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The Week in Chess

  • Caruana races to 5/5 and an almost decisive lead in the Sinquefield Cup – 5
    Fabiano Caruana moved to a perfect 5/5 at the halfway point of the Sinquefield Cup and a 2.5 point lead over Veselin Topalov and Magnus Carlsen. This score leaves him overwhelming favourite to win the event as it’s hard to imagine even a sub-par second half costing him first place. Carlsen summed it up that even if he beat him with black, a tall order, it wouldn’t be nearly enough.

    Caruana wasn’t quite as convincing in his win with black against Nakamura as he emerged out of an unusual opening with a disadvantage. However he was playing black and in the middle-game he turned things around completely. This was Caruana’s first win against Nakamura having lost three games without a win of his own.

    Caruana got an overwhelming position but missed a direct win with 44…Bh4!! and allowed Nakamura significant drawing chances especially with quite serious time trouble but after the faulty 48.f4? (Kf1) from Nakamura, Caruana brought home the point safely enough. Caruana was asked if the rest day might be unwelcome given his run of wins but he said he was ”very happy” to see it as he was tired. Caruana said he wasn’t doing a lot differently in this tournament. Perhaps his confidence was on the rise and, probably more significantly, he felt the tempo of his play was very good which has meant he has avoided serious time pressure.

    Magnus Carlsen recorded his first win and felt his play was much more like his ”normal level” today. He chose a rather unusual defence to 1.d4 but by the early middle-game seemed to have equalised. Levon Aronian gave up a pawn for very decent compensation but later his resistance in a difficult position was perhaps not as strong as one might expect, he seems to be in quite poor form here. Carlsen brought home the full point in a rook and pawn ending.

    Veselin Topalov got back to 50% with a win in a very sharp Sicilian against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Topalov got a stable advantage leaving Vachier-Lagrave with a horribly passive position and after missing a key idea he resigned in a dreadful position. The resignation was perhaps a little early but there wasn’t really much doubt about the result.

    The players go into a rest day although I believe there are some publicity events for them to do.

    Round 5 Standings: Caruana 5/5, Topalov, Carlsen 2.5, Vachier-Lagrave 2, Aronian, Nakamura 1.5.

    Round 6 Tuesday 2pm local time: Nakamura-Aronian, Caruana-Topalov, Carlsen-Vachier-Lagrave

  • Caruana extends his convincing winning run to four in Sinquefield Cup – 4
    Fabiano Caruana took almost decisive control of the Sinquefield Cup after defeating Levon Aronian in a Ruy Lopez to move to a 4/4 start. Caruana introduced another new idea that he’d prepared for someone else with 15.Na2. Play was very complicated and it seemed Aronian might be close to equalisation but according to Caruana once 22.Qh5 arrived black’s position was close to collapse and Caruana kept the counter-play to a minimum in scoring his fourth victory in a row. Now the question is will Caruana continue to win rather than will be win the tournament. He has a two point win and his play has been extremely convincing so far and it looks like if he continues like this he only has the power to add to his score.

    Magnus Carlsen started the tournament with two quite nice draws with black but didn’t play very well in round 3 and in round 4 he almost over-pressed in an endgame and lost against Veselin Topalov. 45.Rc5 would have forced the win of a piece and although there was still some play Topalov would have at the very least have enjoyed serious winning chances. Carlsen said he ”didn’t play at a decent level.”

    Hikarua Nakamura had his second black in a row and repeated the same variation of the Ruy Lopez he empoyed in round 3. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave took a small edge into the middle-game but Nakamura liquidated to a drawn position in the first game to finish.

    The official live coverage reported a peak of over 31,000 viewers.

    Round 4 standings: Caruana 4pts, Vachier-Lagrave 2pts, Nakamura, Aronian, Carlsen, Topalov 1.5pts.

    Round 5 Sunday 31st August 2pm St Louis time: Nakamura-Caruana, Aronian-Carlsen, Topalov- Vachier-Lagrave

  • Caruana beats Carlsen to move to 3/3 in Sinquefield Cup – 3
    Fabiano Caruana beat Magnus Carlsen to move to a clear lead with 3/3 by a point and a half in another fighting round three of the Sinquefield Cup. Carlsen called his opening (starting with 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4) ”pretty bad” and Caruana invited a sacrifice of a piece from Carlsen which wasn’t favourable for white. Carlsen was then under pressure on the board and on the clock for some time and at one point seemed to be getting out of it but in fact was always still in a pretty bad position. Then Carlsen made life easy blundering his entire position away but the game was probably gone in any event.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave scored his first win of the tournament against Levon Aronian after the Armenian tried a little too hard to punish a rather passive opening with a very risky pawn grab that left black with a rather passive position. Aronian’s 15…Rf5 looked very risky and it turned out to be also very bad and after that he really didn’t have a chance to recover.

    Veselin Topalov was of course happy to win his game against Hikaru Nakamura but called the game ”very bad” afterwards. Nakamura couldn’t quite find his way through to the end of a sacrifice with 21.Bxf2+ but instead he blamed himself for losing the thread later on. But even after 27.Bd2? he had the chance of a large advantage with 27…Nh5 and even my first thought in commentary of 27…Nb7 with the idea of Nd6-f5 was better than he played. In the end Nakamura’s position just collapsed rather rapidly.

    Round 3 standings: Caruana 3pts/3, Vachier-Lagrave, Aronian 1.5, Nakamura, Carlsen, Topalov 1pt.

    Round 4 pairings: Vachier-Lagrave-Nakamura, Carlsen-Topalov, Caruana-Aronian.

    I will be hosting commentary on ICC with the experience Ronen Har-Zvi which can be seen for free at: Please feel free to join us.

  • Caruana off to a flying start with a perfect score after two rounds – 2
    Fabiano Caruana demolished Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s Advanced Caro-Kann to plve to a clear lead of 2/2. Caruana was surprised by MVL’s choice of the Caro-Kann but used a new idea he prepared for Mamedyarov a few months ago. Caruana is already a point clear of Magnus Carlsen who secured a reasonably comfortable draw against Hikaru Nakamura using the 3…g6 line of the Ruy Lopez to surprise his opponent, that game finished in perpetual check. Carlsen has started his first two games with black and gets his first white against the leader in round 3. Levon Aronian had a bit of an opening disaster against Veselin Topalov but once he escaped immediate difficulties Topalov just collapsed very quickly to a horrible loss. Topalov may already be in huge trouble in the event unless he can recover his form, in particular calculation which he himself highlighted in his post-game press conference.

    Round 2 Standings: Caruana 2/2, Aronian 1.5, Nakamura, Carlsen 1, Vachier-Lagrave 0.5, Topalov 0pts.

    Round 3 Friday 2pm local time 8pm UK time: Topalov-Nakamura, Vachier-Aronian and Carlsen-Caruana,

    I will be hosting commentary with GM Lars Bo Hansen on ICC which can be seen at ICC’s Twitch TV page. Feel free to drop in. I’m also hosting with Ronen Har-Zvi on Saturday.

  • Thunder and Lightning on the opening day of the 2nd Sinquefield Cup – 1
    The first day of the 2nd Sinquefield Cup showed all the players came to fight and even though there was only one decisive game there were three very interesting games on show. Outside there was a huge thunder storm that disturbed all the players with additional lightning and hale.

    Early on the focus was on Magnus Carlsen playing black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s Scotch. 8.e5 was a sharp move new to praxis but not apparently to most of the players. Carlsen maybe missed a chance to win late on but with time trouble and a confession that ”I should have been calmer” Carlsen allowed a draw by perpetual. Levon Aronian was disappointed he couldn’t press more against Nakamura’s solid Slav. Veselin Topalov played very sharply against Fabiano Caruana in an English but at some point he lost his way and his position collapsed very quickly. Meaning that Caruana leads alone on 1/1 after the first round.

    Round 2 2pm local time, 8pm UK time: Nakamura-Carlsen, Caruana-Vachier and Aronian-Topalov

  • 2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014 –
    The 2nd Sinquefield Cup takes place 27th August to 7th September 2014. Players: 1 Magnus Carlsen (2877), 2 Levon Aronian (2805), 3 Fabiano Caruana (2801), 5 Hikaru Nakamura (2787), 8 Veselin Topalov (2772) and 9 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2768). Daily coverage here. I will be hosting commentary on ICC on Twitch Friday 29th and Saturday 30th August for Rounds 3 and 4.
  • 5th Yaroslav the Wise Rapid 2014 – Games and Results
    The 5th Yaroslav the Wise Rapid took place 26th to 27th August 2014. Players: Tomashevsky, Nepomniachtchi, Jakovenko, Potkin, Moiseenko and Motylev play. Ian Nepomniachtchi won with 7.5/10 a point clear of Dmitry Jakovenko. Games and results.
  • Sharjah Women’s Grand Prix 2014 – Games and Results
    The Sharjah Women’s Grand Prix takes place Mon 25th Aug to Sat 6th Sep in Sharjah UAE. This is the final event of the Women’s Grand Prix series for 2013-14 and the winner of the entire will qualify for a Women’ World Chess Championship match in 2015 The current World Champion Hou Yifan will have to defend her title in an as yet unscheduled knockout event (supposedly in October but no venue has been announced) this year so would need to win this to be certain to be there. Humpy Koneru leads the series by a minimal 5 points from Hou and so only needs to match her to win the series herself, these are the only two players in contention for first place. FIDE WGP Wikipedia entry is excellent with the results and standings/
  • Riga Technical University Open 2014 – Games and Results
    The Riga Technical University Open took place 15th to 24th August 2014. Hrant Melkumyan edged out Richard Rapport (after a crazy game in the final round where he played Boris Savchenko and both had winning chances) on tie-break. Both scored 7.5/9.
  • 21st Abu Dhabi Masters 2014 – Games and Results
    The 21st Abu Dhabi Masters takes place Wed 20th Aug 2014 – Thu 28th Aug 2014. Wang Hao is the top seed. Games and results.
  • 89th French Chess Championships 2014 – Games and Results
    The 89th French Chess Championships takes place Sun 17th Aug 2014 – Thu 28th Aug 2014. Etienne Bacrot and Laurent Fressinet are the top seeds. Games and results.
  • 41st Olympiad Tromso 2014 – Games and Results
    The 41st Olympiad took place in Tromso, Norway 1st August (Opening Ceremony) to 14th August 2014.

    China took their first open title with a convincing performance where they lost just one game in the 11 rounds scoring 8 match wins and 3 draws for 19 points. Their new star Yu Yangyi scored 9.5/11. Four teams tied on 17 points with Hungary taking Silver in Judit Polgar’s final event as a professional and India taking a shock bronze medal after a huge 3.5-0.5 win against Uzbekistan. This denied top seeds Russia even the vague compensation of a medal for an inconsistent performance. Azerbaijan also scored 17 points.

    Veselin Topalov took board 1 gold ahead of Michael Adams and Anish Giri. On board 2 Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son of Vietname took gold above Csaba Balogh who did an amazing job for Hungary, he was supposed to be solid but did much better than that. Board 3 was won by Yu Yangyi in a key performance for the winners. Board 4 was won by Nikola Sedlak of Serbia and Board 5 by Sam Shankland of the USA.

    The women’s Olympiad was won by Russia. New recruit Kateryna Lagno (who the Russian’s delayed registering their final team for) had a solid result on top board but scored the key win against Hou Yifan in the decisive match against China. It was Valentina Gunina 8/10 and Alexandra Kosteniuk 7.5/9 who were the core of the side supported by Olga Girya and Natalija Pogonina. Sergei Rublevsky’s tough captaincy which led to the Kosintseva sisters quitting seems fully justified. China looked set for gold but they lost the key round 7 clash with Russia. Ukraine took bronze after a slow start.

    Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was reelected as FIDE President in what can only described as a crushing victory against Garry Kasparov 110 votes to 61.

  • Judit Polgar to retire from professional chess – Polgar Retirement
    Judit Polgar is to retire as a professional chess player at the end of the Olympiad. The surprise announcement was made in a brief interview with The Times. Polgar herself was unavailable for comment as she was in preparation for the final round of the Olympiad with her Hungarian team which lies in second place and has a chance for gold in the final round. Polgar has so far contributed as score of 4.5/6 on board 5. It is unclear whether she will play in the final round.

    No doubt there will be plenty of interviews after the round finishes. With her retirement she brings to an end an ”educational experiment” which saw Judit and her three sisters all become exceptional players in a generally male dominated game.

    Judit Polgar reached a career high of 2735 and world number #8 in 2005. At that point her highly tactical style had matured into a stronger all round game. Shortly afterwards Polgar took some time off to raise her family and although her initial return was promising she is quoted as saying her concentration at the board is in decline. Recently her focus has switched to writing books on her career and the Judit Polgar Chess Foundation.

    Earlier in the Olympiad Judit Polgar was asked about the possibility of a match against Hou Yifan at a point I guess she already knew she would retire, she was non-committal without ruling it out. With the right money I guess it still wouldn’t be out of the question but would really have to be this year. Hou defeated Polgar in their only game together in Gilbraltar 2012 and it was already clear it was only a matter of time before Hou became the women’s number one. Now the baton has definitely passed to her.

    There will be time enough to celebrate the career of the greatest ever women’s player. It seems to me Judit Polgar didn’t see playing was about women competing on an equal basis but that gender shouldn’t make a difference at all.

  • Carlsen appears but only draws in Olympiad round 2 – 2
    The 41st FIDE Chess Olympiad in Tromso is as yet in the early stages but already there are signs it will be very hard going for the leading players as everyone seems so very well prepared.

    Magnus Carlsen made his first appearance with black against Tomi Nyback. Carlsen more or less equalised out of the opening but there was nothing more and he and his Norwegian first team colleagues all drew. Carlsen in fact lost to Nyback in their last game together in the Olympiad Dresden 2008 and seems never to have beaten him. The Norwegian second team also drew their match but this time against the might of Ukraine. Vassily Ivanchuk tried very hard to sharpen things against Frode Urkedal completely overdid it and went down to a horrible loss.

    In such a huge event there will inevitably be a huge amount of interesting games. I’ve been working on my own version of the games and checks. To be honest the FIDE team have done an excellent job so far and I don’t expect the official version to have too many problems. I’ve slightly changed the way the round numbers appear and hopefully produced a good checking system for incorrect results. Now I can start to follow the games a bit more.

    Judit Polgar is on board four and her job is to score heavily for Hungary. She certainly played a very interesting game in winning today which caught my eye.

    There were three individual defaults due to the zero tolerance rule in round 2 including one of an 11 year old and one of veteran Alexander Beliavsky. At least one team fell foul of the rule too.


  • 101st British Chess Championships 2014 – Games and Results
    The 101st British Chess Championships took place in Aberystwyth 19th to 30th July 2014. Jonathan Hawkins and David Howell shared the title scoring 8.5/11. There was no tie-break scheduled this year. I imagine the proximity to the Olympiad factored into the decision, probably to reduce the length of the event by a day.
  • 51st Canadian Open Championship 2014 – Games and Results
    The 51st Canadian Open Championship took place 19th to 26th July 2014. Sergei Tiviakov won in an Armageddon tie-break to edge out Robin Van Kampen and Ehsan Ghaem Maghami on tie-break after all scored 6.5/9. The Armageddon was just for the trophy – the money was split evenly. It is possible these tie-break games will become available as they were videod. Tiviakov got a bye in the first round (best tie-break) beating Ehsan Ghaem Maghami who beat Van Kampen in the first round. Games and videos available below.
  • Politiken Cup 2014 – Games and Results
    The Politiken Cup took place in Helsingor, Denmark Mon 21st to Tue 29th July 2014,. Bu Xiangzhi won with 9/10 a point clear of Gawain Jones, Maxim Matlakov, Maxim Rodshtein and Parimarjan Negi. Games and final standings here.
  • 37th Taminco Open 2014 – Games and Results
    The 37th Taminco Open took place 19th to 23rd July 2014. Attila Czebe won with 8/9.
  • 47th Biel Chess Festival 2014 – Games and Results
    The 47th Biel Chess Festival took place 14th to 25th July 2014. The main GM tournament was the Hans Suri Memorial. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave survived a late wobble to win the event with 6/10 half a point clear of Radoslaw Wojtaszek.
  • 2nd Gideon Japhet Memorial 2014 – Games and Results
    The 2nd Gideon Japhet Memorial took place in Jerusalem 16th to 24th July 2014. There was an international open won by Alexandr Kaspi with 7/9. Peter Svidler beat Boris Gelfand 5-3 in an 8 game rapid match. Games and Results.