Fabulous Fabiano!

Fabiano Caruana

asserted his dominance early in the Candidates tournament, proving his mettle by winning his last two games following a loss to the last challenger for the crown, Sergei Karjakin.

IM Boris Kogan said, “The measure of a Chess player is how he plays after a defeat.” Caruana learned from his first candidates appearance, where he arguably played the best Chess. Unfortunately he had problems converting winning positions. This time he took advantage of better positions, converting them into wins.

The tournament was marred by the inclusion of former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik,

who did not qualify for a spot in the field, but was given some kind of “free-pass.” This is fine for other tournaments where fans wish to see one of their local heroes battle the best. For a chance to face the World Champion it is unthinkable. Kramnik took the place of a more deserving player. Chess has become a young man’s game and Vladimir is over forty. When a player turns thirty in China they no longer compete, but must move on to coaching.

The tournament was also marred by several egregious blunders which altered the natural progression of events. In round seven Karjakin was languishing in last place when he faced Wesley So.

This position was reached:

Wesley blundered horribly when playing 35…Ke8? 35…Rc7 would have left the position even.

In round ten, against Vladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian

had this position in front of him:

Because of the discovered check Levon must play 36…Rg7. He played 36…Qc7, resigning after 37 Ne8+.

In round thirteen Alexander Grischuk

sat behind the black pieces against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov:

The knight is under attack but 34… Nf5 keeps the game level. Grischuk played the unbelievable 34…Nxb5, which lost on the spot, although several more moves were played.

The multi-verse theory is everything that can happen does happen. Imagine we are in a universe where those three losing moves were not played, and each game ended in a draw. The final standings would have been much more in line with how the players performed:

Caruana 9

Karjackin 7 1/2
Mamedyarov 7 1/2
Ding 7 1/2
Grischuk 7
So 6 1/2

Kramnik 5 1/2
Aronian 5

Exchange Ding and Aronian and the final standings would look like about what one would figure going into the event.

“Is it just me or is Ding one of the success stories of the candidates. Thus far unbeaten, likely to learn hugely from the whole experience, if he isn’t amongst the favourites for the next edition I’ll be amazed.”
— Daniel Gormally (@elgransenor1) March 27, 2018 (https://en.chessbase.com/post/candidates-2018-berlin-round-14)

As for Levon Aronian there were those who worried his dismal play at Gibraltar foreshadowed rough seas ahead. For example, consider what GM Kevin Spraggett

wrote on his blog before the event began:

Round 1 of Candidates Tournament

by kevinspraggettonchess · Published March 10, 2018

The Candidates Tournament is the unique event that will decide who will be the challenger for the World Championship match (against Carlsen), later this year. As such, all the players will be especially careful not to risk anything unnecessary at the beginning.

Being a double round event, I suspect that most of the players who have a real chance to win will wait until the second half before they make their play for winning. But, of course, everything depends on circumstances, and should a player start to run away with the tournament in the first half, then the others will have to react.

Up until now I have not written much about the chances of the players. I don’t see anyone particularly better than the others, though of course the Armenian star Levon Aronian has had the best results in the past year.

But form is more important than results! It is very difficult to maintain top form for more than 3 months at a time, let alone an entire year. Though Aronian emerged on top in Gibraltar last month, his play showed signs of fatigue.

Otherwise I would have chosen Aronian as the favourite in Berlin.

http://www.spraggettonchess.com/round-1-of-candidates-tournament/

I contemplated writing about the first round of Gibraltar, but the excellent coverage at the tournament website caused me to eschew a post. From the website:

“There was a remarkable success for two Hungarian sisters in round one. Not in itself an unprecedented event in top-level chess but what was unusual was that they were not named Polgar. Anita

Tradewise Gibraltar Chess, Masters, Rd 1, 23 January 2018

and Ticia Gara

Tradewise Gibraltar Chess, Masters, Rd 1, 23 January 2018

faced formidable opposition in the shape of Levon Aronian,

Tradewise Gibraltar Chess, Masters, Rd 1, 23 January 2018

top seed and arguably the most in-form chess player of last year, and celebrated super-GM Nigel Short.

Levon and Nigel have achieved a lot of successes in the Gibraltar tournament in their time and they haven’t got where they are today by conceding draws to players in the mid-2300 rating range but they could make little impression on the Hungarian sisters. Indeed, Levon might have done worse had Anita made more of her chances when we went astray in the middlegame. Nigel had the upper hand against Ticia but it came down to an opposite-coloured bishop endgame and he could make no headway.” (https://www.gibchess.com/round-1-2018).

Playing over the games of Aronian had caused thoughts similar to those of GM Spraggett. The complete collapse of Aronian brings to mind something known to Baseball as the “yips.” There have been pitchers, and position players, who have lost the ability to throw the baseball. It has come to be known as “Steve Blass disease.” Steve was a very good pitcher, good enough to win game seven of the 1971 World Series with a complete game 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched well again the following year, but “lost it” in 1973. New York Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch or Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Steve Sax both developed problems throwing the ball to the first baseman. New York Mets catcher Mackey Sasser, after a collision at home plate with Jim Pressley of the Atlanta Braves, developed problems in returning the ball to the pitcher. Jon Lester, a well known pitcher who helped the Cubs win it all in 2016, has had a problem throwing to first base, so he simply stopped throwing. Arguably, the most famous example occurred with St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel, who, unfortunately, contracted the “yips” during the 2000 National League Division Series. In the first game Rick issued six bases on balls and threw five wild pitches. He was never the same, but was good enough to go to the minor leagues and return to MLB as an outfielder, one with a strong arm. I would urge anyone interested to read the book, The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life, by Rick Ankiel.

A friend, Ron Sargent, a Vietnam veteran, was an extremely talented pool player. Word on the street was Ron could have been a world class player. That ended when he took a bullet to the head in ‘Nam. After numerous operations Ron managed to live a full life, which included marrying his high school sweet heart later in life, even though he had no feeling in one side of his face. Ron said, “Anyone can run a table, but it’s a totally different story when the cash is on the table and that little lump of shit gets caught in your throat.”

Some players, like baseball player Billy Martin,

thrive under pressure. In several World Series, he rose to the occasion when the pressure was at its zenith; others do not. This is not the first time Levon Aronian has under performed under pressure. It is quite possible Levon has a case of the “yips.” At his age and with his consistently poor results on the big stage, this could be the end of Aronian as a world class Chess player. No MLB player has ever over come the “yips.” Although it could be possible for Levon to “dig deep,” and find a solution to his “yips” problem, the odds are against it happening, because he will forever be plagued by “self-doubt.” In an interview with Ralph Ginzburg published in Harper’s magazine when Bobby Fischer

was eighteen, when asked to name the crucial ingredients needed to become one of the best Chess players, Bobby said, “A strong memory, concentration, imagination, and a strong will.” Obviously, one of these key ingredients is missing in the armory of Levon Aronian.

I will print part of an email sent to Kevin after reading his post:

Kevin,

I would not wager on the four players who participated in the Tal Memorial rapid/blitz, Grischuk; Karjakin; Kramnik; and Mamedyarov.

Ding a Ling and So so will battle for last.

That leaves Aronian and Caruana. The former has had a fantastic year, but his last tournament looks as though he has run outta steam. Then there is past under performing in these events…

Which leaves Fabulous Fabiano.

I do not say this because he is an American, but from a objective process of elimination.

Michael

My thoughts elicited this response from Michael Mulford, aka “Mulfish”:

“What’s the rationale for ruling out the four Tal Memorial players?”

Part of my response:

“My feeling is that the speed tournament took something outta those players…Bobby would NEVER have done that! A player needs to be FRESH AS A DAISY going into a grueling 14 round tournament!

It is a travesty that Kramnik is in the tournament! MVL should be there! He is old and will fade in the second half…

Mamed is the most unpredictable. He coulda lost today, but hung tuff! He has played well recently, elevating his game considerably, but Fabby is the most talented player…”

Because of playing much faster games in the event it is difficult to prognosticate the coming match for the human World Chess Championship. Caruana is no match for Carlsen in speed games, so he must win the match in the longer games, which is what I expect will happen.

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Dust In The Wind

Although having not gotten far into the book by GM Daniel Gormally, Insanity, passion, and addiction: a year inside the chess world,

I have immensely enjoyed the honesty with which it is written. His opponent in this game is the current Champion of US women players. If the motto of FIDE is Gens una sumus, Latin for “We are one people,” why are there separate tournaments, and championships, for women? In theory we are one people but in practice Chess is divided into two separate, distinct divisions.

Daniel Gormally (2502)

vs Sabina Foisor (2260)

Rd 8
Villard de lans 2014

1. d4 e6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 d6 4. Nc3 g6 5. Nf3 exd5 6. cxd5
Bg7 7. e4 a6 8. h3 b5 9. a4 b4 10. Nb1 Ne7 11. Bd3 O-O 12. O-O h6 13. Nbd2 f5
14. Nc4 fxe4 15. Bxe4 Nd7 16. Nxd6 Nf6 17. Nxc8 Rxc8 18. Bd3 Qd6 19. Qe2 a5 20.
Ne5 Nfxd5 21. Nc4 Qf6 22. Nxa5 Kh8 23. Nc4 Rce8 24. Qe4 Nc7 25. Be3 Nf5 26. Qb7
Ne6 27. a5 Rd8 28. Be4 Ned4 29. Rae1 Nd6

30. Qd5?

GM Gormally writes, “Having played well until this point, I produce a very sloppy move when the win was just over the horizon. Unfortunately, I was very unprofessional here. I was aware that France vs Germany, a potential World Cup quarter-final cracker, was just about to start and so I was playing too fast, trying to get the game over with so I could get down to the pub. Rather justly I was punished for underestimating my opponent. 30. Nx6 Qxd6 31. Qb6 should be easily good enough for the win.”

My first thought after reading the above was, “At least he is honest.” Then a quote by the Greatest Chess player of my time, Bobby Fischer, came to mind: “Chess demands total concentration and a love for the game.”

Nxe4 31. Qxe4 Qa6 32. Ne5 Kh7
33. f4 Rf6 34. h4 h5 35. g4 Qa8 36. Qxa8 Rxa8 37. gxh5 gxh5 38. Bxd4 cxd4 39.
Nc4 b3 40. Re7 Kh8 41. Rc7 Bh6 42. f5 Rg8+ 43. Kh1 Rg4 44. Rf3 Bf4 45. Rc8+ Kh7
46. Rxb3 Rf7 47. f6 Rxf6 48. Rb7+ Kg6 49. Rb6 Rxh4+ 50. Kg2 Rg4+ 51. Kf3 Bd6+
52. Ke2 Rg2+ 53. Kd3 Rg3+ 54. Kc2 d3+ 55. Kc3 Bf4 56. Rg8+ Kf5 57. Rb5+ Ke4 58.
Re8+ Kf3 59. Rxh5 d2 60. Rd5 Rc6 61. b3 Rg1 62. Red8 Rc1+ 63. Kb4 Ke2 64. Rxd2+
Bxd2+ 65. Rxd2+ Kf3 66. Ne5+ Ke3 67. Nxc6 Kxd2 68. Kb5 Kc3 69. b4 Rh1 70. a6
Rh5+ 71. Kb6 Kc4 72. a7 Rh8 73. b5 Rg8 74. Ka6 Kc5 75. Nb8 Rg6+ 76. Ka5 Rg1 77.
Na6+ 1-0

After completing the game I sat back and reflected upon the far too many times I had cheated Caissia. Two came to mind immediately. I do not recall the tournament, and after checking my MSA page at USCF, which begins in December of 1991, I am unable to say for certain, but for some reason I want to think it was at a tournament in the Great State of Alabama. The date was July 28, 1991, a Saturday night. Dennis Martinez of the Montreal Expos pitched a perfect game, and being a big fan of baseball I was constantly heading to the bar to watch the game, until the ninth inning when I stopped playing Chess and stayed in the bar to watch the rest of the game. As it turns out it was only the thirteenth perfecto hurled in the history of MLB. The Los Angeles Dodgers were the victims. As for my Chess game versus a National Master…I lost.

Then there was the first round of the 2002 World Open…I was old enough to be eligible to play in the US Senior and playing in the class A section. IM Boris Kogan had once given me advice to “Get up and go to the men’s room, or just walk around to clear your head,” after making time control at move forty, or whatever move was time control. I had played a decent game and felt like I had a won game after making time control, so I took the Hulk’s advice and went to the men’s room. On the return trip to the tournament hall I encountered a friend and stopped to speak. In retrospect, this was a huge mistake as it broke my concentration. I returned to the board thinking only of getting together with my friend while allowing the game “to play itself.” After at least one weak move, possibly more, I had to dig deep and try to get back in concentration mode. You know the story…we all know the story…by then it was too late, and I went down in flames.

Something good came out of it, though. Many people had promised Thad Rogers they would come to Philadelphia and help him in the book room. Only one showed up in Philly, the man from the High Planes, LM David Vest. David was a smoker who rolled his own. I realized he would not be able to maintain sitting behind a cash register for hours on end, so I withdrew from the tournament in order to help out. Upon returning to Atlanta, and the House of Pain, I learned the High Planes Drifter had told anyone who would listen that, “Bacon saved the day!”

As luck would have it while putting this post together in my mind I went to GM Kevin Spraggett’s excellent blog (http://www.spraggettonchess.com/) where I noticed a box in the upper right hand corner, “Chess D B.” Underneath reads, “The biggest chess database.” There is much on his website, and I have clicked on most of it, but for some reason had never clicked on it previously. I clicked this day and found only one of my games, and it was the aforementioned lost game from the 2002 World Open:

Michael Bacon vs. Leon Shernoff

(England, 1805 [This is the ELO rating at the time the game was played] ) 0 – 1 (USA, 1905 [This is the ELO rating at the time the game was played] )
Event: World Open U, 2002.07.01, Spielmann Attack, Bishop (C24)

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 Bc5 4. Nc3 c6 5. Nf3 d6 6. O-O Be6 7. Bb3 Nbd7 8. Ng5 Qe7 9. Nxe6 fxe6 10. Bd2 O-O 11. Na4 b5 12. Nxc5 Nxc5 13. Qe2 a5 14. c3 a4 15. Bc2 Qb7 16. d4 exd4 17. cxd4 Ncd7 18. e5 dxe5 19. dxe5 Nd5 20. Qh5 g6 21. Bxg6 hxg6 22. Qxg6+ Kh8 23. Qh6+ Kg8 24. Qxe6+ Rf7 25. Rae1 Nf8 26. Qg4+ Rg7 27. Qe4 Re8 28. f4 c5 29. Rf3 Ng6 30. Rg3 Re6 31. Qf3 Nh4 32. Qf2 Qe7 33. Rxg7+ Kxg7 34. g3 Nf5 35. Qg2 Qd7 36. Qf2 Qe7 37. Qg2 Qd7 38. Qe2 Nd4 39. Qg4+ Kf8 40. f5 Re7 41. Bh6+ Rg7 42. Bxg7+ Qxg7 43. Qxg7+ Kxg7 44. f6+ Kf7 45. Kf2 Nb4 46. Re4 Nd3+ 47. Ke3 Nxb2 48. Rg4 Ne6 49. h4 b4 50. h5 b3 51. axb3 a3 52. Rh4 c4 53. Rh1 cxb3 54. h6 Kg8 55. Ke4 Na4 56. Kf5 Nac5 57. g4 a2 58. g5 b2 59. g6 b1=Q+ 60. Rxb1 axb1=Q+ 61. Kg4 Qxg6+ 0-1

Let me state I am not now, nor have I ever been, from “England.” I am from the Great Southern State of Georgia. Although I have lived in several other states, I have lived the majority of my life in Georgia, and will be buried, per my Mother’s wishes, next to her and her Mother, the rock upon which my family was built, a woman we called, “Mama.”

I have yet to look at this game. There are not many of my games left, I am sad to report. One of my cousin’s, a woman I now call crazy cousin Linda, allowed them to become water logged, along with my collection of books. A friend, NM Chris Chambers, did put many of my games versus Experts and Masters on a floppy disc, but the floppy’s went the way of dinosaurs, so they are gone forever, which is probably just as well…

Chess Death By Draw

It has been my contention for decades that more points should be awarded for a win or draw with black. For example, 1.1 for a win with black as opposed to 0.9 for white, and 0.6 for a draw with black versus 0.4 for a draw with white. Any numbers can be chosen as long as black earns more in order to suppress the urge players have to split the point. In the very first round of the US Championships Timur Gareev had white versus Gata Kamsky, and this is the game score of their “battle.”
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Bg5 e6 7.e3 Nc6 8.Bd3 h6 9.Bh4 g5 10.Bg3 Nh5 11.Be5 Nf6 12.Bg3 Nh5 13.Be5 Nf6 14.Bg3 Nh5 ½-½
Gata Kamsky is the defending champion. This “game” has set the tone for the tournament. Since this was the very first game of the tournament and there is only one game played each day, fatigue cannot be used as an excuse. Could it be both players were filled with fear at the thought of losing the first game? Both players had many options rather than to repeat moves, and, if only one of them had more fighting spirit, maybe they would have actually battled rather than hugging each other before breaking a sweat. Chess will never be taken seriously as long as “games” like this take place.

The above was written yesterday with the intention of posting it prior to the second round. Unfortunately, a thunder storm with lightning, appeared. It was frightening, making me knock on wood, after turning the ‘puter off. The results of the second round, all draws, are now known. At least they were of longer duration with some of them having a chance of being decisive. Still, are games were drawn. The tone was set by the short draw made by Gareev and Kamsky. One cannot help but wonder if the game was agreed drawn before the first move was made…
On Tuesday, August 9, 1966, the Los Angeles Dodgers were in Atlanta to battle the hometown Braves. The Dodgers were 63-46, only a half game back of the Giants and Pirates. The Braves were seven games below .500, languishing in seventh place, ahead of only the two expansion teams of 1962, the Mets and the Astros, and the lovable losers, the Cubs. The pitcher called “The Left Arm of God,” Sandy Koufax, a future Hall of Famer, was to toe the rubber for the Dodgers, while fellow lefty Denny LeMaster was to take the hill for the Braves. Atlanta stadium, known as the “launching pad,” was full that night, and I was one of those in the stands. What most people do not know is that earlier that season, on Sunday, June 26, the Dodgers had faced the Braves with Koufax on the mound facing Denver LeMaster. Although not a sellout, there were 51,275 fannies in the seats. The series started with a Friday night game that drew 30,043. There was a day-night double header Saturday, with 32,063 attending the day game and 47,226 coming that night. The Braves had lost the first game, but swept the doubleheader. The Sunday game was tied at one apiece heading into the top of the ninth. After Koufax struck out (He may have been the left arm of God, but he could not hit!), Maury Wills reached on an error by Eddie Mathews, who was having his worst season in MLB, hitting only .199. The Braves manager, Bobby Bragan, decided to bring in relief pitcher Clay Carroll, who hit the first batter he faced, then allowed Willie Davis to double Wills in, taking the lead. In the bottom of the ninth Sandford Braun Koufax struck out two of the three batters he faced, allowing only a fly ball out to the CFer by Eddie Mathews, the goat of the game.
Fast forward to Monday, August 8, with the Dodgers back in the Capital of the South for a three game series. The Braves won a high scoring game 10-9, with 28,541 fans in the stands. That brings us to Tuesday, August 9, and a rematch of Koufax versus LeMaster, and a crowd of 52,270, the largest of the season. The excitement was palpable hours before the game.
The Braves took the lead on a Felipe Alou home run in the bottom of the first and the score stayed that way until the top of the eight, when Jim Lefebvre, the second sacker, hit one over the fence to tie the game. The Braves did not score in the bottom of the eight and the Dodgers could not score in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half of the inning Felipe Alou led off with a grounder to the shortstop for out one. In stepped the goat from June, third baseman Eddie Mathews. Eddie had turned 32 in 1966 and was not having a good year. As it turned out, this season was the beginning of the end for one of the greatest third basemen in the history of MLB. But on this night, left handed hitting Eddie Mathews sent the Braves fans home happy when he hit a home run to end the game. This was the first season in Atlanta for the Braves and the fans were delirious. One could have mistaken this night for a World Series game. It is still the most exciting MLB game I have ever seen.
The next night the Braves beat Don Drysdale 3-1 with 23,389 in attendance. The total for the weeknight series was 104,200, an average of 34,733. The average for the earlier weekend series was 40, 152, the most for any series that season, and Sandy Koufax was the reason. The Dodgers would go on to the World Series that year, losing to the Baltimore Orioles in four games. The Braves won 32 of their last 50 games, a .640 winning %, best in the NL, showing promise for the next season. It did not materialize until 1969, when the Braves won the western division. What were the Braves doing in the west? That’s Major League Baseball!
Now imagine baseball was chess and that after Jim Lefebvre hit his home run in the top of the eight inning and the Braves failed to score, the Braves manager offered Walt Alston, the Dodgers manager, a draw, and it was accepted. How many fans do you suppose would come back to watch baseball?