Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Carlsen on top of chess Olympus

NORWEGIAN Magnus Carlsen, who turned 19 on 30th November, won the London Chess Classic held at the Olympia Conference Centre from 8-16 December. The Category 18 event with an average rating of 2696 is a single-round robin contest using the Bilbao scoring system of 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 for a loss.

During the seventh and final round, all three of the winless Englishmen attempted to score their first win but only two succeeded. Michael Adams prevailed over compatriot Luke McShane while David Howell defeated China’s Ni Hua to share 3-4 places with Adams. Current number one English player Nigel Short tried all his might to score a win against Carlsen but the latter also has the same determination. The two finally halved the point when Short was about to pluck Carlsen's remaining pawn in the queen yet pawnless ending.

Earlier former world champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia halved the point with Hikaru Nakamura of the USA to wind up with 12 points, one point behind the winner Carlsen. Nakamura and Short were unable to win a game, with the former losing one game while the latter suffered two losses.

In addition to the tournament victory, Carlsen is now absolutely certain to top the next FIDE Rating list which will come out on 1st January 2009. He is now the youngest player ever to achieve that feat and also the first player from a western nation to reach the top since Bobby Fischer in the 1970s.

He aims to become the world chess champion and shows his determination by engaging the services of Gary Kasparov, the former world champion (1985-2000) and number one player for twenty years (1985-2005).

That he would become the world chess champion is never doubted. The only question that remains to be answered is when?

Gelfand’s experience prevails in 2009 World Chess Cup

ISRAEL's Boris Gelfand became the 2009 World Cup champion by beating Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine in the playoff games on Monday, 12 December.

That the fight for the title would be tightly contested was predicted by The Chess Connoisseur in its previous post. The first four games of the playoff were rapid games where Gelfand took the lead by winning the second game. But Ponomariov, with his back to the wall, won the last rapid game to tie the match again.

There followed another playoff, this time a series of twin-blitz chess (5 minutes per player per game) and Gelfand once again took the lead by beating Ponomariov in the first game when he managed to trap Ponomariov’s queen in 21 moves. Ponomariov rallied again, winning the second game.

The second pair of blitz games ensued where again Gelfand won the third blitz game. In the fourth blitz skirmish Ponomariov finally ran out of reserves, losing the game and the match, 7 points to 5.

Gelfand was the top seed in the 128-player event. At 41, he was also the oldest, but that did not deter him in the long tournament. Afterward, in an interview published on the tournament’s website, Gelfand pointed out that he had come to the World Cup after competing in the Tal Memorial and the World Blitz Championship that followed it. Altogether, he said he had played more than a month of top-level chess, but he added, “Now I will relax, make up for lost sleep, walk with my daughter. So I will be back to ‘normal’ life.”

This was the second time that Ponomariov, 26, was runner-up in the World Cup. He lost in the final in 2005 to Levon Aronian of Armenia. Still, he came in as the 7th seed, so he performed above his pre-tournament rank.

Our toast and congratulations to both gentlemen together with the wish for a good and much needed rest.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Youth and experience clash in World Cup final


THE saying ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going’ holds true again in the completion of the cast for the finals of the 2009 World Chess Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk.

Israel super GM Boris Gelfand (2758, seed 1st) will be contesting the World Cup title with former FIDE World Chess Champion (2001-2003) – Ukraine's super GM Ruslan Ponomariov (2739, seed 7th).

Their trek to the top of the ladder could hardly be described with anything but tough. Gelfand has to beat in Round 4 the current world junior champion and French champion, Maxine Vachier-Lagrave (2718, seed 17th) in the second blitz tiebreak after the regulation two classical games, the four rapid tiebreak games and the first blitz tiebreak game all ended in draws. In Round 5 he saw off Russia's Dmitry Jakovenko (2736, seed 9th) with the score of 3.5–1.5. In Round 6, he displayed his excellent form by shutting out, 2–0, Ponomariov’s countryman and former second, Sergey Karjakin (2723, seed 12th), to notch the first finals berth.

Ponomariov needed a tiebreak to subdue France's Etienne Bacrot (2700, seed 23rd), 3.5–2.5, and advanced to the round of eight – the quarterfinals. He then disposed the current European champion, Vugar Gashimov (2758, seed 2nd) of Azerbaijan, 3.5–1.5. In the semifinals, he faced off with Russia's Vladimir Malakhov (2706, seed 22nd) who in the previous round sent home his compatriot, Peter Svidler (2754, seed 3rd) who he defeated, 1.5–0.5. Prior to the Ponomariov–Malakhov meeting, the latter a former European vice-champion, has the best rapid tiebreak record of 8.5 points out of 9 games.

The Ponomariov–Malakhov tussle went into the rapid tiebreak after they drew their two classical regulation games. True to form, Malakhov, won the first tiebreak game to improve his rapid-format record to 9.5 points out of 10 games. That's an incredible 95 percent performance at the top level by any standard. However, as Chaucer said “all good things must come to an end,” Malakhov's stupendous rapid record reached its pinnacle and has nowhere to go but down. His rival, Ponomariov, showed other remarkable traits such as resilience and toughness, which overcame his rival’s early lead and stamped his own class by winning the next 3 games and the match, 4–2, to notch the remaining finals berth.

The four–game finals match between Gelfand and Ponomariov is a classic experience-against-youth encounter. Ponomariov is not new to this situation as he has won the 2001 FIDE World Championship, the predecessor of the current event, against his rival’s contemporary and his countryman Vassily Ivanchuk to become the youngest ever world chess champion. Gelfand, despite being a perennial world chess contender, has only reached this very height for the first time. The onus would be on him to prove that he can overcome the challenge of his young protagonist. His results against strong youngsters from rounds 4 to 6 indicate that he would be up to this task.

Expect a very tough contest between these two equally deserving finalists.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Young amazons trip chess legends

Photo: Official website

A NOVEL chess match between four chess legends, all former world championship candidates, and four young lady players took place from 28th November to 5th December at the Cristal Palace hotel in Marianzke Lazne.

Chess legends—Viktor Korchnoi (78 years old), Jan Timman (58), Robert Huebner (61), and Vlastimil Hort (65)—competed with young woman grandmasters—Humpy Koneru (22), Anna Muzychuk (19), Katerina Lahno (20), and Jana Jackova (27)—in a double-round Scheveningen contest dubbed as ‘Snowdrops and Old-hands’ Czech Coal Chess Match 2009.

The rate of play was 90 minutes for 40 moves with additional 30 minutes to the end of the game and 30 seconds added for each completed move starting from the first move. The tournament was organized by Prague Chess Society—a civic association.

The youngsters won the match by the narrowest of margin, 16½ to 15½. The ladies went off to a fast start in the first round, winning 3 matches and drawing one, to take a lead of 3 points at the halfway mark.

The first two matches in the second round were drawn as it appeared that the ladies were coasting along and maintained their three-point lead. The seasoned chess celebrities won the last two matches, both by slimmest of margin of one point, but were not enough to overcome the ladies early big lead.

The best performance was registered by India’s Koneru (rated 2603) with 5½ points out of 8. The only blot in her escutcheon was a last round loss to the ‘evergreen’ Korchnoi. She drew with Huebner (two draws) and Korchnoi (split wins), beat Timman (1½-½) and Hort (2-0). The shutout victory over Hort gave the amazons the marginal point for the match victory. A single draw would have resulted into a tied match.

Slovenia’s Muzychuk (2532) turned in a plus one score (4 ½); Ukraine’s Lahno (2499) registered an even score (4); while Czech’s Jackova (2388) had a minus three score (2½) but scored her lone win over Viktor, the Terrible.

The performances of the veterans were more or less even. The Netherlands’ Timman (2591) was top with a plus one score (4½), Germany’s Huebner (2603) had an even score (4), whereas Switzerland’s Korchnoi (2567) and host country Czech’s Hort (2494) both turned in a minus score (3½). Korchnoi was the lone victor (no pun intended) against Koneru.

The event was graced by another chess legend, the former world chess champion Boris Spassky (1969-1972).


Malakhov’s best in rapid chess

Photo: Official website
WESLEY So’s exit from the 2009 World Cup via a lopsided score of 1-4 against Russia’s Vladimir Malakhov could be attributed to his ‘inexperience’ and ‘internal weakness’ spotted by Russian GM Sergey Shipov.

The Filipino, who was once quoted by foreign journalists in Khanty-Mansiysk that he prefers to play in rapid tiebreaks, could “not oversee that Malakhov feels completely at home in rapid.” But Wesley overlooked that Malakhov has the best record in rapid tiebreak games.

A little bit of retrospection would confirm that Malakhov was likely to beat, and he did beat, So (3-0!) in the rapid tiebreak games.

Consider the fact: Malakhov has a stupendous record in the rapid tiebreak.

After a draw in the first game of Round 2, he won the next two against Israel's Ilia Smirin (2662, seed 43rd) and advanced to the third round.

In Round 3, he won three straight games against Ukraine's Pavel Eljanov (2729, seed 11th) and advanced to the fourth round.

In Round 4, as it is now history, he won three straight games against the 2009 World Cup rising star Wesley So.

That’s 8.5 points out of 9 games in rapid format! This is the one phenomenal and outstanding performance in the 2009 World Cup.

In the meantime, Malakhov needed no tiebreak against Peter Svidler as he won the mini-match, 1.5-0.5. (Svidler probably thought Malakhov is unbeatable in rapid and went just one game down in the classical format that saw him off from playing rapid games with his in-form rival.)

As of this posting, Malakhov is contesting one of the finals berth against former FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine.

The young ones’ run comes to end

THE truism “all good things must come to an end,” attributed to Chaucer (1374), was once again spot on in Round 4 of the 2009 World Chess Cup when the triumvirate of future chess stars all went down in flames.

The Philippines’ Wesley So, Italy’s Fabiano Caruana and France’s Maxine Vachier-Lagrave all went down in defeat against their respective rivals in the fourth round (round of 16) of the 2009 World Chess Cup.

Caruana (rating 2652 and seed 50th) lost to Vugar Gashimov (2758, seed 2nd) of Azerbaijan, 1.5-3.5. The 17-year-old Caruana, who played against GM Vugar Gashimov of Azerbaijan, could not stand up the extra class performance of his opponent (although he had winning position in the second game of the match) and could not control the situation after his first defeat in the rapid game.

Earlier, Fabiano defeated Lazaro Bruzon of Cuba (2619, seed 79th), 1.5-0.5, in Round 1; in the next round, Fabiano eliminated the current Cuban number one and last year's world blitz champion, 15th seed Leinier Dominguez (2719) with the score of 4-2 from twin victories both with the black pieces in the rapid tiebreak. In Round 3, he showed the door to former Russian champion Evgeny Alekseev (2715, seed 18th), 3.5-2.5, with the lone victory from their rapid tiebreak encounter.

The 19-year-old Vachier-Lagrave (rated 2718, seed 17th) is this year's world junior champion—the title he earned from the event that preceded the World Cup. He disposed China's Yu Shaoteng (2529, seed 112th), with the score of 1.5-0.5 in Round 1; then pipped Germany's George Meier (2653, seed 48th) in the fourth rapid tiebreak game to win the match, 3.5-2.5, in Round 2. Maxine made mincemeat of another Chinese in Round 3, beating Yu Yangyi (2527, seed 113th), 1.5-0.5, that ended the latter's surprising advance. In Round 4 he had a brilliant match against top seed GM Boris Gelfand of Israel, but could not cope with him in the blitz game after their two-game classical and four-game rapid tiebreak matches all ended in draws.

So, 16, rated 2640 and seeded 59th, shut out Azerbaijan's Gadir Guseinov (2625, seed 70th) in the rapid tiebreak after they split their two classical games with a score of 4-1 and advanced to the second round.

A sensational upset was scored by Wesley when he defeated Ukraine's Vasily Ivanchuk (2739, seed 7th) in the first game and drew the second game that kicked the latter out of the World Cup. The loss to a relatively unknown and weaker player caused Ivanchuk to declare, in a fit of frustration and disappointment, his retirement from professional chess.

Fortunately for the chess fans, he retracted his retirement declaration and apologized to his fans, three days later. This he only did after Round 3, when So similarly disposed of the defending World Cup champion, the American Gata Kamsky (2695, seed 27th), with a similar score of 1.5-0.5.

Wesley's twin victories over two chess titans, Ivanchuk and Kamsky, sent shock waves in the global chess community and easily ‘overshadowed’ the similarly fine performances of Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave.

So, dubbed by the foreign chess media here as the “biggest sensation in the tournament,” lost all his three rapid tiebreak matches to GM Vladimir Malakhov of Russia in their fourth round showdown and bowed out of contention at the Khanty-Mansiysk Center of Arts.

The 16-year-old Filipino, whose strong positional games during the prestigious, 128-player competition earned him comparison with former world champion Anatoly Karpov, failed to shake off the older and more experienced Malakhov in the first two classical games.

It was a divergence from his stints at the previous rounds, where he stunned former world championship finalist GM Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine and defending champion GM Gata Kamsky of the US both in two games.

Slowed down by two hard-fought draws in their classical games, So was forced to battle it out with the 22nd-seeded Malakhov (Elo 2706) in the rapid tiebreak stage. But the Filipino, who was once quoted by foreign journalists here that he prefers to play in rapid tiebreaks, could “not oversee that Malakhov feels completely at home in rapid.”

The final score: 4-1 for Malakhov.

The event is now on its semifinal round (round of four) featuring Israel’s Boris Gelfand against Ukraine’s Sergey Karjakin and Ruslan Ponomariov, also of Ukraine, against Wesley So’s conqueror –Vladimir Malakhov!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Young Filipino GM Wesley So sends shock waves in 2009 World Chess Cup


WESLEY So. Filipino. 16-year grandmaster currently ranked 7 among world junior players. Seventh youngest ever grandmaster in the world at 14. Youngest ever national champion of the Philippines. Youngest ever Philippine chess Olympian at age 13 (2006 Chess Olympiad in Calvia, Spain). Winner of 2009 Corus Group C tournament.

He made the world took notice of his resounding wins over elite grandmasters in the second and third round of the 2009 World Chess Cup.

The Chess Connoisseur traces his Cup trek so far.

Defeated GM Gadir Guseinov of Azerbaijan, 4-1, in Round 1 (21-23 November). He won the first but lost the second of the normal time-control games. Won three straight games of the four rapid tie-break games.

Proceeded to Round 2 (64 participants remaining, 24-26 November). Registered a shocking and surprising win, 1.5-0.5, over the famous super GM Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine—the defeated 2001 FIDE world championship finalist; winner of various super tournaments and matches. Ivanchuk, having the white pieces in the first game, rejected a possible perpetual check and went all out for a win that backfired on him. He was not able to equalize in the second game and was out of the World Cup with a figurative thud that reverberated through the chess world.

Wesley proceeded to Round 3 (32 participants remaining, 27-29 November). Registered another shocking win over super GM Gata Kamsky of USA, the event’s defending champion; conqueror of So’s compatriot GM Rogelio Antonio, Jr (1.5-0.5) in round 1 and Chinese GM Zhou Weiqi (1.5-0.5) in round 2. So, playing black, outclassed Kamsky, himself a former chess prodigy and a defeated world championship challenger who admittedly chose the wrong openings, in the first game, a French Defense, and held the second game, a Dutch Defense opening, to send the latter home.

With outright wins in his two-game mini-matches in rounds 2 and 3, Wesley avoided playing tie-break matches and got two ‘free’ days for rest and preparation after each mini-match. He is now among the remaining 16 participants of the initial 128 entries. Will proceed to round 4 (30 November-2 December).

Already his present achievements have far exceeded all expectations from his home country, the Philippines. Still hopes are high that he can cash in on his winning momentum. The World Cup organizers already acknowledge his talent and potential in an article titled ‘There is a new rising star in Khanty Mansiysk?’ Read it here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bobby wins first junior chess title

AUSTRALIAN student Bobby Cheng has topped a field of 142 budding grandmasters to become the country's first under-age world chess champion.

Cheng finished the 13-day tournament in Antalya, Turkey, a half-point better than runners-up Jan-Krzysztof Duda of Poland, Richard Wang of Canada and David Paravyan of Russia.
His score of nine points from 11 matches comprised two draws, a loss and eight wins including a crucial final-round victory over the tournament's top seed, India's Suri Vaibhav.

Cheng moved to Melbourne from New Zealand in 2007, and started representing Australia last year. (He participated in the 2009 Oceania zone chess championship held in June at Gold Coast, Australia where he obtained his FIDE Master title together with his former compatriot Mike Steadman of New Zealand. - TCC)

The student from Balwyn High in Melbourne's east is coached by Australian Grandmaster Darryl Johansen, who two weeks ago won the Victorian state championship for the 12th time.

The world championships which finished on Sunday encompassed competitions for players in age-groups from under-eight to under-18.

A total of 15 Australians took part in this year's festival, with Sydney's Anton Smirnov finishing in a tie for second place in the under-eight championship.

Source: World News Australia

News of Bobby Cheng's unprecendeted victory can be read from the following online web and blog sites: The Australian, Chess Express, The Closet Grandmaster.

World Youth Chess Championship Category Winners

The players that finished in the top three places in each category of this 11 day marathon event are as follows:

U-18 General category
1- Maxim Matlakov (Russia) 9 points
2- Ivan Salgado Lopez (Spain) 8,5 points
3- Kacper Piorun (Poland) 8 puan

U-18 Girls’ category
1- Olga Girya (Russia) 8,5 points
2- Tsatsalashvili Keti (Georgia) 8,5 points
3- Kübra Öztürk ( Turkey) 8 points

U-16 General category
1- S P Sethuraman (India) 9 points
2- Santosh Gujrathi Vidit (India) 9 points
3- Maxime Lagarde (France) 8 points

U-16 Girls’ category
1- Deysi Cori (Peru) 10 points
2- Meri Arabidze (Georgia) 8,5 points
3- Paikidze Nazi (Georgia) 8 points

U-14 General category
1- Jorge Cori (Peru) 9 points
2- Kamil Dragun (Poland) 8,5 points
3- G V Sai Krishna (India) 8,5 points

U-14 Girls’ category
1- Marsel Efroimski (Israel) 9 points
2- Aleksandra Lach (Poland) 9 points
3- J Saranya (India) 8,5 points

U-12 General category
1- Bobby Cheng (Australia) 9 points
2- Krzysztof Duda Jan (Poland) 8,5 points
3- Richard Wang (Canada) 8,5 points

U-12 Girls’ category
1- Sarasadat Khademalsharieh (Iran) 10 points
2- Anna Styazhkina (Russia) 9,5 points
3- Aleksandra Goryachkina (Russia) 8,5 points

U-10 General category
1- Jinshi Bai (China) 9 points
2- Murali Karthikeyan (India) 9 points
3- Han Yu Zhang (China) 9 points

U-10 Girls’ category
1- Gunay Vugar Qizi Mammadzada (Azerbaijan) 10,5 points
2- Maria Furtado Ivana (India) 8,5 points
3- Hikmet Qizi Hojjatova Aydan (Azerbaijan) 8,5 points

U-8 General category
1. Aryan Gholami (Iran) 9 points
2. Tanuj Vasudeva (USA) 8,5 points
3. Mohammad Amin Tabatabaei (Iran) 8,5 points

U-8 Girls’ category
1. Ruotong Chu (China) 9,5 points
2. Samritha Palakollu (USA) 8,5 points
3. Yunshan Li (China) 8,5 points

Source: Official website of the World Youth Chess Championship

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kasparov slams Illescas 'confession’

AS The Chess Connoisseur went through the 25th anniversary issue of New In Chess (NIC) magazine (Issue 7/2009), he has just gone through its two-page table of contents and read in its reader’s opinion page, Your Move, the reaction of former world champion and world number one player over two decades–Garry Kasparov–to Spanish grandmaster Miguel Illescas’ interview that appeared in NIC Issue 5/2009.

In the article based on said interview by NIC editor Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, Illescas narrated his involvement as an adviser and trainer in two historic match defeats of Kasparov against the computer Deep Blue in 1997 and his pupil Vladimir Kramnik in the 2000 London world championship match.

Illescas noted that in the rematch with Deep Blue the only time Kasparov played normal openings (GK employed anti-computer moves in the other games) were in the second and sixth (the last) games. He further revealed that on the morning of the last day of the match the Deep Blue team had worked on the variation of the Caro-Kann that came up in that game.

Kasparov believes and still contends that the IBM Deep Blue team ‘cheated’ him. In both losses, he essayed variations he had never played before – the Smyslov Variation of the Spanish Opening in game two and the 4… Nd7 variation of the Caro-Kann Defense in game six, yet in both instances, the Deep Blue team had ‘anticipated’ and ‘worked’ on them, the last being on the morning of the last day of the match.

For Kasparov these incidents were never mere coincidences. At the outset of his letter to the NIC editors, Kasparov wrote ‘… far from alleviating my suspicions, several of his (Illescas’) comments justify, if not entirely vindicate, my abiding doubts about IBM’s behavior during the matches.’ He concluded that ‘on these points I feel he (Illescas) is asking for a much greater leap of faith than I am.’

Kasparov mentioned ‘the perils of having a competitor also (as) the organizer and arbiter.’ He has learned this bitter lesson and never involved himself again in any ‘scientific experiment’ against a computer like IBM’s Deep Blue that was totally dismantled shortly after the match.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

World Cup 2009 underway

THE schedule of the World Cup 2009

20.10.09__16:00 Players' meeting
_________17:00 Opening ceremony__CH “Octyabr”
21.11.09___Round I game 1_________Center of Arts
________________________________Beginning of the
________________________________games at 15:00
22.11.09___Round I game 2
23.11.09___Tie break
24.11.09___Round II game 1
25.11.09___Round II game 2
26.11.09___Tie break
27.11.09___Round III game 1
28.11.09___Round III game 2
29.11.09___Tie break
30.11.09___Round IV game 1
01.12.09___Round IV game 2

02.12.09___Tie break
03.12.09___Round V game 1
04.12.09___Round V game 2
05.12.09___Tie break
06.12.09___Round VI game 1
07.12.09___Round VI game 2
08.12.09___Tie break
09.12.09___Day off
10.12.09___Round VII game 1
11.12.09 ___Round VII game 2
12.12.09___Round VII game 3
13.12.09___Round VII game 4
14.12.09___Tie break
__________Closing ceremony
In the end of every competition day press conference with players will be held in the Press Centre.

Australian grandmaster David Smerdon represents the Oceania zone. The Philippines has 3 grandmasters who qualified to play in the event, namely Rogelio Antonio, Jr., Darwin Laylo and Wesley So.

Official website:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Boxing record holder Pacquiao is an avid chess player

MANNY Pacquiao, boxing's undisputed best pound-for-pound pugilist, registered an unprecedented 7 world boxing titles in as many weight classes when he blasted Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto to submission in the 12th round of their world welterweight championship match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday, 14 November. Pacquiao's victory gave him Cotto's World Boxing Organization's welterweight title.

Pacquiao knocked down Cotto two times, one each in rounds 3 and 4. Pacquiao, the pride of the Philippines, won every round except the first and the fifth in another surprisingly dominating performance against a heavier, bigger and stronger opponent.

The Puerto Rican's corner was ready to throw in the towel after 11 rounds but the dethroned champion refused to quit but after sustaining more punishment in the final round the referee, Kenny Bayless, stepped in and stopped the carnage to protect Cotto, who was bloodied in the nose and mouth and cut in the brow, from further harm. The fight was dubbed "Firepower" which seemed to live up to it in the first 5 rounds, but from thereon it became a one-sided fight in favor of the Filipino champion.

The victory has cemented Pacquiao's claim as the best boxer in the planet. Together with his two-round demolition of England's Ricky Hatton, the former junior welterweight champion whose belt Pacquiao snared early this year, Pacquiao is a shoo-in again for ‘Fighter of the Year’ accolade. Similarly, his trainer Freddie Roach would be the undisputed ‘Trainer of the Year.’

Pacquiao is a multi-talented and physically gifted athlete who can sprint in the track oval, play basketball, and other physical games.

Before anyone think that this post is out of place, we would like to inform our readers that Pacquiao is an avid chess player. In between training sessions in the past, he used to play chess with his former promoter, the late Rod Nazario. Pacquiao admits that he, at times, applies principles of chess struggle in his boxing matches. This goes to show that the boxing champion's preparation and moves on top of the ring are well planned and thought out—skills derived from chess playing.

Consider the following:

During the 4th round at what still seemed a very close fight, Pacquiao put his back to the ropes, gloves up in a posture conveying a great dare, as he waited to take shots from his bigger rival.

"I wanted to test his power," said Pacquiao. "I heard that he is stronger than me."

His trainer and coach, Freddie Roach, yelled at him every time he used the high-risk ‘rope-a-dope tactic,’ "Why are you fighting his fight?" to which Pacquiao replied, "I can handle him!"

With his back to the ropes his rival Cotto freely banged his body which he pretended not getting hurt.

Fox News columnist Mark Kriegel observed Pacquiao "is also a daring, if underrated taking punishment with his back to the ropes, he had Cotto exactly where he wanted him."

Pacquiao explained "I was trying to control the fight," pointing to his temple, "in my mind."

Have the readers spotted any resemblance to chess struggle?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New chess talent on the horizon

Photo: Nottingham Evening Post

ENGLAND's answer to Utah's Kayden Troff and Gold Coast's Daniel Lapitan could be Mark Kenyon, who has recently won the country's under-11 chess competition.

Here's the full report from the Nottingham Evening Post by Tanya Holden.

'A nine-year-old boy has beaten youngsters two years older than him to become the England under-11s chess champion.

Ravenshead youngster Mark Kenyon has been playing chess since he was four and hopes to be a grand master in the future.

He won five matches out of five to be crowned the winner of the competition, held at Nottingham High School.

The win means he has qualified for trials to play for England.

Mark said: "I'm happy I won.

"I enjoy competitions, especially when I win them, and I hope to be a grand master one day."

The Ravenshead C of E Primary School pupil practices his chess skills every night with his dad and brother.

He also has weekly sessions with coach David Levens.
Mark said: "I find it all interesting.

"There are millions of combinations and I like using the pieces and getting them to work together."

Dad Alan said Mark wanted to join the chess club at school when he was in Year Two but was too young.

After Mark had won a few competitions he took the trophies into school and they let him join the club.

But Mr Kenyon said if Mark wants to be a grand master, the only way is to practice.

He said his son is currently one of the top three chess players of his age in the country.

"He's got a lot of ability," said Mr Kenyon.

"He's pretty confident on the chess board and that helps him.

"It's what makes the difference between being quite good and the best."

Mark will undergo trials for England in the spring.
Mr Levens said: "He is a future grand master without any doubt.

"He has a terrific attitude and is very confident in a pleasant way. He will overtake me."
The Chess Connoisseur is always on the lookout for young chess talents who are prospective stars of the future.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Top Oceania players

THE top 3 places are occupied by Australia’s 3 grandmasters. GM Zhao Zong-Yuan and current Oceania Zonal champion and World Cup qualifier GM David Smerdon retained their September 2009 ratings and 1-2 places. GM Darryl Johansen lost 3 rating points but kept his 3th place ranking. IM Aleksandar Wohl gained 40 rating points and rose from 11th to 4th place. IM George Xie dropped to 5th place without any rating change.

New Zealand is headed by its only grandmaster Murray Chandler. Young IM Puchen Wang, targeting to become the country’s second grandmaster, is still a far second but keeps on improving.

Papua New Guinea is led by Joselito Marcos who came from a six-year layoff with a rating of 2115. He lost a huge amount of rating points (85!) from the 2009 Oceania Zonal. His last appearance prior to the zonal was in the 2003 PNG chess championship which he won undefeated. Stuart Fancy is in second place with 2104. PNG chess federation secretary, Shaun Press, recent winner of the Solomon Islands international, is tied with Helmut Marko with a rating of 2076.

Despite dropping 67 points (also from the 2009 Oceania Zonal), Damian Norris still leads the Fiji list with a rating of 2053. However, Manoj Kumar is now a near second with just 25 points behind.

Oceania Women Ranking by Country
Here is the list of top women players of each Oceania federations.


Top 10 chess countries

ONE of the interesting features of the FIDE Rating is the federation ranking which is based on the average rating of each country’s top 10 players. Russia leads the roster with an average of 2726. Asian countries China, ranked 4th with 2639, and India, ranked 7th with 2636, are among the top 10 countries.

Oceania countries

Australia, ranked 55th in the world, remains ahead of other Oceania federations, with an average rating of 2443. New Zealand is next but only ranked 75th overall with 2304, followed by Papua New Guinea at 117th with 2048 and Fiji, ranked 130th with 1835. Palau and Solomon Islands are not listed.

See the next post for list of top players for each Oceania countries.

Class of 1990 dominates top juniors list

WITH a meteoric gain of 29 points Norway’s Magnus Carlsen has increased his lead by 78 points over Ukraine’s Sergey Karjakin who has a rating of 2723. A close third is French champion Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with 2718. The first 5 places remain unchanged although Italy’s Fabiano Caruana went down by 10 points. Bulgaria’s Sergei Zhigalko took 6th place without any change in rating due to Russia’s Dmitry Andreikin’s loss of 23 points who dropped to 8th place. The Philippines’ Wesley So, despite losing 4 rating points, came 7th also on account of Andreikin’s rating dive.

Nine out of twenty, or roughly half in the list, are born in 1990. These include the top 3 – Carlsen, Karjakin, and Vachier-Lagrave. The others are Russia’s Dmitry Andreikin, Ukraine’s Yuriy Kuzubov, Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi, France’s Romain Edoard, Vietnam’s Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son, and Russia’s Ildar Khairullin.

Girls list is Chinese’ domain

China’s Ju Wenjun’s gigantic gain of 66 rating points caused a major shakeup in the top girls ranking. Previously untitled and ranked 8th, Ju, now with the women’s grandmaster title, leaped to third place with 2509. Fellow Chinese GM Hou Yifan and Slovenian IM Anna Muzychuk retained their 1-2 places. Ukraine GM Katerina Lahno and Indian IM Harika Dronavali each dropped a rank due to Ju’s rise. The 5 Chinese girls in the list are among the top 11 players.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Shakeup in November FIDE Rating List

FIDE has released its November Rating List with Norway’s Magnus Carlsen becoming the fifth player and the youngest ever to reach the 2800 mark. Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov remains on top with 2810 against Carlsen’s 2801. Currently undisputed world chess champion, India’s Viswanathan Anand is in third place with 2788. Levon Aronian of Armenia was just two points behind Anand but dropped a place due to Carlsen’s quantum leap.

There are now 35 players with ratings of 2700 and above. Two Chinese are in this elite group: Wang Yue with 2734 ranked 16th and Wang Hao with 2708 in 28th place. The highest placed player from the Americas is now Cuba’s Leinier Perez Dominguez in 21th place with 2719, outranking USA’s Hikaru Nakamura who dropped to 24th place with 2715. Nigel Short retains his position as top English player with 2707 in 29th place. Armenia’s Vladimir Akopian in 35th place has a rating of 2700. The rating 2642 is now only good enough for 100th place shared by Ukraine’s Anton Korobov, France Vladislav Tkachiev, and Russia Pavel Tregubov.

The Philippines’ Wesley So, who lost 4 rating points, dropped to 2640 and just out of top 100 in 102nd place.

It is a welcome treat for active and professional players including organizers that the FIDE ratings are updated and released every two months. With increase chess activities and advancement in technology this move by FIDE showed its keen sense for improvement. Previously FIDE used to release its rating list on semi-annual, then quarterly bases. There is reason to believe, and if the current trend is considered, that in the near future FIDE may come up with a monthly rating list.

Here is the list of the top 35 players (ratings of 2700 and above).

The list of the top 100 players can be found here.

Top three women places unchanged

The top 3 places among top 100 women players is retained by Hungarian GM Judit Polgar, Indian GM Humpy Koneru and Chinese GM Hou Yifan. A major shakeup in the top 10 places took place as Georgian GM Nana Dzagnidze, former women’s world champion Bulgarian GM Antoaneta Stefanova, and Slovenian IM Anna Muzychuk occupied 4th to 6th places, displacing China GM Zhao Xue, Russian GM Tatiana Kosintseva, and Swedish GM Pia Cramling.

Dzagnidze gained 12 points and jumped from 7th to 4th place; Stefanova earned 14 points and rose from 9th to 5th place; while Muzychuk lost 1 point but gained 2 places.

Heavy losers was Zhao who lost 36 points and dropped to 14th place; Kosintseva lost 14 points but still among the top 10 at 8th place; Cramling dropped 10 points and by 1 rank.

Here is the list of the top 15 women players (ratings of 2500 and above).

The list of top 100 women can be found here

Friday, October 30, 2009

Who would you believe?

A COUPLE of weeks ago, October 14 to be exact, a Wall Street Journal article titled “Abolish Women’s Chess Titles” created a big stir that drew reactions from various web and blog sites. The author, Ms. Barbara Jepson, posited that awarding titles for women at lower levels of accomplishment is an “anachronistic and demeaning practice.” She views women’s chess titles as “gender-segregated,” which US international master (yes, that’s a chess title for men) Irina Krush described as “really a marker of lower expectations.”

The full article can be read from

The Chess Connoisseur would have preferred to keep mum on the issue because the writer of the article is not known as a chess player and has used only the view of 25-year-old Ms. Krush as authority to add some chess credibility to her article. However, his attention was caught when Women World Chess Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, herself having a grandmaster title for men, strongly reacted to the WSJ article in her October 17, 2009 post, titled: “Abolish Women’s Titles? Ridiculous!” in her blog site,

Ms. Kosteniuk’s lengthy reaction is summarized by this statement: “The proposal of abolishing women's chess titles is absurd, sounds more like a title for a "yellow" newspaper rather than the Wall Street Journal to attract attention, and would hurt rather than help getting more girls and women to play chess.” (Emphasis by the Chess Connoisseur)

Ms. Jepson, who writes about music and art for the Journal, is researching child prodigies in multiple disciplines.

Ms. Kosteniuk is a co-chairperson of the FIDE Commission for Women’s Chess. Her twin proposals: the annual FIDE Caissa Award for best female chess player and the annual FIDE Golden Women’s Tournament Organizer Award, were approved in the most recent FIDE Executive Board meeting held on October 12 in conjunction with the 80th FIDE Congress that took place in Kallithea, Khalkidhiki, Greece from October 11 to 18.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chess – Palau style

THE 12-man round robin finals of the 2009 Palau chess championship is underway. The Chess Connoisseur initially reported its commencement in its August 20, 2009 post. A last minute change in the format, following the suggestion of PNG’s Joselito Marcos, brought about an exciting 5-round Swiss system qualifying event where the top 8 placers joined Palau’s 4 FIDE-rated players in the single round robin finals.

Our correspondent, Tia Belau’s chess columnist Roberto Hernandez, himself a finalist and among the indefatigable organizers of this year’s event, sent us scores of completed games and results. In his Chessmate column in the country’s weekly newspaper, Hernandez reported that those who failed to make it to the finals play in the consolation group, also a round robin event with prizes for winners.

The nature and the schedule of work of chess participants prohibit all games of a round to be completed on a single day. In the consolation group, one contestant withdrew his participation because of conflict in his job schedule. Hernandez explained ‘Palau has the most flexible chess schedule in the world to accommodate ALL players whatever their schedules are.’

Despite the explanation the player still withdrew from the formal competition. Before leaving, however, he played–and won!–a couple of games with bets against an available finalist.

Games are played in two venues and participants play against whoever is available regardless of round because of the all-play-all format. As such only provisional standings can be shown because of different number of completed games per player.

Well, that’s Palau chess!

Here are the latest interim standings of 2009 Palau Chess Championship.
  1. Jun Mahor                 2½/4
2-4. Roberto Hernandez 1830 2/3
Menandro Manuel 1942 2/2
Cyril Montel, Jr. 1870 2/2
5. Romeo Caballes 1½/5
6-9. Bernard Garcia 1/1
Masum Billah 1/4
Gene Pastrana 1870 1/1
Paquito Suringa, Jr. 1/3
10. Michael Mercado ½/1
11. Elpidio Manaligod ½/2
12. Craig Dittrich 0/2

Here are some selected games from the ongoing event.

An upset right on the first day of the championship finals was in the making when top qualifier, Michael Mercado (Black), who topped the qualifying event with a perfect score of 5 points, found himself in this position against qualifiers’ runner up Jun Mahor.

Diagram 1 – Position after 29… Kh8.

White went pawn hunting and overlooked a forced mate in five moves: 30.Rh7+! Kxh7 31.Qd7+ Qe7 32.Qxe7+ Rf7 33.Qxf7+ Kh8 34.Qg7#!

After 30... Qe3+ 31.Kf1, Black himself came up with a rook sacrifice of his own with 31… Rxf3+! which was only good for a draw but enough to keep his unbeaten streak. A draw could still be achieved without sacrifice through queen checks but Black wanted to get it with flourish. The game concluded with 32.gxf3 Qxf3+ 33.Kg1 Qd1+ 34.Kh2 Qxc2+ ½–½.

Equal second seed, Cyril Montel Jr (FIDE rating, 1870), registered the shortest victory so far —a 20-mover—in his game against Paquito Suringa Jr. It could have been shorter by 4 moves if only Montel (Black) found the forced mate on his 11th turn.

Here is the game with light notes from The Chess Connoisseur.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.e4 d6 4.d5?

An early mistake. Against the principle of moving the same piece twice, this move aggravates the infraction by unnecessarily opening up the a1-h8 diagonal for Black’s fianchettoed bishop.

4… Bg7 5.Bd2 c6 6.Bc4?

Another inaccuracy, which Black exploited to initiate an attack on White’s king. Better was 6.Nf3 0–0 7.Be2 Nbd7, but Black still has a slight edge.

6... b5 7.Bb3 b4 8.Nce2?

White could have maintained material equality with 8.Na4, but Black has a clear advantage.

8... Nxe4 9.Bxb4

If 9.Nf3, then 9… Bxb2 wins.

9... Qb6!

Hitting simultaneously the bishop at b4 and the f2-square which effectively decided the game. White must give up a piece to avert the threatened mate at f2.

10.Nd4 Bxd4 11.Bxd6

Surrendering another piece. Instead if 11.Bd2, Black weaves a mating net starting with 11… Bxf2+ 12.Ke2 Ba6+ 13.Kf3 Nd7 14.g3, and now the surprisingly sparkling move 14… Bf1!! finishes off White.

Diagram 2 – Position after 11.Bxd6?
11... exd6?!

A rather prosaic way of winning the game. Instead, Black has a forced mate in five moves with 11... Bc3+!! 12. Ke2 (12.bxc3 Qxf2#) 12... Ba6+ 13.Kf3 (13.Bc4 Bxc4+ just prolongs the game by one move) 13… Qxf2+ 14.Kg4, and Black has choices of mate among 14… h5+ 15.Kh3 Ng5#; 14... f5+ 15.Kh3 Ng5#; and 14... Qf5+ 15.Kh4 Bf6#.

12.Nf3 Bxf2+ (Still missing the decisive 12... Bc3+!) 13.Kf1 Ba6+ 14.c4 0–0 15.Qe2 cxd5 16.Rd1 Nd7 17.Rxd5 Ndf6 18.Rd3 d5 19.Rd1 Ng4 20.Rd3 Nxh2+ 0–1

Disaster struck when fourth-seed Roberto Hernandez (White), a whole rook up, suffered an upset loss against qualifier Masum Billah, a Bangladeshi.

Diagram 3 – Position after 25… Kg6

Good only for a draw. The order of the day was to bring the queen back to action with 26.Qe8+. After 26… Kf5 27.Rf8+ Kg4 (if 27... Ke5 28.Qb8+ Ke4 29.Qd6! wins), then 28.Qb5! (A difficult-to-visualize continuation in the midst of checking the opponent’s king) 28… Qe3+ 29.Rf2 Kxg3 30.Qf1, defends White’s king and keeps his attack on.

26... Kf5 27.Rf8+??

The losing moment. White checked with the wrong piece that led to his downfall. Correct was 27.Qf8+! Nf6 28.Qxg7 Qd1+ 29.Kg2 [but not 29.Kh2??, or 29. Kf2??, because of 29… Ng4+ 30.Kg2 Qe2+ 31.Kg1 Qf2+ (31... Qh2+ 32.Kf1 Qf2#) 32.Kh1 Qh2#] 29... Qe2+ 30.Kg1 Qe1+, with equality.

27... Kg4! 28.Rf2 (28.Qb8 Nf6 wins) 28... Qe1+ 29.Rf1 Qxg3+ 30.Kh1 Kh3 31.Qxd5 exd5 0–1

Games between players without much tournament exposures usually lead to comedy of errors. The winner in the following game, as Savielly Tartakover once said, was ‘the player who made the next to the last mistake.’

Mahor,Jun - Garcia,Bernard
Palau Chess Championship, Koror, 18.10.2009

The moves leading to the diagram were: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.a3?! When an amateur plays a move like this annotators readily put a question mark, while if a professional does it an interesting move “!?” is appended. A case of double standard in annotating games. 3… Nd4 4.c3 Nxf3+ 5.Qxf3 Nf6 6.d4 d6 7.h3 c6 8.Bg5 Be7 9.Nd2 Qb6 10.Nc4 Qc7 11.Bd3 Be6 12.0–0 Bxc4 13.Bxc4 Qb6 14.dxe5 dxe5 15.Qf5 Qc7 16.Bxf6 Bxf6 17.Rad1 0–0 18.Rd7 Qc8 19.Rfd1 b5 20.Ba2 a5 21.g4 h6 22.h4 Bxh4 23.Bxf7+ Kh8 24.Qg6 Bf6 25.Be6 Qe8 26.Bf7 Rxf7 27.Qxf7 Qc8 28.f3 Qa6

Diagram 4 – Position after 28... Qa6.

Better was 29.g5! If 29… hxg5, then 30.Kg2 g4 31.Rh1+ Bh4 32.Qxg7# (32.Rxh4#).

29... Rg8 30.g5!?

One move too late. Better was 30.R1d6! b4 31.c4 Qc8 32.Rxf6! wins.

30... Bxg5 31.Qg6

It is still not late for 31.R1d6. White wins after 31… b4 32.c4 Qa8 33.Rg6 Qe8 34.Qxe8 Rxe8 35.axb4 axb4 36.Rxc6.

31... b4 32.Kg3

32.Qxg5! wins.

32... Qe2 33.Rg1??

A blunder. The correct move, 33.Qxg5, still wins for White.

33... Bf4+!

Turning the table.

34.Kg4 Qf2?

Black’s turn to err. Instead, 34... Bh2! wins.

35.Kf5 Qxf3 36.Ke6 Qh3+ 37.Rg4??

White blundered anew and failed to make the most of his chances. Instead, 37.Qf5 Qxf5+ 38.exf5 would give White a slight advantage.

37... h5!

It’s all over. The game concluded with 38.Rxg7 Qxg4+ 39.Qxg4 hxg4 40.Rc7 Rg6+ 41.Kf7? Rg7+ 0–1.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Something new, something old (Part 3)

THIS is the third and last part of the three-part series in the Two Knights Defense. After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2 h6, White may continue with 9.Nf3 or 9.Nh3. The latter move is examined in this post.

The knight retreats to h3 – the old approach


Diagram 6 – Position after 9.Nh3.

In his excellent reference book, The Modern Chess Instructor (1889), the officially acknowledged first world champion Wilhelm Steinitz (1886-1894) recommended 9.Nh3!?–a move that has thoroughly been studied and employed successfully in practice by the 11th world champion Robert Fischer (1972-1975).

This old move, favored by Steinitz although it did not bring him success in his famous 1891 cable match against Chigorin, is a rare guest on top level games. The Steinitz Variation was mostly forgotten until Fischer revived it in the 1960s. English GM Nigel Short, a former world chess challenger, led a second revival of 9.Nh3 in the 1990s, and today it is thought to be about equal in strength to the more common 9.Nf3.

White is not afraid of worsening his pawn structure, after 9… Bxh3 10.gxh3, because he gets the bishop-pair and control of the half-open g-file.

On 9...Bf5, Steinitz gave the continuation 10.0–0 Qd7 11.Re1 Bxh3 12.gxh3 Qxh3 13.Bf1 Qg4+? 14.Qxg4 Nxg4 15.h3, winning for White.

Against 9... g5, White gets the advantage, according to English GM John Nunn, after 10.d3 g4 11.Ng1 Bc5 12.Nc3 Qb6 13.Na4!

Black’s standard choices 9… Bc5 and 9… Bd6 have been busted in practice—the former move by Fischer and the latter by Short. Here is how they did it.

Black continues with 9… Bc5

9… Bc5

Diagram 7 – Position after 9… Bc5.


Against Radoicic, Poughkeepsie 1963, Fischer continued with 10.d3! 0–0 11.Nc3 Re8 12.0–0 Bxh3 13.gxh3 Qd7 14.Bg4 Nxg4 15.hxg4, with the advantage for White.

10… 0–0

After 10... g5 11.Kh1 g4 12.Ng1 Ne4 13.Bxg4! Nxf2+ 14.Rxf2 Bxf2, White has a slight edge according to H. Gottschall.

11.d3 Bxh3

If 11... Nd5, then 12.c4 Ne7 13.Kh1 Bxh3 14.gxh3 Nf5 15.f4 exf4 16.Bxf4 Ne3 17.Bxe3 Bxe3 18.Nc3, White is winning as in Steinitz-Chigorin, Habana WCH(6) 1892.

12.gxh3 Qd7 13.Bf3

13.Bg4?! Nxg4 14.hxg4 f5, with the initiative to Black; 13.Kg2 needs to be tried in practice.

13... Qxh3 14.Nd2

The careless 14.Bg2 is met by 14… Qh4! 15.Qe1 Rfe8! 16.Qxa5 Ng4 17.h3 Bxf2+ 18.Rxf2 Qxf2+ 19.Kh1 e4! 20.hxg4 exd3, wins for Black.

14...Rad8 15.Bg2 Qf5 16.Qe1 Rfe8 17.Ne4 Bb6 18.Nxf6+Qxf6 19.Kh1 c5 20.Qc3! Nc6 21.f4 Nd4 22.Qc4! Qg6 23.c3 Nf5 24.fxe5 Rxe5 25.Bf4.

Here instead of 25… Re2, as in the game Fischer-Bisguier, Poughskeepie 1963, won by White in 29 moves, Black should continue with 25… Ne3 26.Bxe3 Rxe3, with equal chances due to opposite colored bishop. Still Fischer, known for his dogged determination to win and capacity to obtain the maximum from any position, he will certainly pursue a win because all major pieces are still on the board.

Black continues with 9… Bd6


The move suggested by Steinitz himself.

Diagram 8 – Position after 9… Bd6.


This is Short’s preferred move since Chigorin’s 10.d4 is effectively countered by Fischer’s 10...e4, when Black is okay.

10… 0–0 11.Nc3 Nd5

Against 11... Rb8?! Short has tried two different continuations:

a) 12.Bf3 Qc7 13.Ng1 (The important factor is time, if White can finish his development he is a healthy pawn up and the knight on a5 is out of play.) 13... c5 14.Nge2 c4 15.Ng3 Rd8 16.0–0 Bf8 17.Qe2 cxd3 18.cxd3 Ba6 19.Rd1 Nc6 20.Bxc6 Qxc6 21.Qxe5 Bd6 22.Qe2 Re8 23.Be3 Bb7 24.Nge4, White is clearly ahead as in Short-Mitkov, EU-chT Batumi 1999; and

b) 12.0–0 Rb4 13.Kh1! Bxh3 14.gxh3 Rh4 15.Rg1 Rxh3 16.Rg3 (Short-P.Nikolic, Skelleftea 1989) 16... Rxg3 17.hxg3, with a slight advantage to White.


There are more thickets of variations here.

12.Bf3?! Nxc3! 13.bxc3 Qh4

a) 14.0–0!? Bxh3 15.gxh3 Qxh3 16.Bg2 Qh4, wins back the material with some attacking chances, although the knight on a5 remains pitiable to look at;

b) 14.Ng1 is already too slow.

b1) 14...f5 15.g3 Qf6 16.Ne2 e4 17.Bg2 Ba6 18.0–0 Rad8 19.Be3 c5, with compensation as in Tringov-Geller, Capablanca memorial Havana 1971;

b2) 14...Rb8 15.g3 Qa4 16.Bg2 f5 17.Nf3? e4 18.Nd4 c5 19.Ne2 Ba6, with the advantage to Black as in Paoli-Matanovic, Zagreb 1964. Better was 17.Ne2.

12.Ne4 Bc7 13.c4 13.0–0?! allows Black a direct assault against the white king.

a) 13... f5 14.Ng3 Qh4 15.Kh1 Be6 16.Bd2 Nb7 17.Bf3 Rad8 18.Qe1 g5! 19.Ng1 g4, Black has the advantage as in Paoli-Lengyel, Kecskemet 1972;

b) 13... Ne7 14.0–0 f5!? 15.Nc3, as in Kamsky-Jussupow, Tilburg 1992. Here Beliavsky suggested 15... f4!?, giving up the vital square e4 but continuing the attack on the kingside. After 16.Kh1 Nf5 17.Ng1 Nd4 18.Nf3 Bf5, Black has compensation.

12.Bd2 Rb8 13.b3

a) 13.Qc1 Bxh3 14.gxh3 Nf4 15.Rg1 f5 16.Bf1 c5 White's king is still in the middle. 17.Bg2 Nxg2+ 18.Rxg2, is unclear as in Bobkov-Korelov, corr 1975;

b) 13.Rb1!? Nb7 14.Ng1 Both players improve their knight's position.

b1) 14... Nf4 15.Bxf4 exf4 16.Bf3 Bb4 17.Nge2 Qa5 The pin on the a5-e8 diagonal is rather nasty. 18.Qd2 Re8 19.0–0 Bd7! 20.a3 Rxe2 21.axb4 Rxd2 22.bxa5 Rxc2 23.Ne2 Nc5, is unclear according to Beliavsky;

b2) 14... f5!? 15.Nf3 Qe7 Black has an active position and a strong center for the pawn. 16.d4 e4 17.Ne5 Bxe5 18.dxe5 Qxe5 19.Nxd5 cxd5 20.Be3 f4 21.Bd4 Qe7, with an attack.

b3) 14... Nc5 Ivanchuk-Beliavsky, Dortmund 1998.

12... Rb8

12... Qh4!? wins back the material but gives up the bishop-pair for a very passive knight. 13.Kh1 Bxh3 14.gxh3 Qxh3 15.Rg1 e4 16.Rg2 exd3 17.Qxd3 Qxd3 18.Bxd3 Nf4 19.Bxf4 Bxf4 20.Ne4 Be5 21.Rb1 Nb7 22.b4, as in Lalic-Jonkman, Ubeda open 2001. Now Black should play 22... Nd6, with equality.

13.Kh1 Nxc3 14.bxc3 Be6 15.f4 Bxh3 16.gxh3 exf4 17.Bxf4 c5 18.Qd2 Rb6? 19.Be3! Qh4 20.Bg4 Kh7 21.Rf5.

White has excellent attacking chances on the kingside on account of his active bishop-pair and the g-file. Short –Wedberg, Malmo 2002 concluded as follows: 21... Qe7 22.Rg1 Re8 23.Bxh6! Black is kaput! 23... g6 24.Bg5 Qb7+ 25.Bf3 Qd7 26.Rd5 Qe6 27.h4! Reb8 28.h5! Rb1 29.hxg6+ fxg6 30.Be3 Nc6 31.Rdg5 Rxg1+ 32.Rxg1 Ne5 33.Be4 Qh3 34.Qe2 Rf8 35.d4 Qh4 36.Bg5 Rf2 37.Bxh4 Rxe2 38.dxe5 Bxe5 39.Bxg6+ Kh6 40.Bg3 Bxg3 41.Rxg3 1–0

After 9.Nh3, Black’s game is “in the last throes,” to borrow from the unofficial English world champion Howard Staunton’s words. Fischer had effectively busted 9… Bc5 while Short had effectively put an end to 9… Bd6.

Black, if he wants more than equality, has to look elsewhere on move 5. The line arising from 5… Na5 may be good enough at club level but not at the top level.

The Chess Connoisseur hastens to add that the second player must also be ready against a White divergence on move four, like 4.d4.

We hope this series provides direction to serious players in preparing for and against the Two Knights Defense. The analyses of the particular lines featured in this series are not meant to be exhaustive.

The general idea enunciated here may be applied in other chess openings as well.

The Chess Connoisseur acknowledges and appreciates the various sources used in the preparation of this series.

(End of Series)

Something new, something old (Part 2)

THIS is the second part of the three-part series in the Two Knights Defense. After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2 h6, White may continue with 9.Nf3 or 9.Nh3. The former move is examined in this post.

The knight-retreat to f3 – the modern approach


Diagram 2 - Position after 9.Nf3.

The usual move here is 9.Nf3, after which Black obtains some initiative after 9... e4 10.Ne5 Bd6 (this is considered to be the main line of the Two Knights Defense). This is the favorite move of Alexander Morozevich who scored notable wins with it against Alexander Onischuk (twice) and Yuri Balashov. English number one, Nigel Short, a former world championship challenger, had employed this move successfully, although he was more successful with the Steinitz variation.

This is also the move of choice by the 13th world championship, Garry Kasparov (1985-2000), in a rapid game against another former world championship challenger, Dutch GM Jan Timman.

9… e4 10.Ne5 Bd6 11.Nc4?

This knight move—already the fifth just within the first 11 moves—is a blatant mistake, most likely a losing one, because after the normal exchange of pieces White finds himself greatly lagging behind in development. When a player uses 5 moves with a piece (his knight) just to have it exchanged to his opponent’s knight on the rim, there must be something wrong somewhere—evidently a faulty strategy.

The correct move was 11.d4. The position after 11… exd3 12.Nxd3 has brought about victories to Morozevich, Short, and Kasparov among a host of prominent players.

11… Nxc4 12.Bxc4 0–0 13.0–0??

White's last move was completely mistaken—a lucid example of castling without thinking. The position demands that development matters more over “king safety." At the expense of a pawn Black has a big lead in development and has two ways of continuing from here.

Diagram 3 - Position after 13.0-0??

From Diagram 3, Black has two equally strong attacking continuations: 13… Bxh2+ and 13… Ng4.

Black continues with 13… Bxh2+‼
A decisive sacrifice played in the game A. Rine-F. Berry, Bartlesville 2008.

Diagram 4 – Position after 13… Bxh2‼


If 14.Kh1 then 14… Bc7 15.d4 Qd6 16.g3 Qd7 17.Kg1 Qh3, is winning for Black.

14...Ng4+ 15.Kg3

On 15.Kg1 Qh4 wins.

15... Qd6+

Likewise decisive was 15...h5.

16.f4 exf3+ 17.Kxf3 Ne5+ 18.Kf2 Qd4+ 19.Ke1 Nxc4 20.Rf2 Bg4 21.c3 Rae8+ 22.Qe2 Rxe2+ 23.Kd1 Ne3# 0–1

Black continues with 13... Ng4!
From Diagram 3, Black has this equally very good continuation aside from 13… Bxh2.

Diagram 5 – Position after 13… Ng4!

Commencing an attack similar to that of the original Marshall attack in the Ruy Lopez opening.


If 14.g3, then 14… Ne5 15.Be2 Bh3, Black has the upper hand.

14...Qh4 15.Qe2

If 15.d4, then 15… Nh2 16.Nd2 Nxf1, with the advantage to Black.

15... Nh2!

Already there is no salvation for White.

If 16.d4 Nf3+! (also 16... Bxh3! 17.g3 Bxg3! Black wins; on 17.Nd2 Nf3+! 18.Nxf3 exf3 19.Qxf3 Bh2+! 20.Kh1 Bg4!, again winning for Black) 17.gxf3 Bh2+! wins for Black;

on if 16.d3 Nf3+ 17.gxf3 Bh2+ 18.Kxh2 Qxh3+ 19.Kg1 exf3, Black wins material;

if 16.Re1 then 16... Nf3+! 17.gxf3 (17.Kf1 Bxh3 18.Qxe4 Bxg2+! winning after 19.Kxg2 Nxe1+ 20.Qxe1 Qg4+ 21.Kf1 Qh3+ 22.Kg1 Rae8) 17...Qg5+! 18.Kh1 Qf4 19.Kg1 Qh2+ 20.Kf1 Bxh3#; and

if 16.g3 Qxh3 17.Qxe4 Bg4 is winning for Black. The game J. Saenz-D. Gonzalez Gandara, Azkotia 1991, concluded with 18.f4 Bc5+ 19.d4 Bxd4+ 20.Qxd4 Qxg3+ 21.Kh1 Nf3 0–1.
Conclusion: The games A. Rine-F. Berry, Bartlesville 2008 and J. Saenz-D. Gonzalez Gandara, Azkotia 1991 indicate that the first player is either short of or has a shallow preparation.

Anybody who wants to play the modern line should refrain from 11.Nc4? and instead prepare in depth the continuation 11.d4 exd3 12.Nxd3.

The Chess Connoisseur acknowledges and appreciates the various sources used in the preparation of this series.

(End of Part 2 of 3)
To be continued.

Something new, something old

THIS is the first of a three-part series. Make that four if the previous post is included as an introduction.

The previous post was inspired by a couple of games in the Two Knights Defense, a highly interesting opening first mentioned (according to the German Handbuch) by the Italian author Polerio in 1590.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6

This move defines the Two Knights Defense. Steinitz described “this defense is in reality a counter-attack on Black's third move, which being so early instituted ought to be disadvantageous to the second player on principle.”


Against the principle of not moving the same piece twice in the openings, the ‘violator’ must have a very good, if not excellent, preparation otherwise the game will again become an affirmation of that principle.

Siegbert Tarrasch called 4.Ng5 a "duffer's move" (ein richtiger Stümperzug) and Oscar Panov called it "primitive", but this attack on f7 practically wins a pawn by force. Despite Tarrasch's criticism, many players consider 4.Ng5 White's best chance for an advantage and it has been played by World Champions Wilhelm Steinitz, Bobby Fischer, and Garry Kasparov.
Max Lange’s 4.d4 will be a subject for future posts.

4... d5

The Chess Connoisseur maintains this is Black’s most reasonable reply.

5.exd5 Na5

Both 5...Nd4!? (Fritz,A) and 5...b5!? (Ulvestad,O) are interesting alternatives for Black. On the other hand the immediate recapture 5... Nxd5?! is dangerous for Black. White obtains the initiative after 6.d4! Likewise interesting is the sacrifice 6.Nxf7!?

Black's alternatives to 5...Na5, the Fritz Variation 5... Nd4, and Ulvestad's Variation 5... b5, are related as they share a common subvariation. American master Olav Ulvestad introduced 5... b5 in a 1941 article in Chess Review. German master Alexander Fritz (1857–1932) suggested 5... Nd4 to Carl Schlechter, who wrote about the idea in a 1904 issue of Deutsche Schachzeitung. In 1907 Fritz himself wrote an article about his move in the Swedish journal Tidskrift för Schack. White's best reply is 6.c3, when the game often continues 6...b5 7.Bf1 Nxd5 8.Ne4 or 8.h4.

The recapture 5... Nxd5?! is very risky. Pinkus tried to bolster this move with analysis in 1943 and 1944 issues of Chess Review, but White gets a strong attack with either the safe Lolli Variation 6.d4! or the sacrificial Fried Liver (or Fegatello) Attack 6.Nxf7!? Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6 8.Nc3. These variations are usually considered too difficult for Black to defend over the board, but they are sometimes used in correspondence play.


After 5... Na5, Morphy would play to hold the gambit pawn with 6.d3. The Morphy Variation has not been popular, since it has long been known that Black obtains good chances for the pawn with 6...h6 7.Nf3 e4 8.Qe2 Nxc4 9.dxc4 Bc5. (Bronstein once tried the piece sacrifice 8.dxe4!? with success, but its soundness is doubtful.)

6… c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2

The move 8.Qf3?!, popular in the nineteenth century and revived by Bogoljubov in the twentieth, is still played occasionally, but Black obtains a strong attack after either 8... h6! or 8... Rb8.

8… h6

Diagram 1 - Position after 8… h6.

White has a choice of retreat for the knight between the squares f3 (modern preference) and h3 (old preference). Which of them is best?

The Chess Connoisseur acknowledges and appreciates the various sources used in the preparation of this series.

(End of Part 1 of 3)
To be continued.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it

ONE problem with playing ‘book’ moves is it reveals one's depth of preparation or the lack of it.

A quote from George Santayana (or was it Edward Burke?) goes like this: “Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.” There are many variations to this quotation and like this one which similarly applies to chess: “Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it.”

This brings to mind a player’s failure to study openings and games of the masters of old that resulted to a painful loss due to ignorance.

During the 1970s and 1980s when the acknowledged chess bible was the semi-annually published Informator and when chess databases consisted of stacks of index cards or notebooks containing opening lines, it usually takes a month or two before any new opening move (novelty) is published in chess magazines or chess columns after it was played. While new moves or ideas become known to most and while some unsuspecting competitors—chess professionals included—fall prey to them when confronted, it was considered a grievous chess sin if one displays ignorance of old lines.

With the advent of computers a number of changes—mostly drastic and sweeping—chess databases are now in electronic form where the retrieval system is not only fast and efficient but much useful in preparing for a particular chess opening or specific opponent. Coupled with the advancement in communication technology, the Internet included, what was played in one part of the globe could be known by the rest of the world while the move or game is being played (‘live’ games) or just a few hours or minutes after the game. Top professionals monitor top level competitions as they happen to keep abreast with current trends.

The preparation of elite players are mimicked by budding players, particularly the monetary-endowed ones who can afford to purchase computers, chess books, chess software and other training stuffs. While there is nothing wrong in finding one’s self in this fortunate situation, the horrible thing is to see some players in this level boast about their relative ‘superiority’ over their less fortunate victims, or curse under their breath when beaten (‘upset’ is the kindest word commonly used) by apparently ‘inferior’ opponents. In the first instance, the well equipped player already has an undue advantage in that the playing field is not level. In the latter instance, the second player is either the more talented or ‘more prepared’ in coming up with an old (or even antique) move which the first player has not studied at all because his attention is always on what is current or fashionable.

Having modern chess tools at one’s disposal is not enough to propel one at the top. Talent alone, however, to the neglect of available training materials and stuffs could carry one up to a certain level only. To become really successful at the higher level it would be ideal to combine both talent and tools. (Those who do not fall into this category of players play chess for fun, for social reasons or simply for the love of it.)

It is not enough to learn modern chess opening theories one has to know the theories of old as well. It pays to know ‘old’ or ‘antique’ moves or variations (past) in order to avoid surprises over the board; surprises that could lead to a painful defeat specially losing a game like a patzer.

We will feature illustrative examples in our next post to illustrate the points raised here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ray Robson, USA’s youngest grandmaster ever!

Ray Robson (Photo:

NO sooner than we made our prediction from the introductory statement of the last post that Ray Robson will obtain the grandmaster title did the breaking news come out that he has already done so by winning the Pan American Junior championship and became the youngest US grandmaster ever.

In so doing The Chess Connoisseur got both prediction and distinction correct but not the timeframe (‘before this year is over’). With the title, still to be confirmed by FIDE which is just a matter of procedure and formality, Robson (born October 25, 1994) beat by four days the record set by Fabiano Caruana two years ago.

Like a house on fire, Ray was in such a hurry that he beat his first seven opponents before allowing a draw in a superior position to secure the grandmaster norm and the title, on his way to winning the tournament with one round to go. For topping the event, he automatically earned a GM norm—his third, and accordingly the GM title since his rating is already above the 2500 minimum.

Although it was a relatively weak event with only one GM (Andre Diamant of Brazil, who he defeated the second time in less than 3 weeks; the first was at the SPICE Cup B in late September), it's apparently the case that winning the tournament confers an automatic GM norm on the victor.

Robson’s next assignment, his first as a grandmaster, will be the World Chess Cup to be held in Khanty-Mansiysk in November 2009. His acquiring the grandmaster title provides justice and adds credence to his nomination by the FIDE President to this event.

News of Robson’s recent feat may be found from here:

Breaking News! Robson is the newest American GM!
Ray Robson is the newest American GM!

Highlights of Ray Robson’s chess career:

• Pan American Youth Chess Championship in Brazil, tied for first; awarded the FIDE Master (FM) title in June 2005
• Earned the USCF National Master (NM) title in January 2006 by raising his chess rating above 2200 (the minimum required for the title of National Master).
• Earned the three norms needed for the IM title in only six weeks: the first at the 6th North American FIDE Invitational on November 3, 2007, in Chicago, Illinois
• Earned second IM norm on November 27 at the World Youth Chess Championship in Antalya, Turkey
• Earned third and final IM norm on December 10, 2008 at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) GM Invitational in Dallas, Texas, making him the youngest IM-elect in the United States.
• Tied for first place in the 2008 Florida championship.
• Won the U.S. Junior Chess Championship, becoming one of the youngest such champions ever on July 16, 2009.
• Tied for first at the Arctic Chess Challenge in Tromso, Norway in August of 2009 garnering his first GM norm in the process.
• Went on that same month to earn his second GM norm by winning the 23rd North American FIDE Invitational in Skokie, Illinois.
• Won the Pan American Youth Chess Championship in Uruguay, October 2009; earned his third and final GM norm and thus GM title .

Friday, October 9, 2009

Watch out, Ray Robson! This Utah boy got game!

THE Chess Connoisseur predicts that IM Ray Robson would obtain his third and final grandmaster norm before this year is over and become USA’s youngest grandmaster ever. Robson, 14 years old, missed the target by a mere half-point in the 2009 SPICE Cup B tournament held recently at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.

But don’t look now! It may not take long before Ray gets competition from a Utah kid three years his junior.

Look at these accomplishments:

• Gold Medal Winner North America Youth Championship 2009
• Member of the 1st Place 2009 Utah Championship Team
• 2009 Utah State Quick Chess Champion
• 2009 Utah State Bughouse Champion with partner DamianNash
• 2009 Utah State Chess 960 Champion
• June 2009 Top in the Nation for 10 year olds and Quick Under 13
• 2009 Utah State 5th Grade Elementary Champion
• 2009 Utah State G60 Chess Champion
• Invited as one of 8 youth in the nation to attend the US Chess School to be held in NY in July
• 2009 Utah State Speed Chess Champion (never won by a scholastic K-12 player before)
• 2007 to Present - Teaching Assistant TNT Chess Camp run by the Troff and Treiman Families Top 20 in the Nation for the 2008 Junior Grand Prix
• 2008 Junior Grand Prix Utah Champion December
• 2008 - 2nd Place in the 5th Grade National K-12 tournament in Orlando, Florida
• March 2008 - K-6 Utah State Elementary Blitz Champion
• March 2008 - Utah State 4th Grade Elementary Champion
• 2008 National All American Chess Team
• July 2007 - 1st Place Utah Class B USCF Tournament
• March 2007 - Utah State 3rd Grade Elementary Champion
• 2006-2007 Utah Scholastic Grand Prix Champion (5 tournaments throughout Utah with a perfect 25-0 score)
• March 2006 - Utah State 2nd Grade Elementary Champion
• February 4, 2006 - Won his first USCF rated tournament (first time tournament was ever won by a 2nd Grader)
• 2005-2006 Helped instruct Elk Ridge Middle School Chess Team
• March 2005 - Utah State Elementary First Grade Champion

Remember this name: Kayden William Troff from West Jordan, Utah.

Kayden Troff (Photo: Kayden Troff's album at

Kayden (born 1998) is acknowledged as a chess prodigy – Utah’s own “Mozart of Chess” — because of his numerous extraordinary chess accomplishments at a very young age.

He is the reigning North American Youth Champion under age 12, winning the Gold Medal in Mazatlan, Mexico as a representative of the USA. At the same event—Kayden’s first international competition—where he won the medal he became a Candidate Master. At eleven he is also the highest rated chess tournament player in the State of Utah. He is the current Utah state champion for all ages of several time controls and chess variants: Game in one hour, Game in 15 minutes (quick chess), Game in 5 minutes (speed chess), Chess960 (Fischer random chess) and Bughouse Chess (partner chess).

In Mazatlan, Kayden and nine other American youth were selected to compete for the USA. The team came away with four gold medals and two bronze medals. By virtue of winning this event, Kayden has earned a right to represent the USA and compete for the gold in the Pan American Youth Championships in Brazil in 2010. Additionally, it is expected that he will be named to represent the USA in the 2010 World Youth Championships in Greece.

Kayden’s current ratings are: FIDE rating 2174, USCF rating = 2186, USCF quick rating = 2180 (#1 in the USA for under age 13) (June and August 2009)

After making it to number one in the nation on the 10 year old list, Kayden turned 11 and moved to number 3 for all 11 year olds. However, he remains number one on the Quick Under 13 list once again!

Kayden is now officially the highest rated active player in the state of Utah on both his standard and quick rating.

Here is an interesting game played by Kayden at the Utah Expert series #2:

Kayden Troff's opponent in this game, Tony Chen, age 15, has been in the top 50 in his age group since he started playing tournaments many years ago.

Tony Chen – Kayden Troff
Expert Series #2, 28.03.2009 Queen’s Pawn [D00]

1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f3 c5 4.e4 e6 5.Be3 cxd4 6.Qxd4 Nc6 7.Bb5 Bd7 8.Bxc6

After 8.Qd2 a6 9.exd5 axb5 10.dxc6 Bxc6 11.Qxd8+ Rxd8, Black is slightly better.

8... bxc6 9.exd5 exd5 10.0–0–0 Be7 11.Bg5 0–0 12.h4?!

On 12.Nge2 Re8, Black has the advantage.

12...Re8 13.g4

If 13.Qd2, then 13... Qb6 is advantageous for Black.

13... c5 14.Qf4?

Better is 14.Qd2 d4 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Ne4, but Black still has a clear, if not winning, advantage (development, two bishops, active pieces and control of open files).

14...d4 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Ne4 Be5 17.Qd2 Qb8!?

This move shows the boy has talent although still raw. Better was 17...Qb6!?, with the same idea without bottling up his a8-rook.

18.Ne2 d3?!

Eager beaver. Still not too late and better was 18... Qb6, with a winning game for Black.

19.cxd3 Bb5 20.f4?

20.Qc2!? may be tried. (See diagram)

20...Bxd3! 21.N4c3 Bxe2 22.Nxe2 Bxb2+!

Identical would be 22… Qxb2+ 23.Qxb2 Bxb2+ 24.Kxb2 Rxe2+.

23.Qxb2 Qxb2+ 24.Kxb2 Rxe2+ 25.Ka1 Re4!

Kayden’s endgame technique, although still needs polishing, is sound. He brought home the point without much difficulty.

26.Rhf1 Rc8 27.Rd7 a5 28.Kb2 c4 29.Kc3 Re3+ 30.Kd2 Rh3 31.Rc1? h6 32.a4 c3+ 33.Ke2 Rc4!

A very efficient finish.

34.Rd3 Re4+ 0–1

Photo from Kayden Troff blogsite
Read more stories about Kayden and his chess exploits from the following: