Saturday, January 31, 2009

Corus 2009. Group C. Round 12.

The great matchup occurred today between the two leaders of Group C, and Wesley So defeated Hillarp Persson to secure first place with nine points. A. Giri is in second place with eight points, and Hillarp Persson in third with 7.5 points. With one round to go, Wesley So needs only a draw to secure sole first place. If So loses to D. Howell in the last round and Giri wins, then So and Giri will have the same number of points in first place. I reckon a tie-breaker will sort that one out. Giri has to play Gupta for the last round, and that's not an easy assignment. If there is a tie-breaker, I think So's only loss to F. Holzke will cost him because Holzke has not performed well---four losses. Giri's only loss was to Hillarp Persson. We will see.

The first game-losing sign for Hillarp Persson came when no good square could be found for his queen. HP had already lost a valuable pawn to the bishop on f4. In the position above, HP played 20. Nb3. Fritz at this point was recommending two king moves : Kf1 or Kd1. That's because it anticipated a possible check on D4 by the knight, and also a discovered check on the E file. So, the sharp player that he is, played 20...Rfc8. This further threatened the white queen. With a rook on c8, Fritz estimated a -+ 3.95 advantage for black. Again, the computer recommended a king move for white, 21. Kf1. But play continued with 21. de5 Be5 Now, the white queen is boxed in. The bloodbath began with 22. Qc5 Nd4+ 23. Qd4 Bd4 24. Nd4 Ne4 25. Rag1 g6 26. Be4 de4 27. h4 Rc4 28. Bc3.

Now, here's a great lesson for all of us. Black converted his advantage in material into a positional advantage, one that gave him open lines of attack. So played 28... Rc3 29. bc3 Qc7 hitting on two pawns 30. Kf1 Qa5 31. h5 Qa1+ 32. Kg2 Qc3 and So won in seven more moves.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Corus 2009. Round 11. Group C.

Round Eleven was good for Wesley So. He beat the early leader of Group C, M. Bosboom, in a Center Counter. Hillarp Persson lost to Bitalzadeh, and that gave So the lead with 8 points. Hillarp Persson is now in second place, half a point behind. With two more rounds to go, we don't really know who's going to win this group. Tomorrow will be the great matchup between the two leaders. In today's game, So dominated but on the 25th move he played a line that Fritz9 wasn't even considering. Here is the position:

So played 25. Ra6. The line that Fritz9 was considering went 25. f4 Nc6 26. fg5 Re3 27. Qc6 Rg3+ 28. Kh2 Re3 29. gh6 Re6 and the computer gave white a + - 4.13 advantage over black. So's line gave black more play, but a losing game anyway. The game went 25. Ra6 Qf5 26. Kg2 Qc8 27. Ra4 Rd8 28. Qb5 Rd2 29. Re5 Rb2 30. Rc5 Rf2+ 31. Kf2 Qh3 32. Ra8+ Kh7 33. Rh5 1-0

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Corus 2009. Group C. Round 10.

The good news is, Wesley So won again today against Pruijssers. The wet blanket is that Hillarp Persson also won. That put Hillarp Persson in clear first place, ahead by half a point of So who is in clear second with seven points. Now, we can see the high cost of So's loss the other day. Yes, So could have had a draw there, at least, but he blundered a knight away under his opponent's time pressure problems. Anyway, both So and Hillarp Persson can help their chances when they play each other in round twelve. Here is today's final position after 47...g3 :

That G pawn will be supported by the F pawn while white needs make time to advance his B pawn. White's king is effectively cut off from supporting the E pawn and joining the action on the kingside. Fritz gave us this line : 48. Nd2 Ng5 49. Nf1 f4 50. Kb2 f3.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Corus 2009. Group C. Round 9.

After a victory in Round 6, Wesley So was held to a draw by D. Harika in the next round. It was one of those rook and pawn endings where So had an outside passed pawn, but trading pawns will result in a draw. Just when So looked poised to take a commanding lead in the group, he suffered his first loss to Gm Frank Holzke of Germany in round 8. It was even for most of the game, but So committed an inaccuracy coming into the endgame. He ended up having two connected passed pawns against a bishop. These pawns, without the help of their king, would not make it to promotion because they were not advanced enough. The bishop will have no problem mopping them up.

But in Round 9, probably quite irritated by his loss, So defeated Bitalzadeh who opened with the English. Things started coming apart for White in the position you see below:

Here, 16...e6 put white between a rock and a hard place. White's only options are f4 or e3. Both will mean cutting off the bishop's escape route. Bitalzadeh played 17. Re1 which delays the inevitable for a moment. Play continued 17...Kf7 18. Nf4 h6 19. Ne6 Re8 ( better than 19...hg5 ) 20. Nd8+ Rd8 21. Bd8 Qd8 and black went on to win in 36 moves. Final position is below after 36...gh5:

The black knight can go c6 and d4. White can't double up with the rooks on the E file because the bishop controls the e1 square.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Corus 2009. Group C. Round 6.

Wesley So took the lead in Group C, Corus 2009 after defeating Leon Hoyos in what has been the most tactical game so far for the 15-yr old GM. So's got 4.5 / 6, half a point ahead of the former leader Hillarp Persson. In third place is Bosboom with the same score as Hillarp Persson. Wesley's opponent tomorrow will be D. Harika who has 3 / 6. Well, So came out slugging for this game. You could almost smell the supreme confidence in his play, coming to the board with a win from yesterday. Leon Hoyos chose to defend with a Sicilian and play became very tactical right from the starting gate. His position started to seriously come apart after a very fine tactical shot by So at this point in the game:

So played 34. Rd6! Folks, pay good attention to the f6 and h6 squares. Is that a 3-way fork I see? And how about that double attack on the king and queen on h6? Houston, we have a problem. Play continued with 34...Re3 35. Rh6+ Qh6 36. gh6 f4 37. Qh4 Ra2+ 38. Rf2 and black resigned.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Corus 2009. Group C. Round 5. Finally, So gained a full point after three consecutive draws. With this second win in round five, he moves up to second place in Group C with 3.5 / 5. Hillarp Persson is leading the group with 4 / 5. After Iturrizaga made a dubious sacrifice with 20. Rf6 ( diagram ), So just took off by reducing material and advancing his queenside pawns. I think the sacrifice was meant to draw the black king out of his fortress, but the second wave of attack never materialized. From the diagram, play continued with 20. Rf6 gf6 21. Ne4 d5! giving back a pawn and freeing the black queen to join the fight. Iturrizaga played 22. Nf6+ Kg7. Black has got this all figured out. Then, 23. Nd5 Qe6 24. Qc3+ f6 25. e4 Qe5. Reduction of material is good for Black. White accepted 26. Qe5 ef5 27. Re1 Nd5 28. ed5 Kf6 29. Kf1 b5. The pawns started advancing. Then, 30. Re3 b4 31. a4 c4 32. Ke2 c3 33. b3 ( if 33. bc, then 33...b3) c2 34. Kd2 Rbc8 35. Kc1 Rc5 ( preparing to double up the rook on the C file since white is expected to pile on the pawn on c2 ) 36. Be4 Rdc8 37. Re2 Rc3 38. Rc2 Ke7 Now, this move seems to be aimed at keeping an eye on the passed d pawn or So has decided to advance his king via the queenside route. Play continued 39. Kd2 Rc2+ 40. Bc2 Rc3. Just cutting off the king and hitting on the b3 pawn. Then, 41. h4 Kd6 42. g4 Rh3 43. Be4 Rh4 44. f3 Rh1 45. Kc2 Kc5 46. Kd2 Rh2+ 47. Kc1 Kd4 48. d6 Kc3 and white resigned.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's another draw for GM Wesley So, and that makes three draws and one win in four rounds at Corus 2009. Considering that he is the top rated player in Group C, this is not the performance we would expect from him. But he is in the hot seat and not us. Let's not overlook who he played against today, GM A. Gupta, the reigning world junior chess champion. We should commiserate with Wesley, and wish him the best. There is nobody else out there who would want to win more than Wesley himself. It must be very tough for a 15-yr old, even a gifted one like So, to stand up to the pressure of a highly publicized tournament and run the gauntlet of world class opponents. Could the weather have more of an effect on him than we thought? In an interview with ICC, So deplored the cold temps of Holland, much colder than Dresden according to Wesley. Well, Wesley, if you are going to make the circuit of international tournaments, you better get use climate changes and plummeting mercury readings. You have a long and promising career ahead of you.

The final position is a bit bizarre, after 27...Qe1+. Obviously, there is a perpetual check in the works here but not via 28. Kg2 because 28...Ne3 mate. As one observer remarked, sometimes it is not easy to make a good move when you're two pieces ahead. Well, that's true even before they got to this position. Here at this very moment, white actually has a two piece and a rook advantage. So's rook and dark-squared bishop are still in their original squares. They were unable to participate in defending the white king from attacks. Take note that Qb8 will lead to mate so black must not waste a tempo. In this position, Fritz9 suggested 28. Nf1, giving a piece back but the perpetual is still there via the f1 and h3 squares. If 28. Qg1, then 28...Qh4+ 29. Kg2 Nf4+ 30. Kf1 Qh3+ 31. Kf2 Nd3+ and Fritz scores it as 0.00.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Corus 2009. Round 3. Group C. GM Wesley So 's game against FM Giri was drawn after thirty-eight moves. Perhaps, it wouldn't be wrong to say that So got away with a draw since Giri launched an attack along the H file that looked pretty bad for So. Giri, playing white of a Slav defense, pegged his winning chances on So's weakened kingside squares plus sole control of the open H file. I was worried for So especially when the weak h6 square looked like an open door for white's queen.

Here's the position after 26. Qb2. Above. Here, So found what probably is the only life-saving move which was 26...e5. Maybe So always had this move in mind, but it looked to me like So was giving up his last dollar to the mugger and hoping he goes away. It's a good idea, to give up the extra pawn in order to displace the rook on e5. Ok, 27. Re5 Rd4 and there you see the point of it all. Not only is the white rook on a less favorable square on e5 but black has blocked the white queen's wonderful avenue of attack along the a1-h8 diagonal. Earlier, So faced a similar now or never move in the position you see below.

After 24. Rh1, you can taste danger in the air. It's counter-intuitive to give up the bishop that controls the dark squares around the king, but So did just that to relieve the pressure on his king. It went 24...Bd4 25. Qd2 ( eyeing the h6 square ) Bb2 26. Qb2 and you come to the first position above. Play continued with ( from the first diagram ) 28. Qe2 c5 29. Re8+ Kg7 30. Rd8 Rd8 31. Qe3 Qc6+ 32. f3 Qf6 and later on queens and rooks were exchanged for a drawn king and pawn ending.

Tomorrow, So faces A. Gupta who has lost two of his three games, both losses with the white pieces.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Corus 2009. Round 2. Group C. Well, our man Wesley So didn't do badly today. His fans, like myself, would like to see him win every game, but today it was a draw. He was up against the old guard Oleg Romanishin, rated 2533, approximately 100 points less than So. Their Ruy Lopez followed the usual opening lines, and ended up with a rook and pawn ending with So nursing a passed C pawn and Romanishin with a passed H pawn up his sleeve. The position above was after 40...Rd4, both Romanishin and So obviously wanting to get behind the C pawn. Play continued 41. Ke2 h5 42. Rc1 Kf7 43. Ke3 Rd8 44. f4 h4 45. f5 h3 46. Kf3 rd3+ 47. Ke2 Rd8 48. Kf3 Draw. There is 41. c6 to consider, instead of 41. Ke2, and we would have seen something like 41... Rc4 42. Rb8+ Kf7 43. Rb7+ Ke6 44. Rg7 Re4 45. Rh7 Rc4. That looks like a draw as well. Both sides played very accurately. The endgame guru, Karsten Mueller, himself would have been proud.
Mecking, by the way, suffered his second consecutive loss, in a Ruy Lopez, playing black against GM Caruana. Mecking gave up a knight for two pawns, and then lost a pawn in the endgame.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Corus 2009 has begun, and 15-yr old Filipino GM Wesley So won his first round game as black against Nijboer. You will find GM So in Group C where there is plenty of good competition, but I think he can hold his own in Group B. Swap Mecking, who is in Group B, for So. With all due respect to the man, Mecking is no longer the world class player that he was. I know, he got sick and had to stop actively competing. Yes, what could have been. But, again, the reality is that he is no longer the same player he was in the 1970s. What are his latest successes? Is there a place for sympathy voting in chess? Looks like there is.
This game started out as a Sicilian, and ended as a rook / knight / pawn ending. Take a look at that white knight on c8. It will take one move to just get it back into the action. White actually has material advantage here. So's superior knight and king position plus a more advanced passed pawn made this a winning endgame. Here is the final position after 67...e3. A pawn race will be your first scenario, but that will be good for black : 68. g6 e2 69. g7 e1(Q) 70. g8(q) Qc3+ 71. Ka4 Qb4 mate. Nijboer could also hassle So with a few knight moves, but it's pretty late in the game really : 68. Nd6 e2 69. Nf5+ Kc5 ( there's no way to stop black's pawn from queening ) 70. Kc3 e1(Q) + and the win is much easier now.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I just received my copy of Endgame Virtuoso Anatoly Karpov written by Tibor Karolyi and Nick Aplin. Ordered from, this book cost me less money than if I ordered it from It normally cost $29 on the shelf, but I got it online for $18.92 plus $3 shipping. It is not big savings, but savings nonetheless. does not have the best prices out there, and it pays to shop around online. Furthermore, Amazon sells items pertaining to animal cruelty, like items encouraging dogfighting and cockfighting. Forget Amazon. Don't patronize them.
Let's get back to chess.

On page 57, you'll find Karpov's game against Eugene Torre, Asia's first grandmaster. They played this game at the world junior chess championship in Stockholm in 1969. The book devoted ten pages to this 77-mover Ruy Lopez with Torre playing white. Heck, that must be some endgame and it was. Rook, bishop & pawns and the outcome remained unclear until the end. You breeze through most of the game until 44. Kf4 and you have the position shown here. Torre was about to win another pawn, but can he win the game? Play continued wtih 44... Be6 45. Rg7+ kH6 46. g4 hg4 47. fg4 Rf8+ 48. Kg3 Rf7 and I'll leave the rest for your investigation and delectation.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I was checking out the Kings Indian Defense for black, having grown tired of the stodgy Slav Defense. The Slav is solid but it isn't as dynamic as the KID, I've learned. In choosing our opening repertoire, we have to consider our taste for combat. I thought I was well-suited for the Slav which is a great equalizer, solid but it can get cramped and slow. But I have been getting good results from the KID, playing to keep my pieces active and mindful of the traditional pawn breaks at e5 and c5. Anyway, here is a position where black has just played the 6...e7-e5 move. Kinda strange because for the hawkeyes among you it seems that black will lose a pawn. So, if you don't know theory, you wouldn't play this move. But you can play it because 7. de de 8. Qd8 Rd8 9. Ne5 you can play 9... Ne4 and you have gotten your pawn back with an open game ahead of you.

Joe Gallagher, author of Starting Out : The Kings Indian, comes down heavy on those who choose the Exchange Variation, above, and refers to them as wimps ( actually, the line without 9. Ne5 ). He claims that the Exchange takes out the wind out of the sails and makes the game drawish albeit black can still make white work for it. So, those who want to play safe and " wimp" out, that's 7. de for you. Anyway, I don't really like this macho/wimp talk in chess. Remember, we are playing nothing but a board game. The only time we make contact is when we shake hands. For those who appreciate macho, there is always rugby, football, soccer, and hockey.