Monthly Archives: November 2013

A Broken Record

After our win against LA last week, we faced Miami in the USCL Semifinals yesterday. With newly minted GM Daniel Naroditsky on Board 2, FM Yian Liou on 3, and soon to be NM Siddharth Banik on board 4, I was actually the “old man” of a talented team with hopes of winning it all. Unfortunately, we lost the match and dropped to 0-4 against the Sharks in the USCL Playoffs.

At this point, I have to ask – what is Miami doing in Western Conference anyway? Maybe they can swap with Philadelphia: at least they’re not right on the EASTERN coastline! I’m sure at least Dallas would vote for realignment at this point too …

My own game was the quickest of the match. Due to their better regular season record, Miami chose White on Boards 1 and 3, so I had Black versus GM Julio Becerra. There are a number of strong players in the league, but Becerra is by far the USCL leader in terms of wins. And with the white pieces in normal league games, he’s been incredibly strong – by my count, 21 wins, 18 draws, and only 1 loss for a 2698 FIDE performance rating against opposition with an average FIDE rating of 2507. His last loss in any tournament as White in my database was in 2011. All this is to say that while I would have liked to win, my primary goal was to at least hold the line as Black.

For the 4th time this year, I played the Winawer French, and for the second straight match, I played (or was allowed to play) the Poison Pawn Variation (full game here). This marks the 5th time I’ve played it, and amusingly, the 1st time I did was also against Becerra in the USCL (that game can be found here).

Becerra - Bhat 2013 1

(FEN: r1b1k1r1/ppq1np1Q/2n1p3/3pP3/5P2/P1p5/2P1N1PP/R1B1KB1R w KQq - 0 12)

Last week, Melik played the normal 12.Qd3 here and that is what Julio played against me back in 2008. This time though, he responded immediately with 12.Nxc3. It now seems like an obvious move, but this wasn’t always the case, and looking back at my notes for that 2008 game with Becerra, I had no mention of 12.Nxc3 in my preparation. In the past couple years though, Karjakin and Svidler have chosen it in serious games, so it has some pedigree now and I had looked at it in advance of the Melik game. I had not focused on it for Becerra though, as I had predicted some other lines from him.

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Float Like a Butterfly

Game 2 was also a draw, a few more moves compared to Game 1 but relatively quicker in real time. The Caro-Kann makes sense to me for Carlsen, as Anand’s generally direct style leads to a lot of draws against it, unlike say his record against various Sicilian lines or Closed Lopez lines where he’s got more room to work. Still, I don’t think Magnus is going to remain stationary (at least with the Capablanca Variation of the Caro) if Anand plays 1.e4 in Game 4. Apparently, Anand doesn’t particularly mind the Berlin and Magnus decided not to enter it either, both of which are real surprises to me. Either way, though, I still don’t think 1.e4 is the way to go for Anand in this match.

What was a bit disappointing for me was that Anand won a game in this line earlier in the year (against Ding Liren), but while he varied first with 14.0-0-0 (pretty much the only move ever played it seems, as opposed to the 14.Qe2 he played in that one game), he didn’t have anything new after that.

Anand - Carlsen Game 2 2013 1

(FEN: r4rk1/pp2bpp1/2p1p2p/3qP3/3PQ2P/2P5/PP1B2P1/2KR3R w - - 0 18)

The critical moment it seems – Anand considered 18.Qg4, but he went with the quiet 18.Qxd5 and a draw was agreed not too long afterwards with a repetition.

Frankly, the position after 18.Qg4 doesn’t seem all that dangerous for White. Magnus might have been cagey with his “I was planning to play 18…Kh7” instead of the established sequence of 18…f5 19.Qg6 Qxa2 20.Bxh6 Rf7. Established as in it was worked out to a draw in a recent correspondence game, which is good enough for me.

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From the Peanut Gallery

Well, that was interesting – a 16-move draw in the first game of the Championship match.

It was a Reti (an opening I suggested was quite likely, but frankly I didn’t expect it in Game 1) turned Fianchetto Grunfeld, but one that was quite harmless after the shockingly ignored 9…dxc4! 10.bxc4 Nb6 after the following position was reached:

Carlsen - Anand Game 1 2013

(FEN: r2q1rk1/pp1nppbp/2p2np1/3p1b2/2PP4/1PN2NP1/PB2PPBP/R2Q1RK1 b - - 0 9)

After the subsequent 11.c5 Nc4 12.Bc1 Nd5 13.Qb3 Na5 14.Qa3 Nc4 15.Qb3 the game was drawn with one more repetition:

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Anyway, back to prognosticating. I’ll go out on a limb and say: Anand will win the match (possibly in tiebreaks), he will use both 1.e4 and 1.d4 as white, and will largely use a Nimzo move order of 1…Nf6 and 2…e6 as Black against 1.d4.

– Vinay Bhat, before the Anand-Gelfand World Championship Match in 2012

Not a bad prediction, if I may say so myself. The Nimzo move order didn’t quite come true for much of the match, as he only played it twice as opposed to the Semi-Slav four times in the regular portion. However, Anand did win in tiebreaks, so that’s not so bad.

In that post, I also wrote “Either way, I think this [the Gelfand one] is the last World Championship that Anand can win, so if he has to pass the baton, I’d rather it go to one of those two (Carlsen or Aronian) than to anybody else.”

Some time has passed since then and Anand definitely has been making some improvements in late 2012 and through much of 2013, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to offset Magnus’s simply better form now. So my brain says +2 for Magnus (6.5 – 4.5, over in 11 games), and I have some worries that it’ll be a bit like the Kasparov – Kramnik match from 2000 in that Kasparov made no headway really and was never in the driver’s seat. In fact, Kasparov was somewhat lucky that the score only ended as +2 for Kramnik and didn’t even seem to be fighting in some of the games.

That said, I’ve always been an Anand fan and I’m hoping for a great match. I think there’s a pretty short list of people who – at the height of their powers – could play with Magnus when Magnus is in best form (or whatever 2870 buys you these days). Anand is one of them, and if he can get himself back into physical and mental shape, then who knows.

Some of my colleagues have been asking me more about chess recently  some even showing up to the USCL games at the Mechanics Institute which is just a few blocks from our office. One analogy that I tried to make was that this is a bit like LeBron and Kobe going at it one-on-one now, with Magnus as the younger, stronger, and better player, but Kobe as the aging and wounded “Lion in Winter” who can still put together a brilliant performance but can also turn in a real clunker from the field as well.

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Playoffs? Playoffs.

We’re already past the first round of the USCL playoffs, but as I haven’t written about any of our prior matches, I’ll have to fill in the back-story over the next few weeks. In the meantime, SF has advanced to the Semifinals!

Like in 2011, we were facing the LA Vibe, but unlike that year, we had draw odds in the match by virtue of winning the Pacific Division pretty handily. Our lineup was youth heavy with me as the elder statesman (!) on board 1 followed by GM Daniel Naroditsky, FM Yian Liou, and Siddharth Banik.

On Board 1, I had the black pieces versus GM Melik Khachiyan (follow link to play through the whole game). Melik and I have played a few times before, and in both games with the black pieces, I chose 1…e5 (one Ruy Lopez Exchange that was drawn and one Italian Game that I won). This time around though, I decided to mix it up with the French and even more so, with the 12…d4 version of the Winawer Poison Pawn.

Khachiyan - Bhat USCL 2013 1

(FEN: R1BK1B1R/PP1N1P2/4Qp1P/2P1p3/3P4/3p1n2/2pn1qpp/1r1k1b1r)

While I’ve long played the French against 1.e4, I didn’t start out playing the Winawer and this actually marks the 4th time that I’ve played the Poisoned Pawn Variation. I started with the 3.Nc3 Nf6 lines, switching over to mostly the Winawer starting in the mid-2000s. But after becoming a GM, I went back to 1…e5 (which I played before the French), albeit with the Lopez instead of the Petroff or other lines. All this is to say that when another annotator writes something like, “Vinay Bhat is a French, in particular, a Poisoned Pawn devotee” (when annotating 1 of the now 4 Poison Pawn games I’ve played), take it with a grain of salt.

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Guess Who’s Back? Back Again

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Your blogger-in-hiding hopes to make a return over the next few weeks, partly to write about the upcoming Anand – Carlsen match, but also because I’ve been playing a few games again in the US Chess League!

For now though, I refer you to the following:

I heard about this video from Dennis Monokroussos’s blog (The Chess Mind) and the stretch he refers to in that entry is pretty amazing to watch. Start around 8 minutes in and you’ll see Karpov fidgeting a bit, but pretty calmly resigning and losing the Championship Match in 1987.

I’ve definitely reacted worse to some losses, but maybe given the adjournment break and some time to consider the sizable audience watching, I might have not completely embarrassed myself in his shoes. But not only does Karpov shake hands and sign the scoresheets, he calmly puts his pen in his jacket pocket and starts analyzing the endgame with Kasparov!

Gelfand’s no slouch in the upstanding-citizen department, but when he lost to Anand in the Championship tiebreaks last year, he shook hands, said a few words of congratulations, and then got up and left. No hanging around to figure out where he might have gone wrong or to look at some alternatives. Pretty normal if you ask me, but Karpov reacts like he’s just lost a casual weekend game.