World Championship- Recap Rounds 1 & 2

The World Championship is now underway in London. It has been years since the world #1 and #2 have met in a world title match which is exactly what we have now. 26-year-old super Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana is challenging 27-year-old 3-time defending world champion Magnus Carlsen in a best of 12 chess match. If they are tied after 12 games then the match will head to tiebreaks. But that’s enough about the real specifics about the match. If you’d like to learn more about the details of the match, please read the excellent article written by Vishal earlier this week. Instead, this article will serve as a quick look and overview at what has happened over and off the board in the match so far.  

The Games

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Photo Taken From Chess.com; Mike Klein

Despite the fact that both games have been drawn so far, there is much more behind these peaceful seeming results. For example, surprisingly for both games, this match, black has been the one with the edge pushing. For the first game, Magnus, repeating the opening he used to defeat Caruana in a game 2015-the accelerated dragon, came very close to opening the match with a win. However, after outplaying Caruana and gaining an arguably winning position, Carlsen committed a few inaccuracies and was forced to settle with a draw. This was not in vain, however, as he made Caruana struggle for 115 moves which was almost a record-setting game for the longest game in a world championship match. One would think that after this grueling endeavor from Carlsen that he would have had the psychological advantage going into the next game but this was not the case. The tables turned! In the second game, it was Caruana, after playing a close to novelty move in a queens gambit declined who was slightly pressuring Carlsen with black. Carlsen was able to deal with being out prepared with relative ease but it will be interesting to see how this trade of blows affects the psychology of both players for the remainder of the match.  

The Organizers

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Photo Used From https://twitter.com/NoJokeChris

Another big factor concerning this match is the people who are running it. These world championships are extremely popular and are the perfect opportunity to attract new lovers of this great game. However, from what I have seen from Twitter, chess news, and other media, things are not looking pleasant. For instance, according to Mike Kleine from chess.com, people purchasing tickets for the already high price of 70 dollars were given very low viewing time of the players which will only deter people from wanting to visit the match live and experience this match from their own perspectives. Additionally, the online viewing with this match is skewed. People have complained about the high glitchiness of the website and the difficulty of tracking the games progress. This laborious process of simply trying to view a chess game will definitely prevent chess from attracting new fans and it is up to the world chess organization to fix these problems and do their best to promote chess as a professional game. If they are incapable of doing this then they should at least point interested users to sites where they can actually view games such as chess24.com, lichess.org, and chess.com where it is very simple and easy to access and look at the games from this great match.

Overall I am very excited about this match. Fabiano Caruana has proven himself time and time again as a high caliber world class player but he is playing the proclaimed best of the best, Magnus Carlsen. How will he against Carlsen for the rest of the match? What Drama can the world chess organization further cause? Be sure to stay tuned!

 

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Chess.com Isle of Man Open Won by GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek

DqniljJXcAAP6nLphoto was taken from IOM chess twitter page (https://twitter.com/iomchess) All rights belong to respective owners

On October 28th, tied with 7 points in 9 rounds, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, after drawing his last round with co-leader Arkadij Naiditsch, defeated the latter in their Armageddon game with the white pieces after tieing the initial blitz playoff match 1 to 1. See the game as well as some of my thoughts on it in the link below.

https://www.chess.com/analysis-board-editor?diagram_id=4628220

With a dominating finish to a closely fought and tense playoff, Wojtaszek secured first place, over thirty-seven thousand dollars as well as the isle of man open champion title. This wasn’t the only good thing to happen to him, however, this tournament. His wife, IM Alina Kashlinskaya, won the first place prize for best performing woman and, after clinching a GM norm with a round to spare, she followed through with a crushing win over the strong 2600 American prodigy Samuel Sevian. I’d highly recommend taking a look in the link before to see how Kashlinskaya punished Sevian’s lackluster play and even sacked a piece in favor of her more than passed pawns.

http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1937576

I can’t say it was a surprise that Grandmaster Radoslaw Wojtaszek won this tournament. He went undefeated, was never really in any trouble of any of his games and seized his opportunities when they presented themselves. What is surprising to me is the mediocre performances by the countless of super GMs. An example of this could be seen in Wesley So. He was only able to win 2 games while drawing the remaining 7 which really demonstrates the toughness of this open tournament. By round 8, none of the top 10 seeds had played each other It was only in the final round that two of the top 10 seeds, Grandmasters Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alexander Grischuk, were paired against each other. Grischuk, in an interview with Fiona after his victory against MVL, commented on how he felt this tournament felt too short for him.

Another surprising thing to me was the performances of many of the juniors this tournament. For instance, 18-year-old Grandmaster, Jeffery Xiong was only half a point away from first place. Additionally, youngsters like Pragnannandha and the Hungarian wunderkind Vincent Keymer were able to pull off upsets against the likes 2016 winner Pavel Eljanov and Boris Gelfand respectively.

Overall this tournament was extremely exciting to watch. I think it’s a great thing that Super Grandmasters are willing to play in these open tournaments and as a chess viewer, it’s cool to see these grandmasters play against people knew and give them a chance to prove themselves. My gratitude goes to the sponsors chess.com and the Scheinberg Family. I hope we will see many many more of open tournaments of these calibers for years to come. As always, thanks for reading. Until next time!

 

 

How To Not Mess Up The Win

Losing a winning position is arguably the worst experience a chess player can ever have. It’s also probably one of the most common phenomena that can occur in a game of chess. How many times have you heard “I was completely winning but lost!” when you ask your friends how their game went? How many times have you yourself experienced defeat from the jaws of victory? Like everyone, I have bungled and lost multifarious chess games. While there is no way to completely avoid losing games you have no business in losing, through my many years of playing as well as asking experienced masters about this topic, I have come up with a couple of strategies which I hope can help you avoid this dilemma.

 

  • Manage Your Time Well

 

While this is an important attribute to always have during a chess game, it is especially important to display good time management practices when you’re in a winning position. How often do you hear people complaining about “being winning but not having enough time”? Blunders most commonly stem from having low time on your clock, and while it always depends on the position, it is usually not necessary to spend vast amounts of time on positions where you have a huge advantage. While rushing should be avoided, so should spending obsessive amounts of time each move. I find that people do this usually because they’re scared of messing up which leads to my next point.

 

  • Be Confident … But Not Too Confident

 

Overconfidence often leads to ruin but so does underconfidence. In order to find the right balance, it’s important to have the right mindset in managing a winning position. The way I try to think about it is this: Believe in your chances while also believing in your opponents. While some winning positions are relatively simple to win, not every position is set in stone. Even though you might be winning, all it takes is one bad move to throw everything away. By keeping that in mind, you’ll likely be more cautious to any counterplay your opponent might have. To avoid underconfidence, simply be positive. Trust that you can convert your chances and never give up hope even if you mess up.

 

  • Stay Calm

 

It’s easy to get nervous when you’re winning. It’s easy to have thoughts about what might happen if you mess up and lose. It’s also easy to let your nerves overcome you and cause you to lose the game you’ve fought so hard to acquire a winning position in. Not being able to manage your nerves can easily cost you the game. To avoid this try not to focus on the big picture. Instead, try and focus on the task at hand which is converting your position. If you think that you might mess up your position, that will probably happen. Instead, just focus on the position and finding the best moves you can.

  • Be Patient

And for my final piece of advice, we will be discussing every chess player’s worst enemy, impatience. It’s so easy to get bored when you’re winning. We’ve all had thoughts like “why hasn’t my opponent resigned yet?” or “Can my opponent move already so I can win?”. This impatience can have disastrous consequences and cost you the game. To avoid being impatient, just try to remember that the game is never over until your opponent pauses the clock and offers you his hand in resignation. Remember that your opponent has no obligation to resign. It’s up to you to win, and if you’re not willing to put in the hours of work it might take into achieving the win, then you didn’t deserve to win in the first place.

I hope this article helps you avoid losing winning positions. I know that these strategies have certainly helped me in my chess career and I hope they can do the same for yours. If you have any of your own tips and strategies, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Until next time!

 

How To Get Over A Win

You probably just read the title and are now very confused. Isn’t winning a good thing? Why should anyone ever care about how they react to their wins, shouldn’t we care more about dealing with losses? Is Vedic crazy? Although it’s true that learning how to deal with your losses is a very important characteristic to develop as a chess player, so is learning how to respond to your wins. This article will cover why that is and how to respond appropriately to your wins.

When you are first taught how to move the pieces, you are told that in chess, you either win, draw, or lose. It doesn’t get more simple than that, right? However, chess is so much more than that. In my opinion, in chess, psychology is a huge factor in determining how well you play. At the end of the day, it’s what your head tells you that decides the moves that you play. Because of this, it’s extremely important that you keep a cool, calm, and collected mindset throughout your game. However, not being able to get over a win can affect the calmness that you should have. Winning can have the positive effect of making you happy,  but it also can have negative effects. For example, winning a chess game may lead to you getting overconfident. As a result, you might be too full of yourself the next game you play and rush through variations that could be critical. In fact, if you’re too excited and confident with yourself, you might not even take the next game seriously. I see this so often in the tournaments I play. For example, something I see a lot is that a player just scored a huge upset but then just completely self-destructs his next game. Why did this happen? Perhaps it’s because he was playing a stronger player, or maybe, it was because he was nervous. But perhaps it was also because he let his emotions get the best of him. Maybe because he was so overconfident because of his win against his previous significantly higher rated opponent that he simply did not take his next opponent seriously.

We’ve just seen how winning can actually negatively impact you. How exactly should we deal with our wins then? While I’m not saying it’s bad to get happy after a chess game, you can’t get too happy. Winning is great as a morale booster but that’s all should do. It’s critical to not allow your wins to fuel your ego. I approach my response to wins nearly the same way I approach my losses. I allow myself to feel happy about it, but I also try to keep in mind that my wins have no effect on my next game. Keeping this simple idea in my head helps me keep things in perspective. Although it is hard, treating each game as a fresh start and new opportunity to show your opponent what you got is always the best way to deal with really any result. Overconfidence is the Achilles heel of all chess players.  but hopefully, by reading this article, you have a better understanding of how best effectively to react to your wins and hopefully help you win some more games :). That’s all from me this week. Until next time!

 

An Unstoppable Maghsoodloo Clinches First Place at World Juniors

With one round to spare, a world junior champion has already been crowned. Although he started out as the top seed and a heavy favorite, no one could have predicted such a dominating performance. 18-year-old, Iranian Grandmaster Parham Maghsoodloo destroyed the field and currently has 9.5/10. This score puts him 2 points over 2nd place and notches him a live performance rating of 2976.

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Becoming champion grants Maghsoodloo both automatic entry to the 2019 World Cup as well a spot in the Challengers section of Tata Steel. With a live rating of 2691 (after gaining over 100 points this year), only bright things can be expected of this young Iranian talent.

What impresses me the most about Maghsoodloo besides his amazing performance is his dedication to chess. Allegedly, Parham studies chess for 20 hours a day!! Although this might be a far-fetched estimate, the serious time he devotes to chess cannot be overlooked as a serious factor that has attributed to his success in becoming the World Junior Champion. Another thing I like Parham is his determination to fight every game. In positions that could be considered equal Parham did what he does best. He found the best plans, understood complicated positions better than his opponents and overall played extremely accurate. In no game did he actively go for a draw. Instead, he gave every game his all which is really shown in the fact that he “only” drew one game against fellow Iranian prodigy Alireza Firouzja.

While Maghsoodloo has already clinched first place, the tournament is not over yet. Today he is paired against the 16-year-old Russian grandmaster Andrey Esipenko. Will the young Russian talent be able to put a halt to a seemingly unstoppable Maghsoodloo? Only time will tell.

Live and previous games can be found in the link below:

https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2018-fide-world-junior-open-championships-u20

 

 

 

How To Play Against The Vienna Game

Hello everyone. Today I will be discussing how to play against one of the trickiest openings that I’ve ever encountered and played myself. This opening is known as the Vienna Game. the Vienna starts off with the moves 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3. In my opinion, the Vienna game is one of the most dangerous openings to play against if you’re unprepared.  Although 2. Nc3 looks fairly harmless, it can be a vicious opening. Let’s look at a sample line to see what I’m talking about.

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f4

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Boom! With f4 on the board, things are starting to get exciting. Already at this point, Black really has one move that doesn’t leave him immediately worse.

3. exf4 4. e5!

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exf4 seems natural. A pawn is a pawn, right? This is not the case. Take a closer look at this position. Black already has almost no moves with his knight. The poor knight on f6 has to retreat back to where it started, g8. White might still be down a pawn, but he will get it back easily.

3. Ng8 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. d4

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As we can see, it is a relatively simple task for white to get back his f4 pawn. In addition, white has far superior development, and black’s king is unsafe and will have to deal with a ton of pressure for the remainder of the game.

As we just saw, things can easily turn ugly for black. What is the best move then? While in my practice of playing this opening I mainly see 3. d6 (This move, although better than 3.exf4 still leaves white better as often, white places his bishop on c4, castles kingside, and attacks the black with pawn storms like h3 g4 when possible), the best move is the thematic pawn break, 3. d5!

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Let’s take a look. How does this move work? Mainly due to the king weakness created with f4. By playing f4, White has opened up the sensitive diagonals around his king. By playing d5, black seeks to rapidly open up the position in order to take advantage of this weak king. For example, after 4. exd5 black simply can take back with the knight. After a series of exchanges, black has superior piece development and white has a weak king. Black can simply continue developing his pieces and try to attack the white king.

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If white plays 4. Fxe5 Black now responds with Nxe4.

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As we see in this position, in contrast with the 3. exf4 variation, black’s knight is actively placed, his pieces have a future, and whites king is again weak. Black will often follow up in this position with be7, 0-0, and c5 to control the center. Although the position is still double-edged, black is totally fine and has his own chances as does white.

Another variation is another line a black player should familiarize himself with is 2. Nc6 in response to 2. Nc3. Often, when playing lower rated players, I have found a tendency that when they don’t know what to do, they copy the moves I make. For example, nc6 in response to nc3. Nc6 is a respectable and perfectly playable move. However, things can become tricky after 3. Bc4. Although after 3. Nf6 white has nothing substantial and black is fine, the same cannot be said if black continues to mimic white by going 3. Bc5. After 4. Qg4 it is very awkward for black to defend the g pawn. After the best move, 4. g6, white simply should play 5. Qd1(to avoid any discoveries with the d pawn) and black has serious dark square weaknesses.

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now you might be asking yourself, what happens after 4. Qf6 instead of 4. g6.

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This looks very scary for White. Not only is black defending the g7 square, he is also attacking f2 and threatening d5. However, the threat on f2 is not a problem. White can simply ignore this with nd5! You might be thinking, “Wait WHAT?” after qf2 kd1 it looks scary for white right?

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However, black has no good follow up. Every square around the white King is covered. And black has his own problems. Already, in this position, both c7 and g7 are hanging now.

As we can see, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the many lines of the Vienna game. It’s important to note, the point of this article was not to provide a repertoire against it, rather just to show you the dangers this opening can hold as well as give you some ideas on what positions you should look at. It’s up to you to decide where you continue from here.  I hope by reading this article, you have learned something about the importance of knowing your openings, not just in the Vienna game, but in all openings. Until next time!

Rating Is Just A Number

Have you ever asked your opponent, what’s their chess rating? By definition, a chess rating is a system used to estimate the approximate strength of a chess player based on their performances in tournaments, games, and likewise. However, often, chess players will take rating too far to either overestimate or underestimate their opponents. My goal today is to explain to you why this is a bad idea and how to get out of this mindset.

It’s generally not a good idea to judge someone based purely based on their rating, after all, it is really only an estimate and not a true indicator of their actual strength. This may seem like common sense, yet I see both kids and adults at tournaments when looking at their pairings either relax or start stressing when they see that their opponents are either much lower are much higher rated than them. Why do we do this? Let’s get into it. Often, when chess players see their opponent’s rating two things might happen, cockiness or fear. Either the higher rated opponent sees someone 200+ points lower than them and starts relaxing and estimating how long it will take him to win, or the lower rated opponent starts brainstorming how many moves he thinks he can last against his godly higher rated opponent. As we can see, in both cases, the difference in rating is what causes these feelings of overconfidence or fear to occur. However, there is no reason why a chess player should feel these things. While statistically speaking the higher rated player should win every time, this by no mean happens. Higher rated players get “upset” all the time. One might even argue that part of the reason why higher rated players get upset is because they underestimated their lower rated opponent.

It takes a lot of practice to avoid getting out of these mindsets, but the first step is to stop seeing rating as a sign of how you think your game is going to turn out. Instead, treat rating just like a number. It’s okay to know the rating of your opponent, but you should come into each game prepared for a fight regardless of your opponent’s rating. If you’re a higher rated chess player playing a lower rated opponent, it’s important to give the respect your opponent deserves. You should come to the game confident in your chances to win, but should not come into the game expecting a massacre. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you’re the lower rated playing someone much higher rated than you, it’s important not to overestimate your higher rated opponent. They are human too, and as long as you believe in yourself and your chances, anything is possible.  

A final topic I should discuss related to rating is how chess players judge themselves because of their rating. As I discussed in my last article covering chess plateaus, chess players often judge themselves based on their rating, and again, this should not be the case. It’s easy to be upset at yourself if you’re lower rated and wanting to become higher rated. However, these things take a lot of time and practice. Instead, it’s important to enjoy the playing aspect of chess and not pay too much attention to your rating. As long as you have fun playing chess, and put in the appropriate work, your rating increase will come in no time.

And that’s all of my thoughts for this week. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try to respond as soon as I can. See you next week!