Saturday, 29 April 2017

The short of it

Having given you a super long game yesterday, here is a much shorter game. GM John Nunn once remarked to lose a miniature (under 25 moves, you need to make 3 mistakes as White in the opening, or 2 as Black. This was certainly true in this game, where b5 is inadvisable, Bd7 is inappropriate, and cxb5 is indefensible.

Blackburne,Joseph Henry - Fleissig,Maximilian [D11]
Wiener Schachkongress 1st Vienna (3), 1873

Friday, 28 April 2017

A real monster

Tournament games that go over 100 moves are quite rare while 150+ movers are rarer still. As an arbiter I have had to sit through a few games that went past the century mark and a couple that went beyond 150. Normally these games end in draws, with the length of the game being caused by extended attempts to beat a fairly solid defense.
I suspect the spectators (and arbiters) at the following game probably enjoyed their experience more than I did. For one it was played during a time when adjournments still existed, and so probably ran over a few days, allowing both players and spectators a break. Secondly, it was played during one of the great pre World War I tournaments, the San Sebastian event of 1911, which was where Capablanca sensationally announced his arrival at the top level.
The game itself was played in the first round, and at the time, set the world record for the longest master game. Mot of it was endgame manoeuvring, although the final stage would be familiar to most players.

Duras,Oldrich - Janowski,Dawid Markelowicz [C77]
San Sebastian IT 1st San Sebastian (1), 20.02.1911

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Mitrofanov's Deflection

White to play and win
The diagrammed position is one my favourite endgame studies of all time. It was first shown to me by FM Manuel Weeks way back when, and is rightly considered one of the best endgame studies of all times.
Now, I'm not going to torture you by requesting a solution, but I'm not going to hand one out either. The study itself has an interesting history (in part because the initial version was cooked), but this version stands the test of time (and the brutality of computer analysis). So if you want to find out more about the study, and the author, follow this link. But be warned, the answer is given, in all its brilliance.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Any sac you can play I can play better

In round 2 of the Gashimov Memorial, Topalov won against Wojtaszek with a stunning rook sacrifice. Two rounds later, Kramnik showed he can do at least as well, beating Harikrishna with a rook sac of his own. I'll leave it up to you dear reader to decide which is the better sacrifice.

Wojtaszek,R (2745) - Topalov,V (2741) [D12]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017 Shamkir AZE (2), 22.04.2017

Kramnik,V (2811) - Harikrishna,P (2755) [C84]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017 Shamkir AZE (4), 24.04.2017

When was white winning?

Lev Aronian has won the 2017 Grenke Chess Classic, ahead of a very strong field. His win may have been helped by the fact I did not give him the 'kiss of death' by tipping a win for him, but it was more likely to be due to his strong play.
One of his early tournament victories was against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a game that on the one hand exemplifies modern chess, but on the other, one I found difficult to get a handle on. Following the 'pawn structure be damned' approach, both players found themselves with rooks and bishops after 14 moves, and one open file to fight over. To my untrained eye this wasn't enough for either side to claim an advantage, but after another 20 moves, Aronian was able to force one of his pawns to f5 and Black's position collapsed. At first I thought Black must have made one big mistake, but going over the game it seems that it was more a succession of little ones that caused his defeat, culminating with him losing control of f5.

Aronian,Levon (2774) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2803) [A04]
GRENKE Chess Classic Karlsruhe (3.2), 17.04.2017

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Playing the back marker

You're cruising along, have a couple of wins under your belt, when you have to play someone at the tail end of the field (note, I'm talking about round robin events). Suddenly you have to make a choice. Do you (a) decide that the point is in the bag no matter what you do, and so play for the brilliancy, (b) play extra cautiously as you don't want to blow a sandshoe, or (c) ignore the scoreboard and play the position on the board?
Most people would say that (c) is the correct choice, but I suspect that in practice, the actual split may well be 40% a, 40% b and 20% c.
An extreme example of some choosing box A was Frank Marshall in the 1903 Monte Carlo tournament. Although he finished slightly below 50%, he decided to have some fun against possibly the most famous 'back marker' in tournament history. This was the event where Charles Paul Narcisse Moreau (known to chess history as Colonel Moreau) scored 0/26, losing all his games to the other 13 competitors. While Marshall was known for his attacking play, this game saw it taken to the extreme, playing a Muzio Gambit, offering two pieces within the first 8 moves. The unlucky Moreau was doing OK until move 16, where Bc6 turned out to be the losing move, as the pin down the d file resulted in material lose.

Marshall,Frank James - Moreau,C [C37]
Monte Carlo Monte Carlo (23), 13.03.1903

Saturday, 22 April 2017

So much late night chess

Spring must be a popular time for chess events in the Northern Hemisphere as three big tournaments are running at the moment. In Germany the Grenke Classic sees Carlsen, Caruana, MVL, and Aronian battling in an 8 player round robin, while the accompanying Open has attracted a massive field. In Reykjavik the Open is underway, with 33 GM's in the 266 player field. And the Gashimov Memorial is just starting, with So, Kramnik, Karjakin and Adams in the 10 player field.
The best bit about all these events is that they are all being broadcast live on Chess24. This makes following the tournaments a little easier, as you can just jump from tournament to tournament, without having to jump from site to site. And if you are pacing yourself, the Gashimov Memorial starts mid evening Canberra time, Grenke at 11:30pm and Reykjavik a couple of hours later.