Friday, November 30, 2018

World Chess Championship 2018: The Aftermath

The World Chess Championship drew to a close on Wednesday, when Carlsen defeated Caruana 3-0 in the rapid tiebreakers to defend his title. It was a World Championship unique in many aspects: The first time that two players with such a small difference in Elo rating were facing off, the first time since Fischer that an American took the World Stage, and also the dubious record of being the first World Chess Championship without a single decisive result in the classical games.

Carlsen (left) vs Caruana, tiebreakers (Image from

Not surprisingly, the 12 straight draws faced loads of criticism from chess fans, generating the usual complaints about how top-level chess has too many draws. Just look at the comments taken from a article:

Yeah I'm not kidding you, someone actually called the World No. 1 and 2 "p*ssies".

True, Carlsen's decision to back out of a winning position in Round 12 might have been questionable. But to label both players as "boring" and not putting in their effort does them no justice at all. I did not follow every single round, but the games which I saw were more than enough to show that both sides were giving it their all in the fight.

Look at Round 1, where Caruana defended a gruelling endgame that lasted 7 hours. Then look at Round 6, where it was the American's turn to press the advantage but ended up missing a near-impossible winning variation. Finally, who can forget the fireworks that emerged during Game 10, despite it ending with both players splitting the point?

In fact, it is the fact that both sides are so evenly matched, that makes the draws all the more interesting. The following comment on the same page sums up the response to the draw criticisms:

It's amazing how people keep silent when a tournament sees loads of action, like what happened in the Candidates 2018. But the momenet the frequency of draws go up (e.g. Shamkir 2018; look at the comments on this page :o), they start baying for blood and demand that the drawing rules be revised o.o

Just because a draw occurs doesn't always mean that it is a dull game. Why must chess end with a decisive result before it can be called "exciting"? The words of Tigran Petrosian, who was frequently criticised for his rock-solid defensive play, resonate well here:

"Yes, perhaps I like defending more than attacking, but who has demonstrated that defence is a less risky and dangerous occupation than attack? And are there so few games that have found their way into the treasury of chess thanks to a virtuoso defence?" 

-- Tigran Petrosian

“They knock me for my draws, for my style, they knock me for everything I do.”

-- Tigran Petrosian

Regardless of the sentiments, the event is over, and Carlsen is once again the World Champion. Congratulations to him (and Happy Birthday!), and kudos to both players for the tough battles over the past 3 weeks! I'll get around to analyzing the actual games once finals are over (:

All smiles after a successful defense!


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A collection of brilliancies shared by NUS IGC

Before everyone gets too absorbed in the ongoing World Championship, let me show y'all a few games that were shared by members of NUS IGC during our previous training sessions. And the title says it all: Yes, expect some sacrifices being thrown about, so sit tight!

Our first game is by the famous Soviet master Rashid Nezhmetdinov, who had a fierce attacking style not unlike that of Tal and Alekhine. And it certainly takes guts to sacrifice your queen for long-term attacking chances, as seen below:


Next, we have another renowned Russian grandmaster also known for his attacking prowess... and it's none other than Garry Kasparov himself:

Finally, we come to more recent times (well, not exactly recent!) with a fantastically deep combination by Vishy Anand in his younger days.

Before we see the game, first step into the shoes of the Tiger of Madras. Can you see what he saw over the board?

Now sit back and enjoy the rest of the game:

If only us commoners could spot deep combinations like what these three attacking maestros did! But that takes a lot of training, which should pretty much spur ourselves to keep improving on our tactics (:


Sunday, November 4, 2018

Batumi Chess Olympiad 2018 Highlights: Part 2

While Anand was busy demolishing Hansen in Round 3, another of his contemporaries was also having a good day. Vladimir Kramnik, Russia's Olympiad veteran, was giving his opponent a lesson on typical Kramnik positional play. Watch how he uses his active pieces and passed pawn to generate pressure on different parts of the board:

Kramnik's victory was needed on this day to bring the Russian team victory. But alas, their good fortune was not to last: In the next round, Russia experienced a shock defeat by Poland (but then again, any chess victory against Mother Russia is always a sensational topic). While Kramnik was the match winner in Round 3, here he proved to be a weak link: A middlegame blunder allowed the opponent to execute a powerful triangulation tactic.

Russia (right) vs Poland

Before we show the game, you might want to give a try at beating Kramnik below:

Now see the full game:

From here onwards, Team Poland went on a roll, scoring victories over heavyweight teams like France and USA. They were finally brought to a halt by losing to China in the penultimate round. The top board between Ding Liren and Jan-Krzysztof Duda proved to be an interesting fight, featuring a stunning piece sacrifice by Ding:

Duda (left) vs Ding

China later went on to beat USA in the final round, winning the Olympiad. Their women's team also won first place, making it a double gold :O

Winners of the open section

With that, I end my brief coverage of the Olympiad. Here's to more exciting games in the upcoming World Championship 2018!

All photos are by Maria Emelianova/