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The article was first published on Saint Louis Chess Club blog.

Back in July of 2016, my family decided to move from New Jersey to Saint Louis in order to help support my chess ambition. Moving to the chess capital of the country was an exciting change as it allowed me to be closer to the heart of U.S. chess. Upon entering 2018, I thought it fitting to indulge in some nostalgia and relate my experiences over the last year-and-a-half as a member of the local Saint Louis chess community.

How exactly did Saint Louis come to be known as the chess capital of the country?

The answer to that question can only be attributed to Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield. In 2008, they sparked a chess vibe by opening the Saint Louis Chess Club in the Central West End. Through their persistent efforts and generous patronage over the last ten years, they have succeeded in sustaining a renowned and flourishing chess culture. That’s what drew me here. Their vision has guided chess in Saint Louis higher-and-higher up the arc and now the city is synonymous with chess.

One of the ways I have benefitted from the vibrant chess culture of Saint Louis is through the rare privilege of watching multiple world-class events at the Chess Club, such as the Sinquefield Cup and Champion Showdowns. It has been a surreal experience to have players like current World Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and former World Champion Viswanathan “Vishy” Anand of India play before my very eyes. I even had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with Vishy during one of the tournaments. Where else in the world can a youngster casually converse with a 5-time world champion? Only in Saint Louis!

The Chess Club conducts a unique “Resident Grandmaster (GM)” program, the only one of its kind in the country, where a GM is hosted by the Chess Club throughout the year on a rotating basis. This has allowed me to occasionally sit down with Grandmasters for an analysis of games, or sparring over the board. Such interaction with strong players is beneficial, as it keeps the chess instincts sharp. The most memorable and enjoyable experience for me was when GM Yasser Seirawan came to town in late 2016 and was the resident GM. Yasser is a four-time U.S. Champion and is known in chess circles as the most genial soul you’ll ever meet. We looked at my games and went through Yasser’s analysis of the 1990 World Championship match between Kasparov and Karpov. He also shared several amusing and enthralling stories from when he was an active player. For me, it was delightful and a total immersion of chess as many times we lost track of time, musing at the chess board for hours well into the night.

When my family made the decision to move to Saint Louis, there was an element of uncertainty involved. After all, my parents had spent over 20 years in the New Jersey/New York Area and had no familiarity with Missouri. Looking back, I’m glad we decided to move as the experiences I’ve had here have been truly unforgettable. And, as the falling snow crowns the hanging cockleburs into graceful ornaments on the bare winter trees outside my window, I can’t help but wonder if I will be able to sustain my quest long enough to reach the top level.  As of now, I only hear a resounding Yes, as a citizen of my new “Show Me State.”

The post A Young Grandmaster’s Reflection On His Time In Saint Louis appeared first on Akshat Chandra...A Chess Journey.

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The Clark Street Capital Grandmaster Invitational was a 20-player tournament held from April 12-16 and sponsored by chess aficionado Jon Winick of Clark Street Capital. The tournament was organized by the Chicago Chess Center with the aim of providing the local Chicago chess players with an opportunity to compete for and, potentially, earn norms. Despite not falling under the norm-seeker category, I was still attracted to the tournament because of its format. Even though it was a “Swiss,” the small field of players made the chess tournament akin to a Round-Robin, and almost certainly ensured I would face most of the top players in the event.

Players List

The list of players was as follows:

GM Ilya Smirin (Israel, 2671)

IM Sergei Matsenko (Russia, 2533)

GM Vladimir Georgiev (Macedonia, 2530)

GM Kannappan Priyadharshan (India, 2530)

IM Pavlo Vorontsov (Ukraine, 2499)

GM Akshat Chandra (USA, 2489)

GM Alexander Fishbein (USA, 2481)

GM Nikola Mitkov (Macedonia, 2444)

FM Zhaozhi Li (USA, 2359)

FM Aaron Grabinsky (USA, 2345)

FM Joshua Colas (USA, 2323)

Robert M. Perez (USA, 2310)

IM Angelo Young (Philippines, 2294)

FM David Peng (USA, 2270)

Gopal Menon (USA, 2216)

CM Jacob Furfine (USA, 2163)

FM Albert Chow (USA, 2152)

WFM Rachel Ulrich (USA, 2081)

Matthew Stevens (USA, 2049)

Aakaash Meduri (USA, 2042)

Chicago - The Batman City!

When I arrived in Chicago, driving around LaSalle and Randolph Avenues, I experienced a peculiar sense of déjà vu, as the buildings and scenery felt vaguely familiar to me even though I had not been to this section of Chicago before. Then suddenly, it occurred to me that this was where some scenes from “The Dark Knight” had been filmed! This was Batman’s home.

Photo Credit: Chess Hall of Fame, St. Louis

Clark Street Capital Invitational, Chicago, April 2017

Jon Winick at the Opening Ceremony ~ Photo Credit: Keith Ammann

Round Recap

The first 5 rounds of the tournament were played on the 17th floor of Avant, a financial services company overlooking the Chicago Riverwalk, in an impressive 2-floor high hall flanked by conference rooms. The organizer Bill Brock of Chicago Chess Center set the ball rolling in his jovial and relaxed manner, inviting each of the 20 players to introduce themselves. Thereafter, the players were seated in the conference rooms on either side of the hall, with the top six boards having their own private room. The glass walls allowed the Arbiters and spectators to monitor the proceedings.

Robert Perez vs. GM Ilya Smirin

Playing Hall

The tournament got off to a rough start for me as I lost to fellow youngster Jacob Furfine. His play was quite creative and impressive considering his rating, and after I missed my chance to seize the advantage he convincingly converted his initiative. Clearly, Jacob is an underrated player, and in hindsight, I wish he had attained his real level before my game so I wouldn’t have lost as many rating points! The other major upset of the 1st round was Ukranian IM Pavlo Vorontsov losing to Gopal Menon, who played a strong game with the Black pieces to win handily.

[Event "Clark Street Capital GM"] [Site "Chicago USA"] [Date "2017.04.12"] [Round "1"] [White "Furfine, Jacob"] [Black "Chandra, Akshat"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D02"] [WhiteElo "2163"] [BlackElo "2489"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1bqnrk1/ppb1n2p/4ppp1/3pN3/3P1P2/2PB1N2/PP1Q1BPP/R4RK1 w - - 0 16"] [PlyCount "33"] [EventDate "2017.04.12"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2017.04.24"] 16. Bh4 Ng7 $2 (16... Nf5 $1 {and White has no satisfactory way to deal with the threat of ...Nxh4 and fxe5. His best try is to probably just retreat the Bishop back to e1} 17. Be1 {but Black is clearly better then after} Ned6) 17. g4 $1 {I had seen this move in a different variation, but for some reason I just overlooked it in this particular position. Now my Knight on g7 is quite a sickly steed. Of course the position is not lost now, but it's just really unpleasant to play. Full credit to my opponent, who energetically took advantage of my mistake.} Qe8 18. a4 a6 19. Bc2 Kh8 20. Nd3 b6 21. Rae1 Bd7 22. b3 Rc8 23. Kh1 Bb8 24. Rg1 Qd8 25. f5 exf5 26. g5 Ng8 27. gxf6 Rxf6 28. Nde5 Be8 29. Rg3 Qc7 30. Bxf6 Nxf6 31. Qh6 Qxc3 32. Rxg6 $1 {and White won a few moves later.} 1-0 
[Event "Clark Street Capital GM"] [Site "Chicago USA"] [Date "2017.04.12"] [Round "1"] [White "Vorontsov, P."] [Black "Menon, Gopal S"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A36"] [WhiteElo "2499"] [BlackElo "2216"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2017.04.12"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2017.04.24"] 1. c4 c5 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. Rb1 d6 6. a3 e6 7. b4 Nge7 8. Nf3 O-O 9. O-O b6 10. Qa4 Bb7 11. Bb2 Qd7 12. d3 Rad8 13. Nb5 e5 14. Nc3 Ba8 15. Nd2 f5 16. Rfe1 g5 17. Nd5 Ng6 18. e3 g4 19. Bc3 h5 20. Qc2 h4 21. a4 cxb4 22. Bxb4 Kh8 23. Bc3 Qf7 24. Qa2 f4 25. exf4 exf4 26. Bxg7+ Qxg7 27. Qb2 Nce5 28. Be4 Bxd5 29. cxd5 Rf6 30. d4 fxg3 31. fxg3 Nf3+ 32. Bxf3 gxf3 33. Ne4 Nf4 34. Nxf6 hxg3 35. hxg3 Qxg3+ 36. Kh1 f2 37. Qxf2 Qxf2 0-1

Fortunately, I didn’t let the 1st round loss snowball and was able to immediately recuperate by winning my next 3 games. The 4th round win against GM Georgiev was quite interesting.

[Event "Clark Street Capital GM"] [Site "Chicago USA"] [Date "2017.04.14"] [Round "4"] [White "Chandra, Akshat"] [Black "Georgiev, Vl"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C41"] [WhiteElo "2489"] [BlackElo "2530"] [PlyCount "95"] [EventDate "2017.04.12"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2017.04.24"] 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. Bc4 Be7 6. a4 O-O 7. O-O a5 8. Re1 b6 9. Ne2 Bb7 10. Ng3 Nxe4 11. Rxe4 d5 12. Rg4 f5 13. Nxf5 Rxf5 14. Ba2 h5 15. Re4 Kh8 16. Nxe5 Bd6 17. Rf4 Rxf4 18. Qxh5+ Kg8 19. Bxf4 Qe8 20. Qg5 Bxe5 21. Bxe5 Nxe5 22. dxe5 c5 23. c3 Qd8 24. Qg6 c4 25. Re1 Qe8 26. Qxb6 Bc6 27. Qd4 Rb8 28. Bb1 Rxb2 29. Qh4 Rxb1 30. Rxb1 Qxe5 31. Qg3 Qe4 32. Rb8+ Kh7 33. Qh3+ Kg6 34. Qe3 Bd7 35. h4 Qxe3 36. fxe3 Kf5 37. Kf2 Bxa4 38. Ra8 Bc2 39. Rxa5 Be4 40. Ra7 g6 41. Rf7+ Kg4 42. Rf4+ Kh5 43. Rxe4 dxe4 44. Kg3 g5 45. hxg5 Kxg5 46. Kh3 Kh5 47. g4+ Kg6 48. Kh4 1-0

Consequently, I found myself behind the Black pieces on Board 1 against the renowned top seed, GM Ilya Smirin.

At this stage, Ilya was 4/4 and seemed to be running away with the tournament. The game went wrong for me from the start as Ilya played a move which I forgot to analyze in my preparation. I didn’t adjust to the circumstances very well and failed to offer stiff resistance, losing quite quickly. It was frustrating to have wasted an opportunity against a player of Ilya’s caliber.

[Event "Clark Street Capital GM"] [Site "Chicago USA"] [Date "2017.04.14"] [Round "5"] [White "Smirin, I."] [Black "Chandra, Akshat"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C07"] [WhiteElo "2671"] [BlackElo "2489"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "2017.04.12"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2017.04.24"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. Ngf3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nc6 6. Bb5 Bd7 7. Nxc6 Bxc6 8. Bxc6+ bxc6 9. c4 Rc8 10. O-O Nf6 11. Qa4 Nxe4 12. Nxe4 dxe4 13. Qxa7 Bd6 14. Be3 Qc7 15. Qxc7 Rxc7 16. b4 Rb7 17. Rab1 Rxb4 18. Rxb4 Bxb4 19. Rb1 Bd6 20. Bc5 Bc7 21. Rb7 Kd7 22. Bb6 Rc8 23. c5 1-0

The venue changed for the final 4 rounds, which were played at a nearby location on Randolph Avenue, overlooking the Lake Shore parks and the Monroe Harbor. I was able to close out the home stretch positively, scoring 3 out of 4. My 8th round victory over Pavlo featured an intricate and complex rook endgame, which I encourage the readers to analyze and evaluate!

[Event "Clark Street Capital GM"] [Site "Chicago USA"] [Date "2017.04.16"] [Round "8"] [White "Vorontsov, P."] [Black "Chandra, Akshat"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D05"] [WhiteElo "2499"] [BlackElo "2489"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/4k1p1/3r1p1p/p7/4P3/8/P3R1PP/6K1 w - - 0 37"] [PlyCount "46"] [EventDate "2017.04.12"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2017.04.24"] 37. Rb2 Rd4 38. Rb7+ Kf8 39. Ra7 Ra4 40. Kf2 Rxa2+ 41. Kf3 a4 42. h4 a3 43. Ra8+ Kf7 44. Ra7+ Kg6 45. g4 Ra1 46. h5+ Kh7 47. Ra8 a2 48. Kg2 g5 49. Ra7+ Kg8 50. Kh2 Kf8 51. Kg2 Ke8 52. Kh2 Kd8 53. Kg2 Kc8 54. Kh2 Kb8 55. Ra3 Kb7 56. Kg2 Kb6 57. Ra8 Kb5 58. Ra7 Kc4 59. Ra4+ Kb3 0-1

The last round left a slightly bitter taste, however, as I failed to convert a much better endgame against the solid Macedonian GM Nikola Mitkov. As a result, I ended up tying for 2nd with GM Mitkov and Robert Perez, who somehow swindled Pavlo in the last round, much to the shock and bewilderment of other players, and most likely Robert himself!

This allowed Robert to cap off a great tournament for himself by securing his 1st IM norm. Well done! Also, Joshua Colas earned his final IM norm with a scintillating final round victory over GM Georgiev.  Congrats, Josh! He now needs to increase his FIDE rating to 2400, in order to officially become an IM.

[Event "Clark Street Capital GM"] [Site "Chicago USA"] [Date "2017.04.16"] [Round "9"] [White "Colas, Joshua"] [Black "Georgiev, Vl"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E27"] [WhiteElo "2323"] [BlackElo "2530"] [PlyCount "43"] [EventDate "2017.04.12"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2017.04.24"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 d5 7. cxd5 exd5 8. e3 Bf5 9. Ne2 c5 10. g4 Be6 11. Ng3 Ne8 12. Bd3 Qc8 13. O-O Nd6 14. Ra2 b5 15. Rg2 a5 16. Qe1 Ra7 17. Nh5 Na6 18. Nf6+ gxf6 19. Qh4 Rd8 20. Qh6 Ne8 21. Bxh7+ Kh8 22. Rg3 1-0

The tournament was deservedly won by Ilya, who scored a convincing 7.5/9 and was the only player to not lose a game.

Overall, I had a great experience. Thanks to arbiters Daniel Parmet and Glenn Panner for overseeing a smoothly run tournament, and putting the pairings out on time! Also, much thanks to Bill Brock for organizing the tournament, sending PGN updates of the finished rounds during the tournament, and keeping me entertained with his humorous remarks!

And, of course, big thanks once again to Jon for graciously sponsoring the event and putting all the players at ease with his amiable personality. Chess needs more benefactors like him. You rock, Jon!

Playing with Jon Winick

Dmitry Gurevich (left), Alex Fishbein (blue), Bill Brock (center)

Akshat Chandra with the official guest for the ceremonial first move

The post was first published on US Chess.

The post Playing Chess in Batman City! appeared first on Akshat Chandra...A Chess Journey.

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As printed on the website of St. Louis Public Radio

In January 2010, I played in the Delhi International Chess Grand Master Open, my first major tournament. I was 10 years old and brimming with optimism and hope, having started playing chess a few months earlier on my visit to India. In the first round, I found myself playing 66-year old veteran Russian International Master, Boris Arkhangelsky.

Russia had dominated the chess world until the emergence of Bobby Fischer, the greatest American chess player to date. Fischer single-handedly took on the Russians, eventually defeating Boris Spassky to become World Champion in 1972. Aware of the Russians reputation, I felt a blend of intimidation and awe when I sat down for the game.

Akshat Chandra, propped-up on his cushions, in his first tournament game against IM Boris Arkhangelsky - January 2010

As it turned out, the spirit of Fischer was with me as I completely outplayed Boris. My heart began pounding when I realized that I was moments away from winning. But suddenly, Boris unexpectedly offered me a draw.

This perturbed me psychologically, and I began over-thinking what seemed like a simple and obvious decision – decline the offer since I had a totally winning position. Instead, I started thinking about how my opponent was a much more experienced and accomplished player and may have seen something I didn’t. A bout of nervousness swept over me, as I sat there contemplating the offer. The self-confidence I had played the entire game began to recede and my self-doubt led me to accept his draw.

After the game, I felt conflicted; I was ecstatic I had drawn against an IM in my first game but also disappointed for not continuing to play.

Confidence and self-belief are two of the most valuable traits one can possess in any pursuit. These are the same traits that drove the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to pull off the “Miracle on Ice” against the heavily favored Soviet Union team. The reason I wasn’t able to pull off a seemingly impossible result of my own was because I made the mistake of not trusting myself.
Akshat Chandra at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

Akshat Chandra ~ Photo by Austin Fuller, Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis

My experience with Arkhangelsky taught me a valuable lesson – confidence and self-belief should never take a back seat. I lived this lesson during the 2013 North American Youth U-18 Championship, where I started dismally, losing two of the first three games. The possibility of winning the title was practically nonexistent. But, I believed I could still get the job done. This led me to pull off an amazing comeback as I won my remaining six games and the gold medal. It was my “Miracle” moment.

This unwavering belief in myself has now brought me to St. Louis, having convinced my family to let me pursue chess professionally. My family relocated, after 25 years in the New York area, in search of the critical training, support, and sponsorship to advance my career. The relocation has been auspicious, as I accomplished my final Grandmaster requirement at the 2016 Saint Louis Autumn Invitational at the Saint Louis Chess Club - a fitting place to earn the right to be called a Grandmaster.

Immortal Olympic runner Wilma Rudolph once said, “I believe in me more than anything in this world.” I’m hoping to continue living her words and go as far as she did.

Akshat Chandra is a 17-year-old Chess International Grand Master who recorded one of the fastest rises in the history of chess. He started his Chess rating at 1548 and in 5 1/2 years crossed 2500 Grandmaster rating realtime. He was the 2015 U.S. Junior Chess Champion as well as the National High School Champion and is the highest ranked Junior Rapid player in the U.S. Earlier this month, Akshat achieved his Grandmaster title at the 2016 Saint Louis Autumn Invitational. More can be learned on Akshat’s blog QuestToGM.com.

The post “How Faith and a Move to St. Louis created a Grand Master” appeared first on Akshat Chandra...A Chess Journey.

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The 3rd, and perhaps final, edition of the Millionaire Chess Open was held from October 6 -10 at Atlantic City.

I had the good fortune of being able to participate this time, after being unable to play last year in the 2nd edition of Millionaire Chess. The tournament has been organized for the last 3 years by GM Maurice Ashley and entrepreneur Amy Lee. The duo has strived to introduce an element of high-stakes into the chess world through a very novel format, in order to elevate the stature of the game, assist the players to earn prizes which were unheard of before in the chess world, and attract sponsors.  This year, the prize fund had been considerably reduced as the tournament did not achieve the requisite number of entries. Nonetheless, the prizes were still the largest for an Open Chess Tournament on US soil, and most likely the world, with the exception of the earlier two Millionaire Chess editions which had shattered all global records.

As I entered the hall, I saw the familiar purple color of the Millionaire Chess Tournament rippled across the giant hall and cascading down the playing tables.
It felt good to be back.

I managed to win my first two games against lower rated players without any problems. In round 3, I found myself paired against Polish GM Darius Swiercz, who would go on to win the tournament. He opted for the Najdorf, and I decided to play an interesting knight jump which Anand had used against Nakamura in the 2016 Sinquefield Cup.

[Event "Millionaire Chess Op 2016"] [Site "Atlantic City, USA"] [Date "2016.10.07"] [Round "3.5"] [White "Chandra, Akshat"] [Black "Swiercz, D."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2490"] [BlackElo "2636"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2016.10.06"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1144"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2016.10.10"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nde2 h5 8. Nd5 Nxd5 9. Qxd5 Nc6 10. Qd1 Be6 11. Nc3 Be7 12. Nd5 Rc8 13. c3 Bg5 14. h4 Bxc1 15. Rxc1 Ne7 16. Nxe7 Qxe7 17. g3 g6 18. Be2 O-O 19. O-O Rc6 20. a3 Rd8 21. Bf3 b5 22. Re1 Qf6 23. Bg2 Kg7 24. Qe2 Bb3 25. Qe3 Rcc8 26. Re2 a5 27. Rce1 Qe7 28. Rd2 Qc7 29. Bf3 Qc5 30. Bd1 Be6 31. Bf3 Rb8 32. Qxc5 dxc5 33. Rxd8 Rxd8 34. Rd1 Rb8 35. Rd6 b4 36. axb4 axb4 37. Rc6 bxc3 38. bxc3 c4 39. Be2 Rb3 40. Bxc4 Rxc3 41. Bd5 Rxc6 42. Bxc6 1/2-1/2 

Overall, it wasn’t a very good game from my side as I was suffering for most of the game after a few imprecisions in the opening. But Darius made some imprecise moves as well, and I was able to Draw the game.

In R4, I played a fellow youngster, GM Jeffery Xiong as Black. The game began as a quiet London, but soon evolved into a strategical battle over critical central squares. Unfortunately, I missed a key move in a variation which would have maintained equality, and ended up losing rather rapidly after that.

[Event "2016 Millionaire Chess"] [Site "Atlantic City, USA"] [Date "2016.10.07"] [Round "4"] [White "Xiong, Jeffery"] [Black "Chandra, Akshat"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D02"] [WhiteElo "2647"] [BlackElo "2490"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3qb1k1/pp3pp1/5n1p/P2p1N2/1P1Nn3/3BP1P1/5PP1/2Q3K1 b - - 0 29"] [PlyCount "22"] [SourceDate "2014.11.26"] 29... Nd6 $2 {This move felt wrong to me during the game, and indeed it was.} ( 29... g6 $1 30. Qc8 Qxc8 31. Ne7+ Kf8 32. Nxc8 a6 33. f3 {is why I rejected this variation, but I missed the intermediate move} Bd7 $1 {and Black is completely fine. The game will probably end in a draw after} 34. Nb6 Nxg3 35. Kf2 Nh1+ 36. Kg1 Ng3 37. Kf2 Nh1+ 38. Kg1 Ng3 $11) 30. Qc5 {Now White infiltrates.} Nxf5 31. Nxf5 g6 $2 (31... b6 {would have offered more resistance, although things are still grim after} 32. axb6 axb6 33. Qc8 Qxc8 34. Ne7+ Kf8 35. Nxc8 $16) 32. Qd6 Bd7 $2 {The decisive mistake.} (32... Qxd6 33. Nxd6 Kf8 34. Nxb7 Ke7 {was the last chance to fight on.}) 33. Ne7+ Kg7 34. Nxd5 Ne8 35. Qc5 Be6 36. Nf4 b6 37. Qe5+ Qf6 38. Nxe6+ fxe6 39. Qb8 bxa5 40. Qxe8 1-0 

A frustrating loss considering the position had been fairly balanced throughout, but I only had myself to blame for not seeing the intermediate move  33…Bd7!, in the variation starting with 29…g6.

I bounced back in the next round with a solid win against Hungarian GM Denes Boros. He surprised me with the Alekhine’s Defence, and although I wasn’t aware of the theory I was able to execute a crisp strategical win.

[Event "2016 Millionaire Chess"] [Site "Atlantic City, USA"] [Date "2016.10.08"] [Round "5"] [White "Chandra, Akshat"] [Black "Boros, Denes"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B05"] [WhiteElo "2490"] [BlackElo "2447"] [PlyCount "87"] [SourceDate "2014.11.26"] 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. Be2 e6 6. c4 Nb6 7. exd6 cxd6 8. Nc3 Be7 9. h3 Bh5 10. d5 e5 11. g4 Bg6 12. h4 h5 13. g5 N8d7 14. Be3 Bf5 15. Nd2 Rc8 16. b3 Nc5 17. Bxc5 Rxc5 18. Nde4 Rc8 19. Ng3 g6 20. Nxf5 gxf5 21. Rg1 Nd7 22. Qd3 Qa5 23. Rc1 e4 24. Qh3 f4 25. Qf5 f3 26. Bf1 Rc7 27. Kd1 Ne5 28. Rc2 Qc5 29. Nb5 Rd7 30. Qxe4 f5 31. gxf6 Bxf6 32. Nd4 Rf7 33. Bh3 a6 34. Bf5 Ke7 35. Nxf3 Rg7 36. Rxg7+ Bxg7 37. Ng5 Bf6 38. Re2 Bxg5 39. hxg5 Kd8 40. f4 Re8 41. fxe5 Rxe5 42. Qf4 Qg1+ 43. Kd2 Rxe2+ 44. Kxe2 1-0 

In Round 6, it was again a game with a fellow youngster, GM Samuel Sevian. I surprised him in the opening with an offbeat variation and, thanks to some good preparation, became an hour ahead on the clock. We agreed to a draw shortly after in a more or less equal position.

[Event "Millionaire Chess Op 2016"] [Site "Atlantic City USA"] [Date "2016.10.08"] [Round "6.10"] [White "Sevian, Samuel"] [Black "Chandra, Akshat"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C17"] [WhiteElo "2591"] [BlackElo "2490"] [PlyCount "63"] [EventDate "2016.10.06"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1144"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2016.10.10"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Ba5 6. b4 cxd4 7. Qg4 Kf8 8. Nb5 Bb6 9. Nf3 Nc6 10. Bb2 Nge7 11. Bd3 Ng6 12. Qg3 f6 13. Bxg6 hxg6 14. Nbxd4 Nxe5 15. Nxe5 fxe5 16. Qxe5 Rh5 17. Nxe6+ Bxe6 18. Qxe6 Qe8 19. Qxe8+ Rxe8+ 20. Kd1 Rg5 21. g3 Bxf2 22. Kd2 Rf5 23. Rad1 Re4 24. Rhf1 g5 25. Kc1 g6 26. Kb1 Ke7 27. Rd2 Bb6 28. Rfd1 Ke6 29. h3 g4 30. hxg4 Rxg4 31. Re2+ Re4 32. Rde1 1/2-1/2 

It was now time for the fateful 7th round – this was the round which would decide which players advanced to “Millionaire Monday,” where these select players would compete for high stake prizes. At this stage it was not possible for me to compete for 1st overall in the tournament, but I had my eye on the prize for the rating category 2400-2549. If I won my 7th round, I would almost certainly secure a slot for this category’s prize on Millionaire Monday. But I was only able to draw against the strong and seasoned GM Alex Stripunsky. This put me at 4.5/7. What hurt the most was that, due to severe time trouble, I had missed a win. I had returned to my hotel and given up hope that I could qualify for Millionaire Monday, as there were several players in the rating threshold 2400-2549 on 5/7.

But while casually reading the Millionaire Chess regulations on the official website, I noticed the following rule:

The 3rd Millionaire Chess Open will utilize each player’s highest post-event rating1 for events rated between January 1, 2015 and August 31, 2016. This applies to any rating system. Tournaments played in September or October of 2016 will not be considered (unless deemed to be absolutely necessary by the Chief Arbiter).

Suddenly, the standings were plunged into chaos. Due to this rule, few players who had seemingly qualified for this rating category prize were deemed ineligible, as their peak FIDE ratings had been higher than 2549 during that time period. This meant that only 3 players were guaranteed their spot on Millionaire Monday.

1 spot still remained, and a tiebreak was to be held to determine who would be the 4th player.

It was going to be no walk in the park, however, as there were a total of 6 hungry and determined players vying for that 1 spot.

My heart began pumping, and I felt a rush of adrenaline course through my body. I was nervous, yet confident that I would be the one to emerge victorious.

The arbiters divided the 6 players into 2 groups of 3.  Each group would first play amongst itself, with the winner of each group then playing for the final spot.

The groupings were:

Group 1                                                                   Group 2

GM Alexander Fishbein                                  GM Mark Paragua

       IM Akshat Chandra                                      GM Eugene Perelshteyn

 IM Aman Hambleton                                   GM Pontus Carlsson


Here’s how it went down:

Game 1 - Chandra 1-0 Fishbein                    Game 1  - Carlsson 1/2 Perelshteyn

Game 2 - Hambleton 1/2 Chandra              Game 2 - Paragua 1-0 Carlsson

Game 3 - Fishbein 1/2 Hambleton              Game 3 - Perelshteyn 1-0 Paragua

So GM Perelshteyn and I won our groups, which meant that we would face off to decide who would secure the 4th and final spot for Millionaire Monday.

We were going to play 2 games at a 5 minute time control, no increment or delay. So time management was off the essence! In the 1st game I built up a promising position, but after some miscalculations I was completely losing. But Eugene also miscalculated, and I was able to escape with a draw.

[Event "Millionaire Chess Playoffs"] [Site "Atlantic City, USA"] [Date "2016.10.09"] [Round "7.4"] [White "Chandra, Akshat"] [Black "Perelshteyn, Eugene"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E92"] [PlyCount "77"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. h3 Na6 7. Be3 e5 8. d5 Nc5 9. Nd2 a5 10. g4 c6 11. Be2 Bd7 12. g5 Ne8 13. h4 f5 14. a3 Nc7 15. b4 axb4 16. axb4 Rxa1 17. Qxa1 N5a6 18. Qa5 cxd5 19. Bb6 Qc8 20. b5 d4 21. Na4 Na8 22. bxa6 Bxa4 23. Qd5+ Rf7 24. Qxd6 Bf8 25. Qd8 Nxb6 26. Qxb6 bxa6 27. c5 Bxc5 28. Qa5 Bb5 29. Bxb5 axb5 30. Qxb5 Bb4 31. Qxb4 Qc1+ 32. Ke2 Qxh1 33. Qb8+ Rf8 34. Qxe5 fxe4 35. Qe6+ Kg7 36. Qe5+ Kg8 37. Qe6+ Kg7 38. Qe5+ Kg8 39. Qe6+ 1/2-1/2 

I took a deep breath and composed myself before sitting down for the potentially decisive 2nd game. Strangely, this game ended up being rather one-sided as my opponent blundered a pawn early on, and was unable to recover. In the end, he lost on time, although the position was completely winning for me anyways.

[Event "Millionaire Chess Playoffs"] [Site "Atlantic City, USA"] [Date "2016.10.09"] [Round "7.5"] [White "Perelshteyn, Eugene"] [Black "Chandra, Akshat"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A37"] [PlyCount "94"] 1. c4 c5 2. g3 Nc6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. Nf3 d6 6. O-O e6 7. e3 Nge7 8. b3 O-O 9. Bb2 e5 10. d3 h6 11. Nd2 Be6 12. Nd5 Bxd5 13. cxd5 Nb4 14. Nc4 Nbxd5 15. Bxd5 Nxd5 16. Qf3 Nb4 17. Qxb7 Re8 18. a3 Re7 19. Qg2 Nxd3 20. Qd5 Nxb2 21. Nxb2 e4 22. Rab1 Bxb2 23. Rxb2 Re5 24. Qb7 Qc8 25. Qxc8+ Rxc8 26. Rc1 Rb8 27. b4 cxb4 28. axb4 Reb5 29. Ra2 R8b7 30. Rc6 Rxb4 31. Rxd6 R4b6 32. Rd4 Re6 33. Rda4 Ree7 34. Ra6 Kg7 35. h4 Red7 36. Ra1 h5 37. Kg2 Kf8 38. R6a4 Re7 39. Ra6 Ke8 40. Rf6 Rb6 41. Rxb6 axb6 42. Ra8+ Kd7 43. g4 hxg4 44. Kg3 Kc6 45. Kxg4 b5 46. Kf4 b4 47. Ra2 Kb5 0-1 

I was ecstatic to have gone through a trial by fire and emerge victorious. But my job was only half done, as the real fireworks were set to begin the next day.

October 11, 2016 - It was Millionaire Monday time

The 4 players, in rating order, that would compete for the 2400-2549 rating categeory prize were as follows:

GM Ioan Christian Chirila - Romania

GM Barbosa Oliver - Phillipines

IM Akshat Chandra - USA

IM Awonder Liang - USA

In the 1st match, I was paired against GM Chirila. We would play 2 games at a time control of 25 minutes with a 5 second delay. I was Black in the first game, and decided to repeat the opening move which brought me victory against Eugene. But victory was not to be, as I fell into a much worse position after a big mistake on move 11. I tried to defend as tenaciously as I could, but in the end my position was just too difficult to overcome.

[Event "Millionaire KO U2550"] [Site "Atlantic City USA"] [Date "2016.10.10"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Chirila, I."] [Black "Chandra, Akshat"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A04"] [WhiteElo "2526"] [BlackElo "2490"] [PlyCount "91"] [EventDate "2016.10.10"] [EventType "k.o."] [EventRounds "2"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1145"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2016.10.17"] 1. Nf3 c5 2. g3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. O-O Ba6 8. Nc3 Rb8 9. Qd2 Nf6 10. b3 Nd5 11. Nxd5 cxd5 12. Rb1 e6 13. Ba3 Bb7 14. c4 d4 15. Bd6 Bxg2 16. Kxg2 Rc8 17. c5 f5 18. b4 Kf7 19. b5 e5 20. a4 Qf6 21. a5 Bf8 22. Bxf8 Rhxf8 23. Rfc1 Qe6 24. Qb4 Qd5+ 25. f3 a6 26. b6 Rc6 27. Rc2 Rfc8 28. Rbc1 g5 29. Qa3 g4 30. Qd3 e4 31. fxe4 fxe4 32. Qxa6 e3+ 33. Kg1 Kg7 34. Qc4 Qe4 35. Qd3 Qd5 36. b7 Rf8 37. Rc4 Rcf6 38. Qxd4 Qxb7 39. Qxe3 h5 40. Re4 R8f7 41. Re5 Rf5 42. Rxf5 Rxf5 43. Qd4+ Kf7 44. Rd1 Ke8 45. Qh8+ Ke7 46. Qg7+ 1-0  

I was now in a must-win situation, and the fact I had the White pieces was somewhat comforting. After a ~30 minute break, we sat down and shook hands for our 2nd game. As expected, we went for a Ruy Lopez. But instead of going for the main line, I decided to play the relatively rare 8.a4, hoping to catch him off guard. This strategy worked exactly as I hoped, as he began consuming time trying to figure out the nuances and subtleties of the position. I built up a sizeable lead on the clock, which was the main factor for me in this game. But I forgot my preparation a few moves later, and made an inaccuracy which allowed him to equalize. Equality was not an option for me, considering the match situation, and so I decided to launch a speculative assault on his kingside. I knew that objectively it probably wasn’t very good, but I had to try something. Changing the nature of the game turned out to be the right decision, as GM Chirila made a serious mistake. I capitalized immediately, and managed to win an exchange. Still, things were not so easy. I had to play precisely in order to keep my advantage. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that and slowly my advantage began to dissipate. To GM Chirila’s credit, he found some nice defensive resources and managed to completely turn the tables on me.

[Event "Millionaire KO U2550"] [Site "Atlantic City, USA"] [Date "2016.10.10"] [Round "1.2"] [White "Chandra, Akshat"] [Black "Chirila, I."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C88"] [WhiteElo "2490"] [BlackElo "2526"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2016.10.10"] [EventType "k.o."] [EventRounds "2"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1145"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2016.10.17"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. a4 Bd7 9. c3 O-O 10. d4 h6 11. h3 Re8 12. Bc2 Bf8 13. Nbd2 exd4 14. cxd4 Nb4 15. Bb1 c5 16. e5 dxe5 17. dxe5 Nfd5 18. Ne4 Be6 19. Nh2 c4 20. Qf3 Nd3 21. Bxd3 cxd3 22. axb5 Nb4 23. Bxh6 Bd5 24. Qg3 Re6 25. Nf6+ Rxf6 26. exf6 Qxf6 27. Bg5 Qg6 28. Red1 Bd6 29. Qg4 f5 30. Qh4 Be7 31. f4 Bc5+ 32. Kh1 axb5 33. Rxa8+ Bxa8 34. Qe1 Nc2 35. Qe5 Ne3 36. Qxc5 Nxd1 37. Qc8+ Kh7 38. Nf1 Be4 39. Qc1 Qh5 40. Kg1 Qe2 41. Qd2 Bxg2 0-1 

I was eliminated from playing for 1st prize now, and had to be content with playing for 3rd. It sucked losing after going through so much to get there, but now was not the time to think about that – I had another match to play.

The 3rd place match had a happier ending for me, as I smoothly beat IM Awonder Liang in the first game.

[Event "Millionaire KO U2550"] [Site "Atlantic City, USA"] [Date "2016.10.10"] [Round "2.1"] [White "Liang, Awonder"] [Black "Chandra, Akshat"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C07"] [WhiteElo "2478"] [BlackElo "2490"] [PlyCount "116"] [EventDate "2016.10.10"] [EventType "k.o."] [EventRounds "2"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1145"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2016.10.17"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. Ngf3 cxd4 6. Bc4 Qd6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Nb3 Nc6 9. Nbxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 a6 11. Re1 Qc7 12. Bf1 Be7 13. Qf3 O-O 14. Bf4 Bd6 15. Bxd6 Qxd6 16. Rad1 Qc7 17. c4 Bd7 18. g4 h6 19. h4 Rae8 20. Bg2 Bc8 21. b3 e5 22. Nf5 e4 23. Nxh6+ Kh8 24. Qe3 Nxg4 25. Nxg4 Bxg4 26. Rd5 f5 27. Qg5 Qc6 28. Re3 Qh6 29. Kf1 Qxg5 30. hxg5 Kh7 31. Bh3 f4 32. Rc3 Bxh3+ 33. Rxh3+ Kg6 34. Ke2 Rd8 35. Rc3 Rxd5 36. cxd5 Rd8 37. Rc4 Kf5 38. Rc7 g6 39. Rxb7 Rxd5 40. Rb6 a5 41. a4 f3+ 42. Ke1 Rd3 43. Rb5+ Kf4 44. Rxa5 Rxb3 45. Ra8 Rb1+ 46. Kd2 Rb2+ 47. Ke1 e3 48. Rf8+ Kg4 49. fxe3 Kg3 50. e4 f2+ 51. Kf1 Rb1+ 52. Ke2 Re1+ 53. Kd3 f1=Q+ 54. Rxf1 Rxf1 55. Kc4 Kf4 56. Kd5 Rd1+ 57. Ke6 Kxe4 58. a5 Rd5 0-1 
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A couple of months ago, I was asked to write a brief article on the US Junior Championship as part of the Saint Louis Chess Club’s 10-year anniversary celebration.

Today, as the US Junior 2018 is set to kickoff, I thought it would be timely to republish my article here on the blog. Here’s a quick journey through the history of the US Junior Championship and its winding path to Saint Louis, where the event has been played since 2010.

The US Junior Championship has always been one of the most exciting chess events in the country. The invite-only tournament has served as a platform for young and ambitious juniors to display their prowess while fighting for the coveted title of US Junior Champion. A strong performance in this tournament is a good indicator of future success, as many past winners went on to become Grandmasters. Even the great Bobby Fischer tested his mettle in this tournament, winning in 1956 with a score of 8 ½ points out of 10. The evolution of this tournament over the years has been intriguing to follow and is something I’d like to take a closer look at.

For many years the US Junior Championship led a nomadic life, as each year the city and venue changed. Enterprising local organizers did their best to seek sponsorship and organize a professionally conducted tournament. Everything changed in 2010, however, when the US Junior Championship found a more permanent abode at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (CCSCSL). The last edition of US Junior before it transitioned to its new home was organized by chess player and coach FM Alex Betaneli in 2009 in the city of Milwaukee.

The move to Saint Louis was a turning point in the tournament’s history, as the CCSCSL built greatly on the successes of the previous organizers and worked hard to elevate the Championship profile. The tournament also benefitted from the meteoric rise of the chess vibe in Saint Louis. At its new home, the Junior Championship acquired the publicity and marquee status that was not always visible earlier. Conversing with GM Varuzhan Akobian, who won the 2002 edition, he related to me how the conditions were drastically different now compared to when he played. “It is much more prestigious, and the tournament has a great prize fund,” he said while musing if there was even a prize fund when he won the tournament!

In addition to a much-improved prize fund, the publicity and playing conditions of the Junior Championship have never been better. The games are now played on elegant wooden electronic boards and are broadcasted online. In addition, there is a live commentary team at the Club’s studio that covers the tournament and post-game interviews. But to me, the greatest reward of winning the US Junior Championship is earning an automatic qualification to play the US Championship, a privilege that was added during the Championship’s tenure at the Club. I won the US Junior event in 2015 in my very first appearance and had the honor of participating in the 2016 US Championship.

Saint Louis, as the nation’s chess capital, has become the grooming grounds for future top chess players, and it is only fitting that the US Junior Championship found its permanent residence here.

The post The US Junior Championship – A Quick Walk Through History appeared first on Akshat Chandra...A Chess Journey.

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Continuing where we left off in the previous posting:

A very sound, strategical win by Wesley over Aronian:

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2018"] [Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "2018.03.16"] [Round "6.1"] [White "So, W."] [Black "Aronian, L."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C88"] [WhiteElo "2799"] [BlackElo "2794"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2q2rk1/4b1pp/p1nppn2/Prp1p3/1p2P3/2PPBN1P/1P1N1PP1/R2QR1K1 w - - 0 18"] [PlyCount "121"] [EventDate "2018.03.10"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "GER"] [EventCategory "22"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1219"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2018.03.19"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.19"] [SourceQuality "2"] 18. d4 {In a typical position for the Ruy Lopez, White has finally made the standard central advance. Black has a critical decision to make now.} exd4 $6 { The computer thinks that this move is alright, but I feel that it is a mistake. } ({As Levon himself pointed out in the press conference} 18... bxc3 19. bxc3 exd4 20. cxd4 c4 $1 21. Nxc4 Nxe4 {was around equal. But it seems his over-ambition got the better of him again.}) 19. cxd4 Nxa5 20. dxc5 dxc5 21. Ra2 $1 {A quiet, but very effective move. It's apparent now that even though Black is a pawn up, his pieces are rather clumsily placed.} Qb7 22. b3 { Solidifying the c4 square.} Kh8 {Probably not the best, but it's hard to suggest something decent for Black.} (22... Nxe4 $2 23. Nxe4 Qxe4 24. Bg5 Qb7 25. Rd2 {The Rook swings into the game with potent effect. Rd7 is a massive threat.}) 23. Qc2 {White's play is very simple.} Nd7 24. Rea1 Bd8 25. Nc4 Nxc4 26. Qxc4 Bf6 27. Rd1 Qc6 28. Rad2 Nb6 29. Qc2 {White has control of the only open-file, while Black's Rook on b5 is out of the game, and his King is slightly vulnerable.} Qc7 30. e5 Be7 31. Nd4 $1 Rc8 $1 {A good defensive try.} 32. Nxe6 (32. Nxb5 axb5 {looks quite unclear, with the Black Knight coming to d5 and the dangerous queen-side pawns menacing to steamroll down the board.}) 32... Qxe5 33. Nf4 $2 (33. Rd6 $3 {was a brilliant idea suggested by the computer.} c4 (33... Bxd6 {is obviously met by} 34. Ng5 $1 $18 {with the double threat of Qxh7# and Nf7+ winning the Queen.}) 34. Bd4 cxb3 35. Qxb3 Qxd6 36. Bxg7+ Kg8 37. Rxd6 Bxd6 38. f4 {and the position is winning for White due to the exposed Black King.}) 33... Rf8 $2 (33... Kg8 $1 {was far from obvious, but was the only move to maintain the balance.}) 34. Re2 {Now White is winning again. Black's Queen is running out of good squares.} Qc3 35. Qb1 Qf6 36. Bc1 { An aesthetic relocation of the bishop. Now Ne6 and Bb2 is threatened.} c4 37. bxc4 Nxc4 38. Re6 Qg5 39. Ng6+ Qxg6 40. Rxg6 hxg6 41. Qe4 Bf6 42. Qxc4 { Wesley converts his material advantage without any hiccups.} b3 43. Ba3 Rfb8 44. Rb1 b2 45. h4 Ra5 46. Qd3 Rd8 47. Qb3 Rc8 48. Qb7 Rd8 49. Qb3 Rc8 50. Qb4 Rb5 51. Qg4 Rc3 52. Bxb2 Rxb2 53. Rxb2 Rc1+ 54. Kh2 Bxb2 55. Qxg6 Ra1 56. g4 a5 57. Qh5+ Kg8 58. Qb5 Ba3 59. Qe5 Rd1 60. Qe6+ Kh7 61. Qe4+ Kh8 62. Qa8+ Kh7 63. Qxa5 Bd6+ 64. Kg2 Rd4 65. Qf5+ Kh8 66. Qh5+ Kg8 67. g5 Kf8 68. Qg6 Be7 69. Qf5+ Ke8 70. Kh3 Rd6 71. Qh7 Kf7 72. f4 Rd4 73. Qf5+ Ke8 74. Qe5 Rb4 75. Kg4 Kf8 76. Qf5+ Ke8 77. Qe6 Rd4 78. Qe5 1-0

A tactical melee between Aronian and Caruana, in which the American displayed excellent nerves to fend off the attack and emerge with the victory:

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2018"] [Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "2018.03.18"] [Round "7.2"] [White "Aronian, L."] [Black "Caruana, F."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2794"] [BlackElo "2784"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2018.03.10"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "GER"] [EventCategory "22"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1219"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2018.03.19"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.19"] [SourceQuality "2"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. e4 Bb4 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bxf6 Qxf6 8. Bxc4 c5 9. O-O cxd4 10. e5 Qd8 11. Ne4 O-O 12. Qe2 Be7 13. Rad1 Qc7 14. Bd3 $146 {A novelty, but I don't think it was home preparation. Levon probably improvised OTB.} Nd7 15. Rc1 Qa5 16. g4 $5 {An incredible move which, although not entirely sound, plunges the game into chaos.} Nxe5 {It makes sense to grab another pawn.} 17. Nxe5 Qxe5 18. f4 Qa5 19. g5 {Such positions are extremely difficult for the defending side, as he must tread with extreme caution. The attacking side has the luxury of playing with impunity and without care as he has already burnt all his bridges.} Qd8 {Fabiano understandbly brings the Queen back home, and closer to his King.} 20. h4 Bd7 21. gxh6 g6 22. h5 Kh8 23. Kh2 {Clearing the g-file for the Rooks.} Bc6 24. Rf3 $2 {Interfering with the queen's protection of h5.} (24. Rf2 {was better.}) 24... Bd6 $6 (24... Qa5 $1 25. Rh3 Bxe4 26. Bxe4 (26. Qxe4 Qd2+) 26... g5 $1 {White's initiative has been neutralized, and Black is completely winning.}) 25. Qf2 Bc7 26. Kh3 {Getting out of the way of ...g5.} Qe7 (26... gxh5 {The computer boldly takes the pawn and voluntarily opens the g-file, but such a decision is not easy at all for a human to make.}) 27. Ng5 $2 (27. Rg1 $1 {was natural and good. White has at least enough compensation for a draw here.}) 27... e5 {Levon was in dire time trouble here, and so Fabiano cleverly complicates the game even more.} (27... Bxf3 28. Qxf3 {gives White ideas on the light squares, such as Nxf7 followed by hxg6.}) (27... gxh5 {Once again, the computer says this move is the best.}) 28. Rxc6 $1 {The start of a brilliant continuation.} bxc6 29. Nxf7+ Rxf7 30. hxg6 {White is a rook down, but his pawns on h6 and g6 are extremely dangerous. } Rf6 (30... Rxf4 31. Rxf4 exf4 32. Qxd4+ Qe5 33. g7+ Kg8 34. Bc4+ Kh7 35. Qd3+ Kxh6 36. g8=Q Rxg8 37. Bxg8 {White should hold this.}) 31. g7+ Kg8 32. Bc4+ $4 {The decisive mistake.} (32. Qh4 {immediately was neccessary.} e4 33. h7+ Kxg7 34. Rg3+ Kh8 35. Rg8+ Rxg8 36. hxg8=Q+ Kxg8 37. Bc4+ Kg7 38. Qg5+ Kh7 39. Qg8+ Kh6 40. Qg5+ {The game would fittingly end in a perpetual check!}) 32... Kh7 33. Qh4 e4 34. Rg3 Bxf4 35. g8=Q+ Rxg8 36. Bxg8+ Kh8 37. Rg7 (37. Rg6 Qd7+ $19) 37... Qf8 {A spectular battle.} 0-1

A brilliant win by Karjakin, in which he displays incredible defensive skills and computer-like precision to fend of Kramnik’s raging attack:

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2018"] [Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "2018.03.20"] [Round "9.4"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Kramnik, V."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D35"] [WhiteElo "2763"] [BlackElo "2800"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1b3k1/p5p1/2p4p/2b4P/5q2/2B2B2/P7/1R1Q1K1R w - - 0 24"] [PlyCount "35"] [EventDate "2018.03.10"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "GER"] [EventCategory "22"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1220"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2018.03.26"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.26"] [SourceQuality "2"] {A wild position in which White is a Rook up, but is King is perilously positioned. To say that extreme accuracy is required would be an understatement.} 24. Be1 $1 {The only move which wins. The bishop relocates to the Kingside, sheltering the White King, with decisive effect.} Be6 25. Bh4 Rf8 26. Kg2 Kh8 27. Rc1 Rf5 28. Rc3 Rd5 29. Bxd5 Bxd5+ 30. Rf3 Qg4+ 31. Bg3 Bd6 32. Rh3 {Rather artistically, both of the White Rooks reinforce the Bishop on g3 from the 3rd rank.} Be7 33. Qe2 Be4 34. Qf2 a5 35. a4 c5 36. Rh1 {White begins untangling himself.} Bf6 37. Re1 Bc6 38. Ree3 c4 39. Qe2 Qxh5 40. Qxc4 Bd7 41. Rd3 1-0

Another fighting game involving Kramnik, which ended rather abruptly after a bad blunder:

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2018"] [Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "2018.03.22"] [Round "10.1"] [White "Kramnik, V."] [Black "Aronian, L."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "2800"] [BlackElo "2794"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4r1k1/5pp1/1q2bn1p/rp2N3/8/1B1pP2P/2P2RP1/4QRK1 w - - 0 27"] [PlyCount "21"] [EventDate "2018.03.10"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "GER"] [EventCategory "22"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1220"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2018.03.26"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.26"] [SourceQuality "2"] 27. Rxf6 $1 {A spectular exchange sacrifice.} gxf6 28. Rxf6 d2 $1 29. Qg3+ (29. Qxd2 $2 Ra1+ 30. Kf2 Qa5) 29... Kf8 30. Rf1 Ra7 31. Ng6+ Kg7 32. Nf4+ Kh8 33. Nh5 f6 34. Nxf6 {Up until now, Levon has defended well. But he had extremely little time, and unsurprisingly things go downhill extremely fast.} Rf8 $6 (34... Rd8 $1 {and it's White who has to be precise in order to make a draw.} 35. Qf4 Bf5 $1 36. Qxf5 d1=Q 37. Qf4 $1 Rh7 38. Rxd1 Rxd1+ 39. Kh2 Qd6 40. Nxh7 Kxh7 41. c4 $11) 35. Qf4 Rh7 36. Qe5 Qc7 $4 (36... Rg7 $3 {was a brilliant study-like draw.} 37. Bxe6 Rg5 38. Nd7+ Rxe5 39. Rxf8+ Kh7 40. Rf7+ Kh8 41. Rf8+ $11) 37. Ne8+ 1-0

The post Highs and lows from the Candidates (Part 2) appeared first on Akshat Chandra...A Chess Journey.

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A couple of days ago, I received a wonderfully crafted Thank-You Note from the students at Rise Program.  Thank you so much, and I really appreciate it!

Have a look at their creativity – love the bobbing pieces!

The Bobbing Chess Pieces - the only one of its kind chess board in my collection now

The post Awesome Thank You Note from RISE! appeared first on Akshat Chandra...A Chess Journey.

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Continuing where we left off in the previous posting, I’d like to take a look at some of the best and worst moments from the 2018 Candidates.

Let’s start from the very beginning, where we saw 3 decisive games in the 1st round itself.

A fine win by Caruana over So:

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2018"] [Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "2018.03.10"] [Round "1.4"] [White "Caruana, F."] [Black "So, W."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E00"] [WhiteElo "2784"] [BlackElo "2799"] [Annotator "Chandra,Akshat"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1b2rk1/3n1p1p/1qp3p1/2bpP1N1/4PB2/1p4P1/1PQ2PBP/R3R1K1 w - - 0 23"] [PlyCount "21"] [EventDate "2018.03.10"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "GER"] [EventCategory "22"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1218"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2018.03.12"] [SourceVersion "2"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.12"] [SourceQuality "2"] 23. Qe2 {After displaying some deep preparation in the Catalan, Fabiano has built up a dangerous initative. The center is opening up, and White's pieces are better equipped to deal with such a drastic alteration of the position. Black's King is also extremely vulnerable, as most of his pieces are stranded on the queenside. The position is not beyond salvage yet, though.} Ba6 $2 { Natural, but too slow. White crashes through with a raging attack after this.} ({Black had to play the concrete} 23... Rxa1 24. Rxa1 Nxe5 $1 {I wouldn't be surprised if Wesley saw this but rejected it, because it's extremely difficult to evaluate in advance such a complicated variation.} 25. exd5 (25. Bxe5 f6 26. Nxh7 (26. exd5 fxe5 27. Qxe5 Bxf2+ 28. Kh1 Qe3 $132) 26... Kxh7 27. Bc3 d4 { White is still better here, but Black has succeeded in simplifying the position by trading off pieces, making his defensive task relatively easier.}) 25... Ng4 26. Ne4 Re8 27. Qf3 cxd5 (27... Bf8 $6 28. Be3 $1 {The only move to preserve an advantage.}) 28. Nxc5 Qxc5 29. h3 Nf6 30. Qxb3 $16 {Obviously, White is clearly better here. But Black has good chances of holding this position.}) 24. Qf3 Bc4 25. Rxa8 Rxa8 26. e6 dxe4 27. exf7+ Bxf7 28. Nxe4 Bd4 29. Nd6 Bd5 30. Qe2 Nf8 31. Bxd5+ cxd5 32. Qf3 Qa5 33. Re7 1-0

A blunder by Karjakin:

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2018"] [Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "2018.03.10"] [Round "1.2"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Mamedyarov, S."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C60"] [WhiteElo "2763"] [BlackElo "2809"] [Annotator "Chandra,Akshat"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/5pk1/8/6P1/1Q4K1/1p2qP2/8/8 w - - 0 58"] [PlyCount "28"] [EventDate "2018.03.10"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "GER"] [EventCategory "22"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1218"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2018.03.12"] [SourceVersion "2"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.12"] [SourceQuality "2"] {After suffering down a pawn the entire game, it would appear the "Minister of Defence" is closer than ever to a draw. However, his next move seals his fate. } 58. Kg3 $4 {Shocking and inexplicable. This drops a pawn and the game. It's even easy to intuitively realize that White won't be able to hold the game if he loses the g5 pawn for nothing , and so I don't know why Sergey went for this.} (58. f4 $1 {led to a draw.} Qe2+ 59. Kg3 b2 60. Qc3+ Kh7 61. Qb3 $1 $11 {and Black still can't promote due to Qxf7.} Kg6 62. Qc3 $1 {Of course these lines are far from easy, but Sergey could have played 58.f4 using process of elimination, even if he couldn't calculate all the variations.}) 58... Qxg5+ 59. Kf2 Qd5 {The rest is simple for Mamedyarov.} 60. Ke3 Kg6 61. Ke2 Kf6 62. Ke3 Ke6 63. Qb6+ Kd7 64. Qa7+ Kc6 65. Qa6+ Kc5 66. Qa4 Qc4 67. Qa5+ Kc6 68. Qa1 Kb5 69. Qb2 Kb4 70. Kd2 Qf4+ 71. Ke1 Qh4+ 0-1

An incredible opening concept by Kramnik:

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2018"] [Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "2018.03.12"] [Round "3.4"] [White "Aronian, L."] [Black "Kramnik, V."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2794"] [BlackElo "2800"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1b1k2r/ppp1qppp/2p2n2/2b1p3/4P3/3P1N1P/PPP2PP1/RNBQ1RK1 b kq - 0 7"] [PlyCount "41"] [EventDate "2018.03.10"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "GER"] [EventCategory "22"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1218"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2018.03.12"] [SourceVersion "2"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.12"] [SourceQuality "2"] {In a typical Anti-Berlin middlegame, Kramnik unleashes an unfathomable variation-crushing novelty.} 7... Rg8 $1 {An amazing concept. Black simply wants to play g5-g4, taking advantage of White's "hook" on h3. Such a position is extremely unpleasant to defend, and Aronian was unable to save the game.} 8. Kh1 Nh5 9. c3 g5 10. Nxe5 g4 11. d4 Bd6 12. g3 Bxe5 13. dxe5 Qxe5 14. Qd4 Qe7 15. h4 c5 16. Qc4 Be6 17. Qb5+ c6 18. Qa4 f5 19. Bg5 Rxg5 20. hxg5 f4 21. Qd1 Rd8 22. Qc1 fxg3 23. Na3 Rd3 24. Rd1 Bd5 25. f3 gxf3 26. exd5 Qe2 27. Re1 g2+ 0-1

One of many missed opportunities for Aronian:

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2018"] [Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "2018.03.15"] [Round "5.1"] [White "Aronian, L."] [Black "Grischuk, A."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E60"] [WhiteElo "2794"] [BlackElo "2767"] [Annotator "Chandra,Akshat"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2b3kr/ppQ2qb1/3R4/2p2pn1/5pnp/4B3/PP2B2P/4KNR1 w - - 0 29"] [PlyCount "27"] [EventDate "2018.03.10"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "GER"] [EventCategory "22"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1219"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2018.03.19"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.19"] [SourceQuality "2"] {An extremely messy and irrational position.} 29. Qd8+ $4 {Missing the win. It's hard to explain this move.} (29. Qxc8+ {Grabbing a free piece with check is always pleasant} Kh7 30. Qxc5 {is the most precise} ({but even} 30. Qd7 { wins without too much trouble.} Ne5 31. Qxf7 Nexf7 32. Rxg5 Nxg5 33. Bxf4 $18 { White is just a clear piece up.}) 30... Ne4 31. Rxg4 $3 Nxc5 32. Rxh4+ Kg8 33. Rd8+ Bf8 34. Rxh8+ Kxh8 35. Bxc5 $18) 29... Qf8 30. Bxf4 Ne6 {Now things peter out into a draw.} 31. Bc4 Qxd8 32. Rxd8+ Kh7 33. Rxh8+ Bxh8 34. Bd6 Ng5 35. Rg2 Ne4 36. Bb8 Bd4 37. h3 Ne5 38. Bd5 Nd3+ 39. Ke2 Nc1+ 40. Kd1 Nd3 41. Nd2 Nf6 42. Bf3 1/2-1/2

Needless over-ambition from Kramnik:

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2018"] [Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "2018.03.16"] [Round "6.3"] [White "Mamedyarov, S."] [Black "Kramnik, V."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D35"] [WhiteElo "2809"] [BlackElo "2800"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3rb3/3rk1p1/p1n1p3/1p2P1Pp/3P4/4K3/P1B1NP2/1R1R4 b - - 0 31"] [PlyCount "66"] [EventDate "2018.03.10"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "GER"] [EventCategory "22"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1219"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2018.03.19"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.19"] [SourceQuality "2"] 31... h4 $4 {A horrible move, fueled by Kramnik's unobjective overambition. What is the need for such a risky move like this in an equal position? The h pawn is a goner.} (31... Na5 $11) 32. g6 $2 (32. Rbc1 $1 Na5 33. Bd3 $18 { and the point is revealed, as Black cannot go back to c6 with the knight now or contest the c-file.}) 32... Na5 33. Rbc1 Rc7 34. Bd3 Rdc8 $4 {More insanity. } (34... Rxc1 35. Rxc1 Bc6 $11) 35. Rxc7+ Rxc7 36. Rh1 $18 {White is completely winning now.} Nc4+ 37. Kf4 Nb2 38. Be4 b4 39. Rxh4 Nd1 40. f3 Nc3 41. Nxc3 bxc3 42. Rh2 Rc8 43. Ke3 Bb5 44. f4 Bc4 45. Rh7 Rg8 46. a3 a5 47. Bc2 Kd7 48. d5 Bxd5 49. Kd4 Ba2 50. Kxc3 Kc6 51. Rh2 Kc5 52. Rd2 Rh8 53. Rd7 Rh3+ 54. Kb2 Bd5 55. Rxg7 Kd4 56. Rh7 Rg3 57. Rh5 Rg2 58. Rg5 Rf2 59. g7 Be4 60. g8=Q Rxc2+ 61. Kb3 Rc3+ 62. Ka4 Rc5 63. Rg2 Bf3 64. Qd8+ 1-0

Tactics in an endgame with very few pieces:

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2018"] [Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "2018.03.18"] [Round "7.1"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "So, W."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E51"] [WhiteElo "2763"] [BlackElo "2799"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r2k2/6pp/2N1p3/1K2P3/6P1/5n2/R6P/8 b - - 0 35"] [PlyCount "11"] [EventDate "2018.03.10"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "GER"] [EventCategory "22"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1219"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2018.03.19"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.19"] [SourceQuality "2"] {The position is deceptively simple. While it's clear that a draw should be the correct result, Black must tread with extreme caution due to the poor coordination of his pieces.} 35... Ke8 $4 {This natural move loses.} (35... Rc7 $1 36. Kb6 (36. Rf2 Rf7) 36... Rd7 37. Rf2 Rd3) 36. Kb6 {White is simply threatening Kb7, trapping Black's Rook.} g5 37. h3 Nxe5 38. Nxe5 Rc3 39. Rh2 Ke7 40. Kb5 Re3 {Wesley lost on time, otherwise he could have tried to defend. But objectively, White is winning here.} 1-0

I’ll write the Part 2 shortly.

The post Highs and Lows from the Candidates (Part 1) appeared first on Akshat Chandra...A Chess Journey.

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The recently concluded Candidates Chess tournament was easily the most exciting and dramatic since the 2013 edition. Several players were in contention to win the tournament till the very end, and it was anyone’s guess who would emerge victorious. In the end, GM Fabiano Caruana deservingly triumphed, winning his last game as Black against Grischuk to seal the deal in style.

Congratulations, Fabiano!

The real fun starts for him now, as he faces the gargantuan task of challenging the reigning World Champion, GM Magnus Carlsen, for the ultimate chess title.

Here is my recap of each player’s individual performance:

GM Fabiano Caruana - The winner of the tournament was also the steadiest player, as he converted most of his chances while rarely getting into trouble himself. He suffered only one loss, to GM Sergey Karjakin in the 12th round. But it wasn't even a loss where he played terribly or anything. Simply put, Sergey played brilliantly and demonstrated a deeper understanding of the position. That happens in chess, even to an elite player like Fabiano, and sometimes you just have to tip your cap. The loss came at the worst possible time, however. Fabiano had been leading the event from the very start, and suddenly he had lost that luxury of being at least 1/2 point ahead of his nearest rival. Most people would have been unable to recover from such a psychological blow, but Fabiano displayed a champion's character by rebounding in the very next round itself to defeat GM Levon Aronian, which allowed him to regain the sole lead with a round to go. A lot of people have jumped on the Fabiano bandwagon after this tournament, but it's funny to note that not many people picked him to win the tournament at the start. This was probably influenced by his performance in Wijk an Zee, where he finished an abysmal (by his standards) -3, dropping ~25 FIDE points in the process. But Fabiano is probably the most consistent player after Magnus, and so it should have been expected that he would revert to his usual good form at the Candidates.

GM Sergey Karjakin - Another incredible performance in the Candidates by Sergey, who won the last edition. After losing in Round 1 as White to Mamedyarov, and then again as White in Round 4 to Aronian, everyone had pretty much written him off. At 1/4, it seemed like it was a question of whether he would finish last or not. But Sergey showed why he's considered to be one of the most resilient and mentally strong players, and began a comeback for the ages. He scored an astonishing 6 points out of his next 8 games, 4 wins and 4 draws, catapulting him into tied 1st with Fabiano. He even had the h2h tiebreaker, and momentum was on his side. Unfortunately for Sergey, his blistering pace came to an anti-climatic halt, as he could only manage 2 draws in the final 2 rounds. Still, to finish tied 2nd place after the start he had is truly amazing. If he had not uncharacteristically lost twice as White in the beginning, we would be seeing a Carlsen-Karjakin rematch.

GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov  - Shak was my pre-tournament pick to win the Candidates. I thought his new style of playing, pragmatism combined with playing more "solid" and "classical chess," would help lift him over the hump. Well, I was close! He had an ideal start to the tournament, winning his first game as Black against Karjakin. A couple of draws were then followed by another win in Round 6, over Kramnik, putting him at +2 and tied for first with 8 rounds to go. However, Shaq was unable to separate himself from the pack and ended up drawing his next 6 games. There were only 3 rounds left, and, desperately needing a win, he went all out against GM Ding Liren in Round 12. His overambition backfired, however, as Ding cooly fended off Shaq's initiative and handed him his first loss. He managed to get back to +2 with a win over Grischuk in the penultimate round, but a draw in the final round against Kramnik ended any hopes he had of winning the tournament. As it turned out, it wouldn't have mattered anyway as Caruana ended up winning his game.

GM Ding Liren - The #1 Chinese player has been part of the World's top 15 for quite some time now, and yet invitations to the elite tournaments have eluded him. Not this time, however, as he guaranteed his spot in the Candidates by reaching the Finals of the 2017 World Cup. The general consensus was that Ding would be unable to contend as he didn't possess the requisite experience at high-level tournaments. Yet he surprised everyone by not only contending for the top ranks but by being the only undefeated player in the entire tournament. 13 draws, and 1 win. His path to an unblemished record was far from smooth, though, as he was lost in a few games but managed to hold through extreme tenacity and defensive skills. An impressive Candidates debut! As of now, Ding is currently #5 in the world and so invitations to elite tournaments shall be plentiful now. Looking forward to seeing how he consistently handles himself against the best players in the world.

GM Vladimir Kramnik - This tournament was regarded by many to be Kramnik's "swan song" to the Candidates, as it would be tough to envision him qualifying for future editions due to his age. After all, chess is becoming younger and younger, as evidenced by the fact that the top average age of the top 10 players in the world is only ~26. Vlady dispelled any notion that he was going to "roll over and die", though, and came to the tournament armed with a plethora of novel opening ideas. His preparation paid immediate dividends, as he won 2 of his first 3 games to jump out to a red-hot 2.5/3 start. In the 3rd round win over Aronian, he introduced an amazing novelty in the Anti-Berlin which essentially refutes the variation that White played. His Round 4 game against Caruana turned out to be a fateful one, however. What started off as a relatively tame Qe2 Petroff turned into a maze of complications. Caruana seemed to have things under control when suddenly a series of inaccuracies tilted the advantage in Kramnik's favor. The position still remained incredibly complicated, though, and it was Kramnik who collapsed under the extreme pressure of the position. It was an extremely demoralizing loss for him, and he was unable to recover after that, finishing tied 5th. One other thing I should mention about Kramnik was the constant over-estimation of his positions. This mentality of extreme-over ambition and trying to play for a win even when the position did not justify it led to him becoming highly unobjective, and unnecessarily losing several games.

GM Alexander Grischuk - Sasha finally made his way back into the Candidates, much to the delight of chess fans. Unfortunately, he'll be remembered more for his entertaining actions off the board than on it, as he finished with an underwhelming -1 and tied 5th with Kramnik. Still, he did enthrall us with several exciting games, even if it did not always work out for him. It's good to see Sasha back in elite tournaments, and I hope this continues.

GM Wesley So - Wesley finished a disappointing -2, which placed him in second last. In my opinion, it was a result of being not as well supported as the other players, who all had their personal team of seconds and coaches. It's a testament to the talent Wesley is that despite not having these resources, he has solidified himself as a true top 10 player and managed to qualify for the Candidates. I hope he can find the help he deserves, and fully expect him to bounce back in the coming tournaments.

GM Levon Aronian - Perhaps the most shocking result of the tournament was Aronian finishing in last. Levon has always been a trendy pick to win the Candidates, and this time was no different as he was considered by many to be the clear favorite to win it all. In the past, Levon had been unable to maintain the intensity that is required to win the Candidates. But people believed it would be different this time as he proved that he could perform well in high-pressure tournaments by winning the 2017 World Cup, becoming the first player in history to win it twice. Unfortunately, things never got going for Levon and he was the only player not to win a game, finishing with 8 draws and 5 losses. Levon is well known to be an extremely uncompromising player, and his bad form coupled with over-ambition led to him losing some games he otherwise would not have lost. Quite similar to Kramnik, I'd say.  I hope he does not lose his confidence and ambition to become World Champion, as the chess world is much more exciting when Levon is firing on all cylinders.

In the next post, I will delve into some of the best and worst moments from the games in the Candidates.

The post Recap of the Candidates appeared first on Akshat Chandra...A Chess Journey.

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