Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Is the Bishop pair worth a pawn?

Having just bagged out the 2018 Gashimov Memorial, I've return to the tournament to discover some interesting games. Topalov broke the run of draws in round 4 beating Mamedyarov, and followed it up with a win in round 5 over Navara. Carlsen then got into the act, beating Wojtaszek in the same round.
Topalov's win over Navara contained a lot of interesting ideas and tactics. One thing that struck me was what was happening around move 20, where Navara won a pawn but conceded the Bishop pair. Obviously 2B v BN favours the Bishops, but is it worth a full pawn. Based on subsequent play, Navara may well have thought so, as Topalov offered an exchange of queens on move 25, which Navara declined. To my mind, if Navara thought he could cope with the Bishop's he would have swapped off, otherwise he wanted to keep as many pieces on the board as possible.
In the end Topalov got the ending he was looking for, and with all the major pieces off the board, was able to win back the pawn, and convert the ending.


Navara,David (2745) - Topalov,Veselin (2749) [A07]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2018 Shamkir AZE (5.1), 23.04.2018


Sunday, 22 April 2018

Suppose they threw a tournament and nobody won

On paper, the 2018 Gashimov Memorial looks like it could be a very interesting event. And it kind of is, just not on the leader board. As I type this, 4 players lead on 2/4, with the remaining 6 players on 1.5/3 (as their games are still going). Given that every game so far has ended in a draw, having a 10 way tie for 1st place at the end of the day is quite possible.
To be honest, this does kind of surprise me, as there are a couple of 'fighters' in the event. On the other hand, having a field of players rated so closely together (including 3 players within a single point of each other), does lead to this kind of outcome.
As the time zone is more favourable for live games in this part of the world, I will probably keep an eye on the tournament, but seeing everyone inch forward half a point at a time is not a great inducement.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Not all FM's (or CM's) are created equal

Quite a remarkable result from the 2018 Bangkok Open, with Indonesian FM Novendra Priasmoro winning the tournament with a very impressive 8/9. After starting with a first round draw against a 1927 rated WIM, he ran off 7 straight wins, before drawing with GM Nigel Short in the final round. Along the way he defeated GM's Moulthun Ly, Anton Smirnov and Hrant Melkumyan. earning himself a GM norm.
Almost as impressive was the equal third placed finish by CM D Gukesh, who scored 7/9, and earned an IM norm. Gukesh, who is 12 years old, does have a rating of 2400, but seemingly has not bothered to claim his FM title at this stage.
Of the Australian players, GM Anton Smirnov did the best with 6.5/9. A couple of Canberra players also made the trip across, with WIM Emma Guo and Albert Winkelman both scoring 5/9.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Sometimes you have to play good moves

The US Championships has just started in St Louis, once again attracting a strong field. Caruana, Nakamura and So are the top seeds, and given the gap between themselves and the rest of the field, should take the top 3 spots. But as this is an olympiad year, the rest of the field might be aiming for the sort of performance that gets you on the defending champions team.
One player who has got off to a good start is former Doeberl Cup winner Varuzhan Akobian. He scored a 25 move win over Alexander Onischuk, using the Dutch Defence. Playing through the game it seemed that White was making most of the aggressive moves, but as it turned out, this only forced good replies from Akobian. Around move 18, Akobian suddenly got his d pawn running and after Onischuk failed to find the best defence it was all over.


Onischuk,Alexander (2672) - Akobian,Varuzhan (2647) [A84]
US-ch Men 2018 Saint Louis (1), 18.04.2018


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Champion of the Champions

(The question below was originally directed to me on Quora. As one of the reasons why I'm blogging a little less is because of Quora, I decided to balance the scales by reposting the answer here)

Hypothetically, who would win a tournament featuring all the world chess champions in history at the peak of their form? Who would be an outsider?


It would certainly be a fun tournament, although I suspect their may be some disputes about who would be allowed to play. So for the sake of this answer I’m using the list of players from here List of World Chess Championships - Wikipedia but excluding unofficial champions before Steinitz, as well as Knockout World Champions (sorry Khalifman, Ponomariov and Kasimdzhanov). By my count this means there are 17 players in the tournament.


Now for some rules. To be fair the event will be a 17 player double round robin. The players will obviously know what they already know, but to make it fair for all, each player will be allowed only one second, and no computers will be allowed (either for the player or second). There will be rest day after every 4 rounds. The time limit will be 40 moves in 100 minutes (plus 30 second increment) followed by 20 moves in 50 minutes (plus 30 seconds increment) followed by an additional 30 minutes (plus 30 second increment) for the rest of the game.


Before I get onto my likely winners some comments on the rest of the field


Steintz and Euwe are likely to struggle. While both have had plenty of tournament experience they would be the likely targets for everyone else.


Tal, Alekhine and Topalov would be the real wildcards in the event. While I can’t see them winning, each of them could have a significant impact on the final result.


Capablanca, Smyslov, Karpov and Botvinnik would probably be mid-field players at best. While tough to overcome, I could see each of them content to draw games they found disagreeable. However the ‘tournament within the tournament’ between them would be fascinating.


Spassky, Anand, Lasker and Kramnik would be the tournament pragmatists. Even with a bad start, they would be dangerous throughout, and if they had a good start, then they would be even harder to beat. I would predict Anand and Spassky to finish in the top 6, with Lasker and Kramnik in the top half.


Petrosian kind of sits out on his own. Incredibly difficult to beat (unless you are Fischer) he might come into his own in the second half of the tournament, as the more recent world champions begin to tire (34 rounds is a tough schedule).


That leaves Fischer, Kasparov and Carlsen. These are my top 3. Fischer has the edge over the other 2 in playing longer tournaments, as well as his experience in working on his own (no computers remember). Kasparov has the edge in terms of opening theory, while Carlsen has a will to win that seems only to be matched by Fischer (and would be younger than the other 2 in this event). But if I had to pick a finishing order then it would be (1) Fischer, (2) Carlsen and (3) Kasparov.


If I had to pick a shock winner outside these 3, then it would be Spassky.

Monday, 16 April 2018

And then there's sandbagging

Following on from my last post, some other claims of unethical behaviour is in the chess news. From the US comes a story of a team winning a rating restricted national school championship, after losing a (rated) warm up match 0-28 in the months leading up to the tournament. Other teams were quick to draw attention to these somewhat mixed performances, and the whole thing is now under investigation.
In any sport where players are classified by previous performance, under performing is always an issue. Golf and professional running spring to mind, but I'm sure there are plenty of others. US chess events were plagued by this issue for a number of years, so much so that the USCF eventually introduced a policy on rating 'floors' to deal with it.
It hasn't been that much of an issue in Australia, although there are a couple of well known players who never quite seem to crack the 1600 rating level, despite doing well in Under 1600 events. Of greater trouble in Australia has been how to deal with unrated players, as for most, the lowest section of an event is the correct place to be, but every now and then, there is an exception that causes an issue. The provision of an unrated prize in the bottom section does help, but again this isn't always the perfect solution.
My most recent attempt at dealing with the issue is to take advantage of the prevalence of online chess and at least use a players online rating as a source of information (with sensible modifications for rating inflation). It isn't always perfect, but it is better than outright guessing.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Still not getting it right

Another high profile case involving accusations of cheating has recently blown up, although in this case it was the accuser who ended up in trouble. GM Evgeniy Solozhenkin was suspend for 18 months by the FIDE Ethics Commission, after an investigation concerning the World Girls Under 14 Championship last year.
Solozhenkin's daughter was playing in the tournament, and reported an opponents suspicious behaviour to her father. At this stage Solozhenkin seemed to do the right thing, by making a report to the arbiters, and making a formal complaint to the FIDE Anti-Cheating Commission. And if he had left it at that he would have been fine.
However, he then made this accusation public, and compounded his error by making other accusations against the player in a public forum (and not to the ACC). At this point the mother of the player concerned filed a complaint with the FIDE Ethics Commission. After a hearing the Ethics Commission sanctioned Solozhenkin, not for the initial complaint, but for his other statements.
Unless it can be demonstrated that complains to the ACC are clearly malicious, there is no penalty for making a formal complaint. Even if no evidence of cheating is found, as it was in this case, there is no blow-back to the complainant.  But what you can't do is to go shooting off your mouth to all and sundry, as you can find yourself in trouble. So in this case the process almost worked for Solozhenkin, until he decided to shoot himself in the foot.
For more info on this (plus a number of comments), click on this link.

(NB I was a member of the FIDE ACC when the initial regulations concerning formal reporting were drawn up)