Monthly Archives: January 2011

Knight Sacrifices on d4

The Tata Steel tournament is more than halfway through, and currently Anand and Nakamura share first place in the A group with 5.5/8. One of Anand’s wins earlier in the event caught my eye, and I thought I’d show a couple connections I made in m head when I saw that game.

(FEN: rn3rk1/ppq2ppp/4b3/nBP1p3/1Q2P3/P1P1BP2/4N1PP/R4RK1 w - - 0 16)

In the above position (from a 4.f3 Nimzo), Anand uncorked 16.Nd4!!, sacrificing a knight for a powerful phalanx of central pawns. After 16…exd4 17.cxd4 Nbc6 18.Qc3, Wang Hao tried to stop the march of the pawns with 18…Ne7. After 19.Rfd1, Black played 19…Rad8. The main point behind 19.Rfd1, as Anand said himself, was to draw a rook to d8, thereby taking that square away from the queen.

With d8 occupied, the transfer of the bishop to g3 becomes that much more powerful, and so 20.Bf2 not only reintroduces d5 as a threat (because after Black takes, White will still have the advantage of the two bishops), but threatens Bg3 to hit the queen that defends the Na5. White is already much better and Anand went on to win in smooth fashion.

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Name Changes, Openings, Predictions

The Tata Steel (formerly known as Wijk aan Zee, before being called Corus) super-tournament is underway now. The field is pretty much as good as it can get in my view. No “boring” 2700s were invited this time around. With two rounds already in the books, it’s a bit late for predictions, but I did think Anand might finally break his tournament-non-winning streak this year. For the B and C groups, I’ll go with McShane (I have to admit I was influenced by his 2/2 start) and then a tie between Bluvshtein and Vocaturo.

Anand did get off to a good start with a solid win as black against Ruslan Ponomariov. Back in Bilbao and Shanghai in late 2010, he played the Berlin every time against 1.e4. But in London, he played the Sicilian in all his black games, and he repeated his once-favorite Najdorf against Ponomariov. I remember Grischuk said something to the effect that “Ruslan doesn’t understand the Najdorf,” but I think that was mostly in regards to Pono on the black side.

The opening choice was also notable because a couple weeks ago, I had dinner with Hikaru Nakamura, Patrick Wolff (Anand’s former second), and John Donaldson. Hikaru contended that the Sicilian had been largely replaced at the top levels because it was no longer tenable for Black. Maybe Hikaru will change his mind, although I’m sure he’s focused enough on other openings. Grischuk actually said something similar about the Najdorf about a decade ago, but then he decided to make the Najdorf a central part of his Black repertoire …

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Blitz, Novelties, and the 2011 Berkeley International

The 2011 Berkeley International was wrapped up yesterday morning, and GM Loek Van Wely took clear first with 8.0/10. Arun Sharma did a great job in organizing the event, putting together a bigger, stronger, and better-designed event than the ones I was involved with in 2005, 2006 (only marginally), and 2008.

The tournament was also notable for the large number of norms that were achieved. Two Bay Area talents made what appear to be their final norms: IM Sam Shankland made his 3rd GM norm and FM Daniel Naroditsky made his 3rd IM norm. Congrats to them, and to the other norm winners.

One interesting game I noticed was between GM Davorin Kuljasevic and now IM-elect Conrad Holt in round 5 (Holt won the encounter on his way to his final IM norm). The game was a Slav, and Holt had just played 16…Nc8 to reach the position below:

(FEN: rnnq1rk1/pp2bppp/4p1b1/P1p5/3PP1P1/1B3P2/NP4NP/R1BQ1RK1 w - - 0 17)

At first glance, this may not seem like much of an opening success for Black, but White is also somewhat overextended and uncoordinated. The game continued 17.d5 Qxa5 18.dxe6 Nc6. Technically, this last move will enter the database as a novelty (I think, I haven’t updated my databases since August, so maybe it’s been played in the interim), but actually, I beat Van Wely with this move at the US Championship blitz tournament back in May. And to roll things back even further, it’s not even my novelty, having been published by FM James Vigus during the summer of 2008!

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In Harmony

I wrote in my last blog entry that while guessing Morphy games, I also spent some time learning simple (in terms of the number of pieces) endgames, like king and pawn endgames and minor piece endgames.

I only have had the bishop-and-knight mate once (never on the defending side), but it came just after I turned 7 years old! Amusingly, as that was one of the checkmates that Richard Shorman had taught me, I had some sense of what to do.

I was white against Edmund Rendler, both of us probably around 1100-rated players (my first USCF rating was 1000), and it was played at the Koltanowski (Kolty) Chess Club in Campbell, CA on July 18, 1991.

(FEN: 8/8/1N2k3/8/4KB2/8/8/8 w - - 0 90)

Actually, there was no reason for it to even get here. I had won a couple pieces in the middlegame, but instead of exchanging all the pieces and leaving just my extra material and pawns, I traded all the extra material and pawns, leaving myself with just the bishop and knight.

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The Comeback Kid

Happy new year to everybody, and best wishes for 2011.

I’m still entering a bunch of my old games (I think I started entering all my games in ChessBase from about 1997, and I only had select games before that), but I haven’t found the one game I’m looking for …

Anyways, this post is partly the result of some recent reading. On the recommendation of two friends, I just finished Josh Waitzkin’s 2007 book The Art of Learning on my way to/from work. Like him, I started learning chess “backwards” in a way, starting mostly with the endgame. If I remember correctly, the first book I read was called Every Great Chessplayer Was Once a Beginner, but that mostly introduces how the pieces move and so on. After that, while guessing at Morphy and Anderssen games, I spent a lot of time on basic endgame patterns (in king and pawn and minor piece endgames). The opening was a bit of an afterthought and so all sorts of unsound gambits were featured in my games.

Most of my scholastic opponents were especially weak compared to me in the endgame, and so it’s no huge surprise that I would routinely win pawn-down endgames like this one, especially as it isn’t all that easy for White to convert his advantage in this endgame (White was an 1800-rated player, I was 2150 or so).

(FEN: 2r3k1/pp3pp1/2r4p/3p4/3Pn3/1P2PN1P/PR3PP1/5RK1 w - - 0 22)

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