One of the most exciting tournaments to watch, the World Cup in Khanty Mansysk, is well under way.
With every passing round the tension rises and as the usually say for knock-outs, the players with best nerves win. As I write this Round 3 finished and we already have players like Anish Giri, Sergey Karjakin and Hikaru Nakamura out of the tournament.
(I wouldn’t worry about Karjakin though – with the Candidates Tournament already announced to take place in Yekaterinburg, he can easily get the wild card spot.)
In this post I’d like to share some of the more original opening ideas the players have come up with. It is worth noting that especially in the shorter time controls these experiments paid out, at least out of the openings. Here they are in chronological order.
I always enjoy it when players come up with original ideas in the opening. Let’s hope they continue to do so!
The legendary champion sits behind the board once a year to the delight of all chess fans. Last year and this one the discipline he chose was Fischer Random.
(Strangely enough the Americans prefer not to use the name of their great champion for the game he invented – this time it was Chess 9LX, the last two digits are Roman numbers, in case you were confused).
These outings haven’t been too delightful for Kasparov. Last year he lost to Topalov, this year before the match against Caruana he said it will be “fun.” I wonder where he got the idea.
For anyone who has played chess a bit more seriously the only fun is the winning. Sometimes even that isn’t fun. For Kasparov to say that playing would be fun, simply cannot be true. Yet he said it.
You should probably be able to recognise this position:
It is the position that haunted Mark Taimanov for the rest of his life. It is the position from the 3rd game of his match with Fischer. In that moment Fischer was leading 1-0, the second game was adjourned in a drawn position and here in the third Taimanov had great position. He spent a lot of time and instead of trusting his intuition and play 20 Qh3 he went backwards 20 Nf3 and the rest is history.
In his book and all interviews afterwards Taimanov lamented how things would have been different had he played 20 Qh3 (he believed he was winning, though analysis shows he wasn’t), how the match would have been completely different, how everything would have been different. He couldn’t get this position out of his head.
Kasparov suffered a similar fate to Taimanov’s at Caruana’s hands in Saint Louis. In Game 2 he was winning (clearly, unlike Taimanov) but he blundered and lost. What happened next was a complete repetition of the Taimanov syndrome.
Kasparov mostly kept losing but it was all the 2nd game’s fault, if only he won, if only he didn’t blunder, the match would have been different. To make it worse, he kept getting winning positions but he also kept blundering, blaming it on that ill-fated Game 2. He said he couldn’t forget that game. A surprising thing to say by a player who often came back with a vengeance after a loss. Where did the psychological toughness go?
I am not sure how much Kasparov was saying what the public wanted to hear, or he was really fooling himself. He didn’t stand a chance in that match, irrelevant of that Game 2. Just like Taimanov would have lost that match to Fischer, Kasparov would have lost to Caruana. The fact that he was outplaying Caruana often means that Caruana wasn’t playing at his best, but even that sufficed to bludgeon the legend.
Time-troubles, age, lack of practice, these were the reasons given for the losses. Kasparov knew these would be present, so the real question is, why did he sit down to play and risk humiliation?
In 2016, when he decided to play blitz against America’s best players in the Ultimate Blitz Challenge, I asked him via Twitter why he was doing the same thing he criticised Fischer for in 1992 – coming back from retirement and risking a destruction of the legendary image he rightfully had. He never replied, of course, but I thought that perhaps the reason was the same as Fischer’s – money. But unlike Fischer, that money wouldn’t be from the prize fund.
I am sad that this happened to Kasparov. Perhaps even angry at him, for destroying his own image. He was my idol for as long as he played and I even briefly met him in Tromso in 2014. After the match Kasparov said that perhaps the suffering in the match was a sign from above to stop attempting to reverse time. I think he is right. Once retired legends should stay retired.
By Alex Colovic
I cannot but admire the man.
After the meltdown in the rapid and blitz he pulled himself together in the classical and basically closed down shop. Conservative, ultra-careful and safe he made 9 draws in a row. Curiously enough, the last draw followed a less well-known game by Fischer:
There was a curious story about this Fischer game I read somewhere (at this point of writing I cannot recall the details – where I read it, which analysis he wanted to refute). Fischer was trying to catch Matulovic in an improvement over existing theory at the time, but Matulovic improved on the bad analysis and caught Fischer instead!
In Round 10 more classical heritage appeared in Carlsen’s game, but this time to a better effect.
This position arose after move 19 in the Giuoco Piano, with Carlsen playing Nc4 previously and inviting …Bc4, bxc4. The position immediately draws comparison to the famous Liublinsky-Botvinnik game:
Botvinnik famously won by planting his rook on d4 and undoubling his c-pawns after White took the exchange.
Carlsen didn’t need to sacrifice an exchange, he planted a knight on d5 and this sufficed.
Then in Round 11 the Frenchman with two surnames continued the tradition (Grenke, Zagreb and now here) of losing in the last round to the World Champion, this time by committing a hara-kiri blunder in a double-edged position.
For me, this comeback was incredible. With these two wins Carlsen emerged shared 1st with Ding Liren, something which seemed not very likely, to say the least, from the way he was playing. He must be the only person alive to be able to pull this type of turnaround, to get beaten down (in the rapid and blitz), to stabilise, to take his chances and finish first!
The other big story was of course his loss in the tie-break. A first loss in a tie-break since 2007, after winning 10 of them in a row. But even this loss somehow falls into the picture of Carlsen not being at his best overall, yet finishing first. Losing the tie-break only meant that there was a guy who was better than him on that given day.
That guy is Ding Liren, one of the 3 players who manage to keep their rating steadily over 2800 for over a year. This stability is key. This is Ding Liren’s first super-tournament victory, one that undoubtedly sets a new level of expectation for him, and here I mean the Candidates Tournament next year. Together with Caruana, who, admittedly, doesn’t have a spectacular year (yet keeps his rating comfortably over 2800!), these two are the frontrunners for a match with Carlsen next year. But before that, they’ll fight it out in the Candidates, where I see them as the main contenders irrespective of who else plays there.
The move of the tournament was the final move of the tournament. In both blitz games Ding showed that he saw more than Carlsen and did it faster than his opponent.
Ding went for this position voluntarily. It appears that White’s winning, but the Chinese had the next move prepared: 40…Ne7! Carlsen could only smile and resign.