last night (EST), I presented a pair of games on my weekly ChessBase show purporting to have been played by Anatoly Karpov and Bobby Fischer. Indeed, they were played by those two men – just not against each other (although they could have been – see below).

Of course, it was an (early) April Fools’ gag. Last year I paid homage to the day as well, though without a gag, so this year I decided to take things up a notch. Unfortunately, my show didn’t fall on April 1, but I did offer a hint in my blurb (see here and here), referring to the program as the show for the week of March 28 to April 3. Naturally, I did the best I could to present an incredibly implausible story (Karpov and Fischer played some serious though informal games nearly 30 years ago, and no one even knew about it?) in a plausible guise, with reasonable success.

Nevertheless, I hasten to assure you, that while the background story was essentially true (Torre did come to Las Vegas to give a simul, stayed with Filipino friends, I was told later that Fischer had been in the van, and Fischer and Karpov did meet in the Philippines in the mid-to-late 70s to discuss an unofficial world championship match), the two never played – or at least if they did, I have no knowledge of this.

However, the games I showed did bear a very interesting relationship to each other! In 1968, Fischer introduced an interesting gambit – essentially the Grand Prix Attack against the Sicilian, but with colors reversed (and thus a tempo less) – against IM Anthony Saidy, and won a fine game. In 1973, Juan Bellon played that same gambit against then-Candidate Anatoly Karpov, and after a see-saw battle the game concluded in a draw. What made the games especially interesting, and in a way making the show a bit less like a hoax and more like historically informed speculation, is that they reached the exact same position in each case through White’s 23rd move!

What my viewers saw, however, was the following:

While few in my audience were likely to know about the Bellon-Karpov game, Saidy-Fischer is much better-known, and both games could have been found with a database search. So, to help delay detection, I reversed colors and the queenside-kingside orientation of the pieces – successfully, it seems, as none of the comments I noticed during the show made reference to either of the real games. (Understandably, there was much head-scratching about what the opening might have been! [I started the show from this point to avoid worries about plausibly constructing this position.])

As for the games: they deviated from this point: Bellon played 23…Nb4 (Ng5 in the reversed and rotated diagram), after which Karpov was fine, while Fischer played 23…Kh7 and went on to win a nice game. Had this really been a Karpov-Fischer game, would Karpov have fared better than Saidy? It’s likely that he would have put up more resistance, but whether it would have sufficed to save the game is something we’ll never know. In last night’s hoax, Karpov saved it the first time and lost the second time, but those were really just the Bellon-Karpov and Saidy-Fischer games; presented here, with all the pieces where they ought to be, with some light notes:

Karpov,Anatoly (2660) - Bellon Lopez,Juan Manuel (2400) [A25]

Madrid (5), 01.12.1973

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 f5 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.d3 Bc5 6.e3 f4 7.exf4 0-0 8.Nge2 d6 9.0-0 Qe8 10.Na4 Bd4 11.Nxd4 exd4 12.a3 a5 13.b3 Bf5 14.Nb2 Qg6 15.Qc2 Nd7 16.Re1 Nc5 17.Bf1 Ra6 18.Bd2 Rb6 19.Bxa5 Rxb3 20.Bd2 Ra8 21.a4 h5 22.h3 Ra6 23.a5 Nb4 [23...Kh7 is Saidy-Fischer] 24.Bxb4 Rxb4 25.Ra3 b6 26.Rea1 Qe6 27.axb6 Raxb6 28.Ra8+ Kh7 29.Qd1 g6 30.Na4+/- Nxa4 31.R8xa4 Rxa4 32.Rxa4 Bxh3 33.Ra7+- Bxf1 34.Rxc7+ Kh6 35.Qxf1 h4 36.Kg2 Rb2

37.Kf3 [37.f5 threatening 38.Qc1+ 37...Qe3 38.Kg1 Qd2 39.fxg6 Rc2 40.g7 Kh7 41.g8Q+ Kxg8 42.Qg2 Qe1+ 43.Qf1 Qd2=] 37...d5 38.gxh4 [38.c5 might be the move that gives away White's winning chances, as with the open diagonal to the White king, Black is able to generate enough counterplay not only to draw, but even to press White.] 38...Rb3 39.cxd5 Qxd5+ 40.Kg3 Qf5 41.f3 Rxd3 42.Rc6 Rc3 43.Rd6 Kh5 44.Kg2 Rc2+ [44...Qxf4 45.Rd5+ Kh6 46.Qf2 Qc1 47.Qg1 Rc2+ 48.Kh1 Qf4 49.Qg5+ Qxg5 50.hxg5+ Kh5 51.Rxd4 Kxg5=] 45.Kg3 Rc3 46.Kg2 Qxf4 47.Rd5+ Kh6 48.Qe2 [48.Qf2 - see the note to move 44] 48...Qc1 [This allows a draw, but even after 48...Re3 White has just enough room for his king and can still survive to draw the game with 49.Qf2 d3 50.Qg3 Re2+ 51.Kh3 Qf6 52.Qg5+ Qxg5 53.hxg5+ Kh5 54.Rxd3 Kxg5 55.Kg3=] 49.Rh5+!

[49.Rh5+ gxh5 (49...Kxh5 50.Qe5+ Kxh4 a) 50...g5 51.Qe8+ Kh6 (51...Kxh4?? 52.Qh8#) 52.Qe6+ Kg7 53.Qe7+=; b) 50...Kh6?? 51.Qh8#; 51.Qg3+ Kh5 52.Qg4+ Kh6 53.Qh4+ Kg7 54.Qe7+=) 50.Qe6+ Kg7 51.Qe7+=] 1/2-1/2

Saidy,Anthony - Fischer,Robert [A25]

USA, 1968

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 f5 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.d3 Bc5 6.e3 f4!? 7.exf4 0-0 It's very strange that Fischer's 6th move is universally condemned as bad (though very interesting), but in my research this move isn't addressed. But [7...d6 leaves Black with reasonable compensation and a possible transposition to the game, without allowing White the chance missed on move 8.] 8.Nge2 [8.fxe5 looks risky, but Black can't exploit the f2 square and White seems to get a large advantage after 8...Re8 (8...Nxe5? 9.d4+-; 8...Qe8 9.Bxc6 dxc6 10.d4 Bb4 11.Nge2+/-) 9.Nge2 is Shredder 9's suggestion, when it thinks Black is doing rather poorly. (9.f4 d6 10.Bxc6 bxc6 11.d4 is the standard "refutation" - see Soltis's Bobby Fischer Rediscovered (2003) and Wade & O'Connell's 1972 Bobby Fischer's Chess Games, but it's not so clear after 11...Bb4 12.Nf3 Bh3 13.Qe2 c5 14.a3 Ba5 , when the edifice of White pawns is in serious danger of collapse.) 9...Rxe5 10.0-0 Nd4 11.Nxd4 Bxd4 12.Bf4 Re8 13.Nb5 Be5 14.Bxe5 Rxe5 15.d4+-] 8...Qe8 9.0-0 d6 10.Na4 [10.Be3 Bxe3 11.fxe3 exf4 12.exf4 Qe3+ 13.Kh1 Ng4 14.Bd5+ Kh8 15.Kg2 Qe8!-+ Maric; 10.Ne4 Nxe4 11.dxe4 Qh5 12.Be3 Bg4 13.Qd5+ Kh8 14.Nc3 Nd4 gives Black some play - Soltis. In fact, it wins the queen, though White has reasonable material compensation after 15.Bxd4 c6 (15...Bxd4 is perhaps better for Black, giving him some advantage.) 16.Bxc5 cxd5 17.Bxd6 d4 18.Bxf8 Rxf8 19.f3 Be6 20.Nd5 is unclear!] 10...Bd4 11.Nxd4 exd4 12.h3 h5! 13.a3 a5 14.b3 Qg6 15.Nb2 Bf5 Soltis refers to this as the "most Nimzovichian" of Fischer's games, reminiscent of the very famous Johner-Nimzovich game from Dresden 1926. Black's play here is all about blockade: he's going to seal White in, then destroy him. Ironically, though, the computer is quite happy here with the White pieces! 16.Qc2 [16.Re1 Nd7 17.Kh2 Nc5 18.Bf3 is slightly better for White, according to the oracle (Shredder 9), though I'm not sure even it believes what it's saying.] 16...Nd7! 17.Re1 Nc5 18.Bf1 Ra6!=/+ 19.Bd2 Rb6 20.Bxa5 [20.b4 would be a nice pawn sac if it worked, liberating his queenside, but it doesn't, according to Soltis: 20...axb4 21.axb4 Nxb4 22.Bxb4 Rxb4-/+ 23.Re7 and now 23...Qf6! 24.Rxc7 (24.Rae1 Ne6!-+; the ugly 24.Ree1 is forced.) 24...Qd8-+] 20...Rxb3 21.Bd2 Ra8 22.a4 Ra6!-/+ Incredibly, and I mean that literally, the computer finds this position equal. 23.a5 Kh7 [23...Nb4 is Karpov-Bellon] 24.Red1 b6 but now Shredder 9 agrees: Black is clearly better. 25.Be1 [25.axb6 Raxb6 26.Ra2 Nxd3-+ Maric 27.Bxd3 Bxd3 28.Nxd3 Rxd3-/+ 29.Re1 Rbb3-+] 25...bxa5-+ 26.Na4 Rxd3! 27.Bxd3 Bxd3 28.Qa2 Nb4 29.Qa3 [29.Qb2 Nxa4 30.Rxa4 Bc2 31.Rxa5 Rxa5 32.Bxb4 Bxd1 33.Bxa5 c5

might not look so bad for White, but between the passed d-pawn and White's porous light squares on the kingside, Black is almost guaranteed a win here.] 29...Nc2 30.Qb2 Nxa1 31.Rxa1 Nxa4 32.Rxa4 Qe4

33.Bxa5? [A blunder, but White's kingside weaknesses leave Black with a winning position after 33.Qd2 Rb6 34.Ra1 Bxc4-+ Maric] 33...Rxa5 34.Rxa5 Qe1+ 35.Kh2 Qxa5 0-1

Monday, March 28, 2005

Capablanca's Last Lectures: Felix Culpa!

In the library today to do a bit of research, I came across a book I had certainly heard of but never actually seen: Last Lectures, by Jose Raoul Capablanca (New York: Cornerstone Library, 1966). Skimming through, I came to the following study near the end of the book (pp. 125-127): White to play and draw.

The conjunction of the White king on g3 with the two pawns on g4 and g5 tells any reasonably experienced solver that the solution will be a stalemate (what else is the function of the pawn on g5?), and the most obvious construction will involve the Black queen on d1 and the Black king on g1.

So, my first thought went like this:

1.Re5+ Kf1 2.Rf5+ Kg1 3.Nb3 cxb3 4.Rd5 a1(Q) 5.Rd1+! Qxd1 stalemate, but even as I thought about it I immediately realized that 4...a1(Q) wasn't forced at all. Indeed, both 4...Kf1 and even 4...a1(R) seem to win.

My next idea was to see if I could use the knight to some other end, either to create threats on the Black king, force some sort of perpetual, fork, domination or other standard trick, but couldn't find anything useful.

Back to the old drawing board, and time to take a look at the other line-clearing idea: 1.Nd3+ cxd3 (everything else is losing or barely drawing for Black) and now, everything fell into place: 2.Re5+! (a well-known idea from rook vs. pawn endings: either the king blocks the pawn, which slows down its queening, or the king is forced to go further from the pawn, eventually having to waste a tempo returning to a sufficiently near file to defend the pawn from subsequent attack. The former idea counts here, but the latter - the drive-the-king-away-motif - has a different function in this problem) Kf1 3.Rf5+! Kg1 4.Ra5 d2 5.Rxa2 d1(Q) 6.Rg2+ Kh1 7.Rh2+ Kg1 8.Rg2+ Kf1 and now the punchline: 9.Rg1+! Kxg1 (9...Ke2 10.Rxd1 Kxd1 11.Kxg4 and 12.Kxg5) stalemate!

Not a masterpiece, but a nice puzzle: the drawing mechanism was obvious, but the false lead, the 2.Re5+ 3.Rf5+ finesse and the second rank checking idea offered a significant improvement over the banal variation of my first try. Problem solved, and after double-checking my analysis, I consulted with Capa: did I miss anything?

Imagine my shock: Capablanca completely missed my main variation, gave the false lead as the solution and didn't consider anything on move 4 except the cooperative 4...d1(Q)! We're talking about one of the greatest players of all time, so of course I double-checked everything yet again, but I was right and Capa wrong.

Needless to say, there are many morals. Here are three:

1. Even GMs make mistakes!
2. We're all fallible, but if you're done your best, then trust your judgment. Sometimes, it may even be better than a world champion's.
3. The brilliance of even the greatest minds is no match for the deleterious effects of sloth. Capablanca's unwillingness to be self-critical and work hard when he reached the top probably cost him his title against Alekhine (a view shared by, among others, Alekhine himself, Mark Dvoretsky and Garry Kasparov), and even in this trivial case, his unwillingness to take a second look at the puzzle caused him to miss a fairly simple rejoinder - and to miss out on the full aesthetic value of the study as well!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Melody Amber, Round 8

Happy Easter, everyone!

Nothing of significance happened in the battle for the top spot, as Anand maintained his 2.5 point lead over the field - surprisingly, by winning on the Black side of the Petroff against Leko! Had Leko won, the tournament might have become much more interesting, but a 2.5 point lead with three rounds (six games) to go - one against cellar-dweller van Wely - ought to mean the trophy is as good as awarded. We shall see.

For today's amusement, then, a contrast for your consideration. We'll take a look at a pair of Pirc games - one from this event, the other not. The Pirc Defense (which generally arises via the move order 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6) is a sharp opening. Black baits White to take the center and attack, hoping that White will over-extend, the center will explode and Black will get to rule the wreckage. Sometimes the plan works and sometimes it doesn't, and we'll see what things look like in each case.

First we'll look at a game from the ongoing Foxwoods Open in Connecticut, in which current US champ Hikaru Nakamura pole-axes Israeli GM and one-time 2700 (that's 2700 FIDE; the ratings below are USCF) Ilya Smirin:

Nakamura,Hikaru (2752) - Smirin,Ilya (2812) [B09]
Foxwoods Open Monte Carlo MNC (5), 25.03.2005

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.f4 Nf6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.e5 Nfd7 7.h4 c5 8.h5 cxd4 9.hxg6 dxc3 10.gxf7+ Rxf7 11.Bc4

11...Nf8 [11...e6 is another common move here, but one the computer prefers to Smirin's choice. 12.Ng5 cxb2 13.Bxb2 Qa5+ 14.Ke2 d5] 12.Ng5 e6 13.Nxf7 cxb2N [13...Kxf7 14.Qh5+ Kg8 15.Bd3 occurred in 4 previous games, all won by Black, though objectively that doesn't seem to reflect the correct evaluation of this position.] 14.Bxb2 Qa5+ 15.Kf1 Kxf7 16.Qh5+ Kg8 17.Bd3

Materially speaking, Black is fine, but unfortunately, most of his collection is in cryogenic storage on the queenside. It's not clear that Black will be able to defend against, inter alia, White's very simple threat of 18.Rh3, 19.Bxh7+ Nxh7 20.Qxh7+ Kf7 21.Rg3. Black tries to bring his queen to the threatened sector, but Nakamura does a nice job of pressing his attack while nullifying Black's attempted counterplay: 17...Qb4 18.Rb1 Bd7 [18...Qxf4+ 19.Ke2 h6 20.Rbf1 Qg5 21.Qf7+ Kh8 22.Bc1 wins, as Black doesn't have perpetual check.] 19.c4 Blocking one path from the Black queen towards the White kingside, and also closing the a6-f1 diagonal to Black's queen's bishop. 19...Qd2 20.Bxh7+ Nxh7 21.Qxh7+ Kf8 22.Rh4 There is no defense to 23.Rg4, winning everything, and thus we see the sort of nightmare that can befall Black in the Pirc! 1-0

Having seen the darkness, Pirc fans, let's look to the light:

Kramnik,Vladimir (2754) - Morozevich,Alexander (2741) [B09]
Amber Blindfold Monte Carlo MNC (8), 27.03.2005

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be3 c6 7.Bd3 Na6 8.a3 [8.e5 Ng4 9.Bg1 dxe5 10.fxe5 Nb4 1/2-1/2 Grischuk,A-Tseshkovsky,V/Krasnoyarsk 2003/CBM 98 no vc (61) turned out fine for Black in the game Grischuk-Tseshkovsky, Krasnoyarsk 2003 (1/2-1/2, 61)] 8...c5N 9.d5 Rb8 10.Qe2 Nc7 11.a4 a6

For those of you unfamiliar with the Pirc, you might think White has a huge advantage. Perhaps if White could tidy up a bit - castle, play Bc4 and h3, ready to shove the pawn to e5 - then that would be the case. Here, Black is well-prepared to play moves like ...b5 and ...e6, generating tons of counterplay in the queenside and center before White can roll through the center or generate his own kingside attack. There really isn't anything to be done about the ...e6 pawn break, but White does have a fundamental decision to make about Black's intended ...b5. He could allow it and allow the b5/c5 pawn duo to exist unmolested, which is cedes Black a strong queenside initiative. Second, he could allow it and then capture on d5, giving up the e4 pawn in the process. That lets his center get ruined and brings the Bg7 to life. Or third, he can play as he does in the game, giving Black counterplay along the b-file but maintaining his center intact. 12.a5 (plan 3) [12.0-0 b5 13.axb5 axb5 14.Qe1 (plan 1) (14.Nxb5 (plan 2) 14...Nxb5 15.Bxb5 Nxe4 16.Bd3 Nf6 17.c4 Ng4 18.Bc1 Nh6=/+) 14...Bb7 15.Ra7 c4 16.Be2 b4 17.Na2 Nxe4 18.Bxc4 is unclear] 12...b5 13.axb6 Rxb6 14.Na4 Rb4 15.Bd2 Rb8 16.0-0 and now it's time for the second classical undermining move: 16...e6 [A preliminary 16...Bg4 might be worth considering first though, as this bishop is traditionally a problem piece in Modern Benoni-ish structures like this one.] 17.dxe6 Nxe6 18.f5

Rightly striving for the initiative. The move can be dangerous if/when Black has control of the central dark squares and the e-file (especially the e5 square), but that doesn't really apply here. (N.B. 16...Bg4 would have helped Black significantly in that regard and in making ...Nd4 a possibility here.) 18...gxf5 Risky-looking but correct, opening the d-file and giving Black use of the d5 square for piece and pawn alike. 19.exf5 Nc7 20.Qf2 Ncd5 21.Qh4 [21.Qg3+/= Kh8 22.Ng5+/-] 21...Nb4= 22.Bg5 Nxd3=/+ 23.cxd3 Rb4

Now Black's king is much safer - essentially, Black's sole remaining problem is the pinned Nf6. Everything else is fine: the active rook, two bishops, a central majority (remember White's giant pawn center? Just a distant memory now), pawn targets and so on. White's not in trouble yet, but the trend is in Black's favor. 24.d4 cxd4 25.Bd2 Rc4 26.Bg5 Bb7 27.Rf2 Re8-/+ 28.b3 Rb4-+

Black is active everywhere, has an extra pawn, space, central control and better coordination. As long as he doesn't hang something or allow a kingside disaster, he should convert the full point in due course. 29.Nd2 [29.Nxd4?? Re4 is not an option.] 29...a5 30.Nb2 d3 31.Qh3 h6 32.Bh4 [32.Bxh6 Bxh6 33.Qxh6 Ng4 is crushing.] 32...Qb6 33.Nxd3?? A blunder, but White's position was hopeless anyway after [33.Nbc4 Qd4 34.Raf1 Ng4 35.f6 Nxf2 36.Bxf2 Qxf6-+] 33...Re3 34.Nf3 Rxd3 35.Bxf6 Bxf6 36.Re1 Re4 37.Rxe4 Bxe4 38.Qg4+ Kf8 39.Qxe4 Has Black blundered back? 39...Rd1+ Nope! 40.Ne1 Bc3 41.Qa8+ Ke7 [41...Ke7 42.f6+ Kd7 and White loses not only the knight but the rook as well - 43...Rxe1 is a mate threat, so 43.g3 is forced, but now 43...Bxe1 44.Qf3 Bxf2+ and so on. A very nice, thematic game by Morozevich!] 0-1

Round 8 summary:


Anand-Leko 1/2-1/2
Vallejo-van Wely 1-0
Kramnik-Morozevich 1/2-1/2
Ivanchuk-Svidler 1/2-1/2
Shirov-Gelfand 1/2-1/2
Topalov-Bareev 1/2-1/2


Leko-Anand 0-1
van Wely-Vallejo 1-0
Morozevich-Kramnik 0-1
Svidler-Ivanchuk 0-1
Gelfand-Shirov 0-1
Bareev-Topalov 0-1



Anand 6
Kramnik, Morozevich, Svidler, Vallejo(!) 4.5
Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Leko 4
Shirov, Topalov 3.5
van Wely 3
Bareev 2


Anand 6
Ivanchuk 5.5
Leko, Morozevich, Shirov 4.5
Kramnik, Svidler 4
Bareev, Gelfand 3.5
Topalov 3
Vallejo, van Wely 2.5


Anand 12
Ivanchuk 9.5
Morozevich 9
Kramnik, Leko, Svidler 8.5
Shirov 8
Gelfand 7.5
Vallejo 7
Topalov 6.5
Bareev, van Wely 5.5

Saturday, March 26, 2005

This Week's ChessBase Show: Something VERY Special

In 1987, when I was living in Las Vegas, Filipino GM Eugenio Torre came to town to visit some friends and give a simul. When the time came, Torre & friends came to the site in a van, a van I must have walked past several times. Guess who was inside? As I was to discover - several days later, unfortunately - a certain famous chess player now living in Iceland was hiding inside.

My local Filipino friends felt bad that they couldn't tell me that Fischer had been staying at their place, so to make up for it they shared another bombshell, albeit one which I was not to tell anyone else. I agreed, but it seems to me that 18 years is long enough.

Thus, for my ChessBase show for the week of March 28-April 3, I will present a hitherto secret game played between Fischer and Anatoly Karpov. In 1976, a year after receiving the title by default, Karpov met with Fischer in the Philippines (see Russians vs. Fischer, compiled by Dmitry Plisetsky and Sergey Voronkov, Chess World Ltd. 1994 (366-367), hoping to arrange an unofficial world championship match. Fischer was interested, but the USSR Sports Committee would have none of it and the proposal came to nought.

In the wake of the failed negotiations, however, Fischer and Karpov played a number of informal games before returning to their respective countries, and my Filipino friends were kind enough to let me see one of them. And so 18 years after my discovery, and 29 years after the game itself, that game will become available to a wider audience - at least as long as Frederic Friedel of ChessBase allows me to present it!

As always, directions for seeing the show can be found here, and a list of previous shows here.

Melody Amber, Round 7

At last - a loss! Anand's 13-game unbeaten run came to an end today in the rapid game with Bareev, as he overpressed in a balanced Main Line Caro-Kann. Anand still leads by 2.5 points, but at least there's a ray of hope that the event will be a tournament instead of an exhibition.

Anand,Viswanathan (2786) - Bareev,Evgeny (2709) [B19]
Amber Rapid Monte Carlo MNC (7), 26.03.2005

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 Ngf6 11.Bf4 Qa5+ 12.Bd2 Qc7 13.0-0-0 e6 14.Ne4 0-0-0 15.g3 Nxe4 16.Qxe4 Bd6 17.Kb1 [17.c4 is more common, but there's nothing wrong with the text.] 17...Rhe8

18.Bc1 This move looks ugly, as does the follow-up, but it has a logical idea behind it. White wants to play Nf3-d2-c4, chasing/trading the Black dark-squared bishop, so that the White bishop can re-emerge on f4. It's a very slow plan, however, so it's not too suprirising that Black neutralizes it without any difficulty. [18.Qh7 was Kramnik's very interesting try against Leko in their World Championship match in Brissago last year (both the game and the match were drawn); while 18.c4 returns to more traditional sorts of positions.] 18...a6 19.Nd2 Nf6 20.Qf3 c5 21.Nc4 cxd4 22.Rxd4 [White's bishop isn't getting to f4, but the consistent 22.Nxd6+ Rxd6 23.Bxh6 gxh6 24.Qxf6 e5 is roughly equal.] 22...e5 23.Rd3 [23.Nxd6+ Rxd6 24.Rxd6 Qxd6 25.Rd1 Qe6 26.b3 Qg4 promises White only a draw.] 23...Kb8 [23...e4?! 24.Qf5+; 23...Qxc4?? 24.Rc3+-] 24.Rb3 Bc5 [24...Qxc4?? 25.Qxb7#] 25.Rh4 [25.Bxh6 e4 26.Qf4 gxh6 27.Qxf6 Bd4 28.Qxa6 Re6 29.Qb5 Bxf2 30.Ne3 Bxe3 31.Rxe3 Red6 32.Rc1 Rd5 33.Qe2 f5 and Black has sufficient compensation for the pawn.] 25...Ka7

Black's position looks more harmonious, and is looking to increase his edge by some further centralization such as 26...Rd4 or 26...e4. As earlier, White could try to take the air out of the ball and coast to a draw (though now it's Black who will find the coasting easier), but wants instead to make something happen. In light of his great form, Bareev's poor form, his successful record against Bareev, I suspect Anand lost his objectivity here. 26.Na5 e4 27.Rxe4 pretty much forced, as [27.Qc3 b6 28.Nc4 Bxf2 followed by ...Rd1, ...Nd5 and ...e3 leaves Black up at least one pawn (the pawns on g3 and h5 aren't long for this world either) and with a speedy, difficult to blockade e-pawn. White is completely lost here.] 27...Rxe4 28.Rxb7+ Qxb7 29.Nxb7 Kxb7 That's White's idea: he has a queen and two pawns for two rooks and a knight. Normally, of course, such a material imbalance is in the no-queen side's favor, but perhaps Anand thought Black's exposed king would tilt the evaluation more in White's favor. The key factor in one vs. many material imbalance situations is whether the many-side can (a) keep everything protected (you'll notice that the many-side will attempt to ensure - ASAP - that all his pieces are self-protecting) and then (b) coordinate those pieces against particular targets. The wider the sphere of action, the better for the queen; the narrower, the better for the pieces. 30.a3 Rd6 31.Qb3+ [31.b4 Bd4 32.c4 Be5 33.Kc2 Rdd4 34.c5 Rd5 35.Kb3 Bd4 looks good for Black, as his central mass pretty well bottles up White's queen.] 31...Bb6 32.Bf4 Rde6 33.c4 Kc8 34.c5 Bc7 35.Be3 Bb8 36.c6 Rxc6 37.Qxf7 Rc7 38.Qg6 Re6 39.g4 Rec6 40.g5 hxg5 41.Bxg5 Kb7 42.Ka2 Ba7 43.f3 Bd4

I think Black is winning here: his king is safe, his pieces are active and coordinated, his pawns are safe and an attack on b2 is about to commence. 44.Qd3 Rd7 45.h6 gxh6 46.Bxh6 Bxb2 47.Qf5 Bd4 48.Bd2 Rb6 49.Bb4 Rd5 50.Qd3 a5 51.Bc3 Be5 52.Qe3 Bxc3 53.Qxc3 Rdb5 54.Qd4 Nd5 55.Qg7+ Ka6 56.Qd4 and now, a tidy liquidation renders the remaining task a trivial one. 56...Rb2+ 57.Ka1 Rb1+ 58.Ka2 R6b2+ 59.Qxb2 Rxb2+ 60.Kxb2 Kb5 61.Kb3 a4+ 62.Kb2 Kc5 63.Kc1 Kd4 64.Kd2 Nb6 Black now plays ...Nc4, ...Nxa3, ...Nb5, ...a3, and then the king rounds up the f-pawn before returning to help promote the a-pawn. The point of the knight is maneuver is that it protects the a-pawn while remaining safe from capture, as Kxb5 would allow ...a2 followed by queening. Nice job by Bareev! 0-1

Round 7 summary:


van Wely-Ivanchuk 1-0
Svidler-Shirov 1/2-1/2
Gelfand-Vallejo 1/2-1/2
Morozevich-Topalov 0-1
Bareev-Anand 1/2-1/2
Leko-Kramnik 1/2-1/2


Ivanchuk-van Wely 1-0
Shirov-Svidler 1/2-1/2
Vallejo-Gelfand 1/2-1/2
Topalov-Morozevich 1/2-1/2
Anand-Bareev 0-1
Kramnik-Leko 1/2-1/2



Anand 5.5
Kramnik 4.5
Svidler 4
Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich, Vallejo 3.5
Shirov, Topalov, van Wely 3
Bareev 1.5


Anand 5
Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich 4.5
Svidler 4
Bareev, Gelfand, Shirov 3.5
Kramnik 3
Vallejo 2.5
Topalov 2
van Wely 1.5


Anand 10.5
Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich, Svidler 8
Kramnik 7.5
Gelfand 7
Shirov 6.5
Vallejo 6
Bareev, Topalov 5
van Wely 4.5

Friday, March 25, 2005

Melody Amber, Round 6

An excellent round today! Again, there were many games worth examining; here are two for your entertainment and potential benefit, should you choose to examine them in real depth.

Anand has extended his lead to 3 points, but not without some seriously nervous moments, as Morozevich was quite close to winning their blindfold game. Nevertheless, the position was absolutely crazy and Anand wriggled out with a draw.

Anand,Viswanathan (2786) - Morozevich,Alexander (2741) [C11]
Amber Blindfold Monte Carlo MNC (6), 25.03.2005

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.Qd2 b5 9.a3 g5N

That's Morozevich for you! Actually, although this is a new setting, ...g5 is a common French idea, declaring an all-out war on White's central pawn chain. 10.fxg5 cxd4 11.Bxd4 Bg7 12.0-0-0 0-0 13.Na2 Nxd4 14.Nxd4 Nxe5 15.h4 Nc4 16.Bxc4 bxc4 17.Kb1 Rb8 18.c3 Qb6 19.g4 Rd8 20.Ka1 e5 21.Nf5 Bxf5 22.gxf5 d4 23.h5 e4 24.f6 e3 25.Qg2 d3 26.fxg7 e2 27.Rb1

27...Re8 [27...Qe6! might win after 28.g6 (28.Nc1 e1Q 29.Rxe1 Qxe1 30.Nxd3 Qe6 31.Re1 Qb6) 28...d2 29.gxf7+ Kxf7 30.g8Q+ Rxg8 31.Qf2+ Ke8 32.Rhe1 dxe1Q 33.Rxe1 Rf8-+ Notkin (Chess Today, issue 1600); but 27...Qe6 28.Nc1! e1Q 29.Rxe1 Qxe1 30.Nxd3 Qe3 31.Nb4 is far less clear.] 28.g6 fxg6 29.Nb4 Kxg7 [29...Rbd8 looks logical, supporting the advance of the d-pawn and trying to maintain the g7 pawn as a shield against White's heavy pieces, but it turns out poorly. 30.Nc6 d2 31.hxg6 h6 32.Nxd8 Qxd8 33.Qh3 d1Q 34.Qxh6 Qxh1 35.Qxh1 Kxg7 36.Qh7+ Kf6 37.Qf7+ Ke5 38.g7+-] 30.hxg6 Qxg6 31.Qf2 Rbd8 32.Rhg1 d2 33.Qa7+ Kg8 34.Rxg6+ hxg6 35.Qb6

It feels as if Black should have something here, with two pawns about to promote and White possessing a grand total of one threat, but he doesn't! 35...e1Q 36.Qxg6+ Kf8 37.Qf6+ Kg8 38.Qg6+ 1/2-1/2

Also interesting was the rapid game between van Wely and Shirov. In a crazy line of the Botvinnik Variation of the Semi-Slav (that's redundant, I know), van Wely produced a novelty on move 23. The game was roughly balanced and should have concluded with perpetual check, but van Wely came up with an ill-advised winning attempt and walked into a forced mate.

Van Wely,Loek (2679) - Shirov,Alexei (2713) [D44]
Amber Rapid Monte Carlo MNC (6), 25.03.2005

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 11.exf6 Bb7 12.g3 c5 13.d5 Qb6 14.Bg2 0-0-0 15.0-0 b4 16.Rb1 Qa6 17.dxe6 Bxg2 18.e7 Bxf1 19.Kxf1 Qc6 20.exd8Q+ Kxd8 21.Nd5 Rxh2 22.Kg1 Rh8

23.Qf3N [23.Bf4 was played in the five earlier games in this line, with good results: White winning three games and drawing two.] 23...Ne5 24.Qe4 Bd6 25.Rd1 [25.Bf4 Re8 26.Rd1 Nd3 27.Qxc4 Nxb2 28.Nxb4 Nxc4 29.Nxc6+ Kc7 30.Na5 Bxf4 31.Nxc4 Re4=] 25...Nd3 26.b3 Nb2 27.Nc3 Kd7 28.Qf5+ Kc7 29.Nd5+ Kb7 30.Re1 c3 31.Bf4? [31.Re4 Kb8 32.Re7 c2 33.Re2 Nd1 34.Rxc2 Nc3 35.Rd2+/=; 31.Re7+ Bxe7 32.fxe7 Re8 33.Qxf7 Nd3 34.Nf6 Ne1 35.Kf1 c2 36.Qxe8 Qh1+ 37.Ke2 Qf3+ 38.Kf1 Qh1+=] 31...Bxf4 32.Re7+ Ka8 33.Qe4 Rc8 34.gxf4 c2 35.Nc7+ Rxc7 36.Qxc2 Rc8?! [36...c4-/+] 37.Qxb2 Rh8 38.f3 Qd5 39.Qe2 Qd4+ 40.Kg2 Rg8+ 41.Kh3 Rh8+

How hard should one try to win? Many players seem to be allergic to draws and fight for the win in almost every possible situation. They win more games than they otherwise might, but also lose games they otherwise wouldn't. Is this the right atttitude to have? Is there anything intrinsically wrong with a draw? Interesting questions, about which I may have more to say later; for now, I note only that van Wely's decision to press is, on this occasion, thoroughly mistaken. 42.Kg4?? [42.Kg2=] 42...Qg1+ 43.Kf5 Rh5+ [43...Rh5+ 44.Ke4 Qd4#] 0-1

Round 6 summary:


Topalov-Leko 1-0
Anand-Morozevich 1/2-1/2
Kramnik-Bareev 1-0
Ivanchuk-Gelfand 1/2-1/2
Shirov-van Wely 1-0
Vallejo-Svidler 1-0


Leko-Topalov 1-0
Morozevich-Anand 1/2-1/2
Bareev-Kramnik 1/2-1/2
Gelfand-Ivanchuk 1/2-1/2
van Wely-Shirov 0-1
Svidler-Vallejo 1/2-1/2



Anand 5
Kramnik 4
Ivanchuk, Morozevich, Svidler 3.5
Gelfand, Leko, Vallejo 3
Shirov 2.5
Topalov, van Wely 2
Bareev 1


Anand 5
Leko 4
Ivanchuk, Morozevich, Svidler 3.5
Gelfand, Shirov 3
Bareev, Kramnik 2.5
Topalov, Vallejo 2
van Wely 1.5


Anand 10
Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich, Svidler 7
Kramnik 6.5
Gelfand 6
Shirov 5.5
Vallejo 5
Topalov 4
Bareev, van Wely 3.5

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Melody Amber, Round 5

We'll get to the BIG story of the round soon enough, but first, a brief overview of where things stand. It seems to me that the Melody Amber tournament is becoming a tripartite event:

First, there's the Anand exhibition: his lead over the field is now 2.5 points.

Second, there's a nice battle for second, as Svidler, Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich, Gelfand and Kramnik are all within a point and a half of each other.

And third, there's a battle to avoid the cellar, with Shirov, Vallejo, van Wely, Bareev and Topalov within a mere half-point range.

Maybe the three mini-events will reintegrate into one. This might happen, I think, if the participants can maintain the sort of blunder-free chess we saw today. In my view, today's round was the cleanest of the tournament - let's hope it continues.

There are a number of games from this round worth examining (you can replay them online here), but I'm going to focus on the big game alluded to above: Vallejo's utter demolition - with Black, no less! - of Kramnik in their blindfold game. This is powerful stuff:

Kramnik,V (2754) - Vallejo Pons,F (2686) [B32]
Amber Blindfold Monte Carlo MNC (5), 24.03.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 a6 This is a very old-fashioned line called the Lowenthal Variation. Black gives up the two bishops and a seemingly monster hole on d5 in return for active play and some tactical shots. It's generally believed that the tactics work out in White's favor, though, so the line has slipped into relative obscurity. (But maybe not after this game!) 6.Nd6+ Bxd6 7.Qxd6 Qf6 8.Qd1 Qg6 9.Nc3 Nge7 [9...d5 is a very tricky line, but the consensus is that White has the advantage with correct play.] 10.h4 h5 11.Rh3 [11.Bg5 is both the most common and best-scoring move, but whether Kramnik had a concrete worry about this move or was instead particularly optimistic about the move he chose is beyond my knowledge. In any case, this variation may continue like this: 11...d5 12.exd5 Nb4 13.Bxe7 Kxe7 14.Bd3 Nxd3+ 15.Qxd3 Qxd3 16.cxd3 Nunn's Chess Openings stops here and claims a slight edge for White. That seems plausible, as White's extra pawn isn't particularly impressive and Black's bishop looks like it could become the better minor piece; however, White's score in this position is +13 -1 = 5, according to my main database, so perhaps the true evaluation is more in White's favor.] 11...d5 If you've ever wondered what exactly the initiative is and what it looks like, this game is a marvelous demonstration of that phenomenon. At the heart of the idea is the ability to make threats, to dictate the direction in which the game will go, and that's exactly what we're about to see. Move after move, Vallejo threatens something new until Kramnik's position implodes. So far, though, this is just book, and it's a good read for Black, who has scored 59% in 22 games from this position. 12.Rg3 Bg4 13.f3 dxe4 14.fxg4 [14.Nxe4 has also been played before and looks like a more solid choice, though Black is doing well after 14...Rd8 15.Bd3 f5 16.Ng5 e4 17.fxg4 hxg4 18.Nxe4 fxe4 19.Rxg4 and now not 19...Qxd6, as in Geller-Bronstein, Kislovodsk 1968, but 19...Rxh4! (19...Qd6 20.Rxe4 Qg3+ 21.Kd2 0-0 22.Kc3 Nd5+ 23.Kb3 Na5+ 24.Ka3 b5 25.Qg4 Qc7 26.Bd2 Nf6 27.Qe6+ Kh8 28.Qe7 Qb6 29.Re6 Qd4 30.Qb4 Nc4+ 31.Bxc4 a5 32.Qxb5 Qxd2 33.Rf1 Rb8 34.Rfxf6 Rxb5 35.Rxf8+ Kh7 36.Bd3+ g6 37.Re7+ 1-0 Geller,E-Bronstein,D/Kislovodsk 1968/MCD) 20.Rxg6 Rh1+ 21.Kf2 Rxd1 22.Bxe4 Nxg6 23.Bxg6+ Kf8 with a clear advantage for Black in the endgame.] 14...Rd8 15.Bd2 f5

At the moment, Black has just one pawn for the piece. But look at the position! Black's threatening 16...hxg4, and if 16.g5 then 16...f4 followed by 17...e3 regains the piece with interest. Black has more space and better development, too, so White's position is precarious. I think this is White's last chance to change the trend, and ironically, it's the most that was played the first time this position occurred in a game: 16.Qc1! That gets the queen off the d-file (no more ...e3 to worry about) and prepares to meet ...f4 with Bxf4! There, White's got a chance; after the move in the game, it's a hurricane. 16.Re3 [16.Qc1 Rf8 (16...f4 17.Bxf4 exf4 18.Qxf4 Nb4 19.Rc1 hxg4 is unclear and might be a critical position for those interested in playing this line with either color.) 17.Bg5 f4 18.gxh5 Qf5 19.Rh3 f3 20.Kf2 Nd4 21.g4 Qxg4 22.Rg3 Qe6 23.Nxe4 Rc8 24.Bd3 Nef5 25.Qd2 Qb6 26.Be3 Qxb2 27.Qc1 Qb4 28.Rb1 Qa4 29.Rxb7 Qc6 30.Rgxg7 Nxc2 31.Bc5 Nb4 32.Rxb4 Nxg7 33.Qg5 Qe6 34.Bc4 1-0 Lenchiner,I-Nikolaevsky,Y/Kiev 1958/EXT 2003; 16.g5 f4 17.Rh3 Nb4 18.Na4 Ned5 19.Rb3 Ne3 20.Bxb4 Rxd1+ 21.Rxd1 Nxd1 22.Kxd1 Qc6 23.Nc3 Kf7 24.Ba5 Rc8 25.Kc1 e3 26.Rb6 Qd7 27.Ne4 Rxc2+ 28.Kxc2 Qa4+ 29.Kc1 Qxe4 30.Be2 Qxg2 31.Bxh5+ Ke7 32.Rb3 Qh1+ 33.Kc2 Qe4+ 34.Kc1 f3 35.Rc3 e2 36.Rxf3 e1Q+ 37.Bxe1 Qxe1+ 38.Kc2 Qxh4 39.Bg6 Qxg5 40.Be4 b5 41.a3 Qg1 42.Kb3 Qd4 0-1 Sherzer,A-Slavov,D/Thessaloniki 1988/EXT 2002] 16...hxg4 Two pawns for the piece. 17.Kf2 Rxh4 Three pawns for the piece. 18.Rc1 Qd6 Threatening to take the Bd2. 19.Ke1 Rh1 Threatening to take on f1 and then on d2. 20.Qe2 Nd4 Threatening the queen. 21.Qf2 f4 Threatening 21...fxe3 and 21...g3, for starters. 22.Nxe4 Qg6 Still threatening ...fxe3 and ...g3, but we can add to this a threat to the Ne4 if the rook leaves the e-file, plus a potential threat to c2. To give you an idea of just how horrible White's position is, the best Shredder 9 can come up with here are moves like 23.c4, 23.c3 and 23.b3; in other words, all White can do is wait for the axe to fall. 23.Ng3 There's nothing wrong with 23...fxe3 now (though it's not nearly as strong), and 23...Nxc2+ is completely devastating. But Black's move is great too, and it keeps the threat parade marching. 23...fxg3 Threatening the queen and ...Nxc2+. 24.Rxg3 Qe4+ 25.Kd1 Nef5 Not just hitting the rook on g3, but the g3 square itself, as we'll see in a moment. 26.Rd3 g3

What a picture! It's only a blindfold game played at a rapid time limit, but it's still quite rare to see a world champion lose such a one-sided tournament game - especially with White! A strange opening choice by Kramnik, but a fine win for Vallejo! [26...g3 27.Qe1 (27.Rxg3 Nxg3 28.Qxg3 Qe2#) 27...Qg4+ is terminal.] 0-1

Round 5 summary:


Bareev-Svidler 0-1
Gelfand-Morozevich 1/2-1/2
van Wely-Leko 1/2-1/2
Kramnik-Vallejo 0-1
Ivanchuk-Anand 1/2-1/2
Shirov-Topalov 1/2-1/2


Svidler-Bareev 1/2-1/2
Morozevich-Gelfand 0-1
Leko-van Wely 1/2-1/2
Vallejo-Kramnik 1/2-1/2
Anand-Ivanchuk 1-0
Topalov-Shirov 1-0



Anand 4.5
Svidler 3.5
Ivanchuk, Leko, Kramnik, Morozevich 3
Gelfand 2.5
Vallejo, van Wely 2
Shirov 1.5
Bareev, Topalov 1


Anand 4.5
Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich, Svidler 3
Gelfand 2.5
Bareev, Kramnik, Shirov, Topalov 2
Vallejo, van Wely 1.5


Anand 9
Svidler 6.5
Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich 6
Gelfand, Kramnik 5
Shirov, Vallejo, van Wely 3.5
Bareev, Topalov 3

The Ultimate Zugzwang

This has to be seen to be believed - click here, and check out diary entry 280. Amazing!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Lesson from Cycle World Magazine


That's for those who don't really know me. For those who do know me, let me revise that statement.


I had finished teaching my philosophy classes on Tuesday - yesterday - and was visiting my favorite local dive for Chinese food. I like to read while I eat, but lest I accidentally glop won ton soup on my reading materials, I decided to read a magazine that had been left behind by some earlier patron.

Cycle World.

Now, I do have some fond memories of riding motorcycles - solely as a passenger - when I was a kid, and I did drive a friend's new moped about 15 years ago, but that pretty much exhausts the Monokroussos-motorcycle connection. Nevertheless, I'm a curious fellow, and decided that at least this once in my life, I could get a glimpse into a culture (presumably) far different than my own.

So I started reading the October 2004 issue of the magazine, and was immediately - and positively - surprised! The first story was a touching one-page essay on the value of a motorcycle, in which the author reminisced about his late brother's favorite bike and the pleasure it gave him before his final illness and the freedom it gave him during the illness as well. The amount of money one can expect for a motorcycle is one thing, but its value is something else altogether.

The next mini-article was also of interest, but the third one, a one-page piece by Kevin Cameron entitled "Fixing Things," really caught my attention. He began with a little story about how many fix-it types get started: a kid is given an old mechanical watch that doesn't work. What does he do? He opens it, of course! Shaking the watch, it starts working for a few moments, and the kid sees how the springs and gears work. Then it stops again, and the youngster realizes that something's probably getting stuck somewhere. So he looks for a spot that's susceptible to such a fate, and comes up with the bright idea that it involves the ball bearings - one requires oil! But not too much, and how to get a little oil in such a small space? Ah, use a needle! Dabbing a little bit of oil on the end of the needle into the right area, the necessary lubrication is provided, the gears get unstuck, the watch starts to work and an avocation is born.

It's a wonderful story, and one that has been told many times in biographies and autobiographies of famous scientists. (The physicist Richard Feynman raised this sort of story-telling into an art form - see his Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Others Think? for plenty of examples.) Less so, I think, for chess biographies, but perhaps wrongly.

There's certainly competition among scientists, but there's also a fundamental communality: even if scientist A beats scientist B to the punch, both benefit by their increased understanding of the way the world is and of how it works. Scientific hagiographies tell of their heroes' curiosity and insight, just as we saw in the watch repair example above, and rightly so - we too, unless we have become jaded or intellectually lazy, retain our curiosity and love of knowledge as well, so the stories speak to us.

The paragon of chess excellence, however, is the successful competitor. We want to WIN, dag nab it, and we admire the winners and those who dare to win. The chess hagiographer, therefore, tells tales of junior watching dad play, laughing at dad's moves, and then finally beating pop to a pulp as gaping admirers behold the sight in slack-jawed amazement. From this point on it's up, up, and away as our prodigy wins event after event (cue the montage of the kid at the board, making a move, hitting the clock and receiving a trophy in event after event) until growing into a mature chess grandmaster.

It's a wonderful story, even after numerous repetitions (I have or have seen books on Morphy, Capablanca, Reshevsky, Spassky, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Anand, Adams, Kramnik, the Polgars, Kosteniuk and Carlsen, all of which essentially follow this model), but I'm not sure that it's very helpful. Of course we'd all like to win, and to identify with a winner, but the story as told in this way doesn't really get us on board with the hero as a chess player. This would be like a scientific (auto-)biography that told us that first the hero won his school's science fair, then one at the city-wide level, then at states, the Intel talent search, etc., culminating in the Nobel Prize. We might be impressed, but we wouldn't catch his love of what he's doing.

A chess biography along the lines of a science biography, then, would convey the subject's love of the game, both as it manifested itself in his or her formative years, and then subsequently in the mature player. I'd ask questions like these:

What sorts of openings did you play, and why? If you gave them up, why did you do that?
What games made an impact on you? What did you learn from them?
How did you study?
Who or what drew you to the game, and changed it from not just a game but something like an art, an avocation?
What were some of the gaps in your chess understanding, and how did you overcome them? How do you solve problems in your analysis and over the board?
If you had to persuade God or some other authority with the power to ban chess that the game was worthwhile, what would you say?

When I read the essay in Cycle World, and before that Feynman's autobiographical works, I was interested in the authors, sure, but even more than that I was captured by their vision. They were part of something bigger than themselves, or at least bigger than their contributions, and they both shared that vision with the reader in a winsome way. The "vision thing" is generally absent from chess biographies, as I've said, and it's to our game's detriment, I think.

In fact, ironically, the focus on the player as competitor undermines the likelihood of the reader's following suit in gaining competitive success for him or herself. A book that provokes hero-worship makes the player the focus, but a book that focuses on the beauty of the game draws the reader to the game, and that's where improvement is going to take place!

Something similar and sadly mistaken arises in the "utilitarian" approach to study that many players have - again, I think, a symptom of the competition model. There will always be books (many of which are crimes against trees) of the Win with Opening X or 5 Million Tricky Traps varieties, but if that's our primary means of "improvement," we're short-changing ourselves.

Almost all of the strong players I know and have met enjoy analysis and are very good at it. Sometimes the analysis sessions are a bit competitive, too, but it's often of a different sort, more akin to musicians trying to one-up each other than engaging in psychic warfare. They lose themselves in the position, fascinated by its possibilities, willing to spend hours exploring, figuring out what's going on.

Take my old endgame study, for example. (See here and here.) I was playing a speed game against myself to test out some opening variation or other (remember, no internet back then!), and I came to the starting position of that ending. I don't recall what happened in the speed game, but I do remember being amazed at how difficult the position was to solve - for a while I vacillated between thinking it was drawn and thinking Black was winning. It took me a couple of hours, easily, before I was convinced that I understood everything in the position. Likewise, I've spent several hours on the NN-Blackburne game (see here and here), trying to persuade myself, against my instincts, that Black is unable to win the position after 10.Qd8. These are only two examples of many; indeed, I regret not having spent more of my chess time engaged in analysis.

And here's the thing: little if anything will improve one's chess more than doing serious analytical work! It is, after all, the chess player's fundamental skill; additionally, the content - what's analyzed - is far more likely to be mastered when one devotes his or her own elbow grease, rather than casually reading a book like a menu.

A last point, having to do with analysis and computers. After playing a game, many of us are tempted to know the TRUTH of the matter. So we get home, fire up the oracle, sit back and learn.

"Learn"? Horse feathers! What we're doing is just the opposite. Not only are we not learning anything, we're going in the opposite direction - we're abdicating ourselves of our responsibility to figure things out for ourselves. The computer doesn't tell us why we went wrong and doesn't explain the position to us. That's not to say that we shouldn't use chess engines. We just shouldn't use them until we've done our best first.

So let's take a page from Cycle World: let's not throw out the broken watch, let's not take it to the mechanic (at least not right away). Let's figure it out for ourselves! It might not be easy at first, and we might not be very good at figuring things out right away, but we'll come to enjoy chess like never before - and we'll improve like never before.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Melody Amber, Round 4

Good news! First, Anand was stopped today - Kramnik managed a draw in their second game. So even if the tournament is looking pretty unsuspenseful at the moment, at least Anand won't completely whitewash the field.

Second and more importantly, the blunders are back! Today we have three slips on the banana peel which we can use to comfort ourselves in our weaker moments:

Vallejo Pons,F (2686) - Shirov,A (2713) [D10]
Amber Blindfold Monte Carlo MNC (4), 22.03.2005

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 a6 5.Nf3 b5 6.c5 g6 7.Bd3 Bg7 8.b4 Bg4 9.Bb2 Nbd7 10.Ne2 Qc7 11.a4 0-0 12.Ra3 Rfb8 13.Qa1 Bxf3 14.gxf3 Qc8 15.Bc3 Ne8 16.f4 Ndf6 17.Ng3 e6 18.Ke2 Nc7 19.Bd2 Qd8 20.Qg1 Kf8 21.Qg2 bxa4 22.Rxa4 Ra7 23.Rha1 Rba8 24.R1a2 Nd7 25.Qf3 Qh4

White's fine here, perhaps even a little bit better. But that pesky Black queen - we don't want to let her bother our kingside, do we?

26.Qg4?? Qxg4+ 0-1

Morozevich,A (2741) - Bareev,E (2709) [B10]
Amber Blindfold Monte Carlo MNC (4), 22.03.2005

1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Ne5 e6 5.d4 Nc6 6.Bb5 Qb6 7.c4 Bb4+ 8.Nc3 Nge7 9.0-0 0-0 10.Bxc6 bxc6 11.Na4 Qd8 12.Qc2 Bd6 13.Re1 Qc7 14.Bd2 Nf5 15.Nf3 dxc4 16.Qxc4 a5 17.Nc5 Qb6 18.Rac1 h6 19.b3 Rd8 20.Qc2 Bf8 21.Be3 Rd5 22.h3 Qb5 23.Na4 Bb4 24.Red1 Bb7 25.a3 Bxa3 26.Nc3 Nxe3 27.fxe3 Bxc1 28.Nxb5 Bxe3+ 29.Kh1 Rxb5 30.Qe4 Bg5 31.Nxg5 Rxg5 32.Rd2 Rf5 33.Qe3 Rd5 34.Qf4 Rd7 35.Qe5 Rd5 36.Qc7 Rb5 37.Rd3 Rc8 38.Qd7 Rf8 39.Kh2 Ba8 40.Rc3 Rb7 41.Qd6 Rbb8 42.Rg3 Rb5 43.Qe7 Rf5 44.Qh4 Kh8 45.Qe7 Kg8 46.Kg1 g6 47.Qa7 Rd8 48.Qc7

After an unusual opening and an eventful middlegame, the position remains complicated and approximately even. But not for long!

48...h5?? 49.Qxd8+ 1-0

Shirov,A (2713) - Vallejo Pons,F (2686) [B30]
Amber Rapid Monte Carlo MNC (4), 22.03.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.Bxc6+ bxc6 5.0-0 Bg4 6.d3 e5 7.Nbd2 Nf6 8.Nc4 Nd7 9.Ne3 Be6 10.c3 Be7 11.d4 f6 12.b3 0-0 13.Bb2 Re8 14.Nd2 d5 15.Qc2 Qb6 16.Nf3 exd4 17.cxd4 Bf8 18.exd5 cxd5 19.dxc5 Bxc5 20.Qd2 Rad8 21.Bd4 Ne5 22.Rfd1 Nxf3+ 23.gxf3 Bxd4 24.Qxd4 Qa6 25.Rd2 Bf7 26.Rc1 Re5 27.h4 Bh5 28.Kg2 Qb7 29.Rdc2 Re7 30.Nf5 Rf7 31.Rc6 Rfd7 32.Qf4 Bg6 33.Rc7 Qb5 34.Nd4 Qb4 35.h5

Vallejo had an edge most of the way, but the tide has turned somewhat and Shirov's active pieces give him the advantage. After 35...Be8, Black can fight, but after his next move it's over.

35...Bf7 ?? 36.Rxd7 (36...Rxd7 37.Rc8+ wins, so) 1-0

Round 4 summary:


Vallejo-Shirov 0-1
Topalov-Ivanchuk 1/2-1/2
Anand-Kramnik 1-0
Svidler-van Wely 0-1
Leko-Gelfand 1/2-1/2
Morozevich-Bareev 1-0


Shirov-Vallejo 1-0
Ivanchuk-Topalov 1/2-1/2
Kramnik-Anand 1/2-1/2
van Wely-Svidler 0-1
Gelfand-Leko 1/2-1/2
Bareev-Morozevich 0-1



Anand 4
Kramnik 3
Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich, Svidler 2.5
Gelfand 2
van Wely 1.5
Bareev, Shirov, Vallejo 1
Topalov .5


Anand 3.5
Ivanchuk, Morozevich 3
Leko, Svidler 2.5
Shirov 2
Bareev, Gelfand, Kramnik 1.5
Topalov, Vallejo, van Wely 1


Anand 7.5
Ivanchuk, Morozevich 5.5
Leko, Svidler 5
Kramnik 4.5
Gelfand 3.5
Shirov 3
Bareev, van Wely 2.5
Vallejo 2
Topalov 1.5

Monday, March 21, 2005

Melody Amber, Round 3

It's early yet - there are 16 games to go - but Anand is looking a bit like a runaway train. Today it was Vallejo who was tied to the tracks (ouch!), and now Anand is at 6-0. (And without receiving the sort of "help" offered by Shirov in round 1 or Topalov in round 2.)

Today's round was pretty clean - no big one-move gaffes changing the proper result of the game - but there was one mini-tragedy in the blindfold. Bareev had the advantage against Leko throughout the game, and could have drawn at will had he felt panicky. Instead, despite the 20 second per move increment, he lost on time.

Let's take a quick look at two of the games: Anand's blindfold win over Vallejo and the rapid game between Svidler and Morozevich.

Anand,Viswanathan (2786) - Vallejo Pons,Francisco (2686) [B90]
Amber Blindfold Monte Carlo MNC (3), 21.03.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.g4 h6 8.Bg2 e5 9.Nf5 g6 10.Qe2 gxf5 11.exf5

11...Bd7 This seems to be a novelty. Rather than suffer permanent pressure on the light squares (especially d5), Black attempts to deaden White's initiative at the cost of the exchange. It's a reasonable transaction materially, since he's up a piece for a pawn, but it turns out that White's initiative persists just the same. [11...Rg8 is the most common move, but one that hasn't brought Black much success. 12.Bf3 Nc6 13.0-0-0 Be7 14.h4 Nd4 15.Bxd4 exd4 16.Rxd4 Kf8 17.Qe3 Rh8 18.g5 hxg5 19.hxg5 Rxh1+ 20.Bxh1 was how the game xx-yy continued, and you shouldn't be surprised to know that Black's miserable position collapsed in just a few more moves.] 12.Bxb7 Bc6 13.Bxa8 Bxa8 14.Rg1 Nbd7 15.0-0-0 Black doesn't have to worry about the d5 square, but now White gets to attack for free. The big question for Black is what exactly he's supposed to do with his king. Castling would be suicide, but White will pry the center open in due course as well. Does Black have any trumps by which to gain counterplay? 15...Be7 Black seems to be "threatening" d5 or O-O, but both are quite bad. [The ambitious 15...d5 looks threatening but actually speeds White's attack after 16.f4 Black's options are all bad: 16...d4 17.Bxd4 is terminal; 16...e4 drops the d-pawn to 17.g5, and on any normal move White plays 17.fxe5 Nxe5 followed by 18.Bd4 or 18.Bf4, blasting open the center.] 16.h4 Qa5 Protecting a6 and supporting the d5 square, so that 17.g5 hxg5 18.hxg5 Nd5 becomes possible. 17.Bd2 Nd5 [17...d5 works well in every variation but one: 18.g5 hxg5 19.hxg5 d4!? 20.gxf6 Nxf6 21.Rge1! dxc3 22.Bxc3 Qb5 23.Qxb5+ axb5 24.Rxe5+- and Black's position falls apart due to the threats of 25.Rde1 and 25.Rxe7+ Kxe7 26.Re1+.] 18.Nxd5 Qxd5 19.Qxa6 Bb7 20.Qa3 Preparing 21.Bb4, with serious pressure on the d6 pawn. [20.Qa7 , preventing the 20...Qc4+21...Be4 idea mentioned in the next note, might be an improvement.] 20...Qc6 [20...Qc4 might be a real improvement, with the idea that 21.Bb4 is met by 21...Be4, with at least a bit of counterplay.] 21.Bb4+- Now Black is just busted. 21...Nb6 [21...Nc5 22.f4 e4 23.Qc3 Rg8 24.g5 followed by g6 or f6, f5 and g6 will be more than Black can bear.] 22.g5 [22.f6 straight away, without any preparation, looks even stronger, according to my "little German friend" (that phrase, for those who haven't seen it before, is used to refer to chess engines sponsored by ChessBase - usually some version of Fritz, though my own preference is for Shredder 9): 22...Nc4 23.Qc3 Bxf6 24.b3 Nb6 25.Qxc6+ Bxc6 26.Rxd6 with an open buffet.] 22...hxg5 [22...Nd5 saves the d-pawn for the moment and lets Black kick on a bit, though his weaknesses are chronic and thus almost surely terminal.] 23.hxg5 Kd7 24.f6 Nc4 25.Qc3 Bf8 26.b3 Nb6 27.Qxe5

The remainder is unsuitable for small children and those with weak hearts. 27...Rh4 28.Bxd6 Qxd6 29.Rxd6+ Bxd6 30.Rd1 Nc8 31.g6 Rh1 32.Qf5+ 1-0

Svidler,Peter (2735) - Morozevich,Alexander (2741) [C11]
Amber Rapid Monte Carlo MNC (3), 21.03.2005

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.Qd2 b5 9.Be2 Qb6 10.Nd1 b4 11.0-0 a5 12.c3 Be7 13.Bf2 0-0 14.f5 bxc3 15.bxc3 cxd4 16.cxd4 Ba6 17.Bxa6 Qxa6 18.Ne3 Bb4 19.Qd1 Rac8 20.Ng5 Nxd4 21.Qxd4 Bc3 22.Qh4 h6

Let's start here. White is up a piece for a pawn and his pieces are congregating in the neighborhood of the Black king. Black can at least do something about the first point - he's getting his material back - but what material he recoups is up to White. White decides the time has come to go Pulp Fiction on the Black king... 23.f6? [The patient 23.Nf3 leaves White with a big advantage after 23...Bxa1 (23...Nxe5 24.Nxe5 Bxe5 25.Rad1 is probably winning for White, too: Black has no real compensation for the piece, as his pawns aren't at all dangerous. In fact, it's White who maintains the initiative here - a quick Ng4 might produce some real attacking chances against the relatively lonely Black king.) 24.Rxa1 Qe2 25.Rf1 followed by f6, Ng4 and so on, with a crushing attack.] 23...hxg5 24.Qxg5 Nxf6 and White's decision was bad. Could Svidler have missed this move? Maybe he had some sort of hallucination in which Black had already exchanged the bishop for the rook on a1? Whatever the case, Black both stops the mate and winds up ahead in material. 25.exf6 Bxf6 26.Qh5 Bxa1 27.Rxa1 If White's minors were coordinated here, then Black would be in serious trouble: put the knight on g4, the bishop on d4, and then moves like Qg5, Bxg7, Nf6+ and so on are crushing. Black mustn't delay for too long, therefore - he needs to bring defenders to the kingside. 27...Qd3! 28.h3 Rb8! this ensures the trade of the White rook (except after 29.Qd1, which allows the trade of queens), after which White's attacking chances fall to approximately zero. It's a good rule of thumb in such positions that the side with the rook against the two pieces wants to trade the other side's rook. I can think of at least two reasons underwriting this principle. The first is similar to the idea of trading off the opponent's bishop when it's defending a weak color complex; to wit, you eliminate the only piece capable of defending certain sorts of attacks. In other words, since Black's advantage is in the vertical and horizontal department, the best way to maximize it is by getting rid of White's vertical/horizontal pieces (that includes the queen too, of course). The second reason is that the White rook, given the opportunity, would complement the minor pieces quite nicely; without the rook, however, their range of effective action is dramatically reduced. Careful reflection on the above will benefit your chess considerably, I think, but for those of you just after the bottom line, 28...Rb8 means that White's attack is over and Black should win. 29.Ng4 Rb1+ 30.Rxb1 Qxb1+ 31.Kh2 f6!

The point is to keep the knight off of e5 and to render Bd4 worthless (32.Bd4? e5). N.B. The Black queen covers g6, so 32.Nh6+ doesn't give White perpetual check. 32.Bc5 Rc8 33.Bd6 Qh7 Trading queens is hopeless, so Svidler pitches a piece and hopes for a miracle. 34.Nxf6+ gxf6 35.Qg4+ Kf7 36.Qa4 Qg8 37.h4 Rc4 38.Qd7+ Kg6 0-1

Round 3 summary:


Morozevich-Svidler 1/2-1/2
Bareev-Leko 0-1
Gelfand-van Wely 1-0
Anand-Vallejo 1-0
Kramnik-Topalov 1-0
Shirov-Ivanchuk 0-1


Svidler-Morozevich 0-1
Leko-Bareev 1-0
van Wely-Gelfand 1/2-1/2
Vallejo-Anand 0-1
Topalov-Kramnik 1/2-1/2
Ivanchuk-Shirov 1/2-1/2



Anand, Kramnik 3
Svidler 2.5
Ivanchuk, Leko 2
Gelfand, Morozevich 1.5
Bareev, Vallejo 1
van Wely .5
Shirov, Topalov 0 (!!)


Anand 3
Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich 2
Bareev, Svidler 1.5
Gelfand, Kramnik, Shirov, Topalov, Vallejo, van Wely 1


Anand 6
Ivanchuk, Kramnik, Leko, Svidler 4
Morozevich 3.5
Bareev, Gelfand 2.5
Vallejo 2
van Wely 1.5
Shirov, Topalov 1

This Week's ChessBase Show

After a couple of weeks with heavily tactical games, it's time to return to something a bit calmer. It also seems like a good time to pay tribute to the game's most prominent recent retiree, Garry Kasparov. In his announcement that he was retiring, he listed among his greatest games one that really surprised me, a game that I barely remembered. (Of course, Kasparov has played so many masterpieces, it's hard to remember them all.)

The game in question was the 19th in the 1985 Karpov-Kasparov match. (The game score can be seen here.) Kasparov, the challenger, was a game ahead with six to go, but as he recounts it didn't fully believe he was going to win the match at this point. In this important, pressure-filled context, Kasparov won a beautiful game; remarkably, one played in a style more closely associated with Karpov's style than his own. It was a convincing victory, and one which gave him both the confidence and the margin he needed to win the crown. In short, a great and important game!

Yet largely unknown. Thus, if I as a long-time Kasparov fan and great games connoisseur was only just aware of a game Kasparov singled out as one of his three most memorable, then I expect that the same will be true for many, perhaps most of my readers/listeners. So join me Monday night at 9 p.m. EST, and we'll take a look! As always, directions for watching the show can be found here, and a list of previous shows can be found here.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Insane Chess-R-Us: Kamran Shirazi

When I was a young up-and-comer, one of the contemporary players whose chess I admired was the Iranian-American IM Kamran Shirazi. I recall his regal, imperturbable presence at the board, no matter what was happening in the position - which, much of the time, was complete chaos. Indeed, Shirazi in his element seemed less a man than a wizard, conjuring spells most of his opponents failed to withstand but that made him a fan favorite.

Nowadays, unfortunately, Shirazi, who has been living in France for quite a few years now, is best-known to Americans for his dismal result in the 1984 U.S. Championship, when he only scored half a point out of 17 games and managed to lose the following disaster:


1.e4 c5 2.b4 (That's Shirazi - the fun starts right away in his games.) cxb4 3.a3 d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.c4?? (5.Nf3 is the normal move.) Qe5+ 0-1

Amusing, sure (if you're not Shirazi), but it's not what he should be remembered for. In fact, in the next two U.S. Championships he improved significantly, going 5.5-7.5 in 1985 and 8-7 in 1986. (It's probably best not to mention his 1-14 performance in the 1992 event, but hey, he was rusty!)

In place of the above, I'd like to let all of you have a glimpse of the real Shirazi. Or rather, since the occasional disaster was part of the price for Shirazi's being himself, a glimpse of the player in his element.

First, there's the opening. I recall watching him offer the following with White: 1.d4 Nf6 2.g4 and 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g4. Then, a quick tour of my databases produces the following - it's just a sampler, I assure you:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Qe7 4.Nc3 Nd8 (Bachtiar-Shirazi, Jakarta 1978)

1.e4 c5 2.f4 g5 (Hill-Shirazi, US Open 1983)

1.d4 Nc6 2.Nf3 f5 3.d5 Nb4 (Bisguier-Shirazi, US Open 1983)

1.c4 e5 2.g3 h5 (actually, this is a relatively normal idea. Ironically, he does it against the king of the rook pawn-moves - Bent Larsen!) 3.h4 d5 4.cxd5 Nf6 5.Nf3 Ng4 6.Nc3 Bc5 (Larsen-Shirazi, New York Open 1986)

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.d4 Bg4 4.Nc3 e6 5.e4 c5!? 6.dxc5 Nc6 7.cxd6 Bxd6 (Kreckler-Shirazi, Midwest Masters Open 1987)

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.d4?! (Shirazi-Le Billy, Bethune op (A) 2002)

1.e4 e5 2.f4 f5!? (Kennaugh-Shirazi, Cappelle la Grande 2003)

Shirazi generally manages to curb his experimentalism when facing his peers - occasionally, one has to win enough money to eat, after all. Still, there's always blitz, and I recently came across the following game. It's not flawless, to be sure, but it's lively - good old-fashioned coffeehouse chess, just the way our great-great-great-grandma used to make it:

Shirazi,Kamran - Quinteros,Miguel [B51]
3 0 blitz, 2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.0-0 Ngf6 5.Re1 a6 6.Bf1 b6

Normal stuff so far, but now for something new: 7.b4 cxb4 8.d4 e6 9.a3 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Bc4 Bb7 12.axb4 [is another typical blitz move, but unlike Shirazi's move, it doesn't cost any more material! 12.Ng5 ] 12...Bxb4 13.c3 Nxc3? [13...Be7 closing the e-file and covering the g5 square against knight incursions, leaves Black up a pawn for nothing. As someone who engages in hackfest attacks like Shirazi's, my preference on the defensive side is to consolidate. GM Quinteros apparently belongs to the "show me" group of players, however, and grabs the material.] 14.Nxc3? [14.Qb3! , taking advantage of Black's overextended queenside pieces, is strong but easy to miss in blitz.] 14...Bxc3

Now Black is up two pawns and winning the exchange, but until he castles he's vulnerable. 15.Bxe6 [15.Ba3 looks more accurate, keeping the Black king in the center. After 15...Bxe1 (15...Bxa1 16.Bxe6 wins, believe it or not - 16...fxe6 (16...Nc5 17.Bd5+ Kf8 18.Bxb7 Bc3 19.Re5 Rb8 20.Rd5 Qf6 21.dxc5+-) 17.Rxe6+ Kf7 18.Qb3 Qf6 19.Rxb6+ Kg6 20.Rxf6+ gxf6 21.Qxb7+-) 16.Qxe1 Bxf3 17.Bxe6 is very dangerous. Black has two reasonable replies, but in each case White has good compensation for the material: 17...Ne5! (17...Qg5 18.Bg4+ Kd8 19.Bxf3 Re8 20.Qd1 when Black's unhappily centralized king and White's criss-crossing bishops give White good chances.) 18.Qxe5 Qf6 the point - Black gets off the e-file battery with tempo, but White's attack continues after 19.Qc7 Qxe6 20.gxf3 Rc8 21.Qb7 Kd8 and I'm inclined to think both sides stand badly, but it's easier to play White here, especially in a blitz game.] 15...Bxe1 [15...0-0 is a move I would play in a tenth of a second - no thought required, just a relieved reflex action would do the trick. Black is winning here: his king is safe, his bishops are great, and he's ahead in material. Again, though, Quinteros decides to raise...] 16.Bxf7+ Kxf7 17.Ng5+ Ke8 [17...Kg6 18.Qd3+ Kf6 looks scary, but White doesn't seem to have anything concret to compensate for the rook minus. (The bishop on e1 can be regained, but that's as far as it goes.)] 18.Qxe1+ Qe7 19.Ne6 [19.Ba3!? Qxe1+ 20.Rxe1+ Kd8 21.Nf7+ Kc7 22.Rc1+ Bc6 23.Nxh8 Rxh8 24.d5 Nb8 25.dxc6 Nxc6 regains almost all the material, but that last extra pawn leaves Black with a winning endgame.] 19...Nf6 [19...Nf8 20.Nc7+ Kf7 21.Qxe7+ Kxe7 22.Nxa8 Bxa8 23.Rxa6 Nd7-+] 20.Ba3+- Long-delayed, but it's decisive. Quinteros tries to buy his way out, but White's remaining pieces are too active and the attack continues. 20...Qxa3 [20...Qf7 21.Qe5 Nd7 22.Nxg7+ Kd8 23.Ne6+ followed by 24.Qxh8+ (unless Black plays 23...Qxe6) destroys everything.] 21.Rxa3 Kf7 22.Nxg7 Rhg8 23.Qe6+ Kxg7 24.Qe7+ Kh6 25.Qxf6+ Rg6 26.Rh3# 1-0

I played Shirazi three times. I won the first two games, which, of course, weren't published anywhere. (I may present the first one soon.) The last game, which I lost, is of course available in all the databases. Here's me getting massacred:

Shirazi - Monokroussos,D [A47]
Midwest Masters Inv (2), 04.1987

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 b6 4.e4 h6 5.Bxf6 Qxf6 6.Bd3 Bb7 7.Nbd2 Nc6 [7...d6 is more common, though not necessarily better. One possible continuation is 8.Qe2 Qd8 9.0-0 Be7 10.Rad1 Nd7 11.c3 c5 when White's space advantage slightly outweighs Black's possible long-term advantage of the bishop pair.] 8.c3 g5 9.0-0 [9.e5 Qe7 (9...Qg7 10.Ne4 0-0-0) 10.Ne4 Bg7 11.Qe2 0-0-0 12.Ba6 d6 is fine for Black.] 9...0-0-0 10.Qe2 At the time of this game, I had never played this line against the Torre Attack and didn't really understand what to do. It shows, especially over the next 3-4 moves, when I chose a slow, lousy plan while Shirazi gets on with the business of mating my king. 10...Qe7 [10...g4 11.Ne1 h5+/=] 11.Ba6 d6 [11...g4 might be better, but the snowball is already growing large on its trip down the mountain.] 12.a4 f5 13.a5+- d5 14.Bxb7+ Kxb7 15.axb6 cxb6 16.exf5 exf5 17.Ne5 Nxe5 18.dxe5 d4 [If now 18...Bg7 White combines attack and defense with 19.Nf3 , and now the knight is on the way to the wonderful d4 square, hitting f5 and heading for the ever-so-juicy b5 and c6 squares. My next move tries to avoid this fate by encouraging 19.cxd4, when my position is horrible, but at least the knight's not coming in!] 19.Nb3!

The knight's hopping into the d4 square, and from there to c6 - it's hopeless. 1-0

Melody Amber, Round 2

Today's blunder du jour is brought to you courtesy of perennial 2700 and Najdorf specialist Boris Gelfand.

In this position, many moves into a hard-fought, see-sawing Najdorf Sicilian, Gelfand has the worst of it against Peter Svidler. Nevertheless, with 40...Nc3+, Black should have good drawing chances after 41.Bxc3 Rxc3 42.Rg2, due to the opposite colored bishops and limited material. Instead, Gelfand forgot where at least one of the pieces were and played 40...Rb4+??. Unfortunately for Black, Svidler remembered, played 41.Bxb4, and Gelfand resigned.

For cruelly dispatching Garry Kasparov to the Elysian fields a week and a half ago, Caissa has apparently cursed Veselin Topalov. In the wake of his tie for first in Linares, Topalov is coming out of the gates here in a tie for last place. His latest tragedy comes at the hands of the leader, Viswanathan Anand (4-0!), but the wound may really have been self-inflicted.

Even after 41 moves of their rapid game, the characteristic outline of the Berlin Defense is still visible. (Scoffers, note: if even the ever-fighting Topalov is playing the Berlin - and gets an advantage with it against Anand - it's not some sort of limp beg-one's-opponent-for-a-draw opening.) Topalov has had everything go more or less according to the ideal recipe thus far, but because the Black king is stuck on the a-file I think the position is drawn. Let's see what happens:

42.Be1 is a good move, ensuring that the Black king stays put. 42...Bd8 (with the idea that if the Be1 moves, either the Black bishop gets to h4 and then g3, or else the Black king might start thinking of escape via b4) 43.Nd1 Ka3 (the Black king can't go out the door, but at least it can stand in the entryway) 44.Nb2 Be7 45.Bc3 Now, whether unaware of what White was up to, in too much time trouble to realize that there was a problem, or aware but unable to do anything, Topalov blundered with 45...Bf8? (45...Ka2! gives Black the defensive tempo he needs to hold, as 46.Nd3 Bxc4 and White doesn't have time to play 47.Bb2 because of 47...Bxd3+), and after 46.Nd3! Topalov was forced to resign, as there is no defense to 47.Bb2(+) and 48.Nc1# - 1-0

Round 2 Summary:


Ivanchuk-Pons 1-0
Shirov-Kramnik 0-1
Topalov-Anand 0-1
Svidler-Gelfand 1-0
van Wely-Bareev 1/2-1/2
Leko-Morozevich 1-0


Vallejo-Ivanchuk 1/2-1/2
Kramnik-Shirov 1/2-1/2
Anand-Topalov 1-0
Gelfand-Svidler 0-1
Bareev-van Wely 1-0
Morozevich-Leko 1/2-1/2



Anand, Kramnik, Svidler 2
Bareev, Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich, Vallejo 1
Gelfand, van Wely .5
Shirov, Topalov 0


Anand 2
Bareev, Ivanchuk, Svidler 1.5
Leko, Morozevich, Vallejo 1
Gelfand, Kramnik, Shirov, Topalov, van Wely .5


Anand 4
Svidler 3.5
Bareev, Ivanchuk, Kramnik 2.5
Leko, Morozevich, Vallejo 2
Gelfand, van Wely 1
Shirov, Topalov .5

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Melody Amber, Round 1

There are far too many games for me to engage in the sorts of round summaries I did during the Linares tournament, but I will nevertheless keep a close eye on this event as well, pointing out games or positions of particular interest.

Part of the charm of this event, especially for amateurs, is to watch the world's absolute best players blunder just as badly as we do. Of course, there is a difference: we're looking at the board and have plenty of time, while they're playing blindfold (in half the games) with a short time control. What's funny about today's round, however, is that the worst blunder didn't occur in a blindfold game at all!

In this position Shirov (with White) has a big, possibly winning advantage against Anand. After 32.fxe6 fxe6 33.Bd3 Qf7 34.Rf4 Qg8 35.Qe3 with the idea of 36.Bg5 Rh8 (36...Qxg5?? 37.Rxf8+ and 38.Qxg5) 37.Rdf2 the Black position is about to collapse. Shirov, however, wanted to dispense with any further preparation and enter the Black position immediately:

32.Qg3?? All things being equal, this is a great idea: White wants to follow up with Qg8 and/or Bg7, increasing his advantage. Unfortunately, not quite all things are equal here, especially after Black's next move. 32...Rxf6 0-1. Oops!

For more information on the tournament, I offer the following for your further investigation: for a crosstable and brief round summary, go here; to replay the games online, this is the place; finally, to visit the tournament site itself, then this is the link for you.

Finally, I'd like to recommend paying special attention to both games in the Kramnik-Ivanchuk mini-match - both were quite interesting and seemed to be of theoretical significance.

Round 1 Summary:


Leko-Svidler 0-1
Morozevich-van Wely 1-0
Bareev-Gelfand 1/2-1/2
Vallejo-Topalov 1-0
Anand-Shirov 1-0
Kramnik-Ivanchuk 1-0


Svidler-Leko 1/2-1/2
van Wely-Morozevich 1/2-1/2
Gelfand-Bareev 1/2-1/2
Topalov-Vallejo 1/2-1/2
Shirov-Anand 0-1
Ivanchuk-Kramnik 0-1

Overall Standings:

Anand 2
Svidler, Morozevich, Vallejo 1.5
Bareev, Gelfand, Kramnik, Ivanchuk 1
Leko, van Wely, Topalov .5
Shirov 0