A frequently updated blog for the Kenilworth Chess Club
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Magnus Carlsen Wins Corus 2010 at Wijk aan Zee
World number one Magnus Carlsen won the Corus 2010 chess tournament at Wijk aan Zee (pronounced "wake ahn zey" say ChessBase and ChessVibes), followed by Vladimir Kramnik and Alexey Shirov in second. All three top finishers had held the first place spot at one point in the event, with Shirov starting the tournament extremely hot with five wins in a row, Kramnik catching up, then Carlsen grabbing the lead at the finish (despite losing to Kramnik). World Champion Vishy Anand (with the tournament's only undefeated record) and U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura finished tied for fourth. The B-group was won by 15-year-old Dutch GM Anish Giri (profiled at ChessBase) who led for most of the way (see B-player profiles at ChessBase). The C-group was won by Li Chao (see C-group profiles at ChessBase). US youngster Ray Robson led the C-group by the middle of the tournament but fell back to fourth by the end following his loss to Li Chao in the Dragon. You can play over the games from the A-section at Chessgames.com. There was excellent coverage of the event by ChessBase, TWIC, Chessdom, Mig's Daily Dirt (where there is always good discussion), ChessVibes, ChessOK and others.
I just watched Vladimir Kramnik's brilliant (open, transparent, objective, super-clear, etc.) presentation on his victory over Hikaru Nakamura in the Leningrad Dutch at Corus. You can view the game online at Chessgames.com, along with all of the games from the A-section of the tournament, where Kramnik has now moved into a tie for second with Magnus Carlsen (whom he plays today just beat moments ago) behind Alexey Shirov (whom he plays Friday). The other tournaments are also very interesting, with the B led by Anish Giri and C led by American Ray Robson.
Kramnik's lecture on his game with Nakamura is really worth watching in full. Afterward he has some very nice things to say about Nakamura and the rest of the rising stars featured in the tournament and he predicts that Naka will be in the top ten and have a shot at the title by next year. I will be posting a tournament summary and webliography at the conclusion of the event and may include the other sections as well. I am predicting that Kramnik may just come from behind to win this thing.
Although we tend to think of experts as being weighted down by information, their intelligence dependent on a vast set of facts, experts are actually profoundly intuitive. When experts evaluate a situation, they don't systematically compare all the available options or consciously analyze the relevant information. Carlsen, for instance, doesn't compute the probabilities of winning if he moves his rook to the left rather than the right. Instead, experts naturally depend on the emotions generated by their experience. Their prediction errors - all those mistakes they made in the past - have been translated into useful knowledge, which allows them to tap into a set of accurate feelings they can't begin to explain. Neils Bohr said it best: an expert is "a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field." From the perspective of the brain, Bohr was absolutely right.
And this is why we shouldn't be surprised that a chess prodigy raised on chess computer programs would be even more intuitive than traditional grandmasters. The software allows him to play more chess, which allows him to make more mistakes, which allows him to accumulate experience at a prodigious pace.
Who was it who said that you have to lose thousands of chess games before you become an expert? Hat tip: Chess Vibes
There have been many unintended consequences, both positive and negative, of the rapid proliferation of powerful chess software. Kids love computers and take to them naturally, so it's no surprise that the same is true of the combination of chess and computers. With the introduction of super-powerful software it became possible for a youngster to have a top- level opponent at home instead of needing a professional trainer from an early age. Countries with little by way of chess tradition and few available coaches can now produce prodigies. I am in fact coaching one of them this year, nineteen-year-old Magnus Carlsen, from Norway, where relatively little chess is played.
The heavy use of computer analysis has pushed the game itself in new directions. The machine doesn't care about style or patterns or hundreds of years of established theory. It counts up the values of the chess pieces, analyzes a few billion moves, and counts them up again. (A computer translates each piece and each positional factor into a value in order to reduce the game to numbers it can crunch.) It is entirely free of prejudice and doctrine and this has contributed to the development of players who are almost as free of dogma as the machines with which they train. Increasingly, a move isn't good or bad because it looks that way or because it hasn't been done that way before. It's simply good if it works and bad if it doesn't. Although we still require a strong measure of intuition and logic to play well, humans today are starting to play more like computers.
The availability of millions of games at one's fingertips in a database is also making the game's best players younger and younger. Absorbing the thousands of essential patterns and opening moves used to take many years, a process indicative of Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000 hours to become an expert" theory as expounded in his recent book Outliers. (Gladwell's earlier book, Blink, rehashed, if more creatively, much of the cognitive psychology material that is re-rehashed in Chess Metaphors.) Today's teens, and increasingly pre-teens, can accelerate this process by plugging into a digitized archive of chess information and making full use of the superiority of the young mind to retain it all. In the pre-computer era, teenage grandmasters were rarities and almost always destined to play for the world championship. Bobby Fischer's 1958 record of attaining the grandmaster title at fifteen was broken only in 1991. It has been broken twenty times since then, with the current record holder, Ukrainian Sergey Karjakin, having claimed the highest title at the nearly absurd age of twelve in 2002. Now twenty, Karjakin is among the world's best, but like most of his modern wunderkind peers he's no Fischer, who stood out head and shoulders above his peers—and soon enough above the rest of the chess world as well.
ChessBase has posted a wonderful Karsten Mueller article on building "Barriers" in Rook and pawn endings in order to avoid Rook checks. It's definitely worth a look, if only to admire the clarity of the examples and the useful java interface for learning. Mueller has written in his Endgame Corner at ChessCafe about the importance of creating shelters in Rook endings to avoid checks. Sometimes a pawn might even be surrendered to create the shelter (see Endgame Corner #24), the classic example of which is Capablanca - Tartakower, New York 1924 (well represented online with detailed notes and video commentary.) A classic example of using the Rook as a "bridge" to escape checks is seen in the Lucena Position. Here are some useful pieces on the Lucena:
The internet response to the game Gelfand - Nakamura, 7th World Team Championship, Bursa Turkey 2010, has been almost electric. It is a game with all of the bells and whistles typical of a brilliancy, made all the more special because of the players themselves: the U.S. Champion sacrificed a piece and then left his queen hanging for six moves against the recent winner of the World Cup. Incredible.
I have annotated the game Thomson - Stoyko, Garden State Chess League 2010, played Thursday night at the Kenilworth Chess Club in the match between Summit and Kenilworth. Steve Stoyko chose an interesting approach as Black against Simon Thomson's Tarrasch French, closing up the center and setting up a classic struggle on opposite sides of the board. Though the pawn structure gave White great potential for a kingside attack, Stoyko struck first with a queenside attack, eventually sacrificing a piece in order to create dangerous passed pawns in that region. Thomson battled back with a dangerous kingside attack (despite the exchange of Queens) and should have been able to force a draw by perpetual check (see diagram above) with the surprising 33.Bxh6! But time pressure mistakes gave Black the point. Steve said after the game that practically every move was "a study in choices." Sort of a "Stoyko Exercise" at every turn!
Shahade: How do you compare the wrenching feeling of blundering in chess to the wrenching feeling of getting knocked out of a poker tournament?
Sarwer: Can't compare, blundering in chess feels much worse for me. In poker getting knocked out usually doesn't hurt as much because you lose a coin-flip that was out of your control or someone sucks out on you, things like that. Those type of things tend to effect me very little these days, simply because they have nothing to do with myself, it's just life playing variance with me. Occasionally in poker you feel bad when you do make a mistake, like a bad read, but since it is a game of incomplete information usually it doesn't feel that bad. It's more like a "hmmm got it wrong this time". Not a "how could I miss this? I just missed this stupid knight fork?"
In "Grandmasters and Global Growth," Ken Rogoff (chess grandmaster and one of the world's leading economists) uses chess as an example of how artificial intelligence might represent the next growth sector for the ailing economy and one that might just be the engine to lift us out of the global slowdown. After discussing many of the ways that computers have impacted chess, he writes:
So has all this put chess players out of work? Encouragingly, the answer is “not yet.” In fact, in some ways, chess is as popular and successful today as at any point in the last few decades. Chess lends itself very well to Internet play, and fans can follow top-level tournaments in real time, often with commentary. Technology has helped thoroughly globalize chess, with the Indian Vishy Anand now the first Asian world champion, and the handsome young Norwegian Magnus Carlsen having reached rock-star status. Man and machine have learned to co-exist, for now.
Many amateur chess players are put off from playing the Open Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 followed by 3.d4) as White because of the wide range of choices at Black's disposal and the apparently large amount of theory you need to know to support this choice. The Open Sicilian looks like a lot of study. But 2.Nf3 followed by 3.d4 is looking better than anything else against the Sicilian these days, and the anti-Sicilian side-lines (especially the Grand Prix, Smith-Morra, and Alapin) have accumulated enough theory of their own to make the effort to learn them nearly comparable to some main line repertoire choices. A number of repertoire books, including John Nunn's three editions of Beating the Sicilian (my first influence), Nigel Davies's interesting Taming the Sicilian, Jesus de la Villa's mixed bag serious English system in Dismantling the Sicilian, and (the best of the lot and most current) Quality Chess's multiple-authored Experts vs. the Sicilian make it almost seem possible to get your arms around main line Open Sicilian theory with just a little guidance [and without having to read several volumes of Khalifman's].
But is it possible to construct a low-theory, not-so-mainline Open Sicilian repertoire that is completely supported by free web sources? That's the challenge I took on in compiling the following "Five Easy Pieces" main line Sicilian webliography. If anyone is looking for a "starter" Open Sicilian repertoire on the web, here it is. I may revise it down the road if my interest (or that of readers) merits, especially to add to the supplemental resources at the end. As always, reader suggestions are most welcome.
The lines I have chosen emphasize White's claim on the center, typically with an early f4 advance. These are very dangerous lines, especially at the amateur level where you are likely to score many quick kills by just over-running your opponent in the center (typically with an early e5) or on the kingside (often with an f5 advance).
1) Sicilian Dragon, Levenfish Variation (B71)
The Levenfish Variation has always intrigued me. White sets a huge trap for naive Dragoneers (or hasty blitz players) who continue with the natural 6...Bg7, when 7.e5! leads to some very sharp and dangerous play (that anyone who is booked enough to survive would have avoided by playing the safer 6...Nc6 in the first place!) And some Black alternatives turn out not to be completely free of danger, as the following resources suggest.
Blitz #165 vs daviv52 (1904) by Kingscrusher at Letsplaychess.com
A smashing game with an interesting idea in the Levenfish for White, meeting Flohr's 6...Nbd7 with 7.Qe2!? trying to force through the e5 push.
2) Najdorf (B93), Scheveningen (B82), and Classical (B56) with f4
Viktor Kupreichik and others have played a very straight-forward f4 system against lines where Black gets a small center (with d6 and e6). This is most clear in the Najdorf line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.f4 followed generally by a4, Bd3, Nf3, O-O, and possibly Qe1-g3 or -h4. This is a very straightforward line and much easier for White to play than for Black.
Shankland Teaches the Najdorf 6.f4 at Chess.com
A preview of a Chess.com video, available to subscribers, which begins laying out the basic ideas for White and Black in the Najdorf and the ideas behind 6.f4, recommending 6...e5 7.Nf3 Nbd7 8.a4 as the natural continuation.
This might be called the "simplified Svesh," as White avoids the long and well-trodden paths of 7.Bg5 for the exchange line 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5, fixing the pawn center and giving the game a more strategic character. White can play this line in a few ways, but my links below focus on two: (1) the tricky and tactical 8...Nb8 9.Qf3!? meeting 9...a6 by 10.Qa3 pinning the a-pawn so that the Knight can remain on b5 and preparing a direct piece assault on the backward d-pawn by Bd2-b4, and (2) the solid 8...Nb8 9.c4 planning an eventual f4! to hault Black's kingside ambitions before getting on with the business of a queenside attack with c5. The latter will hold up best long-term, but the former makes for some fun games and perhaps an interesting side-line.
The Comeback of the e5 Sicilians by Stefan Bücker This article not only covers our preferred variation but also throws in great coverage of the Lowenthal (5...a6) and Haberditz (5...Nf6 6.N1c3 h6!?) The focus is, however, on the tricky 8...Nb8 9.Qf3!? of Paragua - Poliakov, Goa India 2002 and Solleveld-Alekseev, Santo Domingo 2003. The line was discussed in SOS #1 by Jeroen Bosch. Bücker offers an important improvement on earlier analysis that might just make this line viable for human players despite what some "Centaur analysis" might suggest. In any case, it is good also to know the more positional variations discussed below.
Dvoirys - Heedt, Biel 2005
A useful GM-amateur game that shows the ideal situation for White in this line -- though it involves the idea of a4-a5 instead of the c4 that I advocate.
Transpo Tips: Black can try to reach the Sveshnikov while side-stepping the 7.Nd5 line via different early-e6 move orders, but the f4 system I recommend will generally keep play in our ballpark. White also needs to be prepared for the other ...e5 lines, especially the Haberditz and Lowenthal discussed by Bücker above. Strong play against the Lowenthal was demonstrated in the game Robson - Vigorito, which I have annotated.
4) Paulsen and Kan (B48)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 followed generally by Be3, Bd3, O-O and eventual f4 advance. This is much more straight-forward than the g3 "Guseinov Gambit" lines I've written about here previously.
Paulsen System with Bd3 by IM Zoran Ilic
From the Archives, features White playing an early Be3 and Bd3 against Black's e6 system.
5) Pin Variation, Koch's Refutation (B40)
The ultra-sharp Pin Variation (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4) has become popular among amateurs, but Koch's 6.e5 looks practically like a refutation.
Supplemental Material Black has a number of sidelines that you need to know as White. I may add more material here and welcome reader recommendations.
Kovacevic vs Pazos-Gambarrotti at Chessgames
A solid response to 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 d5!? is 5. Bb5, which practically forces a favorable ending for White -- as analyzed in depth by Gary Lane in Opening Lanes #124 at ChessCafe.
Tofte - Wohl, Arctic Challenge 2009 at Chessgames
This looks like a good approach to the Grivas (early Qb6), which represents essentially a transposition to the f4 lines considered above. The main line Grivas for White typically involves an ultra-aggressive g4 and O-O-O here, but I think White does better with the more circumspect O-O treatment that Tofte demonstrates.
Against the Nimzovich Variation with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6, you can play 3.e5 but it is complicated and not necessarily better for White (see, for example, Andrew Martin Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 -- also here and here -- and a recent Gary Lane piece that ignores Martin's recommendations for Black). Easiest may be to head back to main lines with 3.Nc3, though you need to be prepared for 3...d5!? when White's simplest option may be represented by Movsesian - Markos 2001.