14 September 2014

Commentary: 2014 Sinquefield Cup, Round 7

Fabiano Caruana's now-historic performance at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup was the topic of the previous commentary post, which featured Caruana's round 5 win in a Slav Defense, and we return for more commentary on his round 7 victory in a Stonewall.  In this game, as Black he decides to start off with a Queen's Gambit Declined setup, but then takes advantage of French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's sub-par development scheme to transpose into a favorable version of a Dutch Stonewall.  Although White is certainly equal, Black has the easier game and clearer plans available to him.  MVL stumbles in the early middlegame - something that has been a recurring challenge for myself - and Caruana masterfully exploits his opponent's mistakes, never giving White a chance to recover.

On a separate but related note, this is the first game analyzed with the assistance of the Komodo 8 engine, which is getting good buzz for its performance in more positional situations.  See this AoxomoxoA wondering post for more on it.

10 September 2014

Chess vs. Football (FT edition)

In the spirit of Chess vs. Tennis, I wanted to point out the latest chess-themed article from the Financial Times, written by GM Nigel Short and featuring a game/interview he had with top former British football (soccer) star Sol Campbell.  There are some entertaining parallels between the two sports.  One favorite excerpt:
Sol’s king had not escaped very far. My strikers were all over the penalty box and in chess there is no such thing as offside. About three hours after our game began, it concluded in checkmate. Sol, not for the first time, spoke positively about the benefits of chess and how it put him in a different mental zone. One phase of his footballing career may be firmly over but I am sure we have not heard the last from this thoughtful man.
A more fulsome comparison between the two can be found at iplayoochess.com.

06 September 2014

Commentary: 2014 Sinquefield Cup, Round 5

The performance of GM Fabiano Caruana at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis has been legendary.  Here is a detailed look at his round 5 game against GM Hikaru Nakamura, with Caruana masterfully manuevering in a Slav Defense to obtain the win.  For a previous example of White's early opening divergence with 4. Nbd2, you can also see Annotated Game #58.

30 August 2014

Annotated Game #132: Flawed Draw

The following second-round game illustrates the value of seeing patterns pop up in analysis of your own results.  In this case, I achieved a significant positional plus out of the opening, but mis-evaluated the relative value of pieces (knight and bishop) which lead to an incorrect exchange on move 20 and eventually exchanging down into an equal ending.  It is exactly this sort of thing that prompted me to post the related Mastery Concept.  There was also a missed endgame opportunity, subtle but well worth keeping in mind for the next similar situation.

20 August 2014

Annotated Game #131: First Blood

Following the tournament that wrapped up with Annotated Game #130, I felt confident that I'd had a significant breakthrough in my chess performance and started fantasizing some about being able to break the Class A barrier in my next tournament. This did not reflect the more neutral and calm mental mindset I possessed in the previous tournament and undoubtedly reduced my overall effectiveness as a player.

Although the following game was a win, it showed some old, negative tendencies on my part such as a significant drop in quality of play when making the transition to the middlegame.  Here in the opening, one can point to the conceptually dubious 9...Bb4 as the start of the downward trend, followed by my failure to attend to my opponent's threats (another common error).  However, I manage to break the trend starting with the counterblow 19...e5 and after a weak response by White (including unjustified pawn-grabbing) I established a dominant passed c-pawn, whose threats eventually win the game.

By the time this series of tournament games is over, I should have additional insights into the course of the tournament and the inconsistency shown in overall results compared to its predecessor.