Category Archives: Uncategorized

Match and Rematch Stats

The 2014 Candidates Tournament is in the books, and as you probably know, Anand took 1st place! In so doing, he set up a rematch with Magnus Carlsen (currently scheduled for end of this year), the first World Championship rematch since Kasparov-Karpov in 1990.

He’s also the first ex-Champion to re-qualify via a Candidates Cycle (tournament or match format). There’ve been plenty of rematches in the past, but most were via an automatic rematch clause that most Champions enjoyed from the 1930s through the 1980s.

Also, since then, I’d say the chess world has generally advanced at a faster pace and so if you were Champion and then lost the title, it was probably a sign that your time was up rather more than it used to be in the 1950s, for example.

Anyway, sometime last summer, after seeing Anand beat Topalov in Norway, I became interested in figuring out how World Championship match opponents did against each following their match. I resurrected that old analysis and then added some stuff in for rematches. Here’s what I found …

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Say what?

I recently saw a link to the following article about Magnus Carlsen.

Normally, SMH on the internet stands for “shaking my head” in response to something ludicrous. Here, the SMH is Sydney Morning Herald, but it could just as well have been the more common internet definition …

Here’s how the writer introduces Carlsen:

I have read he is easily bored (there is a theory that Carlsen sometimes deliberately loses the first few games in a tournament in order to make life more interesting); probably shy (in an interview for The New Yorker he barely made eye contact with the journalist) and possibly arrogant.

There’s a theory that he “sometimes deliberately loses the first few games” to spice things up?!

Given he’s averaged only a few losses in classical play the past few years, this is an easy one to check … and nope!

Not only have his losses not come early on, but they were important enough to the final standings that he probably didn’t do it on purpose. At least the author tried to address the 2nd and 3rd rumors in that sentence in the article …

Pew! Pew! Pew!

After Kasparov’s retirement, there doesn’t seem to have been much sniping among more than just a couple top players. The one that sticks out was the Kramnik – Topalov match of 2006, but outside of those two, there haven’t been many shots fired I think. If the past month or two are any indication, that’s about to change!

Back in February, Nakamura went on the record in New In Chess that he felt that he is “the biggest threat to Carlsen.” That was the soundbite quote, but there was a bit of nuance in that he really was referring to long-term threat.

He further tempered that in a subsequent interview that can be read here (with help from Google Translate for most of us I imagine) where he says:

Aronian’s probably a bigger threat than me right now, but outside of him I am right behind. I have a chance. If I do not have confidence that I can beat him, what’s the point of playing then?”

This all happened after Magnus’s Bay Area visit and I also don’t get NIC, so it’s not like I could ask about this, but the 2nd interview above has a shot of Carlsen and Nielsen walking to the Zurich tournament hall with this reaction – who knows if they’re joking about the magazine, but it’s quite the coincidental shot if not!

Carlsen Reaction

Then this happened at Zurich.

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Testing the Play Magnus App

A few days back, the Play Magnus app was released for Apple iOS. I got to test this app out at the dinner event back in mid-January and got one practice game in to the engine (a loss) before my game with Magnus (leaving me 0-2 on the night in blitz chess).

The app includes an engine, videos, and a “golden ticket” like drawing that are all geared towards building his brand. The engine is what I’ve used it for so far – it’s meant to try and mimic his strength, style, and opening choices at various ages which is a pretty cool idea if it’s pulled off.

I’ve stuck to playing ages 12 – 14, and the opening choices do change dramatically by age while the engine does go up in strength. It seems to take more and more (unfounded) tactical risks at the younger ages, so I’ve beaten it consistently at age 12. I haven’t had quite as much luck when moving up the ladder – I’m stuck at 50% in a bunch of games against age-13 and scoreless in just a couple games against age-14. Of course, as many of the articles talking about the app release state, he lost to “himself” a couple times at age 14 (for example, this one at ChessVibes), so I don’t feel too bad yet.

One of those losses must have come around the time of his Bay Area visit – in talking to Anders Brandt (the tallest person in the picture below), he mentioned that Magnus lost at 14.

IMG_0650

(l-r: Espen Agdestein, me [while struggling to survive], Anders Brandt; photo by Charlotte Fiorito)

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Some Self Promotion … and Predictions Gone Wrong

These are relatively old news now, but I was planning to post them here, so I’ll stick with that. They are two similar articles, one published in the Kasargod daily Uttaradesha (the district in which my paternal grandparents live) and the other (the scanned image below) published in Havyaka Varthe, a Mangalore (a bigger city, a bit north of Kasargod) publication.

Interview in Uttaradesha

Interview in Havyaka Varthe

The interview was conducted by my uncle (Chandrashekhar Bhat) when I was in India in late November/early December 2013, maybe a week after the end of the Anand-Carlsen match.

As I’ve written here before, I said then that I thought Anand would likely skip the Candidates and largely retire from active play in 2014. I was definitely wrong about the Candidates, and for the moment, it looks like I’m wrong on the active play part too!

I’m hoping he does well in the soon-to-be-starting Candidates, but I still can’t say that I have high hopes … A middle of the pack finish is what I’d expect for now.

The Tale of the Tape

Yesterday I posted the game with some notes, today (after hours of uploading), I managed to get one of the videos onto YouTube.

Here it is, in all its hand-held glory (by the way, credit goes to my friend Dan Zaelit who took the video with my phone):

(youtube link is here)

There’s another version out there too (taken by my friend Ashraf), as well as shorter clips floating around on Facebook.

Looking at the video now, it’s interesting to see how expressive Magnus is during the game. It looks to me like he thought things would be simpler early on, but then became increasingly concerned as the game wore on until he was finally able to smile at the very end.

One other thing I realized from the bughouse and blitz games (and this was confirmed in between the two by his team), is that Magnus is ultra-competitive and hates losing even a casual game.

Apparently, he had lost a casual game against a computer a couple days prior and he was still sore about it at this event. Magnus overheard that little comment to me and shot a glare in our direction.

Anyway, this was a pretty memorable game and the dinner wasn’t bad afterwards either! I’ve met Karpov, Kasparov, and Anand (in that order), but of those 3, Anand is the only one who I’ve exchanged even more than just a couple words with, and I’ve never played a game against any of them.

Before Magnus then, the closest I came to playing a World Champion was a casual game against David Bronstein in the early 1990s (he was just under 70 years old, while I was about 9). Maybe at some point I’ll post that game, but it got ugly in a hurry. The Max Lange Attack doesn’t cut it against people of that class!

Moral and Not So Moral Victories

Amazingly, it’s been almost 3 weeks since World Champion Magnus Carlsen visited the Bay Area. I’ve been meaning to write about meeting and playing some chess with him, but somehow I hadn’t quite found the time until today.

I had seen Magnus before (for example in Mainz 2008), but we had never really met or spoken. The occasion this time was a dinner at Joe Lonsdale Jr’s house in Woodside (attended by about 30 people). When we shook hands, he shocked me immediately when he said that he reads this blog on occasion, although he admitted he used to read it more when I was playing regularly!

He also told me about how he first heard about me, after a game of mine against GM Wang Yue from China in 2002 showed up in New In Chess. It was a Bb5+ Sicilian where he remembered some nice tactical sequences I used, but also that I didn’t manage to win from a much better position. The game can be found on chessgames here and the sequence he described starts with 15.a5!, the point being that if 16…Re8, then 17.Nab5! will lead to the queen being trapped.

After chatting for a bit (and being floored by the fact that the World Champion was telling me about how he heard about me, not the other way around), we played a game of bughouse, but not against each other. We were partnered with players around 1500 or so, and while both of us were winning our games, I dominated my side a couple minutes sooner and so we beat Magnus and his partner. The only drama for me was when they would give up the ghost.

Soon after, I got to play Magnus a blitz game, 5 minutes per side. I got the white pieces and had to make my first real decision as early as move 5:

Bhat - Carlsen 1

(FEN: rn1qkb1r/p1pp1ppp/bp2pn2/8/2PP4/5NP1/PP2PP1P/RNBQKB1R w KQkq - 0 5)

Depending on the opponent, I’ve switched between 3.Nc3 allowing a Nimzo and 3.Nf3. And against the Queen’s Indian, I’ve played a bunch of moves in this position, but it’s been at least 1.5 years since I last looked at anything here. So naturally, instead of any one of the moves I’ve played before (5.Qa4, 5.Qb3, and 5.Qc2), I decided to play 5.b3.

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Time and Tide Wait for No Man

The Anand-Carlsen match is well in the books, and while I was in India for the tail end of the match, I didn’t have much internet time to be writing blog posts. With a couple weeks passing since I came back (Happy Festivus! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year, soon enough! yada yada yada …), these aren’t terribly timely, but I wanted to share a couple thoughts on the match and the aftermath.

I suspected after Game 6 in a Berlin that Anand’s strategy was to try and hold the balance for as long as he could (and maybe hope that Magnus would falter under psychological pressure), but it was only during the 8th game that I was certain of that. By playing the Berlin as Black in game 8 down 2 points, it finally became clear to me that Anand had planned for this match completely differently than I had expected.

While in the Kramnik and Topalov matches he made a conscious effort to target his opponent’s relative weaknesses (concrete play and strategic play at virtually any cost, respectively), he decided to work on his endurance and play in equal positions for this match – in other words, try to meet Magnus’s strength head-on in this one. That approach failed miserably this time.

Of course, when he did finally take the gloves off in Game 9, he lost thanks to yet another bad blunder in an objectively equal position, but that style of play was more of what I was expecting and that was the only time he got any advantage as White. So I’d like to say I was right, but if he was still going to make those kinds of blunders, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

There’s some question about whether he’ll play in the Candidates in March 2014. In an interview with an Indian paper just after the match, I said I thought he’d retire from active play in 2014 (for now, he’s only got Zurich on the calendar in February 2014) and I’m sticking with that. He’s still talking a good game, but I think he’ll back out before the late-January deadline and give Caruana a way into the event.

As for why? I think there are a multitude of reasons, one of which is that he is a realist about his slide in form, so he doesn’t seem to have the requisite foolish pride to try and make one last run at it. And among the many other reasons, losing hurts. Real bad.

I’m currently reading Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open, and the first chapter (“The End”) is both amazing in itself and also extremely relatable for a professional chessplayer in many ways (maybe more on this later).

“Now that I’ve won a slam, I know something very few people on earth are permitted to know. A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad. Not even close.”

Lisa, A Chess Novel

I haven’t blogged in a couple weeks as I had gone to India following the USCL Semifinal match. My original plans were to see some of the World Championship games in Chennai, but that didn’t quite materialize as planned.

Now that I’m back home, I might have more to say about that match soon, but in the meantime, I really should mention a novel written by GM Jesse Kraai: Lisa, A Chess Novel. It’s available on Amazon and there’s more about the author at his site.

As usual for me, I buy more books than I have time to read, so while it came out almost two months ago, I still haven’t finished it yet! Still, early reviews are good and it looks like an interesting read. Enjoy!

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: http://youtu.be/g_6memS77L8?t=8m1s

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.