Who will challenge mighty Magnus?

March 6, 2018

 

 

Next Saturday, [March 10, 2018] eight top Grandmasters will start their Candidates Tournament in Berlin. The winner will gain the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Chess Championship crown, in a match to be played in November in London.

Magnus is the successor to a line of great players, often childhood prodigies, to become world champion, While there are others of his own generation, and emerging wunderkind able to complete, will any be strong enough to wrest the crown from him?

It is possible, but would be a surprise. The long-established ranking system at chess works pretty well.

If you think chess is boring and time-consuming, so do some innovators inside the game, who are playing around with the rules to cope with the invasion of technology into the game (or sport, as it controversially likes to term itself). Gone are the matches in which after a day’s play,, one of the papers would seal and move, and spend much of the night analysing what next to do. A century ago, chess clocks were introduced. Then all-night study was carried out replaced by seconds doing the hard-lifting. Then with the advent of powerful chess computers, overnight play withered and died.

Now, if a game seems to be in danger of extending into the night, the speed of play is increased, leading to a survival of the most agile and intuitively gifted. Matches are increasingly tailored to audiences watching on the web.

Today, I came across a humorous account of ten rules for introducing morality into computers (whose programmes are already capable of beating even Magnus). One of the computer programmes did a silicon bladed destruction job on the great champion Gary Kasparov. One of the rules of morality was for the IT chess computers to ‘let Gary win from time to time’.

Don’t know if the computers are quite ready to appreciate the humour.img_08241

 

 


Brilliant end to the world chess championship

December 7, 2016

img_08241

Magnus Carlsen retained his title as world champion in the most spectacular fashion

The end came as commentators were predicting that Magnus was losing the psychological battle. His play had become error-prone as time and again his opponent Serge Karyakin wriggled out from a nearly losing position.

The players had already completed the twelve full-time games, ending at six all.  Time and again the challenger had struggled then secured a draw, as Magnus failed to convert his pressure into a win.  Chess computers were reported as showing a slight advantage for the champion disappearing as several of games reached sixty plus moves.

Then, towards the end of the scheduled twelve games, Magnus played uncharacteristically In a headstrong fashion, drifting towards a loss, recovering, then turning down an obvious forced draw for a risky attempt to win. It all went wrong under cool defense. Karyakin won, and with three games to go was ahead. Magnus needed a win to retain his crown.

Now it seemed unlikely.  People were talking about Ali’s rumble in the jungle.  Magnus had been brilliantly rope a doped. Then another twist. Magnus persisted, almost won, let the win slip, before facing defeat finding a escape and grabbing a win.  All square. Talk turned from Ali to Houdini. At the highest level, Karyakin had been swindled.

The final and twelfth game was a climactic climb-down. Neither player risked all. Spectators witnessed a brief non-combative draw. Commentators were scathing. Watchers who paid high bucks may have felt as swindled as Karyakin in the previous game.

For the first time, the championship would be settled in a contrived tie-breaker. At this stage, there were to be four Rapidplay games. If the result was two games all, there was to be even faster play until a winner emerged.

I missed much of the last evening’s play at a quite different chess event. A popular club member was being sent on his way to his new home across the Pennines with a farewell drink. On returning home, I could have watched a televised football match but the chess was more gripping.

A quickfire draw. I made the blunder of assuming that chess had ended for the night. Then to my horror I turned to BBC’s Newsnight to learn Magnus and Serge were still slugging it out.   hastened back to my PC in time to follow the sensational concluding quick-play game which was to end the contest.

At that stage the commentators of the view that Magnus was psychologically finished. He had drifted from yet another near win to a draw with offered sneak swindle chances for his amazingly resilient opponent.

Then, the astonishing end to the entire match. Magnus, apparently showing signs of repeating the pattern of losing a winning game, spent much of his customary time advantage presumably searching for that elusive knockout blow. Karyakin had penetrated white’s position threatening mate. In what seemed a reckless counter attack.  Except he had seen an astonishing mate in three.

A rook check on the back rank drove black’s king into the Corner where it was cramped but not as secure as it looked. tdeceptively secure. In fact the game was already lost.

His next utterly unexpected move was a queen sacrifice offering black only two moves, two ways of taking the queen. Each led to mate in one move. If the king took, the rook mated behind the king (the corner h8 square). If the pawn took, the other rook mated by taking a pawn on the f7 square, to the side of the powerless king. It is reasonably obvious with a chess board, and if you have been told here is a brilliant move coming up.

“Oh my God” a commentator cried. “It’s all over. Magnus has won. Incredible.” It was. In olde days wealthy spectators would have showered gold on to the board at such a ‘bolt form the blue’.

Unable to sleep, I began capturing the moment, writing down what had jI had just witnessed. It was nearly midnight, six hours after the quick-play games had begun.

See also:

Dramatic end to world chess championship

The move that won the world chess championship


Magnus Carlsen plays a Trump Card

December 6, 2016
 Donad Trump
Magnus Carlsen started his defense of his world chess championship title by playing a move which sent the chess world into a viral debate about a hidden message to Donald Trump
November 2016. The World Championship of chess reaches its conclusion as the world champion sits down to play a twelve game match against his challenger.
Magnus Carlsen, one time wonder kid is now twenty-five years old and arguably approaching his prime.  His scientifically calculated strength puts him at an all-time high.  Stronger than Bobby Fischer.  Stronger than Gary Kasparov. Stronger that his Russian opponent ranked number nine in the world.
The match has been promoted by Acis who have put up a million dollars in  prize money, and moved the marketing and branding of the championship into the twenty-first century.
Amid the razzmatazz of its New York setting, there are virtual reality displays. FIDE (the FIFA of chess) has accepted a twenty-first century speed-up with parallels with changes in other sports such as tennis. In earlier world championships, the match if drawn in games, was awarded to the reigning champion. This time a drawn match leads to more games played at a faster tempo (quick play).  If these do not produce a winner, there is to be one pulsating blitz game known as bullet chess.  There must be a winner by mate, resignation or time loss. Provision is made for the unlikely draw by stalemate.
The first game produced headlines around the chess world, and a few more beyond the chess columns. To understand the story, you need to understand a rather weak pun based on the name an unusual and rather rarely-played opening chosen by the world champion for the first game of the match. Its name is the Trompowski attack, or the Tromp for short.  Yes, you can see what’s coming.
According to NBC

Is the world chess champion a Donald Trump fan? It sure looked that way Friday afternoon in New York City when defending world champion Magnus Carlsen opened his title match against Sergey Karjakin with a series of moves that may have been a nod to President-elect Trump.

That opening series isn’t that commonly used, so it took several minutes for onlookers to identify what the Norwegian grandmaster was up to. The Trompowsky is a way to avoid a series of other openings that are heavily analyzed, echoing Trump’s own refusal to play by the conventional political rule book.

One match commentator noted that Trump had won earlier in the week and now the Norwegian champion was using a similar-sounding method. “It will be known from now on as the Trump-owsky Attack,” one waggish spectator quipped.

Trump raised the hackles of a number of American chess players last month when he incorrectly claimed that the United States does not have any grandmasters, the highest level of players in the royal game.Trump even managed to get the term wrong when he said, while criticizing the difficulty of the nation withdrawing from multi-lateral trade agreements, “you can’t terminate — there’s too many people, you go crazy. It’s like you have to be a grand chess master. And we don’t have any of them.”In fact, the U.S., with 90 grandmasters, has the third largest number of players with that title in the world out of all nations.

Trumpmania
There had been an appetite for Trump stories, building up to his electoral triumph. This one has as little relation to truth as many of the others. Did Magnus chose his chess opening in any way influenced by a ropy pun?
The choice of opening was unexpected (one reason to chose it). But even Magnus, not known for being better prepared in the openings than his closest rivals, would have risked a capricious choice.
Or would he?
To be continued
To the suprise of most commentators, Magnus could make little impact on his opponent who continued to build his repuation as a most tenacious player of current grandmasters. At the half-way stage of the match, all games had been drawn.
Watch out for our next post describing the thrilling last day of the context which will go down in chess history.

In Pawn Sacrifice, Bobby Fischer takes on the world again

November 24, 2014

Pawn Sacrifice is a dramatized version produced by Edward Zwick of Bobby Fischer’s iconic chess match with Boris Spassky in 1972

Pawn Sacrifice was previewed at the recent Toronto film festival

It is a more fictionalized version than the earlier film Bobby Fischer takes on the world, and confirms the relative normality of protagonists Carlsen and Anand who are currently slugging it out for the World Chess Championship in Sochi.

Mostly positive reviews

Reviews on Pawn Sacrifice have been mostly positive. The most negative one I found was from The Guardian, and even that whetted my appetite for watching the film.

Must see?

Probably a must see for chess players of a certain age, although a possible unsound sacrifice of two hours viewing time for the wider public.


In Chess, Carlsen keeps mum. In Cricket, Cook tells all?

November 14, 2013

In the build-up to the chess world championships Magnus Carlsen refuses to reveal who his support staff are. In Cricket, Australian captain Clarke says England’s captain kindly revealed his Cricket team to him. What’s all that about?

Two little stories about leadership, one from Chess, one from Cricket.

In India there are two sports stories this week about all-time greats. Sachin Tendulkar is playing his last international cricket match; and Viswanathan [‘Vishy’] Anand is defending his chess crown against the new chess prodigy and Norwegian ‘pawn star’ Magnus Carlsen.

Chess trends on Twitter

Yesterday, the official website of FIDE, the international chess organization, announced that chess had become the number one news item of all stories trending on Twitter. The rise of Indian chess owes much to Anand, who has help five world championships (if you include rapid play ones). Carlsen is being hailed as a mega-star who is bringing attention to chess globally .

Magnus keeps mum

At a pre-match press conference, the players were asked out their support teams. Vishy spoke glowingly of his back-up team who help in preparing openings and in studying the play of his opponent. The twenty two year old Magnus thanked him for the information but politely declined the invitation to respond.

Cook tells all

Half way around the world, Australia is hosting their fiercest cricket rivals England. In a remarkable press conference Australia captain Michael Clarke says England’s captain Alistair Cook has revealed the England team to him a week in advance of the test.

What’s all that about?

Vishy says that the players ‘exchanged information’ only after playing the first game. The rest could be no more than mis-information. The same might be true of whatever Cook did or did not say to Clarke.

Was Cook [or Clarke] being a silly billy?

We seem to be entering the region of mind games. Chess is the more obvious mind game, but more many athletes and sporting coaches have gone in for psychological warfare. I have trouble believing the headline that Cook told Clarke the names of the team for the forthcoming test.

Maybe Clarke is trying to make Cook look like a silly billy.


Chess provides excellent leadership lessons in the 2013 Candidates Tournament

April 6, 2013

The qualifying battles to become world chess champion in London this year showed why chess is considered an excellent metaphor for the processes of strategic decision-making

Magnus CarlsenI have often blogged about the merits of chess as a metaphor for strategic thinking. The last three weeks [March 14th – April 1st 2013] reinforced my beliefs.

The Candidates Tourney

London hosted the qualifying competition, with the winner going to a one-on-one shootout with current world champion Vishy Anand of India. In the UK, news coverage prior to the tournament was extremely limited. In contrast, chess enthusiasts had excellent live streaming of all games on specialized sites.

Watching live

For those with time to spend, you could watch the battles live in the afternoons (starting time 2pm local time). The format was our matches each day played simultaneously, with all eight contenders in action. This made it easy for the expert commentators (mostly grand-masters) to chat happily about moves played and about to be played, working their way from match to match. The technology did not quite work, but the commentators coped with the gliches well, particularly in the last hour of the last day, when the result still depended on the remaining two games. It seems an estimated million chess players world- wide had seized up the servers.

The Chess Federation [FIDE} website captured the tension of the last round of matches:

Magnus Carlsen [image above from wikipedia: Ed] won the FIDE Candidates’ Tournament in London on Monday after a bizarre finish of what has become a historic event for chess. Both the Norwegian and the other leader, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, unexpectedly lost their game in the final round, and so they remained tied for first place and Carlsen won on the second tie-break rule: higher number of wins. This means that in the next title match, World Champion Viswanathan Anand will face Carlsen.

Marketability

The few popular news stories concentrated on Carlsen’s extreme youth, and marketability for himself and the game of Chess. “No problem with finding a sponsor for the World Championship” one commentator chortled.

Bizarre end

When the technology was restored, the rest of the chess world learned that Carlson had lost a game in which he had played weakly his standards as the highest rated player in the World. He could still be overtaken by former World Champion Kramnik who also seemed to be losing. After a nervous wait, Kramnik resigned, and Carlsen was declared winner.

Chess lesson

I am still reflecting on the lessons for strategic leaders offered by the players and their commentators. Carlsen, utterly fatigued at the press conference immediately after he had learned of Kramnik’s loss added one new lesson [for me, anyway]. “We were all tiring in the last rounds. My sense of danger weakened.” Worth remembering by business leaders needing to deal with their dilemmas…