The Magnus Carlsen Affair

The intention was to write a post today concerning a few of the games, and positions of the recent US Chess Championships, to follow the previous post, but a couple of emails from regular readers recently changed my mind. One reader wanted to know if I could recommend one article that would bring him up to speed with the events of the Magnus Carlsen caused affair. This caused me to smile. One article. Ha! I have read so much on the subject it has made my eyes bleed, and this guy wants one article that is a be all and end all article…

The other reader asked a question that is on every mind of everyone involved with Chess. “How will this affect the future of Chess?”

Is that a loaded question, or what? I am no soothsayer. Nevertheless, how can all the negative publicity do anything but harm the Royal Game? Then again, the recent cheating scandals in Major League Baseball by the Houston Astros, now called by many the “Cheating ‘stros,” has not ended MLB, although the people who watch the game has dwindled to alarmingly low numbers, but then, MLB has been losing interest for other reasons ever since the Ragin’ Roid’ scandal and the Bud Selig caused premature end of the 1994 season. Then there is the New England Patriots serial cheating which has not appeared to diminish the number of fans. The title of one article tells the story: A timeline of Patriots scandals: Spygate, Deflategate and other controversial incidents under Bill Belichick (https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/patriots-spygate-deflategate-bill-belichick-timeline/ovkdjh8ny5qb1fnns9grat5mk). Just type in “Patriots” and “Cheating” into any search engine and you will be inundated with a plethora of maimball cheating articles.

As luck would have it I surfed over to the excellent website of Daiim Shabazz,

ifoundthisgreatbook.com

The Chess Drum,

thechessdrum.net

recently, something I had put off because of all the reading done on the Magnus Carlsen affair in an attempt to understand why the current World Chess Champion would do the things he has done recently.

There, at The Chess Drum, I found one of the best articles read recently. I was taken aback by the depth and breadth of the article. Although much of it was known I read every word because there was so much that was new to me. If I were a member of the Chess Journalists of America I would nominate the article for an award because it is that good. It is a remarkable piece of Chess journalism. I left a comment for Daiim and only just revisited the article in preparing to write these words. The following, which had obviously just been posted, was found:

Daaim Shabazz says:
October 25, 2022 at 12:47 pm

For arbiters…

What impact would Carlsen’s signing the scoresheets have on whether he believed that Niemann had cheated during their game? Signing the scoresheet in FIDE games is an agreement that the result was fair. Refusing to sign could be considered a protest.

I once saw a cheating case (touch move violation) at an Olympiad. The accused (a GM) claimed that he had adjusted his king (despite holding it and hovering over a square). The move would’ve allowed the queening of a pawn and resulted in a big team upset. There were bystanders who saw the violation. The arbiter was not present but did not allow any witness statements. After a back-and-forth debate, he believed the GM and allowed the game to continue. The GM moved another piece. The accuser (an FM) was distraught and let his clock run out in protest and signed the sheets.

When the appeal was filed, it was determined that while it appeared the GM had violated the rules, the accuser had signed the scoresheets and had thus agreed with the result. Based on this, the committee rejected the appeal.

If Carlsen signed the scoresheets, does that mean he initially believed it was a fair result despite later accusing Hans of cheating in the game?
https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2022/10/20/the-anatomy-of-carlsen-niemann-cheating-controversy/

I urge everyone reading this to visit the website and read it for yourself. In addition, I urge anyone involved with the Chess Journalists of America to give strong consideration to giving some kind of award to the writer. To the gentleman wanting that “one article” this, sir, is that article. I am still amazed at how much time and effort was put into the article. It is more than an overview. It is more like the kind of article that answers questions you did not ask, but after reading, wondered why you had not asked those questions. It is a magnificent article at which I stand in awe. To this writer it is a masterpiece, like an artwork.

The other article The Hans Niemann case: Numbers – what they reveal and what they do not reveal by Andrea Carta appeared at Chessbase yesterday (https://en.chessbase.com/post/the-hans-niemann-case-numbers-what-they-reveal-and-what-they-do-not-reveal). This is written about the author:

“Andrea Carte: Born in Italy, IT engineer, he’s written some GO software, published several papers about reconstructing GO games from videos by means of AI tecniques and has joined two scientific conferences (Liberec 2015 and Pisa 2018) during the corresponding European Go Congresses. Like Ingo Althoefer – who arranged such conferences – he’s above all a chess fan since the Spassky-Fischer match and has even attended many World Championships since then. He considers himself a good amateur, despite not even reaching the 2000 barrier (that will forever remain his forbidden dream).”

Since there are only three degrees of separation, especially among we lovers of games, I urge anyone reading this to contact the writer in order to give him a ‘heads-up’ about this post. And to Mr. Carta, I too, play Go, but not very well. Nevertheless, I enjoy reading about the great game of Go and replaying games online, and have been known to actually play a few games over the years. I sincerely hope you manage to cross the 2000 barrier because although it has been said the demarcation line for becoming a respected Chess player is 1600, which is class “B”, any player who has ever seen that crooked number after his name knows it bestows credibility lacking when a rating begins with a ‘one’.

The final two paragraphs of the stellar article follow:

“In the end we have found that “statistics at first sight”, all of them, look like strong evidence of Hans Niemann cheating, and cheating a lot. But at second sight, all the statistics show instead a picture typical of a young player rising fast, with no evidence of cheating whatsoever. Ken Regan was right.

Does this mean that Hans Niemann never cheated on the board? It’s still difficult to say. Opinions of strong players cannot be discounted, nor cannot be the ones of expert commentators like Alejandro Ramirez (his opinion can be read at https://en.chessbase.com/post/alejandro-ramirez-it-does-seem-very-likely-that-hans-cheated-over-the-board, with a link to a podcast in which the matter is fully discussed). But it’s extremely unlikely that statistics alone will ever provide evidence on the matter, and unless some clever Philo Vance will ever be able to deduce his method and trap him “on the spot”, the mystery will never be solved. Chess, already diminished because of the overwhelming engines’ dominance, is on the verge of completely losing its charisma. Hysteria is spreading fast: already people are not permitted to watch important tournaments in person, and live broadcast is quickly disappearing. Will the “old times” ever come back?”
https://en.chessbase.com/post/the-hans-niemann-case-numbers-what-they-reveal-and-what-they-do-not-reveal

No, the “old times” never come back. Life is change; there is no going back. One day putt-putt players were earning more money than professional golfers, the next day the television contract ended, and so did Putt-Putt. (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2022/07/21/chess-is-in-a-world-of-trouble/) One day Gammons (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/paul-magriel-r-i-p/) was thriving; the next day it closed. Backgammon was, and is, still played, but the number of players dramatically dwindled and never returned. The same goes for Checkers, as can be learned when reading the superb book, Seven Games: A Human History

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seven-games-oliver-roeder/1139522041

by Oliver Roeder.

People still play the antiquated game, and there are still tournaments, but reading about them makes one sad. We here in America live in a boom and bust society. I cannot speak for the rest of the world, but here it is obvious the ship named the Royal Game has taken a torpedo and is in damage control mode. I have no idea how much damage has been done or what kind of deleterious effect it will have upon Chess, but I do know each and every Chess player needs to grab a pail and start dipping to keep the ship of Chess afloat. Chess is akin to a rudderless ship because FIDE, the World Chess organization, has done absolutely nothing to mitigate the damage. This could be because FIDE is controlled by the Russians. The head of FIDE does not make any decision without the approval of Mad Vlad, and he has other, much more important things on his mind at the moment. The President of FIDE, Arkady Dvorkovich,

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/europe/top-russian-official-who-spoke-out-against-war-leaves-post

known as “The Dvork”, is far too busy covering his ass while trying to stay alive to even consider doing something, anything, to mitigate the onslaught of negative publicity that has inundated the Royal Game over the last month or so. The dude has got to be cringing in fear of doing anything that might displease Mad Vlad,

or else he, like so many other nefarious Russians in Putin’s orbit, might take a header out of a window in a high rise building.

“…the mystery will never be solved.” And there’s the rub. Hans Niemann

can never, ever, prove he did not cheat, which means his reputation has been drastically damaged by the allegations made by the nattering nabobs. His reputation has been forever tarnished. With that in mind, I have something to say to young Mr. Niemann, and would appreciate it if a reader will pass this along to Hans, or someone who knows him.

“Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was.” – Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With The Wind.

Why Did Chessdom Pull GM Alejandro Ramirez Article?

The following article was posted at Chessdom (https://www.chessdom.com/) yesterday evening, but could not be seen this morning. Why, Chessdom, why?

GM Alejandro Ramirez: It seems very likely that Hans Niemann has cheated over-the-board

By nikita
Posted on October 8, 2022

After Hans Niemann defeated the World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen in the third round of the Sinquefield Cup 2022, Carlsen decided to withdraw from the tournament without detailed explanations. Two weeks after, Magnus Carlsen refused to play against Niemann in the Julius Baer Generation Cup and resigned his game after two moves of play. By the end of the tournament, Magnus published the official statement on the case publicly accusing Hans Niemann of cheating. GM Alejandro Ramirez was one of the commentators of the Sinquefield Cup 2022 who interviewed players and did analysis with them after the games. During the Julius Baer Generation Cup, Ramirez joined the live studio and shared his insights on the happenings during the Sinquefield Cup. He then said that he doesn’t think Niemann cheated in Saint Louis.

After Hans Niemann defeated the World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen in the third round of the Sinquefield Cup 2022, Carlsen decided to withdraw from the tournament without detailed explanations. Two weeks after, Magnus Carlsen refused to play against Niemann in the Julius Baer Generation Cup and resigned his game after two moves of play. By the end of the tournament, Magnus published the official statement on the case publicly accusing Hans Niemann of cheating. GM Alejandro Ramirez was one of the commentators of the Sinquefield Cup 2022 who interviewed players and did analysis with them after the games. During the Julius Baer Generation Cup, Ramirez joined the live studio and shared his insights on the happenings during the Sinquefield Cup. He then said that he doesn’t think Niemann cheated in Saint Louis.

In the newest C-squared podcast episode, Alejandro Ramirez spoke with Cristian Chirila and Fabiano Caruana about the developments on the cheating case which shook the chess world. “Now that a lot of things have happened and we are already a month after, the circumstantial evidence that has gathered against Hans, specifically on him cheated over-the-board, seems so strong that it’s very difficult for me to ignore it. For me to say ‘this guy cheated’ I myself would need to sit down and go through the data. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I have other things in my life and I don’t want to sit there and go through every one of Hans’s games. Now a lot of people have done that and a lot of people have made very compelling arguments on like why this statistically doesn’t correlate. And using my own expertise and my own experience with these things, it does seem very likely that he [Hans Niemann] has cheated over-the-board. Now, as I say that is very likely, I am not here condemning him and saying he definitely has cheated, I do not say that.“

Ramirez added that he has met a lot of grandmasters who are sure that Niemann has cheated over-the-board: “Am I sure of this [that Niemann has cheated OTB]? – No, I am definitely not sure of this. Have I met grandmasters that are sure of this? -Yes, I met grandmasters that have no doubt that Hans has cheated. Have I met grandmasters who think that Hans has not cheated over-the-board? -Less and less. And there is almost no one that I’ve talked to, that is a grandmaster level, that thinks his cheating is confined to a couple of events when he was 12 and 16.“. See the complete video below (https://www.chessdom.com/gm-alejandro-ramirez-it-seems-very-likely-that-hans-niemann-has-cheated-over-the-board/)

GM Joel Benjamin Did Not Do His Homework

In the fourth round of the US Senior Chess Championship being held at the St. Louis Chess Campus International Master Igor Khmelnitsky,

Igor Khmelnitsky wins Irwin en.chessbase.com

with the white pieces, faced Grandmaster Joel Benjamin.

The game began:

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 d6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e4 Qa5 5.Qe2

Position after 5 Qe2

Regular readers know of my predilection for this particular move of the Queen, but that stems from the famous Chigorin move in the French defense after 1 e4 e6 2 Qe2, and not because the move putting the Queen in front of the King should be played just because it is possible. After Joel played 4…Qa5 Igor had a small advantage which was larger than if his opponent had played the choice of Stockfish, 4…Qb6. Igor’s choice of 5 Qe2 jettisoned the advantage. Why would any titled player make such a move? The SF program at Lichess.com shows the best move is 5 Bd2. Here’s the deal, after 5…e5 6.dxe5 dxe5, white plays 7 Bd2. After the following moves, 7…Na6 8.a3 Be6 9.Nf3 O-O-O 10.Nd5 Qa4 11.Nxf6 gxf6 12.b3 this position is reached:

Position after 12 b3

Yasser Seirawan, Christian Chirila, and Alejandro Ramirez, were big on the exchange sacrifice after the move 12…Rxd2, which they, and the ‘engine’ liked. The question was would Joel pull the trigger?

The plan had been to use this game in the previous post in lieu of the game with Shabalov so there would be two exchange sacrifices rather than the possible sacrifice of the knight on f7, which Joel declined. That was prior to my doing the due diligence that should have been done earlier. I did not go to 365Chess.com and check out the opening because, well, you know, who in his right mind would play such a lame move as 5 Qe2 in that position? What was found rocked the AW. Not only had the move of the Queen been previously played but it had been played against non other than GM Joel Benjamin!

Cemil Can Ali Marandi (2552) vs Joel Benjamin (2526)
Event: St Louis Winter B 2018
Site: Saint Louis USA Date: 11/07/2018
Round: 3.3
ECO: A45 Queen’s pawn game
1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 d6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e4 Qa5 5.Qe2 e5 6.dxe5 dxe5 7.Bd2 Bg4 8.f3 Be6 9.g4 Nbd7 10.h4 b5 11.Nd5 b4 12.Qa6 Qxa6 13.Nc7+ Kd8 14.Nxe6+ fxe6 15.Bxa6 Nc5 16.Bc4 a5 17.a3 Rb8 18.axb4 axb4 19.Nh3 Bd6 20.Ra7 Nfd7 21.Ke2 h6 22.g5 Ke7 23.gxh6 gxh6 24.Rg1 Kf6 25.Nf2 h5 26.Bg5+ Kf7 27.Be3 Rb7 28.Raa1 Be7 29.Bg5 Nb6 30.Bd3 b3 31.Bxe7 Rxe7 32.Rg5 Kf6 33.Rag1 Rhh7 34.f4 Reg7 35.Nh3 Nxd3 36.cxd3 Rxg5 37.hxg5+ Kg6 38.fxe5 Rf7 39.Ke3 1-0
https://www.365chess.com/game.php?back=1&gid=4152899&m=10

It was then obvious why Igor had played the move of the Queen. Joel had lost the game played years ago, so Igor, after doing his due diligence, decided to play it again while putting the question to GM Benjamin. Had Joel done his homework? One would assume GM Benjamin would have spent much time replaying and annotating the lost game because even lower rated players will scrutinize their losses, so that in the event the same position occurs on the board in a future game they will be prepared and have an answer. Obviously, this did not happen in this case, and it cost Joel dearly. This position was reached in both games after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 d6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e4 Qa5 5.Qe2 e5 6.dxe5 dxe5 7.Bd2:

Position after 7 Bd2

When seeing the position for the first time GM Benjamin played 7…Bg4. He played a different move against Igor:

IM Igor Khmelnitsky vs GM Joel Benjamin
2022 US Senior Chess Championship
ECO: A45 Queen’s pawn game
1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 d6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e4 Qa5 5.Qe2 e5 6.dxe5 dxe5 7.Bd2 Na6 8.a3 Be6 9.Nf3 O-O-O 10.Nd5 Qa4 11.Nxf6 gxf6 12.b3 Qb5 13.Qxb5 cxb5 14.Be3 Bc5 15.Bxb5 Bxe3 16.fxe3 Nc5 17.Nd2 Rhg8 18.g3 h5 19.b4 Nd7 20.Bd3 h4 21.Kf2 Nb6 22.a4 hxg3+ 23.hxg3 Kd7 24.a5 Nc8 25.Rh6 Ke7 26.Rf1 Rh8 27.Rfh1 Rxh6 28.Rxh6 Nd6 29.Rh1 Rc8 30.Ke1 Ba2 31.Kd1 Be6 32.Kc1 Rg8 33.Rg1 Rh8 34.Kb2 Rh2 35.Kc3 Bd7 36.a6 b6 37.Nc4 Nb5+ 38.Kb2 Nc7 39.Na3 Bc8 40.b5 Ne6 41.Kc3 Nc5 42.g4 Rh8 43.g5 fxg5 44.Rxg5 Kf6 45.Rg2 Bd7 46.Rg1 Rc8 47.Kb4 Be6 48.Nc4 Bxc4 49.Rf1+ Kg7 50.Bxc4 Rc7 51.Bd5 Rd7 52.Ra1 Rc7 53.Ra3 Kf8 54.Bc6 Ke7 55.Ra1 Kd6 56.Bd5 Ke7 57.Rh1 f6 58.Rh8 Rd7 59.Rc8 Rd8 60.Rc7+ Rd7 61.Rxc5 bxc5+ 62.Kxc5 Rd6 63.c4 Kd7 64.Kb4 Kc7 65.c5 Rd8 66.b6+ Kb8 67.c6 axb6 68.c7+ 1-0
https://lichess.org/broadcast/us-senior-championship-2022/round-4/SuM3mEGU

After surfin’ on over to the analysis program at Lichess.com it was learned the best move in the position, according to the Stockfish program, is 7…Bc5, something Joel should have known. I have previously written about how the programs are revolutionizing the opening phase of the game and how older players who refuse to do their homework are being cut to pieces, metaphorically speaking, over the board (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2022/06/04/ben-finegold-loses-to-alexander-shabalov-before-drawing-out-the-string/). It is not my intention to judge any player too harshly because we are still in a pandemic. The play has been erratic, if not atrociously abominable, replete with what Yasser likes to call “howler” moves being made with regularity. Still, coming to the board without being prepared is unforgivable. Older players simply MUST forget most of what they have learned about the openings they play and look at them with “new eyes.” The days of getting by with what you know, Joe, are over. It is no longer possible for older players to “wing it.” Seniors can no longer say, “I’ve had this position a million times!” It no longer matters how well one thinks he knows the opening because, as Bob Dylan sang, “Things Have Changed.”

blindwilliehighlight

They Bad

In an interview with Albert Silver appearing on Chessbase, former World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov said, “…the quality of the players has worsened. In the autumn, Carlsen and Anand were playing, and I came to the final. The FIDE Vice President Georgios Makropoulos came to me and said: “Judging by today’s games, even an out-of-shape Karpov would beat either of them…”

It is natural for older people to consider things having been better “back in the day.” This is common in all walks of life. For example, many years ago I worked for a company owned by a former Delta Airlines employee. The company transported vehicles to nine different Southern states, and many of the drivers were former Delta employees who had retired. To a man they all agreed Delta was a better company “back in the day.” Upon hearing this for the umptheenth time, I said, “Maybe it was just a different company back then.” This was met with glares and stares, and I was shunned. A short time later I mentioned one of my girlfriends had been a stewardess for Delta in the early ’70’s, and another had worked for only Delta, and had done so for decades, adding, “Seems like it was a better company back then.” Everyone smiled, clapped me on the back, and things were right with the world of James Auto Transport!

That said, I must agree with Mr. Karpov. The matches for the World Chess Championship this decade have left much to be desired. Back in the day we looked forward to the upcoming WC match with much anticipation. This is no longer the case. I am having trouble recalling the last interesting match for the World Chess Championship.

I must also agree with the former WCC about the quality of the play of the current top players. I am not exactly certain, but it could be the influence of the computer chess programs in that they have humbled the Grandmasters, or, shall we say, taken them down a peg, or two. My friend the Discman said something, published on this blog, some time ago, “GM’s used to be thought of as Gods.” Now the Gods of chess come with names like Komodo, and Stockfish.

As an example of what I mean let me refer you to the coverage on Chessbase of the most recent “elite” tournament, the Grenke Chess Classic in Baden-Baden. The players were having much trouble converting winning endgames. I watched as GM Etienne Bacrot, who had been winning for quite sometime, came completely unglued trying to push home his advantage versus GM Michael Adams. (http://en.chessbase.com/post/grenke-rd5-carlsen-back-in-the-lead) This was one of many butchered endgames in this particular tournament. Unfortunately, it is not the only recent tournament about which the same can be said.

What makes it worse is that the players make statements like, “We are so much better than the players of the last century that even when they were on top of their game the best players of today would wipe the floor with them, and we have got the numbers to prove it.” OK, I am paraphrasing here, but you get the idea. Their ratings are higher and the best players of today do seem to strut around like Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in the movie Silver Streak, saying, “That’s right, we bad, WE BAD!” Then they go out and draw another winnable endgame. For example, “…while Adams could not convert his advantage against Aronian.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/grenke-rd6-anand-only-win)

Sometimes it is even worse than the above. Consider what was written after the headline, “GRENKE Rd4: Two Blunders, Two Black wins.”
“What a round! Two major blunders defined the two victories, games that were on the verge of being wildly interesting and dissipated into a win for Black as in both cases the White side simply missed Black’s resources or overestimated his own attacking chances. Carlsen bounced back with a win over Anand in a stonewall, while Baramidze basically gave Naiditsch the tournament lead.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/grenke-rd4-two-blunders-two-black-wins-2)

What a round, indeed. Baramidze failed to answer a question every chess player should ask himself before making a move, “Am I leaving anything en prise?” He actually put a Knight en prise, giving Naiditsch a piece for nothing. Amazing….Granted, GM Baramidze is clearly not a Super GM, but still…

Not to be outdone, former World Human Chess Champion Vishy Anand gave his opponent that day, World Human Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, a full ROOK! I kid you not. The game is annotated by GM Alejandro Ramirez at the Chessbase website. (http://en.chessbase.com/post/grenke-rd4-two-blunders-two-black-wins-2) Anand should give some serious consideration to retiring. If he continues to play he will only continue to embarrass himself, and tarnish his reputation.

That’s right, they bad, THEY BAD!

Speaking of GM Alejandro Ramirez…Annotating the game between Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Magnus Carlsen from round three of the Tata Steel tournament, after 1.d4 d6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 f5 4.b4 Bg7 5.Bb2 a5 6.b5 a4!?, Alejandro writes, “This brave pawn will be weak, but it does restrict White a little. Carlsen has to be very careful not to lose it though.”

Come on! I know Magnus is the World Human Chess Champion, but I do not need a 3300 rated program to tell me this move is bad, REAL BAD! And this is not an isolated example. Everyone in the chess world, except maybe the VP of the GCA, is aware of the “howler,” Kd2, Magnus played against Viswanathan Anand in their most recent WCC match. Magnus was saved because Vishy sat there for one minute without asking himself the first question every chess player, other than the VP of the GCA, asks himself after his opponent makes a move, which is, “Why did my opponent make that move?” But what about the move Carlsen played as White against Fabiano Caruana in a Bishop’s Opening last year at the Sinquefield Cup?

Carlsen vs Caruana

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 Bb4+ 6. c3 Bd6 7. Bg5 dxe4 8. dxe4 h6 9. Bh4 Qe7 10. Nbd2 Nbd7 11. Bg3 Bc7 12. O-O Nh5 13. h3?

Once again, I do not need a computer program to tell me how bad is this move. This move stinks. It is the kind of move that may be played by the VP of the GCA, a triple digit player. I give the rest of the game for the record, and as proof as to what kind of chess is being passed off a being better than that played “back in the day.” 13…Nxg3 14. fxg3 Nc5 15. Bxf7+ Kxf7 16. Nxe5+ Kg8 17. Ng6 Qg5 18. Rf8+ Kh7 19. Nxh8 Bg4 20. Qf1 Nd3 21. Qxd3 Rxf8 22. hxg4 Qxg4 23. Nf3 Qxg3 24. e5+ Kxh8 25. e6 Bb6+ 26. Kh1 Qg4 27. Qd6 Rd8 28. Qe5 Rd5 29. Qb8+ Kh7 30. e7 Qh5+ 31. Nh2 Rd1+ 32. Rxd1 Qxd1+ 33. Nf1 Qxf1+ 34. Kh2 Qg1+ 0-1

Keep in mind the current human WCC backed into the match in which he became Chess Champ of the World. In the biggest game of his career, a game he had to win, Magnus Carlsen LOST. He was saved when GM Vladmir Kramnik also lost, giving the right to Carlsen to play a match with an old, tired, and obviously worn out toothless Tiger. I can still picture the young Magnus sitting on his knees in his chair like a little boy at a weekend swiss as his time dwindled. This man could never stand toe to toe with the Giants of the past. They would wipe the floor with him, and then eat him alive.

Armageddon Chess

The headline on Chessbase shows “GRENKE Final: Carlsen wins in Armageddon!” The article by Alejandro Ramirez is dated 2/10/2015 and even with the exclamation mark I am nonplussed. Carlsen did not win the tournament in my universe because he scored the same number of points as GM Arkadij Naiditsch. According to the multiverse theory whatever possibility exists can be found in one of those other universes. In one universe, let us call it nocaBverse, the two players who scored the same number of points tied for first. In another universe, let us call it Ironmanverse, tiebreaks were used and the first tiebreak was, as it is in every other game and sport on the universe in which the tournament we are discussing was played, the head to head matchup. In the Ironmanverse Arkadij Naiditsch was declared the winner. Other universes use things like most wins, or performance rating, or even most wins with Black, to decide a winner. Only in our universe are the best human chess players made to run a sprint after running a marathon in order to decide a “winner.” In one of the other universes a system is used whereby more points are awarded for a win or a draw for Black. A win with Black scores 3 points, while a win with White only scores 2 points. A draw with Black scores 1 1/2 points, while a draw with White only scores one point. In this multipointverse Arkadij Naiditsch outscored Magnus Carlsen by one half point, 11 1/2 to 11, and was declared the winner.

Magnus Carlsen know this. He is considered the World Human Chess Champion and commands the authority to take a page out of former first lady Nancy Raygun’s book and “just say no” to any organizer. Instead, like a trained seal, he jumps through whatever hoop is placed in front of him in order to be thrown another piece of meat. Hopefully, one day chess will have a worthy Champion who will say, “This is silly. I have just played a long tournament of normal chess and to contest some souped-up, heebee-jeeb games to determine anything is stupid.” I should live so long…

I have absolutely no interest in these quick-play games and do not pay any attention to them. The top players in the world these days make enough “howlers” in what passes for “classical” chess without my having to watch a blunder-fest. These games devolve into a kind of train wreck. It is absurd.

The once Royal game has devolved into “Armageddon Chess.” The definition of Armageddon is, “The final battle at the end of the world between the forces of good and evil.”

Where does the game of chess go after this? What comes after Armageddon?

The Greatest Chess Tournament of All-Time

The last day of the 2011 Major League Baseball season has often been called “The Greatest Day Of Baseball Ever.” Eric Simon @AmazinAvenue used the aforementioned headline (http://www.amazinavenue.com/2011/9/29/2457299/red-sox-rays-braves-wild-card-jose-reyes-mlb-playoffs).

MLB.com continues the trend with headlines such as, “One year later, recalling baseball’s Best Night Ever” (http://m.mlb.com/news/article/39125938/)

Do a search and a film by MLB.com heads the line-up, “Regular season’s wild end” (http://m.mlb.com/video/v19789807/the-2011-regular-season-ends-with-a-flourish).

The sad thing is that all this “greatness” transpired long after most fans had gone to sleep. Little League baseball players cannot stay up until after midnight to watch, no matter how “great” the event. Most who have to rise early to get to work cannot stay awake because the games drag on and on, with an endless series of commercials between innings and endless pitching changes. Most fans have been bored stiff long before something “great” happens.

Every generation has its “greatest.” The sixth game of the 1975 World Series between the Reds and Red Sox, which featured a home run that barely stayed fair by Carlton Fisk, was the “greatest game of all-time.” To the fans in Pittsburgh the home run hit by Bill Mazeroski to beat the damn Yankees in the bottom of the ninth inning off of Ralph Terry in the 1960 World Series will always be the “greatest game of all-time” no matter what happens in the future.

The recently concluded second Sinquefield Cup is being called the latest, greatest, chess tournament of all-time. Except for the runaway winner, Fabiano Caruana, who kept his head while those around him were losing theirs, the standard of play was abysmally low. It is possible the player who finished, the sinister Vesilin Topalov, played the worse chess. Fortunately for him some of his opponents played their worst chess against him. For example, Hikaru Nakamura should have blown Topalov off of the board in the third round, leaving him three losses and having to face World Champion Magnus Carlsen while sitting behind the black army. Nakamura would have only a half point behind Fab Car and it would have been a completely different tournament. I will be kind and say that other than Fab Car the players did not bring their “A” game. It was certainly not the most interesting chess tournament of all-time.

GM Alejandro Ramirez wrote an article on 9/7/2014 for Chessbase, “Sinquefield 10: Draws end magnificent event,” which included this: “This super-GM double round robin tournament is being played from August 27th to September 7th. It is billed as the strongest tournament in the history of chess.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/sinquefield-10-draws-end-magnificent-event)

A few days later, 9/10/2014, Alisa Melekhina wrote an article, “Behind the Scenes of the Sinquefield Cup,” which included this: “This super-GM double round robin tournament is being played from August 27th to September 7th. It is billed as the strongest tournament in the history of chess.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/behind-the-scenes-of-the-sinquefield-cup)

“Strongest Chess Tournament Ever Begins in Saint Louis”
By Brian Jerauld
August 27, 2014
SAINT LOUIS, MO (August 26, 2014) — It‘s time to ring the bell on the strongest chess tournament in history.
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12780/772/

Saturday, August 16, 2014
Sinquefield Cup 2014 – Strongest Chess Tournament in History
http://susanpolgar.blogspot.com/2014/08/sinquefield-cup-2014-strongest-chess.html

Jason Rosenhouse, writing on something called the “Evolution Blog: Science, Religion, Math, Politics and Chess” has this headline: “The Greatest Chess Tournament in the History of Chess Tournaments”
Posted by jrosenhouse on August 28, 2014
http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2014/08/28/the-greatest-chess-tournament-in-the-history-of-chess-tournaments/

But wait, there’s MORE!

“Fabiano Caruana Is Doing The Impossible At Chess’s Most Competitive Tournament”
10:21 AMSep 5 By Oliver Roeder
http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/fabiano-caruana-is-doing-the-impossible-at-chesss-most-competitive-tournament/

Leave it to Tim Krabbé to put an end to the hyperbole:

“Could this nonsense about ´the strongest chess tournament in history´ please stop? You have the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 9 of the most recent ranking. The 1938 AVRO tournament had the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Of your six players, four are in the top-six – a density of 4/6, or .67. The AVRO Tournament had eight of the top eight – a density of 8/8 or 1. Both tournaments are double round robins, with of 30 and 56 games respectively. Multiplying these numbers, we get an index of 4/6*30=20 for Sinquefield, and 1*56=56 for AVRO.

AVRO, therefore, was almost 3 times as strong.

Should anyone see these calculations as meaningless, they should consider that they share that quality with Sinquefield´s average rating of 2802. Ratings do not reflect playing strength – they reflect relative playing strength and therefore, inflation more than anything else. I could go out right now and buy the most expensive pingpong ball in the history of humankind.

With many thanks for the wonderful tournament,

Tim Krabbé”
http://timkr.home.xs4all.nl/chess2/diary.htm

Many thanks for putting the latest, greatest, chess tournament of all-time into perspective, Tim.

MUHAMMAD ALI: THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME

Damir Studen Earns IM Norm at US Masters

GM Rauf Mamedov sat down to play GM Bartlomiej Macieja on board one in the last round of the US Masters trailing by half a point. To win the tournament Rauf would have to win the game, which is exactly what happened. Three other players had a chance to finish with seven points. GM’s Alejandro Ramirez and Yuniesky Quesada Perez drew their game, thus finishing with 6 ½, while GM Alojzije Jankovic, with a chance to finish first, took a HALF POINT BYE in the last round, the second half point bye he had taken in the tournament. Jankovic lost to Macieja in the penultimate round.
The official website tried to broadcast three games, but usually there were only two, or one, game live, because of “tech issues.” I followed the last game, which could have been drawn with better play from the loser. One game never made it to the web. The game in which I had the most interest, the board three game between GM Georg Meier and NM Daniel Gurevich, of Atlanta, was being broadcast until it, too, had “tech issues.” After losing two of his first three games, NM Gurevich won in the fourth round, followed by a draw with IM John Cox. Daniel then ripped off three wins in a row, including GM Alex Fishbein in round seven and GM Alex Shabalov in the penultimate round. Reeling with the feeling and playing Black versus GM Meier, Gurevich played like a wild man swinging wildly by pushing his g-pawn and thereby weakening his position. It was the kind of impetuous move a chess teacher would advise a student against playing. A few moves later the game disappeared and I regretted not copying the moves that had been displayed.
The big news locally is that LM Damir Studen, who literally grew up at the House of Pain, earned an IM norm with his 5 ½ points with his last round draw with the aforementioned IM John Cox. His tournament included three wins, five draws, and only one loss, that a round five loss to LSM Denys Shmelov. He drew with GM’s Alex Fishbein and Georg Meier, and defeated GM John Federowicz. Damir and Daniel finished in the fourth score group, tying for twelfth place with many others. Years ago when both of these young men were up and comers I showed there was still life left in this old dog by defeating both of them in a nightly quick-play event at the Atlanta Chess Center. I mention this because I have read many times that one should “get them on the way up,” and have always wanted to put it into print. The game with Damir was particularly exciting because I had to play many moves with only one second left on my clock. Fortunately there was a five second delay. Both would, no doubt, eat me alive now. I congratulate both of these players for their outstanding result. Damir gained 48 rating points to move close to Senior Master level at 2384. Daniel increased his rating 51 points to move to 2344.
When the tournament first began there were updates often, and the pictures were like being onsite. I have not seen many of the players, like GM Michael Rohde, in years, so the pictures on the website were nice to see. Someone was taking a picture of the results page every “15-20 minutes.” That stopped, unfortunately. Combine that with the myriad technical problems and general lack of games, and I quickly lost interest. The internet was down most of the final day and I did not seem to mind because the results were not forthcoming, often for far too long. To a chess fan the coverage showed much promise initially, but sputtered and ground to a halt. In chess terms it would be like a player winning his first round and then losing all of his next games.
Since there have been so few games from the US Masters I would like to present a game given by Olimpiu Urcan & Other Epistolarians from, Chess: A Singapore Column of September 1, 2013. (http://sgchess.net/2013/09/01/871-a-scandinavian-crash/). This one is for you, future IM Studen!
A Scandinavian Crash
Along with his brief annotations and comments, Napoleon Recososa submits the interesting game below, played in the fourth round of the Inaugural Teck Ghee CSC Community Chess Championship (August 25, 2013):
Napoleon Recososa – Kanagenthiran Premnath [B01]
Inaugural Teck Ghee CSC Community Chess, Round 4, 25 August 2013
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Bc4 c6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.h3 Bh5 8.Be3 e6 9.g4 Bg6 10.Ne5 Nbd7 11.Nxg6 hxg6 12.Qe2 b5 13.Bd3 Qb4?! A waste of time since White, with his next move, castles queenside anyway. Perhaps 13…Be7 was better. 14.0–0–0 a5? Premature activity. He failed to consider the king’s safety. Maybe he underestimated the lurking dangers in the center as his c6 and e6-pawns controlled the d5 square and, furthermore, White’s bishop on e3 covered the e-file. 15.g5 Nh5 [see diagram] If 15…Nd5 White planned 16.Nxd5 exd5 17.Bf4+ Qe7 (17…Be7 18.c3; 17…Kd8 18.Rhe1) 18.Qf3 and now if 18…0–0–0 then 19.Bxb5! cxb5 20.Qxd5 looks strong. 16.d5! Nf4 After 16…cxd5 17.Nxd5 Qd6 (17…exd5 allows 18.Bc5+) 18.Nb6 (18.Bxb5 was interesting too but I had doubts about 18…exd5 19.Bc5+ Qe6) 18…Nf4 19.Qf3 White’s just winning. 17.Bxf4 Qxf4+ 18.Kb1 Nc5 If 18…Ne5 then White had a pleasant choice between 19.dxe6 fxe6 20.Bxg6+ or the more crude 19.dxc6 b4 20.Nb5. 19.Bxb5 Rc8 19…cxb5 loses to 20.Qxb5+ Kd8 (20…Ke7 21.d6+ Kd8 22.Qxc5) 21.dxe6+ Kc8 (21…Kc7 is met by the simple 22.Nd5+ or 22.Rd7+) 22.Qc6+. 20.Bxc6+ Rxc6 21.dxc6 Qc7 21…Qxg5 fails because of 22.c7! 22.Qg4? Better was 22.Qb5 followed by 23.Na4. I was distracted by my opponent’s time trouble. 22…Qxc6 23.f3 Be7 24.h4 a4 25.Ne4 a3 26.Nxc5 Bxc5 27.h5 Qb5 28.b3 gxh5 29.Qe4! Call it a sense of danger or pure luck but I noticed that after 29.Rxh5 Rxh5 30.Qxh5 there is the sneaky 30…Qe2! 31.Qh8+ Bf8 32.Qh1 Qe5. 29…Ke7 29…0–0 30.Rxh5 is losing too. 30.g6 f6 30…f5 leads to a forced mate after 31.Qh4+. 31.Rhe1 Qb6 3. Qd5 and with just six seconds left, my opponent resigned in this hopeless position. 1–0