14 Mar

The Candidates Crash

The Candidates tournament in Moscow to find a challenger for world champion Magnus Carlsen is beginning to heat-up following a couple of crashes - but the on-the-board crashes are being overshadowed by the off-the-board “crash”, as the tournament makes the news for all the wrong reasons due to bullying and poor planning by AGON, the body charged by FIDE to run all of its world championship cycle events.


Agon are claiming that, as the holder of the rights to the event, it also has exclusive rights to the moves and would sue other websites that defied their edict. The legal status of such threats are dubious however; and indeed previous legal cases had found that chess moves cannot be copyrighted (being the chess equivalent of a box score in baseball, basketball or football - and NBA vs Motorola in the 1990s is often citied as being the legal precedent).

The off-the-board legal fandango with Agon and several prominent online chess services - Chess24, Internet Chess Club, Chessgames and Chessbomb - is what’s making the news in the mainstream media and not who is or who isn’t going to become Carlsen’s challenger later this year. Stephen Moss  wrote an informed piece on the ‘battle of the broadcasts’ for the Guardian.

Curiously, Agon are also claiming that their site has been sabotaged, claiming they had “suffered a major denial-of-service attack designed to crash the [official] site,” the rogue website(s), they say, are now also subject to legal action. But a closer look at Agon’s own graphic they themselves posted to justify such an attack, seems more to show through their timeline that they simply didn’t have enough server capacity to cope with the traffic when the vast U.S. market woke up and logged in to watch; or, as we would say in chess circles when there’s a live online event, “Good Morning America!”

Agon really have to up their marketing game if they are going to promote a major world title match with Magnus Carlsen later this year in the media hub of New York. They hold the rights to the live video feed from the playing hall and post-game press conference interview with the players, that all fans will willingly tune-in to and support. But for following the game live, many have their favourite places and commentators they prefer. Agon has to be more conciliatory and find ways to work closely with all other outlets to maximise their sponsorship potential - and not come in heavily with spurious legal threats and bullying tactics that will only lead to a further PR disaster for what should be a showcase for chess.


Meanwhile on-the-board, the players have their first rest-day today - and it will be welcome by some more than others. The early leaders are Sergey Karjakin, Vishy Anand and Levon Aronian who share the lead on 2/3 with a win apiece and two draws; and Veselin Topalov, who crashed to two of those loses after some uncharacteristic horrific play, is firmly at the foot of the table. And not far behind him is Hikaru Nakamura, who also crashed to defeat against Sergey Karjakin in round two.

Photo © | World Chess Candidates Tournament

Round 2:
Karjakin 1-0 Nakamura
Aronian draw Anand
Svidler draw Topalov
Caruana draw Giri

Round 3:
Anand draw Caruana
Giri draw Karjakin
Nakamura draw Svidler
Topalov 0-1 Aronian

Standings: 1-3. Sergey Karjakin (Russia), Viswanathan Anand (India), Levon Aronian (Armenia) 2/3; 4-6. Anish Giri (Netherlands), Fabiano Caruana (USA), Peter Svidler (Russia) 1.5; 7. Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 1; 8. Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) 0.5.

GM Sergey Karjakin - GM Hikaru Nakamura
FIDE Moscow Candidates, (2)
Queen’s Indian Defence
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 This is a line of the Queen's Indian that became very popular in the early 1980s, with players looking for a more dynamic approach rather than the conservative option of ...Bb7. But on a6, the bishop is not misplaced, as eventually it will return to b7 after White has made some sort of concession to defend c4, either with 5.b3, 5.Qa4 or 5.Nbd2. 5.b3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Another concession, as this annoying little check stops White getting his dream set-up of Bb2 and Nbd2. 6...Be7 Black hasn't lost a move here, as White will eventually also have to move his Bd2 to a better, more active square as the game develops; so Black will get his move back. 7.Bg2 d5 8.cxd5 exd5 9.0-0 0-0 10.Nc3 Nbd7 11.Qc2 Re8 12.Rfd1 Nf8 13.Ne5 Bb7 14.Bc1 As we explained earlier, Black gets his tempo back as White's bishop is awkwardly placed on d2. 14...Ne6 15.Bb2 Bd6 16.e3 a6 Also an other solid option was 16...c6 with the idea of ...Qe7 and ...Rac8 - but Nakamura is not one to like such restricted positions, instead preferring a more open approach. 17.Ne2 c5 18.dxc5 Nxc5 If 18...bxc5 Nakamura will not only have to defend the "hanging pawns" on c5 and d5, but more critically the immediate tactical threats with them after 19.Nc4! Bc7 (If 19...Be7 20.Qf5! g6 21.Qe5 and the long diagonal threats on g7 and h8 cannot be contained for long.) 20.Nc3 Qd7 21.Qf5! Rad8 22.Na4! and the pressure on the hanging pawns on c5 and d5 will soon see one (or even both) dropping off with an easy win for White. 19.Nd3 Nce4 20.Rac1 Rc8 21.Qb1 There's not much in the position - Black has a firm grip on e4, but White has the better long-term prospects with play against the isolated d-pawn, and he firmly has control of the all-important square in front of the d-pawn, d4. 21...Qe7 22.Bd4 Another nice little move that hits b6 and allows the follow-up of expanding on the queenside with b4 to control the c5 square. If White can safely take control of c5 for one of his pieces, then the endgame will be difficult for Black. 22...Rxc1 23.Rxc1 b5 24.b4 Nd7 25.a3 Nf8 Nakamura wants to re-route his knight to e6 to hit the dominating bishop on d4, hindering its sphere of influence in the position as it dominates the dark-squares. 26.Ba1 Retreating all the way to a1 adds into the mix possibilities of further pressure on g7 with a Qb2 battery. 26...Ne6 27.Qa2 Very hypermodern - and very effect too, as it further pressures the isolated pawn on d5. 27...Bc7 28.Nd4 Bb6 29.h4! (See Diagram) A good move, as it now threatens Nf5, hitting Black's queen (which now can't go to g5) and hitting g7 - not an easy position to defend against, with Karjakin having more than a firm grip on the position now. 29...Nxg3?? If 29...Nxd4 30.Bxd4 Bxd4 31.exd4 and White's control of c5 is becoming a bigger problem for Nakamura. But either Nakamura cracked under the pressure or he's made a very big mistake in his calculations. Ideally, he would like to play ...Nd6-c4 - but in all lines it looks difficult to achieve, as Karajkin has a double attack on d5. Frustrated, I think Nakamura cracked by miscalculating a forlorn piece sacrifice to escape from the building pressure. 30.fxg3 Nxd4 31.Bxd4! If 31.exd4? now the sacrifice does works, as c7 is covered: 31...Qe3+ 32.Qf2 Qxd3 and Black's winning. 31...Bxd4 32.exd4 Qe3+ 33.Qf2! And this is perhaps what Nakamura failed to realise in his analysis - the queen comes to f2, and if he recaptures the knight on d3, then Rc7 with the double threat of hitting b7 and f7 cannot be defended against. 33...Qxd3 34.Rc7! f5 35.Rxb7 The rest of the game is just a formality. 35…h6 36.Bxd5+ Kh7 37.Bg2 Re2 38.Bf1 1-0

1 Comments March 14, 2016

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