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

phpRDbvkW

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

DrlMS8MU0AA2VIs

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!

 

Advertisements

NM Pursuit #2: Training in a Time Crunch

As an amateur player with various dedications outside of chess, I have found it of utmost importance to make the most of my time in front of the board. While it may seem difficult to make serious progress with under an hour of spare time a day, here are a couple of guidelines that I have been following that have allowed me to make consistent improvements to my game.

  1. Intensity over volume! While it can certainly still be beneficial to spend hours passively reading over pages and pages of chess material online or from books, this type of low-intensity learning is not particularly efficient. In fact, I find that I get more out of an hour of intense calculation exercises where I am fully focused and am forced to actively struggle with new ideas, than I do from three hours of watching grandmaster commentary.
  2. Review old material! I described my chess note card method in an earlier post, and it is a method that I am starting to employ regularly once again as I make my push for 2200. The basic idea behind the note card method that it is much more efficient to actively review old material to ensure 100% retention than it is to go over more new material but forget half of that which was studied previously.
  3. Memorize names of specific games! While it might sound a bit overkill to look at a position from a game you have studied before and to be able to say “Ah, this is M. Krasenkow – A. Yusupov, Essen 2002” followed by the exact moves that were played, memorizing the details of specific games is, in my opinion, one of the most effective ways to anchor new knowledge. Knowing the names of specific games familiarizes your mind with the games at a deeper level, such that it is more ready to pull ideas from them when the opportunity arises. I also enjoy this method because it gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of every day, knowing that I at least have twelve fresh positions from different master games (of which I know the exact names) firmly anchored in my mind.

Progress Update

This past week was blemished by a fever which I caught on Friday, but on Monday-Thursday I was able to follow through with my planned training. I also analyzed tournament games during the previous weekend and had a lesson with my coach, as I had committed to in the new training plan outlined in my last blog.

Progress #3

I will be playing a tournament in San Antonio this coming weekend and look forward to reporting on my games and experiences at the event. Until next time!

The Calm Before the Storm (World Championship 2018)

Hi all, I’m back!  I took a short break for the past couple weeks in order to finalize my Early Action college applications and get those in.  But, now that the November 1st deadline has passed and I’m done with those (phew, what a relief!), I can get back to writing.  So, without further ado, let’s get to the actual article.

It’s only a few days from one of the most anticipated World Championship matches in the Carlsen era.  On one hand, we have the reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who has successfully defended his title for the last two encounters.  On the other hand, we have Fabiano Caruana, the current second-highest rated player in the world and World Champion hopeful.  For the first time, the Carlsen’s challenger is actually younger than him – Carlsen is 27 years old, while Caruana is 26.  This brings a new aspect to the match that hasn’t been seen yet:  Caruana’s rating and age are comparable to Carlsen, whereas it’s always been one or the other with the previous two challengers in Anand and Karjakin.  This makes for a very compelling match on paper.  But, before getting too far into the match itself, let’s see how these players got here.

The Road to London

First, we have reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen.  There honestly isn’t much that has to be said about him except, he’s good.  Very good.  In his most recent tournament, European Club Cup, he had a +1 score with one win and five draws.  Overall, he’s played much less than Caruana since the match was set, so he’s likely going to be very prepared for the upcoming matchup.

Next, we have Caruana.  He punched his ticket to challenge Carlsen because he won the Candidates tournament back in March.  Typically, when a player is going to be the World Championship challenger, they don’t play that much until the match because they want to stay home and prepare.  However, Caruana hasn’t stuck to that strategy all that much, instead playing in most of the big tournaments.  It hasn’t been a bad decision at all, though, since he’s played well in each of these events and goes into the match only three (!) rating points behind Carlsen and his playing stamina up to par.

What to Look for

It seems like these players are going to play for different narratives in this match.  Carlsen, in his typical style, will probably go for solid openings as Black and try to steer the game towards the endgame if possible, since no one in today’s game is better than him in that phase; as White, at least early in the match, we will probably see Carlsen going for more rewarding possibilities, but if he is up near the end of the match, he will probably switch to more solid openings there as well.  Caruana, on the other hand, will probably push for more in the middle stages in all of his games as White since it is in his interest to avoid the endgame if he won’t have at least something to play for in that phase; meanwhile as Black, we might see Caruana a bit more aggressive than Carlsen in the end.  However, the flow of the match is what will be the greatest factor in determining how the players play as the match goes on.

Recent Games

The most recent game between Carlsen and Caruana was at the Sinquefield Cup, where they drew a relatively tame game.  Likely, neither player wanted to exhaust one of their prepared opening lines so that they could save it for the match.  However, in the head-to-head match before that, Carlsen won against Caruana at the Altibox Norway tournament earlier in the year; in that game, Carlsen reached an advantageous endgame where he ground down Caruana.  I’ve attached this game below.

Carlsen – Caruana, Altibox Norway, 2018

This is the kind of game that Carlsen will likely aim for in the upcoming match.  Meanwhile, Caruana will strike early and often, hoping to replicate games like this recent attacking gem from the World Chess Olympiad.

Caruana – Anand, World Chess Olympiad, 2018

No matter the case, this match will be one of the most exciting, action-packed matches to date, and I know I’ll be keeping up with every game.

Looking ahead, I’ll finally be playing in my first tournament in months since I finally have some time.  Next time around, I’ll either be updating you guys on games from the World Championship or share some games from that upcoming tournament of mine.  As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!

More Fall Adventures

After my recent rough streak, my luck finally turned this weekend at the Eastern Chess Congress in Princeton, NJ.

First rounds are generally rocky affairs for me (and others). This one fortunately followed the principle that higher rated players always find a way…

Girsh

In heavy time trouble, my opponent blitzed out 36.Nxe2? running into 36… Re8! winning the e3-pawn. 36.Kxe2! was completely fine for white. Even that endgame down the e3-pawn is not very dangerous for white, but I was able to consolidate and win.

In round 2 against Peter Boris (2046 USCF), everything was going according to plan, until, when faced with too many choices for my own good, I went greedy.

Boris 1

White’s position is fantastic here. He has the bishop pair, a powerful knight anchored on b5, and very active pieces all around. And black’s c8-bishop isn’t even developed yet. What more could I want after only 20 moves? But what to do now? There are so many good options such as 21.Rad1, 21.Nd6, 21.Qg3, etc. After any one of those moves white is borderline winning. Instead, I went for 21.Qd6?! which was met with 21… Ne6!. 22.Qxb6?? would lose the queen to 22… Ra6!, so to justify my previous move, I played 22.Bxe6?! Bxe6 23.Qxb6 Nh4

Boris 2

White has won a pawn, but his king is getting drafty. Black is even threatening Nxg2 in this position! I decided to pull my queen back to civilization with 24.Qd6. The queens were traded after 24… Rfd8 25.Qf4 Qxf4 26.Bxf4

Boris 3

Though white is still better here, it’s a far cry what it was before. Though I still went on to win this time, the moral of the story is clear. Greed isn’t always good!

In round 3, I got to play up against GM Fidel Corrales (2595 USCF). My pro tip for this kind of situation is not to lose, and unfortunately I didn’t follow my own advice.

Corrales

After going for a shaky/outright disastrous idea out of the opening, I managed to stabilize the position to this endgame. This looks like a textbook good knight vs. bad bishop endgame, but black has the c-file. To “liberate” my bishop, I played 26… Rc4?!. Though it’s nice to revive that bishop, black is still worse after 27.Rxc4 dxc4 28.Rg3 g6 29.Re3. White’s big advantage is that he has clear plans to solidify and improve his position, white black doesn’t. Long story short, after a few more errors, I went down.

Instead of that, I should’ve swallowed my pride and traded all the rooks with 26… Rxc3 27.Rxc3 Rc8. Yes, I know it looks ugly and that white is on top, but with some accurate play from black (i.e. going …f6), white shouldn’t be able to get through.

After winning round 4 and taking a bye in round 5, GM Corrales went on to win clear first! For me, this loss was not pleasant at all, especially in a short 5-round tournament. I made the best of things and managed to beat two 2200+ opponents in the last two rounds.

Xiexin
White to play and win!
Ardito
Bust white’s ambitious play.

By scoring 4/5, I gained 3 measly rating points. Though you won’t see me obsessing about rating anytime soon, it’s annoying that I need 4/5 to maintain my rating, which has been the theme in almost all 5-round tournaments I have played this year. The pros are that you can experiment with openings more freely in these kinds of tournaments, and you do gain experience after all. The cons are that you have to score heavily.

There are unfortunately only that many tournaments on this side of the pond that have strong fields, not to mention norm chances, and most of those are clustered during the summer. Well, life as a big cat is tough :(.

Well, it’s nice to have a decent tournament after a rough streak. Onward!

Answers: In the first puzzle, 18.Bb4! wins. After 18… Re8 19.Ng5, black can’t defend f7. He could pitch a pawn with 18… c5 or give up the exchange, but he’s lost either way.
In the second puzzle, 13… Ne7! simply wins. 14.Qb5+ is met with c6, and after 14.Bb5+ Kf8, white is just down too much material.

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!

 

 

NM Pursuit #1: A New Beginning

It’s time for a new beginning.

After coming back from the summer without having invested much time into chess, I managed to play myself back into form during the Washington International. Although I started the tournament rather poorly, I managed to turn the tide and win my last four games against only slightly lower rated opposition. While the games were far from perfect, I was happy to pick up a few wins and finish the tournament on a positive note. I even gained a few rating points and managed to finish in the top 10 with my late comeback:

Washington International Rating

Following the Washington International, I played in a small local tournament, scoring evenly against slightly lower rated opposition over the course of three rounds.

September Swiss Rating

My stagnant results, not only since returning from my summer travels, but also over the course of the past year, have caused me to think deeply about where I see myself in chess. I am currently a junior in high school, and therefore school is always a top priority. Furthermore, other activities such as soccer and jazz band take up reasonably large chunks of time on a daily basis. However, one thing is blatantly clear to me: I am not happy with where I am in my chess journey and want to keep progressing. My enjoyment of chess stems not only from the game itself, but also from my ability to grow in knowledge and skill. Neither “stumbling” from tournament to tournament during breaks from school, as I have during the past year, nor giving up chess completely are paths that I am willing to take.

Consequently, I have committed to making an aggressive push toward the 2200 USCF mark. This aggressive push, while comprised in essence of consistent training and playing, is outlined in a bit more detail below:

  1. 1 lesson from the Yusupov Series… Monday-Friday: What more can I say? Every day of the school week, I will be completing one lesson from Artur Yusupov’s extensive improvement series. If I am not able to complete a lesson on a given day, I will use Saturday as a “catch-up day” to complete that lesson. As I am almost finished with the first book from the series, exactly fifty-three more lessons lay ahead. These lessons will be the cornerstone of my daily training for the coming months.
  2. Coaching and game analysis: I recently hired a chess coach, and will be working with this coach on a weekly basis to help enrich my analysis of tournament games. My hope is that guidance from a strong titled player will help me identify the most gaping holes in my play and patch those holes as quickly as possible. As I have been reasonably consistent in analyzing my tournament games from the past year, I will continue to do so during the coming months. Game analysis and lessons from a coach will be the focus of weekends in particular, when I am not busy with Yusupov study.
  3. Playing! I plan to play in two major tournaments during the month of November and will continue to play actively in December and January. It is important to reap the fruit of one’s labor, and therefore I will be playing on a consistent basis as a part of my NM Pursuit.

October Spreadsheet

This neat little spreadsheet will keep me on track until the end of October.

When pursuing any type of goal, it is most important to understand your “why.” Why am I working hard for this? Why do I want to achieve this? My “why” is that I want to become a national master because it has been my goal ever since I started playing chess competitively, and it would make me incredibly happy to see this goal through. Until next time!

Playing the Double King Pawn Game on Feel

The most analyzed positions in the open games (1. e4 e5) must be the ones in the mainline Ruy Lopez, which as such, is not in my repertoire. But many other double-king-pawn middlegames commonly arise, that are not part of the Ruy Lopez. Although most are not considered as critical at high level, they share a lot of similarities to our Ruy. Of course, there are too many to name, and too many for most players to analyze in detail, so many of them are played on some basic principles that most players develop as they play these positions often enough. Sometimes, it’s more complicated than that, but in a recent game I played against an up-and-coming junior (rated about 2150), it was enough for a crushing win in what looked to be a long, closed game.

Before going over that game, I would be remiss to omit the continuation of, well, the namesake of my last two posts. During my recent trek to Berkeley (in which I was wise enough to stay overnight instead of driving an extra 100 miles…), I scored one win and one loss in my first two games, being borderline lost in the first and crushing from the beginning in the second. Although it might appear that I played like a normal human being this time, and lost the first but won the second, a read of my last two posts will suggest (correctly) that I won the first, against an expert, and lost the second, against a very tricky Grandmaster Enrico Sevillano. When I sort those out in my studies of chess psychology, I will revisit those, perhaps in a later post! But for now, it’s double king pawn games.

Li (2225) – Vidyarthi (2153), Berkeley October FIDE

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 Bc5 4. Nc3 c6

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 1.20.15 AM
Position after 4…c6

Although White’s move order is intended to spring f2-f4, when Black is able to counter with …d5, we usually revert back to usual double-king-pawn play. Black can settle for …d6 anyway (as in the game) or strike out with …d5.

5. Nf3 b5 6. Bb3 d6 7. Ne2

This is a plan that should be familiar to most players of these and similar lines; White getting ready to reroute a knight to g3 and hopefully f5.

7…O-O 8. Ng3 h6?!

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 1.24.19 AM
Position after 8…h6

This is already a step in the wrong direction, as …h6 is rarely helpful to Black in the long run (especially after castling, when it is just a target), Understandably, Black does not want to be bothered by Bg5, but with a knight on g3 I probably wouldn’t have bothered, as after …h6 the bishop cannot keep the pin.

Of course, we are still far from the dream scenario, but if white gets to post a knight on f5, Black is going to be a bit uncomfortable, as trying to kick the knight with …g6 will hang the h6-pawn in most lines.

9. O-O Be6 10. c3

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 1.30.28 AM
Position after 10. c3

About as reasonable a decision as any; White’s bishop is powerful, but usually can’t stay on the diagonal for long. I don’t have too much experience in these types of games, but it seems that when Black blunts the a2-g8 diagonal, it’s time to switch gears and train sights on f5 and beyond. 10. Bxe6 fxe6 in particular did not seem helpful.

It’s a good time to take stock in what both players may want. I obviously wanted a knight on f5, but trying to have both knights trained on f5 is hard (Nh4 gets squashed by Nxe4 discovered attack, for now). Regardless, from that perspective it’s important to keep the pawn on e4.

Black is clearly helped by the pawn on e5, but supporting it will become a bit of a challenge if he tries to break in the center with …d5 (which I believe he should have tried). Most importantly, it’s important to keep notice of White’s possibilities on the kingside.

10…Nbd7 11. a4 a6 12. h3

Possibly not necessary, but seemed like a good way to improve my position before taking any action. 12. h3 in particular was based on the possibility of Black trading off a pair of minor pieces on the kingside; for example, otherwise 12…Bg4 13. h3 Nh5! (and if hxg4, Nxg3!). Note that h3 is not a target in the way that h6 is for Black.

12…Bb6 13. Bc2 Qc7?

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 1.38.32 AM
Position after 13…Qc7

When I saw this move, I was a bit confused as it didn’t seem to jive with 12…Bb6. I suspect Black just wanted to keep the bishop away from d3-d4 and finish development, but “developing” Black’s queen is not a huge deal at the moment, and if he wanted to, 13…Qe7 was a much better option, preventing 14. Nh4.

I’m not really sure what I would have done. Nf5 intending to answer Bxf5 with exf5 is not the end of the world, but that needs to be prepared reasonably well as Black takes a lot of the center after that with …d5. Now White is guaranteed a knight on f5, with a fairly substantial advantage.

14. Nh4 Rfd8 15. Ngf5

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 1.42.25 AM
Position after 15. Ngf5

Now things are starting to get scary for Black, as White is poised to follow with Qf3, Qg3 etc. There are many threats after Qf3, so determining the best response takes a bit of thinking. 15…Kh8 seems relatively best, when the hasty 16. Qf3 d5 (e.g.) 17. Qg3 runs into 17…Nh5 followed by the surprising 18…Ndf6!.

15…Nf8? 16. Qf3

Perhaps Black intended to move his king but missed that White is also threatening 17. Nxh6.

16…Bxf5 17. Nxf5 N6h7 18. Qg3

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 1.46.38 AM
Position after 18. Qg3

Because of the dual threats of Nxh6+ and Qxg7#, Black is kind of toast already. The only try is to block the g-file, but Black is not coordinated enough to deal with White’s counters to that.

18…Ng6 19. h4 Nf6 20. Bd1 h5 21. Bg5

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 1.49.48 AM
Position after 21. Bg5

Black had only one way to stop h4-h5, but White again threatens Bxf6 and Bxh5, winning probably much more than just a pawn. Black’s pieces are all helpless to protect the kingside.

21…Kh7 22. Qf3

Trying to beef up the attack; Black did not oblige and sacrificed the exchange with 22…Ng4 but White’s attack kept up and I was able to win the rest without significant trouble.

Despite a fairly even-handed opening, the rest was pretty much on common open game principles. Black would have done well to keep in mind White’s mechanisms for activating that h4-knight and preparing active counterplay such as …d7-d5.

Stay tuned for next month’s post, which will feature some games from the upcoming Bay Area Emory Tate Memorial!