Monday, 4 August 2014

Chess Reviews: 242

ChessBase Magazine 161

Sergey Karjakin is the cover star of the latest ChessBase Magazine, due to his extremely impressive victory at the Norway Chess tournament. He finished half a point ahead of World Champion Magnus Carlsen and even further ahead of a galaxy of stars including Grischuk, Caruana and former World Champions Topalov and Kramnik. The tournament had been very close all the way to the end but Karjakin's winning sprint - with three straight wins - brought him a very notable success.

Needless to say, the Norway Chess event received comprehensive coverage in this issue. Indeed, in addition to most of the games featuring annotations, there is an opening survey based on the tournament from Mihail Marin and a series of video presentations by Danny King, rounding up the highlights from each day's play. These days there is no chance for a top player to hide his mistakes away from the public!

As usual, it is the annotations of the players themselves I look at first. I enjoyed reading Karjakin's notes to his important victory over Kramnik.
Karjakin vs. Kramnik
Black played 38 ...gxh5 here. Karjakin comments: ''Taking the pawn is tempting, but he should advance his pawns. 38 ...f5! Although here White can also lay claim to a slight superiority, the game in this case would most likely have finished a draw.''

39 d5!  ''White uses the time to push forward the d-pawn!''

39 ...e3?! ''Another tempting move, especially when both sides are in time trouble. But Black absolutely had to bring his knight back into the game.''

40 Kc2! ''The last precise move before the time control. White attacks the e3-pawn! As a result of disadvantageous sharpening of the game, Black is now facing unpleasant tasks but my opponent did not manage to change his way of thinking in time. He did not sense the danger...'' Indeed, after 40 ...Ng4? 41 d6 Re6?! 42 Ra7! White gained a serious advantage (1-0, 72).

Other annotations left a strange impression. There's a game from the Capablanca Memorial with notes by Wesley So, in which plays the Winawer against Zoltan Almasi. He says: ''I did some preparation on the Winawer before the event, and I noticed that current theory for White is not very convincing.'' Then after playing 12 ...d4! (see the next diagram): ''I think this is Black's only reasonable move. Here Zoltan started using a lot of time. Obviously taking the pawn on d4 is critical, but without preparation it's a different matter. Anyway, he still found a way to get a good position out of the opening.'' Yet by move 17 he has to admit ''Around here I forgot my analysis already, and my next few moves were probably not the best'' and he ends up standing worse (before turning the game around later on). So how does that leave his preparation? White did nothing unusual between moves 12 and 17 and gained an advantage. A couple of one move suggestions are given for Black during those moves, but in an offhand kind of way. Does that mean that Wesley So now thinks the theory is more convincing for White than he thought before the game, or is he holding back what he really thinks Black should play after 12 ...d4? Either way, the rest of us are left in the dark; the annotations are not helpful in this regard.

Other tournaments covered include the Capablanca Memorial (won by Wesley So, with the mercurial Ivanchuk - frequent winner of the event - left languishing at the foot of the table on this occasion) and the Karpov Tournament (won by Morozevich).

It is good to see a tribute to the late Yugoslav Grandmaster Dragoljub Velimirovic, whose entertaining games grace one of Danny King's ''Move by Move'' columns and a series of four videos from Adrian Mikhalchishin. It's amazing people still played 1 ...c5 to Velimirovic's 1 e4. I would welcome more articles covering fabulous players of the past and, while we are suggesting things, it may be worth a thought to devote some space to a survey of the chess literature that is published between issues of ChessBase magazine, as regular, printed magazines usually do (I am available...).

My favourites from the opening surveys this time focus on the French Defence (Winawer Variation - presented by Stohl) and the Saemisch KID (by Kuzmin).

The former analysis something really sharp. 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Ne7 7 Qg4 Qc7 8 Qxg7 Rg8 9 Qxh7 cxd4 10 Ne2 Nbc6 11 f4 dxc3 12 Qd3 d4 .

This line is not for the faint-hearted or unprepared. Wesley So used it - as Black - to win a key game at the aforementioned Capablanca Memorial tournament (see above). Maybe the pawn sacrifice will now come into fashion, in which case it would make sense to study Stohl's notes very carefully.

The latter looks at a line designed to annoy White and his temporarily unguarded c-pawn.

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 e4 d6 5 f3 0-0 6 Be3 Nc6 7 Nge2 a6 8 Qd2 Na5!?

The point is Black can meet, for example, 9 Ng3 with the thematic 9 ...b5!, when 10 cxb5 axb5 11 Bxb5?? loses to 11 ...Nb3.

The survey should give players on both sides of the board something fresh to analyse. ''Conclusion: According to the present state of affairs it in no way looks like an advantage for White. That would be a hard blow for fans of the Saemisch System.'' Indeed it would.

Incidentally, it is always worth reading the editorial piece in every issue of ChessBase Magazine. It's easy to overlook amid the wealth of top chess material but it is usually a thought provoking piece. This time André Schulz writes about the problems associated with classifying chess as a sport (in Germany, but the piece will have a familiar ring to in plenty of other countries). His summing up of the situation ends with an ironic twist.

''In Germany 96% of the development cash for sport, at present 140 million euros per year, go to the olympic sporting disciplines – sometimes these are really minority sports with few organised members, but every four years at least they are seen on television with perhaps the German national anthem being sung at the end of their competition. The remaining 4% of the budget is divided amongst the non-olympic sports, including chess which receives 130 000 euros per year. There are of course many non-olympic sports which would gladly have these 130 000 euros for themselves. Elsewhere people take a more pragmatic attitude: the Norwegians chose Magnus Carlsen as sports personality of the year – although there chess is not (yet?) officially recognised as a sport.''

ChessBase Magazine is, as always, highly recommended.

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