Saturday, 25 October 2014

Chess Reviews 248: ChessBase Magazine 162

ChessBase Magazine 162
The jubilant Chinese players grace the cover of the latest issue if ChessBase Magazine. Their smashing success at the Tromso Olympiad was well deserved and Russia, the pre-tournament favourites, even managed to finish out of the medals leaving Hungary and India to take silver and bronze respectively.

The Olympiad receives excellent coverage here, with a plethora of annotated games and video presentations. The most enjoyable of the latter comes in the form of Daniel King's 'Game of the Day' features.

As usual, I recommend reading Rainer Knaak's editorial piece. The theme this time is an investigation into the possible reasons Russia - fronted by former world champion Vladimir Kramnik and still the top seeds - fail to win Olympiads. Rainer examines five percipient key points. It's a reminder that ChessBase Magazine doesn't just offer important, topical games - the written word is worthy of scrutiny too.

The other major highlight in this issue is the coverage of the Sinquefeld Cup, won by Fabio Caruana ahead of a stellar field that included Magnus Carlsen. This was a fabulous success for Caruana. Arguments will rage over the status of the event, from the historical point if view. Was it the strongest tournament ever played? Traditionalists will be appalled at the notion and will doubtless cite counter-evidence based on AVRO 1938 and other such classic events.I doubt Caruana will mind either way.

The ''secret'' of Caruana's success was simply to play moves of a consistently high level throughout every one of his games. His efficiency and desire to invariably head for wins instead of settling for draws will bring the inevitable comparisons to Fischer. Playing through the games via ChessBase, when one can easily summon numerous engines to world alongside the magazine's annotations, brings out the finer detail of the games. It's easy to explore alternative variations to see what could have happened. The engines usually refute - brutally - virtually every variation one tries, but the assessments also make one realise just how strong the world's elite players are, as the majority of their moves still skip through the engines unchallenged.

Here's a interesting sequence from one of the tournament's key games.

Caruana vs. Aronian
Is Black's e5-pawn really weak? The direct attempt to prove it so with 29 Nxe5 Nxe5 30 Qxe5 fails to impress after 30 ...Rxf2, uncovering an attack on White's queen by the bishop on g7. Caruana plays an altogether more impressive sequence.

29 Na5! Nxa5 30 Nxe5! Nb7 31 Nxg6! when he was able to start pushing his e- and f-pawns, with a building advantage (1-0, 50).

So, what of the World Champion? It was interesting to see Caruana exploit Carlsen's errors, starting with being able to achieve rapid equality as Black against the Bishop's Opening. Later on, the game was decided when Carlsen lost his footing under pressure.

Carlsen vs. Caruana
31 Nh2? (31 Qh2 looks more passive and compliant, but it should last longer) 31 ...Rd1+ 32 Rxd1 Qxd1+ 33 Nf1 Qxf1+ 34 Kh2 Qg1+ 0-1 (due to the potentially dangerous e-pawn falling after 35 Kh3 Qe3+). As Carlsen didn't have the most successful Olympiad either, it all should encourage Anand in their forthcoming title match.

In amongst all of the regular ChessBase features there's the usual amount of thought provoking opening surveys. This time they cover the following:

Stohl: English Flohr-Mikenas Variation
Rotstein: Old Indian with 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Bf5 4.Nf3 c6
Antic: Benoni Fianchetto Variation 11.Bf4
Havasi: Modern Defence 4.f4 a6 5.Nf3
Krasenkow: Closed Sicilian
Postny: Sicilian Paulsen 6.Nxc6
Szabo: Sicilian English Attack
Müller: King’s Gambit à la Quaade – Part 1
Breder: Ruy Lopez Four Knights 4...Nd4
Kuzmin: Queen’s Pawn Game 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bf4
Marin: Nimzo-Indian 4.e3

Three surveys are presented as videos, namely:

Ftacnik on the Anti-Grünfeld: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.f3
Marin on Bird's Opening:1.b3 Nf6 2.Bb2 e6 3.e3 b6 4.f4 Bb7 5.Nf3 Be7 6.Bd3 c5 7.0-0
Shirov on the Reti: 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Bg4 3.Bg2 Nd7

ChessBase Magazine 162 keeps up the high standard we have come to expect. I'm already looking forward to the next issue, which should dissect the Carlsen vs. Anand title match in admirable fashion.

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