Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Chess Reviews: 226

ChessBase Magazine 157
The latest issue of ChessBase Magazine has to work hard to step out of the shadow of the 2013 World Championship match, yet it manages the task with aplomb.

Anand was still trying to hang onto his title while material for the magazine was being assembled and the editorial piece by Andre Schulz (always worth reading) speculates on whether or not we would have a new champion in the form of Carlsen. There is speculation too on the FIDE World Championship cycle. With another title match due already in 2014 but then the calendar showing the one after that as due in 2016, it is a moot point whether we have a one- or two-year cycle currently in operation.

Three top tournaments receive full coverage in this issue, namely the King's Tournament Bucharest (a stunning success for Caruana), Sinquefield Cup (Carlsen triumphant) and the FIDE Grand Prix in Paris (Caruana again, sharing top spot with Gelfand).

Carlsen's victory at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis provided a good workout and confidence booster for the (then) title challenger on the way to his date with destiny in Chennai. He drew both games with Nakamura, took 1.5/2 from Aronian 2/2 from Kamsky. The four-player event was actually closer than it sounds. Nakamura led at the end of the first cycle and even in the last round Aronian could have forced a tie for first place with a win against Carlsen. Aronian eventually lost, but the game was interesting. Stohl's detailed annotations show that Aronian was slightly better for most of the game before Carlsen - in typical style - managed to grind out an unlikely win.

Carlsen vs. Aronian
It seems difficult to believe that the World No. 2 could lose with black from this position. Yet lose it he did (1-0, 70). Stohl's notes are instructive and reveal a number of critical moments at which Aronian could have improved his play and (at least) held the game.

Aronian didn't enjoy much fortune in St. Louis. Possibly, he tried to hard to force matters at important moments, such as in the first round against Nakamura.

Nakamura vs. Aronian
Black must be fine here, but Aronian's next move is an unfortunate blunder. 30 ...Qb5?? (30 ...Qc6 leads to an 'easy draw' according to the notes) 31 Qxb5 axb5 32 Nd7! 'Nakamura played this instantly, after which Aronian was visibly shaken. He might have completely forgotten about this resource which wins an exchange. The Armenian was very fidgety before he decided his best chance was to immediately take on d7.' After 32 ...Rxd7 33 Rxd7 the game was effectively over (1-0, 40).

In every issue of ChessBase Magazine, I enjoy reading the notes from a variety of Grandmasters. It's good to see the games of top players placed under the analytical microscope and to see that, occasionally, they miss important things just like the rest of us - especially when in time-trouble. Danny Gormally points to several such moments in a wild game from the Paris Grand Prix.

Gelfand vs. Grischuk
With both players very short of time, Gelfand played 33 dxc7 which looks strong, but 33 Rxg7+! Rxg7 34 Rxg7+ Kxg7 35 Qxc7+ Qxc7 36 dxc7 was a better way to make use of the advanced pawn. Maybe Gelfand was afraid of 36 ...Nf3, with a checkmate threat, but 37 Bd6 would have refuted the attempt. Gelfand went on to win after 41 moves but not without making some big mistakes along the way.

The opening surveys remain a popular feature of the magazine. This time, they cover:

The Dutch with 3 Nc3 g6 4 h4 (Krasenkow) and with 3 Nc3 d6 4 Bg5 (Schipkov)

Sicilian Scheveningen with 12 ...Bd7 (Szabo)

Sicilian Najdorf (Schandorff)

Open Spanish with 9 Nbd2 Bc5 (Karolyi)

Spanish Anti-Marshall with 8 a4 (Stohl)

Grunfeld with 4 h4 (Postny) and Closed Variation (Sumets)

Catalan with 7 Ne5 (Illingworth)

Tango Part : 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 d5 (Arnaudov)

Bogo-Indian with 4 Nbd2 0-0 and 9 h4!? (Antic)

Nimzo-Indian Rubinstein Main Line (Marin)

Three extra features on openings are presented via video lectures: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 b3 (Bojkov); QGD Exchange Variation and QGD Ragozin (both by Shirov).

One can't go wrong with ChessBase magazine. There is enough top quality material to keep even the most conscientious student busy over the Christmas break, with plenty left over for Boxing Day and beyond.

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