The Chess Drum has featured Orrin C. Hudson since 2002, nearly two years after the founding of Besomeone, Inc. In dozens of articles on this site, we have seen him tirelessly dedicate himself to is helping youth to make better decisions through chess. Hudson recently gave an indepth interview for AIB on his path and some of the success stories created as a result of his brainchild, Besomeone, Inc. The video features some of the volunteers and past students who give testimonials to the value of the program and its value.


“People are chasing the wrong kind of KASH.”
~Orrin C. Hudson


Hudson, a former Alabama State Trooper and Air Force veteran, has trekked across the nation with an aim to teach 1,000,000 youth how to use the right kind of K.A.S.H. (Knowledge, Attitude, Skills, Habits) to build a successful path in life.

Motivated by a shooting in Queens, New York which resulted in seven people killed for $2400, he has trained over 60,000 youth with a target of 1,000,000. The Atlanta-based motivational speaker has been on practically every major network to tell his story and has show resilience in keeping his vision strong.

Here Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters (AIB) covers his story…

Be Someone, Inc.
Orrin Checkmate Hudson
Speaker, Master Strategist & Motivator
949 Stephenson Road
Stone Mountain, GA 30087

Telephone: 770-465-6445
E-mail: Orrin@besomeone.org
Website: www.besomeone.org

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Chess in Djibouti!

Djibouti Djibouti Djibouti

Djibouti at 2018 Chess Olympiad
Photo by Federation Djiboutienne de Jeu d’Echecs

Africa continues to expand and add more countries to the community of chess nations. Djibouti, a country of 9.5 million bordering Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, has reemerged from a long hiatus of almost 20 years. The federation registered three players to the 2000 Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey, but was unable to attend.

Sixteen years later, they would reappear and send a delegation to Baku, Azerbaijan to participate in the Olympiad and the FIDE proceedings. They missed the first five rounds in the 2016 Olympiad, but at the 2018 Olympiad, Djiboutian men carried their honor to the opening ceremonies in Batumi, Georgia and their colors were proudly represented on stage.

Djibouti vs. Guernsey at the 2018 Chess Olympiad
(Batumi, Republic of Georgia)
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

The federation was recently in the news after starting an initiative to integrating chess into the school to improve analytical and cognitive abilities. Studies have show many positive outcomes of chess and its value in helping to improve performance among school children.

As part of the chess in school programme, which consists in integrating the chess game into schools to improve the cognitive capacities of students, the Djibouti chess federation in partnership with the Kamaj group and under the aegis of the State Secretariat to Youth and Sports, on Tuesday, 18 December 2018, created the first chess club in the International School of Africa (ISA) following the partnership agreement that the Federation signed with this private school.

Houssein Mahamoud Robleh serves as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the KAMAJ Group and will be working in concert with Federation Djiboutienne de Jeu d’Echecs to give the initiative an operational base. Vice President Mohamed Elmi Boulaleh and Secretary-General Ahmed Hassan Abdillahi will help with the establisment of chess clubs at selected public and private schools.

Finally, members of the Djiboutian chess community extended their gratitude to S.E.M. Hassan Mohamed Kamil who serves as the Secretary of State for Youth and Sports for helping to revive the chess community in Djibouti after a numbers of years of inactivity.

Chess-in-Schools in Djibouti
Djibouti Djibouti Djibouti

Photos by Federation Djiboutienne de Jeu d’Echecs (link)

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The 2018 World Rapid and Blitz Championships ended a couple of weeks ago. World Champion Magnus Carlsen was in the field facing many of the elite players. It is his first event since successfully defending his title against Fabiano Caruana. While he lost his rapid title, he totally dominated the blitz event with a +13 score. It may have reassured Carlsen fans that he has not lost his edge.

Magnus Carlsen
Photo by David Llada

After the championship match in which all 12 classical games were drawn, one of the arguments has been that the faster time controls should be integrated. The longing for more rapid and blitz in light of the increasing amount of preparation required in classical has caused organizers to look at different formats.

It should be known that many of these draws in classical tournaments were cases where players simply failed to convert. British Grandmaster Nigel Short wrote an op/ed piece in the latest New in Chess titled “Deadlocked.” Short’s question is “…how the World Championship can be reinvigorated, preferably without making a bonfire of tradition.”

The Draw Question

The entire tone of the match may have been totally different if Carlsen had converted a win after 38…Rg3! in Game 1.

In the world championship match, there were at least four games in which a decisive result seemed imminent. Is the argument that the games lack excitement or the draw is simply an undesirable result despite the nature of the games? A recent article on chess.com showed that the draw rate has risen dramatically in the past ten years.

In my opinion, one of the reasons for the high incidence of draws may be that top level players play each other almost exclusively and have developed a bit of familiarity in the opposition. This makes it much harder to get an edge against their peers. With the skill level comparable, mistakes are much smaller. In the last two championships match there have been two wins in 24 classical games. The two wins came in the Carlsen-Karjakin match. The Carlsen-Caruana match was hard-fought with exciting games, but no decisive results.

2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
 
pts.
Carlsen
6
Caruana
6

Tiebreaks
 
1
2
3
4
pts.
Carlsen
1
1
1
3
Caruana
0
0
0
0
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

The question in this new year is who will earn the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the world title in the magical year 2020? Will the next opponent provide more variability in the results? Twelve draws was unprecedented and perhaps was unfairly maligned as uninspiring. It may simply be that with such a short duration of 12 games, players tend to be risk-averse.

Draw Death?

There seems to be an uncertainty in the chess community. Do they want more decisive results at the expense of quality chess? What is being implied is that draw is not a desired result and that players at this level play near perfect chess because there is no winner. However, that is not what we saw in London. The chess world understands the legitimacy of a draw, but in a heavyweight battle, they are seeking decisive results.

In international football (soccer), a 0-0 draw after 90 minutes is sometimes seen at the highest levels. The match could have been very exciting and many fans will appreciate the hard-fought match. However, in the World Cup elimination rounds, teams go to “shoot outs”. Not optimal, but deemed necessary to get a decisive result and to prevent fatigue.

Anatoly Karpov hovers as Garry Kasparov ponders next move in 1984 match.

Anatoly Karpov hovers as Garry Kasparov ponders next move in 1984 match that featured 40 draws including 17 consecutive. The format was the first to win six games. The match was controversially halted by FIDE President Florencio Campomanes due to fears of player fatigue.

For chess, rapid/blitz has become the tiebreak method despite fatigue not generally being a factor in the 12-game match with accompanying rest days. Fans generally accept a draw in a chess match, but not a long series of them without a decisive game. Karpov-Kasparov 48-game match had 40 draws (including 17 in a row), but Kasparov’s comeback (from a 5-0 deficit) gave fans adequate drama.

Regardless of the format let us think for awhile about 2020. Which contender would produce a different type of championship match or are we simply at the end of the line for classical matches? Carlsen said himself that he doesn’t believe that he is playing at the same level of two years ago and that Caruana is already his equal. So who (besides Caruana) will be in position to wrest the mantle from Carlsen?

Who’s Next?

A few years back, Anish Giri wrote a small book titled, After Magnus. He profiled ten players who could possibly dethrone Magnus Carlsen. While Caruana was mentioned, Karjakin was not. Both have had one shot so far. Anand, also mentioned, had two chances. Other listees such as Wei Yi and Richard Rapport seems to have slowed… or slowing. Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura are still looking for a chance. Players like Alexander Grishchuk and Peter Svidler are still battling, but perhaps Russia’s best chance is for the next generation players.

It would appear that three conditions will have to take place to make the match more intriguing…

  1. The next challenger will have to have superb all-around skills in the different disciplines (classical/rapid/blitz) to challenge Carlsen. Caruana struggled in keeping pace in the rapid tiebreaks and lost three consecutive rapid games although all were competitive. There were many predictions that proved to be prescient… the fact that Caruana had to win in the classical if there was to be a good chance of winning. Nakamura took flack for his prediction that Carlsen is 90% chance to win if the match went into tiebreaks, but he proved to be accurate.
  2. The match should be lengthened to allow for more risk, but… would Carlsen or Caruana take any more risks than they did? Doubtful. The games were unbalanced with a variety of openings including Sveshnikovs, Rossolimo Gambits and other sharp lines with deep preparation. Perhaps there should be a Fischer Random component which would solve the element of over-preparation and show who has the best understanding of chess positions. Fischer Random is regular chess with the exception that 1/960 chess positions would be featured without players benefiting from centuries of theory and games. Incidentally, Magnus Carlsen is unofficial World Champion in Fischer Random as well. If rapid/blitz is to be used, make it part of the main match instead of as a tiebreaker. For example, they could play a combination of classical, Fischer Random, rapid and blitz games. Purists will scoff as this notion and fear that it may create the bonfire that Nigel Short is mentioning. In my view, lengthening the match is necessary, but not sufficient.
  3. While I don’t agree with suggestions such as having the tiebreaker before the match or having the players force a decisive result by playing the next game with time remaining from previous game, I do believe there has to be a way to raise the stakes from the beginning. Not long ago, when the match was drawn, the champion kept the crown. That also seems inadequate as we saw with Kramnik-Leko in 2004. In this 14-game match, Leko played cautiously after getting a one-point lead and lost the last game allowing Kramnik to retain the title with a 7-7 tie. We could go back to the match having “first win x number of games” but there has to be another element to raise the stakes in each game. If there is still the opinion that white has an advantage with the first move, there could also be a tiebreak penalty for drawing with white. Black would essentially get a type of “draw odds” each game. Obviously if all the games are drawn, it will not solve the issue, but it puts more pressure on the white game.

The Debate Continues

We have a year to figure out a more suitable format for determining the world champion. Lengthening the match is necessary, but not sufficient. Arkady Dvorkovich and his Executive Board have already made changes to the women’s cycle and there is certainly a discussion about the Carlsen-Caruana drawfest. The attraction of corporate sponsorship is also a factor.

Fabiano Caruana in Game 4 at the World Chess Championships in London.
Photo by World Chess.

As far as who will challenge Carlsen in 2020, the format will make a big difference in which player would have the best chance. Fabiano Caruana will certainly be looking to redeem himself and will most likely put more effort into faster time controls. All-around players like Levon Aronian would be an interesting opponent for Carlsen.

Aronian is dynamic, courageous and can be deadly in faster time controls. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has similar traits, but tends to take more risks than a match would necessitate. Hikaru Nakamura and his Red Bull sponsor would create a media bonanza. Apart from the Carlsen’s domination of Nakamura in classical tournaments, a match would have a different character… and much closer than anticipated!

Will Hikaru Nakamura or Levon Aronian finally get their chance?
Photo by Eteri Kublashvili.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave could also be an interesting choice with his enterprising, theoretical style, but what about Ding Liren? The Chinese has a very solid style and would have immense government support reminiscent of the old Soviet days.

Giri stated,

… I know quite a bit about the Chinese grandmasters, and Ding Liren is definitely one of the most talented and hardworking ones. He is slowly expanding his narrow opening repertoire, and with the white pieces he has always been quite deadly.

Indeed. Combine that with his string of 100 unbeaten games, he may be the type to capitalize off of Carlsen’s occasional lapse. If you’re looking for a prediction here (one year out), sorry to disappoint. Let’s see what developments occur with the format and maybe we will make a more definitive assessment.

It could be someone we least expect, but mostly likely will be someone seasoned and strong in various time formats. One thing for certain, we will see some changes in the next match and it could set the stage for how championships are played for decades.

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Tata Steel Chess 2019

The first super tournament will kick off in 2019 with the ever-popular Tata Steel Chess festival featuring some of the world’s top players. World Champion Magnus Carlsen will defend his title against 11 other aspirants including five others in the top 10. Santosh Vidit of India graduated into the Masters group after winning the Challengers last year in fine style.

Only five players return from the 2018 edition with nine new players rounding out the field. Carlsen’s won in the tiebreak in thrilling fashion over hometown favorite Anish Giri. It was a spectacular performance by Giri who usually has problems generating wins in top level events. He will return as one of the contenders.

The returning players in this year’s tournament are Carlsen, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand and Giri. All five have lengthy resumes and three have tasted world championship gold. Ding Liren will be making his second appearance in Wijk aan Zee and should be in great shape after recovering from a fall during a Grand Chess Tour tournament in Norway. Ding will be tough to beat and set a record for undefeated tournament play at 100 games.

There will be some familiar faces returning. Ian Nepomniachtchi will return after a rough outing in 2017 Tata Steel where he got 5/13. Known as a specialist in quicker chess formats he will prove to be a dangerous opponent and has the distinction of having never lost to Carlsen (+4=4-0).

Teimour Radjabov is not as active as he once was, but is active in social media and has shown he has kept up with latest trends in chess. Now 31, a husband and father, we may see a more refined style from the Azeri player who rose as a promising prodigy who toppled Garry Kasparov at 2003 Linares.

Now 31, can Teimour Radjabov rekindle old magic?
Photo by Tata Steel Chess

While Vladimir Fedoseev is the only player to have never played in Wijk aan Zee, all others have played in one of the other sections. Jan-Krzysztof Duda scored 7/13 in 2014 Tata Challengers, but has improved rapidly and vaulted into the top 20 in the world. He recently came in 2nd in the World Blitz Championship behind Carlsen.

Richard Rapport will be looking for a breakthrough in his 4th appearance. He was co-winner of 2013 Tata Challengers, but bombed out after graduating next year to the Masters group where he finished last. He also finished last in 2017 Masters. His original style of play is what makes him an interesting addition.

Sam Shankland is one of the hottest players at the top level. The reigning U.S. Champion helped the American team win gold at the 2016 Olympiad and take silver at the 2018 Olympiad. He breached the 2700 mark and is fighting for his position after the addition of Leinier Dominguez to the U.S. roster. Jorden van Foreest rounds out the field and at 19 years, he is the youngest player in the field. Finishing 7.5/13 in last year’s Challengers, he looks to make an impression in his first supertournament.

Parham Maghsoodloo of Iran hopes to show
that his legendary hard work has paid off.
Photo by Amruta Mokal

The Challengers tournament will host practically a new field with only top-seed Anton Korobov and Erwin L’Ami returning. Along with Evgeny Bareev, they are the most senior players in the field with a lot of young talent. A number of these players competed in the World Rapid and Blitz, but are now on a big stage classical event. Most of the names in the Challengers group are not well-known, but Elisabeth Paehtz will be one of two women competing. The German ace will be in the field with fellow International Master and Kazahkstan star Dinara Saduakassova.

25-year old Belarussian Vladislav Kovalev will be one of the favorites going into the tournament and is currently at his peak rating of 2687. Parham Maghsoodloo is in great form after winning the World Junior with 9.5/11 and leading the Iranians to a stellar Olympiad performance and to an Asian Nations Cup. Fellow phenom Rameshbabu Pragganandhaa is making his first appearance and will try to prove that the hype is real.

One player to watch may be Vincent Keymer, a 14-year old German talent who shocked the chess world by winning the 2018 GRENKE Open with a performance rating of 2795 and a GM norm with 1.5 points to spare. He also gained some notoriety by winning a brilliant game against Boris Gelfand at 2018 Isle of Man. He is currently coached by Peter Leko.

Here Keymer discusses his last round win against Richard Rapport.

Video by GRENKE Chess

Tata Steel is an Indian multinational conglomerate consisting of a number of industries. Those following the tournament from the early days will remember it as the Hoorgovens, a Dutch steel company that would later merge with British steel to form the Corus Group. When Tata steel purchased Corus in 2007, the tournament took on the name of Indian conglomerate.

Video by Tata Steel

Official Site: http://www.tatasteelchess.com/
Schedule: https://www.tatasteelchess.com/visit/tata-steel-chess/program
Videos: (YouTube)

2019 Tata Steel Tournament
January 11th-27th, 2019 (Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands)
Masters
#
Name
Title
Federation
Flag
Rating
1 Carlsen, Magnus GM Norway
2835
2 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar GM Azerbaijan
2817
3 Ding Liren GM China
2813
4 Giri, Anish GM Netherlands
2783
5 Kramnik, Vladimir GM Russia
2777
6 Anand, Viswanathan GM India
2773
7 Nepomniachtchi, Ian GM Russia
2763
8 Radjabov, Teimour GM Azerbaijan
2757
9 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof GM Poland
2738
10 Rapport, Richard GM Hungary
2731
11 Shankland, Samuel GM USA
2752
12 Fedoseev, Vladimir GM Russian
2724
13 Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi GM India
2695
14 Van Foreest, Jorden GM Netherlands
2612
Challengers
#
Name
Title
Federation
Flag
Rating
1 Korobov, Anton GM Ukraine
2699
2 Kovalev, Vladislav GM Belarus
2687
3 Maghsoodloo, Parham GM Iran
2679
4 Bareev, Evgeny GM Canada
2650
5 L’Ami, Erwin GM Netherlands
2643
6 Gledura, Benjamin GM Hungary
2615
7 Chigaev, Maksim GM Russia
2604
8 Esipenko, Andrey GM Russia
2584
9 Praggnanandhaa R GM India
2539
10 Van Foreest, Lucas GM Netherlands
2502
11 Keymer, Vincent IM Germany
2500
12 Paehtz, Elisabeth IM Germany
2477
13 Saduakassova, Dinara IM Kazakhstan
2472
14 Kuipers, Stefan IM Netherlands
2470
Official Site

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We have not written on Burkina Faso since 2014 shortly after they joined the community of chess-playing nations in FIDE. Comité National Burkinabé des Echecs has been very active since 2014 and held national championships in the past three years with Oumar Briba winning in 2016 and Clément Guissou winning in 2017. Gissou successfully defended his title in September winning in tiebreaks over Nicolas Carbonell with 5/6. Gissou was aided by his win over Carbonell in the third round. Former champion Briba came in third with 4/6 and handed Guissou his only loss. (results)

Clément Gissou receiving 1st place trophy from Director General of Sport/Leisure, Mr. Vohoun Tamimi. Photo by Burkanibe Chess Federation

Clément Gissou (left) receiving 1st place trophy from
Director General of Sport/Leisure, Mr. Vohoun Tamimi.
Photo by Burkanibe Chess Federation
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso Burkina Faso

Video by BF1 Television

In December, Burkina Faso successfully hosted the 4.4 subzonal in Ouagadougou and under the leadership of President Jean De Dieu Ouedraogo, they look to continue development of chess within the West African region.

The Burkina Faso Chairman of the National Committee for Chess, Jean De Dieu Ouedraogo, (2nd from left) with winners at 4.4 Subzonal (from left to right), Geoffrey Adzua (Nigeria) – BRONZE medal, Yinka Adesina (Nigeria) – SILVER medal and Hermann Manan (Ivory Coast) – GOLD medal

The Burkina Faso Chairman of the National Committee for Chess, Jean De Dieu Ouedraogo, (2nd from left) with winners at 4.4 Subzonal (from left to right), Geoffrey Adzua (Nigeria) – BRONZE medal, Yinka Adesina (Nigeria) – SILVER medal and Hermann Manan (Ivory Coast) – GOLD medal (results)

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Webster University (2018 Pan-Am Champions)

from left to right: FM Justus Williams (Team C), FM Josh Colas (Team C), Shawn Swindell (Team C), GM Peter Prohaszka (Team B), GM Emilio Cordova (Team B), NM Aaron Grabinsky (Team C), GM Susan Polgar (coach), GM Vasif Durarbayli (Team B), GM Yuniesky Quesada (Team A), GM Lazaro Bruzon (Team A), GM Illia Nyzhnyk (Team A), GM Jorge Cori (Team A), GM Aleksandr Shimanov (Team B), Tom Polgar-Shutzman (Team C)

When I played for Chicago State University in the 1981 Pan-Am Intercollegiate tournament held in New York, we were 28th out of 71 teams in the eight-round tournament. The highest-rated team was the defending champion University of Toronto who had IM Illias Kourkounikas on top board.

An exchange student from Greece, he was the strongest player in the tournament and they successfully defended their title they won in Atlanta the previous year. Toronto had FM Ian Findlay and John Pajak who scored well, but there were a spattering of other strong masters in the tournament including a team from the Dominican Republic with an IM on board one.

The Pan-Am had none of the powerhouses that you have today with a collection of foreign Grandmasters. At the 2018 Pan-Ams, the field had 32 GMs and 24 IMs along with approximately 30 other FIDE titled players. Incidentally, the top performer in this tournament was named “Illia” … GM Illia Nyzhnyk.

Back in December while the world was following the World Rapid and Blitz, approximately 50 teams came from all over the U.S. to participate in the Pan-Am Intercollegiate Tournament hosted by Bay Area Chess in San Francisco, California. There were several teams with full Olympiad-quality teams featuring four Grandmasters. Most of these players were recruited from abroad and include some elite names such as Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon who is in his first year at Webster.

Maurice Ashley presents $30,000 winner’s check to St. Louis University’s GM Dariusz Swiercz at 2016 Millionaire Chess Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Other names are Grandmasters Dariusz Swiercz (St. Louis University), Kamil Dragun (Univ. of Texas-Rio Grande Valley) and David Berczes (Univ. of Texas-Dallas). Interestingly enough most of the top schools are not well-known or satellite campuses, but chess has given many of these institutions a strong brand awareness. There are a number of former scholastic stars including GM Darwin Yang (Harvard), GM Akshat Chandra (St. Louis University) and IM Atulya Shetty (Univ. of Michigan). Unfortunately, Stanford could did not sponsor a team that would be lead by GM Daniel Naroditsky.

I visited Webster University in 2016 just after covering the World Championships in New York. In addition, I came to check up on Webster players, Justus Williams and Josh Colas who I covered since they were scholastic players. The campus is not particularly scenic, but in the SPICE building you can get a sense of how serious the chess program is. It resembles a laboratory with tables a handsome collection of books and an open area for their exercise regiment.

Webster University’s SPICE (St. Louis)
CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.




Susan Polgar and Paul Truong are the wife-and-husband team who have generated years of success with a very finely-tooled system that creates successful results. Webster brought three teams to the Pan-Ams with Webster “A” (2737), Webster “B” (2665) and Webster “C” (2389) representing the “Gorlocks,” the team’s mascot.

With GMs Nyzhnyk, Bruzon, Yuniesky Quesada, and Jorge Cori, the A-team had a powerful lineup, but stumbled in the second round when UT-Dallas “C” held them to a draw! Both Bruzon and Quesada fell to IM Titas Stremavicius and IM Zurab Javakhadze, respectively. The Swiss Gambit worked out as they won out in the remaining four rounds including wins over St. Louis “A” and Texas Tech “A” ending on 5.5/6.

As far as the other Webster teams, the “B” was in the running for the title and beat runner-up Univ. of Texas-Dallas “A” tremendously helping their “A” team. They tallied an undefeated 5/6 points and came in 3rd place with a qualification to the “President’s Cup” chess tournament this spring. However, Webster will only be allowed one team so UTRGV will get the next spot by virtue of tiebreaks. Incidentally UTRGV are the defending champions of the President’s Cup and last year broke Webster’s five-year run. They will join Webster, Univ. of Texas-Dallas, and Harvard in this year’s “Final Four” event.

Harvard University was a surprise and the players had to pay their own way to the tournament. With GM Darwin Wang leading the Crimson into battle, the team was actually sparked by National Master Bryan Hu’s 5.5/6. They upset St. Louis University “B” in the last round to qualify for the President’s Cup.

Webster “C” ended on 3/6 with Justus Williams and Tom Polgar-Shutzman leading the way with 4/6. University of Toronto was mentioned earlier. While they are not the team they once were, their Hart House Chess Club won the best international school.

The top team teams were:

Full Results

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Each year we give the highlights, and in the even-numbered years of chess, the Olympiad tournament holds top billing along with the World Championships (determined in tiebreaks after 12 consecutive draws). Defending champion Magnus Carlsen won in tiebreaks over challenger Fabiano Caruana to invoke the question of “Who’s next?” That question will be answered in 2019.

Speaking of championships, there were TWO women’s world championships (match, knockout). In one year, Ju Wenjun showed that she is now the strongest player in the women’s field. She also helped lead the Chinese team to Batumi, Georgia for the Olympiad. Both Chinese teams won the gold and the presence of many rising nations show that chess is becoming a true global sport.

World Champions Ju Wenjun and Magnus Carlsen pose at 2018 World Rapid and Blitz in Russia fresh off of their championship victories. Photo by Lennart Ootes

In addition, there was the election of Arkady Dvorkovich who has pledged to increase the global footprint of chess by hosting tournaments in various regions of the world. The Grand Chess Tour has picked up this theme and announced that there will be two new events including one in India and one in Ivory Coast! The African nation impressed chess fans with the hugely successful CIV Rapid & Blitz and will enter the world stage in organizing a first-class event.

Mashala Kabamwanishi of Democratic Republic of Congo scored 9.5/10 at the 2018 Chess Olympiad. Wonderful result! Photo by Congo Chess Federation

In this year of the “Black Panther,” Africa is attempting to raise its profile after sending 47 federations to the FIDE Congress during the Olympiad. It was this contingent that helped President-elect Dvorkovich to the Presidency and we can look to see more visits and support to the continent. Speaking of the Olympiad, we have to mention the fantastic performance of Mashala Kabamwanishi of the Congo who scored 9.5/10 in his first international showing.

Some of the interesting moments of 2018 covered here were Hikaru Nakamura’s trip to South Africa and playing the hustlers in the park. After that trip, he famously sponsored two young African talents after visiting the South African Junior Championships. They played in three tournaments in Europe and were trained by fellow South African GM Kenny Solomon.

Other moments were the launching of Africa Chess magazine which hosts the site https://africachessmedia.com/. We met 5-year old girl Basirat Ariyike who was part of the “Chess in Slums” initiative targeting the poorest communities near Lagos. Finally, we met 12-year old Tremil Anderson, a telegenic YouTube sensation.

We also saw Grandmaster Pontus Carlsson blazing the trail for his “ChessBiz” initiative. Just before participating in the just-ending World Rapid & Blitz, he announced a 2019 tour. Kassa Korley, an International Master now representing Denmark, scored his first GM norm and we are looking for more to follow in 2019.

Maurice Ashley was actually the coach of the Ivorian team at the 2016 Olympiad and will most likely be in Africa to call the GCT event in the Ivory Coast. Incidentally, Ashley was the coach of the Madagascar Olympiad team for 2018 Olympiad. While he has begun training national teams and staying busy commentating top-level events, he had a chance to make an appearance on the “Trevor Noah Show” recently. Take a look…

The Olympiad was the highlight of the year for The Chess Drum and Sagar Shah of ChessBase India requests an interview and allowed me to explain the vision for the site. Going on its 18th year The Chess Drum holds to continue to provide a voice to those in the African Diaspora to eventually contribute to a Pan-African renaissance.

Video by ChessBase India

Lastly, there were a number of players passed on and we paid homage here. Alfred Carlin (obituary), a native of New Orleans passed away after a short illness after working with Herminio Baez in the Dallas area. Ironically, Baez would pass away unexpectedly a month later (obituary).

Samuel Barton went by the street name of “Sandman” and was well-known in New York circles as a street hustler or gamesman (obituary). We also lost a giant in Judge George Leighton who reached the ripe age of 105. Judge Leighton was respected and loved in the Chicago area and practice law into his 90s (obituary).

PETER SIMON ROBERTS
(January 18, 1952 – August 9, 2018)

Peter Roberts of Harlem, New York died unexpectedly and was found in his home unresponsive after going missing for a few days. He was a big supporter of The Chess Drum and we will miss his presence at the World Open tournament (obituary). Lastly, USCF Life Master James Gwyn, Sr. passed away in September after earning the distinction of becoming a National Master at age 55! (obituary) We honor their memories and hope to build from the goodness they left behind. It is a pleasure from provide them with this platform.

Hope you enjoyed 2018! Here are some of the moments to revisit…

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

Chess journalists @ 2018 Chess Olympiad (Batumi, Georgia): Haydn Gill (Barbados), Daaim Shabazz (USA), Jacinta Odongo (Kenya), Ian Wilkinson (Jamaica)

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Only a month after the World Championship (classical) was decided, the 2018 Rapid & Blitz was held in St. Petersburg to determine the world championship in the two disciplines. Indeed the raging debate on how to determine a classical World Champion to include rapid and blitz tiebreakers has its merits, but of course the main notion to increase the pressure and thus the amount of errors in order to get a decisive result.

These three disciplines are very different and the results of this week in Russia showed. A contingent of “blitz specialists” entered the field including American Grandmaster Andrew Tang who has the moniker “penguingm1”. He has played countless matches with Magnus Carlsen (DrDrunkenstein) and then two faced in the rapid play.

Tang didn’t threaten in the prize winnings, but had 8.5/15 (2666 TPR) in the rapid and 11/21 (2650 TPR) in the blitz. That didn’t stop him from playing some bullet battles with Iranian star Alireza Firouzja. In fact, it was Firouzja who created buzz during the rapids leading after the first day. He was in contention as late as the 13th round, but lost a key game to Anton Korobov, but finished with a 2848 performance and demonstrated why he is one of the brightest talents in chess.

Rapid

Daniil Dubov, the plain-spoken Russian was among more than 100 compatriots vying for the prizes in the weekend and he was able to fend off a late rally by Carlsen who rallied after losing his first two games. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Hikaru Nakamura, Vladislav Artemiev and Carlsen finished 1/2-point back with 10/5/15. The 22-year old Dubov stated that this was his finest achievement to date. He has some very candid comments about the two disciplines.

What was interesting was the Dubov won shortly after the death of his grandfather Eduard Dubov who tragically froze to death at the age of 80. It was a fitting and inspiring victory.

Rapid Results (Open)

This year has been a banner year for Ju Wenjun as she notched another championship after defending her rapid title. This was after winning the Women’s World Championship and then successfully defending the title only months later. That resulted in a change of the world championship cycle since it would have been ridiculous otherwise to defend the title in the knockout format only months after the championship match.

Iran’s Sarasadat Khadmalsheriah
took silver in both rapid and blitz.
Photo by Lennart Ootes

Ju showed her class in the 12-round rapid event with a dominating 10/12. She was pursued by contingent of talented young players in Sarasadat Khademalsheriah (Iran), Aleksandra Goryachkina (Russia), Lei Tingjie (China) and Zhansaya Abdumalik (Kazakhstan). They represent the future of the women’s chess.

Khademalsheriah, who beat three former women’s champions (Alexandra Kosteniuk, Antoaneta Stefanova, Mariya Muzychuk) seems to be part of a movement among young Iranian talent powered by Alireza Firouzja and Parham Maghadsoodloo. If her progress is indicative of the talent in the pipeline, Iran will be a contender in team competitions for years to come.

Rapid Results (Women)

There has been some discussion on the disparate size of the prize funds with some suggesting there should be an equal prize fund for the women. However, given that the open section is free for women to enter, the argument seems hollow.

Women have an option to choose between the open and women’s and 100% of them chose the women’s because they seek a better chance at a prize. That is understandable, but if the open is comprised of the best the world has to offer, it is logical that this is what the sponsors are investing in.

There should be no double standard in suggesting equality of prize fund when women have two options to win prizes. In fact, one can argue that they have an advantage. Judit Polgar was one who was able to compete on equal terms and there were a lot fewer women playing during her era. What did she do that others have not been able to replicate?

Blitz

Magnus Carlsen
Photo by Lennart Ootes

Magnus Carlsen came in holding the Triple Crown (titles in classical, rapid and blitz), but came into the Blitz segment just having just lost his Rapid title to Daniil Dubov. Of course, in these events there is a bit more room for error because of the pressure and inevitable blunders that occur.

One commentator was discussing this issue during the Grand Chess Tour final and lamenting how good the elite players play in fast time controls. His point was to buttress the fact that faster time controls can be used as a tiebreaker without much degradation in the quality of play.

On cue, the game that was being covered featured several blunders in a row at the very end. There is simply no way to escape the fact that these are completely different disciplines and errors (and big ones) in faster time controls are simply inevitable.

With that being said, blitz is still a favorite discipline of many of the top players… including five-time World Champion, Viswanathan Anand.

Following the frenetic pace of blitz is indeed exciting!
The legendary Viswanthan Anand is in the pit.
Photo by Lennart Ootes

In the blitz competition, Carlsen scorched the field with and undefeated 17/21. While +13 would be enough to win most blitz tournaments, he had to fend off the sparkling play of Polish phenom Jan-Krysztof Duda who won 15 games. Carlsen defeated Duda in a masterful style in their encounter in round seven.

In the blitz competition, it is about “runs” of play. A player can easily rattle off several wins in a row or lose several in a row. Carlsen’s undefeated play is remarkable at that level and only Bobby Fischer’s Novi Sad performance where he defeated several world champions in the field enroute to a 19-3 (+17-1=4) win.

It’s much more difficult to get a run given the dangerous field with so-called “blitz specialists” and young lions looking to relieve top guns of Elo points and scalps. Ahmed Adly of Egypt had a good run and was sitting on board four in round ten after beating Hikaru Nakamura and Sergey Karjakin in consecutive rounds. A lost to Russia’s Dmitry Andreikin knocked him off course and he ultimately settle for 20th place, a strong showing.


Egypt’s Ahmed Adly, ponders after a loss. However, he had a strong showing with 13/21 and 2702 TPR. Photo from FIDE Chess

Hikaru Nakamura had taken bronze in the rapids and was optimistic going into the blitz segment. As mentioned, he was upset by Adly, but got key wins over Vladislav Artemiev and Dmitry Andriekin to pull within two points of the lead. Unfortunately, he had fallen too far behind and ended on 14.5 points and 3rd place.

Duda lost to Carlsen and Peter Svidler early on, but and at one point scored eight consecutive wins! In round 17, he faced Sergey Karjakin in a sharp Keres Attack. That game ended in an exciting draw, but the Polish star would lose to Nakamura the next round to fall off the pace. Duda bounced back with three wins in a row, but a Carlsen victory against Anton Korobov meant he would take silver.

Blitz Results (Open)

In the women’s competition, Ju Wenjun started off with four straight wins, but was derailed with draws and a loss to Sarasadat Khademalsherieh. At that point the Iranian was on a blistering six-game winning streak and would push it to seven with a win over Koneru Humpy. Both she and Kateryna Lagno were on 7/8 and drew in round nine to maintain the lead. However, a trio of Chinese players were only half-point back.

The most improbable development was the performance of Leya Garifullina, an 14-year old Russia who was vying for a top spot. Rated at 2120, she was on 6.5/9 had just beaten Antoaneta Stefanova and also earned scalps from Elisabeth Paehtz, Harika Dronavali. By round 12, she had moved to 2nd place on 9/12, a point behind Lagno along with Lei Tingjie and Valentina Guinina. Who would’ve predicted this??

Leya Garifullina took the blitz field by storm.
Photo by Lennart Ootes

Unfortunately, former women’s champion Anna Ushenina took the wind out of her sails and after rebounding against Pia Cramling, she lost to Guinina dropping her to 8th and effectively eliminating her from from the top three positions. After drawing with Ju Wenjun she settle for 11/17 and 8th place.

In the end, Kateryna Lagno was in form having gone undefeated with ten wins in 17 rounds! After having lost to Ju Wenjun in the finals of the World Championship last month, she earned some redemption at defeating her in round 11 and winning the tournament. What is more amazing is the fact that Lagno had taken a long break from chess and seems to be playing better than ever. How did she explain it?

Interview with Kateryna Lagno

Video by FIDE

Blitz Results (Open)

Photo by Lennart Ootes

Official Site: http://wrbc2018.com/
PGN Games (TWIC): Rapid (Open), Rapid (Women), Blitz (Open), Blitz (Women)
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2018/12/31/2018-world-rapid-blitz-st-petersburg-rus/

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GM Pontus Carlsson
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

GM Pontus Carlsson has been a regular on the Drum during the latter part of 2018 after launching his “ChessBiz” initiative and appearing on the Perpetual Podcast recently. He closes out the year competing in the World Rapid and Blitz Championships currently being held in St. Petersburg, Russia. This event has attracted the top players from around the world. While there is a lot of debate on the role that faster time controls will play in top level events, it is certainly a favorite among many of the specialists who are often seen on chess servers and streaming sites.

Carlsson mentioned that he was competing in the tournament last week and talked about the formidable contingent of Russians. While he agreed that other federations would be tough, he proceeded to list them and one of the names turned out to be the eventual champion. However, Carlsson also acquitted himself well. After scoring 2/5 on the first day, the second day proved to be a bit better with 2.5/5 with a confidence-boosting win over Ilya Smirin of Israel.

The last day he notched 3.5/5 with consecutive wins over GMs Timur Gareyev, Vladislav Kovalev and Francisco Vallejo Pons. After a lost to blitz specialist IM Ivan Bocharov, he closed out the rapid event with an interesting draw against Bassem Amin, The Egyptian #1. He goes into the blitz program with confidence from his creditable performance in the rapids.

GM Pontus Carlsson (2511-Sweden)
RAPID
# Player USCF Nation
Flag
Result
1 GM Ivan Saric 2661 Croatia
0
2 GM Ahmed Adly 2630 Egypt
0
3 CM Ahmed Al-Thebaiti 1826 Saudi Arabia
1
4 GM Henrik Teske 2555 Germany
0
5 Melis Mamatov 2234 Krygyzstan
1
6 GM Mustafa Yilmaz 2546 Turkey
0
7 FM Kirill Shubin 2242 Russia
1
8 GM Ilya Smirin 2601 Israel
1
9 GM Pavel Ponkratov 2650 Russia
0
10 GM Kamil Miton 2590 Poland
½
11 GM Timur Gareyev 2575 USA
1
12 GM Vladislav Kovalev 2624 Belarus
1
13 GM Francisco Vallejo Pons 2628 Spain
1
14 IM Ivan Bocharov 2657 Russia
0
15 GM Bassem Amin 2650 Egypt
½
Score: 8-7 (Results)

All the heavy hitters were present including Magnus Carlsen who holds the “Triple Crown” of chess with titles in classical, rapid and blitz. He got off to a slow start losing his first two games to Ukrainian GM Adam Tukhaev and Shamdiddin Vokhidov, an International Master from Uzbekistan. The defending champion rallied for 10.5 points in next thirteen games. Unfortunately, Carlsen fell half-point short to Russia’s Daniil Dubov who also edged out Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Hikaru Nakamura, Vladislav Artemiev with 11/15.

GM Hikaru Nakamura (USA) vs. GM Magnus Carlsen (Norway), 1/2-1/2

Iranian sensation Alireza Firouzja came in 6th in a pack of 12 players with 10/15. He was tied for the lead after the first day of rapids with 4.5/5, but tailed off with losses to Dmitry Ankreiken and Dubov. While Parham Maghadsoodloo gets the most attention of the Iranian phenoms, it is Firouzja who created buzz in this tournament.

In the women’s tournament, World Champion Ju Wenjun successfully defended her rapid title only a month after defending her classical title. She scored 10/12 overcoming an inspired performance by Iran’s Sarasadat Khademalsharieh who was on 9/12. Russia’s Aleksandra Goryachkina took bronze also on 9/12.

The blitz portion starts tomorrow at 7:00AM (New York) and 3:00PM (Russia).

Official Site: http://wrbc2018.com/
PGN Games (TWIC): Rapid (Open), Rapid (Women), Blitz (Open), Blitz (Women)
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2018/12/31/2018-world-rapid-blitz-st-petersburg-rus/

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Players of CIV Invitational

Dr. Essoh Essis, President of the Ivorian Chess Federation will host one of the rapid and blitz events as part of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour. It will be the first elite event held in Africa since the 2004 FIDE Knockout in Tripoli, Libya. Photo by Alina L’Ami

Hikaru Nakamura won the Grand Chess Tour a week ago which culminated in the London Chess Classic. This is the first year for the Grand Chess Tour final which ended in a four-player tournament featuring mini-matches of classical, rapid and blitz.

The twist is that a win in a classical game is six points; four in rapid and two in blitz. On draws, the point total is split. In the end, Nakamura defeated Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 15-13 on a thrilling win in the final game.

The discussion on tournament formats and the incidences of draws continued from the recently-ended World Chess Championship as Nakamura-MVL saw seven draws before the American won the final blitz game for the margin of victory. The match between championship challenger Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian had five decisive games ending in a 16-12 score. Nevertheless, the games were exciting despite numerous draws. What fans may not understand is that these four players are intricately familiar with their peers and to needlessly force the game into an inferno is… playing with fire.

GM Hikaru Nakamura, winner of 2018 Grand Chess Tour, will be defending his title in diverse places. Photo by Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Does chess need to be fixed for wider appeal? That discussion is what players in online fora and chess tournaments are talking about. What may be in store for the 2019 Grand Chess Tour may be even more exciting. There were announcements that the GCT will have two events outside of the U.S. and Europe, where all of the events have been held. The tour will expand to seven events with three of them making a debut in 2019. On the slate for hosting the GCT events are Croatia, India and Cote d’Ivoire. The St. Louis Rapid and Blitz has been taken off the tour.

While not a FIDE event, this initiative fits what Arkady Dvorkovich had pledged to do in his campaign. Now as the FIDE President, he wants to make chess more global in scope and mentioned the drive to have tournaments (including the Olympiad) on different continents.


“We need to change the geographical location when it comes to big tournaments, I will ensure that the game is staged not only in Russia and Europe but to other regions like Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab speaking countries to bring diversity.”

~Arkady Dvorkovich speaking in Nairobi, Kenya (link)


After South Africa’s unsuccessful (and controversial) bid in 2014, an African Olympiad idea will have to wait at least for two Olympiad (2020 Khanty-Mansisyk, 2022 Minsk, Belarus). However, it seems as if things are about to change.

Cote d’Ivoire has been making waves in the chess world. Under the leadership of Dr. Essis Essoh, the federation has successfully hosted the 2017 Cote d’Ivoire Team Invitational and also the CIV Invitational Rapid and Blitz in August. The event got rave reviews from the participating players.

When Nigeria’s IM Oladapo Adu spoke to The Chess Drum during the Batumi Chess Olympiad, he was effusive in his praise for the organization and conditions. Assisting in the event’s success, Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa played a key role and Garry Kasparov’s endorsement for Cote d’Ivoire to host a GCT event proved invaluable.

The last elite event on African soil was the FIDE World Knockout Championships in 2004 held in Tripoli, Libya. Hikaru Nakamura played in that tournament. This will be many of the participants’ first trip to Africa and the perhaps the first visit by a sitting world champion since Viswanathan Anand’s visits throughout the years. The Ivorians hope to repeat this success for the GCT.

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com

Cote d’Ivoire… here we come!

CIV Invitational - IM Oladapo Adu with Andrew Kayonde

Nigeria’s IM Oladapo Adu with Zambia’s IM Andrew Kayonde
after the 2018 CIV Rapid and Blitz Invitational
Photo by Alina L’Ami

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According to his latest podcast interview at Perpetual Chess, Pontus Carlsson has been busy lately. You may have seen him in a photo with Magnus Carlsen during the World Championship in London, but he has been promoting his “Business meets Chess & Kids” tour for the past year.

GM Pontus Carlsson in Kenya

GM Pontus Carlsson promoting his vision in Kenya

Carlsson launched initiatives in Kenya and was warmly accepted during recent trip to New Orleans. He told The Chess Drum that he will tour the U.S. in January and would like to make a big impact on the continent of Africa. He also has plans to reach out to the business community to discuss how chess can help one craft a strategic outlook.

To get an idea of his initiative here is an excerpt from a recent interview:

When I entered the business world I quickly realized that I already had an advantage as a Grandmaster and strong chess player, since apart from getting respect for being smart, I already had a framework for objectively analysing the position, drawing the correct conclusion, take an important decision under time pressure, visualising the result of an idea and predicting the next move in a negotiation. All this is important and very useful skills both in life and business, that I share with companies, top business schools and Rotary clubs in my talk/lecture on how Chessthinking can revitalize your Business!

In January 2019, Carlsson told The Chess Drum he is visiting Houston, New Orleans and possibly a third state to tout his vision. If anyone is wondering, Carlsson is still active in tournaments and will be competing in the World Rapid and Blitz Championship next week December 25-31 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Swedish GM mentioned playing some blitz with Fabiano Caruana after the match. He said he “got crushed” but had more success against GM David Howell. “I was rusty,” said Carlsson who said he hoped to bring some wins home. Certainly we will be watching him battle a tough field where the minimum rating to enter is 2500.

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Tallahassee is a smallish college town of nearly 200,000 and doubles as a capitol of the odd-shaped state. With its “panhandle” the northern part of Florida is not well-known for its tourist attractions and struggle with its identity apart from being the home of the Florida State Seminoles (FSU) and Florida A&M Rattlers (FAMU). Another area in which the city struggles is in the chess arena.

Along with Pensacola, Panama City and Jacksonville, Tallahassee has traditionally made up most of the chess activity in north Florida. The traditional locales for chess activity have been Orlando, Gainesville, Tampa, Boca Raton and Miami. In fact, Leinier Dominguez who is living in Miami, has just switched his federation from Cuba to U.S.

Eric Larsen, a mainstay in Tallahassee chess, passed away in 2014. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Over the past few years Jacksonville has been ignited by a number of activities that included hosting the last two state championships. Tallahassee has recently seen the FAMU Chess Club resurface and there are the club activities across Gaines Street at FSU. However, there has not been much in the way of tournament activity. After the passing of a couple of key members and the moving of a few others, Tallahassee has been in a state of transition. Historically, an eclectic group of players would meet at bookstores, coffee shops, parks and restaurants. Recently, The Chess Drum ran a story on Walter Hand, a local player with cerebral palsy.

While there are still a spattering of strong players living in the area, no major tournaments have been planned, but chess players still meet occasionally at Black Dog Cafe on Saturdays. The Froemke Memorial has not been held since 2014 and Tallahassee Chess Club has been largely inactive. However, pockets of activity have sprouted around the city.

Players battle at the 2014 Froemke Memorial held at
516 North Adams Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301

2018 BBCC Chess Tournament
(Tallahassee School of Math & Science)

For the past few years, Banghao Chen and his son Benjamin Chen have sought to bring life to chess in the city by hosting chess activities for the children on Fridays. The two have operated Chen’s B&B Chess Club and have hosted a number of local scholastic events.

On December 1st, they co-hosted a tournament in conjunction with the Tallahassee School of Math & Science (TSMS). Brandon McCovery, a history and political science teacher runs the TSMS Chess Club and invited his players to participate in event. The BBCC/TSMS tournament drew approximately 30 players with 10 players in the Open section.

Florida Chess Association President Kevin Pryor addresses the tournament.

Banghao Chen and son Benjamin working out the pairings.

Brandon McCovery directing the players in the Scholastic Section.

The look of determination!

I got you!

Teaching the points of chess etiquette.

Carlos Martin trying to find a winning formula.

Jaidyn Garcia ponders his next move.

Players with a theoretical discussion of the Guioco Piano!

Ten players in the Open Section battling

Florida Chess Association President Kevin Pryor made the two-hour drive from Jacksonville to support the event and made some opening comments. FCA Board Member Daaim Shabazz was also present and serves as an Associate Professor at FAMU. The Tallahassee Democrat also covered the story. There are plans for more activities in Tallahassee including a larger spring tournament. Stay tuned!

Tallahasee Democrat: https://www.tallahassee.com/

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When I was at the Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia, GM Amon Simutowe was part of many conversations about the future of African chess, particularly Zambia. While the country seeks to raise another GM, the comparisons with the Zambian Grandmaster are unavoidable. He is indeed an iconic figure on the landscape of Pan-African chess and history will be generous in that regard.

Amon Simutowe and Daaim Shabazz at 2016 World Chess Championship in New York.

Amon Simutowe and Daaim Shabazz
at 2016 World Chess Championship in New York.

Simutowe is based in New York and has been occasionally spotted around New York chess scenes. Last month, he followed the World Chess Championship between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana encounter and annotated games for The Chess Drum. (click on games in table below)

While the match ended a month ago, the memories are still fresh. One of the burning issues that is still raging is the match format to diminish the incidence of draws. There were 12 straight draws in the match despite both sides having chance to score.

2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
 
pts.
Carlsen
6
Caruana
6

Tiebreaks
 
1
2
3
4
pts.
Carlsen
1
1
1
3
Caruana
0
0
0
0
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

Reflections on CARUANA vs. CARLSEN
GM Amon Simutowe (Zambia)

The global chess community was treated to the highly-anticipated Carlsen–Caruana championship match. I have summarized my thoughts about the match set up and what I think went right and wrong for both players as well as my opinion about the tiebreaks. It’s quite impossible to capture all the elements as so many unobservable factors were also in play, but I believe I have captured the significant issues.

Match Set up

GM Amon Simutowe
Photo by Fred Lucas

As I stated at the beginning of the match, I think the matches should be 14 or 16 games. My preference is 14 games as I fear a 16 game match may take a toll on the players physically. After the match, Caruana indicated that he could have played as many as 16 games. His comment may suggest his preference for a longer match.

On average, I think the length of the match would not change the deserved result. But a 14-16 game match would incentivize more risk taking and likely entertain the chess fans more. For instance, in a 14-16 game match, a player can lose a game 6 and still have several opportunities in the remaining 8-10 games to equalize. In a 12 game match, there is little incentive to take big risks beyond game 6 if the match is tied. Thus, the question is whether FIDE could consider increasing world championship matches by at least two games.

What went right for Carlsen

It’s hard to pinpoint everything which helped Carlsen win the match but a few below shed some light:

  • His main interest was to win and he decided not to worry much about choosing a method that may be more entertaining to average chess fans.
  • He stuck to his strategy of being cautious during the match. Perhaps this was justified since Caruana seemed very comfortable in very sharp variations.
  • He applied basic statistics. According to their Elo ratings, the difference in ability in classical chess between Carlsen and Caruana was insignificant. The difference in rapid chess was noticeable, so Carlsen banked his chances on winning in the rapid match and he demonstrated that.

Magnus Carlsen
Photo by David Llada

What went wrong for Carlsen

Nothing really went wrong for Carlsen since he won but a few issues still come to mind.

  • He did not win game 1 even though he should have won based on his talent level.
  • After game 3, he disappointed some chess fans as it became increasing clear that he would play more cautious than they expected.
  • He should have played on in game 12 because he had a slight advantage. This could arguably be also what went right. Several chess experts criticized his decision to offer a draw. This was based on the assumption that Carlsen could only draw or win after he got an advantage. But he is human and it’s also possible that he could blunder. Another possibility is that he was not psychologically ready to keep fighting in that position – which should be another logical reason not to play on. Thus, if it was a robot with Carlsen’s strength, the best decision was to play on – but as a human with varying emotional states and effectiveness, Carlsen was likely right.

“Based on the information I had at that point,
I think I made a very good decision.”

~Magnus Carlsen


What went right for Caruana

In terms of strategy, Caruana was on track. The mentioned factors is what I think would have pushed him above the line if he had won the match.

  • He did not lose the first game even though his position was in that situation. He settled well after he went unbeaten the first 5 games. I think it’s easier to withstand any psychological challenges if a player loses after he or she has settled into the match. He could have been in trouble if Carlsen pressed in game 12. But to be fair, Caruana also had advantages in at least 2 games and this should cancel out his escapes.
  • He was well prepared as he showed in the depth and breadth of his opening preparation especially with white pieces.
  • He became more of a threat to win the match as it progressed. I think that if it was a 16 game match and Carlsen kept repeating the Sicilian, Caruana would break through.
  • His games were quite impressive – he really played to win especially with white pieces and chess fans were very happy with him.

Fabiano Caruana
Photo by IM Eric Rosen

What went wrong for Caruana

I am not sure anything that went wrong in terms of Caruana’s chances to win was within his control. The following points suggest a few issues that likely negatively affected him.

  • In the first 12 games, nothing costly happened but he almost lost game 1. In game 12, he was still at a disadvantage but he could have likely drawn – albeit with a bit of struggle. So in practice, nothing observable was really wrong unless it mattered psychologically.
  • I suspect Caruana thought that Carlsen is better than him in rapid chess. Yes the records state that but it’s another thing if he actually believes that.
  • I think even though he is very experienced and amazing (at least better than millions of other chess players not named Carlsen) he may have been affected psychologically. His results in the rapid match did not reflect his skill even taking into account that Carlsen was a favorite in the rapid game.

Tiebreak Rapid Match Games

I think there is not much point in analyzing the rapid games since the conditions lead to mistakes but a few comments especially on the key moments of the rapid match are still warranted.

Rapid Game 1

Carlsen prepared 3.g3 and 4.e4! These move stood out to me. They look ordinary but it may not be easy for Caruana to choose continuations especially at 2800+ where details really matter. Carlsen was able to create a middle game which made it difficult for Caruana to move. This mattered significantly because time was constraints were a factor as well and we can assume that Carlsen was relatively more prepared. Carlsen’s endgame play was much more impressive that it may outwardly appear. Thus Caruana erred mainly because of the conditions he was operating under time constraints in a variation in which he was surprised.

On 24.Bxe6?! Carlsen let his advantage slip after 24…Kf8 25.Rxd4 Ke7 26.Rxd7+. Caruana eventually misplayed the rook ending and went down in defeat. However, Carlsen should play 24.Rxd4! After 24…Kf7 he had the stunning 25.Kh1!! (diagram #2) This avoids the trap of 25.Red1? where black saves the game with 25…Ne5! If 26.Rxd8 then 26…Nxf3+ 27.Kf1 (27.Kh1?? Rh2 mate!) 27…Nxh2+ 28.Kg1 Nf3+ etc.

Rapid Game 2

Carlsen had a noticeable psychological advantage since he was now leading the match. I was quite impressed that Carlsen still repeated the Sicilian Sveshnikov. Even taking into account that Carlsen deviated from Game 12 by playing 11…Qb8, I still consider his decision to repeat the Sicilian Sveshnikov quite bold. I must admit I am not a fan of 11…Qb8 even though it is a normal theoretical move.

While 11…Qb8 is not a losing move, I consider it a bit of awkward but this was Carlsen playing it. He is capable of coming up with impressive ideas. The possible awkward aspect of the move may also not matter much in rapid games. Unfortunately, Caruana over-extended himself and lost. Positions arising such as 27…Ne5 are not representative of what should happen to a person of Caruana’s stature. It seems that he considered game 2 a must win situation even though he didn’t to but that’s still a subjective decision.

Rapid Game 3

In game 3, Caruana had added pressure to beat Carlsen with black pieces. With a 2-0 lead and needing only a draw with white pieces, Carlsen had a lot of pressure taken off. I would not blame Caruana’s loss in game 3 on technical aspects but the excess pressure to avoid draws. Caruana had to only find paths leading to wins while Carlsen had to choose moves that would lead to drawn or winning positions. The rapid match was certainly not representative of Caruana’s strength and it was an unfortunate way to finish the world chess championship – which most of the chess fans credibly thought he had a chance of winning after the match went past game 6.

Carlsen wins 3-0 in tiebreaks over Caruana…
retains title!

Magnus Carlsen hoisting aloft the champion’s trophy
Photo by World Chess

Conclusion

I am not sure we should dwell on Caruana’s misfortune in the tiebreaks. He would have won the match in the first 12 games if he was relatively better prepared than Carlsen. My main concern was that Caruana might lose a game early in the match and get psychologically unsettled. Thus, I believe the match experience advantage Carlsen has compared to Caruana was somewhat neutralized after the match went to roughly game 5 without a decisive game.

GM Amon Simutowe

I had stated earlier that decisive games would be unlikely if we didn’t see one between game 5 and 9. To the credit of the players, some games after game 9 were still very dynamic. But as was demonstrated in the match, it’s difficult for a 2800 level player to drop a point even in unfavorable positions.

I also think that match was good for chess even though some of the chess experts thought otherwise. Some friends who don’t play chess seemed intrigued when they learned that the match had gone 12 games without a decisive game. I doubt their fascination would have been the same if the match had been decided by then.

It will be interesting if Caruana gets to challenge Carlsen again in 2020. If he doesn’t, I hope the next challenger will be as impressive as Caruana turned out to be.

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In the aftermath of a successful hosting of the World Chess Championship that saw Magnus Carlsen defend his crown, the city of London is getting another gem of an event in the London Chess Classic. Fabiano Caruana is back in action after a valiant fight against Carlsen, losing in tiebreaks. This is the last tournament of the Grand Chess Tour with the winner taking $120,000 top prize, but there are other subplots that will make this finale a must-watch.

The week-long event (December 11th-17th) will be held at two different venues… the headquarters of DeepMind, the brainchild of Alpha Zero and the London Olympia. Alpha Zero, the self-taught artificial intelligence engine, has been in the news lately because of its highly-fancied matches with Stockfish, but more importantly its spellbinding games.

2018 London Chess Classic
December 11-17, 2018 (London, England)
Name
FED
Flag
Classical
Rapid
Blitz
GM Fabiano Caruana USA
2832, #2 2789, #10 2767, #16
GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA
2778, #6 2786, #11 2937, #2
GM Levon Aronian ARM
2765, #11 2802, #7 2889, #3
GM Hikaru Nakamura USA
2746, #17 2844, #2 2858, #4
(Official Site)

The four players qualified by holding the top four positions in the GCT standings with Hikaru Nakamura holding the top position. Caruana was able to qualify by virtue of winning a playoff tiebreaker over Wesley So. While many speculated that Caruana would not play so soon after a grueling battle, he is coming “locked and loaded” with a chance to become the world’s #1 player.

Levon Aronian, a threat to win any given tournament, will attempt to hoist the GCT trophy. Along with Nakamura, he is one of the playing founders of the Sinquefield Cup having participated in each edition since the inception of 2013. Norway Chess 2015 was the event that spawned off the GCT tour with Veselin Topalov winning the inaugural event.

The real issue moving forward is coming up with new format with a variety of players. The same combination of players have competed every year which raises the question of the tour’s future. Will the GCT present any new ideas for the future or will we see the same players competing every event? That is the buzz going around in fandom circles.

According to the GCT official site…

After two Classical games on December 11-12, play switches to Rapid & Blitz on Dec. 13. The winners then go through to the 3-day Final, held at the traditional Olympia London venue on December 15-16 (Classical) & 17 (Rapid & Blitz). There will also be a Third Place Playoff.The 2018 GCT champion will take home a 1st prize of $120,000 (there’s $80,000 for 2nd, $60,000 for 3rd and $40,000 for 4th).

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Regulations: https://www.londonchessclassic.com/

Drum Coverage: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

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Adisa Banjoko is known to The Chess Drum audience as the founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation, an educational initiative fusing chess, hip-hop and martial arts. Since starting the HHCF in 2007, he has hosted tournaments, taught in Bay Area schools and spoke at universities from coast-to-coast. worked on remarkable projects including his exhibits at the World Chess Hall of Fame (Living Like Kings) and the Oakland Museum (RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom). In February 2012, he graced the cover of Chess Life magazine celebrating five years of service.

Chess Life (February 2012)

Adisa Banjoko’s Hip Hop Chess Federation
was the cover story of February 2012
U.S. Chess Life magazine.

Adisa on point at Harvard University

With RZA, one of the visionary founders of the Wu Tang Clan,
at the St. Louis Chess Club during opening of the
“Living Like Kings” exhibit.

On his 12th episode of Bishop Chronicles reveals the shocking story of how he almost died recently. The emotional segment reveals his days leading up to the crisis after twice blacking out randomly. After his wife demanded that he go to the hospital, they run test and make an alarming discovery. He was bleeding to death. They didn’t understand why. Reality hit home when they started asking him about his final arrangements and if he wanted to see a chaplain. He talks about the situation in very great detail in his own conversational style. Very moving!

Take a listen!

# # #

About HHCF: The Hip-Hop Chess Federation is the world’s first nonprofit (501c3) to fuse music, chess and martial arts to promote unity, strategy and nonviolence. They host lectures, panels, and celebrity chess events to help at-risk, gang-impacted and gang intentional youth make better decisions in life. The HHCF has been featured on Good Morning America, Forbes, Chess Life, VIBE and Rolling Stone.

Visit www.BishopChronicles.com today and LISTEN to some of the coolest interviews in entertainment, business strategy and technology on the net.

Connect with me on www.linkedin.com/in/abanjoko

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GM Pontus Carlsson in New Orleans with participants
in “Business Meets Chess & Kids” program

GM Pontus Carlsson returned to Perpetual Podcast with FM Ben Johnson to get an update on his recent activities and his ongoing initiative. He was recently in New Orleans “The Big Easy” to visit the hometown (and home) of Paul Morphy and engage in a number of outreach activities with the chess community. (See story here)

GM Pontus Carlsson by Paul Morphy Street

  • Pontus’ recent trip to New Orleans for a philanthropic initiative. He has helped launch Business meets Chess and Kids, an organization that pairs business leaders with underprivileged kids in tandem chess, with the goal of using chess as a form for networking and mentorship for the younger generation. Pontus told stories from his trip and talked about future plans for this inspiring effort.
  • Pontus gave a couple of great book recommendations and gave some advice for infrequent tournament competitors who are trying to shake off some rust (for example, say, the host of this podcast).
  • We talked about a couple of the themes emerging from the ongoing World Championship match, and Pontus shared some stories and perspectives from past experiences having met and talked with the likes of Magnus Carlsen, Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri.

Episode 101– GM Pontus Carlsson Returns

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway
Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Tiebreaks
 
1
2
3
4
pts.
Carlsen
1
1
1
3
Caruana
0
0
0
0
Match Score: 9-6 (6-6, 3-0)
Magnus Carlsen, World Champion

2018 World Chess Championship: TIEBREAKS
Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Magnus Carlsen retains world title!

Chess fans and commentators were still buzzing from the 12th game of the World Chess Championship. Social media was tossing around thousands of comments on whether Magnus Carlsen, the reigning champion, had “punked out” and went for the rapid instead of pressing for a win. With critics asserting that such a win would cheapen the victory, Carlsen later stated that he felt it was the best strategic decision to make. He was right.


“Based on the information I had at that point,
I think I made a very good decision.”

~Magnus Carlsen


Coming into the tiebreaks, Carlsen was a definite favorite. It was not just the rating difference is rapid, but he at least deserved that status as the reigning champion. However, he looked vulnerable during the 12 classic games and he was out-prepared in a number of games and at least two of them he was completely losing. One required a computeresque finesse which neither spotted.

Speaking of computers, chess.com ran an experiment on the final position of game 12 and it turns out that Caruana could hold the position together with alert play. The controversial finale lead to the four-game rapid.

Game 1

Carlsen trotted out the English Opening again and faced the interesting 3…Bb4!? instead of the Reversed Sicilian Dragon he got in games 4 and 9. This has been a Sicilian theme tournament that prominently featured the Rossolimo, Sveshnikov and Taimanov. This game ended up like a Reversed Rossolimo! However, Caruana never quite equalized.

The engines gave white a slight edge, but Caruana started to slip with 18…Nd6 and on 19.Rcd1 white initiated a series of tactics to gain an edge. A middlegame melee broke out and after 20.Nc5 Rxb2 21.Nxe6 fxe6 22.Bxc4 Nd4 23.Bxd4 exd4 white played 24.Bxe6+?! (diagram left below)

On 24.Bxe6?! Carlsen let his advantage slip after 24…Kf8 25.Rxd4 Ke7 26.Rxd7+. Caruana eventually misplayed the rook ending and went down in defeat. However, Carlsen should play 24.Rxd4! After 24…Kf7 he had the stunning 25.Kh1!! (diagram #2) This avoids the trap of 25.Red1? where black saves the game with 25…Ne5! If 26.Rxd8 then 26…Nxf3+ 27.Kf1 (27.Kh1?? Rh2 mate!) 27…Nxh2+ 28.Kg1 Nf3+ etc.

After 24.Bxe6+ Caruana’s active rook and passed c-pawn were poised to be the saving grace, but he allowed the white king off the back rank after 34…Rc3? Even then, the game was still salvageable! On 37.Rc7! black should play 37…Ra2+ and continue to harass the king. However, on 37…Kxe4? white plays the intermezzo 38.Re7+! preventing the black king from getting to f3-square. Carlsen mopped up the remaining black pawns and we’d see our first win of the match!

After this, the Norwegian gave a victorious fist pump.

Game 2

Another Sveshnikov following game 12 up to the more common 11…Qb8. In that aforementioned game, Carlsen went for 11…Bf5 and got a strong position, but certainly Caruana had done some homework. It appeared that Caruana had got the more preferable position.

Commentators were convinced white had found a path to success, but after 21.c5? white had become overzealous and threw away the advantage. Instead of tucking the king away, white had to save the c-pawn, but black’s raging pieces soon caught the white king in a dangerous crossfire. Caruana had to resign on move 28. Crushing defeat!

Game 3

Down two games, Caruana would have to win two in a row to save the match. This would be an insurmountable task since he had been unable to win a game despite getting promising positions. In the last game, Carlsen played 1.e4 continuing to keep Caruana off balance. This time it was a Sicilian Taimanov and Caruana opted for the speculative 5.Bc5!? White assumed a solid Maroczy Bind position while black opted for a modified hedgehog with the pawn on c5 instead of b6.

With the pawn on c5, the b5 thrust is not possible. So white felt emboldened to play 24.g4 and got a huge advantage. Caruana was in trouble with his position crumbling, he tried to find ways to swindle. It was not to be. In fact, white’s steamrolling pawns stopped any black counterplay and Carlsen closed out the 3rd game in impressive fashion.

The celebration had begun in Norway!

Magnus Carlsen hoisting aloft the champion’s trophy
Photo by World Chess

This match made several statements, but two of the most important are first, the gap has closed between Carlsen and the rest of the elite. The champion is still stronger, but he is not wielding the same dominance as he did four years ago. He was unable to win a classical game against Caruana and only one against Karjakin in the 2016 match. However, unless the format changes, other challengers will have to deal with Carlsen’s supremacy in the faster time controls where he is simply brutal.

As far as the marketability of chess, this match suffered because of the 12 draws. To those who either don’t follow chess or players who are unable to appreciate the nuance of elite-level play, it may not be exciting. This does matter. However, it is not a given that championship matches should sacrifice high-quality drawn games for exciting, error-filled decisive games. Where is the happy median? More games? An inclusion of disciplines (classical, rapid, blitz and 960)?

Chess certainly did not take a step backwards with Carlsen’s win, but something will have to be considered to ensure that classical matches maintain their prestige. Chess is not dead. We simply have to find a formula to enliven it. In fact, this match showed the tension, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Chess is alive!

Photo by Maria Emelianova/Chess.com; other media content courtesy of World Chess (https://worldchess.com/)

Closing Ceremonies

Video by World Chess

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 12
Caruana
½-½
Carlsen
Match Score: 6-6
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 12
Monday, 26 November 2018

Carlsen faces scathing criticism after offering draw in better position.
The title will be decided via tiebreaks!

Carlsen offered a draw in this position. Notice the times on the clock! The gesture came as a shock to thousands of viewers and commentators.

The person shocked the most by today’s result was not GM Maurice Ashley who visibly lurched forward and exclaimed “What??!!” after hearing that Magnus Carlsen offered a draw in the 12th game of the championship match. After challenger Fabiano Caruana had lost his way in the middlegame, Carlsen was set to turn in one of this classic grinding wins to win the championship.

Such predictions were circulating around social media. While there is no need to provide a list of comments expressing disappointments, GM Vladimir Kramnik was probably the harshest when it stated that such a ploy should not be taken by a world champion. He then made a statement of support to Caruana!


“It’s a shame for Black to offer a draw in such position!”
~Vladimir Kramnik


What was interesting about the game was the heightened anticipation after a Sveshnikov was trotted out on the board. They repeated the 7.Nd5!? line, but Carlsen varied after 7…Nxd5 8.exd5 Ne7 which is not the main line and differs from 8…Nb8 tried in games 8 and 10. The text move offers a reasonable plan which is the shore up the kingside and support an …f5 thrust.

Fast forward.

White dawdled with his queen and viewers were afraid they were going to take a three-fold repetition. No chance! Black began playing useful moves including principled kingside castling and 22…Bg6! Now Carlsen started to assert authority on the position with 23…f5 At this point the tide had swung in black’s favor as a queenside attack was looming.

Caruana had embarked on a dubious plan of 18.f3?! 21.Rh2?! and 23.Rc2. This plan was to shore up the queenside for a pending black onslaught. However, after 27…Be8! 28.Kb1 Bf6 29.Re1, Caruana was shuffling wood trying to find the best setup. Instead of 29…a4? the stronger move was 29…Ba4! and subsequent sacrifices on b3 were evaluated as a winning attack for black.

White plugged up things with 30.Qb4! Now Carlsen started to shut things down… at least in his own mind. After 30…g6 31.Rd1 Ra8 he offered a draw!! Shock reverberated around the chess world which had been salivating for a decisive result. The reality was that Carlsen had already poised himself for a tiebreak and did not want to take a risk of losing the championship when he had not shown much during the match.

Psychology played a big factor in his decision, so he took what he thought may be the better odds in the tiebreaks. However, Hikaru Nakamura who was supporting a Carlsen victory, weighed in with a surprising statement about the match.

Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

In game 12, Carlsen avoided the risk of running into special preparation by not repeating 8…Nb8 in the Sicilian Sveshnikov. He continued with 8..Ne7 and the game ended in a draw after move 31. Carlsen offered a draw when he had more time on his clock and his pieces were more mobile. I have been in situations when the stakes where quite high before but I typically played on at least a few more moves if slightly better. For instance, if Carlsen played 3 more moves, on one of the responses, Caruana might have taken significant time to respond sinking into time trouble and increasing the probability of making a mistake. Thus, my surprise was more from the time advantage aspect not the slight positional advantage since Caruana could still manage to draw in the final position.

GM Amon Simutowe
Photo by Fred Lucas

Many grandmasters including Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kraminik were not thrilled that Carlsen accepted a draw in a game in which he had a slight positional advantage and noticeable time advantage. Kasparov tweeted that he would reconsider his earlier opinion that Carlsen is the favorite in tiebreaks since tiebreaks require a lot of nerves and taking a draw in a slightly better position did not signify tough nerves.

Fundamentally, Carlsen’s decision to draw may not be as worse as many experts suggested in practice given what was at stake. It would have been easier for Carlsen to play for a win if he needed a win to for instance tie the match. Even Kasparov indicated it was easier for him to play for a win in his final game matches because his situations were typically all or nothing. Also statistically, I think Carlsen made a decent decision to draw. Since Carlsen is slightly better than Caruana in rapid chess based on their rapid ratings, the definition of better in this case is only more applicable over a slightly bigger sample of games.

A higher rating simply means a higher probability of winning and in this case the difference is not really that much at 2700+ level of play since players at this level have no technical weaknesses. Thus, it makes sense for Carlsen to try and win in a 4 game rapid match since he can get a chance to even the score if he loses than press for a win in a game in which a blunder could mean losing the title. Carlsen also indicated that he came into the last match to just get a draw. Changing the mindset during the game is sometimes difficult in practice.

Speculation occurred about Carlsen’s health, but nothing of the sort was mentioned during the press conference. Carlsen explained that he didn’t think he was that much better and mentioned the word “safe” a few times. However, Caruana had only eight minutes life and there was little risk in playing a few more moves since white was squirming. Harsh criticism was swift and some pro-Carlsen fans reacted… some even defected! Garry Kasparov also expressed his candid view…

When asked about the 12 draws and the format, Caruana gave a principled answer by saying that the two have played according to the current regulations, but added that, “If the powers that be want to change it, then we’ll work with something else.” Caruana also mentioned that he’s fine with playing more games and that neither player seemed to be suffering from fatigue.

Throughout the match it appeared from body language and facial expressions that Carlsen was rattled and perhaps his nerves have gotten the best of him. On the other hand Caruana seemed upbeat and cheerful. In this game however, he stated that the felt he was on the precipice of defeat and was relieved to get the draw offer.

Nevertheless, the two will play four rapid tiebreak games followed by a two-game blitz mini-match (up to five such matches until the tie is broken). If the match is still tied, an Armageddon game will be played if necessary. White will have five minutes, but be required to win. A draw with black wins the title. Technically, black can win the title without having won a game… Amazing!

Here is the presser conducted by a befuddled Danny King…

Press Conference (Game #12)

Video by World Chess

Video by GM Daniel King/Power Play Chess

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 11
Carlsen
½-½
Caruana
Match Score: 5½-5½
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 11
Saturday, 24 November 2018

Match still drawn after 11 games…
Will tomorrow bring us a fierce battle or peaceful draw??

Today was a slow day and had the fans and commentators groaning. About the most exciting thing happened before the 11th Carlsen-Caruana game started. Sergey Karjakin, the championship challenger from 2016 made the first move today. A bit of levity helped ease the tremendous tension in the hall.

What was funny was not the 1.b4 move, but that Karjakin had stated in an interview that he wished that Caruana would win the match. So 1.b4 would certainly increase the American’s chances!

The game today was a double king pawn opening featuring the Petroff variation and Carlsen played one of the most aggressive lines after 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 7.Be3 O-O 8.Qd2 Nd7 9.O-O-O. Opposite side castling always makes for an exciting battle, but this game only had one moment of tension and that was Carlsen’s 15.Nh4!?

Caruana stated that he was surprised at the choice. The commentary team at the St. Louis Chess Club gave 15…Ng4 16.Ng6! fxg6 17.Rxe6 Nxf2 18.Rde1 Nxd3+ 19.cxd3 Bf6 20.Rxe6 with unclear play. Actually white end up winning a pawn in yet another bishop ending, but the game was completely equal. Press Officer Grandmaster Daniel King gives his onsite assessment.

Video by GM Daniel King/Power Play Chess


“With the sample size of Carlsen’s Sicilian responses we have seen in this match, Caruana should be comfortable playing for a win in game 12. This is why I think it may be a risky idea for Carlsen to repeat the Sicilian in game 12 – but he is still Carlsen. Ultimately, Caruana’s decision whether to press for a win in game 12 may depend on whether he believes Carlsen is much better in tiebreaks and if the psychology of his mind set has already shifted to tiebreaks. In any event, at this stage of the match, I believe the majority of chess fans would prefer the result to be settled in tiebreaks.”

~GM Amon Simutowe


Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

Photo by Lewis Ncube

Press Conference (Game #11)

Video by World Chess

So what’s in store for tomorrow? The champion gave his impressions…

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In case you didn’t see it, Grandmaster Maurice Ashley made an appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, the South African comedian known for his biting, politically-charged satire. Ashley had tweeted his appearance on the show and showed his excitement. Certainly chess would be at the center of the discussion.

Chess has struggled to get mainstream acceptance, but is often used in metaphors for everyday life. What they don’t know is that Ashley has attempted to make chess exciting and entertaining to follow with his unique brand of energy and flair. The segment couldn’t go without some barbs thrown. Take a look!

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2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
November 8th-28th, 2018 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
FINAL (Ju Wenjun vs. Kateryna Lagno)
 
Flag
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
pts.
Ju
China
0
½
½
1
½
½
1
1
Lagno
Russia
1
½
½
0
½
½
0
0
Drum Coverage

2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
Final, Tiebreaks (23 November 2018)

Ju Wenjun defends title!

Ju Wenjun beaming with championship trophy.
Photo by ugra2018.fide.com

For Ju Wenjun, she maintained the title with the class and dignity befitting of a champion and never showed any sign of giving up. While her relaxed body posture before her first game wreaked of overconfidence, the loss forced her to steady herself and she got the equalizer against Kateryna Lagno in the last classical game.

In the tiebreaks the rapid games were competitive with the first game being fought out of a Queen’s Gambit Accepted. This game had none of the twists an turns of the previous and ended in a peaceful draw. The second was similar in a Catalan variation. The game was very placid and by move 20 the game had clarified to another equal ending. No separation in the rapid, so onto the 10’+10″ blitz games.

After two uninspiring games, Lagno would have one more chance and opted for a Reti Opening. This game went and Lagno got a slight pull in the position, but not the type imbalance to give her a chance for a win. She then started to take chances and in an equal ending overlook a simple tactic and lost a pawn after 23.Bf1? after which 23…Nd1! wins a pawn. Ju ushered her queenside pawns up the board and one of the bishops had to fall on the sword. Ju would enjoy her first lead of the match.

Lagno’s 34…Qg6 tosses the queen.
Fatigue wins again!

In the second blitz game, Lagno opted for the Modern Defense which is extremely difficult to play since black cedes the center. Following the script, Ju seized the center and tried to increase pressure to constrict black’s mobility. Lagno played solidly, but in the end had a lapse of attention and dropped her queen in one move with 34…Qg6?? after which Ju snapped it off with 35.Nxg6. Shocking. Fatigue had claimed another victim.

Kateryna Lagno showed the ultimate fighter experience. She battled in her 4th tiebreak against a formidable defending champion and had her on the brink of elimination. The extra games finally took their toll as she lost both 10’+10″ games. The match ended when she hung her queen in one move. The only way of explaining this could be fatigue. Lagno played a total of 29 games.

Ju was congratulated and successfully defended her title. One of the effects of her retaining the title was to provide continuity for the cycle. How can one explain a champion holding the title for only six months? Before the tournament, it was announced the the women’s cycle would include a Candidate’s tournament in which the four semifinalists will qualify. There would also be a Grand Prix series and the World Cup would now be a qualifier. This is the same as the Open cycle.

Official Site: http://ugra2018.fide.com/
Live: https://ugra2018.fide.com/live/

Game from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Final, Tiebreaks)

Video by ugra2018.fide.com

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 10
Caruana
½-½
Carlsen
Match Score: 5-5
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 10
Thursday, 22 November 2018

Brutal battle in London… neither side breaks

Fabiano Caruana pondering after 21…b5!
Photo by World Chess.

Everyone weighed in on the fascinating battle at The College in Holbrun, London today. It appears that this match has everything, but wins. The 10th consecutive draw had many people talking about the match format. The games have been hard fought, but there is a tendency to believe a draw is not a natural result… at least not ten in a row. Could it be that fans want to see the flaws of these top players more than their strengths?

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave annotated a game at chess.com and remarked on the high level of the game. What is it that we want, quality chess or decisive results? In America, there is a highlight mentality with an emphasis on knockouts, homeruns, touchdowns, goals or someone getting beat down. Fans want a definitive result since that is what competition is about. Someone wins and someone loses, right?

Debate on draw reignited

Maurice Ashley has been a huge advocate of reducing the number of draws (and banning draw offers) in top-level competition, but other GMs have weighed in. At the press conference the question was raised on whether each draw should be followed by an Armageddon game so that there is a definitive result. However, that would mean that the match would be determined more by blitz than classical and indeed the two are very different disciplines. In addition, neither player would be in any shape to play such a game after a six-hour game. This idea was rejected by both players.

FIDE Vice President and British GM Nigel Short being interviewed by local TV station.

FIDE Vice President and British Grandmaster Nigel Short being interviewed by local TV station. One could probably successfully wager that Short spoke about one of three possible topics… (1) AGON (2) the number of draws (3) abolishing the stalemate rule. Well… maybe not the last one!

Carlsen stated that the length of the match should be 16 or 18 games to prevent the cautious nature of the games. However, these games have not been cautiously played… just too good. We are at a turning point in the philosophy that white has the advantage of the first move. In fact, there appears to be no advantage, just more theory in analyzing white advantages. It may be debated that theory for black may finally be catching up. Nevertheless, this match has been eye-opening on many levels.

Rock-em Sock-em robots

Back in the 60s and 70s there was a toy marketed in the U.S. called Rock-em Sock em robots where the two toy boxers were situated in a ring and would throw endless punches until someone got in a solid head shot and knock the opponents “block off.” This game was the epitome of a such a brawl. The game was so thrilling that commentators had trouble with the evaluations. The game another Sicilian Sveshnikov with 7.Nd5 but Caruana uncorked a new move in 12.b4!? After a short queenside skirmish, Carlsen went for 16…f5! and changed the tide of the game.

As Carlsen pieces were poised for a kingside onslaught, Caruana prepared a lateral defense with the peculiar 19.Ra3!? It appears that black has a freehand with a queen sally on the kingside, rook lift Rf8-f6-h6 and checkmate. Facing this prospect would probably cause lesser players to buckle. However, the most critical move of the game came on the queenside after 21…b5!

After 21…b5! white cannot take en passant because the rook and knight would be eliminated from active play after 22.axb6 Rxa3 23.Nxa3 f3! 24.gxf3 Ne5! and white is reeling.

The game’s pace quickened and mind-dizzying variations after 24.g3 included ‘only moves’ that stood on the precipice of disaster or triumph. During the press conference Caruana stated that he should have opted for f3 instead of g3. Carlsen kept coming, but Caruana defended like a boss. So many ways to go wrong. For example, on 27.Bb5?? black plays 27…Rf8-f6-h6 with Qh5 and get mated on the h-file.

Carlsen kept setting boobytraps like the sinister 35…Qe2!

After that flurry of middlegame fireworks the game went into a double rook ending with many imbalances. Carlsen went 44…Kd4? potentially losing the thread on the position. Even after going down a pawn the game was technically a draw. What a battle!

Here is the recap that you must see!

Press Conference (Game #10)

Video by World Chess

Video by GM Daniel King

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 9
Carlsen
½-½
Caruana
Match Score: 4½-4½
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 9
Wednesday, 21 November 2018

A record 9th draw with three remaining…
games, not draws

Carlsen was the subject of jokes and puns after tweeting a selfie of his black eye from pickup football match. He certainly looked like a fighter, came out swinging, but hit nothing. Photo by Niki Riga.

Magnus Carlsen came to the board looking like a prize fighter. He may have had a black eye, but at least he didn’t lose the fight. He didn’t win either. After earning a draw from a losing position, Caruana was upbeat during the press conference. On the other hand, another letdown for the champion.

Carlsen built up a winnable position, but a hasty moment cost him a sizable advantage. After the Caruana failed to convert an advantage in game 8, it was Carlsen’s turn to press for a win. Ironically, after the flogging Caruana was getting today, he came out smiling. Brings back memories of the “shhhhh” episode at the Sinquefield Cup.

Caruana would slip away… again.

Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali, 1971

Despite the nine draws thus far, the games have been exciting and quite instructive. Today’s game repeated the English Opening of game 4. One critical moment came when Caruana played 17…Bxf3?! This move got a lot of criticism and essentially ceded Carlsen a free hand. The subtlety was that white enjoyed space and a bishop with free reign while black’s bishop on b6 would be shut out of play for a long time. The key moment came when Carlsen played 24.h4 provoking a kingside weakness after 24…g6.

Carlsen did not have to rush because h5 would also be in waiting. Carlsen couldn’t resist and played 25.h5?! Caruana simply snapped off the pawn causing viewers to gasp initially. However, Caruana sent a message by playing 26…f5! showing that he has no fear. He followed up with 27…h4! when Carlsen has to take care not to fall prey to a sacrifice on e3. A pair of rooks came off, the h-pawn was taken and despite both kings being exposed, neither side was in any danger at this point. There were some tricks in the end, but both sides were frozen and Caruana would survive a difficult position.

Tomorrow is a key game. Zambian Grandmaster Amon Simutowe told The Chess Drum,

Based on how Carlsen is playing, it seems he has decided the match should be decided in playoffs – strange…

That much is not certain. Perhaps the champion will take his chances in the last three classical games, but it is clear that he has tried unsuccessfully to breach Caruana’s defense. Like another Brooklyn resident Mike Tyson who stated that his “defense was impregnable,” Caruana has shown a lot of poise during this match and has defended as well as Sergey Karjakin did in the 2016 match against Carlsen. However, Caruana is also getting tangible advantages with opening preparation… something Karjakin failed to do.

Carlsen may be a bit frustrated, but with three games remaining, he can’t afford to sit idle and “draw out” for tiebreaks. Caruana has two white games coming and we can expect some killer prep coming. If they should “draw out” for 12 games (amazing), Carlsen’s advantage over Caruana in a head-to-head rapid/blitz match may be overstated, but he will be the odds-on favorite for sure.

Photo by Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

Amon Simutowe at 2005 HB Chess Challenge

Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Video by GM Daniel King

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 8
Caruana
½-½
Carlsen
Match Score: 4-4
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 8
Monday, 19 November 2018

Caruana misses another opportunity… 12 draws?

The press room was buzzing after Fabiano Caruana was pondering over his 21st move. Then it happened…

After more than a half-hour, 21.c5! was on the board to the delight of fans and commentators, but that excitement would be short-lived.

Today’s game started off with the Sicilian Sveshnikov after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4! cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5!? This would proved to be an exciting encounter and the famed opening promises an imbalanced game with plenty of play. Caruana essayed a more positional approach with 6.Nbd5 d6 7.Nd5!? Nxd5 8.exd5 Nb8 9.a4!?

Carlsen essays 18…g5?!
It almost cost him dearly.

The game followed a few examples, but Caruana opted for 12.Bd2 with the idea of Bc3 at some point. Carlsen lashed out with 18…g5?! raising the ire of commentators. None other than Hikaru Nakamura who cited Garry Kasparov as saying Carlsen typically doesn’t like such moves. Was this desperation? While black’s position looks menacing, it would become apparent that black was overextended.

Win, lose or draw, this round would be the most exciting game yet. It was appear that we would finally get a decisive result. After the drum roll, Caruana played the crowd-pleaser. His 21.c5! had many merits, but the idea was to increase space, create a path for the d-pawn and simply threaten Bxe5 with steamrolling central pawns. The computer evaluation gave white as much as a two-pawn advantage.

There is always the issue of getting a strong position, but knowing how to execute the follow-up. Many fans had their chess engine humming when Caruana played 24.h3? The engines screamed for 24.Rae1 when white has tremendous pressure. After 24.h3 (24.Qh5! still had promise) 24…Qe8! black was back in the game. Carlsen managed to get the queens off and the shook hands ten moves later.

This was a disappointment for Caruana who has missed his chances. It appears that he has outprepared Carlsen, but it has been more than rattling off moves. He has confirmed the adage that one may have a computer, but still has to play the moves at the board.

Caruana didn’t seem too upset and must be pleased that he is getting his chances, but time is running out for him to convert his advantages. Team Carlsen seems to be reeling and has not been able to get much with white. Tomorrow be a critical moment.

Photo by Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Video by GM Daniel King

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 7
Carlsen
½-½
Caruana
Match Score: 3½-3½
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 7
Sunday, 18 November 2018

Another draw… black is still good!

Todays’ battle in Holburn, London certainly didn’t create a “Fire on Board,” but there is still a psychological battle going on. In a photo (above) taken by the official photographer, there appears to be an expression of anxiety in the face of Magnus Carlsen. Meanwhile, Fabiano Caruana still appears relaxed. Perhaps that is not what it appears, but was it certain is that pressure is being ratcheted up gradually and Carlsen is feeling it.

Magnus Carlsen stated that he’s not worrid,
but his expressions say otherwise.
Photo by Mike Klein

Caruana has successfully held both back-to-back black games which many consider to be an accomplishment. It is ironic that black has had the most chances in this match. In fact, Carlsen characterized his play as “soft” and seemed to be a bit unnerved. In the press conference he mentioned not being pleased. Former world champion Viswanathan Anand made a serious observation about Carlsen…

“What is striking is the number of [good] positions he doesn’t convert [nowadays]. He used to win equal positions!”

This may have been in reference to Carlsen’s tongue-in-cheek comment that his favorite player of the past was “him four years ago.” Anand’s comment is very telling because it comes from an elite player who played Carlsen two championship matches and countless of other times in different formats. One could argue, however, that the field is simply getting stronger and offering more resistance.

Today’s game was another Queen’s Gambit that yielded white no appreciable advantage. There was an interesting lesson given by commentator Maurice Ashley on the subject of finding an imbalance in the position. He cited imbalance as “lack of proportion or relation between corresponding things” and related that to the lack of imbalances in game 7. Draw?

After 24.Bxg3 hxg3, Ashley perked up since the game was no longer symmetrical. A few moves later white played 28.Bxg6 hxg6. This game was destined to be drawn if there are moves like 26…Be4 and 32.Qd2 both leading to perpetual checks. The game actually ended in a three-fold repetition instead.

Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

Video by GM Daniel King

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