Naka’s Match Strategy

Since Nakamura finished higher than Carlsen in the previous rounds, he had the right to chose the color in the Armageddon. This means that he just had to draw every single game, chose black and win the match. Drawing Carlsen isn’t that easy of course, but in the end it worked out. The following game shows this strategy in action. Naka plays a line that leads to a forced draw, Carlsen deviates and loses.

Kramnik on the QGD-Exchange

Yesterday I said that Kramnik doesn’t play crap, but then he did. He tried to treat the QGD-Exchange like the Makagonov-Bondarevsky, which is known to be bad since Lilienthal-Shestoperov, Russian Championship 1955, except these guys didn’t have engines. Obviously it didnt’t work out. Back to the drawing-board! Yes, Grischuk played well and deserved to win.

The big question is: Does 1.c4 put the QGD out of business? If anyone should know the answer, it’s Kramnik. What is wrong with Radjabov’s treatment?

Kramnik on the French (again)

It is always interesting to analyze Kramnik’s openings, simply because he doesn’t play crap just to mix it up. In his recent outings he gave the French a few tries, but never got confronted with the critical lines. This time Nepo gave it a shot and got nowhere. Ok, it was a blitz game and Nepo made the last mistake. Nevertheless black’s position looked solid and the engines agree. Also note the ultra-precise moveorder by Kramnik.

Biased commentary

Some of you may have noticed the biased commentary on chess events, for instance on chess24 when Lawrence Trent, basically a british chess clown with an IM-title, was openly rooting for Caruana against Nakamura. That’s not the only case for unprofessional commentary though. I remember Kosteniuk massively rooting for Lagno against Ju Wenjun during the FIDE-WM coverage.

Yesterday the biased bullshit on chess24 reached another level, when Carlsen talked down Kramnik in favor of Anand. I don’t get this constant Anand-fanboyism, but that’s probably what you get when you hire Peter-Heine Nielsen. On the other hand, at least Magnus was honest, maybe too honest for the occasion.

Let’s face it: Kramnik popularized 1. Nf3, the Bayonett Attack in the KID, the Petroff, the Berlin and the e3-systems in the QGD and many minor lines like h3 and Qf3 in the Scotch-Four-Knights. Together with Shirov he also popularized the Sveshnikov and the Semi-Slav already in the 90s. Kramnik was THE opening innovator of the last two decades. What did Anand popularize in the meantime, except for an Engine-Spacebar? Zilch! Absolutely NOTHING!

Now who is/was the better player OTB? I don’t know! Anand has always been a natural talent, especially in short time controls, but if that was important then Roland “Hawkeye” Schmalz (best Elo: 2559) would be amongst the strongest players of all time. Garry beat Anand. Kramnik beat Garry. Anand beat Kramnik. If the lifetime score between Anand and Kramnik in classical games has something to say, then it was tied. In rapid and blitz Anand won one more game each. This should not be enough to qualify Kramnik as top 10 all time, while rating Anand significantly higher.

All-time-ranking doesn’t matter at all. But if you insist on making one, it should be at least somewhat objective. To be fair, Magnus made a career out of getting away with virtually anything OTB. So I do understand his preference for natural talent over everything. The acid test would probably be him ranking Giri for that matter.


P.S.: If you ask Garry about the best player of all time, there is no doubt that he would say Karpov.

Worst positional move in chess history

When I saw this I couldn’t believe my eyes, but in a video Naka has given the explanation: He thought that he was winning a piece and overlooked that white can simply retreat the bishop.

Shift in the Metagame

There have not been that many important classical games as of late, but nevertheless it feels to me that the metagame has shifted. Top player seem to put a lot of emphasis on protecting against forced draws with black, even against opponents of similar strength. This shows in little things like this one for example:

The new metagame turns the totally harmless Vienna into a weapon, as long as the white player isn’t the rating-favorite. I noticed that with Nakamura. He plays the Vienna quite often in blitz on the internet, but when someone played 2…Nf6 against him, he acted surprised and tried to remember his preparation. He basically took the draw-protection 2…Nc6 in this position as granted. Needless to say, he got nothing with white.

Drawmeister going down

It was a pretty nice line that Giri had prepared and we have to give credit to Nepo for chosing the fighting continuation. It’s tough to get hit with such a novely and it’s even tough to outplay Giri like that. The final move was pretty cute as well. Very impressive!

Firouzja 0/3

The bad streak for Firouzja continues. It’s not his actual play over the board though, it’s just his prep that isn’t good enough.

In both games he ended up in a lost position without making a clear mistake.

Not yet

The long awaited climax of the tournament turned out to be an anti-climax. On the upside it’s better to make such a mistake now, than later when it counts.

So what is the point? The point is that this wasn’t complicated. You don’t need Elo 2700 to make the correct positional decision here. The only question is if Elo 2700 justifies violating the rules of positional. Obviously not! The reason is that this type of position is too static. You can’t just make a provocative move to stirr things up. It’s just a positional blunder and you get squashed like a bug.

But isn’t playing d5 a mainline in the Zaitsev? It is, but without the wasting a tempo with a3. Besides that isn’t clear if it is that good.

Play it safe!