Sunday, March 30, 2014

Eye of the Tiger !!

" It's the eye of the tiger,
It's the thrill of the fight,
Rising up to the challenge of the rival !! "

As we complete the penultimate round of the Candidates Chess 2014, I am sure that none of is must have predicted such a result. A decisive result with one round yet to go. Various chess critics, chess authors, commentators, players and fans had their own views about Anand's current play and form, from the tournaments he played after losing to Carlsen in the World Championship Match at Chennai, India. But Viswanathan Anand a.k.a Vishy Anand played some really solid chess, made practical decisions and successfully cracked the Candidates Chess tournament 2014 at Khanty Mansiysk.

Comparing Anand's Candidates Journey to that of Carlsen's

Candidates 2013: At the end of 14 Rounds in Candidates Chess tournament 2013, which was held in London Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik were tied at 1st position with 8.5/14. 
Carlsen won 5 games, lost 2, and drew 7 games. He maintained a very good, balanced chess games till round 11. Unfortunately the tables turned in the last leg rounds 12,13,14. Where he lost to Ivanchuk, and Svidler in round 12 and 14 respectively. It was in these rounds Kramnik could catch up to him. At the end of 13 rounds, both Carlsen and Kramnik were tied, at 8.5/13. The last round paired as, Carlsen-Svidler and Ivanchuk-Kramnik in a very dramatic situation both these table top players lost their matches. And Carlsen won the tournament on tie break scenario then pre-decided by the host. 

Candidates 2014: From round 1 onwards, Anand maintained a lead in the tournament. Defeating Levon Aronian in round 1, and Mamedyarov in round 3. From here on he maintained a sole lead throughout the tournament. Anand played some real good chess, making sensible decisions and not risking his tournament life at stake many times. At the end of 13 rounds, Anand is now 1.5 points ahead of the 2nd position with 8.0/13. The outcome of the final round will not affect the tournament standings, and thus Anand has earned the right to challenge current world champion Magnus Carlsen for a rematch in November 2014. In 13 rounds Anand won 3 games, drew 10 games, lost 0. A record much better than previous Candidates winner, Carlsen

Image Courtesy: Official Candidates 2014 website,

Anand's World Championship Journey !!

2000: Anand won the FIDE World Chess Championship in 2000 for the first time after defeating Alexei Shirov 3½–0½ in the final match held at Tehran, thereby becoming the first Indian to win that title.
He failed to defend the title in 2002, losing in the semifinals.
2007: Anand won a double round robin tournament, held in Mexico City. Anand's victory in Mexico City made him undisputed World Chess Champion. He became the first undisputed champion to win the title in a tournament, rather than in matchplay
2008: Kramnik was the challenger to Anand, and Anand defended his title by scoring 6.5/11 in a 12 game, Match format in Bonn Germany.
2010: Anand faced Topalov in Sofia, and convincingly defended his title yet again by scoring 6.5/12 in a 12 game, Match format.
2012: Boris Gelfand won the Candidates Games 2011, and earned the right to challenge Anand. Anand again defended his title, but this time the games went upto tie breaks. 6-6 was the score after 12 classical games and tie breaks were to play 4 rapid games. Anand score 2.5/4 in the rapid games thus retaining his title.
2013: The winner of Candidates 2013, Magnus Carlsen a.k.a Mozart of chess, earned the right to challenge Anand. The 12 game match took place in Chennai, India. Carlsen won this with a score of 6.5/10

Anand is the only player to have played and won the world champion title in all formats, knockout tournaments, round robin tournaments, and match format. He has been an elite and versatile chess player for almost 2 decades now. It is of great pride for Anand's fans in India and across the world to have seen the "Tiger of Madras" win the Candidates 2014 convincingly and earned the right to regain his title back.
Eagerly awaiting the Carlsen-Anand rematch in November this year. Best wishes to Anand and his team for the match ahead. And Kudos on a mind blowing victory in Candidates 2014, Congrats !! What a comeback, really glad to see this form.

" And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he's watching us all with the eye of the tiger "

Written by
A Die Hard Anand fan !!

Follow me on twitter:  @TanayHH
PS: All the views above mentioned are my own, otherwise facts mentioned.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Transposition Thursday - 1

I'll start by saying that, I love to learn chess theories and do my opening preparations. In a tournament, I usually play 1. d4, and expecct replies like, Slav, Semi-Slav, King's Indian, Nimzo, Tarrasch defence. So I have not studied in depth lines like the Catalyn, Benoni, QGA, Queen's Indian yet. Trying to play one opening and be good at it, then can shift to maybe 1.e4 again.

So, this once I faced a rather unsual reply to 1. d4 which was 1... c5 and I was successful to 'Transpose' it to the tarrasch defence pawn structure which I am comfortable with.

Here's how I played in the opening against a higher rated player than me,

Another game I played with another higher rated opponent,

The key idea how to transpose is to just have a look at possible openings, and understand what kind of structure is good. Know various openings or at least their structures and when you study the opening you want to perfect in, you'll definitely come across "How to get to this position ?" from another opening.

Say for example, how to get to slav from english ?

Thanks, for reading this article. Comments and feedback appreciated!
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Tactical Tuesdays - 1

I can safely say that most chess players love Tactics!
Many reasons,
threatening the opponent to either choose from King safety or his Queen safety, or
Check-check-fork when in time trouble, mating net or equalization when you are material up.

Personally my favorite player is Mikhail Tal a.k.a "The magician from Riga" world champion 1960-61. The book, "Life and games of Mikhail Tal" is a really good book, depicting how Tal played from his early ages of Latvia Junior championship to World championship with Mikhail Botvinnik

Tal's peak was seen in the Candidates of 1959 in Bled which he won the right to challenge the then world champion Mikhail Botvinnik.
Fun fact Tal won 4/4 against Bobby Fischer then !!

So, I'll start with some tactics which I saw in my games and was lucky to use them and win. You can try a hand at these puzzles.

Puzzle 1: I am playing black here, guess after Rce1?? how did I gain advantage

Puzzle 2: End game. White just played c7, and can queen soon. I was under time trouble here, fortunately I did see a good combination to get that threat out.

Puzzle 3: Here is a puzzle from Tal's game against Botvinnik in the world championship 1961. The line here is forced. Hope you get this tactic. Enjoy !!

Game: This game now played by Mikhail Tal vs Anatoly Karpov. Blitz game in 1987, a very beautiful game by Tal. How Tal uses his bishops to eye down the diagonals the king lies in. How Tal's pawns break open the black King's fortress. And Rook sacrifices !!

Hope you enjoyed this article.
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Feel free to share, comment. Feedbacks appreciated.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chess for dummies - Part 1 : The Basics

Chess for dummies : The beginner's guide, simplified !
Part 1 - The basics

New to chess ?
  • Want to know the basics 
  • How to think
  • What to start with
  • What is what of chess ?
    I hope this article answers all your doubts and makes you good enough to take off !
Okay let's start !

The Starting Position

This is what a starting position looks like

Things to note here
  1. White starts first, followed by black's turn and alternately players take turns
  2. This is a 8x8 grid, where each row is called a rank, 1 - 8 and each column is called a file a-h. Thus each square has a unique name, like a1, b3, c6 etc.
  3. The a1 square is the dark colored square by deafult
  4. The white king is on e1 square (dark), and black king on e8 (light colored)
  5. Objective of the game is to use your pieces(army) to attack the enemy king in such a way that he has no escape a.k.a 'Checkmate'

The pieces

The Queen = 9 points
Assume the queen is placed on e4 square.
  • It can go to any of the highlighted squares
  • Cannot jump over any of the pieces
  • Can capture the enemy piece on c6
  • Movement in + and x direction
The Rook = 5 points
Assume the rook is placed on c6
  • It can go to any of the highlighted squares
  • Cannot jump over any of the pieces
  • Movement in + 
The Bishop = 3 points || The Knight = 3points
Assume the Bishop placed on e4, and the knight placed on e5
  • Bishop can go to any of the squares which green arrow passes through
  • Bishop cannot jump over any piece
  • Movement in x direction
  • The knight can move to any of the yellow squares only (8 squares from e5, arrows only made to show movement direction 'L')
  • Knight can jump over any piece
  • Movement in L direction, 2 squares straight and 1 square turned.
The Pawn = 1 point

  • Any pawn from it's home square has the option to move either 2 steps forward or 1 (pawns on e2, f2,d7,e7 have the option to take either 2 steps or 1)
  • From it's home square onwards the pawn can move only one square per move (until if it can capture diagonally) - Pawns like on g3, b6, a7 must move only 1 square ahead at a time
  • Pawn captures are diagonal :  The pawn on h4 can capture the pawn on g5 (if white to move and white wishes to actually capture the pawn). Similarly, g5 pawn can capture h4 pawn (has the option to capture) if black to move.
  • Pawn promotion: The pawn on a7 needs only 1 step to reach the final rank, once it reaches there it can be promoted to any piece except king, i.e Queen, Rook, Bishop, Knight.
    eg: One can have at the maximum 9 queens on the chess board, ideally !! 

Special moves
  • Castling : Getting king to safety and bringing out the rook

    After Castling
    Before castling

  • Here white has performed a King side castle dneoted by O-O a.k.a short castle
  • Black performed a queen side castle denoted by O-O-O a.k.a long castle
  • The king nor the castling side rook must not have moved in order to castle
  • The King's path to castle must not be marked by the enemy piece

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Chess for dummies - Part 2 : The openings

Chess for dummies: The beginner's guide, simplified !
Part 2 - How to play

Now once you are familiar with Part 1 of the series, let's move on to how to play chess. Here I will talk about how to move your pieces, when, where, why ? And how to think as to what to play

Every Chess game has 3 phases
  1. The opening
  2. The middle game
  3. The end game

1. The opening

  • Usually the first 10-15 moves are known as the opening phase
  • In the opening phase both players try to develop their minor pieces (bishop + knight) and pawns to control center squares, and eventually complete development by castling i.e King safety
  • The idea to control the center squares is that your pieces have more options to move around the board trying to create chances to gain advantage over the enemy.
  • Eg: A knight on the rim of the board say on h1 square can control only 2 squares, while a knight on e5 square can control 8 square, the latter is the better of the 2 knights
  • There are various kinds of openings which try to control the center in various aspects, very similar to formation in soccer, 4-4-2, 4-3-1-2, 4-3-3-1, etc. The opening decides how your middle game strategy is going to be

    The following are a few most commonly played openings from beginners to players even at the highest level
  • Giuoco Piano : Opening referred to every beginner as this shows how to develop pieces, get your king castled early, and start preparing for an attack.
    -White pushes king pawn e4
    -Black replies king pawn e5
    -white develops knight and attacks e5, black develops knight and defends e5
    -white develops bishop attacks f7 (weakest pawn on board) black also develops bishop attacking f2, weakest pawn on board
    -both castle get kings to safety, and develop further

  • Ruy Lopez (Spanish) : A bit different from the Giuoco Piano, where the bishop now threatens the knight who is defending the e5 pawn

  • Semi-Slav - Queens Gambit Decline: Here instead of moving the King pawn, we move the queen pawn 2 steps ahead.
    -White pushes queen pawn d4, black replies d5
    -White pushes c4, offering a gambit, giving away a pawn for better control of center
    -Black here declines, and supports the d5 pawn, and followed by knight development and pawn push to make way for bishops to come out

  • Grunfeld Defence - A bit more complex than the others mentioned above

There are many more openings, but this is just to give you a gist of what openings are and why are they important. A strong opening will eventually lead to a good center control and solid middle game.

I suggest if you are new to the game take the Giuoco Piano and play, and keep playing until you get the hang of it.

Tips in the openings:

  • For every move ask, "Why ?"
  • Do not move any piece more than once
  • Development is main aim in the opening
  • Knight must be developed controlling the center square
  • Do not get the queen out early in the game, as the opponent may start attacking your queen with his pieces, developing himself and stopping you from developing, keeping you far behind in the game

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Chess for dummies - Part 3 : The middle game

Chess for dummies: The beginner's guide, simplified !
Part 3 - Middle game tactics / strategies

Tactics, tactics and more tactics !

Fork: When a piece attacks 2 of the enemy's pieces of more value, and the enemy can save only one thus forceably losing a more valuable piece to a less value able. Few examples in diagrams.

The knight fork, most common of forks. 'Tricky knights'. Black's king is under check, and at the same time, black's queen is attacked. So here black is forced to save his king first at the cost of losing his queen. 

The pawn fork, 2nd most common forks.

Bishop fork, less frequently seen, bishop on g7 can capture the c3 pawn, forking the King and the rook.

Pins: pin is a move that inhibits an opponent piece from moving, because doing so would expose a more valuable (or vulnerable) piece behind it. Only bishops, rooks, and queens can effect a pin, since they can move more than one square in a straight line. If the pinned piece cannot move because doing so would produce check, the pin is called absolute. If moving the pinned piece would expose a non-king piece, the pin is called relative.

Skewers: skewer is a move which attacks two pieces in a line, similar to a pin, except that the enemy piece of greater value is in front of the piece of lesser value.

Discovered Attacks: A discovered attack is a move which allows an attack by another piece. A piece is moved away so as to allow the attack of a friendly bishop, rook or queen on an enemy piece. If the attacked piece is the king, the situation is referred to as a discovered check. Discovered attacks are powerful since the moved piece may be able to pose a second threat.
A special case of a discovered check is a double check, where both the piece being unmasked and the piece being moved attack the enemy king. A double check always forces the opponent to move the king, since it is impossible to counter attacks from two directions in any other way

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Chess for dummies - Part 4 : The endgame

Chess for dummies: The beginner's guide, simplified !
Part 4 - The endgame!

The end game is the most crucial part of the entire chess game. One mistake in the  end game can turn the table. Few basic endgames, every beginner must know
  • Q+K vs K
  • R+K vs K
  • P+K vs K

    Queen + King vs lone King
    Here we are trying to limit the king to only few squares and we bring in our king and with the king's support checkmate with queen

          Rook + King vs lone King
          Similar idea as of mate with queen, we box in the king and restrict its area, thus mating on the edge of the board

      Pawn+King vs lone King
      Here our aim is to promote our pawn and thus use technique as in Queen+King vs long King. So we need to control the queening square / promotion square with our king and thus get our pawn forward. Always keep the king in front of the pawn, if vice versa then we can reach to a stalemate position, which is a draw as there wont be any legal moves for the enemy king

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fireworks and more Fireworks!! Aronian - Svidler Candidates 2014

Round #4 of the candidates tournament witnessed a long and intense game between Levon Aronian and Peter Svidler. Aronian Started round 4, with 1.5/3.0 points 5th in the leaderboard and Svidler at 2.0/3.0 points. A win for Svidler meant that he would have been in shared lead of the tournament along side Anand, and win for Aronian meant that he could get back to 2nd place in the leaderboard and ready to fight for the tournament after his loss in round 1 against Anand.

I have discussed a few key positions in the game, and its variations (in smaller diagrams) larger diagrams refer to actual position in the game, also at the end of the page there is the simulator, where the entire game is annotated with help of engine and my views during the game.

Talk about intense fireworks !!

Here is the glimpse of the game and my views on it as I watched it live. They started of with the Grunfeld exchange variation, exactly as played by Anand - Gelfand WCM 2012 Round 1, deviated on move no.8
Position at move 7... c5

In WCM 2012, Anand-Gelfand Round 1, Anand followed up with 8. Bb5+ Nc6 9. e5 Qa5
Note that after 9. e5 black can take on c3, 9... Bxc3+ looks tempting to take with check and forking the rook on a1 but after 10. Bd2 Bxa1 11. Qxa1 this is the position

Going back to the game, 8. Rb1 O-O 9. Be2 cxd4 10. cxd4 Qa5+ 11. Bd2 Qxa2 12. O-O b6 13. Qc1 we get this position

Coming to a key position in the game, move number 22, where Aronian had to make huge calculations about a tempting piece Sacrifice !! In a tournament as strong as the candidates doing something so crazy needs to be checked and rechecked, because every move here counts, and every point does matter. Its is crucial to identify here whether the queen can be trapped or should he go to make the black king's safety a liability. In the position below,

Aronian spent about 17 minutes to calculate this variation and lines from here, and finally decided to go with  Bxf7+ !! Bold move! followed by 22... Kxf7 23. Qc4+ e6 24. Ng5+ Ke8 25. Nxe6 thus reaching a playable position for white having only a pawn for the Bishop as material compensation, and as to position on the board white had those central connected passed pawns!! Monsters !

At move 27 after Aronian's 27. Bc3 Here Svidler has about 105 minutes on his clock and Aronian 58 minutes, and 27. Bc3 forces black to actually think about whether to go for the fight or stick to a mundane draw. Svidler takes roughly 42 minutes on this decision. And as Svidler mentioned in the post game press conference that such tournaments are not won by draws and in such an exciting position if you go for the draw you can't win the tournament, so considering the importance of the tournament he decides to go for the fight 27... Nd8

Up to a point it all went according to Svidler’s plan, with his opponent’s spectacular bishop sac on f7 also in his notes, but then a slight deviation from the foreseen line left him with a tough choice: "I thought for 40 minutes and decided I still had an extra piece and I wasn’t losing by force. The choice came down to whether I wanted to make a draw or win a game. You don‘t really win a tournament like this by making draws in interesting positions, although of course I had cause to regret that on more than one occasion later on"
Aronian assessed his position at that point, "I have a pawn for a piece, which normally isn’t exactly good news, but I felt Peter had spent a long time and that although he knew the position he perhaps wasn’t feeling as comfortable as he was before. So I was looking to play the right moves and I wouldn’t mind a draw, obviously. It’s always tricky against a player of Peter’s calibre on unfamiliar ground."

Another moment where Aronian finds the right time to get the queens off the boards and gets into a kind of rook pawn end game but with a couple of minor pieces on board, but the advantage here is that wihte has those connected central passed pawns both of which are supported by rooks!!

After 41. Be5 white has varied options to keep the pressure increasing and black is holding on to the position trying to defend in all possible ways
here is a look after 41. Be5

The squares marked in yellow are the covered by the white pieces and thus black's king is restricted in movement to those squares. Consider the options available for white to keep the pressure on, the entire endgame focuses in and around the 6th and 7th ranks

At move 51, We can see how the e7 square is the key square to attack and I believe the strongest move is the most logical one too, Re7+, it is believed Aronian missed this during the game and went on with 51. h5 to break the pawn chain on the king side, to expose the black king further

The continuation would have been so as 51. Re7+ Kg8 52. Rc1
Rxd6 53. Rc7 Rf7 54. R7xc6

And white can just get the change to be a piece up!!
But never the less, we do see Re7+ on move 52. confining the king to g8/h8 after the second rook also enters the battle arena.

Here black is almost helpless, and out of defence, g6 pawn will soon fall, and 2 rooks and a bishop will mate the black king in the corner soon enough. After 57. Ree7 Svidler resigns with the mate in 2 threat
Final position

Post game press conference, where the players shared ideas and lines about the game

Here is a replay of the game with more details, can browse through

Feel free to share, comment !! Thanks Appreciated :)

Image courtesy:  the official website of candidates tournament 2014

Twitter: @TanayHH

PS: All the views above are my own otherwise mentioned and this blog is to share my views about chess and in no where it is intended to use them for profit

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Candidates Chess 2014 Round 3 update : 'The Anand Perspective'

Going into the first rest day of the Candidates Chess 2014 tournament, former World Champ Anand is in the sole lead with a staggering 2.5/3.0 points.

Round #1 saw Anand v/s Aronian, Levon Aronian (ARM) current World No.2, 2827.6 Live Rating and apparently Anand's most feared opponent, the heads up score between the 2 has favoured Aronian. Until Tata Steel Chess 2013, where we saw Aronian v/s Anand, a semi slav variation chosen by black, sommething Anand had well prepared for his World Championship Match against Gelfand in 2012. Vishy won that game in 23 moves, that game now known as 'Anand's Brilliancy'.
Anand won round one with the white pieces against Aronian, giving him a head start and an incredible boost in confidence for tournament ahead. The other 3 games were drawn but we did see some action in them too, in other posts to follow, Games of Kramnik !

The final position of the game where white threatens to capture black's knight and black has no escape from it. White's last move Kc3 evaluates the position to +5.83

Round #2 Topalov v/s Anand, Vesilin Topalov (BUL) Challenger to world champion Anand back in 2010, where Anand desperately needed a win with the black pieces in the last round of that match to defend his title of World Champion then, and what a game it was !! After the amazing win in Round 1 Anand enters with the black pieces and we see a very long game with a critical rook-pawn endgame, Houdini and Stockfish both showing an evaluation of (+1.6) but after the long hours of play Topalov couldn't convert that advantage into a win thus ending the game into a draw after a long 54 moves

Round #3 Anand faced Mamedyarov(AZE), Mamedyarov who qualified to the Candidates 2014 as the runner up in the FIDE Grand Prix 2012-2013. Mamedyarov started off with the Queen's pawn, and Anand chose to play the slav defence. Black gradually gained a slight edge, and played all the right moves to hold white against his weaknesses. Result ? Victory for Black in 31 moves !!

And this is the final move played by black where the Stockfish evaluates this to -3.18, 30... h6 played just to avoid any back rank issues and create a fool proof strategy to mate white!!

So this has been the story of the Candidates Chess 2014 till now for our Madras Tiger, former World Champion. I now strongly believe we will see a Anand-Carlsen rematch for the throne, though yet long way to go. But with Anand highly motivated, boosted confidance we are sure to see some really strong games more action in rounds to come.

Feel free to share, comment ! Thanks !!
Twitter: @TanayHH

Image Courtesy : official FIDE website for the Candidates tournament

PS: All the above views are my personal opinions, and this blog is to share my views about chess and in no where it is intended to use them for profit.