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So successful

The kid with an engine won the Sinquefield Cup 2016!

You don’t need chess books, you don’t need a coach, in fact you don’t need anything that costs money. All you need is an engine, calculation skill, good memory and a bit of luck to get your preparation in.

So stylish

Today Wesley just shut it down, but Fabi obviously didn’t mind either. With this draw So is well on his way to tournament victory. I don’t see MLV beating his Berlin in the last round and I can’t imagine Aronjan beating Topalov neither in the Ruy Lopez nor in the Italian. Maybe Svidler will blow up against Anand, which is unlikely given their history, but even in that case Wesley is a favorite to win it all.

The surprising thing is that he actually admitted killing any play in the position in the interview. Usually listening to his interviews feels like a total waste of time to me, just like watching his games, but he was honest and one has to give him credit for it. So far Wesley has shown the modern blueprint for winning tournaments. Pleasing the spectators is not part of it and nobody can blame him.

Tough luck

Svidler and Topalov both lost in the same round and I forgot to make predictions. Well, I guess I would have predicted all draws anyways.

Wesley is just amazing. His tournament strategy works out to perfection. He started with a well deserved surprise-win against Nakamura and since then he makes draws against equal or higher rated opponents and goes after the perceived targets in the field, Topalov and Svidler. Nevertheless I expect him to draw the rest. He doesn’t have to take any risks, because Anand will not be able to catch up.

Gimme dat Ding

Went 4/5 this time, predictions are getting sharper. Still come on, I should have been 5/5! What was Ding doing there? The whole idea with Rc8 and following it up with b4 and c5, basically spitting a pawn for nothing, was totally weird. Why not simply play c6 and treat it like a Breyer? I guess we all have a pretty good idea how Topalov must have felt about it.

Playing the percentages

You can’t go much wrong by predicting draws. That’s how games between players of similar strength usually end. At least I got three predictions right this time. Nevertheless my score could have been better since MVL came close after Topalov fell into an opening trap, but unfortunately it turned out to be too difficult to convert. To be fair, I didn’t expect such a battle between Giri and Ding and I didn’t expect Caruana to allow Svidler to set up a position with a symmetrical pawn structure either. Come on, how can you play the Lasker against a guy who is struggling that much? Actually Fabi actually got lucky that Peter spoils all his good positions too.

Round 4 predictions:
Aronjan-Caruana 1/2
Nakamura-Topalov 1-0
Ding-Anand 1/2
So-Giri 1/2
MVL-Svidler 1-0


P.S.: Congratulations to Stockfish for finally beating Komodo in TCEC again.

So much about predictions…

How many games did I get right? It looks like one. Ding and So did indeed draw as expected. I shall not make any further predictions 😉

I am still surprised that Naka effortlessly beat the unbeatable Giri and that Anand played the Caro Kann and beat MVL. It’s actually not that surprising that Svidler lost again, because it seems that he overlooks tactics and mishandles techinical positions just as well. In his current form even the type of position doesn’t matter anymore.

One game was very interesting from a educational standpoint and that is Caruana-Topalov. In particular it was Fabi’s decision on move 19, because it is a nice example for the move-search-algorithm.

Let’s go through the process of finding candidate moves:

  1. Are both kings safe? Yes, there is no shade of an attack.
  2. Can we win material? Not by force. We can threaten to win the two bishops with h3, but it belongs into the next cathegory.
  3. Can we improve our pawn-structure? From left to right, we can play b3, d5, dxe5 and h3 of course. The first choice b3 gives up the bishop pair and white can’t even capture back in the end. Closing the center with d5 looks playable. Taking on e5 looks playable also. Finally there is the move h3, which is already on the list.*
  4. Can we improve our pieces? The queen is placed well on d1. The rooks are ok too. The bishop a2 looks weird and could be improved. There is also the option of taking on f6 and playing Nd5 similar to the outpost in the Sveshnikov.

I think this give us a realistic list of candidate moves to work with: h3, d5, dxe5, Bb1 and Bxf6. That’s actually a lot of playable moves for any middlegame position in chess and it shows why the Ruy Lopez is such a rich opening.

Let’s look at them one after the other:

  1. h3 threatens to win the two bishops or at least threatens to get rid of the pin. Furthermore it creates luft for the king and a retreat square for the knight. It looks like a decent move.
  2. Closing the center with d5 removes the tension from the center and in this position it is difficult to follow it up with the break b3. The other problem is that this move is very committal.
  3. Taking on e5 also removes the tension from the center and petty much the same considerations apply.
  4. Bb1 is a double purpose move: It uncovers the Ra1 and it overprotects e4 in order to follow up with h3, g4 and dxe5. It does allow tactics in the center though.
  5. Taking on f6 and playing Nd5 can be answered with Bd8 and it is not clear if the powerful knight is enough to compensate for the two bishops. This move is very committal also.

If Fabi doesn’t want to committ yet, he is down to two choices: h3 and Bb1. I think h3 would have been the natural move in this position and it is also the top candidate of the engines, but he decided on the rather artificial Bb1 with all the consequences. For me it was a strange decision, but who am I?

About the predictions, I lied! Here are they for round 3:
So-Aronjan 1/2
Anand-Nakamura 1/2
Topalov-MVL 0-1
Svidler-Caruana 0-1
Giri-Ding 1/2


* An argument can be made for not looking any further since in quiet positions improving the pawn structure is more important than improving the pieces.

So impressive

In the past there was a clear tendency in games between So and Nakamura and that was a draw without a fight. It felt like they had a secret contract to not hurt each other. This time it was different, Nakamura simply got outprepared. The key to the game is the word “compensation”. Wesley sacrficied two pawns, where the engines think he doesn’t have enough compensation. Then Naka gave an exchange back, where the engines think he has enough compensation. Both evaluations turned out to be wrong. This game shows how modern chess works. It’s about finding lines that get misevaluated by engines and of course players who uncritically play such lines.

The other games pretty much turned out as expected. Svidler tried to play the Marshall in order to draw. Topalov played a sideline and made his opponent think on his own. Svidler took over an hour at one point, blundered and basically forced Topalov to collect the full point. Giri, who plays a lot of 1.e4 as of late, blew an advantage in the Najdorf and drew MLV. Ding drew Aronjan in a game that nobody cared about. Last but not least, Fabi surprised Anand with the Winawer, but Anand bailed out and managed to draw. That was an interesting decision based on the fact that nobody on the highest level plays the French, but nobody knows how to beat it either.

How did the first round change the outlook? If Wesley draws every other game, he will finish +1 and he knows it. I expect him to play for a win against Topalov, but that’s the only risk that he will take in the remainder of the tournament. Naka on the other hand will raise his risk level to get back in the race, but pushing the random button in this field will probably backfire. Aronjan relies on people giving him chances, but I don’t see this happening. Anand has a similar style, but he gets more chances, because people think he is on the decline and will take slightly more risks against him. Caruana and MLV are in the race to win it. Giri and Ding are on schedule to draw it. Topalov will just play for fun and look what happens and Svidler will have to fight hard to keep his face. I am still waiting for him to show anger, probably for the first time in his life. In Baseball there is a saying: “Nice guys finish last”. Baseball isn’t Cricket, but it’s close.

Round 2 predictions:
Caruana-Topalov 1-0
Ding-So 1/2
MVL-Anand 1/2
Nakamura-Giri 1/2
Aronjan-Svidler 1/2

Sinquefield Cup 2016

Time flies and only a few months after the event in Belgium the superstars are back at the board to compare their computer analysis. Personally I don’t understand why Topalov still gets invited to such events and I don’t understand why Svidler got invited to replace Kramnik either. He is simply not himself anymore ever since his dramatic loss to Karjakin. After the disasterous performance in his recent match against MVL it is tough to imagine him winning a single game in this field, even in the first round against Topalov. Adding Grischuk to the lineup would have certainly made the tournament more attractive. Speaking about not winning games, we also have Anish Giri and Ding Liren in the field and of course our absolute favorite Wesley So. To be fair, there is a decent chance that they will all beat Topalov though. If anyone was ever totally overrated in the world rankings, it’s him. Although one has to admit that he isn’t exactly a Drawmeister, so he doesn’t do any stat padding.

Enough talk, let the draws begin!

Back from the drawing board

Today’s game features the bishop sacrifice in the Sveshnikov which is suprising, because the version with 13. b4 was considered to be dubious for over a decade. In the year 2000 german Drawmeister Thomas Luther used it to steal half a point from Luke McShane. Two years later Leko came up with a very strong improvement for black and busted Luther without a fight. Over the last 14 years engines have improved a lot and now Mamedov seems to be ready to discuss this line again. Well, Jobava reproduced McShane’s moves, so there was no discussion.