21 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Second Week

In last week's report on the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament (see Berlin Candidates - First Week), we saw three players with a plus score after three rounds:-
2.5 Kramnik; 2.0 Caruana, Mamedyarov

Another six rounds have been played, again leaving three players with plus scores:-

6.0 Caruana; 5.5 Mamedyarov; 5.0 Grischuk

In past reports on Candidates tournaments from previous cycles, like Moscow Candidates - Second Week (March 2016), I presented a crosstable from the offical site. I could find no such chart on the official site for the current tournament, so I took a snapshot of the crosstable from the news site that most of the English-speaking chess world uses for up-to-date chess information.

FIDE Candidates Tournament 2018

Source: The Week in Chess

The chart shows who will be playing whom in the last five rounds. The schedule for the critical games between the current leaders is:-

Round 10: Mamedyarov - Caruana
Round 13: Mamedyarov - Grischuk
Round 14: Grischuk - Caruana

In my 'First Week' report, I developed a chart from the last three Candidates tournaments projecting winners at different points in the events. The same observations were offered by GM Ian Rogers in his report on the first half of the Berlin event, Caruana Leading Candidates Race: “I’ll Try to Stay Calm.” (uschess.org; 18 March 2018):-

In the modern era, the winning recipe for qualifying to challenge the World Champion from the Candidates Tournament has been to be in the lead at the halfway mark. In fact one has to go back to 1959 to find a Candidates Tournament where the winner was not leading halfway through the event. [...] The winners in 2013, 2014 and 2016 – Carlsen, Anand and then Karjakin – were always tied with Levon Aronian at the halfway point, before going on to outpace the Armenian.

I double-checked GM Rogers on his facts from the earlier cycles and discovered that in the eight player, four stage round-robin 1959 Yugoslavia Candidates, the unlucky Paul Keres was leading at the half-way point with 10.0/14, a half point ahead of Mikhail Tal, who eventually won the event. In the 1962 Curacao Candidates, which used the same structure as in 1959, GMs Petrosian and Geller were leading at the half-way mark with 9.0/14. Petrosian eventually finished a half-point ahead of Geller and Keres. That tournament was marred by accusations that the three leaders colluded to draw against each other (which the crosstable confirms) and to play for wins against the other participants, the non-Soviets in particular.

For those suspicions of collusion, the Candidates stage of subsequent World Championship cycles was changed to a system of long matches which -- except for a handful of cycles using a single-event knockout system -- persisted until a round-robin tournament was reintroduced for the 2013 London Candidates. For more about Soviet collusion in Candidates tournament of the 1950s, see Calculating Collusion (February 2010) on this blog.

Predictions based on the leader at the halfway mark also held for two title tournaments in the 2000s. At 2005 San Luis, GM Topalov was ahead of the next player, GM Svidler, by two full points after seven rounds. At 2007 Mexico City, GM Anand was ahead of GM Gelfand by a half point after seven rounds.

The only Candidates tournament for which I haven't developed a cumulative score by round is the 1985 Montpellier Candidates. That event was unusual in that it qualified the first four players into a short series of matches.

14 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - First Week

As I write this, three rounds of the 2018 Candidates Tournament, Berlin have been played. At this point in past Candidate tournaments, I displayed a crosstable and added a bit of commentary. Let's do it differently this time. Given the results of the last three Candidate tournaments, what do the current standings say about each player's chance of ultimately winning the event?

The following chart shows the cumulative score by round for each of the last three tournaments. If the details are too small to read, you can find the same tables on three pages:-

The winners of each event are circled in red (in 2013 Carlsen beat Kramnik on tiebreak), as are the players with a plus score after round 3. I've also indicated the leaders after round 7, the halfway point of the tournament, when the participants have played each other once.

In all three tournaments, the eventual winner was from the group of players who had a plus score after round 3. The winner was also one of the leaders after the first half of the tournament. The following table shows the leaders after round 3 in the 2018 Berlin Candidates.

2.5 Kramnik
2.0 Caruana, Mamedyarov
1.5 Ding Liren, Grischuk
1.0 Aronian, Karjakin
0.5 Wesley So

If past is prologue (it's usually not!), then the eventual winner will be one of Kramnik, Caruana, or Mamedyarov. It's curious to note that in each of the last three events, GM Aronian was one of the leaders at mid-point, then faltered in the second half. It's also curious that the ultimate winning score was always 8.5-5.5, or plus-three as they say in the lingo.

07 March 2018

Berlin Candidates - Resources

In a few days the much awaited 2018 Candidates Tournament starts in Berlin. Since I've already done a Berlin Candidates - Kickoff post with links to career info for the eight players, let's add some additional info from other resources. First, here's a series of Youtube videos from the PowerPlayChess channel, discussing each player 'in ranking order from the bottom up'.

Candidates 2018 | Berlin | Preview 1 (16:14) • 'Published on Feb 21, 2018'

The description for this first clip says,

Daniel King with a first preview of the Candidates' tournament introducing three of the eight players: Sergey Karjakin, Alexander Grischuk and Ding Liren.

The other five players are covered in two more videos in the series.

Next, here are profiles of the eight players by Carlos Colodro from Chess24.com (including comments from chess fans):-

Chess24.com will be following the action (live?): Jan, Peter & Sopiko commentate Candidates. If you're not a Chess24 insider, that's Jan Gustafsson, Peter Svidler, and Sopiko Guramishvili. NB: GM Svidler played in the last three candidates tournaments: 2013 London, 2014 Khanty-Mansiysk, and 2016 Moscow.

What about Agon/Worldchess.com? The resources I gave in the 'Kickoff' post -- official site and Facebook page-- are still valid, and I could add the Twitter feed and Youtube channel:-

A few days ago Worldchess.com announced they will be Making Chess Broadcasting Dramatic, with 'Top-view cameras' and 'Excellent commentary':-

Judit Polgar, who did excellent commentary during the 2016 World Chess Championship, will be the lead commentator. [...] Judit is going to be supported by Lawrence Trent, an international master, as well as numerous guests.

They will also have 'Stickers and important moments':-

We are trying stickers in the commentary for the first time. Believing that chess is a very emoji-friendly sport, we have developed a sticker-set, which we’ll use in the commentary as well as in Social Media. Feel free to use them and also add your own.

Two of the stickers say, 'Boring'(!); another says, 'In Kramnik We Trust'. The group also announced, Media organisations to be able to broadcast moves from Chess World Candidates Tournament with five minute delay. Let's see how that works out. The first round starts Saturday, 10 March, 15:00 local Berlin time.

28 February 2018

Kramnik on Playing for the Title

On my main blog I'm doing a weekly series on the eight players who will be competing in next month's candidates tournament (see the previous post, Berlin Candidates - Kickoff, for more about the tournament). The most recent player to be covered was in Interview Videos : Kramnik. As the oldest of the eight players, there is a wide choice of material about Kramnik. The following video is even better than an interview.

Chess : V Kramnik's preparation before WC match 2000 vs G Kasparov (27:55) • 'Published on Sep 27, 2017'

Pirated material on Youtube typically omits mention of the source and this is no exception. Without too much trouble, I discovered that the clip is a segment from a DVD titled 'My Path to the Top' by Vladimir Kramnik (chessbase.com).

On this DVD Vladimir Kramnik retraces his career from talented schoolboy to World Champion in 2006. With humour and charm he describes his first successes, what it meant to be part of the Russian Gold Medal team at the Olympiad, and how he undertook the Herculean task of beating his former mentor and teacher Garry Kasparov. Kramnik dissects his wins against Leko and Topalov, giving us a vivid impression of the super-dramatic final games of the 2006 match.

The specific segment in the Youtube clip is:-

Part 8 - Preparation for the World Championship match against Kasparov in London 2000, 27:55

A review of the DVD by Prof. Nagesh Havanur is at Kramnik speaks: My Path to the Top (chessbase.com; May 2012).

This ChessBase DVD was produced in 2007, when Vladimir Kramnik was still world champion. On it he describes the nirvana of attending the Botvinnik School, of being nominated for the Olympiad in 1992 by Garry Kasparov, how he went on to dethrone his mentor. Apart from narrative and analysis the DVD also includes previous interviews with ChessBase.

Particularly insightful is the explanation of how GM Kramnik chose the Berlin Defense as his main weapon with Black.

21 February 2018

Berlin Candidates - Kickoff

A few weeks ago FIDE issued the 2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament Pairings, including dates and times for the 14 rounds ('Round 1 on 10.03.2018 at 15.00'). I'll use this week's post to summarize available info about the event, just as I did two years ago in Moscow Candidates - Kickoff (March 2016).

I give the 'Official site' a question mark ('?'), because it's inconceivable to me that such a poorly designed page will be the main repository for daily information about the event. Perhaps I should follow the lead from a post on my main blog, World Championship Social Media (December 2016), and rely instead on other sources. Here, for example, is the organizer's Facebook page:-

As for other recent Candidates tournaments, I developed a table with links to Chessgames.com showing how the eight players have fared against each other and against World Champion Magnus Carlsen. The links behind the players' names go to ratings.fide.com/card.

  Aro Car Din Gri Kar Kra Mam So   : Car
Aronian xx * * * * * * * : *
Caruana xx * * * * * * : *
Ding Liren xx * * * * * : *
Grischuk xx * * * * : *
Karjakin xx * * * : *
Kramnik xx * * : *
Mamedyarov xx * : *
So, Wesley xx : *
Carlsen : xx

The action starts on the second Saturday in March. This is not an event where the players finishing 1-2-3 get a place on the winners' podium. The only real prize is a ticket for one player to the title match, Carlsen - TBA; London, XI, 2018.

14 February 2018

C28 Zonal Links

My previous post, C28 Zonal Rating Reports, promised,
The next (and last) step is to add all of these links to the page Zonals : Links (and Other References).

The results are here: Zonals : Links (and Other References). Note the first appearance on the page for European zone '1.3 Nordic Championship'.

07 February 2018

C28 Zonal Rating Reports

Going down the list of Small Projects for 2018 (December 2017), the next project is to continue where I left off with C28 Zonal Qualification Paths (November 2017), i.e. needing 'two more steps that were done for the previous cycle'. The first of those two steps was to collect the links from ratings.fide.com, as in C27 Zonal Rating Reports (January 2016).

The database of FIDE rating reports is a wonderful resource that stores all of the work FIDE produces to calculate ratings. The page linked here is the list of players for each event. Attached to this, under the heading 'More Info', is additional data about the event, like time control and arbiters. For many events the database also points to a crosstable and PGN file.

Here is a list of continental and zonal events that played a role in the current World Championship cycle (C28). The titles are taken directly from the rating reports:-

There are two events listed on the index of all World Chess Championship Zonals that are missing here -- '0.0 ACP' and '1.7 Baltic Zonals' -- because these don't fit the pattern used for the other events. The next (and last) step is to add all of these links to the page Zonals : Links (and Other References). That page has similar links to all cycles since 2001 (C20).

31 January 2018

Catching up with PGN

Continuing with Small Projects for 2018 (December 2017), I tackled the backlog of PGN files mentioned in that post:-
I have two technical problems to address. [...] The second is a replacement for my old PGN normalization software, which was forcibly retired last summer. I added two recent events without including the corresponding PGN.

A few weeks ago I switched to PGN-extract, and performed a small, successful trial on the 23rd World Computer Championship. Now I used the software to add the PGN files for all rounds of the 2017 World Cup, and for the last leg of the 2017 Grand Prix.

The trial went well for the PGN-extract software, but I discovered an unfortunate error in my processing of forfeit games. This happened in both round 1 (Onischuk - Zherebukh) and round 3 (Rodshtein - Kovalyov; the infamous 'shorts' incident). While it was easy to fix once I had identified it, the same error may have crept into previous knockout events. I'll have to come back to this another time.

24 January 2018

2018 Candidates Schedule

Sometimes it takes a lot of work to write one simple sentence. Take, for example, a recent post on my main blog, Interview Videos : Aronian, where I wrote, 'I have just enough time to review the eight players who will be starting the 2018 Berlin Candidates Tournament in March.' To calculate this, I had to know the date of round one of the upcoming tournament. First stop: FIDE Calendar 2018, where I learned,
Candidates Tournament 2018; Berlin, Germany; 10-Mar-2018; 28-Mar-2018

That pointed to a page Candidates Tournament 2018, where the only additional information on the page was a link to 'REGULATIONS', i.e. Rules & Regulations for the Candidates Tournament of the FIDE World Championship cycle 2016-2018. The associated PDF, which has been available since last spring, gives a day-by-day tentative schedule:-

Arrivals: 1 day
Opening Ceremony & Players Meeting: [etc.]
Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
Free day
Free day
Round 13
Round 14
Tiebreaks / Closing ceremony
TOTAL: 22 days

The FIDE Calendar says the event starts 10 March and lasts 19 days. I guess that day count includes round one through any tiebreaks. So round one starts 10 March. Is there any way to confirm this? My own page, 2018 Candidates Tournament (created November 2017), points to FIDE World Chess Berlin Candidates Tournament 2018 (worldchess.com/berlin). Is that the official site? I captured the current look of the page in the following image.

Those blue buttons in the bottom left say, 'Select Broadcast Plan' and 'Buy Ticket', but I couldn't find any information about who is playing or the schedule. After endless screens about broadcasting details, the last piece of info on the page says, 'Read full regulations' and points to a PDF titled 'Regulations for the 2016-2017 FIDE World Chess Grand-Prix Series'. Grand Prix? It looks like this page is a copy/paste from another page. Fortunately, that 'Buy Ticket' button points to FIDE World Chess Candidates Tournament Tickets & Event Dates (ticketmaster.de), which says,

10 Mar 2018; FIDE World Chess Candidates Tournament | Round 1; Sat 15:00; Kühlhaus Berlin
27 Mar 2018; FIDE World Chess Candidates Tournament | Round 14; Tue 15:00; Kühlhaus Berlin

A 'Find tickets' button for round one lists prices in three ticket categories: white, silver, and gold. With the tournament starting in a little more than six weeks, I still have time to make travel arrangements.

17 January 2018

23rd World Computer Championship

One of my Small Projects for 2018 (December 2017), was to update my page on the World Computer championship. Besides catching up with the ICGA, it gave me the chance to try out the PGN-extract software on a real PGN file. I noticed two differences with the previous software:-
  • a space between the move number and White's move (e.g. '1. e4' instead of '1.e4')
  • some lines start with a move instead of a move number (e.g. '1.d4 [...] 8. // O-O [...]' instead of '1.d4 [...] // 8.O-O [...]', where '//' indicates a new line)

Both of these are matters of taste and are probably not dictated by the SAN standard (which I don't remember ever reading anyway). On the positive side, the PGN-extract software does its most important job admirably : checking the validity of the moves in a PGN file. It also allowed me to remove comments from the file in the same step as the checking, which was a separate step with the previous software.

I created the PGN file & crosstable, combined the two into a ZIP file, loaded the result to my site, and updated the index page, World Chess Championship : Computer Chess. For the post on the previous ICGA championship, see 22nd World Computer Championship (August 2016).

One small question I had during the process was whether to continue listing Don Dailey as a developer for the winning program, Komodo. According to the Wikipedia page, Don Dailey, he died in November 2013. Since the Komodo site, komodochess.com, is titled 'Komodo chess engine by Don Dailey, Larry Kaufman & Mark Lefler', I decided to use that as a guideline. For details about the 23rd WCCC, see the ICGA site:-

The ICGA is going through some soul-searching about its stewardship of the WCCC. For specifics, see:-

That last link, by 'David Levy – ICGA President', includes a capsule history of the WCCC, e.g.:-

It came to pass that the first WCCC took place in Stockholm, at the Birger Jarl Hotel, in the summer of 1974. The British entrepreneur publisher Robert Maxwell donated a medal for the first World Champion, which was won by the Soviet program Kaissa, developed by Mikhail Donskoy, Vladimir Arlazarov and Anatoly Uskov.

It remains to be seen whether the current ICGA initiative is a fresh start or 'too little, too late'. Although a comment to the Levy article acknowledges the existential challenge of the TCEC, the ICGA plans future chess events:-

It's also worth noting the group's Facebook page: ICGA - Home.

10 January 2018


Continuing with Small Projects for 2018 and 'a replacement for my old PGN normalization software, which was forcibly retired last summer', I had to look no further than PGN-extract ('A Portable Game Notation Manipulator for Chess Games'). Although its output is not completely what I was looking for, it does the more important job of checking the validity of PGN files. I'll test drive it for some of the other 'Small Projects' before adopting it definitively. An overview of its functionality is available on the page PGN-extract Help file.

I also spent some time poking around the chess software on GitHub.com. The projects go beyond the basic support needed for my World Championship site and would better be addressed on my main chess blog.

03 January 2018

Petrosian Talks About Fischer

Since the first of the Small Projects for 2018 (December 2017) is 'a replacement for my old FTP package' and since I have nothing to say about that other than 'file name case conversion is an issue!', what can I write about in today's post? Luckily, yesterday's post on my main blog, January 1968 'On the Cover', provided a topic from the January 1968 Chess Life in an article 'Venice 1967' by Larry Evans. The report by the five-time U.S. champion included a long section titled 'Petrosian Talks':-
Since we were quartered in the same hotel, and frequently walked to the tournament hall together, I had the opportunity to ask Petrosian some burning questions. (His wife served as translator.) He readily admitted not being satisfied with his chess ever since the title match with Spassky, in which he felt the quality of his play was considerably better than the result would indicate. He is confident of finding his form in 1968 and attributes his poor tournament showings (as opposed to his winning the gold medal on Board One at the Havana Olympic) to the cross [curse?] of the title: everyone now plays for a draw against him.

And what about a match with Fischer? He says FIDE would not permit one for the title. What about an unofficial match, say, 12 games, for a purse of $10,000, divided 60% for the winner and 40% for the loser? Here Petrosian's attitude was ambiguous. He personally would be happy to play such a match, but it's a question of what his own chess federation would say. Furthermore, who would want to put up with all of Fischer's conditions? By now the latter's eccentricities are well known. Then Petrosian said that $10,000 would not be enough. I indicated surprise, pointing out that he received less than $2,000 for winning the title match against Spassky. Donner happened to be present at this discussion, and when asked by Petrosian's wife who he thought would win such a match, Donner replied instantly: "Fischer!" Donner, further, thought that the FIDE system was strong enough to withstand unofficial matches of this nature when the title was not involved (although the winner would have a moral claim). Petrosian wondered whether Fischer's chess was not somewhat stronger five years ago, before his temporary retirement from the game. I said Bobby was playing better than ever and would undoubtedly win the Interzonal.

Then came the news of the scandal in Tunis and Fischer's withdrawal. Everyone thought that Bobby was crazy. I said we would have to have more facts, but that Bobby was generally right when it came to matters of principle. I couldn't tell whether Petrosian was pleased by the prospect of not now having to meet Fischer for the title; but again he indicated that he would play Fischer a match if the decision were his to make. His wife pointed out that Tigran had a tremendous plus score against Bobby, and I replied that it had been piled up when Bobby was just developing. I know that of all the Russians, Bobby has the greatest respect for Petrosian. If they made draw after draw in a match, which is not unlikely, Bobby might very well get impatient and suicidally try to force the issue. When I asked Petrosian how he felt about a return to the old type of match for the title -- based on who wins the first six games, for example, thus making ties impossible -- he said he was not opposed, but it could produce an endless number of games since the players are so evenly matched nowadays. Besides, this is a matter which rests solely in the hands of FIDE.

It is clear that Petrosian, whether he says so or not, considers Bobby the strongest possible challenger. But, he said, in their own games Bobby did not make a single move which he had not anticipated. Furthermore, he gave Fischer a draw (in their second round encounter at the Piatigorsky Cup 1966), even though he demonstrated to Bobby after the game that he (Petrosian) had a winning position. Why? Because he wanted to see Bobby finish second (rather than Larsen) because Bobby had played the best chess in the tournament. His wife, seeing that I took this with a grain of salt, assured me that it was true. Apart from that, he would like to play in the next Piatigorsky and give an exhibition tour in America.

Tigran Petrosian was the reigning World Champion from 1963 to 1969.