Round Two Isle of Aman

Today in round two Aman had the tough pairing against Super GM Arkadij Naiditsch.

It looked like Aman would hold in a queen and pawn ending until he allowed Naiditsch to advance his deadly passed h pawn to h7 by playing 83…b4 instead of continuing the series of checks.

This gives Aman .5 out of two to start.  While that doesn’t technically put a norm out of reach, it does mean that he’s got his work cut out for him.

Here is the game.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Aman and the Hunt for the Final Norm

Yesterday Canadian IM and noted ChessBrah Aman Hambleton began the hunt for what would be his final GM norm.

I will be posting all of his games here for anyone who is interested in following his chances.

In round one he didn’t get much out of a Reti sideline and Black’s marauding knights allowed his to easily equalize.  Material was th

Is This The Chess World Cup or Game of Thrones?

This was the question posed by chess.com user franknstein earlier today, and I have to say it’s a good question.

Granted, with a knockout format it’s practically a certainty that big names will fall to not as big names, but usually those things happen a bit here and a bit there.

In round two we saw players such as Wojtaszek, Harikrisha, Anand, and Karjakin fall.  Then today in the second day of the third round three more legends were eliminated as Nakamura, Kramnik, and Carlsen were put away.

It was like watching the Red Wedding all over again.

Tomorrow there are more elite players who will have to emerge victorious in their tiebreaks to avoid the same fate.  Included in that group are MVL, Grischuk, Aronian, Caruana, Ding, and Giri.

Speaking of Giri, he seemed to have the Three Eyed Raven protecting him today as he was dead lost against Sethuraman.  However, the Indian used so much time seeking to land the killing blow that he wound up mired so deeply in time pressure that Giri was able to complicate things long enough and then finally escape with a draw.

So today Giri is most likely wearing his nickname of Draw Master with pride.  Here is the game.

Stay tuned for the tiebreak’s tomorrow where there are certain to be more heads rolling.

Also, big shout out to the Chess Brahs for providing their free streaming coverage each day.  You can watch Yasser Seirawan and Aman Hambleton provide insightful commentary and analysis for the entire broadcast each day, usually with Eric Hansen lurking around somewhere and providing social media commentary.

Watch them here.  In fact, you should watch them any time they are streaming.  Not only will you learn something, you’ll be entertained as well.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

I Stand With Anton – Reflections on the Disaster in Tbilisi

For anyone who hasn’t heard, yesterday in Tbilisi Canadian GM Anton Kovalyov quit the World Cup in protest.

So what happened?  Well, ostensibly GM Kovalyov showed up at the playing hall and an arbiter informed him that he would not be allowed to wear shorts as it was against the dress code.

There are two main problems that I have with this.  The first is that Anton says that he checked at the last World Cup to make sure that shorts were OK and was told that they are.

The second is that he wore the same shorts to the first two rounds and there were no issues at that time.  And it’s not like he flew unnoticed under the radar here…this is the guy who took out five time World Champion Vishy Anand in round two.

I say “ostensibly the issue” since the real issue appears to run much deeper.  I’ll let Anton tell that story in the statement which he released a few hours after the incident.

“I wanted to wait a little till I calm down, but I’m tired of seeing lies everywhere. So here’s what happened:

The issue were not the shorts but how I was treated. I came to the game and was approached by the arbiter asking me to change (first time). I told him that I don’t have pants with me, and then I noticed that I was playing black instead of white, which came as a surprise for me and asked him to check that. He and the other arbiters checked and confirmed to me that I’m playing with black, we talked a little and everything was fine. Then came Zurab, he was very agressive, yelling at me and using the racial slur “gypsy” to insult me, apart from mentioning several times that I will be punished by FIDE. I told him that I had asked before at the previous world cup if what I was wearing was OK and I was told by somebody from the organization that yes. Zurab, in a prepotent way, said he doesn’t care, he’s the organizer now. At this point I was really angry but tried not to do anything stupid, and asked him why he was so rude to me, and he said because I’m a gypsy.

So imagine this, the round is about to start, I’m being bullied by the organizer of the tournament, being assured that I will be punished by FIDE, yelled at and racially insulted. What would you do in my situation? I think many people would have punched this person in the face or at least insulted him. I decided to leave.

Worth pointing out, I didn’t take any pants with me because I gained some weight and they were to tight. If the organization of the tournament would have warned me sooner I would have taken a cab to the mall and bought pants, without any problems whatsoever, but instead I was treated like garbage. I was too stressed out by the way I was treated and the threats of being punished by FIDE no matter what I do, so I choose to leave before I do anything stupid.

Another point worth pointing out, Zurab never asked me to go and change, the conversation consisted of threats, insults, and agressive behavior from Zurab. He was clearly provoking me.

I will not appeal anything. I am disgusted by this type of people. I don’t want the money. I’m coming back home.”

This paints a much darker picture than the initial speculation.

Of course, when you are dealing with someone like Azmai in the chess world you shouldn’t be surprised at that.

Here are two reactions regarding that angle.  The first was WGM Tatev Abrahamyan’s reaction on Twitter.

Later, when Azmai “clarified” that he wasn’t being racist by calling Anton a gypsy, but rather that he meant tramp as in “dressed like a tramp” Tatev had this to say.

Another pundit who was rightfully critical of Azmai’s behavior is IM Greg Shahade, who sent this tweet linking to his blog post where he spared no criticism.

So what should the average chess fan make of all this?  My thoughts run as follows…

First, I think that dress codes at top events make perfect sense.  After all, we all talk/dream/hope for the day when chess attracts numerous big dollar sponsors.  There’s a reason why athletes have dress codes for how they need to show up looking when they get to the venue.  With so much money on the line the league insists on projecting a certain image so as not to chase off sponsors and potential sponsors.

It may not make the most sense in the world to talk about having a dress code at your average weekender, but this is an official event which is part of the world championship cycle, so come on guys, let’s look the part.

However, if you are going to have a dress code then it needs to be enforced evenly and consistently.  It’s improper to allow a player to wear shorts in the first two rounds, then suddenly take issue on day seven of the event.

If the decision is made that something needs to be said, then it should not be said at the beginning of a round (possibly with the exception of the beginning of the first day) but rather should be addressed after the offending player’s game has concluded.

Also, I don’t think that any valid excuse can be given to not having said something to Kovalyov on either of his two rest days.  Why not inform him then so that he can do something in a way that won’t interfere with his play at all?

Although I have not met him personally, from everything I have heard about him he’s a stand up guy.  I don’t think that he would find the request unreasonable if it were made in a sensible way.

That brings us to Azmai.  There’s nothing I can say that Greg didn’t say better in his blog post, but I would like to point out that a discussion I often take place in is the discussion of how to attract sponsors to chess.

The sorts of ideas that always seem to be kicked around have to do with formats and time controls.

Fine, but isn’t any discussion of time controls, etc. rendered moot automatically when an official like Azmai is involved?  Again, as mentioned above, sports leagues require certain images to be projected so as to not drive off sponsors.  Yet with chess the league is FIDE, and Azmai is a high ranking FIDE official.

What self-respecting Fortune 500 level company is going to put themselves in a position to deal with a guy like that?

So with all of this in mind, my conclusion here is that I stand with Anton.  I think that he made the correct decision to not play after the way he was treated, and I hope others see it that was as well.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

 

 

Shocker in Tbilisi

Today World Champion Magnus Carlsen found himself on the wrong end of a stunning upset in the first game of the third round of the 2017 World Cup.

Facing Chinese Super GM Bu Xiangzhi Magnus played an unambitious line with White that transposed into a Two Knights.  As has often been the case with the Norwegian he was clearly looking to just get a level middlegame position from which to outplay his opponent.

After White’s 15th move this position appeared on the board:

Here Bu found the excellent shot 15…Bxh3, which soon led to a sharp position.

From there he capitalized on a few inaccuracies from the World Champion and built up an overwhelming attack.

Magnus did himself no favors by winding up in very deep time trouble, and was not able to fend off Bu.

Here is the game:

As a result of this game, Magnus will find himself in a must win situation tomorrow with the Black pieces.

While winning on demand is tough enough, doing so with the Black pieces is a mush more Sisyphean task.  And yet…if there is anyone who can perform such a Herculean task it’s the World Champ.

Bu has long been my favorite of the Chinese GM’s, but he’s never cracked into the truly elite levels of 2750+, so while Magnus has his work cut out for him it’s certainly not impossible for him to pull this off.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Artemiev to the Third Round!

Yesterday in Tbilisi, long time favorite of this blog, Vladislav Artemiev, took out Teimur Radjabov in the rapid playoff for round two to advance in the World Cup.

In the first rapid game he put on a clinic in demonstrating how to play with a space advantage.

In the second game, Artemiev was easily winning when he agreed a draw.  A decision which makes perfect sense as it allowed him to advance.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Stayin Alive

This morning Naka sent this tweet.

Clearly he was in good spirits as he prepared to battle Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista in the round two playoff in the FIDE World Cup, currently taking place in Tbilisi, Georgia.

In the first game Hikaru got a nice enduring edge which he converted nicely although he did miss a shot in this position:

Here 21.Bxh6 is crushing.

In the second game the Cuban returned the favor by missing a shot of his own.

33.a5 creates threats which force concessions from Black due to the threat of cxb5 which would create a passed pawn.  There is a lot to be learned by analyzing this position in depth.

However, after 33.Rf3 the game was level and Hikaru was able to hold rather easily.

This draw secured entry into the third round and a matchup with Russian Super GM Fedoseev.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Artemiev Joins the 2700 Club!

On the strength of his wins yesterday and today against Benjamin Bok in the Tbilisi World Cup, young Russian GM Vladislav Artemiev has finally cracked the ranks of the 2700 Club.

If you’ve been following my blogs for any length of time you know that I’m a big fan of his.  I’ve been following his career pretty closely for the last few years, so it’s nice to see him finally hit the magic number.

Here are the games:

Here is a good interview with Artemiev from last year documenting some of his struggles and triumphs.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

 

 

The Dog and Pony Show

Typically that’s how I think of opening/closing ceremonies, and to some extent press conferences in the world of chess.

Generally you assume that nothing too exciting is going to happen, so why bother even trying to score an invite.  You can plan on hearing the same accolades and the same platitudes so what’s the point?

However, for the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz my feelings are pretty much the polar opposite of that.  Why?  A few reasons.  First, the CCSCSL typically puts on a pretty good event with these.  Who can forget Caruana’s answer to what he was going to do with his prize money in 2015 when he replied “Yeah, I think I’d buy a goat. I think I could afford it with the money I earned, and this goat I think could see tactics better than me.”

Second, Maurice Ashley is a pretty good MC for these types of events.  He has a wicked sense of humor and is able to hold his own in the quip department.  He also has a sense of passion and enthusiasm for chess which easily comes across when he speaks.

Lastly, and let’s face it, far more important that anything else that could be mentioned, the return of Garry Kasparov was the main driving force for my desire to attend this event.

So I applied for media credentials and was initially told that the event was completely invite only.  I then was told by one of the players not to worry, that I would be going with him, so I figured I was in.  Then the club re-contacted me to clarify that they were allowing all media members who wanted in to attend so they would put me on the list.

So I went and I have to say that it did not disappoint.

First of all before the event began I was able to chat with Czech GM David Navara.  I told him that I visited Prague last year when I played on the Chess Train and that I can’t wait to go back some day and see the city again, hopefully with more time to enjoy the sights.

He said it was his first time in the US and that he hopes that it’s not his last.  He seemed quite excited to be in the States for this event.

I was also able to talk with recently retired NFL player John Urschel who is visiting with his friend GM Robert Hess.  John seems like a genuinely nice guy.  I had a chance to talk with him a bit at the chess house on Friday night and his love of the game and desire to play more shines through when he speaks.

All of this while enjoying a nice glass of red wine and some hors d’oeuvres that were being circulated by the friendly wait staff.

Then it was time for the ceremony itself to begin.  You can watch it here.  Skip ahead to the 27:35 mark for the actual beginning of the event.  Some highlights included Hikaru getting in a little trash talk on Garry (who responded in kind!) and Rex and Maurice digging at each other a bit.

So far this trip has been amazing.  Tomorrow is my final day, and I’m expecting it to be exciting as I will get to see Nakamura – Kasparov in round two!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

It’s That Time Once Again – Sinquefield Cup

Well, it’s time once again for my semi-annual pilgrimage to the Central West End of Saint Louis.

I more or less come here each year for both the US Championships and for the Sinquefield Cup.  I say more or less since I have missed one of each since 2013.

I sit here typing this having just gotten back from enjoying a nice sushi dinner at the Drunken Fish after watching Round Eight of the Cup, which is the first of the two I am here for.

For the US Championships I tend to come for the final three rounds, but for Sinquefield there’s a dance that needs to be done.  If you come for the final rounds you see the best action but if you come for the beginning you get to go to the autograph session where you can get stuff signed by all of the players.

I have boards signed by all participants from both the inaugural 2013 edition and the 2015 tournament as well.  Also, the picture I use for masthead of this site is from Sinquefield 2013.

Well this time the choice was easy and I decided to come for the final two rounds of the Cup, since two days later a rapid and blitz event starts and Garry Kasparov is coming out of retirement to play in that event.  It will be his first rated event in 12 years.

There will be an autograph session this Sunday featuring Kasparov so of course I decided to attend the final few rounds of the Cup so I can fit that autograph session in to my schedule!

So the plan as it sits now is:

Friday: Going to Webster in the morning.  Haven’t made it out the last couple of times I’ve been here to see Paul and Susan, so I’m making a point to go this time.

In the afternoon I’ll head back to catch the final round of the Cup.

Saturday: This is the true off day.  I’ll probably spend the first few hours of the day recovering from the Friday night after party.  After that it will be time to go for a long walk in Forest Park, and then try to finish an article I’m working on for Chess Life.

Sunday: Afternoon will be the autograph session.  I am really looking forward to getting a board signed by Garry Kasparov.  It’s hard to describe how excited I am about this.  Kasparov was my boyhood hero and I never would have ever thought that I would get a chance to watch him play since the Soviet Union was such a foreboding place.

Evening is the cocktail reception and press conference.  I originally tried to RSVP as media by virtue of my position as Associate Editor with American Chess Magazine and was denied as I was told it was invite only.  I was then invited by one of the players who I am friends with, only to then have the club contact me back and tell me that they will put me on the list as they are inviting all media who are requesting to go.

So either way I’m going, lol.

Monday will be day one of the rapid portion of the Rapid and Blitz.  I’ll be here for those rounds and then heading home afterwards.

So all in all a fun few days!  If YOU haven’t come to check out an event at the St. Louis Chess Club you have no one to blame but yourself!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott