What a week it’s been! With classes now in full swing, it’s almost like break never happened! Here’s what I’ve been up to since my return from the Eastern Open:
As I mentioned a few months back, I’ve joined the chess.com stream team to help promote chess. With some small technical difficulties (sorry for the lag!), my first episode of The Steincamp Show aired on Twitch this past weekend. If you missed the stream, I covered some topics like rook endgames, the Bird Bind, and some memorable games in my Europe trip. Have a look!
I’m hoping to stream regularly with chess.com, so make sure to subscribe to my twitch channel so you can notifications for when I go live!
In addition to my work here at Chess^Summit, I also happen to be the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers in the PRO Chess League. Last year the Pawngrabbers finished strong despite an 0-4 start, winning the last three regular season games against Lagos, Portland, and Minnesota.
While the offseason meant learning basic Photoshop skills to promote the team, it also meant scouting stronger local players and signing top players. We got some pretty big news last week:
GM Awonder Liang is set on second board behind GM Alexander Shabalov. This year the Pawngrabbers have added depth on boards 3 and 4 with IMs Atulya Shetty and Safal Bora, FMs Mark Heimann, Gabriel Petesch, and Edward Song, as well as Mika Brattain, David Itkin, and Grant Xu.
The Pawngrabbers’ start the 2018 season with their second-ever international match-up against Buenos Aires tomorrow, at 6:40 PM EST. It should be close, so don’t miss out on the official team stream:
I’ll be streaming the Pawngrabbers’ matches on my twitch channel (with technical issues fixed), alongside LM David Hua for much of the season, so don’t miss out!
Just two weeks down the road, I’ll be competing in the Cardinal Open in Columbus, in what will prove to be my first attempt of 2018 to escape the snowpocalypse that is Pittsburgh right now. I’m not exactly sure how many opportunities I will have to compete beyond this tournament given my school schedule, so my main focus is to just play sharp and avoid regrettable blunders.
In the meantime, I’ve been keeping track of the Tata Steel tournament in the Netherlands. How about Kramnik’s win over Svidler yesterday?
At a glimpse, White seems a little over-extended. Kramnik has two sets of doubled pawns, and e5 seems particularly weak. But how would you react if I said Kramnik went on to win in just 7 moves?
In reality, White’s rooks are actually really active – both of White’s rooks are optimally placed, and Black’s a8 rook and e8 knight are several moves away from getting into the game. White might be statically worse, but he has a dynamic edge on his side: 18. Rd7!
Not a hard move to find, as Kramnik hits three pawns at once (a7, b7, and e7). Svidler needed to bail out with 18…Bxe5 19. Rxe7 Bxc3 20. bxc3, but the endgame isn’t easy to hold. Black’s queenside pawns are weak, meaning that White will have an advantage to push on the queenside. Not to mention, it’s also more helpful to have the bishop than the knight in this endgame too.
So Svidler tried to opt out by trading away a pair of rooks with 18…Rc7 but was caught off guard by 19. Rxa7!
Now the position is starting to crumble. If Black tries 19…Rxa7? 20. Rd8! and White has a long-term advantage if 20…Kf8 21. Bxa7. White is extremely active, and Black will not easily break the pin on the e8 knight. So Svidler had to make a concession with 19…Rb8, and that was all Kramnik needed to win the game.
After 20. Rd5 b6 21. Nb5, White already has a commanding edge. Black’s rooks will never be fully (or actively) coordinated. Meanwhile, White’s knight on b5 is an immovable force, and the Black knight on e8 is unable to get into the game, thanks to the e5 pawn.
After 21…Rxa7 22. Nxa7 Kf8 23. Rd7, tactics are on White’s side again because if 23…Bxe5 24. Nc6! is decisive. After 23… Ra8 24. Bd4, Svidler resigned. White is so active that winning the b6 pawn is considered a distraction. While Black struggles to find activity, White has a plethora of plans to choose from.
White’s dynamic advantage from seven moves ago is now a static advantage, even with the doubled pawns. The knight on a7 not only blocks out the a-file for the rook, it takes away the c8 square. The Black knight on e8 can’t get out, and bishop on g7 is pointed at a pawn. Unless Black plays for a quick …f7-f6, White can march his king all the way to c6 and win the b6 pawn there. With all of his pieces active, then it becomes possible for Kramnik to push his b-pawns.
Black could try 24…f6, in fact, that’s probably the only real candidate move in the position. But even there, 25. Bxb6 fxe5 26. Bc5 exerts permanent pressure on e7 while preparing to advance the b3 pawn.
I like this game because it illustrates how important the overall balance is between statics and dynamics. At first, Kramnik had a dynamic edge, and he realized the position’s potential. In keeping with Dorfman’s strategy, he continued to play dynamically until his initiative became a long-lasting edge. As spectators, we were rewarded with a 24 move win against a super-GM!
With Kramnik at +2, he’s definitely in contention for first, but I’ve got this weird feeling Anish Giri is going to keep the edge… time to start watching to the Challenger section!