Friday, 22 June 2012

Chess Reviews 197

ChessBase Magazine #148

The June edition of ChessBase Magazine could have been the calm before the storm. #149 will doubtless look at the recently concluded Anand – Gelfand World Championship match. It will be interesting to read their thoughts on the controversial and generally dull encounter.

However, far from representing a pre-championship lull, #148 is packed with chess goodness. As usual, it would take weeks to go through all of the material so I will simply draw the reader’s attention to some highlights.

Four things in particular caught my eye.

The coverage of the Zurich Chess Challenge - a match between Kramnik and Aronian – is excellent. The match exceeded expectations as a spectacle and there was plenty of fighting chess. Four of the six games have impressive annotations and the highlight must be Kramnik’s own notes to game three. 

Uncharacteristically starting with 1 e4 (‘A novelty on move 1 already!’), the former World Champion played the white side of a Scotch Four Knights. Not the most reliable of openings when looking for an interesting game, but both players were clearly determined to provide entertainment. After 21 moves they reached this position.

Kramnik – Aronian

‘A very strange and unbalanced position, which we each assessed in our favour during the game. I still think after it that I was right!’

Aronian played the dubious 21 …g5?!, drifted into time-trouble and found it too difficult to keep his pieces coordinated. 1-0 (42)

Hopefully the success of the match will see more top players contest such events. Non-title matches were popular in former times. A FIDE title shouldn't be the only way to get elite players going head to head in a set match.

I also enjoyed reading the annotations of Gawain Jones. I’ve known him for a very long time and followed his rise through the ranks. In this game he matched one of the best players in the world.

Gawain has always had the ability to cut through the most complicated of positions to home in on the one move that will make a difference.

Caruana – Gawain
 27 …Qc3! The d-pawn is suddenly too vulnerable to survive. The game was drawn after 41 moves.

The other annotations to watch out for are Tiviakov’s in his recent victory over Anand. He misses no opportunity to criticise the World Champion’s poor play. Here’s an example.

Tiviakov - Anand

11 …b6?! (11 …0-0 is better). Tiviakov comments:

‘I couldn’t have expected the World Champion to play so badly from this moment until the end of the game. Even playing without any preparation you would expect more resistance…in the current game the World Champion was playing like a beginner. Even playing in open tournaments you would have worked much harder to win than in this game.’

At the end of the game he says:

‘It was a very easy win for me, one of the easiest games in recent months.’

There are numerous opening surveys. The one which held my attention more than any other featured 4 a3 in the French Winawer, partly because I have a long-standing interest in 3 …Bb4 and partly because it was written by Viktor Moskalenko. I always find his writing interesting and the French Defence is his specialist subject. 4 a3 formerly found favour with some World Champions but has struggled to recover any sort of reputation at high levels ever since Fischer received a rare pasting at the hands of Kovacevic (and possibly one or two others, behind the scenes) back in 1970.

Fischer - Kovacevic
 18 …e3!!  0-1  (30)
Nevertheless, it remains a potentially potent weapon in club chess and the survey acts a suitable reminder that although a lot of chess players like to copy the opening moves of the current champions, the over-the-board reality is that the semi-forgotten side lines are somewhat more likely to make an appearance in the next local league match than the latest wrinkles in the Slav or Grunfeld.

One of the great strengths of ChessBase magazine is its ability to cater for such a wide range of strengths. Issue #148, far from being merely a prelude to the next, World Championship-based issue, keeps up the very high standard we all expect.

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