Drawmeister of the Day

Unusual Plus-Exchange

When I saw 41. c4 by Giri, it put a smile on my face. Instead I should have been deeply impressed by this move. He wasn’t just trying to kill all the play in the position. In reality this was one of the best plus-exchanges in recent times. He allowed his opponent to trade off his isolani in exchange for a space advantage in form of a more advanced king. It may look weird, but in fact it’s excellent judgement.

In hindsight this reminds me of a similar plus-exchange, and that is Fischer’s 22nd move in this famous game:

The show goes on

For some reason there wasn’t much to write home about as of late, but fortunately the Tal Memorial freatures some of the usual suspects. Today Peter and Ian decided to stay friends and chop the pot.

Winning with the Italian

A highly unusual game was played by Kramnik against Radjabov. There was a recent trend of playing the Italian with a4 instead of Bb3, but it wasn’t really clear why this should be so great. Finally Kramnik showed the big idea: By playing a4 white restricts the black queenside and prepares to expand in this area. The bishop on c4 can still drop back to f1 where it protects the white king against a black pawnstorm, while on b3 it either gets exchanged off with Be6 or it has to drop back to c2 where it doesn’t do anything. The knight on d2 doesn’t drop back to f1, but goes to c4 where it supports the white queenside attack. At move 18 the full transposition to Kramnik’s favorite setup against the KID was complete. The only real difference is the bishop on a7 which may or may not be better placed there than on g7. It is very difficult to understand all the subleties, but that was a brilliant performance by Big Vlad. For me this was the game of the year even though it’s still September.

Copycats of the Day

Today the lovely engine-draw, Edouard-Istratescu, France Ch. 2015, was repeated by Nyback and some dude from the 2nd Azeri Team.

If that wasn’t enough, Bareev-Caruana, Amsterdam 2008, also got repeated, this time in the Hungary vs. China match.

Drawing with the Najdorf

Whenever Shirov plays against stronger opponents, he choses the Be3-Najdorf it seems. Giri, well prepared as usual, answers with a computer-line that was new to me at least.

Drawmeisters of the Day

Here are a few games that caught my interest so far:

Drawmeister vacation

I don’t know what it is, maybe because it is summertime, but there is not much going on at the moment, at least in terms of forced draws.

If you want to watch exciting chess with decisive results, then check out the matches MC vs. Grischuk and Naka vs. MVL on chess.com. Just kidding! Nobody wants to watch exciting chess with lots of decisive results of course. We all love to watch computer analysis ending in forced draws, don’t we? Well, the Olympiad is coming up, so things could become “interesting” again very soon.

Expectation

If you ever wondered what Elo-difference means in expectation, here are some key odds*:

50 points difference = 5:4 odds
100 points difference = 2:1 odds
200 points difference = 3:1 odds
300 points difference = 6:1 odds
400 points difference = 10:1 odds

When Carlsen plays Caruana, it would be like pocketpair vs. overcards in Poker. Caruana on the other hand would be a 2:1 favorite against Leko, which can be quite a burden. Maybe that is the reason why Peter doesn’t get invited to such tournaments anymore.

*These are not the exact numbers, but they are close.

Coincidence or method?

When we look back, Leko was a child prodigy, Bacrot was a child prodigy, Polgar was a child prodigy, Radjabov was a child prodigy, Ponomariov was a child prodigy, Giri was a child prodigy, So was a child prodigy and Wei Yi is actually still a child prodigy. They all have something in common and that is their high percentage of short draws without a fight. The only difference is how they do it. Some prefer repetitions while others play 15 moves of mainline theory and offer a draw. Only Giri is a bit different, because he plays long games, but the overall theme with him is zero risk tolerance too.

Maybe this whole phenomenon has something to do with how child prodigies are brought up these days. They are the sensational kids who are playing in a field of strong grandmasters where a draw is sufficient to boost their rating. Their occasional wins usually come from situations when the strong GMs are pushing too hard in order to save their face. Kasparov-Radjabov, Linares 2003, would be such an example.

Giri’s career is especially interesting, because he only has a few wins against players from the top ten in classical chess, yet some people believe that he will be a challenger for the title in the not so distant future. Same goes for the chinese youngster Wei Yi. He played about 600 games to reach 2700 while mostly beating weaker opponents also. Neither Giri nor Wei Yi have won a top major tournament and yet they are some of the strongest players of the world by “definition”. This shows that you can reach the highest level by rather consistently beating 25xx-players and drawing everyone, rated 26xx and above. It is not surprising, because the result will be a 2700+ performance.

Believe it or not, but I have the feeling that the Elo-rating is the root of all evil. Being able to win Elo-points by making a draw kills the game, because there is too much incentive for not fighting it out. Chess is essentially a drawn game, so maybe the reward for reaching this result is too high in comparison for what you get for successfully disturbing the balance.

That’s one part of it, another one is the way too high k-factor for young players. Even with the k-factor 40 being capped to Elo 2300 for players under 18, it doesn’t prevent such “overrated” youngers losing points to other youngers who are above 2400 already.

In the end there is a reason why it takes  so many young players only a couple of hundred rated games to become world class after all, and it’s certainly not that their Stockfish or Komodo, whatever, finds better lines than the engines of all the other players. There is probably a lot of stat-padding going on at the tables and behind the curtain and their overall strategy is just perfectly adjusted to the rating-system.

Play it safe!