Magnus Carlsen’s Bishop’s Opening

Having recently annotated a Bishop’s Opening played in the Women’s World Championship I had not intended on annotating the following game played in the ongoing Altibox Norway Chess 2018 tournament, but since it was yet another BO played by the human World Champion Magnus Carlsen, versus his challenger for the crown later this year, my mind was changed. Rather than making extensive comments I decided to make only a few pertinent comments, since the game has been annotated by many, including video(s) of the game, which can be found everywhere. In addition, Chessbase is now advertising a new video, The Bishop’s Opening and the Italian game, by GM Sergei Tiviakov.

I could not help but wonder if this product is being brought to the market now because of its use by the World Champ, Magnus Carlsen? The article/advertisement is authored by Davide Nastasio, who writes for the Georgia Chess Magazine (http://georgiachessnews.com/), which is now mainly devoted to reviews in lieu of articles concerning Georgia Chess. He begins the article, “This DVD could be Carlsen’s answer to Caruana’s unbeatable Petroff Defence.” I can only hope Magnus opens with 1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 one time in the upcoming World Championship. Imagine one of your “off-beat” openings that has been derided and ridiculed for decades being played in a match for the human World Championship!

The aforementioned game (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/2018-womens-world-championship-game-five/) between Zhongyi Tan

and Wenjun Ju

began 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 a5 6. a4 Bb4+. This caused a pause to study the position. The automatic response seems to be the move played, 7 c3. What if white plays 7 Bd2? Black could (should?) retreat the bishop as taking the bishop on d2 would mean black has moved his bishop twice in order to take a piece that has only moved once, thereby facilitating his opponents development. It would appear blacks best move would be to simply play 7…Bd6. But what if black takes the bishop? Does white take with the knight, playing , after 8…Bxd2, 9 Nxd2, or 9 Qxd2? These are the kinds of things argued about “back in the day.” Stockfish at ChessBomb gives 7 c3 in this particular position as best)

Magnus Carlsen (NOR)

vs Fabiano Caruana (USA)

Altibox Norway Chess 2018 round 01

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 Bb4+ (Wenjun Ju played a5 6. a4 Bb4+ vs Zhongyi Tan. See below) 6. Bd2 Bxd2+ 7. Nbxd2 (Magnus takes with the knight. What do the CDMs know? They know Magnus made an inferior move. They also know that now, without the inclusion of a5 followed by a4, the best move in the position is 7 Qxd2) 7…a5 8. c3 Nbd7 9. exd5 cxd5 10. O-O O-O 11. Re1 Re8 12. Nf1 b5 13. a4 b4 14. cxb4 axb4 15. Ne3 Bb7 (Nc5 is better)

16. d4? (Stockfish considers this move leaving a completely equal position, while 16 Nf5 gives white with an advantage of about half a pawn. Which move would you make? GM Daniel King in his video of the game found at Chessbase (https://en.chessbase.com/post/norway-chess-carlsen-round-1) does not mention the much better 16 Nf5) 16…e4 17. Ne5 Nxe5 18. dxe5 Rxe5 19. Qd4 Re7

20. Rac1? (When seeing this move I thought it might be a misprint. After becoming apparent it was the move played I could hear IM Boris Kogan asking, as he did so often when going over my games, “Mike, why you move rook protecting completely passed pawn when you could move other rook to the c-file?” Why indeed. GM Daniel King

glossed over this move, saying “Rac1 looks good to occupy the open file,” continuing as if it were the most natural move in the game. Frankly, the video leaves much to be desired. If GM King had been reviewing a game by one of his students, would he have praised the move? Or would he mention the possibility the move was inferior to Rec1? Why are other GMs afraid to criticize the human World Champion? Back in the day we accepted moves played by a World Champ almost without question. There is a reason Magnus is the human World Champion, but still…He is, after all, HUMAN. To NOT criticize the Champ is a disservice to we fans of the Royal game. We the Fans deserve better than twenty-two minutes of insipid drivel, which can be seen below providing you have twenty-two minutes to waste) 20…Rd7 21. Red1 h6 22. Rc5 Ra5 23. Rxa5 Qxa5 24. h3 Kh7 25. Rc1 Rc7? (GM King quotes Magnus as saying, “This is insane.” Stockfish at the ChessBomb gives the “sane” 25… Qa6 26. Rd1 Qa5 27. Rc1 Qa6, which likely leads to a draw, as best. After winning the candidates tournament, earning the right to face Magnus for the World Championship, I predicted Fabiano would beat Magnus. That was before watching Fabi play game after game, and tournament after tournament, in lieu of resting, and preparing, for the most important match of his life. Caruana has made weak move after weak move, followed by blunder after blunder, since becoming challenger. All I can say now is Caruana’s chances have diminished considerably. Unless things change DRAMATICALLY Fabi will be fortunate to not be blown out of the match early on…There is no more to be said about this game. I give the remaining moves for the record)

26. Rxc7 Qxc7 27. Qxb4 Qc1+ 28. Bd1 Ba6 29. Qd4 Be2 30. Kh2 Bxd1 31. Nxd1 Qc7+ 32. Kg1 Qc1 33. b4 e3 34. fxe3 Ne4 35. Qxd5 Nd2 36. Qf5+ Kh8 37. Qg4 f5 38. Qe2 Ne4 39. Qe1 Qa1 40. a5 Nd6 41. Qd2 Nc4 42. Qd4 Qc1 43. Kf1 Nxe3+ 44. Qxe3 Qxd1+ 45. Kf2 Qc2+ 46. Kg3 g5 47. Qe5+ Kh7 48. Kh2 f4 49. Qd5 Qa4 50. Qf7+ Kh8 51. Qg6 Qxb4 52. Qxh6+ Kg8 53. Qxg5+ Kh7 54. Qh5+ Kg7 55. Qg5+ Kh7 56. h4 Qd6 57. Qh5+ Kg7 58. Qg5+ Kh7 59. h5 f3+ 60. g3 f2 61. Qg6+ Kh8 62. Qxd6 f1=Q 63. Qh6+ Kg8 64. Qe6+ Kh8 65. Qe3 Qb5 66. Qc3+ Kh7 67. g4 Qd5 68. Qc7+ Kg8 69. Kg3 Qe6 70. Qd8+ Kh7 71. Qd3+ Kh8 72. a6 Qe5+ 73. Kh3 Qa1 74. Qd8+ Kh7 75. Qe7+ Kh6 76. Qe3+ Kh7 77. a7 1-0

Zhongyi Tan (CHN) 2522 – Wenjun Ju (CHN) 2571

FIDE Women’s World Championship 2018 round 05

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 a5 6. a4 Bb4+ 7. c3 Bd6 8. O-O O-O 9. exd5 cxd5 10. Na3 Nbd7 11. Re1 h6 12. Nb5 Bb8 13. d4 e4 14. Nd2 Nb6 15. f3 Re8 16. Bc2 Bd7 17. Rb1 exf3 18. Nxf3 Ne4 19. Ne5 Bxe5 20. dxe5 Bxb5 21. axb5 Rxe5 22. Be3 Re6 23. Bd4 Nc4 24. Bd3 Qg5 25. b3 Ncd6 26. Rb2 Rae8 27. Rbe2 Nf5 28. Bc2 Nh4 29. Qd3 Ng6 30. Be3 Qh5 31. c4 Ne5 32. Qd4 Rg6 33. Bxe4 dxe4 34. Kf1 Nf3 35. Qd7 Nxh2+ 0-1

Magnus Carlsen (2877) vs Fabiano Caruana (2801)

2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014
Saint Louis USA 08/29/2014
C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defense

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 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

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2018 Women’s World Championship Game Five

GM Kevin Spraggett had this to say concerning the lack of interest in the Women’s World Championship match recently concluded:

“Witness the Women’s World Championship being played this week. Does MSM report on it? No way!” (http://www.spraggettonchess.com/friday-coffee-chess-and-potpourri/. See also, https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/05/16/kevin-spraggetts-whipping-post/)

The fact is that the two women who played the match for the women’s crown are at least one category lower than Hou Yifan, undoubtedly the strongest woman Chess player on the planet. I was completely unfamiliar with Zhongyi Tan. It is extremely difficult to have interest in such a meaningless so-called “title match.” Still, having been an exponent of the venerable Bishop’s opening, there was interest in the one game played using the opening.

Zhongyi Tan (CHN) 2522

vs Wenjun Ju (CHN) 2571

FIDE Women’s World Championship 2018 round 05

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 a5 6. a4 Bb4+ 7. c3 Bd6 8. O-O O-O 9. exd5 cxd5 10. Na3 Nbd7 11. Re1 h6 12. Nb5 Bb8 13. d4 e4 14. Nd2 Nb6 15. f3 Re8 16. Bc2 Bd7 17. Rb1 exf3 18. Nxf3 Ne4 19. Ne5 Bxe5 20. dxe5 Bxb5 21. axb5 Rxe5 22. Be3 Re6 23. Bd4 Nc4 24. Bd3 Qg5 25. b3 Ncd6 26. Rb2 Rae8 27. Rbe2 Nf5 28. Bc2 Nh4 29. Qd3 Ng6 30. Be3 Qh5 31. c4 Ne5 32. Qd4 Rg6 33. Bxe4 dxe4 34. Kf1 Nf3 35. Qd7 Nxh2+ 0-1

C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defence

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 (The CBDB shows this move, “The truth as it was known in those long ago days,” scoring 56%, higher than any other second move!) Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 a5 (This move has gained in popularity because Komodo has it best. Next is 5…Bb4+. The move Houey considers best, 5…Bd6, has been the most often played move, and is the only move I encountered) 6. a4 Bb4+ (This gives the white general a pleasant choice of the game move, or 7 Bd2)

7. c3 Bd6 8. O-O (All three Stockfish programs at the CBDB show 8 exd5 best, and the SF program used by ChessBomb prefers taking the pawn. The idea is to play, after 8 exd5 cxd5, 9 Bg5, a move preferred by GM Bent Larsen in the B.O.)

8…O-O ( Both the Fish and Dragon play 8…dxe4 which has not been tested in top level play)

9. exd5 (The choice of SF & Houdini, this move is a TN) cxd5

10. Na3 (The beginning of Tan’s troubles. 10. Bg5 Be6 then 11. Na3 h6 12. Bh4 Nc6 13. Nb5 Bb8 14. Re1 b6 15. Bg3 Nd7 16. h3 Kh7 17. h4 f6, a plausible line given by SF)

Nbd7 (10… h6 to prevent Bg5. Stockfish at ChessBomb gives this line, culminating in a possible perpetual 11. Nb5 Nc6 12. Be3 Bb8 13. h3 Re8 14. Bc5 Bf5 15. Be3 Be6 16. Bc5 Bf5)

11. Re1 (11. Bg5 h6 12. Bh4 Bb8 13. Re1 Re8 14. Nb5 g5 15. Bg3 b6 16. Bc2 Bb7 17. Nd2 Nf8 18. h3 Ng6 would leave white with a small advantage) 11…h6 (The game is even) 12. Nb5 Bb8

13. d4? (This move hands the advantage to black. I have previously mentioned on this blog the difficulties encountered in my early days learning the game with the transition from the opening to the middle-game centered around move 13. Notice in the line given by SF below the move d4 is played a couple of moves later. I set up a board when going over the game before checking with the program analysis, spending a considerable amount of time looking at the position before 13 d4? was played. Three moves stood out; 13 Be3; 13 h3; and 13 Qe2. If you are a regular reader of this blog you will not be surprised by the latter move. Thing is, I was uncertain in what order the moves should be played. The Fish shows them in this order: 13 Be3; 13 h3; and 13 Qe2. SF shows this line after 13 Qe2 b6 14. Be3 Re8 15. h3, with the three moves all being played. The best line, according to SF, is 13. Be3 Re8 14. h3 b6 15. d4 e4 16. Nd2 Bb7 17. c4 Qe7 18. Nc3 dxc4 19. Nxc4 Nd5 20. Nxd5 Bxd5 21. Bd2)

e4 14. Nd2 Nb6

15. f3? (Yet another weak move in the opening. Look at the position…white has only a rook on the king side defending the king. Although black has only a knight more on the king side, the queen and both bishops are poised to move to the open king side in the beat of a heart. Something will have to be done about the pawn dagger on e4, but white is undeveloped, with the knight on d2 clogging up the white position. 15. Nf1 is much better)

Re8 16. Bc2 Bd7 (16… Bf5)

17. Rb1? (17. Re2) exf3? (17… Nc8 is much better) 18. Nxf3 Ne4 (18… Bg4 is possible) 19. Ne5 (Although SF shows 19. Bd3 as best, after 19…f5 black is for choice) 19…Bxe5 (19… Bxb5 first, then after 20. axb5, play Bxe5)
20. dxe5 Bxb5 21. axb5 Rxe5 22. Be3 Re6 23. Bd4 (23. Qd4) Nc4 24. Bd3 Qg5 (24… Qh4 25. Re2) 25. b3 Ncd6 26. Rb2 (Why not an attacking move like 26. Be3) Rae8 27. Rbe2 Nf5 (Look at the position. Every black piece is on the king side menacing the white king, while the white queen and both bishops are on the queenside. White will not last long…)

28. Bc2 Nh4 29. Qd3 Ng6 (29… f5!) 30. Be3 (30. Qf3 is the only chance) Qh5 31. c4? (Turn out the lights, the party’s over…31. Qd4 or 31 Bd1 should have been played) Ne5 32. Qd4 Rg6 33. Bxe4 dxe4 34. Kf1 Nf3 35. Qd7 Nxh2+ 0-1

Quite frankly, this was pitifully weak opening play by Tan. Her understanding of the venerable Bishop’s opening was sorely lacking.

Vadim Zvjaginsev (2661) vs Manuel Petrosyan (2546)

18th ch-EUR Indiv 2017
Minsk 05/31/2017
ECO: C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defence

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 a5 6. a4 Bb4+ 7. c3 Bd6 8. O-O O-O 9. Re1 dxe4 10. dxe4 Na6 11. Bc2 Nc5 12. Na3 Qe7 13. Nc4 Bc7 14. b3 Rd8 15. Qe2 b6 16. Ba3 Ba6 17. Rad1 Nfd7 18. b4 Qe6 19. bxc5 Bxc4 20. Qe3 h6 21. Nd2 1/2-1/2

Na3 did not turn out well in the next game…

Vladimir Onischuk (2608) vs Alexander Motylev (2665)

18th ch-EUR Indiv 2017
Minsk 06/07/2017
ECO: C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defence

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 a5 6. a4 Bb4+ 7. c3 Bd6 8. exd5 cxd5 9. Na3 Nc6 10. Nb5 Bb8 11. Bg5 Be6 12. O-O h6 13. Bh4 O-O 14. Re1 g5 15. Bg3 Bg4 16. Qd2 Bxf3 17. gxf3 Qd7 18. Kg2 Qf5 19. h4 Ne7 20. hxg5 hxg5 21. Rh1 Ng6 22. Rae1 Rd8 23. c4 d4 24. c5 Ra6 25. Bc4 Nd5 26. Bxd5 Rxd5 27. Rh5 Rf6 28. Qe2 Rxc5 29. Reh1 Rc8 30. Na3 Rc5 31. Nc4 Bc7 32. b3 Kg7 33. R1h3 Bd6 34. Rh2 Bc7 35. Rh1 Bd6 36. Rh7+ Kf8 37. R7h5 Kg7 38. Qd1 Bc7 39. Rh7+ Kf8 40. R7h3 Rcc6 41. Rh5 Ke7 42. Qe2 Ke6 43. Re1 Rc5 44. Qd1 Kd7 45. Re4 Ne7 46. Rg4 Rg6 47. Qe2 Nc6 48. Rh8 Qe6 49. Rh7 Kc8 50. Rh8+ Kd7 51. Rh7 Rg8 52. Nd2 Rc2 53. Rh5 Bd8 54. Qd1 Rxd2 55. Qxd2 Qg6 56. b4 Qxh5 57. b5 f5 58. bxc6+ bxc6 59. Rxd4+ exd4 60. Qb2 f4 61. Qxd4+ Kc8 0-1

A. Patel (2410) v Jennifer Yu (2279)

2017 North American Ch U20

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 a5 6. a4 Bb4+ 7. c3 Bd6 8. exd5 cxd5 9. O-O O-O 10. Bg5 Be6 11. Na3 Nbd7 12. Nb5 Bb8 13. Re1 Ra6 14. d4 e4 15. Nd2 h6 16. Bh4 g5 17. Bg3 Ng4 18. c4 dxc4 19. Nxc4 f5 20. Ncd6 Qf6 21. Bxe6+ Qxe6 22. d5 Qf6 23. Nxe4 Qxb2 24. d6 Qg7 25. h3 fxe4 26. hxg4 Re8 27. Rb1 Qf7 28. Qd4 Nf6 29. Rbd1 Rd8 30. f3 exf3 31. Rf1 Ne8 32. Rxf3 Qa2 33. Ra1 Qe6 34. Re1 Qa2 35. d7 Nd6 36. Bxd6 1-0

Magnus Carlsen Plays the Bishop’s Opening with Qe2!

Magnus Carlsen

vs Hou Yifan

Grenke Classic 2018 round 02

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 (The ChessBase DataBase shows this move with a better percentage than the most often played move, Nf3.) Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Qe2!

(Magnus, MY MAN! Does Magnus read the AW? Stats show many Norwegian readers… Nf3 is the most often played move, with Bb3 lagging way behind, while Stockfish at DaBomb has Nc3 listed above Qe2.)

Be7 (Houdini and Stockfish at the CBDB prefer 4…Bc5, but Komodo considers the little played 4…d5 best. Meanwhile, the SF at DaBomb has the game move #1)

5. Nf3 d6 (5…O-O is the most often played move) 6. c3 (Houdini and Komodo would castle. Stockfish plays h3, a TN) Nbd7 (6…O-O 7. Bb3 Qc7 8. Nbd2 b6 9. Nf1 Nbd7 10. Ng3 Nc5 11. Bc2 Re8 12. O-O Ba6 13. Re1 Bf8 14. Bg5 Nfd7 15. Qd2 Ne6 16. d4 Nxg5 17. Nxg5 h6 18. Nh3 c5 19. Bb3 Rad8 20. Rac1 Bb7 21. Ba4 a6 22. Bxd7 Qxd7 23. d5 Kh7 24. f3 g6 25. Nf2 h5 26. Qc2 Bh6 27. Rcd1 Qe7 28. Nh3 Bc8 29. Nf2 Qg5 30. Nf1 Bd7 31. Ne3 b5 32. Kh1 Rb8 33. Ra1 Qh4 34. Nf1 a5 35. Qe2 c4 36. Rab1 Rec8 37. Nd1 Rc7 38. Nde3 Kh8 39. g3 Qe7 40. Nd2 1/2-1/2, Dusan Tatalovic (2271) v Akos Pletl (2131), Bajmok-ch op 8th, 2005)

7. Bb3 O-O 8. O-O a5 9. d4 a4 10. Bc2 Re8 11. Re1 Bf8 12. Qd1 b5 13. Nbd2 Qc7 14. Nf1 g6 15. Bg5 h6 16. Bd2 Bg7 (Black has a decent game. 16…Nb6 would keep it that way.)

17. Ng3 ( (17. Qc1 Kh7 18. b3 axb3 19. axb3 Rxa1 20. Qxa1 Bb7 and only then 21 Ng3) Nb6 18. b3 axb3 19. axb3 Rxa1 20. Qxa1 Bg4 21. Qc1 (Because of the threat of taking the knight with the bishop, either 17 Nh4, or 17 Bd1 appear to be better)

Bxf3 22. gxf3 h5 23. Bh6 Qe7 (23…Nbd7 improves)

24. Bxg7 Kxg7 25. Qg5 Kh7 26. f4 (26 Ra1 taking the open rook file is better)

Nfd7 (26…exf4! and the game is even, Steven)

27. Qxe7 Rxe7 28. fxe5 dxe5 29. Rd1 Re8 (29…Kg7, a subtle move simply improving the position of the worst placed piece, is better)

30. dxe5 Nxe5 (h4!) 31. f4 Ng4 32. Rd6 Re6 33. Rd8 Kg7 (33…Ne3!?)

34. Nf1 (This move tosses the advantage. 33 Bd1; Ne2; Bd3; and h3 were all better moves)

Rf6? (This move gives Magnus advantage enough to win the game. Simply 34…Nf6 kept the game even, as would 34…c5. Now Hou is in deep doo…)

35. h3 Nh6 36. f5 gxf5 37. Ng3 Rg6

38. Kf2? (This is a huge mistake, once again tossing away the advantage. I would have made the move, but then, I am not the human World Champion. Although it seems natural to move the King toward the ‘action’ such is not the case. Consider the line, 38 Kh2 fxe4 39 Nxh5+ Kh7 40 Nf4 Rg5 41 Bxe4+)

fxe4? (Stockfish shows this line: 38… Rg5 39. Bd1 fxe4 40. Nxh5+ Kh7 41. Nf6+ Kg7 42. Nxe4 Rd5 43. Rxd5 Nxd5, with an even game. She never gets another opportunity as Magnus keeps a firm grip while strangling the life outta the woman.)

39. Nxh5+ Kh7 40. Bxe4 f5 41. Bg2 Nf7 42. Rf8 Ne5 43. Nf4 Rd6 44. Rxf5 Nbd7 45. Ke2 Kg7 46. h4 Nf7 47. Be4 Nde5 48. Nh5+ Kh6 49. Ng3 Re6 50. Ke3 Kg7 51. Rf1 Kf8 52. Nf5 Ng4+ 53. Kf4 Nf6 54. Bf3 Nd5+ 55. Bxd5 cxd5 56. Ra1 Kg8 57. Ra8+ Kh7 58. Ra7 Rf6 59. h5 Kg8 60. Rd7 b4 61. cxb4 1-0

The Wesley So Forfeit

The St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center was in its infancy when I played in the St. Louis Open there in the spring of 2009. In the second round I faced a young boy, Kevin Cao, who was an expert at the start of the tourney. Playing my favorite Bishop’s opening the boy did not take advantage of the opportunities my play afforded, putting him in a difficult position. My opponent had been keeping score on a gizmo called “Monroi.” When the going got tough my opponent pulled the hood of his jacket over his head and placed his gizmo on the table, eschewing the actual chessboard in order to focus only on the chessboard on his gizmo. Since this violated the rules of chess, I lodged a protest with the TD’s. The rule is simple and clear: 11.3 a) During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard. (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/us-champs-r9-so-forfeited-amid-family-turmoil)

The tournament director’s did not see it that way. Since the Monroi was a USCF “approved” gizmo they had trouble ruling the only way they should under rule 11.3. They decided to “compromise” by asking my opponents father have his son not use the gizmo as a chessboard the rest of the game. I agreed to this, and so did the father, albeit reluctantly. This was done because I was playing a child. If my opponent had been an adult I would not have agreed, but insisted he be forfeited because the rule is clear. Things change dramatically when a child is involved.

After a few more moves my opponent’s position deteriorated, and he was in also in time pressure which happens with a G/2 time control. His father, seeing this while constantly hovering over the board, told his son to do go back to using his gizmo. The boy then pulled his hood over his head and placed his gizmo on the table and again eschewed the actual chessboard. I protested, the clocks were stopped and into the TD room we went. This time things became, shall we say, heated. Actually, the father went ballistic. Some time later the USCF issued a ruling castigating the father for “reprehensible behaviour.” The father took his son home and when his time ran out, I was declared the “winner.” The young boy dropped back into the “A” class because of the loss. He is now rated 2300+.

This was written about and discussed on the forum of the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center, which no longer exists, and some have said it is no longer in existence was because of what was written on it, none of it positive toward me. Simply put, I was vilified. Much was written on the USCF forum at the time, where I was also excoriated unmercifully.

I closely followed the recent US Championship tournament, the one now called the “Open” tournament, as opposed to the one called the “Women’s” tournament. GM Wesley So is obviously a supremely talented chess player. I found the interviews with him intriguing, to say the least. After the interview early in the tournament,maybe the very first round, the one in which he mentions playing weakly in the middle game after not seeing his foster mother for some time, (She had been with Jeanne Sinquefield he said) I told the Legendary Georgia Ironman something was obviously “not right” about Mr. So. I could not put my finger on it, but knew something was wrong.

Much has been written about Wesley being forfeited, and I have read everything found on the interweb. I would like to share some of it with you, then share a few comments of my own.

“Akobian complained that this distracted him”!? What is the motive behind this statement? To me it looks like a “sucker punch” from Akopian to get an easy win. Chess referees should according to the rules always apply common sense. And the nature of this incident considering the actual writing of So does not by any means amount to such a serious offence that So should forfeit his game against Akopian.” – thomas.dyhr (Thomas Dyhr, Denmark)

“This decision is absolutely ridiculous I take it So has been writing on his scoresheet sometimes which would show on his copy handed in and is against Fide rules ok and Rich told him this.
He gets a blank piece of paper instead to write some thought positives and Akobian complains to Rich who forfeits So.
Akobian if he was distracted by So’s actions should have asked him to stop first.
Rich should have seen that this was not writing on a scoresheet which he warned him about and if he was not allowing So to write on blank paper as well told him to stop immediately and if So complied let the game continue.
Akobian and Rich do not come out of this with any credit and Akobian should be ashamed of himself as a man of integrity.” – Gilshie (Thomas Gilmore, United Kingdom)

“I guess they wanted to guarantee that an American wins the US Championship…” – Shtick (Nick Daniels, Canada)
(All of the about quotes from: https://chess24.com/en/read/news/us-champs-r9-so-forfeited-amid-family-turmoil)

“PS: editorial comment to myself

Many chess writers and commentators seem to have little better to do this weekend than to talk about a silly forfeit incident in the US championship, so I will throw in a few of my own observations.
The first is that even though some tournament rule might give the tournament arbiter, Tony Rich, the POWER or the AUTHORITY to forfeit Wesley So , no rule –just because it is written–gave Tony Rich the RIGHT to forfeit Wesley So for doing what he did. So offended no one nor did he disrespect his opponent; he caused no disturbence, nor did he cheat. Wesley So’s actions were not designed to give him anything other than peace of mind and a calm spirit.
Please understand that I am not saying that Akobian–who is a perfect gentleman– acted wrongly when he drew to the arbiter’s attention So’s actions. Nor am I saying that Tony Rich acted incorrectly when he decided to act according to the written rules. And especially I am not saying that So was right when he lashed out when interviewed afterwards…there were CLEARLY better ways to have handled the situation.
What I am trying to say is that once more the game of chess DESERVES to be belittled because of this incident. ONCE MORE, mainstream media will target and make fun of us. Chess LOST some prestige on that day. When Jon Stewart recently did a humorous skit on the USCF trying to recruit F.Caruana for the national team, many–including ChessBase–thought it was also a bit insulting to the game of chess. Perhaps it was a bit insulting, even though it might not have been intended to be insulting…
But until the day we (the chess community) STOP allowing silly and poorly written rules to hurt and denigrate the noble game of chess in the eyes of normal and intelligent onlookers (and let us not forget about potential sponsors and patrons), then we deserve to be insulted a little bit more each time…” – Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett
(https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/it-took-a-really-long-time-but/)

“Guess my point is – even if he warned So, forfeiting is a staggering over-reaction. Threaten with forfeit = fine. Actually doing it = insane” – GM Jon Ludvig Hammer (Also from the aforementioned chess24 article, and if you click on this, you will find more comments, including this one by IM Mark Ginsburg, “Correct. Time penalty first. This action was wildly disproportionate as GM Hammer points out. Bad call.”)

GM Emil Sutovsky, President at Association of Chess Professionals, wrote this on his Facebook page (taken from the aforementioned chess24 article) “The arbiter’s decision to forfeit Wesley So for writing down irrelevant notes on his scoresheet during the game seems weird to me. Indeed, that can be seen as a violation of rules: ” 8.1 b. The scoresheet shall be used only for recording the moves, the times of the clocks, offers of a draw, matters relating to a claim and other relevant data.” And arbiter has repeatedly urged Wesley to stop it. But awarding a loss is way too harsh a punishment for such a minor sin. Yes, it can be disturbing for the opponent, and the arbiter could and should have deducted the time on Wesley’s clock for disturbing the opponent. And to keep deducting it (2 minutes each time), if needed after each move (warning Wesley, that a forfeit will come after 2nd or 3rd deduction). That was the most painless and logical decision. Unfortunately, the arbiter has preferred the most brutal solution. These things should not happen.”

It should be obvious from the above that the TD, Tony Rich, and the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center have not come out of this sordid incident in a favorable light. As GM Spraggett says, once again chess has suffered a black eye. I agree with Kevin when he writes, “…no rule –just because it is written–gave Tony Rich the RIGHT to forfeit Wesley So for doing what he did.” The reputation of the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center has been sullied.

The punishment should fit the crime. As GM Kevin Spraggett writes, “So offended no one nor did he disrespect his opponent; he caused no disturbence, nor did he cheat. Wesley So’s actions were not designed to give him anything other than peace of mind and a calm spirit.”

Contrast this with how I was treated at the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center. My opponent violated the rule in order to gain an ADVANTAGE! GM Wesley So did no such thing. He is one of the elite chess players in the world and has no need to gain an advantage against any other player in the world.

If one closely examines the rule, “11.3 a) During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard,” it is clear the meaning is that a player cannot use any “NOTES, sources of information or advice,” to help, or assist him in regard to making his MOVES. A player cannot utilize a book, or gizmo containing chess information, or any “advice” from another person. There is no ambiguity here.

I was not there and do not know EXACTLY what Tony Rich said to Wesley, but from what I heard on the broadcast, and have now read, GM So was under the impression he could not write on his scoresheet, so he wrote on another piece of paper. How culpable is Tony Rich in this matter? Did he make himself COMPLETELY understood? Besides, as “Najdork” (Miguel Najdork, from Nepal) commented, “Also I would like to point out how from rule 8.1 you are allowed to write on the scoresheet any “relevant data”, and that is so vague that I guess you could write almost anything.” Who defines what is “relevant?” Your relevant may differ from what I consider “relevant.” For example, what if your opponent in a Senior event wrote on his scoresheet, “Take heart medication at 3 PM.” Who, other than GM Varuzhan Akobian, would complain? And who, other than Tony Rich would forfeit the man? I know Tony Rich. As Tony reminded me in 2009, I won our game at the Missouri State Championship in 2002 in Rollo. He was nice to me then, and has been every time I have encountered him, such as at the US Open in Indiana a few years ago. I liked Tony until he lost his mind. What could possibly have motivated the man to issue this stupid ruling, which will have lasting repercussions? If you were Wesley So would you join the American team at the Olympiad?

“In love with this rule: “12.2 The arbiter shall: b. act in the best interest of the competition.” Common sense.” – GM Jon Ludvig Hammer.

The forfeit defies common sense. “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rule; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire.” – John Roberts, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court to the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2005. (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/10/when-the-umpire-is-playing-for-the-other-team/262429/)
No one watches a chess tournament to see the TD. In lieu of watching Wesley So play GM Akobian, the world was instead subjected to a TD try and explain his “logic.” As many a TD has proven over the years, the less involved they are, the better the outcome.

None of this made any sense to me until reading this, “In the final reckoning Wesley So’s forfeit had no effect on the top three standings. Even a win against Akobian would only have tied So with Ray Robson on 7.5/11, and since he lost against Robson he would still have finished third. The person who has a real cause for complaint seems to be Gata Kamsky, who was edged out of 5th place – his goal in order to qualify for the World Cup later this year – by Akobian.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/nakamura-and-krush-are-2015-us-champions)

There it is, the reason for this whole debacle. It always comes down to “Who profits?”

The whole affair is disgusting, and sickening. It proves only that a TD has only one rule by witch to abide: Do What Thy Wilt! There should be some kind of punishment for a TD who oversteps his bounds. I have seen far too many tournament director’s puff out their chest while strutting around singing, “I’ve got the power,” such as Richard Crespo, the former TD spending his days in prison after abducting a woman and shooting it out with police in San Antonio, Texas a decade ago.
I am embarrassed, and ashamed, to be an American involved with chess. This putrid affair rivals anything I have written about FIDE and the nefarious Russians. United States chess has reached a new low. Tony Rich has now made everyone forget about L. Walter Stephens, the TD who awarded Sammy Reshevsky a win against Arnold Denker in the 1942 US Championship even though it was Sammy who lost on time. The game will die before the shock waves emanating from this debacle subside. The St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center touts itself as the US Capital of Chess. Knowledgable players and fans know that three of the players in the Championship, Sam Shankland, Sam Sevian, and Daniel Naroditsky, cut their chess teeth in the San Francisco Bay area, home of the oldest chess club in America, the venerable Mechanic’s Insitute Chess Room. If any area should be acknowledged as the “Capital of US Chess,” it is San Francisco, in lieu of the neuveau rich, faux chess club AND scholastic center in St. Louis, which has now been tarnished. No longer can it be considered a “leading light,” or “shining example.”

I can only hope this affair does not dessiccate Wesley So’s desire. If one watches the interviews with Mr. So during the US Chess Championship he will see a dramatic change in Wesley as the tournament progressed. Hopefully, this will fire him up and prod Wesley to play the kind of chess of which he is capable culminating in a match for the World Chess Championship.

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.