Monthly Archives: Feb 2015

The Charm of the King’s Indian Defence

I have been looking at some KID lines recently and I remembered how exciting this opening is. I played the KID with black until around 2000 (with pretty good results) and then from 2008 I switched sides and started playing against it with white.

The following game is from the Berane tournament I won back in 1998. It was a category 8 round-robin tournament with 14 participants and lasted for two weeks (there was even a free day in the middle of the tournament). The blasphemy of two games a day didn’t even occur to people back then. My score of 9.5/13 also brought me my first GM norm. I remember that my daily routine was get up around 11am, take a walk, eat lunch, prepare for the game, play the game, eat dinner and read Shakespeare’s Complete Works before sleep. In those two weeks during the tournament I read all the plays and almost all of the sonnets!

This game is also one of the most spectacular games I’ve ever played. The following diagram shows the star move of the game:


My opponent was Julian Radulski, who would later on become a good friend, a GM, and achieve rating of over 2600. Julian tragically died in 2013 at the age of 41, but he is fondly remembered by anyone who knew him.

The opening phase of the game is not of much interest today, but the character of play that followed is very much in the best spirit of the KID. I start my comments from the moment the real chaos begins. Here’s the game and you can enjoy it together with the lines that remained unplayed:


4NCL 2015 – Rounds 5&6

It is strange to play after a long break. My last game was on the 2nd of September last year, which makes it five and a half months since then, probably my longest ever break from competitive play!

When I sat at the board three days ago, I felt as if the connection between the brain, the hand and the pieces needed to be re-established again. When I play often that connection feels natural and firm, but now I wasn’t sure how it would be. I was wary because of that, but, surprisingly, it went pretty well.

My first game was against FM Berry in the match where my team Cheddleton faced Barbican 2. We won all our games with white while we drew everthing with black, so we won 6-2.

The big match was on the Sunday morning at 11am. We played the champions, Guildford, England’s only remaining super-team (after the demise of Wood Green). We were outrated on every board, but as the match went it was clear that we had all the chances to win it – in one moment we were winning on the last 3 boards while on the others we weren’t worse. But that moment passed and we lost on board 8 while we failed to convert the advantages on boards 7 and 6. So eventually we lost 1-0 with 7 draws. Too bad, as a victory in this match could have won us the title!

I played black against GM Jones, rated 2670 and England’s number 3. I expected him to play 1 e4, but with little time to prepare (the pairings are announced only 90 minutes before the start of the round, plus you need to check out of the hotel) he went for 1 c4 instead.

I think I played two good games especially taking into account my period of inactivity. My next tournament isn’t too far away – Reykjavik Open starts on the 10th of March!


Grenke Classic 2015 – Round 7

Bacrot is the man! All draws in such a tournament is no small feat!

Today he had to withstand the pressure of the World Champion himself, who played for a win and victory in the tournament. He did come close, but Bacrot slipped through. Carlsen was winning actually, but it was a tactical position with counterchances for black, not a technical position, and in calculating positions everyone can make a mistake, including the World Champion.

Naiditsch concluded his remarkable tournament with a steady game against Aronian. Playing the Scotch Four Knights means playing it as safe as possible. He was even better when Aronian tried to create something out of nothing, but then just before messing it up Aronian held an unplesant rook endgame. Carlsen and Naiditsch drawing meant that they would play a playoff for the first place.

They could have been caught by Caruana, who managed to outplay Baramidze in a long game, only to botch it a few meters from the end (reminds me of my game against him!). He even showed the win when he joined the commentary of the playoff. Another disappointment for the Italian, who really needs another good result in order to convince the world he still plays good chess after Saint Louis.

I was shocked to see Anand lose this with black to Adams:

30…Ra4 is simplest, but Anand’s 30…Rd7 is also a draw

There is only one explanation for this – nerves. Or, rather, lack of patience in positions which are “dead draw.” A former World Champion and a player of Anand’s class really shouldn’t be losing these kind of positions. It is the worst possible end of a tournament, to lose a completely drawn endgame! Anand lost 15 rating points in the 7 games he played here – I don’t want to jinx him or anything, but with this kind of play he’s on his way out of the Top 10.

The playoff between Carlsen and Naiditsch turned out to be more exciting than expected. Carlsen won the first game on sheer class, outplaying Naiditsch, but then in the second all sorts of things happened – Carlsen was doing very well, then was completely lost, then was OK again and then lost again. This cycle repeated several times! In the end he lost, must have been a shock for him! The third game was full of hidden tricks and eventually petered out to a draw. The fourth was also very volatile, but again ended in a draw. In the Armaggedon Naiditsch, playing black and needing a draw to win the tournament, collapsed and lost practically in one move. So Carlsen won again, kudos to him to keeping calm after the shocking loss of the second rapid game and maintaining his steadiness under pressure. But the real hero is of course Naiditsch, who played the tournament of his life! I rate this success higher than his Dortmund win in 2005 – to share 1st place with Carlsen is next to impossible in the last several years.

The super-tournament circus knows no stopping and the next stop is Zurich, starting on Saturday (round 1) with Kramnik, Anand, Caruana, Nakamura, Aronian and Karjakin. Although six players playing 5 rounds is a bit weird to say the least. I won’t be able to follow it as closely as I’d like to in view of my own obligations – I will be playing in the 4NCL for my team Cheddleton over the weekend. Now it’s finally time to do some prep for myself!


Grenke Classic 2015 – Round 6

The penultimate round in Baden-Baden saw the leaders make half a step towards the finish line.

The derby of the round between Caruana and Carlsen saw a theoretical battle in the Berlin endgame. Carlsen decided not to repeat the Sicilian that brought him a good win in Wijk aan Zee against the same opponent and chose to play it safely. He varied from the game he lost to Caruana in Shamkir last year and introduced a good novelty.

Aronian and Adams played a line in the English that was considered refuted by the famous game Kasparov-Ivanchuk, USSR 1988. When Kasparov introduced the English Opening as his main white opening in the match against Karpov in Seville he came up with many interesting ideas in it. Although he lost to Karpov in the very first game he played it (game 2 of the match) he won in the same line in game 4 and then destroyed Ivanchuk a year later. But theory never stands still and the modern computers and engines found satisfactory ways for black even in lines that Kasparov refuted. Black was even better in the game, but Aronian managed to save the draw.

Bacrot and Naiditsch played a quiet line in the Queen’s Indian (which started as a Bogo-Indian) and black didn’t have problems. He may have tried for more, but Naiditsch probably just wants to draw his games and hope that he shares first with Carlsen (when there will be a rapid/blitz playoff).

Anand routinely outplayed Baramidze. The game lasted 65 moves, but the result was never in any doubt from around move 20. I remember reading an advice by Nick Bollettieri (the famous tennis coach) that went something like this: when you get into a rut, or you lose a few matches in a row, go find somebody who’s no match for you, and destroy him. The idea as I understand it is to bring your confidence back, as nothing serves better for that than a win. Today Anand did just that.

Will Bacrot manage to draw all his games in Baden-Baden? We’ll find out tomorrow, when he’s black against Carlsen. Naiditsch is white against Aronian and that game will depend on Aronian’s desire to play for a win.


Grenke Classic 2015 – Round 5

Today all the results were as expected, although the actual way how they happened wasn’t (except for the Carlsen game).

Carlsen beat Baramidze in the same way a 2500 player beats a 2250 player – in one moment the weaker player cracks. Black played two bad moves in a row and it was over:

Adams and Bacrot drew, but only after Bacrot missed several wins. It’s not an easy task to outplay Adams with black, but Bacrot played a fine game and after the game it must have been shocking for him to see the comp evaluation before his 55th move.

I thought Caruana would try to beat Naiditsch, but it seems to me he either got tricked in the opening – he didn’t expect Naiditsch to allow the Marshall, or he messed up something over the board, because Naiditsch was actually following the games Caruana-Aronian and Adams-Aronian, both from last year! I’d side with the latter, because the move Caruana played (20…Re1) indicated that he was trying to follow Aronian, only he failed to remember the exact move-order. And if you don’t know it exactly, it is a bit complex to figure out over the board: when to take on e1, when to exchange the queens and when to play Kf8. What do to, a common occurence in modern chess, especially when you haven’t refreshed your memory before the game.

Aronian is a very difficult opponent for Anand, perhaps even more so than Carlsen. If I’m not mistaken the results is +8-3 in Aronian’s favour and today he won again. It’s curious that he chose the same line in the Ragozin that Carlsen used to beat him in Wijk aan Zee last month! But Anand was well prepared and got good play with active play on the kingside. What was surprising is that Anand missed a very good tactical opportunity on move 23 and collapsed very quickly after that. Did yesterday’s loss have such a devastating effect on him?

So Carlsen finally leads the tournament, together with the local hero Naiditsch and tomorrow we have Caruana-Carlsen and Bacrot-Naiditsch. Will Carlsen try to beat Caruana with black like he did in Wijk? Will he repeat the Sicilian?


Grenke Classic 2015 – Round 4

When I saw the first black move in the Anand-Carlsen game I immediately thought of another duel of World Champions – the game between Capablanca and Alekhine in Nottingham 1936. When Alekhine beat Capablanca in 1927 he stuck to the Queen’s Gambit and it served him well – he showed respect and he played solid chess, possibly the best chess of his career. Both times when Carlsen beat Anand he played solid openings and good technical chess. However, those were matches.

Tournament play has its own rules, but the Stonewall?!? I cannot know about Capablanca and Anand, but I sense that this choice must have been felt as a sort of an insult. An open provocation if you like. And it’s hard to keep calm and play normal chess when provoked like this. Both Alekhine and Carlsen obtained good positions after the opening, but back in 1936 Alekhine wasn’t a World Champion – his nerves in the period 1935 (when he lost to Euwe) – 1937 (when he regained the title) weren’t very stable (as he wrote himself) and Capablanca’s proved to be better on the day – he got a sweet revenge for the title loss in 1927. Carlsen is a World Champion today and if anything he has a psychological advantage over Anand, so he could rely on his nerves more than Alekhine could. And indeed, some of Anand’s choices looked as if he tried to “punish” Carlsen, but when you try to punish instead of just play you lose objectivity and it’s easy to drift away. I think Anand overestimated his plan of play in the centre (Be1, de5, Rd1, f3, Bh3, e4) and underestimated black’s defensive and counterattacking resources. In a twist of fate, he lost because of a far-advanced passed a-pawn, just like in the 9th game of the match in Chennai.

The German players in the event played a strange game. The usually quiet English Opening led to some wild tactics early on. I played Baramidze in the European Team Championship in 2007 – I managed to catch him in a deep prep and I was winning for a long time, but he fought tirelessly and managed to save the draw. I didn’t get the impression he was a tactical player, but today he really went all out against Naiditsch. I think Aronian’s comment on white’s 23rd move sums the game pretty well. This win kept Naiditsch in the lead and on course of an even more impressive tournament victory than his famous Dortmund win in 2005 (ahead of Topalov, Bacrot, Kramnik Adams, Svidler, Leko, van Wely, Sutovsky and Nielsen).

The other two games were drawn. Caruana obtained an advantage against Adams, who seemed to surprise him with his choice of the Slav, but allowed too much counterplay which he couldn’t contain.

Bacrot and Aronian played a line in the Ragozin which I faced against GM Bartel in the Individual European Chess Championship in 2008. I didn’t react very well and lost rather easily, so I was surprised to see Aronian provoke the c5 advance, something I wanted to avoid.

Tomorrow’s game between Naiditsch and Caruana may well be decisive for the tournament victory – unless, of course, Carlsen wins all his remaining games.


Grenke Classic 2015 – Round 3

Not so long ago I wrote about Carlsen’s only real weakness – the over-confidence bug. And today it bit him hard. His second loss in a row to Naiditsch, after the unfortunate mess-up at the Olympiad.

How else to explain this:
It doesn’t matter that Carlsen got decent chances later on – Carlsen isn’t that kind of a player who would just sacrifice out of the blue and keep on playing as if nothing had happened. A Tal may be able to do it, but not Carlsen, who in his core is a sound positional player, and this inner gnawing because of going against his own principles affects his play and his subconscious. In chess you must play what you inner voice tells you to do, you must follow the path you’re most comfortable with. 
Aronian is a very alert tactical player, so what he missed today is something out of the ordinary. Caruana only needed to collect the present:
31 Nc3? left white a pawn down, missing 31 Nc7! Qc7 32 Rd7 Qc4 33 R1d5!
I don’t pay much attention to the live ratings, but it’s worth noting that after this loss Aronian is out of the Top 10!
Adams beat Baramidze with a forced sequence after black allowed it:

Anand showed the depth of his preparation against Bacrot, who repeated game 7 of the match in Sochi (the 122-move long Berlin endgame). Even though it was Bacrot who deviated from that game on move 20, following Motylev’s play against himself, and introduced a novelty on move 23, Anand had no trouble holding the endgame. 
After 3 rounds we have Naiditsch and Caruana in the lead with 2/3. In this 7-round tournament there is a rest day tomorrow after which we will witness the game Anand-Carlsen. 

Grenke Classic 2015 – Rounds 1-2

The Grenke Classic takes place in Baden-Baden. The first time I came across that place was while I was reading Alekhine’s book On the Road to the Chess Championship while still a kid. I still remember the big cross table of the 1925 tournament, convincingly won by Alekhine, who was also quite happy with the level of his play.

And here we are 90 years later after Alekhine’s triumph in Baden-Baden, with yet another super-tournament. They say the world is in economic crisis, but from what I can see crisis is a time when the rich are getting richer and the poor and the middle-class are getting poorer. Speaking of chess, the rich (the elite) are getting richer, with the neverending string of super-tournaments, where they get good prizes and appearance fees, while the rest are faced with the gloom of the disappearing opens, diminishing prizes and dour conditions. Chess politicians (just remember the latest FIDE elections) only speak of the Carlsens and Anands and Kramniks and the kids – hence the super-tournaments (the latest rumour is of a “Golden League”) and the increasingly popular chess-in-schools talks while all in between doesn’t seem to matter. The obvious tendency is that the only chess professionals will be the Top 10 or 20, while the rest will either work for them (seconds, helpers, analysts etc.) or will teach children how to move the knight. Which reminds me of something I read about the world tendencies, that in the future one will either be a barrister or a barista, with pretty much nothing in between.

Going back to the actual moves, the first two rounds saw 7 draws and the expected Carlsen win against Adams. Adams was one of Carlsen’s seconds in the last match against Anand, but that didn’t help him much – he lost in a typical way he loses against Carlsen – he was slowly strangled. It’s interesting to observe when two players with similar styles play, then the one with the lower class doesn’t have the slightest of chances to survive, simply because they play similarly and he has no surprises, while playing in the usual way is hopeless as the other one is better at it. Just as an illustration – Carlsen and Adams have played 8 games (including the one today) when Carlsen was white and the result is telling – only one draw for Adams.

14 Rf4, a new move by Carlsen

It’s difficult to imagine Adams losing this to anyone else, but we already know that Carlsen has super-powers.

Worth noting was Anand’s good novelty in the Semi-Tarrasch against Naiditsch.

13 d5!? instead of 13 Qa5 as played in Gelfand-Wang Yue,2014

The other games were more or less normal. I’m curious to see whether Caruana will show a glimpse of his Sinquefield superiority, but his two draws with white are not very promising signs.