The Player of Games

After vowing to leave the games played by the so-called “Super” Grandmasters alone my mind was changed after watching a game from the ongoing Sinquefield Cup Chess tournament being played at the St. Louis Chess Campus. Although it seems like yesterday when GM Caruana was equal to World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen in the only games that really matter, classical games, the fact is that was a pandemic ago. Fabiano has not been the same player, while Magnus has become the G.O.A.T. You can argue for your favorite Chess player of all time but the fact is that every generation is better than its predecessor because they stand on the shoulders of the giants who preceded them. In addition, Magnus has tools of which former World Champions could only dream. Because of the computer programs my understanding is much better because of the games played by the best programs, even if I cannot demonstrate it over the board because of my advanced age.

One can only speculate, but for my money if there had not been a pandemic and a Alireza Firouzja, GM Caruana would have had another chance to play for the World Championship. After the young Firouzja went full tilt and completely melted down in the most recent Candidates tournament Fabiano began flinging pawns at his opponents like they were spears. He began playing wildly aggressive Chess like that seen decades ago. Unfortunately, it has continued… Examine this position and determine what move you would make after first listing your candidate moves, then return to the blog:

White to move

The position emanates from the game between Fabiano Caruana and Lenier Dominguez in the second round of the ongoing Sinquefield Cup Chess tournament being played at the St. Louis Chess Campus.

Fabiano Caruana let a first win slip from his grasp against Leinier Dominguez | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour https://chess24.com/en/read/news/sinquefield-cup-2-niemann-catches-carlsen

Caruana played 12 g4, the move I would have played at the Stein Club in the 1970s. (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2021/06/06/shanglei-lu-seeks-bishops-opening-truth/) Truth be told, I would probably have played that move in a USCF tournament ‘back in the day’. 12 Rhe1 was a candidate move, as was 12 Kb1. If I could speak to IM of GM strength Boris Kogan about now I would say, “It has taken a lifetime, Boris, but I have finally found understanding, or at least some understanding.” He would laugh uproariously. The Stockfish program at LiChess.com gives 12 a3 as best. It was not one of my choices. The diagram contains an arrow showing the pawn to be moved, and 12 a3 is given in the note up top, but down below the Stockfish program shows this: “Inaccuracy. Rhe1 was best”, and it gives a line six moves deep to prove it. What I want to know is, which is it? By the way, according to the analysis program at LiChess the best move is 12 Bb5. I cannot make this up. In the only game found at 365Chess.com the move 12 Kb1 was played, and it was on my short list of candidate moves.

Stefan Mazur (2417) vs Juraj Druska (2501)
Event: ch-SVK 2021
Site: Podhajska SVK Date: 09/28/2021
Round: 8.5
ECO: C42 Petrov, Nimzovich attack
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 7.Be3 O-O 8.Qd2 Re8 9.O-O-O Nd7 10.Bd3 Nf6 11.h3 c5 12.Kb1 Bd7 13.Rhe1 Bc6 14.Bg5 h6 15.Bf4 Bf8 16.Rxe8 Qxe8 17.Nh4 Ne4 18.Bxe4 Qxe4 19.Re1 Qh7 20.Bg3 g5 21.Nf3 Qf5 22.h4 f6 23.Nh2 Re8 24.Rxe8 Bxe8 25.Nf1 Bc6 26.Ne3 Qe6 27.c4 Kf7 28.f3 f5 29.hxg5 hxg5 30.Nd5 f4 31.Bf2 b5 32.b3 bxc4 33.bxc4 Bg7 34.Qd3 Qe5 35.Kc1 Bd7 36.Kd2 Be6 37.Nc7 Bf5 38.Qd5+ Ke7 39.Nb5 Be6 40.Qb7+ Kf6 41.Qc6 Bxc4 42.Qxd6+ Qxd6+ 43.Nxd6 Bxa2 44.Bxc5 a6 45.Kd3 Ke6 46.Ne4 Kd5 47.Be7 Bc4+ 48.Kd2 g4 49.Bg5 Bf1 50.Bxf4 Bxg2 51.c4+ Kxc4 52.Nd6+ Kb3 53.fxg4 a5 54.Nf5 Bc3+ 55.Kc1 Bb2+ 56.Kd2 Bc3+ 57.Kc1 a4 58.Bd6 Be4 59.Ne3 Bf3 60.g5 Be4 61.Nd1 Be1 62.Ne3 Bh4 63.Be7 a3 64.Nc4 a2 65.Nd2+ Ka4 66.Kb2 Bd5 67.Ne4 Be1 68.Bf6 Bxe4 69.Kxa2 ½-½
https://www.365chess.com/game.php?back=1&gid=4308407&m=23

Consider this position:

Position after 26…Rf8

The position is taken from the same game, and GM Lenier Dominguez has just played his Rook to f8 attacking the white Queen. Nevertheless, it is a losing move after Caruana plays the Queen to d7. Unfortunately, Fabiano lost the thread and played 27 Qe4, which is, like the previous move made by GM Dominguez, given not one, but two question marks. It seems we Chess fans have seen an inordinate number of “double blunders” since Magnus Carlsen, in his World Championship match with Vishy Anand, blundered horribly, but was let off of the hook when Anand immediately returned the favor.

https://www.firstpost.com/sports/double-blunder-game-carlsen-crushes-anand-leads-one-point-1804783.html

Surely Caruana must have seen Qd7, yet played the much inferior move. Why? Consider this recent quote by Fabiano Caruana: “I realised something, which is that, even though I played pretty awfully recently, I do destroy one opening, which is the Najdorf. All my wins are in this one opening.”

(https://chess24.com/en/read/news/sinquefield-cup-4-fabi-wins-so-leads-as-life-goes-on-without-magnus)

When a player, not just a Chess player, but any ‘player’, is “in form” good moves seem to flow, but when a player is not in form he begins to second guess himself. My father was fond of saying, “Think long, think wrong.” There is much to be said for it because the longer one thinks the less intuition is involved. The number of times I saw the right move intuitively but allowed the ‘logical’ part of my thought process to make a weaker move could not be counted without a calculator. Talking yourself out of listening to yourself is a bad place to be for any player of games.

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