Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Magnus Carlsen Wins Strong Chess Tourney in Moscow

Top-rated Magnus Carlsen won the 7th Tal Memorial in Moscow, one of the strongest chess tournaments of the year. The Norwegian grandmaster was the only undefeated player in a field of 10 world-class players.
He didn't play for more than four months and it took him a few games to shake off the cobwebs. Not only did he start slowly, but he was in danger of losing a couple of times. "I was suffering," he admitted. In round four against Russia's Alexander Grischuk, Carlsen played like the magician Mikhail Tal, leaving his bishop under attack for eight moves. " It was the energizer," he said and although he only drew that game, he was in the driver's seat in the remaining games.
"The victory is nice," Carlsen said. "There were twists and turns nobody could foresee." Whoever was in the lead was pulled back by the crowd. Only Russia's Alexander Morozevich looked invincible. He was running away with the tournament, piling up three wins and draws. He could not do anything wrong or so it seemed. But when everything looked wonderful he did what he sometimes does: he self-destructed, losing three games in a row.
Others jumped at the opportunity and with two rounds to go five players shared first place. It was a brutal final stretch for Vladimir Kramnik. Unbeatable for most of his career, the former world champion suddenly lost two games and took himself out of contention. The youngest player, the Italian GM Fabiano Caruana, 19, was in the lead going into the last round, but he lost, too.
It was up to Carlsen to grab first place and he did it in an impressive way. He didn't strike like Misha Tal, but like another legend, the late Estonian grandmaster Paul Keres. More than 50 years ago, Keres created a perfect model against white's passive play in the twice-delayed Exchange variation of the Spanish. Did Magnus know the game?
McShane,Luke (2706) - Carlsen,Magnus (2835)
7th Mikhail Tal Memorial, Moscow 18.06.2012

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.d3
("Play proceeds slowly," said Carlsen. "It is more or less equal." Against Max Blau in Zurich in 1959, the legendary Estonian grandmaster Paul Keres provided a blueprint for how to play this variation with the black pieces: 7.Qe1 Be6 8.d3 Nd7 9.b3 c5! 10.Bb2 f6 11.Nbd2 0-0 12.Qe3 Nb8 [Bringing the knight to c6 where it controls the square d4.] 13.Rfd1 Nc6 14.c3 Qe8 15.Rac1 [After15.d4 cxd4 16.cxd4 Nxd4 17.Nxd4 Bc5 black is better] 15...Rd8 16.Nf1 Rf7 17.Ng3 Bf8 18.Rd2 Rfd7 19.Rcd1 a5! 20.Ne2 a4 21.bxa4? Ra8 22.Nc1 Rxa4
White is besieged and Keres went on to win in 59 moves. It is incredible how similar Carlsen's 
game turns to be more than a half century later.)
7...Nd7 8.b3 0-0 9.Bb2 f6 10.Nc3 Re8 11.Kh1 Nf8 12.Ne2 c5!
(Containing the central d-pawn.)
13.Nh4 Ne6 14.Nf5 Bf8 15.Ne3 Nd4
(Jumping into white's territory, Carlsen claims a slight space advantage.)
(McShane is not going to wait like Blau and seeks some play on the kingside.)
16...Be6 17.fxe5 fxe5 18.Ng1 g6 19.c3
(Pushing the annoying knight back creates weaknesses. After 19.Nf3 Carlsen considered 19...Bh6 20.Nc4 Bg4 and black is slowly gaining speed.)
(Carlsen's knight finally made it to the square c6.)
20.Nf3 Bg7 21.Qe1 a5!
("I forgot about a5," said McShane. Like in Keres's game, the rook pawn will shatter white's queenside. McShane was hoping for 21...Qxd3? 22.Rd1 Qb5 [22...Qxe4 23.Ng5 wins.] 23.Nd5 with white's advantage. )
22.Rd1 a4 23.bxa4 Rxa4
(The correct decision, although Carlsen briefly considered 23...Bxa2.)
(White is positionally lost. Black only needs to consolidate.)
24...Rf8 25.Bc1 Ra8
("Reconnecting the rooks," Carlsen explained.)
26.Qg3 Bb3 27.Rde1

(Too optimistic, but after 27.Rd2 Bh6 28.Qe1 b6 29.Rb2 Be6 30.Qe2 Qd7 black is gradually improving his position. White has no counterplay.)
27...Qxd3 28.Ng4 Be6 29.Nh6+ Kh8 30.Qh4 Bf6 31.Bg5 Bxg5 32.Qxg5 Kg7 33.Qc1
(White has problems with the knight on h6, but after 33.Ng4 Bxg4 34.Qxg4 Rad8! black is ready to pick up a few loose pawns.)
33...Rf4 34.Rd1?
(Missing the last chance to fight back: 34.Ng5 Qd6 35.Rxf4 exf4 36.Rd1 Qe5 37.Nxe6+ Qxe6 38.Qxf4 Rf8 39.Qe3 Ne5 40.h3 b6 but black still has the edge. But McShane didn't have much time to think.)
34...Qc4! 35.Rfe1 Raf8 36.Ng5 Bc8 37.g3 Rf2 38.Nf5+ gxf5 39.Nh3 Re2 40.Qg5+ Kh8 
White resigned.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Not quitting just yet, says chess champ Vishy

Chess champ Vishy says World Championship title has made him hungrier

India’s chess legend Viswanathan Anand yesterday ruled out any possibility of retirement and said winning the fifth World title has given him the boost to carry on as long as he enjoys the game.
Viswanathan Anand during a media briefing in Chennai yesterday. Pic/AFP
In his first interaction with the Indian media, during a felicitation ceremony organised by his sponsor NIIT, after returning at home from Moscow, Anand said he is still enjoying his game and the win over Israeli challenger Boris Gelfand in the World Championship meant a lot for him.
“There are definitely no thoughts of retirement. In fact, quite the opposite. (Winning a fifth world title) has been a huge boost to my morale. As long as I enjoy, I don’t see any reason to retire. Winning in Moscow meant a lot emotionally. It’s not only about records. It’s just that you hate losing and you love winning. I am looking forward to playing chess and winning tournaments,” Anand said.
Asked what the fifth world title meant for him, Anand said: “For me, the number has been irrelevant. Every title defence is special. I simply want to enjoy playing chess. There is no checklist.”
Meeting Putin
Anand said his interaction with Russian president Vladimir Putin, after winning the title, was witty. Putin during the meeting remarked ‘so, we brought this on ourselves’ when the Indian told him how developed his game while training at the Russian Culture Centre.
“Well we laughed because I thought it was a witty line. The meeting was almost half an hour. He is very knowledgeable about chess. He spoke about how chess is important in Russian culture. He was generally very gracious. I thought that was a quick one,” he recalled.
On his preparations leading up to the match, Anand said: “My training was from January 15 to April 15. This time my preparation was very intensive because I did not have a camp. Last year I was busy playing tournaments.
“We worked very hard and developed some thoughts. I had several systems prepared with black and white. You always had to start with something new. I knew Gelfand since 1989 and always thought he was very professional and disciplined chess player.
“With the white pieces, he managed to steer clear of our dangerous ideas. This reflected how seriously he was taking the match. It was only in game 11 and 12 that we were able to break out a bit,” he said.
Anand also said that whether he caught Gelfand by surprise he reacted aggressively. “I was excited about what was to come. I thought I could put him under pressure. The turning point happened very quickly. He made some wrong moves and I was very happy that I could get back into the match. I cannot emphasise how important this moment was,” Anand said.
Praising Gelfand, Anand said: “We both felt genuine respect for each other. I am really happy to have retained my title. Now I can really relax and enjoy this.”
Dig at Kasparov
Anand hit out at his former bitter rival Gary Kasparov, saying the Russian wizard has been trying since 2011 to get him to retire. Anand feels Kasparov, who retired in 2005, misses the attention he got during his playing days. “We were asked about his remarks. He is the man who regrets leaving chess. He misses the attention he got in chess, somehow wants to be there. May be he should play again,” Anand said. “Kasparov retired in 2005, he has been trying to make me retire since 2011. You just have to develop a thick skin as a public figure,” he said. Kasparov before the World Championship said that the Indian lacked motivation and was “sliding downhill”.  -mid-day



This column draws to a close with a look at the oldest chess association in the country.
IT WAS about this time 40 years ago that I heard from school friends that a formal chess club was to be set up in Penang. There had never been one before despite a strong presence of student chess activities in the state.
Dr Yeoh Bok Choon, president of the Johor Chess Club.
Intrigued, I joined my chess mates at the Penang Public Library – which was located on the top floor of the imposing Penang Supreme Court heritage building in Farquhar Street, George Town – on March 12, 1972, just as the inaugural meeting was being called to order.
If I remember correctly, there were about 50 people, both young and old, congregating around several chess boards in a section of the library on that Sunday in 1972. The number surprised me as I didn’t know then that the game already had such a wide appeal among adults at a time when the Internet was still unheard of.
Like me, they had come specially for this chess meeting. Like me, they had heard about it from friends. There were no such conveniences then like e-mails or electronic bulletin boards or the world-wide Web. Just plain old-fashioned word-of-mouth or telephone calls or the rare one-column inch announcements in the newspapers.
As I was still below 18 at the time, I had to sign up as a junior member of the fledgling Penang Chess Association (PCA). Such was my enthusiasm that I could not care about requiring approval for joining a society outside school.
It’s hard for me to believe that 40 years have gone by. Possibly, of all the people who attended the inaugural meeting, I am the only one remaining who is still active enough in this game. The only one left, so to speak, to remind the PCA that they must celebrate their 40th anniversary this year with a big bang.
In my opinion, the Penang heritage city international chess championship at the end of this year should be the perfect forum for them to do so and I hope they will make full use of the opportunity to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.
In the same vein, I also wish to remind the Malaysian Chess Federation and the Chess Association of Selangor that they, too, must celebrate their own 40th anniversary in 2014. We all owe it to the chess enthusiasts in the country, estimated at 100,000 or more.
Chess is no longer the domain of the supposedly intellectuals; it has seeped down to a new generation of grassroots in the urban and non-urban areas of society.
Enlightened educationists now recognise chess as a useful training tool for the mind. That’s why more and more countries have included chess in their school curriculum.
The Chess In School programme, an ongoing movement championed by the World Chess Federation, is bearing fruit.
I have always maintained that in this modern era, the PCA was the oldest chess association in the country. After it was established in 1972, both the Malaysian Chess Federation and the Chess Association of Selangor were formed in 1974.
Some may argue that the Johor Chess Club already existed long before 1972. I would not dispute that but unfortunately, the Johor Chess Club is defunct and its functions have been taken over by the newer Johor Chess Association.
The Johor Chess Club would always be synonymous with its president, Dr Yeoh Bok Choon. For a long time, he cast a long shadow over chess development in Johor as well as Singapore.
Dr Yeoh was an athlete. He was the first schoolboy ever to win gold medals at a Malayan or Malaysian Amateur Athletic Association meet. That was in 1930. After completing his secondary education at the Penang Free School, he proceeded to the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore.
He honed his chess skills in tournaments there and even became the Singapore Chess Club champion in 1947. Today, that’s the equivalent of becoming the Singapore national champion.
He worked in Singapore after graduation but by 1951, he had relocated to Johor Baru where he became the state surgeon. In October that year, he formed the Johor Chess Club and became its first president.
This much I know about the man. A few months ago, I wanted to know more about him because I was then involved in a book project for The Old Frees’ Association in Penang. However, all my efforts were stymied as nobody from the present generation of chess players in Johor seemed able to provide any information on him.
As far as they were aware, after Dr Yeoh passed away in 1983, his family moved to the Klang Valley, and they lost contact with his family.
By a curious coincidence, about two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from someone in Singapore who, as part of his research into the history of Singapore chess, had wanted to know whether I have any useful information to share with him.
Inevitably our e-mail exchanges gravitated to the topic of Dr Yeoh. This chap from Singapore told me that the name did crop up in conversations recently with their 100-year-old Mah Beng Guan, who was the secretary of the Singapore Chess Club in the 1950s. Mah remembered Dr Yeoh but could not offer more information than what I already know.
This is the end of my quest to dig into details about the former Johor state surgeon. But there is still a very slim chance that his family may be reading this column and if so, I would very much welcome their effort to contact me at
The end of the Johor Chess Club typifies that nothing is permanent in this world. Chess clubs come and go; people come and go. And chess columns also come and go.
That’s right, folks. This weekly chess column ends with this final article from me. The last four years – no, I should say the last 32 years – have been a great time for me. Though not a staff, I have grown with the best newspaper in the country. In the process, I have made many firm friends there. What the future holds, I do not know. But I do know that some day, we may meet again.
Goodbye. -The Star