Monthly Archives: Sep 2017

Video Game Analysis #7

David switched to OTB games rather than online, which is very important. I have always said that OTB play is hugely different (and infinitely better) than online. The physical presence of the board, pieces and an opponent forces you to concentrate and try harder.

Here we analyse two games of his, I quite liked his treatment of the typical structure arising from different openings (Caro-Kann, Reti, Scandinavian) here:



In his White game David messed up the opening but then defended well and was richly rewarded!





Four Men Standing in Tbilisi

The semi-finals of a World Cup are infinitely more important than any other match, including the final. The reason is simple – with a semi-final victory the player has secured a place in next year’s Candidates, which is the main goal for all participants. Once the main goal is achieved, they can calmly play for glory and money in the final.

Two of the four players will be heart-broken after tomorrow’s tie-breaks. There is nothing worse than coming so close to the goal and missing it.

Of the four, Aronian is the most surprising participant. A player notorious for his breakdowns in all qualification events he seems to have overcome his psychological frailty. I think the defining moment for Aronian was his match with Matlakov. When he couldn’t make a draw with Black in the second classical game in order to win the match he showed true inner strength. He wasn’t broken even when Matlakov came from behind in the second rapid game and he won the blitz convincingly. This win gave Aronian the much-needed confirmation that he is strong enough to overcome his nerves and the other matches saw a confident Aronian. And confident Aronian is maybe the best player in the world.

The Frenchman stumbled in the semi-final in the World Cup in 2013, losing to eventual winner Kramnik. In 2015 he lost in the quarter-final to Giri.  In Tbilisi he eliminated both Grischuk and Svidler and before the event he achieved his biggest triumph to date by winning the Sinquefield Cup. He is on an excellent run and facing the confident Aronian is a battle of the players on best form recently. Both players are excellently prepared and it will be interesting to see how they will approach the tie-breaks from an opening perspective – still playing highly forcing lines as the Grunfeld in Game 1, or going for the popular “get a game” lines of Nf3 and g3. Vachier is less likely to adopt the latter approach, but Aronian’s excellent novelty in the popular line in the Spanish in Game 2 may give him some headaches in his preparation (plus there is always the Giuoco Piano).

After the collapse in Saint Louis Wesley So is back to his usual self. The technical win against Fedoseev was impressive and his narrow escape in the second game against Ding Liren may give him a psychological advantage for the tie-breaks.

Ding Liren is a typical “белоцветчик”, a player who presses very strongly with White and often makes it count. His pressing is very technical and he had a stable tournament where he was rarely in danger. He missed a (very concealed) win against So in the second game and this may affect him, though you can never be sure with the Chinese players. The tie-break between these two is something I am very curious about – will one of them lose composure? Who will crack first? And what if it goes all the way to Armageddon?

Tomorrow we will know the two players who will play in the Candidates next year. And then the final will be for money and glory.


A Quick Petroff on my YouTube Channel

I finally managed to find some time to record another video. Inspired by what is happening at the World Cup in Tbilisi I am showing a quick and easy to use set-up for Black in the Petroff. As I mentioned in my post about Tbilisi, the Petroff is experiencing some sort of a revival, just to add to the misery of the White 1 e4 players, if the Berlin wasn’t more than enough.

But that is good news for the Black players who prefer solidity without too much theory. The set-up is simple and straight-forward, but do your homework before trying it out. Here’s the video:



Fischer’s Openings in Reykjavik

I have always been fascinated by the “Match of the Century” in Reykjavik in 1972. Being also fascinated by Fischer and his path to the top, I have spent countless hours thinking about that match.

For the readers of my Inner Circle I plan to write a series of posts where I will analyse Fischer’s openings in great detail. Starting with his match strategy, his choice of openings and the sequence of their implementation, together with the move-order subtleties – all will be in there.

I have learnt a great deal from the match in Reykjavik. And I am not talking only about opening ideas (like the …Nh5 in the Benoni or the …Nc6, …b5 idea in the Semi-Tarrasch), but also about psychology and match strategy (even though I have never played a match in my life!).

I plan to publish the first of these emails on Saturday. If you are interested in Fischer’s legacy and the opening dominance he demonstrated in his greatest triumph, you will love these mails. I invite you to use the yellow box on the right to subscribe or use this link and then sit back and enjoy your Saturday afternoon reading about the battle in Reykjavik.


World Cup 2017 Impressions

Three rounds passed in Tbilisi and I found it increasingly difficult to write about separate matches since so much was going on there. So I thought I will share my impressions here in random order.

The first thing to note is the huge cleanse of the favourites. Carlsen, Kramnik, Anand, Karjakin, Nakamura, Gelfand, Andreikin, Ponomariov, Radjabov, Mamedyarov, Adams, Wei Yi are all out. An impressive list, but in fact this is not very surprising. And it is not so much because of the format, simply the players who beat them are exceptionally strong players as well. In two-game matches (and subsequent tie-breaks) several hundred points of Elo difference are easily compensated with better nerves or even a bit of luck.

Of those who remain I quite like how the young Russian stars Fedoseev and Dubov are playing. Dubov’s elimination of Karjakin in Round 2 was impressive. He beat Karjakin in a theoretical battle where the latter knew the correct move yet chose the wrong one. Fedoseev eliminated Nakamura by winning the second game of their match and the shocking thing was that he was almost winning on move 8!

The pre-event favourites So and Caruana are looking solid and unassuming for now, So has already qualified for the next round and awaits the winner of Nepomniachtchi-Jobava. Caruana still needs to win the tie-break against Najer. If they win their tie-breaks, there will be great match-up in Round 4 between Vachier and Grischuk. That would be a fantastic match!

From a chess perspective I noticed the return of the Petroff Defence. Hence it came as no surprise that Carlsen, Grischuk, Wang Hao, Artemiev all switched to 2 Bc4 in their games when facing the prospect of playing against the Petroff. The Petroff came back thanks to the Chinese players who have recently been employing a relatively unexplored line:


Caruana’s Black repertoire seems aimed at drawing. Against 1 d4 – the QGA, an opening he has been playing for a while and where he has suffered in the endgame after 7 dc5, but he seems confident that he can hold those endgames. Against 1 e4 – the Petroff, as we saw in the above game. There you have it, a bullet-proof repertoire with Black without the need to study the Berlin!

Kramnik lost to Ivanchuk by losing the second game with White. He repeated the same mistake as in some of his previous tournaments – overconfidence. He thinks he can take bigger risks and oversteps the limit. It is curious that this is his second loss as White in the Caro-Kann, definitely not the scariest opening White can face! His first loss was against Fedoseev in Dortmund, barely 2 months ago. In both games he used the seemingly innocuous Exchange Variation but both times he treated it in an unreasonably aggressive manner. Now Kramnik’s only chance to qualify for the Candidates is by rating (with two sub-lines: he either manages to have one of the two highest averages or So or Caruana make it to the final).

Anand’s loss to Kovalyov in Round 2 marks an end of an era. Not Anand’s era in general, but Anand’s era of presence in the World Championship cycle. He has been in it continually since 1991, except the brief period of 2002-2004 where he was ousted of it politically with the Prague Agreement. I wonder how (and if) this will affect the great Indian.

Nakamura’s loss is probably a good sign for him to reconsider his ambitions. He bursted into the elite as the hyper-aggressive player who showed no respect, but in the last several years he appears much more settled down and solid, losing that edge that made all the difference for him. He still has an outside chance to qualify for the Candidates if he gets very lucky (particularly with the other players’ results) in the last Grand Prix event in November, so he has it clear now what to play for, but being eliminated at this stage is definitely a disappointment for him.

I noticed a very surprising case of two players not knowing chess history and a classical game:


I have always thought that elite players must have excellent chess culture, but perhaps I am overestimating their knowledge.

I must also mention the outrageous scandal concerning Anton Kovalyov and Zurab Azmaiparashvili. Since I am a General Secretary of the ACP I would ask you to read our letter and if you agree with it, sign it. Chess players have been treated disrespectfully for way too long while all the power has gone to the officials. While I think that chess players should dress properly, what happened in Tbilisi is not a way to treat a Grandmaster.