30 January 2013

Training Log: January 2013

I posted my resolutions for 2013 on the last day of 2012. On the penultimate day of January, it is time to assess my progress thus far.

1. In 2013, I will solve correctly 300 tactics problems each month.

I met this goal last week. Most of the 300 were solved on the iPad, which has proven its value for chess training. Moreover, last week a friend at the Spokane Chess Club (I should call him an adversary, as on Thursday he handed me my fourth OTB standard rated loss since September 2011) introduced me to Chessimo--a comprehensive chess training iPad app.* I am not counting the 330 problems that I have solved in that app (120 unique) as they are all checkmate in one. When I reach the point where I am solving tactical combinations, I may count those encountered through this app.


Lev Alburt has been sitting on my desk. That is to say, Alburt's Chess Training Pocket Book II has remained on my desk unopened through the entire month. My non-use of that book and my relatively limited use of the Anthology of Chess Combinations are both sources for self-criticism.

I finished my second run through the puzzles in Shredder's iPad early in the month, but have not yet begun the third cycle. The third cycle will be completed in 2013 with the goal of 80%+ score. With eleven months remaining, that amounts to 91 problems per month.

My four sessions on Chess Tempo were short (13 correct in 25 attempts on the longest session), but I emphasized accuracy while keeping my average solving time near 100 seconds.

One of the Chess-wise exercises that I did this morning was familiar from having encountered it somewhere else a few months ago. I immediately knew the first move, but sought to calculate the whole sequence before playing the move. Chess-wise cannot tell me if this calculation was correct. If the first move played is correct, the problem is solved. Chess Tempo, Shredder, and other sources mitigate this defect in training with Chess-wise.

White to move

2. In 2013, I will study whole games and whole books.

When writing my resolutions, I anticipated that I might have finished Logical Chess: Move by Move by now. That expectation overlooked that I often spend the latter half of January focused on the games in Wijk aan Zee. Following this year's games as I did, with an emphasis upon one game each day certainly counts as studying whole games even if it will be several months before those games make their way into books.

Magnus Carlsen said that Aronian -- Anand was the best game of this year's Tata Steel Chess tournament. I watched part of the game while it was in progress, and then memorized it that evening after work. I am close to memorizing Rotlewi -- Rubinstein 1907, which Anand referenced in the post-game interview. John Donaldson and Nikolay Minev, Akiba Rubinstein: Uncrowned King (1994) compile annotations from several writers on Rubinstein's immortal game. I am going through these.

I count my January progress on this second resolution adequate.

3. In 2013, I will finish my Pawn Endgame Flash Card project.

I am continuing to use these flash cards in elementary classrooms while teaching beginners chess, and some of the positions came up in the first endgame lesson that I completed in Chessimo. Nonetheless, progress studying Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual and mastering the blue diagram positions must be rated substandard.

The bright spot in pawn endgame training this month came while watching a game in the C Group at Wijk aan Zee. I watched part of round nine at home, then part in my classroom with two groups of homeschool students. After the games in A Group finished, we watched the ending in one of the games in C Group. I thought the ending was drawn, and yet GM Robin Swinkels managed to win. At lunch, I tested my hunch that it was drawn by playing the position against Hiarcs for the iPad. Later, watching the post-game interview with Swinkels the following day, he admitted that he had won a drawn ending. I drew the ending against Hiarcs.

4. In 2013, I will lose fifteen pounds.

Not at this rate, I will not. January ends with me at the weight I carried when the month began.

Update: 10 February 2012

*We discussed iPad chess training before beginning our game, which was the last one to finish that night. Two weeks later, I clarified the iPad he had raved about. He has not used Chessimo, but was raving about Chess Quest. I have completed over 1400 problems in Chessimo--very basic problems in two weeks. The past few days, I have started exploring Chess Quest. I now understand his enthusiasm for the latter.

27 January 2013

Tata Steel Chess, Final Round

Yesterday's win over Hikaru Nakamura assured Magnus Carlsen of first place. When Levon Aronian agreed to a draw with Anish Giri, Carlsen was assured that he would not be sharing first. What remained to determine today was whether Carlson would break Garry Kasparov's 1999 record of 10/13 in this event. Second place, too, remains to be determined.

The games today began at noon Central European Time. As that is 3:00 am in my part of the world, I cherished no illusions about watching these games while in progress. I told my wife, when we wake up, I will check the results. At 7:00 am, I checked the games. Carlsen found himself in some danger with the King's Indian Defense, but Anish Giri's could not find the way. In the end, Giri's king was under attack but had sufficient defense. Magnus Carlsen tied Kasparov's record of 10/13.

Viswanathan Anand got a playable endgame against Wang Hao, but was outplayed and lost. Levon Aronian needs a draw for clear second. Fabiano Caruana is ahead the exchange against Aronian, and both have passed pawns. Aronian has two pawns to Caruana's one.


After watching the game to its conclusion from the point illustrated above, I began to go back through the game from the beginning and make some notes.

Caruana,Fabiano (2781) - Aronian,Levon (2802) [C67]
75th Tata Steel Chess Group A Wijk aan Zee, 27.01.2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8

White to move

This position in the Berlin Wall has become frequent when Black wants a draw. Indeed, the percentage of draws is quite high. But as this game and others have demonstrated, both sides have chances to play for an advantage.

9.h3

9.Nc3 is vastly more popular. 9.h3 appears to have been introduced into play by Women's World Champion Nona Gaprindashvili in 1978. The move had been suggested as interesting in Dragoljub Minic's annotations to Gulko -- Bisguier, Sombor 1974 (see Chess Informant 18/264). It may be no more than a move order nuance, but it has been growing in popularity, especially in the past three years.

Caruana has played 9.Nc3 in his previous game, but Aronian has played 9.h3 against Vladimir Kramnik.

Reference game:

Aronian,Levon (2820) - Kramnik,Vladimir (2801) [C67]
Zuerich m Zuerich (4), 25.04.2012

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.h3 Ke8 10.Nc3 h5 11.Bg5 Be6 12.b3 Be7 13.Rad1 h4 14.Rfe1 Rd8 15.Rxd8+ Kxd8 16.Ne4 b6 17.Bf4 Kc8 18.Neg5 Bxg5 19.Bxg5 Bd5 20.Nh2 c5 21.Rd1 Bc6 22.c3 a5 23.Ng4 Bd7 24.f3 a4 25.Kf2 ½–½

9...Bd7 10.Nc3 Kc8

10...h6 is more common.

11.b3

White scores an astonishing 73% after 11.g4, but drawing conclusions from a mere fifteen games would be foolishness. Clearly, 11.g4 is an aggressive try for action on the kingside, but Black's tenth move demonstrates thta his king seeks sanctuary on b7.

11...b6 12.Bb2

Black to move

12...Be7

12...h6 could have transposed into a more frequent position.

13.Rad1 Nh4

This position had been played twice before, and White won both games. Presumably, Aronian has done some preparation and developed some ideas.

14.Nd4 h5

White to move

This position is unique in the annals of chess history. Did Aronian prepare it? There are imbalances that allow both sides to struggle for advantage.

15.Kh2 Kb7 16.g3 Ng6 17.Rfe1 c5 18.Nf3 Bf5 19.Rd2 Rhd8 20.Rde2 Nf8 21.Ne4 Ne6

White to move

It appears to me that both players have sought to improve their pieces. My chess engine, Stockfish 2.3, considers this position as favoring Black.

22.Bc1 a5 23.Neg5 Bxg5 24.Bxg5 Rd5 25.Be3 a4

White to move

26.Nh4

The players are in a complicated positional struggle. What alterations of the pawn structure might be beneficial? What minor piece exchanges are worth pursuing?

My chess engine prefers 26.Ng5 and evaluates White's position as deteriorating after the move played by Caruana. Do engines understand this sort of position?

The text move allows Aronian to create a material imbalance, giving up a rook for a minor piece and two pawns.

26...Rxe5 27.f4 Rxe3 28.Rxe3 Bxc2 29.bxa4 Rxa4 30.a3 Nd4 31.Nf3 Bf5 32.Rc1 Be6 33.Nd2 c4 34.g4 hxg4 35.hxg4

Black to move

Black would seem to have a clear advantage. His queenside pawns are compact and mobile. White's a-pawn may be difficult to defend.

35...Nb3 36.Rc2 Nxd2 37.Rxd2 Bxg4 38.Rg2 Bh5 39.Rxg7 Ra5 40.Kg3 Bg6 41.Rc3 Rc5 42.Rg8 b5 43.Re8 Rd5 44.Kf2 Bd3 45.Ke3 c5 46.Rc1

Black to move

46...Rh5

My engine favors the immediate 46...b4 here. It's evaluation suggests that here Black is letting the advantage slip away. In the final press conference, Magnus Carlsen said that he got the most from each game throughout the tournament. Aronian, who finished 1 1/2 points behind, with a score that has often been good enough to win the event, had two draws in games where at one point he had a decisive advantage.

Had he been able to solve over the board problems that Anand and his team prepared for the World Chess Championship match with Gelfand, but that was used in Wijk aan Zee instead, Aronian might have avoided his one loss. Carlsen called that loss the best game of the event.

47.Re7+ Kb6 48.Rxf7 Rh3+ 49.Kf2 b4 50.Re1 Rh2+ 51.Kf3 Rh6 52.axb4 cxb4 53.f5 b3 54.Rf8 Kc5 55.f6 Kd4 56.Kf4 Kc3 57.Ke5

Black to move 

It was from this position that I began watching the game more or less continuously. Both players, it seems to me, have problems to solve. Neither faces problems that strike me as insurmountable. The key positions, I now realize, occurred while I slept. Aronian managed to create an apparently winning position, and then let the win slip from his grasp.

57...Rh5+ 58.Ke6 Kd2 59.Rg1 Rh6 60.Rd8 b2 61.Ke7 Rh7+ 62.f7 c3 63.Rg2+ Ke3 64.Rb8 Bc4

White to move

Looking at this position on the Tata Steel Chess website during the game, I told my beloved wife that Caruana could trade a rook for two pawns, losing his pawn in the process. The result would be a theoretically drawn endgame of rook and bishop against rook.

Almost as soon as I subjected my poor wife to my patzer commentary, the website showed that three rapid moves had been played, and my fantasy position appeared on the board.

65.Rbxb2 Rxf7+ 66.Kd6 cxb2 67.Rxb2 Kd4

White to move

Inasmuch as I thought it was well-known that rook and bishop vs. rook is drawn, I cannot comprehend why an additional 36 moves were played. It may be because the theoretical draw was not without checkmate threats, and Caruana appeared to be playing with approximately three minutes on his clock, with thirty seconds added per move. Perhaps Aronian wanted to test his opponent's tactics in blitz mode. Perhaps Aronian was frustrated at having let the win slip away.

68.Rd2+ Bd3 69.Rd1 Rf6+ 70.Ke7 Ra6 71.Kd7 Ke4 72.Ke7 Bb5 73.Rc1 Kd5 74.Rd1+ Ke5 75.Re1+ Kf5 76.Re3 Bc6 77.Re1 Be4 78.Rf1+ Ke5 79.Re1 Ra7+ 80.Ke8 Kd5 81.Kf8 Bf5 82.Re7 Ra6 83.Re1 Be4 84.Re2 Re6 85.Ra2 Ke5 86.Ra7 Rb6 87.Re7+ Kf4 88.Ra7 Bd5 89.Rc7 Ke5 90.Ke7 Rh6 91.Kd8 Bc6 92.Re7+ Kd5 93.Rg7 Re6 94.Kc7 Kc5 95.Rg5+ Bd5 96.Rg7 Ra6 97.Kd8 Kd6 98.Rd7+ Ke5 99.Rc7 Ra5 100.Re7+ Be6 101.Rb7 Rc5 102.Ke7 Rc1 103.Ra7 Bc8 104.Ra5+ ½–½

I knew that rook and bishop against rook is a theoretical draw while watching the game, but in fact there are many positions that are not drawn. None of these positions occurred in this game, but a few were threatened. Moreover, the weaker side's defense can prove difficult. In practice, these ending frequently are won. I expect that I will offer another post on this ending in the coming days.

26 January 2013

Tata Steel Chess, Round 12

The 75th Tata Steel Chess tournament ends tomorrow. With two rounds remaining, Magnus Carlsen leads by a full point over Levon Aronian. Viswanathan Anand is behind Carlsen 1 1/2 points, and three players have a chance to tie the leader if he loses his last two games. One of these, Hikaru Nakamura, opted for the aggressive Kalashnikov Sicilian against Carlsen today. This game bears watching. Can Nakamura upset the leader? Anand and Aronian have relatively easier opponents.

By the time the games have been going for 2 1/2 hours, it will be time for me to leave the house, and my internet connection. Today is the eleventh annual Winterfest Scholastic chess tournament, an event that I created and run. As many as 143 young chess players have competed in this event in past years, although it will be much smaller today. By the time my event is over, the players in Wijk aan Zee will be asleep.

Carlsen,Magnus (2861) - Nakamura,Hikaru (2769) [B32]
75th Tata Steel Chess Group A Wijk aan Zee (12), 26.01.2013

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5

White to move

I played this variation of the Sicilian in the 1990s before switching to the Sveshnikov (4...Nf6 and 5...e5). Vladimir Kramnik played the Sveshnikov in his youth, but switched to more solid defenses when he started playing against the world's top players.

The Kalashnikov is similar to the Pelikan, which was a frequent choice of Louis-Charles Mah√© de La Bourdonnais in his match with Alexander MacDonnell. In the Pelikan, Black plays 5...a6, which permits 6.Nd6. MacDonnell played 5.Nxc6, which is now considered a positional error, thanks to La Bourdonnais's terrific win in one game that every chess player should study.

The Kalashnikov would seem too risky for top-level grandmasters, but checking the database reveals a number of games. Garry Kasparov played it once in 1997. Vasily Ivanchuk and Teimour Radjabov both have played it on multiple occasions.

Reference games:

Nakamura,Hikaru (2774) - Radjabov,Teimour (2744) [B32]
Bazna Kings 5th Medias (9), 20.06.2011

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 d6 6.N1c3 a6 7.Na3 b5 8.Nd5 Nge7 9.c4 Nxd5 10.cxd5 Nd4 11.Bd3 g6 12.Nc2 Bg7 13.0–0 0–0 14.Be3 Kh8 15.Rc1 f5 16.f3 Bd7 17.Qd2 f4 18.Bf2 g5 19.Nxd4 exd4 20.Be2 Qb6 21.Rfd1 Rac8 22.Rxc8 Rxc8 23.b4 Be5 24.a3 Kg7 25.Kf1 Kf7 26.Ke1 Qc7 27.Bxd4 Bxd4 28.Qxd4 Qc3+ 29.Qxc3 Rxc3 30.Rd3 Rxd3 31.Bxd3 h5 32.g3 h4 33.gxf4 gxf4 34.Kd2 Kf6 35.Kc3 Ke5 36.a4 Be8 37.Be2 Bd7 38.Bf1 Be8 39.axb5 axb5 40.Kd3 Bd7 41.Ke2 Kd4 42.Kd2 Ke5 43.Kd3 Bc8 44.Kc3 Bd7 45.Kd3 Bc8 46.Kc3 Bd7 ½–½

Carlsen,Magnus (2837) - Radjabov,Teimour (2788) [B32]
Wch Rapid Astana (14), 08.07.2012

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 a6 6.Nd6+ Bxd6 7.Qxd6 Qe7 8.Qxe7+ Ngxe7 9.Nc3 d5 10.Bd2 Be6 11.0–0–0 0–0–0 12.f3 Kc7 13.b3 f6 14.exd5 Nxd5 15.Nxd5+ Rxd5 16.Bd3 h6 17.Be4 Rd7 18.Bc3 Rhd8 19.Rxd7+ Rxd7 20.Re1 Bd5 21.Bf5 Rd8 22.Kb2 Bf7 23.Bd3 Bd5 24.a4 a5 25.Re3 Nb4 26.Bf5 Nc6 27.g3 b6 28.f4 Re8 29.fxe5 Nxe5 30.Bd4 Bc6 31.h4 Nf3 32.Rxe8 Bxe8 33.Bf2 g5 34.Kc3 Bc6 35.Kb2 Be8 36.c3 Bc6 37.Ka3 Bd5 38.Bc2 Bc6 39.c4 Bd7 40.Be4 Bc6 41.Bf5 Be8 42.Kb2 Bc6 43.Kc3 Be8 44.Be4 Bc6 45.Bf5 Be8 46.Be6 Bc6 47.Bg4 Be4 48.hxg5 hxg5 49.c5 bxc5 50.Bxc5 f5 51.Bh5 Bd5 52.Be3 Kc6 53.Bg6 Be6 54.Be8+ Kb7 55.Bb5 Bd5 56.Bd3 Be6 57.Bc2 Kc6 58.Bd1 Bd5 59.Be2 Kb7 60.Bd1 Be4 61.Bc5 Bd5 62.Bd6 Kc6 63.Be7 Kd7 64.Bf8 Kc6 65.Bg7 Kc7 66.Be2 f4 67.gxf4 gxf4 68.Bh6 Bxb3 69.Bxf4+ Kd8 70.Bxf3 Bxa4 71.Kd4 Bb3 72.Bd6 Kd7 73.Ke5 a4 ½–½

5.Nb5 d6 6.g3 h5 7.N1c3 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Nge7 10.Bg2 Bg4 11.f3 Be6 12.c3 h4 13.Nc2 Bxd5 14.exd5 Na5 15.f4 Nf5 16.g4 h3 17.Be4 Nh4 18.O-O g6 19.Kh1

Black to move


19...Bg7 20.f5 gxf5 21.gxf5 Ng2 22.f6 Bf8 23.Qf3

Black to move

By this point in the game, Carlsen believed he was winning.

23...Qc7 24.Nb4 Nb7 25.Nc6 Nc5 26.Bf5 Nd7 27.Bg5 Rg8 28.Qh5 Nb6 29.Be6 Rxg5 30.Qxg5 fxe6 31.dxe6 1–0

Magnus Carlsen offers analysis in a postgame video.

25 January 2013

Tata Steel Chess 2013, Round 11

Battle for Second Place

Nakamura,Hikaru (2769) - Aronian,Levon (2802) [D45]
75th Tata Steel Chess Group A Wijk aan Zee (11), 25.01.2013

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3 a6 6.c5 Nbd7 7.Na4 b5 8.cxb6 Nxb6 9.Bd2 Nxa4 10.Qxa4 Bd7 11.Qc2 Qb6 12.Rc1 Rb8 13.Bd3 Qxb2 14.0–0 Bd6 15.Ne5 Qxc2 16.Rxc2 c5 17.Nxd7 Nxd7 18.Bxa6 c4 19.a4 Bb4 20.Bc1 Nf6 21.f3 0–0 22.e4 Ne8 23.Bb5 Rb6 24.Bf4 Nd6 25.Rb1 Ba5 26.Kf1 f6 27.Rcb2 Rfb8

White to move

28.h4

There are plenty of interesting games to watch today, but I have chosen one that could have an impact on the final standings for second place. I like these two players. It is hard to choose who to favor. Aronian's style of play is closer to what I try to emulate, but patriotism and respect for the excitement that Nakamura brings to the game has me hoping for success. At the beginning of the tournament, when folks were making predictions, I had to balance objectivity (Carlsen is playing very strong) with hopes for my favorites. I picked those I want to win: Aronian, Anand, or Nakamura. My players all share second at the start of this round, and it is unlikely that Carlsen will lose the next three games.

28...c3 29.Re2

Racing through the other games after sleeping in this morning, I see that Hou Yifan appears to be playing aggressively against Anand's Sicilian. He has not had the opportunity to castle, but now the queens are off the board.

The other Chinese player, Wang Hou, has White against Magnus Carlsen, and that game, too, is a Sicilian. Wang has a nice position. Could a player one point out of last place take down the leader to give those trailing some faint hopes of catching him during the last two rounds?

Update 7:23 am PST; 16:23 CET

Returning to my game of the day, Nakamura has two connected passed pawns with which to contend. His own passed pawn appears to have no prospects of advancement.

29...e5 30.dxe5 Nxb5 31.axb5 d4

White to move

Lazy spectators, and those of us with minimal understanding of the complex positions the big boys and girls play, can watch engine evaluations of the position as the games unfold. These silicon monsters give us the illusion that we patzers can understand what is taking place before us. My default engine in ChessBase 11 these days is Stockfish 2.3 because it won the engine -- engine battles that I set up with my strongest commercial engines. The website is using an older version of Houdini, but newer than the one I have installed.

Stockfish thinks that Nakumura's position is critical, while Houdini believes that Fabiano Caruana is losing to Anish Giri. My eyes find Caruana's position complex. His pieces are passive on the back row, but at the moment he is ahead one pawn. No doubt, Houdini sees that he is losing material, and likely more than the exchange (White's bishop could take the rook on a8 now, but there is likely a move that creates more serious problems for Black).

Aronian's pawns are frightening.

Update 7:45 am PST

Nakamura eliminated the noxious pawns, but gave up a rook for a bishop in the process.

32.Rd1 Rxb5 33.Rc2 d3 34.Rxd3 Rb1+ 35.Bc1 R8b2 36.Rcxc3 Bxc3 37.Rxc3

Black to move

37...Rd2 38.Rc8+ Kf7 39.Rc7+ Ke6 40.exf6 gxf6

Caruana has conceded in that game; Carlsen drew Wang. He will remain at least one point ahead of Aronian and Anand with two rounds to play. Nakamura is struggling to salvage half a point.

Update 8:05 am PST

Of course the bishop could not survive, but Nakamura managed to get three pawns for the rook.

41.Kg1 Rd1+ 42.Kh2 Rbxc1 43.Rxh7 Rd7 44.Rh6 Rcc7

Three connected passed pawns can be equal to a rook, even superior if the rook's king is too far away. White does not have that imbalance here.

White to move

As I said earlier, I like both of these players. It hurts to see either one lose, although it hurts a lot more when I lose, especially when I give my opponent a clear advantage with the Black pieces before move ten, as I did last night. But, even seeing Nakamura defend a position that looks losing provides comfort because it means that Aronian could win, and thus gain half a point on Carlsen. I did not want to see a draw in Nakamura -- Aronian today.

Of course, it is not over yet. Watching Nakamura's face at the board, he seems to be trying to recall an endgame where three pawns could battle a rook. I can see his pain. Indeed, I can feel it.


Update 8:20 am PST; 17:20 CET

Nakamura kept his rook on the board at the cost of a pawn.

45.Rh8 Rh7 46.Re8+ Kf7 47.Ra8 Rxh4+ 48.Kg3 Rh1

White to move

Perhaps White is in less danger of zugzwang with a rook on the board.

Update 8:33 am PST

I watched the video interviews of Wang Hou and Magnus Carlsen after their draw, and came bacl to discover that Nakamura had resigned.

0-1

24 January 2013

Lesson of the Week

Tarrasch -- Mieses, Berlin 1916

This week's lesson features a whole game, rather than one or two positions extracted from a game. For the first time in three months, students were not presented with a worksheet consisting of relatively simple tactical problems. The worksheet scheduled for this week will be presented as a contest at Saturday's scholastic chess tournament. At the start of the awards, a sheet will be drawn from a box. If all nine answers are correct, the player whose name is on the sheet wins the prize. If any answers are wrong, another entry is drawn from the box.

Two of Tarrasch's moves from this model game were presented as problems to solve.

The game itself and some of the analysis offered to the young players can be found in Irving Chernev, Logical Chess: Move by Move (1998 [1957]), which I reviewed earlier this week.

Tarrasch,Siegbert - Mieses,Jacques [C10]
Berlin 1916

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Bd3 Be7 7.0–0 Nxe4 8.Bxe4 Nf6 9.Bd3 b6?

White to move

Black's should have castled. 9...b6 is an error that gives White a clear advantage. It is shocking how often in online games I have been in the resulting position after this error. Even more shocking is that my opponents have never played the correct refutation. All of them could have benefited from study of Chernev's Logical Chess.

10.Ne5 0–0 11.Nc6 Qd6 12.Qf3

White's move prevents Bb7, Black's reason for playing 9...b6. It also threatens the rook on a8. White also threatens to move the queen to e4, where a trade of queens is bad for Black because White picks up an extra piece. The tactics here a worth home study for the players following this blog.

12...Bd7 13.Nxe7+ Qxe7 14.Bg5 Rac8 15.Rfe1 Rfe8 16.Qh3 Qd6 17.Bxf6 gxf6

White to move

Tarrasch made the strongest move here, but it is not obvious. Players in my clubs are asked to play guess the move here with a prize of a chess pencil to the first correct answer. The same gift is offered for correctly guessing the last move of the game.

18.Qh6 f5 19.Re3 Qxd4 20.c3 1–0

23 January 2013

Tata Steel Chess 2013, Round 10

Is it possible to catch Magnus Carlsen? Levon Aronian is 1 1/2 points behind and has the White pieces against a player in the bottom half, Wang Hao. Hikaru Nakamura is tied with Aronian has Black against Fabiano Caruana, struggling in the lower half. Viswanathan Anand trails by one point and has a tough battle with Sergey Karjakin, who is in the middle of the pack. Carlsen has White against Erwin L'Ami, who is half a point above last place.

My game of the day for watching today is Nakamura's King's Indian Defense. I will look in on the other games from time to time. It is an unusual KID, and the novelty came early. This KID started as a Benoni.

Caruana,Fabiano (2781) - Nakamura,Hikaru (2769) [E70]
75th Tata Steel Chess Group A Wijk aan Zee, 23.01.2013

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 g6 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.e4 d6 6.Bd3 0–0 7.Nge2 Nbd7 8.Bc2 Ne8N

White to move

9.0–0 Nc7 10.a4 Na6 11.f4 Nb4 12.Bd3 e6 13.dxe6 fxe6 14.Qd2 Nf6 15.Rad1

Black to move

15...Ng4 16.Bb1 Nc6

Update 6:47 am PST; 14:47 CET

While beginning to take stock of the position, I am taking a few minutes to go back through the first few moves to examine the transpositions. Classification shifted from Benoni to King's Indian Defense, it seems, with White's 7.Nge2. But that is a superficial point. Both players appear to be attempting move order tricks.

After White's seventh move, the position reached is one that Caruana has played prior.

Caruana,Fabiano (2709) - Grischuk,Alexander (2771) [E70]
Wch Blitz 5th Moscow (32), 18.11.2010

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Bd3 0–0 6.Nge2 c5 7.d5 e6 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 g5 10.Bg3 Nh5 11.0–0 Na6 12.Qd2 Nc7 13.Bc2 exd5 14.exd5 f5 15.f4 Nxg3 16.Nxg3 g4 17.Rae1 Bd7 18.Kh1 Rf7 19.Re2 Bh8 20.Rfe1 Qf6 21.Re3 Re8 22.Rxe8+ Nxe8 23.Bxf5 Bxf5 24.Rxe8+ Rf8 25.Nce4 Bxe4 26.Nxe4 Qf5 27.Nxd6 Qb1+ 28.Re1 Qxa2 29.Nxb7 Qxc4 30.d6 Rxf4 31.Qd1 Rd4 32.Qb1 Qf7 33.Nd8 Qf6 34.Re8+ Kg7 35.Ne6+ Kf7 36.Rf8+ Kxe6 37.Rxf6+ Bxf6 38.h3 g3 39.d7 Kxd7 40.Qf5+ Ke7 41.Qxc5+ Ke6 42.Qc6+ Kf5 43.Qf3+ Rf4 44.Qd3+ Ke6 45.Qe3+ Be5 46.Qe2 Rf2 47.Qc4+ Kf6 48.b4 Rb2 49.Qc6+ Kg5 50.Qc1+ Kf5 51.Qf1+ Ke6 52.b5 Kd6 53.Qd3+ Ke7 54.Kg1 Ra2 55.Kf1 Rf2+ 56.Ke1 Rxg2 57.Qe3 Ke6 58.Qxa7 Rb2 59.Qa6+ Kf5 60.Qc8+ Kf4 61.Qc4+ Kf5 62.Qf7+ Ke4 63.Qg6+ Kd5 64.Qd3+ Ke6 65.Qg6+ Kd5 66.Qc6+ Kd4 67.Qd7+ Ke3 68.Qf5 Bc3+ 69.Kd1 g2 70.Qe6+ Kd3 71.Qd5+ Bd4 72.Qf3+ Kc4 73.Qc6+ Kb4 74.Qd6+ Bc5 75.Qf4+ Ka3 76.Qf3+ Ka2 77.Qd5+ Ka1 78.Qa8+ Ra2 79.Qh8+ Rb2 80.Qa8+ Kb1 81.Qe4+ Ka2 82.Qd5+ Ka1 83.Qa8+ Kb1 84.Qe4+ Ka2 85.Qd5+ Ka1 86.Qa8+ Ra2 ½–½

Nakamura's reply took the position into rare territory. While more than 1000 games exist in the ChessBase Online database after White's seventh move, a mere 88 are there after Black's seventh move. Then, Caruana's eighth move is the fifth most popular choice among these games. Nakamura's reply makes the game unique.

Both players have spent a lot of time up to this point in the game. The pace must pick up, or time could become a significant factor. Perhaps, time is already applying pressure.

17.Kh1 Nxe3 18.Qxe3 Nd4

White to move

Update 7:15 am PST

Levon Aronian is temporarily a pawn ahead and seems to have a nice position. Carlsen is making L'Ami play chess, and seems to be applying pressure. Anand -- Karjakin has an imbalance in the pawn structure, but looks even.

19.e5 dxe5 20.fxe5

Update 7:37 am PST

The pace of play has increased.

20...Rxf1+ 21.Rxf1 Bd7 22.Nxd4 cxd4 23.Qxd4 Bc6 24.Qg4 Qe7

White to move

White is a pawn ahead, but Black has the bishop pair, and e5 is weak.

25.b3 Bxe5 26.Ne2

The pawn on e6 may prove to be weak as well, although it is well-defended at present. It is not yet mobile.

Levon Aronian defeated Wang Hao. Will he make up 1/2 point on the leader, or will Carlsen log another victory as well?

Peter Leko also won with Black against Ivan Sokolov.

Update 8:05 am PST; 17:05 CET

26...Rd8 27.Be4 Be8 28.Qf3 b6 29.Nf4 Bf7 30.Nd3 Bd6 31.Qe3 Qh4 32.h3 Qg3 33.Qxg3 Bxg3 34.Rf3 Bc7

For a few moves, White seemed to have some initiative as Caruana attacked Nakamura's bishops. Then, Nakamura's queen penetrated and was exchanged off.

White to move

35.Kg1 Rd4 36.Re3 g5 37.Kf2 h5

Update 8:15 am PST

A few more moves have been played, and the time control was reached.

38.Re2 a5 39.Ke3 Rd8 40.Bf3 Kg7

White to move

Update 8:45 am PST 

41.Rb2 Bd6 42.Rb1 Kf6 43.Rf1 Ke7 44.Be4 Rg8 45.Rh1

Nakamura's advantage, if any, is slight. His isolated and passed pawn is double-edged. White's position seems passive, unless he tries b3-b4. But, it is hard to find weaknesses against which Black can play.

Carlsen has a slight advantage, and as in his game against Karjakin on Monday, there are opposite colored bishops with other pieces on the board.

Anand -- Karjakin drew after 46 moves. So, Aronian catches Anand, but are they one or one and one-half behind Carlsen? Will Nakamura join them in second place?

Update 9:15 am PST

Carlsen retains a slight advantage. Nakamura continues to seek an opportunity. Hou Yifan has a nice position with Black against Pentala Harikrishna, and may have some winning chances.

45...h4 46.Bf3 Rf8 47.Rd1 Rd8 48.Rf1 Bg6 49.Be4 Bh5 50.Bf3 Rf8

White to move

Is Nakamura looking to swap pieces and play a bishop vs. knight ending?

Update 9:40 am PST

Not yet.

51.Nf2 Bg6 52.Ne4 Bc5+ 53.Kd3

It is time for me to take one of my puppies for a walk in the park.

Update 11:59 am PST

Upon my return from walking each puppy in turn, I discover that the games have ended.

Rd8+ 54.Kc2 g4 55.hxg4

Black to move

55... h3 56.Rd1 Rf8 57.Kd3 h2 58.Rh1 Bg1 59.Ke2 Bxe4 60.Bxe4 Kf6 61.Bf3 Rd8 0–1

I expect to see Nakamura's winning combination in the back of Chess Informant.

Magnus Carlsen won again. Hou Yifan scored her second of the tournament win with fine play in a rook ending.

Carlsen leads with 8/10, while second place is shared by Anand, Aronian, and Nakamura. None of them expect to catch Carlsen.


22 January 2013

Tata Steel Chess 2013, Round 9

Two King's Pawn Openings: Ponziani and Berlin

When my alarm went off at 5:30 am Pacific Standard Time, the players in Wijk aan Zee had been sitting at their boards for an hour. Rising from bed, I started the coffee and turned on some electronics. I must find a game to follow for the next two hours before I leave for work.

Karjakin -- Harikrishna immediately caught my eye because Sergey Karjakin is on the White side of one of his specialty openings: the Berlin Wall.

Wang -- Caruana is following an uncommon line in the Slav. Peter Leko is battling Viswanathan Anand's Najdorf. Hou Yifan's aggressive Ponziani against Magnus Carlsen also looks interesting. Sokolov -- Van Wely is a Rubinstein variation of the Nimzo-Indian. Levon Aronian is on the Black side of a Symmetrical English against Erwin L'Ami. Nakamura -- Giri are playing an offbeat Sicilian.

There are fourteen more games in the B and C Groups of the 75th Tata Steel Chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee.

Today, my efforts will be directed towards keeping track of two games as they develop. My resources include the tournament website, the Playchess server, and, of course, ChessBase 11. It is likely the games will continue beyond the time when I must leave for work. At work, in a chess classroom, it will be possible to follow these games, but not possible to blog my observations.

Karjakin,Sergey (2780) - Harikrishna,Pentala (2698) [C67]
75th Tata Steel Chess Group A Wijk aan Zee (9), 22.01.2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8

White to move

The most common move here is 9.Nc3. Nonetheless, Karjakin has previously played 9.h3, the fourth most common move (131 in ChessBase Online database).

9.h3

Reference games:

Karjakin,Sergey (2747) - Pashikian,Arman (2639) [C67]
Khanty Mansiysk ol (Men) 39th Khanty Mansiysk (9.4), 30.09.2010

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.h3 Ke8 10.Nc3 h5 11.Ne2 Be7 12.Bg5 Be6 13.Nf4 Bd5 14.Nxd5 cxd5 15.Rad1 c6 16.Rd3 h4 17.Re1 Rh5 18.Bf4 g6 19.a4 Rd8 20.Red1 Ng7 21.Be3 Ne6 22.a5 a6 23.c3 ½–½

Karjakin,Sergey (2775) - Aronian,Levon (2815) [C67]
Beijing Sportaccord blitz Beijing (13), 17.12.2012

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.h3 Ke8 10.Nc3 h5 11.Bf4 Be7 12.Rad1 Nh4 13.Nd4 Nf5 14.Nce2 g5 15.Bh2 Rh6 16.Rfe1 a6 17.Nxf5 Bxf5 18.Nd4 Be6 19.Nxe6 Rxe6 20.g4 hxg4 21.hxg4 c5 22.c3 c4 23.Kg2 b5 24.Kf3 Rb8 25.Bg3 Rh6 26.Ke4 b4 27.Rd4 bxc3 28.bxc3 Rb2 29.Rxc4 c5 30.Ra4 Kd7 31.Rd1+ Kc8 32.Ke3 Rc2 33.Kd3 Rb2 34.Rd2 Rxd2+ 35.Kxd2 Rb6 36.Kc2 Kd7 37.Re4 Ke6 38.Re1 Rb5 39.a4 Ra5 40.Re4 Kd5 41.f3 c4 42.Rd4+ Kc5 43.Bf2 Kc6 44.Rxc4+ Kd5 45.Re4 Ke6 46.Kb3 Rxe5 47.Bd4 Rxe4 48.fxe4 Kd6 49.c4 Kc6 50.e5 Bd8 51.Kc3 Kd7 52.Kb4 Kc6 53.Kc3 Kd7 54.Kd3 Ke6 55.Ke4 Bc7 56.c5 Bb8 57.c6 Bc7 58.Bc3 Bb6 59.Bd2 Bd8 60.Be3 Bc7 61.Bxg5 Bxe5 62.Bf4 Bc3 63.c7 Kd7 64.Kf5 Bd4 65.Be5 1–0

9...Bd7

Harikrishna is not new to this opening. 9...Bd7 is part of his repertoire.

Reference games:

Sutovsky,Emil (2687) - Harikrishna,Penteala (2685) [C67]
Istanbul ol (Men) 40th Istanbul (6.2), 03.09.2012

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.h3 Bd7 10.Rd1 Kc8 11.a4 a5 12.g4 Ne7 13.Ra3 Nd5 14.Rad3 Be7 15.c4 Nb6 16.b3 h5 17.Bg5 f6 18.e6 Bxe6 19.Re1 fxg5 20.Rxe6 Bf6 21.Nbd2 hxg4 22.hxg4 Nd7 23.Ne4 b6 24.Kg2 Rb8 25.Nd4 Kb7 26.Nxc6 Rbe8 27.Rxe8 Rxe8 28.Nxf6 Nxf6 29.Nd8+ Kc8 30.Nf7 Nxg4 31.Nxg5 Re5 32.Nh3 ½–½

Sutovsky,Emil (2700) - Harikrishna,Penteala (2669) [C67]
WchT 8th Ningbo (4), 20.07.2011

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.h3 Bd7 10.Rd1 Kc8 11.g4 Ne7 12.Ng5 Be8 13.f4 b6 14.Nc3 c5 15.Kf2 h6 16.Nf3 g6 17.Be3 Bc6 18.a4 Kb7 19.a5 Re8 20.Nd2 Nd5 21.Nxd5 Bxd5 22.Nf3 Be6 23.Rd3 Be7 24.Rad1 h5 25.Kg3 hxg4 26.hxg4 Rh7 27.R3d2 Kc6 28.axb6 cxb6 29.Rh2 Rxh2 30.Nxh2 a5 31.Rf1 Rg8 32.Ra1 Ra8 33.Rf1 Bc4 34.Re1 Rh8 35.Nf3 Be6 36.Rd1 a4 37.Ng5 Bxg5 38.fxg5 Ra8 39.Rd6+ Kb5 40.Bc1 Rh8 41.Rd1 Kc4 42.Be3 Ra8 43.Rd3 Re8 44.Rd6 Kb5 45.Rd1 Ra8 46.Bc1 a3 47.bxa3 Ra4 48.c3 Kc4 49.Rd6 Kxc3 50.Rxb6 Kc2 51.Be3 Rxa3 52.Kf2 c4 53.Rb4 Rb3 54.Ra4 c3 55.Ke2 Rb2 56.Rf4 Kb3+ 57.Kd3 Rb1 58.Rf3 c2 59.Kd4 Rd1+ 0–1

10.Nc3 b6 11.g4 Ne7 12.Ng5 Ke8 13.f4 f6 14.exf6 gxf6 15.Nge4 Kf7 16.f5 h5 17.g5 Nxf5 18.Nxf6 Be6

White to move

19.Ne2

Karjakin will be showing us how to battle for the advantage against his pet defense.

Meanwhile, I cannot resist Magnus Carlsen's game. We know before it begins that he will be giving lessons to Hou Yifan today, and we want to gain from that lesson, too. She plays with courage.

Yifan,Hou (2603) - Carlsen,Magnus (2861) [C44]
75th Tata Steel Chess Group A Wijk aan Zee, 22.01.2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.e5 Nd5

White to move
6.Bc4

6.cxd4 is by far the most common move.

6...Nb6 7.Bb3 d5 8.cxd4 Bg4 9.Be3 f6N

9...Bb4+ 10.Nc3 f6 11.h3 Bh5 12.g4 Bg6 13.0–0 Qd7 14.Bf4 Bxc3 15.bxc3 0–0–0 16.exf6 gxf6 17.Nh4 Bf7 18.Bg3 h5 19.f3 Nc4 20.Qd3 Ne7 21.Rae1 Rdg8 22.Bc2 Nd6 23.Ba4 Qd8 24.Qe3 Nef5 25.Nxf5 Nxf5 26.Qf4 Nxg3 27.Qxg3 f5 28.Bc2 Bg6 29.Re6 f4 30.Qg2 Bxc2 31.Qxc2 hxg4 32.fxg4 Rxh3 33.Qf5 Rg3+ 34.Kf2 Kb8 35.Rfe1 R3xg4 36.Re8 Rg2+ 37.Kf3 Rxe8 38.Rxe8 Qxe8 39.Kxg2 Barrenechea Bahamonde,G (2261)-Maiorov,N (2574) 0-1 Paleochora 2012

10.0–0 Qd7 11.h3 Bh5 12.e6 Qd6 13.Nc3 0–0–0 14.a4 a5 15.Nb5 Qxe6 16.Bf4 Rd7 17.Re1 Qf7 18.Rc1 Bb4 19.Re3 g5 20.Bh2

Update 7:30 am PST; 16:30 CET

Returning to Karjakin -- Harikrishna

19...Bg7 20.Ne4 Rhf8 21.N4g3 Kg8 22.Nxh5 Bc4 23.Nxg7 Kxg7 24.Rf2 Rae8 25.Nf4 Re1+ 26.Kh2 Bd5 27.Nxd5 cxd5 28.b3 Kg6 29.Bb2 Rxa1 30.Bxa1 Kxg5 31.Be5 c6 32.Rg2+

Black to move

32...Kh6

Some folks find the Berlin Wall boring. I disagree. It is part of a search for truth, arguing that White cannot be certain of gaining the advantage with 1.e4. Truth is never boring. While draws are indeed frequent in the Berlin Wall, today's game reveals, at the least, that there is room for new ideas and much play in this much despised opening.

Here we have an endgame of knight vs. bishop with an asymmetrical pawn structure and one rook each. It is not easy to find a plan for either player that leads to an advantage, but nor is the game a dead draw.

Update 7:40 am PST

Returning to Hou -- Carlsen

No one would call this game boring, but is Hou's play sound?

20...Nc4 21.Bxc4 dxc4 22.Qc2 Bxf3 23.Rxf3 Nxd4 24.Nxd4 Rxd4 25.Be5 Rd2

White to move

26.Qf5+ Qd7 27.Qxf6 Re8 28.Bg3 Rd4 29.Rf1

Does Hou Yifan have compensation for the pawn that she sacrificed?

29...g4 30.hxg4 Rxg4 31.Rf4 h5 32.Rxg4 hxg4 33.Rc1 c3 34.bxc3 Bc5 35.Qg5 b6

White to move
36.c4

Update 11:30 am PST; 20:30 CET

I brought my notebook computer to work this morning. One consequence of this decision is that I will be lugging it around from classroom to classroom in an elementary school this afternoon. I also have my chess bag (files, iPad, pieces for the demo board), a demo board, and a bag containing thirteen chess sets plus extra pieces. The notebook is a hassle to add to this mix, but leaving it in the car when it is eleven below (12 degrees Fahrenheit to my fellow Americans) is not an option.

The other consequence, and the reason I brought it, is that I am able to use my lunch break to update this post.

By the time I got to work, turned on the classroom computer, logged in and opened the Tata Steel Chess website, Karjakin and Harikrishna agreed to a draw.

33.Re2 Kg6 34.c3 Re8 35.Kg1 Re7 36.Kf2 Rf7 37.Ke1 Rh7 38.Bb8

Black to move

38...Kf6 39.Kd2 Rxh3 40.Bxa7 ½–½

A split point might be a frequent result in the Berlin Wall variation of the Spanish, but this game should reveal that both players face opportunities to go wrong.

Returning to Hou -- Carlsen

Hou Yifan's fighting spirit deserves our admiration. Slugging it out with the highest rated (best?) player in history, she does not flinch, but exchanges blow for blow. As I told my chess class this morning, this young woman could take on the top fifty players in my city all at once and win every game without any sweat.

36...Re4 37.Qg6 Re2 38.Kf1 Qd2 39.Qxg4+ Kb8 40.Qxe2 Qxc1+ 41.Qe1 Qxc4+ 42.Qe2 Qxa4 43.Be5 Bd4 44.Bxd4 Qxd4 45.g4 Qd5 46.Qe8+ Kb7 47.Qa4 b5 48.Qxa5 Qd1+ 49.Qe1

Black to move

49...Qxg4

Of course Magnus must snatch the pawn, as other moves draw.

50.Qe5 Qc4+ 51.Kg2
>
51.Ke1 looked better to my eyes, but remember that I would lose to Hou in a simul if I were offered such a magnificent opportunity. Of course, I would try not to lose, and maybe seek winning chances. But, it is important to be realistic: to a 2603 player, A Class players are hors d'oeuvres.

51...Qc6+ 52.Kf1 b4 53.f4 b3 54.f5 Ka6 55.Qa1+ Kb6 56.Qh8 Qc1+ 57.Kg2 Qc2+ 58.Kh1 b2

White to move

Computers know that this position is a clear win for Black, and likely Magnus Carlsen does as well. Even so, one cannot fault Hou Yifan for playing on. The Black king must find refuge from the checks. If that refuge is on b1, the White f-pawn gets another step towards promotion.

59.Qb8+ Ka5 60.Qa7+ Kb4 61.Qb7+ Ka3 62.Qf3+ Qb3 63.Qa8+ Qa4 64.Qf3+ Ka2 65.Qd5+ Ka1 66.Qe5 c5 0–1

Magnus Carlsen now has a full point lead ahead of Viswanathan Anand, and 1.5 ahead of Aronian and Nakamura, who have yet to play each other. Both also still face Harikrishna, who is 1/2 point behind them.

After these games finished, my second chess class of the morning was pulled into an engame in the C Group.

GM Robin Swinkels defeated IM Mark Van Der Werf, but was the position objectively won? My quick glance without detailed calculation suggested that White could hang on if his king did not get out maneuvered.

White to move

Does Black have a decisive advantage?

21 January 2013

Logical Chess: A Book Review

Irving Chernev, Logical Chess: Move by Move (1957) has earned its place as a classical text that is often recommended to players who seek to improve their chess skills. Batsford converted the descriptive notation in the original to algebraic and published their updated edition in 1998.

I have vague recollections of studying portions of this text in the 1970s, but cannot recall whether I owned a copy or used one from the library.* A couple of years ago, I picked up the Batsford edition and it has been sitting on my shelf collecting dust.

In mid-December, I started going through the book systematically. First, I study each game without reference to the text. When I believe that I have identified the critical turning points, the main positional ideas, and the key tactical alternatives, I read through Chernev's annotations.

This book is not aimed at players seeking to advance into Expert class (my present goal), but is aimed at slightly weaker players. It offers lessons in elementary positional thinking. Nonetheless, I am finding it both interesting and useful. For instance, Chernev's discussion of the Colle System helped me reorient my thinking.  I often characterize as "passive-aggressive" opening choices where White seems to eschew the initiative (and yet I play the Reti!). The Colle is one of those systems likely to provoke my contempt. While studying a couple of games in Logical Chess, however, I gained some respect for the system. My disdain was replaced by logical consideration of the strategic ideas.

As a consequence of reorienting my thinking, when I faced the Black side of a Colle in the first round of the Spokane Chess Club Winter Championship last week, I respected my opponent's plans and sought ways to neutralize them. Chernev's game 3 in Logical Chess is Colle -- Delvaux 1929. His comments elucidate the dynamic potential of the e3-e4 pawn break. The Colle System reappears as game 8 in Logical Chess, Przepiorka -- ProkeŇ° 1929; and as game 9, Flohr -- Pitschak 1930. Finally, Chernev's own use of the Colle System appears as game 21. Having recently gone through Chernev's comments on the first three of these games, proved stabilizing for my thought processes during round one. Contempt for the ideas of weaker players courts disaster, while respect and refutation brings victory. After I neutralized my opponent's plans, he blundered a piece. The rest was easy.

A notable characteristic of Logical Chess: Move by Move, is the literary effort needed to explain the same moves repeatedly in new ways. How much can one say concerning the merits of 1.e4? Chernev keeps his comments instructive and entertaining without merely repeating what he has already said concerning moves that appeared in another game earlier in the book. The core principles are repeated, but in new language. This ever changing repetition reinforces the ideas. Neil McDonald follows this pattern of varied repetition in Chess: the Art of Logical Thinking: From the First Move to the Last (2004). John Nunn, however, does not comment on quite every move in Understanding Chess Move by Move (2001). Nunn discusses the merits of each opening move once, then reserves commentary for moves not seen in games earlier in the text. Chernev's influence upon these two more recent books reveals the timelessness of his work.

Chernev's analysis is not without errors. In the first game of the book, White resigned in a position where Black still had much work to do to secure the win.

White to move
White's king appears to be in a heap of trouble. Chernev states, "there was no escape" (18). However, White might have tried 18.Bxf7+ Kf8 19.Bf4 Qxf4 20.Bh5 Nf6 21.Rxf2 Nxh5 22.Qd5. The danger to White's king is no longer imminent, and White has some play for the two lost pawns.

One might also take issue with his summary of White's principal choices against the French Defense. He offers some humor in his assessment of the Exchange Variation.
[A]fter the exchange of pawns the positions are equal and symmetrical and an attack is difficult to whip up, unless you are a Morphy. (81)
I quoted John Watson's assessment that it is "not particularly imaginative" in "French Defense!" My opponent in the game featured in that post, however, is no longer a provisionally rated high school player. He is the third highest rated player in Spokane, and a repeat winner of local events. He still plays the Exchange Variation, and has garnered plenty of experience with it against strong players. Another strong college student in my area employs the system, and he is a tactical monster. Perhaps both of these men are Paul Morphys! Their abilities in seemingly equal position should not be underestimated.

While sharing Chernev's assessment of the Exchange, with the caveat that I will likely be forced to defend this view vigorously over the board, I must challenge his brush off of those advocating of the Advance Variation.
The cramping move 3 e5 has a great many advocates, but the argument against this system is that White's pawn chain is rigid and susceptible to undermining tactics. Black initiates a strong counterattack on the base of the pawn-chain by 3...c5, followed by Nc6 and Qb6, when White finds himself defending a centre that has lost its flexibility. (81)
Chernev correctly identifies one of the resources that Black has to attack White's pawn center, but the cramping effect on Black's position should not be underestimated. The Advance Variation, in my opinion, is one of several principled ways to meet the French. Moreover, the strongest player who I have played OTB employs it. It is an opening that has forced me to play my best chess. Contrast Chernev's view with a more modern perspective.
The best way to learn the genuine French Defense is by playing the Advance Variation -- 3.e5, the most natural move for White, which closes the centre immediately and gains space.
Viktor Moskalenko, The Flexible French (2008), 9.
Chernev's Logical Chess: Move by Move must be read critically. The process of studying the book thoroughly, both absorbing its lessons and challenging its faults, should be beneficial to any club player wishing to improve. I heartily recommend this book to advanced beginners who understand rudimentary tactics, as well as to players up to and including my current strength (strong A Class).


Update 20 February 2013

See "Chernev's Errors" for detailed analysis of one game that highlights the strengths and weaknesses of his guidance to the aspiring player.

Note

*In the early 1980s, I drifted away from my youthful interest in chess. With my first son on his way and money tight, I sold half of my chess books in order to buy a history book that seemed particularly useful to me at the time. Now, I regret having parted with two RHM Press classics: the tournament books for San Antonio 1972 and the 1973 Soviet Championship. I may also have parted with a copy of Logical Chess, but my memory is less clear on that point. Happily, I hung onto the tournament book for Wijk aan Zee 1975, the selected games of Svetozar Gligoric, and the collected games of Anatoly Karpov. There are others that I parted with, and others that I retained. Logical Chess was not among the five that I consider most significant.

20 January 2013

Tata Steel Chess 2013, Round 8

After seven rounds of the thirteen round Tata Steel Chess tournament, the current world champion shares the lead with the highest rated player ever. Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen lead with 5/7. Two players follow with 4.5/7--Hikaru Nakamura and Sergey Karjakin. Levon Aronian and Pentala Harikrishna are a full point behind the leaders. Things would be different if Aronian had closed the deal yesterday in his game with Karjakin, but "it is what it is," as Nakamura seems to say in every interview.

I usually follow this tournament live. Some years, I have logged in to the Playchess server and had eight game boards open at once trying to watch all the games in the A group and at least one game in B or C. I remember watching the games of a thirteen year old International Master as he won the C Group in 2004. Magnus Carlsen earned his first Grandmaster norm in that event, and beat second place Sipke Ernst in dramatic fashion. His next two norms came quickly and he was awarded the GM title in April.

This year, I decided to follow one game each day, but follow it closely. As the players contemplate their moves, I look over their shoulders, as it were, trying to anticipate their play. Today, I cannot decide which game to watch.

While writing the beginning of this post, my live feed failed on my iPad. Now, I cannot bring up the games via iPad nor via notebook computer. The iPad shows a message "too many connections." But there are other means, so I logged into the Playchess server to discover that Levon Aronian won his game against Hou Yifan.

Aronian,Levon (2802) - Hou,Yifan (2603) [A18]
75th Tata Steel Chess Group A Wijk aan Zee (8), 20.01.2013

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 d5 4.e5 d4 5.exf6 dxc3 6.bxc3 Qxf6 7.Nf3 e5 8.Bd3 Bg4 9.Be4 Nd7 10.Bxb7 Rb8 11.Bd5 c6 12.Be4 Nc5 13.Qe2 Nxe4 14.Qxe4 Bxf3 15.Qxf3 Qxf3 16.gxf3 Bd6 17.Kd1 Kd7 18.Kc2 f5 19.d3 Rhf8 20.Rg1 g6 21.Bh6 Rf7 22.Rad1 Ke6 23.Bc1 Rb6 24.f4

Black to move
This position caught my eye as I was in bed, checking on the games with my iPad.

24...Ra6 25.fxe5 Rxa2+ 26.Kb1 Rxf2 27.exd6 Rb7+ 28.Ka1 Kxd6 29.Rd2 Rf3 30.Re1 Rd7 31.Kb1 g5 32.Kc2 f4 33.Ba3+ Kc7 34.d4 g4 35.d5 cxd5 36.cxd5 h5 37.Be7 g3 38.Re5 Re3 39.d6+ Kc6 40.Rxh5 1–0

I do not know what to make of the opening of this strange game.

Back at the Playchess server, I flit through the games that are ongoing, looking for something of interest.

Update 7:31 am PST; 16:31 CET

Carlsen provoked some pawn moves on the queenside, then shifted action to the kingside. Meanwhile, I am again able to follow the games on the website! It is much easier to put up my diagrams when I can follow the game on one device, and input the moves to another.

Still, there's something to be said for the software and live stream available from Playchess.


Aronian prepared today's endgame some time back.



Update 8:27 am PST

This tournament is exhausting. It starts early in the morning (for spectators on the west coast of North America). There are twenty-one good games nearly every day, and the weather outside is frightful. It has been much easier this year to concentrate on a single game each day. Sometimes the game ends just as I am getting settled, and other days the play continues beyond the time that I am able to devote to watching.

Today Magnus Carlsen is making Sergey Karjakin play chess in a position the engines consider equal. But, there are pawn imbalances.

I'm watching the game on Playchess and on the Tata Steel Chess website. But, I keep going back to the Aronian -- Hou game. Aronian's novelty 10.Bxb7 seems to have rushed the game to an endgame that computers consider equal (see video above). But, as I remarked yesterday, "computers often fail" when it comes to pawn structures. So it was in Aronian's victory today, and so it might be in Carlsen -- Karjakin.

Update 8:46 am PST

Some reference games:

Up until the White's eighth move, Aronian -- Hou followed another Aronian win against a strong opponent.

Aronian,Levon (2807) - Kramnik,Vladimir (2791) [A18]
Moscow Botvinnik Memorial Moscow (6), 03.09.2011

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 d5 4.e5 d4 5.exf6 dxc3 6.bxc3 Qxf6 7.Nf3 e5 8.d4 exd4 9.Bg5 Qe6+ 10.Be2 Be7 11.cxd4 Bxg5 12.Nxg5 Qf6 13.Qd2 0–0 14.0–0 Nc6 15.d5 Nd4 16.Ne4 Nxe2+ 17.Qxe2 Qg6 18.Rfe1 Bf5 19.Ng3 Bd3 20.Qe5 Bxc4 21.Nf5 Kh8 22.Ne3 Bd3 23.Qxc7 Be4 24.Qf4 Rfe8 25.f3 Bd3 26.Rad1 h5 27.Rd2 Bb5 28.Red1 Rad8 29.d6 Bc6 30.d7 Re6 31.Nc4 Qf6 32.Qxf6 gxf6 33.Na5 Kg7 34.Rd4 f5 35.Kf2 b6 36.Nxc6 Rxc6 37.Kg3 Rc2 38.Kf4 Kg6 39.Ke5 Re2+ 40.Kd6 Kf6 41.Rd5 Rxg2 42.Kc7 Rgg8 43.f4 Rgf8 44.Rg1 Ke7 45.Rd6 1–0

Aronian had played 8.Bd3, as he did today, in a game last September. Today Hou Yifan responded differently than Aronian's previous opponent.

Aronian,Levon (2816) - Naiditsch,Arkadij (2712) [A18]
Istanbul ol (Men) 40th Istanbul (9.1), 06.09.2012

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 d5 4.e5 d4 5.exf6 dxc3 6.bxc3 Qxf6 7.Nf3 e5 8.Bd3 Na6 9.0–0 Bd6 10.Bc2 Bg4 11.d4 Bxf3 12.Qxf3 Qxf3 13.gxf3 exd4 14.Ba4+ Kd8 15.cxd4 c5 16.d5 Kc7 17.Re1 Nb4 18.Bd2 Nd3 19.Re3 Ne5 20.Rc1 g5 21.Ba5+ b6 22.Bc3 f6 23.Rce1 Rhg8 24.Kg2 Raf8 25.Re4 Ng6 26.Kh1 Be5 27.Bd2 Kd6 28.R4e3 Nf4 29.Bc2 Rg7 30.Re4 Re7 31.Bxf4 gxf4 32.Rg1 f5 33.Re2 Bd4 34.Rxe7 Kxe7 35.Re1+ Kd8 36.Kg2 Re8 37.Rxe8+ Kxe8 38.Bxf5 h6 39.d6 h5 40.Kf1 Be5 41.d7+ Ke7 42.Ke2 Bc7 43.Kd3 Kd6 44.Ke4 Kc6 45.h4 a6 46.Bg6 Bd8 47.Bxh5 Bxh4 48.Be8 Bd8 49.Kxf4 b5 50.Ke5 bxc4 51.Ke6 c3 52.Bg6 Kc7 53.f4 Bh4 54.f3 Bg3 55.Ke7 Bh4+ 56.Ke8 a5 57.Bc2 c4 58.f5 Bd8 59.f4 Bh4 60.Ba4 Bd8 61.Kf7 c2 62.Bxc2 Kxd7 63.f6 Bc7 64.Ba4+ Kd8 65.Kg8 1–0

In all three games, Aronian won in the endgame. That is part of the appeal of his play to me. His openings suit my tastes, he seeks the truth in the position, and he wins the endgame. Yesterday's disappointment aside, he is a player who models the play that I struggle to emulate.

Update 8:56 am PST

Houdini 2.0 favors Loek van Wely by three-quarters of a pawn against Hikaru Nakamura. I think the computer exaggerates the value of White's passed h-pawn. Nakamura's queenside pawns appear to me to be a more substantive factor. Not that Nakamura has the advantage, but he does not seem worse in my estimation. On the other hand, I am often overly optimistic about my own position when playing, and I must root for a player who has lived in Washington state. Nakamura, to his credit, views his own positions with objectivity. It will be interesting to hear what he says after the game.

Carlsen seems to be doing what he does, squeezing blood from a turnip. He might find a win today and move back into the sole lead.

Update 9:04 am PST; 18:04 CET

Houdini has +1.57 in favor of the Dutchman against the American.

Update 9:16 am PST

Houdini's evaluation has dropped to +1.39, but I am starting to believe the engine. Nakamura's position looks uncomfortable. White's e5-e6 cannot be stopped, but does it lead anywhere?

Black to move
van Wely -- Nakamura after 47.f6+
Update 9:29 am PST

47...Kh6

Somehow, this move did not look safe to my eyes.

48.e6 fxe6 49.Rxe6 Kg5

Improve your weakest piece! Nakamura's king steps into the battle.

Update 9:44 am PST

50.f7 Rf8 51.Rxc6 Rxf7 52.Rxb6 Rf1 53.Rb5+ Kh6 54.Rxa5 Rb1 55.Kf4 Rxb2 56.Ra6+ Kg7

White to move

57.Ke3 Rg2 58.Bf3 Rg3

Nakamura's position clearly is worse, but is it losing? I think that he can hold.

Update 9:51 am PST

59.a4

On the other hand, van Wely has two advantages: an extra pawn and a more active king. Still, perhaps White's king is not so active, nor Black's so passive. There are tactics in the position.

Black to move

Update 10:10 am PST

Nakamura created a theoretically drawn ending with some sharp play!

59...Kh7 60.Rc6 Bc2! 61.Rxc4 Bd1 62.Rf4 Rxf3+! 63.Rxf3 Bxa4

Update 10:13 am PST

64.Rf6 Be8 65.h6 Bg6 66.Rxg6 Kxg6 67.h7 Kxh7 1/2-1/2

Carlsen still presses on that turnip.
White to move
Carlsen -- Karjakin after 70...Kh6
While I was contemplating the transparent threat 71.Re8, Carlsen showed why he is the master with a nice double attack.

71.Bd5 Rh2+ 72.Kg3 Rh3+ 73.Kxg4 Rxd3

White to move

74.f5 Re3 75.Rxg6+ Kh7 76.Bg8+ Kh8 77.Kf4

Update 10:50 am PST; 19:50 CET

77...Rc3 78.f6 d3 79.Ke3 c4 80.Be6 Kh7 81.Bf5

Black to move

Yesterday, Karjakin dodged a bullet. He plays on hoping for another escape. Houdini is not optimistic.

81...Rc2 82.Rg2+ Kh6 83.Rxc2 dxc2 84.Bxc2 Kg5 85.Kd4 Ba3

White to move

86.Kxc4 Bb2 87.Kd5 Kf4 88.f7 Ba3 89.e6 Kg5 90.Kc6 Kf6 91.Kd7 Kg7 92.e7 1-0

Magnus Carlsen leads by 1/2 point over Anand. Aronian and Nakamura share third. Tomorrow is a rest day. There are five rounds remaining.