Showing posts from 2021

Great Players: Adolf Anderssen

  Adolf Anderssen As I mentioned in my article on von der Lasa , there were two players with reasonable claims on the title of "world's best player" in the early 1850s, and today's article is about the more famous of the two, Adolf Anderssen (1818-79). Whereas von der Lasa's great achievements were all in match play, Anderssen was a specialist in the then more recent discipline of tournament play; he won both the first recognised international tournament ( London 1851 , in which he beat Staunton in the semi-finals), and the first major all-play-all ( London 1862 ). In total, his tournament career ran to sixteen tournaments over 27 years, of which he won or tied for first in eleven; the only tournament in which he failed to get a top-three finish was his final event, Paris 1878 , and even there he achieved a plus score. His record in match play was much more patchy, including losses to Morphy in 1858 (shortly before Morphy's retirement from competitive play)

2021 World Championship Match, Game 11

 And then it was all over. Nepomniachtchi, needing to score 3½/4 to take the match to tie-breaks, made an opening change, switching to the Giuoco Piano instead of the Ruy Lopez he had previously essayed. This led to a rather level position after 20 moves or so, after which a mistaken attempt to unbalance it walked into a fierce attack. The best he could do was bail out into a pawn-down rook ending, which Carlsen made no mistake in converting. And so Carlsen remains world champion, winning the match by a hefty 7½-3½ margin, which had looked rather unlikely after game 5. This is the highest winning margin in a World Championship match since Kasparov's 12½-7½ win against Short in 1993; it is the highest percentage score in a match since Lasker's 9½-1½ against Janowski in 1910.

2021 World Championship Match, Game 10

 What happens when a player has lost two games in a row to horrific blunders and is now three points adrift? Well, what happened in round ten was the dullest game of the match so far. Both sides were, for obvious reasons, content with a draw: Nepomniachtchi because it had stopped the rot, Carlsen because it left him three ahead with just four games to play. The game itself reflected those desires: another outing for the Petroff, and a lot of exchanges on the e-file after Carlsen played a line that forces the queens off. Very few winning chances for either side resulted.

2021 World Championship Match, Game 9

 Things have gone from bad to worse for Ian Nepomniachtchi. A second consecutive loss, again decided by a blunder; this one reminiscent of Fischer's notorious first game against Spassky in 1972. With the score now 6-3 in Carlsen's favour, Nepomniachtchi needs 4 points from his remaining 5 games, three of which he has black in. While it might still not yet be technically over, it would be a comeback of unprecedented proportions from here.

2021 World Championship Match, Game 8

 This was, I think, the first truly disappointing game of the title match. All the previous ones were hard-fought draws or games decided by very fine technical points after an epic struggle; this, however, was one decided by a simple blunder half-way through. Nepomniachtchi would presumably never have played 21...b5?? had it not been for the marathon game two rounds earlier; with play on both successive days meaning he hadn't really had time to recover since then. With the score now 5-3 to Carlsen with just six games to go, it seems unlikely that the challenger can mount a comeback.

2021 World Championship Match, Game 7

 Both players must have been shattered after the 136-move epic in game 6, and game 7 rather bore that out. Nepomniachtchi once more essayed an anti-Marshall, but the line he chose ended up fizzling out to nothing early on. While the game went on to move 41, it was effectively over as a contest by move 30, and the rest was just extending it to meet the event's Sofia rules. Both players will have had reason to be satisfied with this result; Carlsen because he managed a draw with black without much sweat, Nepomniachtchi because he will have needed to recover after his loss in the previous game. Carlsen now quite clearly has the edge, with a 4-3 lead at the halfway stage, and four whites and three blacks to come, but there's still plenty left in this match.

2021 World Championship Match, Game 6

 The decisive game everyone had been waiting for finally arrived. And Magnus Carlsen won it in the most archetypally Magnus Carlsen style there is: grinding away in a technically drawn position for hours until his opponent made a mistake, and then seizing on it. At 136 moves, this game broke the record for game length in a World Championship match, and at 7¾ hours, it may well have also broken the record for the length of an uninterrupted play session. With this result, the dynamics of the match change: Nepomniachtchi has to win at least one game from here to stay in the match; will he adjust his style to adapt to the new circumstances?

This week I have been mostly sacrificing bishops

Another week, another trip to Barnstaple Chess Club. This week, my opponent was Rick Dooley, the club's long-standing tournament organizer. I've had a fair number of hard-fought games against Rick over the years, but this week's were unfortunately not really among them; some rather dubious opening play on his part led me to some clear opening advantages that I pressed home forcefully.    

2021 World Championship Match, Game 5

 Another day, another Anti-Marshall. This time it was Carlsen who deviated from previous games, playing 8...Rb8 instead of game 3's 8...Bb7. The resulting play was similar, though, long periods of Ruy Lopez build-up eventually leading into an ending. It was clear for most of the game that Nepomniachtchi was the one pressing for a win, but Carlsen's accurate defence meant there was very little prospect of a breakthrough. The result was the fifth consecutive draw, and once again it was a draw by repetition. We're locked at 2½-2½ heading into the second rest day, and the tension is building nicely.

2021 World Championship Match, Game 4

 Another game, another hard-fought draw. Nepomniachtchi made the reasonable choice to essay the solid Petroff's Defence in today's game, and he was rewarded with a game where Carlsen never really had an advantage. The fourth consecutive draw - and, indeed, the seventeenth consecutive draw in World Championship match games - has led to a fair amount of adverse commentary, but I for one am finding this contest gripping. The lack of decisive results so far has simply been from both players being up to the task of neutralizing their opponent's challenges, rather than from any lack of desire to win. <iframe id="8685877" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" style="width:100%;border:none;" src="//"></iframe><script>window.addEventListener("message",e=>{e['data']&&"8685877"===e['data']['id']&&document.getElementById(`

2021 World Championship Match, Game 3

 With Nepomniachtchi having achieved little from his Anti-Marshall line in Game 1 , it seemed likely that he would make a small change for Game 3. And so it proved, with his choosing 8.a4 rather than 8.h3, and the game moving into slower lines featuring the knight manoeuvring for which the closed Lopez is noted. And, it seems, the experiment was reasonably successful - he appeared to get a slight edge from the opening, and had he made a different choice at move 21, he may have retained it, although the resulting position was still quite tricky to exploit. As it was, the line he actually chose allowed Carlsen to simplify into a level ending, and the match remains tightly poised at 1½-1½ heading into the first rest day.

2021 World Championship Match, Game 2

 Game 2 of the match, and Nepomniachtchi, not wanting to take undue risks at this stage, elected not to play his favoured Grünfeld Defence. Instead, he went for the rather more sedate 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5, and the game quickly reached an Open Catalan. Despite this opening's reputation, this was another interesting game which followed the pattern of the first in some respects: Carlsen sacrificed material (first a pawn, then the exchange) for long-term positional compensation, which Nepomniachtchi had to defend carefully to bring home the half-point.

2021 World Championship Match, Game 1

 With the qualification for the 2022 World Championship match in full swing, it might have been easy to overlook that the match scheduled for 2020 hadn't actually yet been played. But now it has finally started, as Ian Nepomniachtchi becomes the fourth person to try to defeat Magnus Carlsen in a world championship match. While the 73-point rating gap in Carlsen's favour suggests that he is the strong favourite - 538 's calculations give him something like a 5/6 chance of winning the match outright - Nepomniachtchi is a much improved player over the past few years, and can take heart from the fact that he is one of the few active players with a plus score against Carlsen. The first game was a rather cautious affair, although quite interesting for those of us who like subtle endgame battles. Carlsen sacrificed a pawn early on for nagging endgame pressure, and a lesser player than Nepomniachtchi could easily have crumbled; instead, he managed to hold on for a draw. If the re

Pets mean prizes

 It has been an eventful week. My sister's moving abroad, and I have now taken custody of her cat and rabbits. This being the internet, I am now constitutionally obliged to post a picture of the cat in question, so here he is: Myszu     I also played some games at the local chess club; it was a night in which I managed to get in one standardplay and four rapidplay games, and won them all, taking me to 4/4 in the club championship (total scheduled games: 11) and 11/11 in the rapidplay (total scheduled games: 20). Three of these games were against Jon Munsey, who was already a member of the club when I joined back in 2002; the other two were against Jevon Whitby, who has just joined this season, and seems to be a decent player.  

Great Players: Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa

Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa There are two competing claims to the title of Staunton 's successor as the best player in the world, and their levels of fame are surprisingly different. The general chess public's knowledge of Adolf Anderssen deservedly ranks him very highly; he won the first international tournament, and two of his games always make the collections of classics. This article's subject, though,  Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa (1818-1899) is a somewhat more obscure figure. Like so many of the great players of the 19th century, his ability to play in tournaments was curtailed by the needs of his career - in this case, in the Prussian diplomatic service - but his results in match play between 1843 and 1853 - which included two match victories over Anderssen and one over Staunton - show that he was capable of holding his own against the best players of his era. His playing style was very much of its time - a ferocious attacker with a keen tactical eye

There are some openings I really shouldn't play

 I have just come back from a week visiting my sister in Exeter, which was a nice refreshing break. And thus I did not play any games at the chess club last week. However, I played plenty the previous week - one standardplay and three rapidplay - and those are the subject of this piece. The three rapidplay games I won without much incident, as I rather savagely dispatched my opponents' somewhat dubious opening ideas. However, the standardplay game that started the evening off was another matter. This game featured the Symmetrical English, 1.c4 c5. There is much that suits me about this opening; it leads to double-edged games where there can be play on all sides of the board. However, what it also leads to, and this is where it continues to trip me up, is surprisingly trappy and tactical positions very early on. And this is what happened this time; I played an otherwise positionally-indicated move that should have lost a piece, and had my opponent spotted it, I'd have been in f

2021 Grand Swiss, Round 11

 A hard-fought final round eventually produced nothing much in the way of changes in the finishing order, as the top thirteen boards were all drawn. This meant that Alireza Firouzja finished the tournament as outright winner , and qualified for the Candidates. Joining him in the Candidates is 2018 challenger Fabiano Caruana, who finished ahead of Grigoriy Oparin on tie-break. Oparin will have to be satisfied with a place in the Grand Prix, where he will be joined by five of the thirteen players who finished equal fourth: Yangyi Yu of China, Vincent Keymer of Germany, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France, Alexandr Predke of Russia and Alexei Shirov of Spain.

2021 Grand Swiss, Round 10

 Firouzja ended Howell's winning run with a convincing victory, despite Howell's finding some excellent defensive resources in time trouble. This brought him back into the sole lead, as Caruana had to scramble for a draw against Vachier-Lagrave. The only player in the chasing pack to win was Oparin, who is now tied for second with Caruana; he faces Firouzja in the final round. This game is now destined to produce one of the Candidates qualifiers. The other Candidates place will definitely go to Caruana if he beats Predke; if not, it will go to somebody on 7½/11. With ten other players on 6½/10, there's all to play for on the final day. (All these players know that no more than eight players can get to 7½, so that score will, at the very least, assure anyone who gets it a Grand Prix place.)

2021 Grand Swiss, Round 9

 Two rounds to go, and the tournament has suddenly sprung to life again. Fabiano Caruana really needed to beat Firouzja to keep his chances of winning the tournament alive, and he rose to the occasion. The two of them now share the lead on 6½/9 with David Howell, who got his fourth win in a row by beating Korobov. Ten players are right behind them on 6, including Vachier-Lagrave and Vitiugov, as well as Sasikiran, who came back from yesterday's disappointment to win against Eljanov. My comment two rounds ago about disappointing performances by some of the big names has struck the Commentator's Curse, as all three of Aronian, Svidler and Gelfand managed wins in round 9. Of these, it was Gelfand's game that struck the eye, as both sides promoted while still in the opening.

2021 Grand Swiss, Round 8

 A half-point lead has become a full-point lead. Firouzja's convincing round 8 win against Sasikiran took him to 6½ points, while Vachier-Lagrave and Shirov could only draw on board 2 to take them into joint second on 5½. They were joined in that scoregroup by eight people who had had 4½/7 and won. Wins for Caruana, Vitiugov, Korobov and Predke were no surprises, but the other four - Howell, Oparin, Anton Guijarro and Sevian - all defeated higher-rated opposition. It now seems very likely - although not certain - that the two qualifiers will be Firouzja and one of those ten players (Vachier-Lagrave, who has already played Firouzja, probably looking best placed of the ten), with most if not all of the six Grand Prix qualifiers also coming from those ten. The top board pairing for round 9 is Caruana - Firouzja, and it promises to be an exciting occasion.

2021 Grand Swiss, Round 7

 The big news of round 7 was on the top board. After reaching a drawn ending against Firouzja, Najer picked the wrong option, giving up his passed pawn when he didn't need to, and this turned the draw into a loss. As none of the other games on the top ten boards were decisive, this means that the Frenchman has retained the sole lead that he had at the end of round 4, and has 5½ out of 7. Right behind him on 5 are Vachier-Lagrave, Shirov and Sasikiran, with no fewer than 28 players in the chasing pack on 4½. Among those are five of the initial top ten seeds: Caruana, Vitiugov, Harikrishna, Dubov and Fedoseev. Also in that chasing pack is Andrei Volokitin, whose win over second seed Levon Aronian has surely ended the latter's chances. He is one of a number of big names who has done surprisingly poorly, along with Peter Svidler and Boris Gelfand, both former top-half finishers in the Candidates, but who are both in the bottom half without having yet won a game.

2021 Grand Swiss, Round 6

 Two hard-fought draws at the top in Shirov-Firouzja and Najer-Caruana meant that the three joint leaders after round 5 are still joint leaders after round 6. They are joined by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who beat Ponkratov, and Krishnan Sasikiran, who beat Predke, making it a five-way tie  on 4½ going into the rest day. There are fifteen players just behind them on 4, including three of the top ten seeds: Caruana, Esipenko and Dubov. With such a large chasing pack, it's unlikely - although by no means impossible - that someone in a lower scoregroup will shoot up in the second half and take one of the top two places.

2021 Grand Swiss, Round 5

 The all-French top board clash between Firouzja and Vachier-Lagrave ended in a draw, which meant that the players on 3 out of 4 had a chance to join Firouzja in the lead, and two of them did. Alexei Shirov's win against Saric and Evgeniy Najer's win against Hovhannisyan mean that there is now a 3-way tie heading into round 6, with Shirov-Firouzja an eagerly awaited match-up. Behind them, there are 14 players on 3½, including top seed Fabiano Caruana, who beat David Howell. More surprisingly, that scoregroup also contains 89th seed Manuel Petrosyan, whose draw with Sarin meant he is still unbeaten despite having faced five higher-rated opponents. He's still a long shot to qualify from here, but you can't rule it out at this stage. His next game, however, will be the toughest test yet: a downfloat to 5th seed Vitiugov with black.

2021 Grand Swiss, Round 4

 Alireza Firoujza's 100% record was broken in round 4, as Yangyi Yu held him to a draw. Perhaps suprisingly, though, he remained the sole leader, as every player who started the round on 2½ points also drew. This enabled those players who started the day on 2 points to move within half a point of the lead, and five players - Vachier-Lagrave, Tari, Petrosyan, Sevian and Shirov - managed to do so. As a consequence, round 5 will see the two Frenchmen face off against each other in a keenly-anticipated encounter. At the other end of the table, there is no longer anyone on a 0% score either - the only player on 0/3, Aydin Suleymanli, managed a draw against Budisavljevic.

2021 Grand Swiss, Round 3

Round 3 was definitely Alireza Firouzja's day. Not only did he win, to become sole leader on 3 out of 3, but he extended his lead over the rest of the top seeds as he did so - Yangyi Yu of China is the only player in the rest of the top 30 to have even made it to 2½; he and Firouzja will play in round 4. The top two seeds, Caruana and Aronian, both drew their round 3 games in contrasting ways. Caruana will have been frustrated that he didn't manage to bring home the full point against Saric in a game he was surely winning, whereas Aronian had a very tough defensive task against Demchenko, and needed to draw heavily on his technique to hold a pawn-down rook ending. At the other end of the table, the tournament's only non-GM, IM Fy Antenaina Rakotomaharo of Madagascar, picked up his first points of the tournament with a draw against Georgiev.

2021 Grand Swiss, Round 2

 When two-thirds of your players are within 50 rating points of the tournament's median rating, and eleven-twelfths are within 100 points of it, there is a likelihood of a high draw rate. This was the case for the FIDE Grand Swiss, and the results so far bear it out. After two rounds, only three if its 108 players are on 2, and only ten on 0. That third seed Alireza Firouzja (France) is one of the three leaders is no surprise, but the other two, Alexandr Predke (Russia) and Ivan Saric (Croatia) are less well-known; Saric is up there courtesy of a second-round win against Kirill Alekseenko, who made his name by coming third in the 2019 event , which got him a wildcard for the Candidates. Going into round 2, Jorden van Foreest (Netherlands) was on a highly impressive run, having drawn in all eleven games of the 2019 event as well as his opening game here, but this finally ended when he lost to Robert Hovhannisyan (Armenia).

2021 Grand Swiss, Round 1

 There is currently a lockdown going on in Latvia, but the FIDE Grand Swiss in Riga is going ahead anyway. Whether or not it should be is a matter of considerable discussion , and it is unsurprising that several big names are absent. Among them are the quintet who don't need to qualify for the next Candidates - Carlsen, Duda, Karjakin, Nepomniachtchi and Radjabov. Another notable absentee is Hikaru Nakamura, who made a public announcement that he felt it unwise to play in those conditions. Be that as it may, it is still a very strong tournament, with 13 players rated 2700 or over, and 91 rated 2600 or over. Among them are two former World Championship challengers: Fabiano Caruana and Boris Gelfand.  

4NCL Hull Masters, 20-24 October 2021

 The trend of 10-player all-play-alls with title norm possibilities is not showing any signs of slowing down, and the latest one was in Hull , under the auspices of the 4NCL . The norm targets for this one were 7 for a GM norm (or 6½ for the tournament's bottom seed, Shreyas Royal), and 5 for an IM norm. Tricky, but doable, and going into the final day, two players, Maciej Czopor and Conor Murphy, both had the chance to get GM norms, needing as they did 2/2. This was not to be, as both lost in round 8, but they nevertheless both achieved IM norms. Not that this is relevant for Murphy, who already has all his norms and has already applied for the IM title, but Czopor will certainly appreciate it. Title Name Rating Federation 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total 1 FM Czopor Maciej 2411 Poland * 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 6

British Women's Championship, 14-17 October 2021

 This year's British Championship festival had a number of events other than the main championship, and one of them was the British Women's Championship . This is normally awarded within the British Championship itself, but this year it was a stand-alone event. The pre-tournament favourites were two former champions, IM Harriet Hunt (who won the title four times between 1995 and 1999) and GM Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant (who won it four times between 2003 and 2007). But they clearly weren't going to have it all their own way, as third seed Katarzyna Toma beat both of them in successive rounds to be the sole leader after round 3. Had she gone on to convert a winning position against Varney in round 5, Toma would now no doubt be the champion. But a loss on time in that game meant that there were three joint leaders after that point, and whoever of Toma, Varney and Hunt made the most of their two final games would probably win the event.  And Hunt was the won who rose to the challe

On playing for pretty patterns

 One of the features of Barnstaple Chess Club is that it's a small club (currently 14 active members) with a wide range of ability, and thus a fair proportion of its internal games are mismatches. As I tend to be on the right side of those mismatches, I can't really complain, but it does result in the odd game which is effectively over within the first ten moves or so. I won two of those last night, against a somewhat variable opponent - Rob Kelso can play very well on his day, and had just won a nice pawn ending against Graham Jones before playing me. When I end up in one of those games, I often end up giving myself other challenges, such as seeing whether I can win in aesthetically pleasing ways. Well, I managed it in both these games; the second involved a queen sacrifice to bring about Anastasia's Mate, while the first involved what problemists would term a "switchback"; winning by moving a piece back where it's just come from.

2021 British Championship, Round 9

 Going into the last round, there were two joint leaders, Pert and Ledger, on 6, and two just behind, Harvey and Hebden, on 5½. Pert was playing Harvey, whereas the other two were downfloating to lower-placed opposition. This meant that any one of the following five scenarios could have arisen: Sole winner on 7: If one of Pert and Ledger had won and the other hadn't. Two-way tie on 7: If both Pert and Ledger had won. Sole winner on 6½: If Pert had lost or drawn, Ledger had lost, and Hebden had not won. Two-way tie on 6½: If Pert had lost or drawn, and either Ledger had drawn and Hebden had not won, or Ledger had lost and Hebden had won. Three-way tie on 6½: If Pert had lost or drawn, Ledger had drawn and Hebden had won. Had any of the tie scenarios arisen, there would have been a rapidplay playoff to determine the overall champion, but as it was, there was no need. Harvey-Pert and Arkell-Hebden were draws, with Olson beating Ledger, resulting in a sole victory for Pert, who thereby

2021 British Championship, Round 8

Crunch time at the top of this very competitive tournament, and we now have two joint leaders going into the last round. One is top seed Nick Pert, who won quickly against McPhillips, and the other is Andrew Ledger, who got his second GM scalp of the tournament by beating Gormally. The board 2 game between Hebden and Harvey went on for 117 moves, but neither of them could get the victory that would have them join the top scoregroup. The other big news of the day was that Svetlana Sucikova's draw with Arkell got her to a live rating of 2200. As she already has all three of the necessary norms (and, indeed, will get another provided her round 9 game against Gormally takes place), this will mean she can claim the WIM title. Congratulations to her. Board No. Name Rtg Pts. Result Pts. Name Rtg No. 1 8 IM Ledger Andrew   J 2329 5 1 - 0 5 GM Gormally Daniel   W

My chess imagination is returning

To some extent, I use games at the local club for much the same purposes as I use games on the internet - trying out new ideas to see what sticks, gauging the way that I'm playing overall, and trying to find out just how well I think I'll play when I return to high-level events. And from the way I played on Thursday, I'm getting cautiously optimistic. Not just because I won all three of my games, but because I was seeing tactical ideas, which has been a weakness of mine over the past few years, and I was willing to consider unusual moves. It may be some time yet, but I'll be returning to the big time.

2021 British Championship, Round 7

 Both round 7 games involving the leaders were drawn, McPhillips-Hebden going all the way to a tablebase ending, so Hebden, Ledger and Pert all remain in the lead on 5/7. They were joined by Harvey (who beat Olson) and Gormally (who beat Finn); McPhillips is the only player half a point behind them. Lower down the tournament, the shocks just keep on coming. Eggleston, Bradbury and Webb all lost with white to lower-rated opposition in the shape of Sucikova, Starley and Latypova respectively - and for all three, that was their last action in the tournament. Webb had arranged his withdrawal a few rounds earlier, presumably thanks to some prior commitment, but Bradbury and Eggleston made their minds up on the day, no doubt feeling that playing on when in this bad form would not be a pleasant experience. Also withdrawing from the tournament, but in this case planned from the start, were Olga Latypova and Freddie Gordon, who will spend the weekend playing in the Terafinal of the UK Chess Cha

We apologise for the inconvenience

 For some reason, the annotated games on this blog appear not to be working. I shall try to figure out what's going on.

2021 British Championship, Round 6

 Andrew Ledger remained in the lead after his round 6 draw with Marcus Harvey, but two other players came up to join him: Mark Hebden, who beat Eggleston, and Nick Pert, who beat Arkell. They have 4½/6, with four players right behind on 4: McPhillips, Olson, Harvey and Gormally. With three rounds to go, all seven still have a decent chance of winning the title. The bottom half of the tournament continued to be hard-fought, with plenty of decisive games, including two big giant-killings: Peter Finn continued his excellent form, beating Bradbury, while Olga Latypova picked up her first win of the tournament against Willison. Board No. Name Rtg Pts. Result Pts. Name Rtg No. 1 3 FM Harvey Marcus R 2465 3½ ½ - ½ 4 IM Ledger Andrew J 2329 8 2 9 FM Olson Hamish 2273 3½ ½ - ½ 3½ GM Gormally Daniel W