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Was it the time control? I don’t think so. There was no extra time given after the first 40 moves, after which instead of an increment they only had a time delay, 30 seconds allowance before your clock starts -- if you execute your move before the 30 seconds is exhausted this is not added to your time. This rule does not give the players enough thinking time come the endgame, and the players HAD to go into the endgame as no draw offers were allowed. This caused many players to blunder, a prime example being Wesley So losing to Nepomniachtchi despite being the aggressor in the middlegame and early endgame. As the game wore on and they reached the 100th move Wesley was just exhausted from continuously needing to make his move before 30 seconds and collapsed.
Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren both won two games each and drew nine to tie for first in the 7th Sinquefield Cup tournament held in its headquarters at the Saint Louis Chess Club in Saint Louis, Missouri. According to the rules the tie had to be broken via two-game matches.
Together with the start of the Russian SuperFinals their Federation also announced that the Russian Ministry of Education has now decided to make chess a compulsory subject throughout Russia. In April this year, chess lessons were introduced in 18,000 Russian schools, almost half of all general education schools in Russia. Starting Sept. 1, all Russian first graders will study chess for at least 33 hours per year. Chess replaces the third period of physical education class.
GM Evgeny Tomashevsky, nicknamed “The Professor,” won the Championship for a second time with an undefeated 3 wins and 8 draws, 7.0/11, half a point ahead of his pursuers Vitiugov, Matlakov and Inarkiev. Tomashevsky was in the leading group for most of the tournament but it was only in the final round, when he defeated tournament revelation Kiril Alekseenko in a tremendous battle, that he managed to grab the solo lead.
Aronian won all of his three games in the first day of the Rapid/Blitz and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave did the same in the second day. From then on it was the two of them fighting for the lead. In the blitz portion the two Chinese GMs Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi came forth to battle for the lead but when the smoke of battle had cleared, Aronian had built enough of a lead in the Rapid portion to finish half a point ahead of the second-placers. The Armenian no. 1 won the USD$13,500 first prize and he did that despite losing the first and last game on the final day.
There was a no prize-sharing policy in place. If, for example, two players tied for first place normally each of them will receive $37,500 ($50,000 1st place plus $25,000 2nd place then divided by two). In Hunan whoever finishes first after tie-breaks are applied receives the 50,000.
The Grand Chess Tour is comprised of five rapid/blitz tournaments and two classical (Croatia which took place last June and Sinquefield Cup which starts August 15) events. The twelve full tour participants will play in both classical events as well as in three of the five rapid/blitz tournaments.
The French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (or “MVL”) made full use of his homecourt advantage and won the Paris Rapid/Blitz Tournament, part of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour. Let me clear something up. The tournament I wrote about last week, the Riga Grand Prix, was part of the FIDE Grand Prix which in turn is one of the qualifying events to the world championship.
2019 FIDE Grand Prix series consists of four knockout tournaments, each with 16 players who are paired into 8 mini-matches. The mini-matches consist of two games of classical chess, with a time control of 90 minutes for the 1st 40 moves then 30 minutes to the end of the game, with a 30-second increment from move 1. If the match is tied two 25+10 rapid games are played. If still tied, there are two slow rapid (10+10) games, then two 5-minute blitz games with 3 seconds increment. Finally, if the two players are still tied, a single Armageddon game is played, where White has 5 minutes to Black’s 4 (with a 2-second increment from move 61) but Black wins the match with a draw.
The first round of the Riga Grand Prix began last July 12th. Sixteen players competed in a knockout tournament. Each round consists of two games of classical chess, with a time control of 90 minutes for the first 40 moves then 30 minutes to the end of the game, with a 30-second increment from move 1. If the match is tied two 25+10 rapid games are played. If still tied, there are two slow rapid (10+10) games, then two 5-minute blitz games with three seconds increment. Finally, if the two players are still tied, a single Armageddon game is played, where White has five minutes to Black’s four (with a two-second increment from move 61) but Black wins the match with a draw.
Magnus Carlsen put on a great performance to win the Croatia leg of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour and Wesley So did very well himself to finish a strong second, but they were not the only ones playing some good chess. Today I will show you the game Caruana versus Nakamura, which was very interesting to me since it featured the Baguio Variation, played in game 21 of the Karpov versus Korchnoi world championship match in 1978 held in the Baguio Convention Center.
After winning the Croatia leg of the Grand Chess Tour, Magnus Carlsen’s rating is at 2882 which ties the highest-ever rating he (or anyone else in the world for that matter) has ever achieved. He won the world title from Vishy Anand in 2013 and retained it in 2014. He was also the world champion in rapid and blitz, the first player to simultaneously hold all these titles.
Magnus Carlsen has just won his eighth consecutive tournament with an overpowering 5-win 6-draw result in the Zagreb leg of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour. The moving spirit behind this event is former World Champion Garry Kasparov. As you may know Kasparov tried to run for President of Russia in 2008 against Vladimir Putin but failure to find a sufficiently large rental space to assemble the number of supporters that is legally required to endorse such a candidacy forced him to withdraw. Kasparov blamed “official obstruction” for the lack of available space.
Last June 13 I reported that Wesley’s former coach GM Vladimir Tukmakov has written a book where he extensively discusses the work he did with Wesley So. I received a lot of questions and request for information from BW readers and this is a good time to respond to them.
Vic Glysen Derotas, who plays for Nazareth School of National University, is the new Philippine Junior Champion, Girls Division. Unlike the competition in the Boys Division where there was a stern battle for the gold medal which lasted till the last day and hour of the competition, here in the Girls Division Derotas scored seven wins and gave up just one draw to clinch the title one round before the end. She was awarded the title of Woman National Master by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (FIDE).
The Championship started in 1998 and became an annual event. From then up to now there have been eight champions from China (Xu Jun, Zhang Zhong, Zhang Pengxiang, Ni Hua, Li Chao, Yu Yangyi, Wang Hao and Wei Yi), five Indians (Krishnan Sasikiran, Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Penteala Harikirshna, Parimarjan Negi and SP Sethuraman), one Uzbek (Rustam Kasimdzhanov), one Vietnamese (Le Quang Liem) and even one from the United Arab Emirates (Salem AR Saleh), but never a Filipino.
Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem won the Asian Continental Championship by beating the leader S. P. Sethuraman of India in the last round to clinch first place in Xingtai, a city in the province of Hebei, Northern China (“bei” is Chinese for North. Beijing is “Northern Capital,” Hebei is “North of the River,” etcetera).
Players receive two hours for each classical game, with a 10-second increment only after move 40. No draw offers are allowed until move 30. Classical games are worth two points for a win, but in case of a draw players get half a point and play an Armageddon game for the remaining point.
Between the reign of World Champions Anatoly Karpov (born 1951) and Garry Kasparov (born 1963) there was no one in the generation of Karpov who was strong enough to challenge for the world title. Players like Vladimir Tukmakov, Alexander Beliavsky, Rafael Vaganian, Oleg Romanishin, Vitaly Tseshkovsky, Gennady Kuzmin, Yury Balashov and Boris Gulko all had their days in the sun but their star never shone bright enough for them to be considered potential world champions. Strangely enough during this period the Soviets who actually did contend for the title were from the previous generation, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian, Lev Polugaevsky, Efim Geller and even Vassily Smyslov, who was the world champion from 1957 to 1958 but still was strong enough to participate in the Candidates’ matches in 1983 and 1985, at 62 and 64 years of age!
I maintain a small file on games that catch my eye and last Tuesday’s column on attacking ideas against the Berlin inspired me to look it up to bring you some more choice samples. As you know the Berlin Defense lately has become almost synonymous with “boring endgame.” Well, given two individuals contented with the draw the likelihood of a boring end game indeed is very high, but as long as one of the protagonists is after a fighting game there are still lots of avenues to consider. Today we take up two of them.
This is one event which I missed because of my medical leave last March, and it was a crime to leave it out of our coverage, for a large international Chess Festival was started in Prague consisting of two closed invitational tournaments -- Masters and Challengers -- with a strong open tournament going alongside as well as multiple round-robin rating tournaments for players rated 1500-2000. It was a huge success with thousands of visitors.
Before we go to our main topic I’d like to point out the name of IM Vincent Keymer, the last-placer. You might be wondering what a mere IM with a rating of 2516 is doing in the company of such elite chessplayers. The answer is that he had qualified for it. Alongside the Chess Classic there was the GRENKE Chess Open. Keymer won it in a great upset last year and qualified to play in the main event. This year the winner of the Open was the German #3 Daniel Fridman who took the top honors. There were seven other grandmasters who tied for first: Anton Korobov, Andreas Heimann, Samvel Ter-Sahakyan, Gukesh, Matthias Bluebaum, Alexander Donchenko and Tamas Banusz.
Twenty-one draws in a row. Magnus Carlsen did not take part in the Batumi Chess Olympiad last year and instead participated in the less stressful European Club Cup where he peacefully drew all five of his games. His next event was the World Championship Match in London versus Fabiano Caruana where, for the first time in history, all 12 games were drawn and they had to resort to rapid tie-breaks to determine who the next world chess champion would be. That’s 17 consecutive draws. When at the start of the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee Magnus Carlsen drew his first four games the friendly ribbing escalated and the press was writing about Carlsen forgetting how to win, that he is the new “Leko,” the drawing master. And then came the game with Jorden van Foreest.
Unlike the Men’s and Women’s team competitions in the 81st Season of UAAP Chess, where were blowout victories for FEU and DLSU, respectively, the competition in the High School section was very close and indeed FEU and UST finished the double round-robin event tied at 33 points apiece. The tie-breaker was the match points and so FEU, which won nine matches against a draw and two losses (to UST and Adamson), was awarded the title against the Thomasians who only had seven team wins, two draws and three losses (to FEU, NU and UE).
First of all I’d like to apologize to our readers for the lateness of our reporting. Usually the UAAP chess team tournament is held around towards the end of the school year, around February-March. This year they decided to advance the tournament to the first semester and it happened Sept.-Oct. of 2018. Somehow it never entered my consciousness that the competition had been rescheduled. Anyway, better late than never.
GM Vugar Gashimov is an Azerbaijani player who was no. 1 player of Azerbaijan for a time and among the top players of the world circa 2008-2011. Born July 24, 1986 in Baku, Gashimov represented his country in the chess olympiads of 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008 and almost single-handedly revived the Modern Benoni for Black, utilizing it even in crucial games at a time when the general consensus was that it gave too many concessions to White. What’s more, he was willing to use the original move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 move order and defend Black’s cause in the most dangerous White attacks, namely the Taimanov Attack (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.f4 Bg7 8.Bb5+) and the Modern Main Line (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.Nf3 Bg7 8.h3 0–0 9.Bd3).
The traditional Dubai Open was held in the first week of April this year with a starting list of 31 international grandmasters, 24 international masters, two woman grandmasters and eight woman international masters. The top seed was Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem (the only player who is 2700+) followed by Maxim Matlakov (RUS 2692), Yuriy Kuzubov (UKR 2653), Sandro Mareco (ARG 2651) and Venezuela’s first GM Eduardo Iturrizaga Bonelli (2633). As is common with these big international opens nowadays, there were a total of 80 Indians participating. This is because their country’s federation supports their travel abroad to compete. They are really serious about retaining and even exceeding India’s current status as the No. 4 chess power in the world!
The Bangkok Chess Open, which alternates between being played in exotic resorts all around Thailand and the capital city, was this year held in the luxurious ballroom of the Centara Grand Hotel with a field of 200 players which included 17 International Grandmasters. Three former winners participated as well, Nigel Short (winner in 2012, 2015 and 2017), Jan Gustafsson (2011) and Australian GM Zhao Zong Yuan (2013).
Wesley scored two wins, a loss and eight draws in the just-concluded USA Chess Championship and finished in fourth place. He played a quite magical game in round 2 vs. the former Uzbek Grandmaster (GM) Timur Gareyev, who now plays for the United States. He holds the world record in simultaneous blindfold chess play, taking on 48 opponents in Las Vegas last Dec. 4, 2016.
The Big 3 of US chess Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura were fighting for the lead for most of the tournament and then towards the end the “rookie,” Cuban-turned-American GM Leinier Dominguez, made a late surge that almost took him to first place. Just before the last round Nakamura, Caruana and Dominguez were tied for the top spot but at the end it was only Nakamura who managed to win (vs Xiong) on demand and claim his fifth national title.