My last couple posts didn’t have any chess positions in them, but the Candidates Cycle debate has pretty much ended on its own, so back to some actual games.
A couple days ago, I was talking to somebody who brought up a game I played against a then-untitled David Pruess at an IM-norm event in 2000. Like a number of our games, this one is probably not suitable for young children (cover your eyes!), as we reached a totally irrational position where David put piece after piece en prise.
r2q1k1r/pb2bpp1/1pn1p3/2pnP2p/2N2P2/2P4Q/PP2B1PP/RNB1K2R b KQ - 0 13)
It’s already funky, as what could have been a normal King’s Indian Attack (KIA) against a Sicilian with 2…e6 left the reservation on move 6. Black should get his queenside going with 13…b5 here, as he’d have some plus after 14.Nca3 (14.Ne3 drops the f4-pawn) b4 15.Nc2 bxc3. Black’s given up the right to castle, but the rest of his pieces make some sense, which is more than you can say about their White counterparts.
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 …