Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Marshall of Dortmund

Last weekend I visited Dortmund to see some top level chess.

Dortmund-1 Dortmund-7

In Dortmund they present the chess tournament in a theater (above, left). The chess boards are visualized to the spectators with a huge display above the stage (above, right). The moves are also automatically transmitted from the electronic boards to the Internet. This year the Internet transmission has a 15-minutes delay (the idea is that this should prevent cheating with a computer, but I doubt both that any cheating happens at the top level, and that this measure would be effective).

Dortmund-2 Dortmund-3

The first round saw the clash between the current world champion and the world number one. Vishy is now using the Slav regurlarly and achieved a draw with Black. In the second round Kramnik scored his first win - no presents for Gelfand on his birthday.

Dortmund-4 Dortmund-5

 The tournament combines four players that will play in the world championship tournament later this year in Mexico (Kramnik, Anand, Gelfand, and Leko) with one player from Germany (Naiditsch), and three young players (Carlsen, Alexeev, and Mamedyarov). Carlsen already has regular invitations to top events this year. Alexeev won the Russian championship and qualified via the Aeroflot open. Mamedyarov has established himself in the top ten.


I was very glad to see a real Marshall at top level, as I am getting a bit bored by the Mostly Harmless Anti Marshalls. So I was excited to be able to stand next to the game when they played the opening moves and take a photo of it.

I am not so sure about the move order they played in the game. Leko played the Adams-Variation move order with 17..Qh5, when 18.a4 Bf5 would lead into the Adams variation, or 18.a4 Re6 would transpose to the Spassky variation, which is the main line these days. Vishy played 18.Qf1 (see diagram on the left).

image   image

This allows Black to play 18..Bh3 and if White wants to avoid a repetition he would have to go into the Adams variation with 19.Bd1 Qf5 20.Qe2 a tempo down (he has not played a4).

However Peter played the game in Kramnik's I-am-the-wall (TM) style, accepting a slightly inferior endgame where White cannot win. In fact the position in the end (see diagram on the right) is still given as superior for White by all the silicon chess players, as White is a pawn up. But if you play out the position you realize that White cannot easily make any progress. Black's bishop pair seems to deny White the chances to activate his pieces or push his pawn.

Being confident with this plan, Peter didn't bother about Adams or Spassky variation, and introduced the move 18..Re7.


During the game I thought that after 19.a4 Rfe8 20.Bxd5 Qxd5 22.axb5 axb5 (see diagram) White should use the fact that there is no rook on the sixth rank by playing 22.Qg2 - if Black's queen moves away White can take on c6 and does not have to fear moves like Bxg3. After seeing the game I think that Black would just exchange queens after 22.Qg2 and try a similar endgame.

Can White find some ways to play this or is the Marshall just a draw? Food for thought.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

FIDE candidates final matches: round four preview

Shirov - Aronian

Shirov had prepared a very interesting new idea in the trendy Queen's Indian line that we already saw in the candidates in the Bareev - Polgar game.

Aronian found an interesting way to play for Black over the board. He sacrificed the Queen for Rook, Bishop, and Pawn, getting enough practical chances. Theoretically however, the situation is far from clear, and there should be improvements possible (for example 21.Bf4 is recommended by my Fritz).

Also while Aronian is to be praised for finding this line over the board, this doesn't mean that it is already the best possible. If after 12.Nc3 Black delays castling for a move, and plays 12..Nb4 immediately, or even 12..a6, the whole idea with 13.g4 does not seem to work at all.

Therefore I think Shirov will continue his hit-and-run tactic and test Aronian in another line.

Bareev - Leko

Leko played the Slav in game two. This must have been a minor surprise to Bareev, as Leko has played the Slav only on a few occasions before. Indeed Bareev used a lot of time and then suddenly offered a draw in a position that Peter still knew from his preparation.

I don't know if Leko has prepared the Slav especially for this match. He could not have known that Bareev would be his opponent - but maybe he prepared for all three possible opponents, including Polgar. Or he has generally prepared the Slav as a second defence against 1.d4.

In any case I think he wanted to avoid the Queen's Indian that Bareev played against Polgar, and that Shirov also played against Aronian (see above). The line is very new, White has a nice initiative, and it is not easy to avoid with Black. Many unexplored ways to play this line with White probably still exist, making it not easy for the Black player to prepare against it.

I expect Bareev to prepare something against the Slav or switch to 1.c4.

Rublevsky - Grischuk

In game two Grischuk made Rublevsky's Scottish opening look very harmless.

In game three Rublevsky followed my suggestion and switched to the Paulsen. Actually he followed both of my suggestions at once, and later transposed to the Scheveningen, but used a different setup from the first game. Grischuk then proceeded to play another great game, only to miss the win just before the time control.

So far Grischuk seems to refute Rublevsky's openings for breakfast - and they looked so solid against Ponomariov. Rublevsky should better come up with something soon, but it looks difficult.

Gelfand - Kamsky

Kamsky played a (very!) terrible game three. I guess Gata has shown that you can play without openings on this level. But playing without openings and then spending ages of time on the first few moves was really too much.

Kamsky now faces the second half of the match with a point and a White game down. I am afraid another Slav won't help here. Did I mention I was still waiting for the KID?


Thursday, June 07, 2007

FIDE candidates final matches: round three preview

In the first round three very interesting games and one quick draw were played. For round three it will be important to draw the right conclusions from the first round games. I would like to recommend the round one commentary on the official site. Here the analysis is very good. For example in the game Leko-Bareev Black had a chance to win at move 28:


Here 28..Ne4! was winning for Black. Instead, being in time trouble he played 28..g5? and lost a few moves later. The analysis from Chessbase doesn't mention this move, and in TWIC it is mentioned as interesting only.

Armed with this excellent analysis, we can make some thoughts about the round three games:

Aronian - Shirov

Shirov surprised (again) with the Queen's gambit accepted, which he hasn't played much recently, and then never the line played in the game with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dx4 3.e4 e5.

Shirov later made an interesting exchange sacrifice with 15..Nxe4. Again I would like to recommend the analysis from the official site. They show some important improvements for Black, including 18..Ne5!? and 19..Bc3!? Shirov however didn't follow up correctly and later lost the game.

I think Aronian, being in the lead would switch to a safer line against the Queen's gambit accepted, should Shirov repeat it in game three, for example 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3.

Being a point down, Shirov could decide to play something more aggresive, for example his usual Slav, or spring another surprise (I am still waiting for a King's Indian). Or he could play the Queen's gambit accepted again, with two remaining White games in the second half of the match.

Leko - Bareev

Bareev played again the Caro-Kann, as he did against Polgar. Leko apparently does not fear Bareev's 17..Rd5 and played the main line with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4. Bareev however switched to 4..Nd7 here.

I think Leko will play the main line Caro-Kann again. As I said above, his position in the game apparently wasn't too great - but there are enough alternatives, including the common 13.b3 instead of 13.Re1. There are also many alternatives for Black available, giving Bareev the opportunity to play different from game one.

Grischuk - Rublevsky

Grischuk played an absolutely brilliant game in round one. Even the end position is fantastic and worth a picture:


White wins because of his pawn on b6. An instant classic.

What is worse for Rublevsky, White's play looked so strong that the setup chosen in the Scheveningen may very well be refuted by Grischuk's preparation.

I think Rublevsky should choose a different setup in the Scheveningen, or not transpose to the Scheveningen at all. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 Black does not have to play 6..d6 (Scheveningen), he can also play 6..Qc7 (Paulsen), or 6..Nge7 (Taimanov).

Kamsky - Gelfand

In game one Kamsky tried 6.a4 against Gelfand's Najdorf, but didn't pose any problems and the game was drawn after only 23 moves. I think Kamsky will play another surprise, not a main line, but I cannot possibly guess what.


Monday, June 04, 2007

FIDE candidates matches: Rublevsky - Grischuk

Rublevsky - Grischuk

Grischuk could play the Najdorf, because Rublevsky's 6.Bc4 looked a bit harmless.

But was it? In the fourth game against Ponomariov, after

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 5.Bc4 e6 6.Bb3 b5 8.O-O Be7 9.Qf3 Qb6 10.Be3 Qb7 11.Qg3 b4 12.Na4 Nbd7 13.f3 O-O 14.Rac1 Rb8 15.c3 bxc3 16.Rxc3 Ne5 17.Rfc1 Bd7

the following position was reached:


I had once the same position with White against Floyd Halwick (email, 1998), but my rook was on d1, not on c1. Rublevsky played 18.Qe1, but much more interesting was 18.Nb6. After 18..Qxb6 19.Nxe6 Qxe3+ 20.Rxe3 fxe6 an interesting material imbalance could have been created. That is what happened in my correspondence game, which ended in a draw. However with the rook on c1 it looks a bit stronger.

On the other hand you can't force this position either, as Black has so many alternatives, not the least of which would be 9..Qc7.

Grischuk can also decide to play 1..e5 and try Rublevsky's Scottish opening.

Grischuk - Rublevsky

I hope Grischuk has read my recommendation to Ponomariov, and will use Khalifman's line against Rubelvsky's Paulsen Sicilian.

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 Grischuk also has played the rare move 6.f3, also once against Rublevsky. This move is so rare that it isn't even mentioned in the books, and I don't know if it is any good.

Certainly Grischuk should not play 1.d4 and loose all his teeth against Kramnik's Slav version of the Berlin wall (I think this line should be called the iron curtain). Ponomariov knows why.


FIDE candidates matches: Aronian - Shirov preview

Carlsen's openings with Black weren't as solid as I thought. He put up a fantastic fight though, and what a great match it was. Magnus Carlsen lost, but he should be proud anyway. He is improving very fast still. On the 23rd of June we can look forward to see him in Dortmund (with Kramnik, Anand, Leko, Mamedyarov, Gelfand, Naiditsch and Alexejew).

It is really sad that we won't see any more candidates matches in the next cycle of the world championship. I think the matchplay is making the candidates very exciting. The FIDE president says that there weren't any sponsors, but why not give Global Chess a shot at finding a sponsor?

But lets enjoy the next four matches as long as we have the chance.

Aronian - Shirov

Against Aronian's 1.d4 Shirov is much more consistent in his openings than against 1.e4. He plays the Slav, and sometimes the Grunfeld. He has abandoned the King's Indian for several years now, as most top players have.

After 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Shirov has played all the moves 4..e6, 4..a6, and 4..dxc4.

I expect we will see a theoretical duel in the Slav, unless Shirov has prepared more surprises.

Shirov - Aronian

Adams did play the Marshall only once in his match against Shirov, and that was in the very last game of the match in the tiebreak, when Adams needed a win with Black. Adams played two other Spanish lines, and one Petroff, and once Shirov played 1.d4. I still think Adams should have played the Marshall in all the games.  Maybe Shirov has prepared something, but maybe that was not so dangerous. Then Adams would have been able to stand still like a wall and let Shirov become frustrated and try some other openings.

That is what Aronian did in his match against Carlsen, and what I expect him to do again.

Carlsen of course played 1.e4 only once and then tried 1.d4 and 1.Nf3 for the rest of the match, with more success.

Shirov played the Anti-Marshall in the last game against Adams, but there he only needed a draw to win the match. So I guess Shirov will try 1.e4 only if he has really prepared something against the Marshall, otherwise he will play 1.d4.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

FIDE candidates matches: Leko - Bareev preview

Bareev today qualified by drawing the last game against Judith Polgar. I was a bit disappointed that Judith didn't try the King's Indian, but the line she played also created some chances.

For Peter Leko it is interesting that Bareev plays some of the same openings that Leko's first round opponent Gurevich does. This has the advantage that Peter is well prepared against those openings. It also has the disadvantage that Bareev can take a look at the games between Leko and Gurevich and use that information.

Leko - Bareev

The last couple of games between the two always saw the same French that Gurevich plays with 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4. It is good that Peter indeed has prepared the other important line against the classical French with 4.e5, as we could see in game three against Gurevich.

Of course Bareev may continue to play the Caro-Kann, as he did against Judith Polgar. Against the Caro-Kann Peter usually plays the main line, as Polgar did in the first game against Bareev.

Apparently Polgar wasn't able to prepare something good against Bareev's 17..Rd5 (see my analysis in the game three preview).  Leko must have something ready against this, if he plays 1.e4, or play some other line against the Caro-Kann.

Of course Peter also has the option of playing 1.d4, against which Bareev uses the Slav most of the time. Peter won one nice game against Gelfand last November in the Slav, but Bareev will have much more experience with this opening than Peter.

Bareev - Leko

Bareev has played the Queen's Indian against Polgar.

He has also frequently played the classical Nimzo-Indian. Interestingly, this is another line that was discussed in the Gurevich - Leko games, and Peter's preparation looked very strong there. Bareev has even played a couple of games with the same endgame that was discussed in the Gurevich - Leko games, specifically with the line played in game four. Unless Bareev finds something good against the 16..f5 Peter used there, I expect Bareev will continue to use the Queen's Indian.

In game two, after

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3

Polgar played the same


that Leko plays. Bareev replied with the interesting

5.Qc2 c5 6.d5

that only last year found its way into top-level chess, after the introduction of the gambit

6..exd5 7.cxd5 Bb7 8.Bg2

It would be interesting to see this line discussed in the match. As the line is still very new, there should be room for improvements on both sides.