Stinking It Up At The Sinquefield Cup

The trio of announcers at the Sinquefield Cup were effusive during every round, especially during the final round. They did the best they could to put lipstick on a pig

but in the final analysis it was still a stinking pig. The gang mentioned the high percentage of draws and GM Yasser Seirawan said something like, “We haven’t noticed because of the quality of the draws.” Forty five games were played during the tournament with only eight of them ending decisively, which is 17.7%. There were nine rounds so the average was less than one win per round.

The announcers for MLBaseball teams are called “homers” for a reason. They are paid by the ball club so it is in their interest to put lipstick on their particular pig.

I am uncertain about who pays the announcers at the Sinquefield Cup, but it is more than a little obvious they want to continue being paid. It is in their interest to put as much lipstick on the Chess pig as possible. Because of this they lack objectivity. I am not being paid by anyone so can be objective. The tournament was B-O-R-I-N-G. To their credit, the announcing team of Yaz, Maurice, and Jen did the best they could to inject some excitement into the moribund tournament. The excitement certainly did not come from the players. The pigs were in full force and there was some reeking Chess played at what I have come to consider the Stinkfield Cup.

Hikaru Nakamura lost the last round game to World Human Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen


Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

by first needlessly allowing Magnus a protected passed pawn. Later he exacerbated an already tenuous position by jettisoning a pawn for absolutely nothing, and was deservedly ground down by the ultimate grinder.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave managed to turn what should have been a win into a draw against Sergey Karjakin because he did not know how to play the endgame.

Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana played what was arguably the most boring game of the tournament in the last round and, guess what, it ended in a draw. Watching lipstick being put on a pig was better than watching the “game.” Here is what two Chess fans posted on the ChessBomb chat at the game:

Abraxas79: So will drop out of sight soon. Will be playing open tournaments with Kamsky
eddiemac: was being interviewed and said he be in a chess960 tourney in a few weeks. Should be more exciting than this dreary tourney.
(https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2018-sinquefield-cup/09-So_Wesley-Caruana_Fabiano)

The 71st Russian Chess Championship began less than a week ago with twelve players competing. After four rounds twenty four games have been played and seven of them have ended decisively. That is 29%. Not great, but much better than the paltry 18% of the Stinkfield Cup. At least there has been a decisive game in each of the four rounds of the Russian Championship. In the third round three games were decisive. Three of the rounds of the Stinkfield Cup finished without any decisive games.

Yaz can talk all he wants about “…the quality of the draws,” but the fact remains the games ended in yet another draw. There is not enough lipstick Yaz can smear to obviate the fact that pigs were stinking it up at the Sinquefield Cup. Chess fans want winners. Potential Chess fans do not understand the proliferation of draws; they want to see a WINNER.

The last round game causing much excitement was the game between Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk. Levon unsoundly sacrificed a rook on f7 and the game was all for Grischuk’s taking, but he had previously spent almost three quarters of an hour on one move which left him short of time. Still, I cannot imagine Bobby Fischer losing the game with the black pieces after 18 Rxf7 no matter how little time he had left. Give Bobby two or three minutes, maybe only one, and he would have won the game. Seriously, give Bobby only the thirty seconds added and he would have won that game!

“The Herceg Novi blitz event was the speed tournament of the 20th century. It had four world champions competing, and Bobby not only finished 4½ points ahead of Tal in second place, he also obliterated the Soviet contingent, 8½-1½, whitewashing Tal, Tigran Petrosian and Vasily Smyslov, six-zip; breaking even with Viktor Korchnoi; and defeating David Bronstein with a win and draw.” (http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2012/03/16/bobbys-blitz-chess/)

This was with a time limit of only FIVE minutes for the whole game! When I hear people talking about how strong are today’s Grandmasters and how the players of the 20th century would not stand a chance against the current top players I laugh. In his prime Bobby would have OBLITERATED these posers no matter the time control. Bobby played each and every game to WIN.

Because I played the Bird opening often, but not as many as the Atlanta player who became a NM using it exclusively, Adam Cavaney, who became an attorney and moved to New Orleans before hurricane Katrina, I paid close attention to the following game.

Let us review the aforementioned game between Alexander Grischuk and Wesley So from the penultimate round:

Alexander Grischuk vs Wesley So


Photo: V. Saravanan

Sinquefield Cup 2018 round 08

1. f4 Nf6 2. Nf3 b6 3. b3 Bb7 4. e3 g6 5. Bb2 Bg7 6. g3 O-O 7. Bg2 c5 8. c4 d5 9. O-O Nc6 10. Qe2 Rc8 11. d3 d4 12. exd4 Nxd4 13. Nxd4 Bxg2 14. Kxg2 cxd4 15. Na3 Nd7 16. Nc2 Nc5 17. f5 Qd7 18. g4 b5 19. Ba3 a5 20. Bxc5 Rxc5 21. Rae1 bxc4 22. bxc4 gxf5 23. gxf5 Rxf5 24. Rxf5 Qxf5 25. Qf3 Qg5+ 26. Kh1 Kh8 27. Rg1 Qh6 28. Qd5 Qd2 29. Nxd4 Qxa2 30. Qe4 Qb2 31. Nf5 Be5 32. Rg2 Qc1+ 33. Rg1 Qb2 34. Rg2 Qc1+ 35. Rg1 Qb2 36. Rg2 1/2-1/2

An analogous position after 7…c5 was reached by a different move order in this game:

David Bronstein (2585)

v Vladimir Tukmakov (2560)

Event: URS-ch40
Site: Baku Date: 11/23/1972
Round: 6
ECO: A01 Nimzovich-Larsen attack, symmetrical variation

1. b3 b6 2. Bb2 Bb7 3. e3 Nf6 4. f4 g6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. g3 O-O 7. Bg2 c5 8. O-O Nc6 9. a4 d6 10. Na3 a6 11. Qe2 Rb8 12. d3 Ba8 13. c4 e6 14. Rfd1 Qe7 15. e4 Nd7 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. Nc2 e5 1/2-1/2
(https://www.365chess.com/game.php?back=1&gid=2419289&m=15)

After 13 moves this position appeared on the board:

I was certain Grischuk would play 14 Qxg2. He took with the King. In the old BC (before computer) days if one disagreed with a move a GM played we would defer to the GMs move because, well, you know, he was a Grandmaster. Still, with my limited understanding of the Royal game, my thinking was that now that the white squared bishop has left the board, what better piece to take it’s place than the Queen? Stockfish agrees.

This position was reached after 16 moves:

While Grischuk was thinking I thought he would first play 17 Ne1 followed by 18 Nf3, considerably improving the position of the woeful knight. After the game the Stockfish program at the ChessBomb made me feel like I knew something about how to play the Bird as it gives this variation as equal: 17. Ne1 e6 18. Nf3 Qd7 19. Kg1 Rfd8 20. Ba3 Qb7 21. Rae1 Bf8 22. Bb2 Bg7 23. Ba3. The clanking digital monster also shows 17 Ba3 as equal. The move Grishuk played, 17 f5, is not shown as one of the top four moves. His choice gives the advantage to black.

This position was reached after 22 moves:

SF shows 23. Qxe7 Qc6+ as best, but Grischuk played 23 gxf5. It is easy to see black has an increased advantage. After a few more moves were played we reach this position after white played 25 Qf3:

Wesley So could have simply dropped his queen back to e7 with a by now large advantage. IM Boris Kogan said, “Chess is simple. He attack, you defend. You attack, he defend. My retort was, “Maybe for you, Boris.” Wesley played 25…Qg5+, which still left him with an advantage. I was thinking, “Patzer sees a check and gives a check.”

We move along until his position was reached after 28 Qd5:

The two best moves according to SF are 28…Qf4 and/or Qb6. So played the fourth best move, 28…Qd2.

After 29…Qxa2 we come to this position:

30 Nc6 is the best move. Grischuk played the second best move, 30 Qe4.

Bobby Fischer

spoke of “critical positions.” This is one of them.

Wesley had far more time than his opponent at this point. I was therefore shocked when he took very little time to play 30…Qb2. I will admit the moved played was my first choice, but then I am not a GM. Faced with the same position Wesley So had on the board I would have probably played 30…Qb2. I followed the games at Mark Crowther’s wonderful site, The Week in Chess (http://theweekinchess.com/), because it has no engine analysis. After the game was concluded I went to the ChessBomb to see StockFish had given the move 30…Qf2 as much superior to the move played in the game. Initially flummoxed, I wondered if Wesley had taken more time, which would have meant more time for me to cogitate, would I have seen the much better 30…Qf2? Honesty compels me to think not, as 30…Qb2 attacks the knight and makes way for the passed a-pawn. What’s not to like? SF only gives 30…Qf2 followed by 31 Nc6, so I had to “dig deep” to understand the efficacy of moving the queen to f2. Fortunately for this old grasshopper there was understanding. Later I watched some of the coverage by Yaz, Maurice, and Jen. Maurice showed the engine they were using gave it as best. This begs the question, which engine were they using? I have yet to hear a name used for the “engine.” There are many “engines,” so why do they not inform we Chess fans which “engine” they utilize?

After 30…Qb2 Grischuk played 31 Nf5 (SF says Nf3 is a little better) and this position was reached:

I was thinking Wesley would play 31…Bf6, later learning SF shows it best. As a matter of fact, it is the only move to retain an advantage. Wesley So played the second choice of SF, 31…Be5, and the game sputtered to a draw, a fitting conclusion to a poorly played game by both players. So much for Yasser’s comment about “…quality of the draws.”

This is what Chess fans who chat at the ChessBomb thought about the ending of the game:

CunningPlan: I suspect draw agreed
dondiegodelavega: WTF???
BadHabitMarco: this cant have happened
rfa: yup draw
poppy_dove: BUG
dondiegodelavega: moving to twitter
CunningPlan: Maybe So missed Kxg1
jim: mdr
jim: Qxg1 wow
Frank200: hahahaha somebody was trolling
LarsBrobakken: no takebacks!
CunningPlan: So is a dirty rotten cheat
CunningPlan: Oh So. What a cop out.
rfa: 🙂
BadHabitMarco: devine intervention
Vladacval: phhhooogh
BadHabitMarco: divine
Vladacval: nice save!
jim: So touched accidentally the rook
poppy_dove: draw
dondiegodelavega: what a pussy!
CunningPlan: Grischuk deliberately dropped an eyelash on it to tempt So to brush it off
CunningPlan: Oldest trick in the book
CunningPlan: I’ve won many a game that way
BadHabitMarco: he was like “did you see that the felt was missing under my rook?”
https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2018-sinquefield-cup/08-Grischuk_Alexander-So_Wesley

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Bird is the Word

The Bird opening is a rare bird in top level chess tournaments. Decades ago in a tournament in Atlanta word got around quickly when four players, including the AW, opened the game with 1 f4. What made it so interesting is that all four of us were seated in a row. It was not planned. The ornithologically inclined Adam Cavaney, who earned his NM title by playing the Bird, and nothing but the Bird, at the House of Pain because knows the Bird is the word, “Papa-ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
Ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow”, was one of the four, but the names of the other escapes me. Anyone reading this down in Cajun country please mention this to Adam and ask him to leave a comment, if he happens to recall the tournament, and the names, of the guilty.

Nepomniachtchi, Ian (2714) – Karjakin, Sergey (2770)
67th ch-RUS 2014 Kazan RUS (2), 2014.11.29

1.f4 d5 2.Nf3 (Most often played, but Stockfish plays 2 c4, while Komodo prefers e3) g6 (Stockfish plays this, which holds White to only 40%, but Komodo plays 2…Bf5, against which White has scored 58%) 3.g3 (3 e3 has been the most often played, scoring only 39%, while the move in the game has scored 44%. Houdini plays 3 c4, which has scored 51%) Bg7 4.Bg2 c6 (SF plays 4…c5) 5.Nc3 (SF & the Dragon both play 5 0-0, which has scored only 41% in practice. The game move has scored 56%!) Nh6 (SF goes with 5 Nf6) 6.d3 (SF & Houdini 0-0) d4 (SF & Houey) 7.Ne4 Nd7 8.c3 (Cesar Becx [2295] vs Ole Jakobsen [2400] Politikin Cup 1987, reached this position after 1 f4 d5 2 Nf3 g6 3 g3 Bg7 4 Bg2 c6 5 d3 Nd7 6 Nc3 d4 7 Ne4 Nh6 when White played 8 e3 dxe3 9. c3 Ng4 10. h3 Nf2 11. Nxf2 exf2+ 12. Kxf2 Nc5 13. Bf1 Bf5 14. d4 Ne4+ 15. Kg2 Qd7 16. Be3 f6 17. Bd3 Nd6 18. Bxf5 gxf5 19. Qd3 e6 20. Rad1 O-O-O, with White winning in 53) Nf5 9.cxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 Bxd4 11.e3 Bg7 12.d4 O-O 13.O-O Nb6 14.Nc5 Nd5 15.Qa4 Nc7 16.Rf2 Ne6 17.Nd3 Bd7 18.Qa3 Nc7 19.Nc5 Nb5 20.Qa4 Rb8 21.Bd2 b6 22.Nxd7 Qxd7 23.Rc1 Rfc8 24.b4 Nxd4 25.exd4 Bxd4 26.Bc3 Be3 27.Re1 Qd3 28.Be5 Ra8 29.Qb3 Bxf2+ 30.Kxf2 Qxb3 31.axb3 b5 32.Bd4 a5 33.bxa5 Rxa5 34.Rxe7 c5 35.Bf6 Ra2+ 36.Kf3 c4 37.Bh3 Rf8 38.bxc4 bxc4 39.Rc7 Rxh2 40.Bf1 1-0

GM Vladimir Kramnik is playing in the Qatar Masters and GM Kevin Spraggett (http://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/how-do-you-spell-your-name/) has this to say:
“Now here is something that I can relate to, having been brought up in OPEN tournaments. This was Kramnik’s first OPEN tournament in 20-years or so…at the Qatar Masters taking place right now. LIFE in the opens is VERY different from the relaxed (not to say incestuous) atmosphere of the SUPER tournaments where each opponent KNOWS each other SO WELL! For example, when Kramnik finally played Anand for the World Championship back in 2008 (?) both players had ALREADY played each other more than 100 times! The only thing being decided in that World match was a WORLD RECORD for having played each other so many times!!”

The day after Nepo stunned Kajakin with the Bird, Vlad the Impaler saw his opponent flip him the Bird!

Vovk, Andrey (2640) – Kramnik, Vladimir (2760)
Qatar Masters Open 2014 Doha QAT (5.4), 2014.11.30

1.f4 d5 2.Nf3 Bg4 3.e3 (Houdini & Komodo play this, but the “last word,” Stockfish, plays 3 Ne5) Nd7 (SF & Houey play 3…e6, which shows White scoring 55%. Komodo plays Nf6, holding White to 50%, but the game move shows White only scoring 36%! Looks like the top GM’s are doing their homework) 4.Be2 (The engines prefer asking the question with 4 h3) Ngf6 (Komodo’s move; Houey plays e6, while SF plays c6) 5.Ne5 (Houdini 5 b3; Komodo simply castles) Bxe2 6.Qxe2 g6 (Engines prefer e6) 7.Nc3 Bg7 (Houdini plays this, but Komodo would produce the TN 7…c6, if given the chance. Which begs the question, “Can a computer program be known for first playing a TN, or do we humans have to wait until another human plays the brand new move?)
8.Qb5 (8. d4 a6 9. g4 c6 10. b3 Qa5 11. Bd2 Qc7 12. O-O-O b5 13. h4
h5 14. g5 Ng8 15. e4 e6 16. Rhe1 Qd6 17. Nxc6 Qxc6 18. exd5 Qd6 19. dxe6 fxe6
20. Qe4 O-O-O 21. Qxg6 Bxd4 22. Rxe6 Qa3+ 23. Kb1 Nb8 24. Re8 Ne7 25. Qe6+ Nd7
26. Rxe7 Qc5 27. Ne4 Qa3 28. Bc1 1-0, Marlos de Almedia [2160] vs Marceley Martins Mariano [2046] Goiania Open, 2010)
Rb8 9.Nxd7 Qxd7 10.Qxd7+ Kxd7 11.d3 b5 12.a3 c5 13.e4 dxe4 14.dxe4 Kc6 15.Bd2 b4 16.axb4 cxb4 17.Nd5 Nxd5 18.exd5+ Kxd5 19.Rxa7 Bxb2 20.Ke2 Rhc8 21.Kd3 Bf6 22.Rb1 Rd8 23.Ke2 Ke6 24.Ra6+ Kf5 25.Kf3 g5 26.g4+ Kg6 27.Rxb4 Rbc8 28.Be3 gxf4 29.Rxf4 e6 30.Ra5 Rc3 31.Rc5 Rxc5 32.Bxc5 Rc8 33.Bf2 Rc3+ 34.Kg2 Rxc2 35.Kg1 Be5 36.Rf3 f6 37.h3 h5 38.gxh5+ Kxh5 39.Rd3 Bf4 40.Kg2 e5 41.Ra3 f5 42.Kf1 e4 43.Ra5 Kg5 44.Ra3 Bc7 45.Rb3 Bd6 46.Rb5 Kf4 47.Rb3 Bc5 0-1