Engine commentary

Many people don’t get the point behind watching a game with the help of an engine. It’s not about being smarter than the players. It’s all about checking their precision. What do they overlook? Where do they lose the thread of the game? Where do they go wrong? That’s the point of using an engine. It provides an objective evaluation of the individual performance. When I comment a game I am also interested in the positions where the players refrain from playing the obvious move, and of course I am always looking to find forced draws. This is equally important for both, favorites and underdogs, because it could have ended the game on the spot.

WTF was that?

Last night I couldn’t believe my eyes when Caruana blitzed out a complete lemmon in a known theoretical position. The move seems to drop the exchange for nothing, so you at the position and try to find his idea. You look and look and look and see nothing. So you switch on the engine and it cannot see anything either. The real shocker though is that Carlsen believed him. Chess isn’t Poker. In chess your cards are always face up. If this was a bluff, it was the worst bluff in chess history. Even worse, Carlsen still won.

By the way, the reaction by Vidit when Caruana played that move is just priceless.

Equal but not drawn

The decision between playing the Petroff or the Berlin depends on the evaluation of 5.Nc3. The problem with this line is not that the engines show something around 0.00. The problem is that there is no way to force the draw. It can go wrong and quite often does.

Dubov > Naka

It’s pretty sad when a great tournament gets decided by a blunder. Nevertheless, it’s certainly not Dubov’s fault. I have no idea why Naka chose the complicated line in the Vienna instead of the simple technical equalizer, especially in the Armageddon.

Once again, betting on chess proves not to be a good idea.

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.

Play it safe!