Monday, February 23, 2009

The Curious Case of Veselin Topalov

What's so curious about Topalov? You might well ask this question if you haven't been watching his recent games against Gata Kamsky. Aside from his hideous suits which look like scaled up duds from a 1970s Ken doll and his Rasputinesque facial expressions, his opening choices have been baffling to say the least. He started off somewhat normally with two relatively sharp Gruenfelds and a sharp offbeat Lopez, but the last two games have been so out of character it seems like he's been possessed by the ghost of 1974 Karpov. A main line Closed Lopez and a Tarrasch French? Topalov has ~60 games on the white side of the French in the Megabase 2008, and only 5 are Tarraschs. I expected this match to produce some major theory since Topalov is such a great expert on the white side of the Gruenfeld, but so far I haven't seen much.

So what's going on with these games? Grinding positional battles are Kamsky's wheelhouse, and I don't understand why Topalov would play that sort of chess by choice here. He did win today, but only because of a Kamsky blunder. He didn't have shit out of the opening, and the game should have been a draw. If Kamsky gets to play two more Closed Spanish games in his other two whites, he very well might win both. Has Cheparinov run out of ideas? Has Topalov's copy of Rybka gone on strike? He's probably the sharpest player of his generation, and we've seen no gambits or even the exchange sacs he's so well known for. You can probably tell I'm dissapointed by the match so far. All I can say is that if Topalov goes on to play Anand and continues in this manner, he's going to get eaten alive. Incidentally, this would be fine with me because I'm not big fan. I think he dragged Kramnik through the mud for no reason other than to protect his pride, and I think his manager is the chess equivalent of Don King. I don't assume he will get a shot at Anand however, since Kamsky is scrappy and definitely not out of it yet.

Here is today's game, which Kamsky blundered in and lost. Prior to the blunder it was one of the most boring games I've ever seen at this level.


In personal news, I might have gotten an infection after all. It remains to be seen if it will extend my hospital stay. I dearly hope not.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Notes from the hospital...

They've switched me to oral narcotics from intravenous. That's good as a sign of progress, but they're much less effective and I'm in a bit of pain right now. To get my mind off of it and to fight creeping hospital boredom, I've decided to post some old games of mine. If you follow this blog you might notice some differences in the annotation style, mostly that I knew a lot less about chess than I do now. It's funny to play through some of these games now because I was such a patzer when I first annotated them, and my standards were so much lower. I may not be a lot better now, but at least now I know how little I know.

This is a game from the Indiana Class Champs in 2007. I had just gotten back from Napa Valley where my fiancee (now wife) and I were vacationing, so I was jet lagged, hung over, and in bad shape to play chess in general. I lost my first two games and I was in a very violent mood. This game is the result of that mood.


I must admit I changed some of the annotations, primarily removing off color language and some of the comments that were a little too over the top. Even though this game isn't perfect by any means, I still enjoy looking over it because it was cute attacking effort.

My recovery is going well, and soon I hope to be out and playing serious chess again. I am healing very well so this is a realistic goal. I also need to get a job, so if you have any friends in banking in southern Florida in need of analysts or project managers, let me know.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I'm still standing.

My surgery was a success, though their was so much scar tissue from the previous one that they had to open me up (the surgery was supposed to be laparoscopic). I have 20 some staples in my abdomen now, but at least I'll have a bitchin' scar. I'm recovering very well. Thanks for all the support. It's much appreciated. I should be out of the hospital in 3-4 days. On the beach soon after. Playing through Kramnik's Best Games, which is poorly translated but excellent in terms of material. Did you know Kramnik used to attack?

That's a joke. Kramnik spent almost all his career as a much more dynamic player than people gave him credit for. After his loss to Anand he made some noise about revitalizing his game, and I hope we see him bring back the Classical Sicilian or some other lines he used to whip ass in.

That's all from Delotid land for now. For those of you who don't know, that's a strong narcotic flowing into my arm right now. I doubt it's helping my chess, but at least I'm not screaming.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Last game for a while...

Official game, at least. I may post some ICC games if I play any worth showing. This is the game that put me over 1800. Also another successful outing for the Krasenkow variation (sort of, technically it was an Old Indian not a KID, but very similar play and themes), which I've just picked up. My opponent was game, but he missed the strong 23. Qg5 and after that he was in trouble. This game was also notable for me because I spent about 30 minutes on one move (26. Qf6), which is by far the longest I've ever taken on a single move. It felt great when I got home and Fritzed it and the computer confirmed my OTB analysis. I spent most of the game way up on time, but by the end we were both low and scrambling a bit. Here it is:


So this is probably my last post for a while, at least about chess. My family arrives tomorrow, I have pre-surgical consultations Thursday, and then Friday's the big day. I have to be there at 5:30 a.m, but at least I'm the first one of the day. Shouldn't be any delays.

Hopefully by early next week I'll be eating again. The hospital's very boring, so I may post something in a Demerol haze just for kicks. As I often tell people (truthfully) on ICC, don't judge me; I'm wasted.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's Official...

I'm over 1800. I played my first chess tournament in January of 2007. I think that's decent progress. I ended 2008 at about 1700 and my goal for 2009 was to reach 1800. I guess now I just have to maintain it. In fact, I expect that I'll lose some points soon since this point gain was largely based upon favorable pairings and one draw that I should have lost. Even so, I'm playing my best chess ever.

Unfortunately, I have to take a forced break due to a major surgery I have coming up. I'm writing this post on my wife's computer so I can't post my last game from the SFCC tournament, though I will at some point because it had a cute finish. Wish me luck at the hospital. I go under the knife Friday.

Last thing: I have to wonder how much of this is regional differences in relative rating strength. I've basically gained 100 points since moving to Florida.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

And So It Goes...

First lost in Florida. I got into a very tactical position against a teenage master. I'll let you guess what happened. I got to learn me some English theory, because I was in trouble pretty early. I played all right, but I was simply outclassed. It never ceases to amaze me how much more masters see than class players. A large part of this is because they look.

If that sounds trite, it's not meant to be. Just look at the differences in time usage between D players, B players, and Experts/Masters. The higher rated players take so much more time than the lower rated ones, and GMs take even more. It never ceases to amaze me when I read that some GM (Ivanchuk being a good example) is in time trouble on move 25, especially considering that many games at that level are theory until move 15 or beyond. That means that they are spending about 12-15 minutes on average on each move. That's a lot of time. At first I assumed it was because strong players look deeper, but the more GM annotations I read the more I came to think it's that they look more broadly. In my game, for example, I looked 4 or 5 moves deep several times, and then my opponent played a move I hadn't considered. Good moves, too. Moves I should have considered. I correctly calculated the lines I looked at (based on Fritz analysis), but I didn't look at enough lines. I ignored some viable options of my opponent, as well as viable options of my own. Only two or three moves were my downfall in this game, and I didn't even look at any of them. That's not to say I wouldn't have lost anyway, but it would have taken longer. Probably until I overlooked another move. With all that preamble, here the (short) game.


So there it is. My first Florida loss. Bound to happen eventually, and at least it wasn't to another B player, or worse, someone lower rated than I. And hey, now I have some directions for my studies. So it goes.

And by the way, congrats to Karjakin for playing some fighting chess at Corus. Bravo. I hope the invite Dominguez next year as well. And how about our boy Caruana, doing the Carlsen and going from the C group to the A group in two years. I hope he's ready by the time he gets there (though he is higher rated already than all three Dutchmen who performed just fine this year).