Monthly Archives: Oct 2014

Tashkent GP 2014 – Round 9

Sooner or later a good thing pushed too far will become too much of a good thing. We’ve all been having fun with Jobava’s exuberant display, but today he did that one step too far that made it look out of place.

Jobava went for the Veresov, a favourite of his and of Rapport’s, but Andreikin wasn’t fazed and reacted in the sensible manner when playing wild players – he played in the most solid way. Jobava’s 5th move (5 g4) was in his trademark style, his 6h allowed doubling of his pawns, while his 10th was that one step too far. After his 13th move, he was simply a pawn down and lost. Creativity is more than welcomed, but when taken to the extreme it becomes absurd.

The other player to win today was Mamedyarov. He used the Dutch against Jakovenko, but it only brought him problems. But instead of going the Tomashevsky way and reach +1, Jakovenko lost control over the position and sank to -1. He’ll be hating himself tonight.

The other games were drawn. While Radjabov-Caruana (a Berlin) and Vachier-Giri (Spanish with 4 d3, with the idea to avoid the Berlin) were tame affairs, the Karjakin-Nakamura game was interesting because Karjakin chose the h3-system against the KID (Makagonov System), a system in which Nakamura seems to have some problems. He always changes the lines he plays against it, which suggest he’s not really sure which one is best. He’s also had some really bad losses in the past in this line (against Andreikin in 2012, against Kasimdzhanov in 2013 (coming from a Benoni)) and suspicious positions (the latest one, the third game from the recent Navara match). But let’s not forget their last KID game, at the Gashimov Memorial, where Karjakin made the atrocious move 13 f3 (for more detailed notes see here This time Nakamura chose yet another line and more or less kept the equilibrium. Generally speaking, this line with h3 is difficult to master for both sides as there are many transpositional possibilities and many positions that need to be felt in order to know whether they are good or not.

The duel of the tail-enders saw Fischer’s favourite 6 Bc4 against the Najdorf. This is out of fashion for quite some time because it’s considered that all 3 systems that black has at his disposal: Nc6, Nd7-c5 or b5, give him good play. Kasimdzhanov probably tried to force Gelfand spend masses of time remembering the theory, but as I’ve said earlier, trying to catch Gelfand in a Najdorf is not a good idea. Black achieved good play and the game was generally balanced, with a few scattered inaccuracies. I’m just curious about Kasimdzhanov’s impracticality on move 40, but luckily for him it was still a draw after that.

Two round to go and there’s a clear leader in Andreikin with 6/9, or +3. A sole first here will definitely make up for his bad result in Baku, but it’s still to be seen whether it will be enough.


Tashkent GP 2014 – Round 8

All drawn while Jobava wins his third game with black. I think these guys should teach Jobava some manners and explain it to him that winning so many games with black is not an acceptable behaviour at elite events.

Gelfand probably didn’t expect Jobava’s English Defence and this led to black achieving good play after the opening. I think Gelfand’s principled approach to chess only brings him woe when he’s tired – I spoke about this yesterday. His dynamic style suffers when he cannot sustain it with precise calculation. And today he was impractical – instead of choosing something more solid (after having realised that he’s in no position to play the chess he’s used to) he still went down the most principled lines and was busted in 20 moves after failing to control the situation. It’s a shame that after the triumph in Baku he’s now humiliated like this.

Giri and Jakovenko played a long line in the Hedgehog that led to a fortress for black. I don’t know what Giri’s idea was going for this line as it’s a really easy draw for black. Being on -1 and drawing your white games without play makes little sense to me.

Caruana went for the “boring” line against Kasimdzhanov’s QGA (7 dc5) and I think it was a smart choice – unlike Gelfand, he decided to play it safe. After all he needs to keep a more or less decent score in order to have chances of winning the Grand Prix series and his 50% at the moment is just that (while Gelfand’s disastrous tournament probably robbed him of those chances). If something else falls in his lap, he’ll take it, if not then he’ll just try to stay afloat. At least that’s what I gather from his decision to play it safe against the tail-ender of the tournament. In fact, he had to be a bit careful in the later stages of the game.

Nakamura is a fast learner and he quickly learned how to make a draw with white without suffering like he did in his game against Caruana from round 6. This time he went for a really safe line against Radjabov’s Ragozin, but one that really gave no chances for black to play for more than a draw. Mission accomplished.

Andreikin did the same against Vachier, in a Grunfeld he deviated from the blitz game Eljanov-Aronian from 2010 and with the help of the engine found a way to a repetition.

The most interesting draw was Mamedyarov-Karjakin. They repeated the line in the Nimzo they played at the Candidates and this time black was better prepared. The game quickly became very sharp and the players demonstrated excellent calculating skills and high level of play. With good play from both sides the game was dynamically balanced throughout and it correctly ended in a draw. This game is another proof that age and stamina are significant factors in modern chess – both Mamedyarov and Karjakin played in Baku and they still had it in them to play a practically flawless game that required a lot of calculation, while at the same time Gelfand is collapsing and missing simple tactical ideas.

Tomorrow is a rest day, probably most welcomed by the exhausted participants in the lower part of the table. Since the leading players will aim to draw their games and crawl to the finish line I don’t expect much excitement in their games, except, of course, in Jobava’s.


Tashkent GP 2014 – Round 7

It feels good to be right. As it turned out, I was right about both Caruana and Karjakin yesterday.

After a short castle (two losses in a row) Karjakin was probably very upset with himself and, to his credit, managed to channel this anger into his game. He won a very good game against Giri, who proved the old adage that a long series of draws ends in a loss.

Caruana didn’t get anything in the opening against Gelfand, probably because he was surprised by the Nimzo (expecting a Grunfeld), but as the game progressed it was Gelfand’s fatigue that played the decisive role. Even though the players are not forced to travel every single day and play in different cities, this must feel like the famous AVRO tournament to Gelfand – the oldest participant, like Capablanca in the AVRO, he has a really tough time after playing almost non-stop for a bit less than a whole month. Another reason is Gelfand’s style, a dynamic and active style that depends a lot on precise calculation and when fatigue sets in the ability to calculate precisely is the first to suffer.

The other games were drawn. And while Mamedyarov-Radjabov and Jakovenko-Andreikin were friendly affairs, the other two were very interesting.

Nakamura’s choice of the Dutch against Kasimdzhanov announced his aggressive intentions, but the problem with the Dutch is that if white wishes, he can obtain a really safe position. Which is what Kasimdzhanov did and in spite of all black’s efforts he couldn’t get the fist-fight he would have liked to. The final position is of some interest, as instead of accepting the draw white could have continued – the reason was probably time-trouble and tournament situation (Kasimdzhanov is lingering in last place).

The Frenchman with a complicated name (Vachier Lagrave) played a complicated game against Jobava. Usually people play the Caro Kann in order to have a calm game, but not so when you have a complicated and chaotic player playing each other! Jobava sacrificed a piece to create a mess and probably missed some better chances, while the Frenchman missed his best chance in this position:

Will the tired veteran manage to deal with Jobava’s chaotic style tomorrow? And will Caruana follow up with another win against the tail-ender Kasimdzhanov?


Tashkent GP 2014 – Round 6

An exciting round in Tashkent, things are heating up and the players are stepping up their efforts.

I am a bit sad watching Gelfand ruin his positions. Today it seems the forgetful Frenchman (Vachier) struck again – he went for a line that is known to be refuted since the time of the Patriarch himself. Gelfand got a big advantage but several sub-optimal decisions saw it go down the drain. I’m convinced he would have won this game easily had it been played in Baku.

Jobava and Jakovenko played a lively Nimzo-Indian that after a series of exchanges in the centre simplified to a drawn endgame.

Giri and Radjabov went into yet another Berlin. There seems to be a tendency of late for the white players to go into the endgame a bit more than avoiding it with 4 d3. It’s particularly attractive for players who like to prepare really deep and go for long lines. Giri is such a player while Radjabov is such a player only occasionally. Giri had a chance when he caught Radjabov with a second-choice engine move, but he missed it immediately.

Mamedyarov got Kasimdzhanov off the beaten track quite quickly but that was all he achieved – black had a very good position in the opening. Things got messy in the centre and a lot of calculation was required, plus black’s king was more vulnerable than white’s, making it easier to play with white in spite of the computer’s evaluations. The most important thing was that the mess was entirely in accordance with Mamedyarov style – no surprise that he managed to come out victorious.

Nakamura still has to learn how to play for a draw. The way he did it today against Caruana was just awful – choosing a lame line in the Nimzo followed by passive play landed him in trouble. He was lucky Caruana misjudged the transposition to the heavy-piece endgame.

When Andreikin choses the Trompowsky (or the Torre) that’s a sign that he’s playing for a win. Karjakin must have been prepared against both and yet he spent masses of time in the opening. As early as move 4 the position started to resemble a Sicilian and a sharp battle ensued. White’s safer king (like in the Mamedyarov game) was again the decisive factor, plus Karjakin’s horrid time management, which made it even easier for Andreikin. Perhaps Karjakin was over-optimistic and too eager to get back after yesterday’s loss (in view of his decision not to force a repetition on move 11)? Karjakin’s play struck me as impractical, both clock-wise and position-wise, as he didn’t seem resolute enough when deciding what to do with his king. This win propelled Andreikin to shared first while Karjakin is now on -1. If I said yesterday that Karjakin is very dangerous after a loss, then he’s even more dangerous after a double-loss!

Tomorrow’s round brings the duel of the winners from Baku – Caruana and Gelfand, with both of them lingering in the lower part of the standings. There is still time to improve the situation, but with Gelfand’s stamina being a glaring problem, I think only one player can hope to move forward.


Tashkent GP 2014 – Round 5

Three decisive games after the rest day and I’m again glad for Jobava!

So far he manages to impose his style on his opponents, but these guys learn fast. Today it worked again, though, as Karjakin was put under pressure and succumbed. An uncharacteristic flop by Karjakin, but let’s not forget that he’s at his most dangerous in situations like this one.

Radjabov and Andreikin went deep into Berlin territory and Andreikin’s analyses proved to be precise and he held the draw easily.

Kasimdzhanov and Giri played a Grunfeld where black was fine throughout and the draw was the normal outcome.

Caruana still cannot find his stride in this tournament. He went again for the line in the Slav in which he beat Mamedyarov in Baku, but obviously black was better prepared now and achieved a draw without problems. It’s interesting to observe the players going for the same lines they’d played before against the same opponents (but also against others as well – for example Radjabov played the Berlin Andreikin played against Caruana in round 3). I think the main reason is there was so little time between the tournaments and it wasn’t possible to prepare new surprises, hence the players aim to get a position and play on. Very often this isn’t enough.

Nakamura beat Gelfand in 97 moves. A very instructive game: first he avoided the Najdorf, going for the Carlsen favourite 3 Bb5. Black obtained a perfectly viable position after the opening, but white kept on posing little problems here and there. The pressure piled up and he managed to create some pressure – first psychological and then in the position. Gelfand being the oldest participant and coming directly from Baku didn’t help his issue – Nakamura also played in Baku, but he’s also 20 years younger. In normal circumstances Gelfand wouldn’t have had problems drawing this, but today he failed to do so. The comments to the game show the critical moments and the reasons behind the decisions.

Jakovenko beat Vachier with a novelty that is the second choice of the engine. And it proved fatal for the latter. They followed a game by the Frenchman and then instead of the first choice of the engine, played in the mentioned game, Jakovenko went for the second choice. Objectively black should have drawn rather easily, in practice he lost rather easily. This game is a good example how the elite analyse their openings.

After this round Nakamura emerged as the sole leader with the same +2 that sufficed for shared first in Baku. I doubt it, though, that he will draw the remaining 6 games.


An Interview

Here’s an interview I gave for one of my students’ website:

It’s about general ideas in chess, a bit on my beginnings, some advice. It’s about 5 minutes long, enjoy it!


Tashkent GP 2014 – Round 4

All drawn today in Tashkent in a generally calm round.

Andreikin and Kasimdzhanov played a QGD Tartakower in which white went for the rare system with 8 Be2 and 9 0-0 (usually 9 Bf6 is played). Black didn’t experience problems and the game was quickly drawn.

Giri-Caruana also started as a QGD but transposed to some sort of a Catalan after 5 g3. Caruana tried to move-order white by postponing castling and when the queens were exchanged the endgame was roughy equal. In such endgames only a big blunder is required for a win and that didn’t happen today. A bit of a letdown, at least for me, but I should have remembered that Giri is the epitomy of solidity, especially when playing white and opening with 1 d4.

Jobava went for the rarely played nowadays 4 Bg5 against Radjabov’s Grunfeld and found an interesting pawn sacrifice in order to keep the initiative with his two strong knights against black’s bishops. He did have the initiative until the end, but the position was too simple for Radjabov to go wrong.

Gelfand and Jakovenko played the popular 4 Bf4 line against the QGD and they followed theory until move 15 when Jakovenko played the new move 15…Ra7 instead of the previously played 15…Ra6 in Grischuk-Nakamura. Since the idea was to double on the a-file, this didn’t change much, but Jakovenko demonstrated an improvement over Nakamura’s play by postponing the capture on c5. A good example of a subtle improvement on an elite level and a glimpse of how deep their home preparation goes.

Finally a good opening preparation by Mamedyarov! After criticising him for so long, today he came up with a very interesting idea against Nakamura’s QGD. In fact the idea (13 Be5) was suggested by Kasparov and I had already analysed it some time ago. The game was lively, but it seems Mamedyarov missed his best (and perhaps only) chance on move 19.

Unfortunately it turned out I was right yesterday when I predicted a dull draw in Vachier-Karjakin. In fact the game should have been drawn on move 19, when white took a pawn, but his queenside pawns were safely blocked on black squares in a position with opposite-coloured bishops. White played on until move 51 but without any illusions.

A pawn up, but a dead draw

The tournament follows the slow tempo as expected, meaning that a lot of fighting lies ahead. The action resumes after the free day tomorrow.


Tashkent GP 2014 – Round 3

It’s easier to play when you have your queen on the board. Probably that’s what Jobava thought after yesterday’s draw against Caruana and today’s victory over Kasimdzhanov. A strange opening by Kasimdzhanov, who followed the game Karjakin-Jobava played at the Russian team championship in April this year and then played a weaker move than the one chosen by Karjakin! A well-known theoretician who came up with the famous line in the Meran which helped Anand beat Kramnik in 2008, this time he looked as if he didn’t know what a computer was. Very strange indeed. As it was, Jobava untangled and his extra pawn decided the game.

Mamedyarov beat Gelfand with yet another odd opening choice. He repeated the Nf3, e3 idea to avoid the Grunfeld, just like in Baku, and they again transposed to a Benoni, but this time with the typical Benoni structure, not the symmetrical one that gave white an edge in Baku. This has been played before, but what Mamedyarov did was incredible – he simply moved the pawn from e3 to e4, entering a well-known position a tempo down! I cannot understand players of this calibre to behave nonchalantly like this in the opening, to me it looks like complete lack of preparation, something I also mentioned yesterday. Obviously black was more than OK, but he became hesitant at one point and then was worse. The game should have ended in a draw, but Gelfand blundered badly and lost. So Mamedyarov managed to beat Gelfand twice in a span of two weeks, after failing to do so for 4 years. Strange stuff happening.

Caruana established himself as one of the main Berlin-busters, beating even Carlsen in it, but today he didn’t achieve anything against Andreikin. The draw was the natural outcome.

Nakamura put huge pressure on Giri in the Nimzo-Indian and I thought he was going to win, but Giri has developed into a tough player – worse throughout the game he didn’t allow any clear winning chances and held the draw after 79 moves. The game ended in a stalemate and in spite of what Short would like to have, this is still a draw (about this stalemate discussion, I’ll refer you to an earlier post of mine

Karjakin scored his first win against Jakovenko. Well-known for his extensive theoretical knowledge and deep opening repertoire, I find it hard to understand why occasionally Karjakin shies away from theoretical battles (the latest example was the game against Dominguez in Baku which went 1 Nf3, 2 g3, 3 Bg2, 4 d4, 5 0-0 and 6 c3!) or gets nowhere in the opening (the games with Gelfand and Svidler from Baku). World-class theoretician Motylev and Kasparov’s former coach Dokhoian are working for him on a constant basis so this gets me thinking what are they actually working on? As for Jakovenko, he was quick to prove me right when I said yesterday that I didn’t expect him to repeat Tomashevsky’s feat from Baku.

The leading Frenchman called Vachier Lagrave repeated the forced line in the Najdorf he used against Caruana in round 1 against Radjabov. Radjabov went for the most forcing 12 g5 and they followed theory until move 29 (not a typo), but in fact it seems that the Frenchman mixed up his lines – on move 27 there was a better move and black would have been OK. After his inaccuracy he ran into some trouble, but luckily for him white missed his best chance on move 30.

Tomorrow we have the derby Frenchman against Karjakin – it’s unclear what to expect there, but most probably a boring draw (I’m always hoping I’m wrong when I make this sort of predictions). Another interesting game is Giri-Caruana, not so long ago they shared the same coach, GM Chuchelov, so there will be some fishing in the opening.


Tashkent GP 2014 – Round 2

I’m glad for Jobava. He didn’t chicken out and played one of his pet lines against Caruana, the Reversed Philidor. True to his style he was lost by move 9, but that meant nothing – he found resources and saved the game. It’s refreshing to see new faces and new approaches and openings in these elite events and Jobava provides all of them. Caruana did miss a clear-cut win later in the game, but Jobava didn’t deserve to lose.

Gelfand had the edge in the QID Karjakin chose and the position was similar to Karjakin’s last round game in Baku against Andreikin – the only difference in the pawn structure was black’s pawn on c5 instead of b6. Karjakin is used to holding firm under pressure and he did it again pretty professionally.

Jakovenko’s approach reminds me of Tomashevsky’s in Baku – play as solidly as possible. Yesterday a Berlin, today a safe endgame against Radjabov. On move 20 he deviated from a recent game Radjabov played at the ECC in Bilbao, but that was enough only for an academic plus. And academic pluses at this level mean only one thing – a draw. It is psychologically comforting to draw a game where you had been pressing from start to finish and there was no risk to lose, but that kind of play rarely brings good results – the best one can hope is Tomashevsky’s +1. Somehow I doubt it Jakovenko will repeat that.

Andreikin and Nakamura played a long theoretical line that ends in a perpetual. Good preparation by Andreikin who obviously wanted to make a draw today.

I was shocked by Mamedyarov’s preparation today. This was the third time he played this line in the Slav in the last few weeks and every time he was on the losing side of the opening duel: first he got nothing with white against Andreikin in round 3 in Baku, then he switched sides and used it as black and was worse in the opening and almost losing later on against Karjakin in round 8, while today he tried it again with black against Giri and again was strategically busted by force! This is an obvious lack of opening work and he should consider himself lucky not to lose.

The only winner today was the Frenchman with the complicated name. He won against the player with the longest name. In case you’re still wondering which game I still haven’t mentioned, it’s Vachier Lagrave-Kasimdzhanov. In an innocuous 4 d3 Spanish black was OK, as usual, but was a bit careless on move 9 and this immediately gave white some initiative. It’s strange that even in such a calm position one move is enough to make your life complicated. Chess is a game of precision!

After only 2 rounds there is a clear leader – the complicated Frenchman won both his games. As I expect this tournament to be as close as the previous one, it’s still early to say anything about the future winners, but what I like so far is Jobava’s presence and the flair he brings to every round.


Tashkent GP 2014 – Round 1

Two black wins in the first round of the Tashkent Grand Prix is somewhat of a surprising start of the tournament, especially if taking into account that white won only one game. As we saw in Baku, these events are solid affairs and black doesn’t get to win many games.

We can say that Andreikin was lucky to beat Mamedyarov with black after suffering for a long time and entering a double-rook endgame a pawn down. Surely at this level you cannot possibly lose such an endgame a pawn up?! It’s obvious that Mamedyarov went a bit too far in his winning attempts and then when it was time to bail out, he didn’t find the way. A painful loss for Mamedyarov who still seems to be reeling after Baku.

Gelfand showed excellent preparation against Giri in a Benoni (arising after 3 f3 against the Grunfeld) and drew without any problem. It’s important to notice that Giri correctly sensed the moment to play for a draw.

Nakamura beat Jobava rather easily. I am curious to see if Jobava (a great guy by the way) will continue with his unorthodox and sharp style in this tournament. He tried it today and failed. His recent successes have been achieved mostly because of his splendid calculating abilities, but in this company everybody has those abilities! I remember back in 2011 we were spending a lot of time together during the Crespi Memorial in Milan where he won scoring 8.5/9! He was quite open about his training methods and it was very pleasant to chat with him for hours on. I do wish him all the best in these series and I hope he manages to break through to the upper echelons of the elite.

Caruana went for the sharp lines in the Najdorf against Vachier Lagrave. This game reminded me of his game against Topalov in Stavanger this year, or more precisely, of Topalov’s comments after the game: when Caruana complained that he couldn’t remember the moves Topalov calmly replied: “It’s impossible to remember.” This statement is a clear indication of the elite’s opening preparation – way too much computer analysis! And today Caruana repeated the same mistake – he went into a heavily analysed line and forgot his preparation. He ended up in a very unpleasant position and couldn’t hold it.

The other two games, Kasimdzhanov-Jakovenko and Radjabov-Karjakin were drawn without much excitement. The only thing worth noting is Radjabov’s use of Spassky’s pet line from the end of the 70s 1 e4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 g3. A rare guest at this level and with a good reason – black had no problems in the opening.

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