Monthly Archives: May 2011

What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?

[I seem to get a good number of readers, but not so many comments. This is one post where I really would appreciate some feedback. Apologies for the length … I bolded the most important parts!]

The Candidates Matches for the current Championship Cycle ended a couple days ago, and Boris Gelfand came out on top.

I somehow managed to guess Grischuk – Gelfand for the final match, but in the final, I had Grischuk advancing. Gelfand was a worthy winner, of course, but somehow, I think that Grischuk would have proved a more difficult opponent for Anand.

However, the matches have drawn a lot of criticism, some of it reasonable, some much less so in my view. There were two common threads amongst the unreasonable complaints in my view.

The first is that the winner was undeserving. It’s hard to imagine a chump coming out of these Candidates Matches, but because Gelfand was not a favorite (I certainly did not expect him to win it, even up to the final game), that doesn’t mean he was undeserving.

Aronian was generally considered the favorite before the event, but after failing to win an easily won endgame in Game 1 against Grischuk, he wasn’t able to break through later on, and then lost in the rapid tiebreaks, 2.5-1.5. Nothing fishy, he lost under the rules of the system.

The second is that these Matches were “boring” because of the high draw rate. With only 3 wins in 30 classical games, the 90% draw rate trumps even the 87% draw-rate in the “snooze-fest” that was Kasparov – Kramnik, London 2000. Nobody was holding me hostage in either event.

The chief offender here was apparently Grischuk because of some short draws with the White pieces. GM Moradiabadi, in commenting for ChessBase, apparently called some of his games disgusting (later revised to disappointing). Of course, Elshan’s handful of draws as white under 10 moves in the past decade are probably not as bad.

I’m not so surprised that 90% of the games ended in a draw. It’s very difficult to beat a strong chessplayer, and these guys are incredibly strong chessplayers. Grischuk saved some tough positions against Aronian and Kramnik, so should we knock him for being good enough to save those positions that most would have lost?

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Will Second for Food

The Candidates Matches are going on right now (the 2nd round will start tomorrow with Gelfand-Kamsky and Kramnik-Grischuk), but there was one game from the first round that caught my eye.

(FEN: 5rk1/1q1nbppp/rpp1pn2/2Pp4/1P1P1B2/2N1PN1P/2Q2PP1/1R3RK1 b - - 0 15)

This was the position after 15.Qc2 from the 4th rapid (tiebreak) game between Grischuk and Aronian. The match featured a bunch of various QGDs, but this was one was interesting to me because I have played this line from both colors and spent some time making a more thorough study of the position last spring before the US Championship (where I played the QGD for the first time).

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Greatest Hits of the 2000s, Game 2

The trophy at stake (picture from FM Jonathan Berry) doubled as a functional teapot

In my last post, I detailed how I started off against Bu Xiangzhi in the US-China Chess Summit of 2001. After that embarrassing start, team captain GM Nick De Firmian showed some faith and sent me back out the next day to board 1. This time I got the white pieces.

A 3.Bb5+ Sicilian arose (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+), but Bu avoided the main lines with 3…Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Nbxd7. After 5.0-0 Ngf6 6.Qe2 g6 (6…e6 is much more popular), I played 7.c3. The game continued with 7…Bg7 8.d4 cxd4 9.cxd4, and it already looks to me like White is better. Black either has to allow e4-e5 (and maybe e5-e6), or he continues as Bu did with 9…e5.

(FEN: r2qk2r/pp1n1pbp/3p1np1/4p3/3PP3/5N2/PP2QPPP/RNB2RK1 w kq e6 0 10)

Now that I look at it, Black was 2-0 with this line at the time our game, so maybe it was part of Bu’s preparation. I only played 1.e4 back then, with a couple anti-Sicilians as part of my repertoire. Of them, the Rossolimo/3.Bb5+ lines were my most serious lines, so this line couldn’t have been a surprise for him.

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