23 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 11

Argh! It's Sunday today, game 11 of the big match, and just like for Anand - Carlsen, Game 3, my wife has arranged a social engagement for the entire afternoon! That means I won't be able to see the game until it's over?!

That also means the Beavis and Butthead at Sochi post will be sitting at the top of the blog's home page for another full day. It's already been there for two days, so enough's enough! What to do? How about a quick detour back to the 'Chess in School' series, last seen in The Dark Side of Scholastic Chess...

Seen on Uscfsales.com, Scholastic Club Starter Kit - For 10 Members - With Competition Pro Clocks, 'Everything needed to get your scholastic chess club up and running'.

This is not an endorsement. I didn't know there were such kits until I saw the ad, noted it as an FYI to myself, and know absolutely nothing else about the package. If you have some experience in this area, I would love to hear your comments below.

Back to Carlsen - Anand II, Carlsen has White today. If he wins, the match will be over and I will have missed all the excitement! Hope the afternoon that my wife has planned is worth it...

21 November 2014

Beavis and Butthead at Sochi

For the previous post on my World Chess Championship blog, Carlsen - Anand II, the Second Week, I wrote,

If I were responsible for the match, what would I change? Not much, with the possible exception of the press conference.

but this isn't quite what I had in mind.

The Most Exciting Chess Q&A Ever (3:10) • 'Featuring Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen'

The questions are from the press conference held after game eight. P.S. In case there's any doubt, I have only the greatest respect for both players.

20 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand II : Rumblings

Game nine of the Carlsen - Anand World Championship match in Sochi ended in a short draw, which gave me extra time to look into other matters. Going back to the Pre-match Press Conference, who was that fellow sitting to the right of the match stakeholders? Introduced as 'the organizer of the tournament, Ilya Merenzon', this was the first time I had become aware of him.

The first article I discovered was on Chess-news.ru, Agon Company Currently Belongs to Ilya Merenzon; Paulson No Longer Interested:-

Merenzon told us that the mysterious Agon company, which possesses the rights of conducting World Chess Championships and other major chess events, is currently being owned by him.

The last time I posted about Agon, Paulson, et al was Chess Leaks Like a Sieve (February 2014), a collection of unhappy stories that I thought could only get better.

The second article I discovered about Merenzon was on Livemint.com ('A financial daily covering stocks, commodities, companies and the economy'), Fide yet to get World Chess Championship prize fund, 'Fide has been mired in controversy ever since it awarded rights to manage the championship to a little-known firm, Agon':-

Sochi (Russia): It is inconceivable that the Russian organizers of the ongoing world chess championship won't pay Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand their match fees, but a top official on Friday revealed that the world chess federation hadn't yet received in its bank account the event's prize fund of €1 million. [...] Andrew Paulson, the founder of Agon, who until about a year ago was the principal promoter of the sport and described himself as the chief executive of world chess, has sold the firm to an associate, Ilya Merenzon, for £1. [...] Into his shoes has stepped in Merenzon, and his first task is to stump up €1 million -- the statutory minimum prize fund for the ongoing world chess title match.

Did I say this unhappy story that could only get better? Now I'm sure of it.

18 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 6 : Carlsen's Blunder

After Carlsen - Anand, Game 6 : The Opening, the players eventually reached the position shown in the diagram. In fact, they reached the position twice. After 23...a5, White spent two moves shuttling the light-squared Bishop to d1 and back to c2, while Black marked time moving the Rook to d8 and back.

After 23...a6-a5 & 25...Rd8-g8

On the second appearance of the position, Carlsen played a move which will be remembered for as long as World Championship matches are discussed.

  • 26.Kd2?? Followed by Anand's equally outrageous 26...a4??; the move 26...Nxe5 should win easily

During the press conference, both players said they saw their own blunder just after playing the move and punching the clock. Asked, 'Did this blunder influence your game afterwards?', they replied,

Carlsen: For me, my play wasn't that confident. I didn't feel that I found the right setup. So, yes, I guess it affected me to some extent. • Anand: Given the way I played the rest of the game, probably.

The diagrammed position is complicated and full of dynamics. What should Carlsen have played instead? During the press conference he mentioned,

  • 26.Kd1, indicating the same continuation as in the game, 26...a4 27.Ke2; here Black has the much better move 26...Nf8, when White loses the Pawn on g2.

Captures on g6 and h6 are problematic for various reasons.

  • 26.Rxh6? Nxe5
  • 26.Bxg6?! Rxg6
  • 26.Bxh6!? walks into a pin on the h-file; Black can continue 26...Kc8 or 26...Ka6, with the threat 27...Ne7, and good counterplay against White's Kingside Pawns

What did the commentators suggest? On the first occurrence of the position, they looked at 24.Bxh6. Then when the position was repeated for move 26, they decided to take a break. During the break the blunders occurred, and because the live video feed was also turned off, the reactions of the two players were not recorded. Let's call it 'the infamous seven minute gap'.

What do the engines suggest? A couple of non-committal moves, like Carlsen's first choice, 24.Bd1 (26.Bd1), score well.

  • 26.Rg3 and 26.Bd2

Perhaps the best move is more concrete and committal. It closes the diagonal to Black's Bishop, protects the Rook on g4, and puts the ball back in Black's court.

  • 26.f3, followed by Anand's 26...a4, or maybe a Knight move (26...Ne7, 26...Nf8).

While I was preparing this post, I didn't have time to see what the GM annotators have suggested. Along with the double blunder, the position will likely be discussed for as long as people are interested in chess.

17 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 6 : The Opening

I was intrigued by game six of the Carlsen - Anand match, not so much for the double blunder, but for the opening. I've played the variation several times for Black and was curious to see how my treatment compared to the World Champions' treatment.

The game started 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3, reaching the position shown in the top diagram. The first anomaly is here in this well known position. For some reason, my opponents have never played 5.c4 against me and I only know the diagrammed position thanks to a transposition starting with 1.d4. I documented it a few years ago in A Slippery Opening

The second anomaly is in Anand's next move, 6...Bb4. Here I've only played 6...Qc7, with a 50% success rate, winning as many games as I've lost, mostly against higher rated opponents.

After Anand's 6...Bb4, the game continued 7.Qd3 Nc6 8.Nxc6 dxc6, reaching the position shown in the bottom diagram. I checked this sequence on Chesslab.com and learned that, among the 2700+ crowd, the main alternatives to 7.Qd3 are 7.Qf3 and 7.Bd3, with 7.Bd2 and 7.e5 coming into consideration.

After 7.Qd3, Anand's 7...Nc6 is less popular than the alternatives, 7...Qc7 and 7...d5. The move 7...Nc6 is nearly always followed by 8.Nxc6 dxc6. This allows the Queen exchange either by 9.Qxd8+ Kxd8, as in the game, or by 9.e5, with a Black-initiated swap on d3.

I'm not sure why Anand went into this line. The Queen exchange seems to favor Carlsen's penchant for long endgames where he is slightly better. As things turned out, this is exactly the kind of game that was played, with Carlsen eventually winning. For the full game, see Magnus Carlsen vs Viswanathan Anand; Carlsen - Anand World Championship 2014 (game 6) on Chessgames.com.

16 November 2014

$65 per Square Inch of Photo

For the last two editions of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, where the most recent post was American Pastimes, we've had paintings. Now it's time to have a photo. Titled 'Vintage Photo 1940s Military Men Play Chess Game Smoke Pipe snapshot gay int', the image shown below sold for -- hold on to your hat -- US $1312.87 after receiving 17 bids from three bidders.

In the last five minutes of bidding, two bidders increased the price from $283.21 to the final bid. The losing bidder, who had been the first to bid on the photo at $7.50, must have wanted it badly, but not as badly as the winning bidder.

The description said only,

Original vintage 1940s snapshot. I found this in a old album. It measures 5 X 4 inches.

That comes to over $65 per square inch of photo. What makes the photo so special? I have no idea, unless the phrase 'gay int' -- apparently meaning 'gay interest' according to other auctions by the same seller -- has something to do with it.

The player on the left is holding his finger on the Rook, which signals that he hasn't yet completed his move. Many players do that when they first learn the touch-move rule.

14 November 2014

Magnus Street Art

Game five of the Carlsen - Anand II title match has just ended in a draw and the commentators think Magnus was lucky to escape. He didn't seem particularly concerned in the press conference. Whatever the case, the Norwegian will now have two consecutive games with the White pieces.

Magnus Carlsen © Flickr user svennevenn under Creative Commons.

The image of Magnus, minus the crown, is from one of his G-Star Raw posters. The art is signed 'La Staa' and a tag says 'Bergen'. Must be from Norway.