Good Old Friends and the Buddy-Buddy Draw at the Moscow Grand Prix

Although I have intentionally not followed the ongoing Moscow Grand Prix event my old friend the legendary Georgia Ironman has followed it because it did begin with a couple of games of what is now called “classical” Chess before devolving into what is called “rapid Chess” before devolving further into “speed” Chess. Frankly, I could care less about which player is best at faster time controls. The only thing that matters is who is best at a classical time control. Say what you will about Magnus Carlsen but the fact is that he could not beat either Sergey Karjakin or Fabiano Caruana at classical Chess, something to keep in mind when talking about the best Chess player of all time.

In an article at Chessbase by Antonio Pereira recently, dated 5/18/2019, it is written: “Ian Nepomniachtchi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Radek Wojtaszek won with the white pieces at the start of the FIDE Grand Prix in Moscow, which means Levon Aronian, Wesley So and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov will need to push for a win on Saturday if they want to survive the first round. Three match-ups ended with quick draws, while Peter Svidler and Anish Giri accepted the draws offered by Nikita Vitiugov and Daniil Dubov in games that could have easily kept going.”

The article continues:

“Better than losing and worse than winning”

“A lot of criticism followed the 2011 Candidates Tournament in Kazan, in which the knock-out format led to some players openly using a safe-first strategy by signing quick draws in the classical games and putting all on the line in the tie-breaks. In order to discourage the players from using this strategy, the organizers are awarding an extra point in the Grand Prix overall standings for those who eliminate their opponents needing only two games. In the first game of the opening round in Moscow, four out of eight encounters ended peacefully after no more than 23 moves.”

The so-called “strategy” of the organizers had absolutely no effect on the players who continue to agree to short draws with impunity whenever and wherever they want, regardless of what organizers or fans want to see from them. Are the players aware their “inaction” is killing the Royal game? Do they care?

Exhibit one:

Teimour Radjabov (AZE)

vs Hikaru Nakamura (USA)

Moscow Grand Prix 2019 round 01

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 e6 4. c4 Be7 5. O-O O-O 6. d4 dxc4 7. Qc2 b5 8. a4 b4 9. Nbd2 Bb7 10. Nxc4 c5 11. dxc5 Be4 12. Qd1 ½-½

Sergey Karjakin (RUS) – Alexander Grischuk (RUS)

Moscow Grand Prix 2019 round 01

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. a4 Bd6 7. a5 O-O 8. Be2 e5 9. cxd5 cxd5 10. dxe5 Nxe5 11. O-O Bc7 12. Qb3 Nc6 13. a6 bxa6 14. Qa4 ½-½

The article continues:

“It must be added that Nikita Vitiugov had what seemed like a considerable advantage against Peter Svidler when he surprisingly offered a draw.

Both contenders are part of the Mednyi Vsadnik team from Saint Petersburg, which won the last two editions of the Russian Team Championship and are the current European champions. Vitiugov has also worked for Svidler as a second more than once. The long-time friends talked about how unfortunate it was for them to be paired up immediately in round one, although Svidler confessed that, “[he] somehow had a feeling that [they] would play at least one [match], and particularly in Moscow”.


Good old friends from Saint Petersburg | Photo: World Chess

“Regarding the position shown in the diagram, Peter recounted how he was thinking about 18.f4 being a move that would leave him worse on the board. So, when the move was accompanied by a draw offer, he thought, “yeah, that’s a good deal!” And the point was split then and there.

To accept the draw was a good match strategy? Peter wittily added:

“As for match strategy, I envy people who have strategies of any kind. I don’t have any. I thought I was worse and then I was offered a draw, so I took it.”
https://en.chessbase.com/post/moscow-grand-prix-2019-r1-d1


http://www.espn.com/espnw/news-commentary/slideshow/13596920/13-major-showdowns-serena-venus-williams

The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, have had to play each other many times during their storied tennis careers, and each and every time there has been a winner because offering a draw is not in the tennis rule book. What is it doing in the Chess rule book?

Chess organizers better wake up because Chess is in a battle with the game of Go and if the trend continues, like the Highlander, there will be only one left standing.

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Is Chess a Sport?

File this under “What the Main Stream Media thinks of Chess.”

Is Chess a Sport? A New Book Says Yes

By Jonathan Eig

Nov. 30, 2018

THE GRANDMASTER
Magnus Carlsen and the Match That Made Chess Great Again

By Brin-Jonathan Butler
211 pp. Simon & Schuster. $26.

Is chess a sport?

After days watching a championship match and “seeing what strain these guys put their bodies and nerves under,” cramped in awful Staples chairs while trying to concentrate, Brin-Jonathan Butler concludes that chess “absolutely” falls into the category of sport.

But by that logic, the written portion of the driver’s license exam could be a sport, too, and, given my perfect record, I would be a better athlete than Muhammad Ali.

Chess is not a sport, O.K.? If it were, there’d be a lot more head injuries and trash talk.

Butler’s definition of an athlete matters for the purposes of his assignment. In 2016, an editor asked him to cover the World Chess Championship between Norway’s Magnus Carlsen and Russia’s Sergey Karjakin, expected to be an epic battle, and suggested that the author approach the assignment in the spirit that Norman Mailer approached Ali vs. Foreman in “The Fight” and John McPhee covered Arthur Ashe vs. Clark Graebner in “Levels of the Game.”

Chess can make for compelling literature, especially in fiction (“The Luzhin Defense,” by Nabokov, for example), because the game offers a battle between two minds, two personalities, two worldviews. But a game itself is only compelling to readers if we are made to understand and care about the players, seeing their moves as reflections of their characters. McPhee knew it: “A person’s tennis game begins with his nature and background and comes out through his motor mechanisms into shot patterns and characteristics of play. If he is deliberate, he is a deliberate tennis player; and if he is flamboyant, his game probably is, too. A tight, close match unmarred by error and representative of each player’s game at its highest level will be primarily a psychological struggle.”

Herein lies the trouble for “The Grandmaster.” Since chess is not a sport by the standard definition, Carlsen and Karjakin do not turn their natures into motor mechanisms, thus depriving the reader of visible action. That, in turn, forces Butler to press too hard in describing the moves on the chessboard. “In the end,” he writes of one crucial moment, “Carlsen was unable to stop one of Karjakin’s innocuous pawns from strolling innocently enough into his malevolent promised land to emerge as an all-powerful, Lady Macbeth, vindictive-as-hell queen at the end of the board.”

Butler might never have been forced to resort to such drastic maneuvers in prose if he had been given a better draw. Mailer had Ali, who never shut up and literally allowed reporters to slip under the covers with him in bed to conduct interviews. McPhee had Ashe, one of the most thoughtful and eloquent athletes of all time. Butler had no one. Neither Carlsen nor Karjakin would talk to him. They appeared briefly at news conferences but expressed little emotion. They never even complained about the terrible Staples chairs.

To compensate, it seems, Butler takes the reader on journeys away from the tournament — to Cuba, to a chess shop where New Yorkers took refuge after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, and elsewhere. But even the best of these vignettes serve to remind that Carlsen and Karjakin failed to carry their load. We understand why. Chess is intensely cerebral. It drives men mad, as Butler documents in vivid detail. But by remaining so deep in thought, Carlsen and Karjakin shut out their fans, shut out the author and shut out the reader. At the tournament’s end, one man emerges triumphant, or at least relieved, the other dejected. The rest of us watch through one-way glass, unmoved.

Jonathan Eig’s most recent book is “Ali: A Life.”

When To Use Force

GM Kevin Spraggett writes in his blog post, Never underestimate the basics, dated August 29, 2018, “Despite playing for almost 50 years, I continue to be amazed how when great players lose it almost always has to do with beginner basics. Witness the following game played recently in the Chinese Team Championship, where Black neglects to make luft…” (http://www.spraggettonchess.com/never-underestimate-the-basics/)

This caused me to reflect upon a game from the recent Sinquefield Cup. In round nine Sergey Karjakin and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave battled to a 119 move draw.

Karjakin vs MVL

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8. Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3 O-O 10. O-O Bg4 11. f3 Bd7 12. Rb1 Qc7 13. h4 cxd4 14. cxd4 Nxd4 15. Bxf7+ Rxf7 16. Nxd4 Rd8 17. Qb3 Qg3 18. Ne2 Qxh4 19. Bf2 Qf6 20. Rfd1 b6 21. Qa3 e6 22. Rd2 Be8 23. e5 Qf5 24. Rxd8 Qxb1+ 25. Kh2 Rf8 26. Ng3 Bxe5 27. Qxa7 Qb4 28. Kg1 Qb1+ 29. Kh2 Qb4 30. Kg1 Bf6 31. Rd1 Ba4 32. Rf1 Bc6 33. Qxb6 Qxb6 34. Bxb6 Ra8 35. Rf2 Bd5 36. Ne4 Be5 37. Re2 Bxa2 38. Ng5 Bd6 39. Kf2 Bc4 40. Rd2 Be7 41. Be3 Bd5 42. Rc2 h6 43. Ne4 Bxe4 44. fxe4 h5 45. Rc7 Bf6 46. Rc6 Ra2+ 47. Kf3 Ra3 48. Ke2 Kf7 49. Rc7+ Ke8 50. Rh7 Rb3 51. Ra7 Rb2+ 52. Kf3 g5 53. e5 g4+ 54. Ke4 Rb4+ 55. Kd3 Bd8 56. Ra8 Kd7 57. g3 Bc7 58. Bd4 Kc6 59. Bc3 Rb8 60. Ra6+ Rb6 61. Ra8 Rb5 62. Ke4 Rb3 63. Bd4 Bb8 64. Ra6+ Kd7 65. Ra8 Rb1 66. Bf2 Rb4+ 67. Bd4 Bc7 68. Kd3 Rb8 69. Ra7 Rb5 70. Kc4 Ra5 71. Rb7 Kc6 72. Rb3 Bxe5 73. Rb6+ Kd7 74. Bxe5 Rxe5 75. Kd4 Ra5 76. Ke4 Ke7 77. Rb8 Ra3 78. Rh8 Rxg3 79. Rxh5 Ra3 80. Kf4 Ra4+ 81. Kg3 Kd6 82. Rh8 Kd5 83. Rd8+ Ke5 84. Rb8 Rd4 85. Ra8 Re4 86. Ra5+ Kf6 87. Ra8 e5 88. Rf8+ Ke6 89. Re8+ Kd5 90. Rd8+ Kc4 91. Ra8 Kd5 92. Rd8+ Kc5 93. Rc8+ Kd4 94. Ra8 Rf4 95. Re8 Ke4 96. Rg8 Rf3+ 97. Kxg4 Rf1 98. Kh3 Ke3 99. Kg2 Ra1 100. Rg3+ Ke2 101. Rg4 Ke3 102. Rg3+ Kd2 103. Rg4 Re1 104. Ra4 e4 105. Ra2+ Ke3 106. Ra3+ Kf4 107. Kf2 Rb1 108. Ke2 Rb2+ 109. Ke1 Ke5 110. Ra4 Kf5 111. Ra8 Kf4 112. Ra3 Rh2 113. Kf1 Rd2 114. Ke1 Rd3 115. Rxd3 exd3 116. Kd2 Ke4 117. Kd1 Ke3 118. Ke1 d2+ 119. Kd1 Kd3 ½-½

After 22 Rd2 this position was reached:

Because of the poor move, 21 Qa3, played by Karjakin, MVL has an obvious advantage. Black has a couple of FORCING moves.

The most forcing is 22…Bf8, the move I decided upon. Also possible is 22…Bh6. These are the kinds of moves one would probably play in a game with less time. After the game I went to ChessBomb, (https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2018-sinquefield-cup/09-Karjakin_Sergey-Vachier_Lagrave_Maxime) finding 22…Bf8 is the first choice. The second choice, 22…Rdf8, was a move I had not considered. According to the Fish there is not much difference between the two moves. The third choice is 22…Bh6. The move chosen by MVL, 22…Be8, is the fourth choice of the clanking digital monster.

I continue to be amazed at how often top GMs reject playing the most forcing move. Sometimes it seems they see the move, but reject it for some reason because it is too obvious. Maybe the award winning book by IM John Watson, Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy: Advances since Nimzowitsch, has had a profound influence upon the best current human players.

The book illustrates how modern players reject convention to “break the rules” of Chess. The clanking digital monsters continually point out how often the best move is the the one that follows the rules.

The next position is after 69th move played by black:

Karjakin plays the most forcing move,

70 Kc4. Unfortunately it is also a losing move. It is not always appropriate to play the most forcing move. Stockfish gives 70 Bc3; Ra3; & Ra8 as the best moves, with each leaving black with an advantage of about one and a quarter points.

The last position was reached after white played 80 Kf4:

MVL did NOT follow the cardinal rule of “passed pawns MUST be pushed.” Instead he played the most “forcing” move 80…Ra4+. This “forced” white to move his King. Karjakin moved to the g3 square, blocking the pawn. Go figure…

Stinking It Up At The Sinquefield Cup

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

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

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

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

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


Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexander Grischuk vs Wesley So


Photo: V. Saravanan

Sinquefield Cup 2018 round 08

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

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

David Bronstein (2585)

v Vladimir Tukmakov (2560)

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

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

After 13 moves this position appeared on the board:

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

This position was reached after 16 moves:

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

This position was reached after 22 moves:

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

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

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

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

After 29…Qxa2 we come to this position:

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

Bobby Fischer

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVL Versus Magnus Carlsen: Fooling Caissa

Two consecutive tournament wins ahead of Carlsen

by André Schulz

Four players were at the top in the Norway Chess tournament at the start of round nine: Wesley So, Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. Caruana and So met each other, while Carlsen was dealt black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Nakamura faced off against Levon Aronian, also with black. Even Viswanathan Anand, with 3½ points, had chances jump into a tie for first with a win, although the 15th World Champion was black as well, against Sergey Karjakin.

Carlsen, was in no mood to take any chances against Vachier-Lagrave. When the game was in full swing on just move 17, the players began repeating moves in a position reached several times before. It certainly played a role that the two players trained together for Carlsen’s 2016 World Championship title defence, as Magnus himself pointed out in the “confession box” (in Norwegian):

The World Champion conceded half the point. Considering his chances to reach a tiebreak as about 50/50, he was content to watch his rivals fight it out.
https://en.chessbase.com/post/norway-chess-2018-round-9

Unfortunately, I do not understand Norwegian so the accompanying video could not be understood. What I do understand is that Magnus Carlsen, rather than fight like a World Champion, decided to be content with a draw. The decision by the HWCC was an insult to Caissa, and a disgraceful act unworthy of a World Champion. What kind of example has Magnus Carlsen set for all the children playing the Royal game? The above noted article at Chessbase seems to take the position, like most of the Chess world, that what Magnus did was perfectly acceptable. Chess is dying by draw, yet one hardly ever notices a discussion concerning the proliferation of draws. THERE ARE NO DRAWS IN THE ANCIENT ORIENTAL GAME OF GO! Before you send that nasty email, I am aware of the triple Ko situation in Go, in which the game is declared drawn. It happens about as often as a leap year, and when it does occur it makes news all around the Go world. Magnus did not have to agree to a draw; he did it because he is the HWC and can do what he wants to do when he wants to do it, without being called out by anyone involved with Chess. Magnus decided to rest on his laurels. As we say in America, Magnus CHICKENED OUT! I would have more respect for the HWCC if he had fought, and lost, while trying to win, rather than meekly acquiescing to a draw.

The moves in the game have been played so many times one cannot help but wonder if the fix was in…Was it a prearranged draw? Let us examine the “game.”

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

vs World Champ Magnus Carlsen

Altibox Norway Chess 2018

Last round, with all the marbles on the line.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. a3 (Stockfish at the CBDB shows 8 a4 as the best move)
8…O-O (Although Komodo shows this as the best move, Houdini has 8…Na5 best)

9. Nc3 (One Stockfish program has this as best, but the other prefers 9 Ba2. Komodo shows 9 Re1 as best)

Na5 (The most often move played in this position is 9…Bg4, and it is the choice of the Dragon. Houdini would play 9…Rb8)

10. Ba2 Be6 11. b4 Bxa2 12. Rxa2 Nc6

13. Bg5 (Although the Stockfish program at ChessBomb shows this best at depth 21 after 30 seconds of ‘reflection’, the Stockfish program at the ChessBaseDataBase at depth 30 gives 13 Nd5. Komodo at depth 24 would play 13 h3)

13…Ng4 (SF at the Bomb has this in second behind 13…Nd7. The Fish and the Dragon at the CBDB would play 13…Qd7)

14. Bd2 (The SF at CBDB plays this move, but Komodo would play 13 Be3, a TN. Meanwhile, the SF at ChessBomb would play 14 Bxe7)

14…Nf6

(Let us stop here too reflect a moment. If the Royal game had the Ko rule, as does Go MVL would not be allowed to play 15 Bg5 and repeat the position. MVL would be forced to play elsewhere)

15.Bg5 (SF at CBDB plays 15 Re1; SF at DaBomb would play either 15 Qb1 or Ra1)

Ng4 16. Bd2 Nf6 17. Bg5 1/2-1/2

Pathetically pitiful…

From the above it is apparent there was a plethora of choices each player could have chosen, had they been inclined to do so. They were not so inclined, for whatever reason. To their credit, fellow countrymen Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So played a full-bodied game of Chess, with neither backing down and offering a draw. THEY PLAYED TO WIN!

Magnus Carlsen embarrassed himself and his reputation with his servile acquiescence to split the point. Magnus took a page out of the old Soviet Union Chess playbook when he decided to not fight in the last round of a major tournament held in HIS OWN COUNTRY! Oh, the SHAME…

Since the candidates tournament I have vacillated between the choice of Magnus versus Fabiano to win the upcoming World Human Chess Championship. The fact is that Caruana has shown much more fighting spirit in the tournaments in which the two have battled since the candidates tournament. Fabiano Caruana has demonstrated tremendous FIGHTING ability recently. We Chess fans can only wish the WCC were longer, as in the past. Mikhail Botvinnik considered sixteen games the optimum number of games, and who would know better than the Botvinnik? If it were a sixteen game match, without any speed games in case of a tie, I would wager on Fabi. Magnus is a much superior speed Chess player, so Magnus has draw odds going into the match, which is an unfair advantage. Speed Chess is NOT Chess! It is ABSURD to settle a WCC with speed games. I have often heard that “speed kills.” Speed Chess is killing the Royal game! The title of WCC should NOT be won by playing speed Chess!

For Chess Parents, There Is No Endgame.

Prodigal Sons
The search for the next great chess prodigy—the next Bobby Fischer—is constantly underway. And the candidates are getting younger and younger.
By David Hill Dec 20, 2017, 10:00am EST

A most disquieting Chess article was published recently at The Ringer, “An SB Nation affiliate site.” David Hill is a “Chess dad.” His seven year old son, Gus, plays Chess in New York city.

https://www.theringer.com/sports/2017/12/20/16796672/chess-prodigy-misha-osipov-bobby-fischer

The article begins:

Anatoly Karpov, the 66-year-old former World Chess Champion, was comfortable playing chess underneath the bright lights and in front of the cameras on a television studio set. His opponent, Mikhail “Misha” Osipov, had never played on quite so big a stage before. In this case, before a studio audience on the Russian television program The Best, broadcast on the state-run Channel One. Nevertheless, Osipov looked comfortable. He greeted Karpov warmly, and complimented his showdown with Viktor Korchnoi, which Osipov had studied to prepare. (“It was a beautiful game!”) Osipov played the Nimzo-Indian defense, and played it well.

But Osipov took a long time to consider each move, while Karpov played quickly. Their game was timed, with Karpov playing with two minutes on his clock to Osipov’s 10, in consideration of Karpov’s superior skill and experience. That time advantage dwindled as Osipov spent precious minutes thinking.

Fourteen moves into the game and they were equal in time, with Karpov up a single pawn. Graciously, Karpov offered Osipov a draw.

“Nyet,” Osipov responded, and continued to move.

A few moves later, Osipov’s clock ran out.

“You’ve lost on time,” Karpov told Osipov. “You had to accept the draw. Be more realistic about time.”

Osipov shook Karpov’s hand, but his face tensed up and fixed itself into a frown. He got up from his seat and wandered toward the studio audience, no longer able to hold back tears. Osipov sobbed wildly and looked into the bright lights and the audience before him, bewildered.

“Mama!” he shouted as the cameras continued to roll. “Mama!” His mother bounded from the audience onto the stage and picked up the 3-year-old boy into her arms and held him tightly, wiping the tears from his round, cherubic face.

Despite the disappointing result, Misha Osipov remains a media sensation in Russia. His favorite player is Magnus Carlsen, the current World Champion and himself a child prodigy. According to Yuri, Misha found the games of former Russian World Champion Vladimir Kramnik to be a little boring. By contrast, young Misha found the games of Bobby Fischer to be exciting.

The now-4-year-old from Moscow has already beaten a grandmaster (albeit one with poor eyesight and not exactly in his prime at 95 years old) and has won a number of youth tournament titles. Osipov already has two coaches and a corporate sponsor. He’s helping revitalize Russian interest in a game that was once a source of national pride, a revitalization that began last year when Russian Sergey Karjakin played Norwegian Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship. Both Karjakin and Carlsen were chess prodigies themselves, and Karjakin holds the record for being the youngest player to become a grandmaster. Neither of them could play chess at the age of 3.

I asked Yuri Osipov how he felt watching his little boy cry that day, after he’d lost to Anatoly Karpov. Yuri said it surprised him. It was very unlike Misha to cry. After all, it wasn’t his first time losing a game. But after speaking with Misha after the show, he realized that his son had never played with an analog clock before, only digital. Misha didn’t know how to read the time on the clock and had no idea he was so short on time. When Misha’s clock ran out of time, it surprised him. “He was upset and cried because he didn’t understand why he lost,” Yuri said. “He cried because he didn’t understand that the time was over.”

After Misha lost to Karpov and bawled his adorable eyes out on television, the video went viral. I found it on YouTube with my son while we scrolled through videos about the Philidor position in the endgame. It affected us both. Me because my heart broke for the little boy, calling out for his mama, confused and afraid. Gus because he felt jealous that such a little kid could get to play chess against a former World Champion. If Gus had been there, he assured me, he would not have cried.

He adds a coda to the Nicholas Nip story:

In the months following Nip’s achievement, he went on Live! With Regis and Kelly to play a simultaneous exhibition—he’d play 10 opponents at the same time. The young boy in a too-large green polo shirt won nine and drew one. Afterward Regis Philbin pestered him with questions about whether he wanted a girlfriend. Kelly Ripa asked him if it was too late for someone her age to learn to play chess. Nip replied, “No, it’s not too late.” “What if we are not smart?” Ripa responded. “No, you can still play,” he said, nervously, looking side to side as if trying to find a way out.

A few months after his television appearance, Nicholas Nip told his parents he no longer wanted to play chess. He retired from the game in the fourth grade. He hasn’t been seen at a chess tournament since.

And the story, with which I was unfamiliar, of, “a 5-year-old boy named Ernest Kim.”

Fischer’s rise as a young player gave the Soviet Union chess machine fits. During the years that Fischer came up in the United States, gaining international attention for winning the U.S. Championship at the age of 14, the Soviets recruited thousands of new children to attend their chess schools. One of them was a 5-year-old boy named Ernest Kim. The USSR claimed Kim was defeating adults in his home of Tashkent and had climbed to a “third category rating,” the first rung on the ladder to becoming a Soviet grandmaster, within six months of learning the game. Photos of Kim appeared on magazine covers, newsreels circulated with footage of him playing against adults, sitting up on his knees with his tiny head in his hands. In 1958, when Fischer visited Moscow on invitation from the USSR chess authority, he declared that he was eager to play Kim. The government kept the child under wraps.

One Soviet chess player, Vasily Panov, railed against the chess centers in general, and the treatment of Kim in particular. He felt that too many young people were being put through the Soviet chess farm team, possibly sacrificing some future doctors or engineers in the process. In an interview with The New York Times, in speaking about Ernest Kim, who Panov said was being “dragged off to training sessions, away from playmates and school,” Panov quoted Lenin: “Do not forget that chess after all is only a recreation and not an occupation.”

In addition the author writes about Josh Waitzkin. I urge you to read the whole piece.

“My son isn’t as good at chess as Misha Osipov or Josh Waitzkin, but I still see Fred and Yuri as my brothers. Being a chess parent is full of moments like this one. As I sit and wait for Gus to return from a tournament game, where parents are wisely not allowed to sit and spectate, I grind my teeth and pace the floor. I wonder—If I can’t handle the pressure, if I’m this nervous, then how must he feel? And why do I put him through this? Could he possibly be enjoying this, or is he just doing it because he thinks it will please me?

Jerry Nash has been a tournament director at scholastic tournaments throughout the country. He sees kids crying all the time. So what? “My wife teaches elementary school. She’ll tell you, they cry in class, too.” More often than not, the children deal with losses against tougher opponents by getting excited, rather than discouraged, he tells me. This is how you can tell apart those who are right for the game and those who aren’t. “Sometimes the parent is the only one that’s nervous.”

In my case, it’s pretty much all the time. I stare at the door waiting for him to return, hoping to be able to read his facial expressions for a sense of whether he won or lost before he makes it down the hall so I can mentally prepare for my own reaction when he reaches me and gives me the news.

For chess parents, there is no endgame. There are few opportunities in America for college scholarships for chess players, and almost all of them are snatched up by grandmasters from other countries. There is no way for most grandmasters to make a decent living as professionals, save for the very few at the top. The top five chess players in the world earn millions from tournaments, but the earnings fall sharply once you get outside of the top 10. For the vast majority of adult chess players who stay committed to their study and pursuit of the game, the only way to earn money at chess comes from doling out lessons and taking home a few hundred bucks from the occasional tournament. There is nothing glamorous about it.”

Arguably, the most profound Chess article of the year.

What Would Mikhail Tal Do?

Levon Aronian (2777) – Sergey Karjakin (2760)
4th Zurich CC Classical Zurich SUI (1), 2015.02.14
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 Bb7 9.e4 b4 10.Na4 c5 11.e5 Nd5 12.dxc5 Nxc5 13.Nxc5 Bxc5 14.O-O Be7 15.Qe2 Qb6 16.Ng5 h6 17.Ne4 Rd8 18.Qf3 Ba6 19.Rd1 O-O 20.Qg3 Kh8 21.Qh3 Kg8 22.Bxh6 gxh6 23.Qxh6 f5 24.Qg6+ Kh8 25.Qh6+ Kg8 26.Qg6+ Kh8 27.Qh6+ ½-½

The question I would like you to answer is, “Would Mikhail Tal have taken the perpetual check?”

My favorite music program is Hearts of Space (https://www.hos.com/). It was called Music From the Hearts of Space when it began on National Public Radio back in 1983. It is still broadcast on NPR and even though the program can be heard free online all day Sunday, I like to get a head start and listen to the program of the week on Friday night at 11 pm on WCBE FM out of Central Ohio. If the program is particularly good I have been known to cut away from Jazz Classics (http://wabe.org/programs/jazz-classics-h-johnson) on my home town NPR station, WABE FM, at 11 pm to listen to it again on WMFE FM (http://www.wmfe.org/) out of Kissimmee, Florida, but please do not tell this to my man, H. Johnson. Last night I did just that and left H. because there was some exceptional music wafting from the Hearts of Space to which I wished to listen once again. I liked SERENITY, by Michael Hoppe & Harold Moses, and later found it online, but that was not the case with a mesmerizing piece, Dreamesque, by Ralph Zurmuhle. (http://www.ralphpiano.com/) This music resonated with the Warrior while sitting in his Armchair. Today I have listened to it repeatedly, and will continue to do so until midnight, I suppose…

While listening to the program I decided to catch up on some chess surfing, something I have been unable to do, having had to limit my exposure to the ‘puter screen while afflicted with a dreadful sinus infection. While perusing Spraggett on Chess I noticed an interview with GM Lubomir Ljubojevic that obviously flew below the AW radar. His comments would have fit in nicely with my last post.

Interview with Grandmaster Ljubomir Ljubojevic – Chess now and then, through the prism of technology, physics and philosophy – on 29 July 2013.

Yugoslav chess legend, former World No. 3, one of the best chess players from these parts ever, Grandmaster Ljubomir Ljubojevic, shared with us his impressions about the current state of Serbian and international chess, the influence of computers on chess and development of chess ways of thinking, and about the specificities of the profession of the modern chess player.

Nadezda Stojanovic
I belong to the generation which wasn’t even born at the time you were at the peak of your career. So, for us, who belong to this younger generation, it is always very interesting to hear stories about the time when chess in these parts of the world had a much greater influence than nowadays.

Ljubomir Ljubojevic
When it comes to chess profession, the biggest difference between these different times arises from great development of technology. In the period when chess relied on personal analyses and when it was difficult to find the information about the latest games played in tournaments worldwide, we depended on how fast we could get these pieces of information. That’s why we would analyse for days, sometimes even for months, to be sure if some line is playable or not. Nowadays, that is very easy, you turn on the computer and you can easily check if certain positions or openings are applicable or not. In terms of openings, chess has developed a lot. But, it is my impression that the middlegame and endgame are still an Achilles’ heel of professionals. This begs the question: has the quality of those game phases stagnated because people got used to relying on computer knowledge? Or could this be because people get tired faster than before, because they spend less time on exercising their mental skills leaving that to technology?

What is your view of the current world ranking?

Ljubomir Ljubojevic
I think that Carlsen is the most prepared and the most talented player in this moment. He has already reached maturity which even Fischer at his age didn’t have. However, this doesn’t mean that his talent is more brilliant than Fischer’s! Carlsen entered the world of chess at a very early age, mainly due to the big influence of computers, and managed to acquire knowledge for which one used to need a lot of experience and many years of hard work. In his time, Fischer would find simplicity in the game thanks to his ingenuity. Today, young leading players in the world overcome complicated secrets of chess faster, with the help of powerful computers. That is why the progress of young players is faster today, but the question is will they burn out as fast, like a shooting star, and will their successful career be as long as the career of the players in the past?

Nadezda Stojanovic
You were a player of attractive style. Even nowadays in analyses you seem to suggest moves which others don’t see. Many people respect you for this.

Ljubomir Ljubojevic
I wouldn’t say so. Every person has their own moment of lucidity. Even a chess player who is objectively considered as a weaker player can have ingenious ideas. The only question is if he will use that moment of lucidity to make a good result worth of that ingenious idea. During my chess development, when there were no computers to rely on their suggestions, I was trying to get to know the secrets of chess with all my being and capacities I had. There is a difference when you see some picture on the screen, and you remember it, or when you come to that picture by deduction and logical thinking.

Other parts of the full interview can be found on GM Spraggett’s website (https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/todays-insight-into-chess/) and the full interview can be found here (http://belgrade2013.org/index.php/en/).