Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Chess position trainer

One way or another we chessplayers study openings and build up a repertoire. The complexity and amount of knowledge we know, grows exponentially with the playing-strength. Especially strong/ ambitious/ professional players have to know vast amounts of theory. Besides it is not necessarily learning the moves by heart which is difficult but rather remembering everything so it can be reproduced at the board when it pops up in a game. Not rarely this fails sometimes see harakiri.

Top-players are aware of these human limitations and even created a new ugly strategy around this aspect. They choose an opening of which they know in advance that the opponent has studied the anti-dote but they gamble that the opponent won't be able to reproduce all the analysis at the board. Chess has become a pure memory-game. It is not a coincidence that Karjakin was one of the very first targets to try out this new strategy. It is well-known that Karjakin sometimes forgets his analysis see my previous link.
[Event "Sinquefield Cup"] [Date "2017.08.09"] [Round "7"] [White "Maxime Vachier-Lagrave"] [Black "Sergey Karjakin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C67"] [PlyCount "90"] [WhiteElo ""] [BlackElo ""] [Site "?"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.h3 Ke8 10.Nc3 h5 11.Bf4 Be7 12.Rad1 Be6 13.Ng5 Rh6 14.Rfe1 { (More popular is g3 but it is all analyzed very deeply. All players of the tournament know the position. Even I a weak FM has spent a couple of hours studying the position with a computer.) } 14...Bb4 15.g4 hxg4 16.hxg4 Ne7 17.Nxe6 Rxe6 18.Kg2 Bxc3 19.bxc3 Rd8 20.Rxd8+ Kxd8 21.Rh1 Nd5 22.Bg3 Rh6 { (The tells this is a novelty but I already detected the move in a correspondence game played in 2014.) } 23.Rxh6 { (Only now a new move is played. In the correspondence game 23.Rd1 was played and a couple of moves later a draw was agreed between Milan Manduch and Vladimir Kharlamov.) } 23...gxh6 24.Kh3 Nxc3 25.Kh4 Nxa2 26.Kh5 Nc3 27.Kxh6 a5 28.f4 a4 29.f5 Ke8 30.g5 a3 31.e6 a2 32.Kg7 fxe6 33.f6 a1=Q 34.f7+ Kd7 35.Be5 Qa5 36.Bf6 Qc5 37.f8=Q Qxf8+ 38.Kxf8 Ne4 { (Afterwards Karjakin said that he has found all the previous moves in his notes. However he used almost 2 hours to reconstruct the moves.) } 39.Kf7 Nxg5+ 40.Bxg5 Kd6 41.Kf6 e5 42.Kf5 Kd5 43.Bd8 Kd4 44.Bxc7 Kc3 45.Kxe5 Kxc2 1/2-1/2
At the end of the game Vachier-Lagrave had about an hour extra on the clock compared to Karjakin see e.g chessbomb. After the game Karjakin sent out a tweet in which he claimed to have studied at home the line till move 38... Ne4. Even more remarkable it becomes when you heard the interview of Karjakin after the game in which he stated that he looked at the line an hour before the game see roundreport 7 at On the other hand it is not a new phenomenon for me. Last year I saw strong Jan, first board of Deurne choosing already very early an inferior variation in his interclub-game against an expert of Bruges, Stijn Bertem.
[Event "K.S.K. Deurne 1 - K. Brugse S.K. 2"] [Date "2017.03.12"] [Round "9"] [White "Rooze, Jan"] [Black "Bertrem, Stijn"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C18"] [WhiteElo "2317"] [BlackElo "2217"] [PlyCount "63"] [Site "?"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 O-O 8.Bd3 Nbc6 9.Nf3 { (This line is considered inferior for some time already. The mainline is Qh5 which I played myself a couple of times. Besides that Bg5 is the modern continuation.) } 9...f5 10.exf6 Rxf6 11.Bg5 Rf7 12.Qh5 g6 13.Qh6 Qc7 14.Bd2 e5 { (First cxd4 and then e5 avoids the continuation of the game as white would lose the a1-rook.) } 15.Nxe5 Nxe5 16.dxe5 Qxe5+ 17.Qe3 Qxe3+ 18.Bxe3 c4 19.Be2 Nf5 20.Bd2 Re7 21.Kf1 Bd7 22.h4 Rf8 23.Bf3 Bc6 24.Rh3 Ref7 25.Re1 Kh8 26.Be3 Nxe3+ 27.Rxe3 Kg7 28.Rg3 Rf4 29.Rg4 d4 30.cxd4 Bxf3 31.gxf3 Rxf3 32.Rxf3 1/2-1/2
I know the opening coincidentally as it is part of my repertoire see the article professional chess. After the game Jan admit frankly that he mixed up the preparation while he had looked at it in the morning. So you better wait with Nf3 after the moves 9.Qh5 Ng6.

With this introduction I want to show that it is important to create a good method of studying chess. In fact this is nothing new what I write here as at school our teachers told us exactly the same. However it is too easy to refer to the classical methods of studying. To learn long strings of moves and implement this knowledge in practice is something very different of studying for school and do exams.

Despite I don't remember anything similar happened in my games, I won't claim that I have found the ideal method for studying chess. No, definitely at the long term I experience also problems to remember stuff. In best case I can reconstruct the analysis by spending a lot of reflection-time. I've published several examples on this blog in which I failed in doing even that.

So when I saw 6 months ago in a youth-tournament Tom Piceu, IM of Bruges to use the for me unknown tool chesspositiontrainer, I got curious. Tom explained me that he with some friends decided a couple of years ago to motivate each other and work harder at chess. Studying openings and repeating the openings regularly would be an important element of this. So they bought together chesspositiontrainer (you can buy 1 license for 3 computers). Tom was very satisfied about the program but had to admit that he was not always very disciplined in following up rigorously the schedules.

I was skeptical about the added value of the program for myself. However as I thought it could be an interesting topic for this blog, I gave it a shot. Besides if you try something out then better to do it from the first time properly so not just using the stripped version but testing out the paying one with all features enabled. 40 euro is for a working person not insurmountable (especially in comparison of the prices applied by Chessbase).

A couple of months ago I downloaded the program. I paid for the license and managed easily to get access to all the features after getting my license-key. Next I wanted to test out the program. A small default repertoire is available but I quickly realized that this is not what a user is searching. You want foremost to train your own repertoire and then I imagine many users are getting disappointed. You have to insert all the stuff yourself.

I guess many drop out already. Even if we ignore that most players don't have a polished repertoire then you still need to get all the moves into the program. I read a comment at Quality Chess that somebody spent 40 hours at converting an opening-book into pgn. We know studying chess is hard but this kind of gigantic job is not realistic for most of us. Now we have to look at alternatives even if this means a decrease of quality. Today you have a few publishers, daring to offer DVDs of openings. I say "dare" as it is big risk that the content is illegally copied. It is very easy to spread files (although some of my students are not capable / they can play chess but have very little knowledge about how to use chess-software). You can buy Chessbase magazine DVDs (every 2 months, yearly for the price of 100 euro with a 40 euro voucher) and Move by move DVDs (20 euro each) of which you can select openings so a repertoire can be built. It is clear that you need a large collection of dvds to get a reasonable solid repertoire. It is not cheap this alternative.

Fortunately I could bypass this thanks to 20 years of playing competitive chess with a fixed repertoire see the scientific approach combined with a good archive see archiving. So I had already collected a good amount of material which I could insert simply via pgn into the chesspositiontrainer. I started with my openingbook-file which contains all my recent game-preparations for both colors. I was curious how many positions this would give.
3424 positions 0 times trained, 253 positions 1 time trained, 27 positions 2 times trained, 2 positions 3 times trained

This are already more than 3500 positions while I only injected my most superficial  analysis to study openings mostly in a broadly sense. This is a lot to maintain regularly so I have to be careful not to inject much more moves. Let us therefore have a look how many positions would count my database of my own played games which are commented often deeply. You can check this by creating an opening book e.g. "Brabo positions".

In above screenshot you see that I first select all 811 games of my personal database. Next I choose ECO 20 (default-input which tells us that averagely 20 moves are taken into account of each game linked to the popularity of the opening) and finally I enable the option of adding lines created by the analysis. I press the button "ok" and see the results in a couple of seconds.

OMG, we have almost 50.000 positions. On reddit I read that a specific user trains averagely 36 postions each day but that would mean that I need 1400 days just to train everything once. That is close to 4 years. On top the program tells us that we need to repeat this regularly. Default is set once per 4 days. It doesn't make sense anymore to look at my 3rd database with specialized analysis of openings.

In the end I decided to restrict the content for chesspositiontrainer to the initial 3500 positions. However that is not the end of the tale as now all the openings are in 1 big file. If you want to work efficiently then you still need to split this into modules. Again there is no support for this from the program. I spent approximately 5 hours to create some soft of structure with modules defined by opening and size.

Finally I can train a piece of my repertoire. I was not able to persevere very long. Except that it is extremely boring, I also wondered why am I doing this. I will not play any standard game in the next 2 months and even on the long term I see only a very small return of the invested time. If I would play regularly against strong opposition then maybe yes but today I don't need this. Besides I also find it rather cumbersome how I have to add new analysis made by a Chessbase-program. There is no automatic connection to the Chesspositiontrainer.

This program already exists since 2004. It is probably the best on the market but the many prerequisites makes it only useful for a very small group of players. I am thinking mainly at professional or and ambitious strong players. I will just use now as an extra tool for my game-preparations to train quickly some specific lines.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sore losers

While chatting a lot with other chess-parents I became conscientious how much ignorance there exists. People are convinced that our noble game is only played by gentleman always willing to help each other and never doing something wrong. Only after a couple of tournaments the first cracks appear in this idealistic view.

Chess is no exception to other sports and activities. You have nice and less nice people. In the last couple of months I experienced 2 situations in which people were accused of cheating. In both cases I detected a very high degree of typical engine-moves so something you don't expect from a player. Besides the players visited very often the toilet during their games. However some bullet-proof evidence was not found (nor searched) so I am obliged to be careful. We should avoid openly accusing somebody in such case as I explained already in my article distrust.

However I believe we shouldn't ignore those signals. It is a potential time-bomb for competitive chess and could accelerate the shrinking of chess-clubs. There exists no cheap/ free solution for standard-chess. Anyway you can't forbid somebody to visit a toilet.

To let every player sign a charter of fair-play at the start of a tournament won't stop the real cheaters but looks still useful to me. With this symbolic act you show your strong disapproval to cheating and probably some will think twice before trying. Also I would demand as organizer that each player sits at the board when he has the move. In my article food and drinks part 2 I wrote that this is just standard behavior but in practice I do see people going to the toilet from the moment they have seen the answer of the opponent.

Now arbiters should be a bit flexible with such rule. If you are away from the board while your opponent has the move then you can't always be back immediately in time. Or when your opponent plays so fast that you never get the chance to get up from the board then you should still be allowed once to get a small break.

Last I experienced something else. My opponent deliberately didn't return to our board but preferred to walk around/ kibitz. In the meanwhile more than a half hour went off his clock. It was my 8th game of Open Gent which I showed in my article jokes. As I wrote earlier, I don't have problems with players continuing the game in a dead lost position but then you keep sitting at the board. Besides it is not the first time I experienced something like that see Deurne wins the zilveren toren. However it was the first time that this happened by a pretentious absence from the board.
Photo of Dominik Klaus, from
I give him the first prize for worst loser which I ever played against. I even consulted during the game the chief-arbiter Marc Bils for this behavior without any success. On the other hand it is something which I very often experience online. The anonymity very often generates some bad mannered behavior. Even some strong players are not immune for the virus of being a sore loser. In the game below the black player (if it is his real name, a Russian international master) simply let himself run out of time in a completely lost position. So I just had to wait 2,5 minutes to claim victory.
[Event "Rated game, 3 min"] [Site "Main Playing Hall"] [Date "2016.12.24"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "AlexanderGelman"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B84"] [WhiteElo "2359"] [BlackElo "2254"] [PlyCount "35"] [EventDate "2016.12.24"] [Sourcetitle ""] [TimeControl "180"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 { [%emt 0:00:00] } 1...c5 { [%emt 0:00:06] } 2.Nf3 { [%emt 0:00:02] } 2...e6 { [%emt 0: 00:01] } 3.d4 { [%emt 0:00:00] } 3...cxd4 { [%emt 0:00:02] } 4.Nxd4 { [%emt 0:00:00] } 4...d6 { [%emt 0:00:01] } 5.Nc3 { [%emt 0:00:02] } 5...Nf6 { [%emt 0:00:01] } 6.Be3 { [%emt 0:00:00] } 6...a6 { [%emt 0:00:02] } 7.Be2 { [%emt 0:00:03] } 7...b5 { [%emt 0:00:00] } 8.Bf3 { [%emt 0:00:01] } 8...Bb7 { [%emt 0:00:01] } 9.e5 { [%emt 0:00:04] } 9...Bxf3 { [%emt 0:00:04] } 10.Qxf3 { [%emt 0:00:01] } 10...dxe5 { [%emt 0:00:00] } 11.Qxa8 { [%emt 0:00:02] } 11...exd4 { [%emt 0:00:00] } 12.O-O-O { [%emt 0:00:01] } 12...e5 { [%emt 0: 00:04] } 13.f4 { [%emt 0:00:09] } 13...Bd6 { [%emt 0:00:08] } 14.fxe5 { [%emt 0:00:01] } 14...Bxe5 { [%emt 0:00:01] } 15.Bxd4 { [%emt 0:00:40] } 15...Bxd4 { [%emt 0:00:02] } 16.Rxd4 { [%emt 0:00:01] } 16...Qxd4 { [%emt 0:00:03] } 17.Qxb8+ { [%emt 0:00:01] } 17...Kd7 { [%emt 0: 00:02] } 18.Qxh8 { [%emt 0:00:03] (Black is completely lost. But instead of resigning, my opponent just let his time run out. So I had to wait another 2,5 minutes before I could claim victory.) } 1-0
It is not a record. I already once experienced that after 8 seconds playing my opponent blundered a piece without compensation and let his remaining time run out. Or even worse are the sore losers playing 1 more move just before running out of time (so after several minutes) just to check if you are still attentive online. Not seldom they still score a point with this act as their opponents don't expect such evilness.

While you lose only a few minutes online due to sore losers, a completely different magnitude happens in correspondence chess. In below correspondence-game my opponent could've resigned surely earlier as I only got victory when I announced mate in 5 in the final position.
[Event "EU/M/1280"] [Site "?"] [Date "2000.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Goitre, F."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [PlyCount "54"] [WhiteElo ""] [BlackElo ""] [ECO ""] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.O-O Nf6 5.c3 Nxe4 6.d3 Nxf2 7.Rxf2 Bxf2+ 8.Kxf2 d6 9.Bg5 f6 10.Bh4 d5 11.Bb5 Qd6 12.Kf1 Bd7 13.Nbd2 O-O-O 14.a4 g5 15.Bf2 a6 16.Bxc6 Qxc6 17.Qc2 g4 18.Ng1 f5 19.b4 Qh6 20.h4 gxh3 21.Nxh3 e4 22.Bd4 Rhg8 23.Nb3 f4 24.Ng1 f3 25.gxf3 e3 26.Bxe3 Qxe3 27.Qf2 Rxg1+ { (Only after announcing mate in 5, I got the victory awarded.) } ( 27...Rxg1+ 28.Qxg1 ( 28.Kxg1 Rg8+ 29.Kf1 Bh3+ 30.Qg2 Bxg2# ) 28...Bh3+ 29.Qg2 Bxg2+ 30.Kxg2 Rg8+ 31.Kf1 ( 31.Kh3 Qh6# ) 31...Rg1# ) 0-1
Probably we could've saved a couple of months if white resigned more properly. Besides it are again not only weak players that are sore losers. There are stories known of strong players continuing till mate while dragging the game maximally via their saved time. Earlier with the traditional mail a lost position could be dragged for 2 more years. Not seldom you could hear that a player with a completely lost position still won the game as the opponent deceased! Nowadays correspondence-chess is played on a server which allows things to proceed quicker. Nevertheless in the game below, black manages to drag the game for months in a completely lost position.
[Event "EU/C2015/ct01"] [Site "ICCF"] [Date "2015.03.15"] [Round "?"] [White "Telepnev, Igor Viktorovich"] [Black "Podgursky, Artur"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2519"] [BlackElo "2472"] [PlyCount "183"] [ECO ""] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.b4 Ne8 10.c5 f5 11.Nd2 Nf6 12.f3 f4 13.Nc4 g5 14.a4 Ng6 15.cxd6 cxd6 16.Nb5 Ne8 17.Kh1 Rf7 18.Bd2 Bf8 19.Be1 Bd7 20.Na5 Qb8 21.Bf2 h5 22.Ra2 Rg7 23.Qb3 Kh8 24.Rc1 g4 25.Nc6 bxc6 26.dxc6 Bc8 27.Bxa7 Raxa7 28.Nxa7 Qxa7 29.b5 d5 30.b6 Qe7 31.Rb2 Nd6 32.Qxd5 Nh4 33.Rcb1 Nb7 34.Rd2 Nd6 35.b7 Bxb7 36.cxb7 Nxb7 37.Rb6 Nd6 38.fxg4 Nf7 39.a5 hxg4 40.Bf1 Nf3 41.Rb7 Qxb7 { (To continue such position in correspondence-chess does not make sense especially at this level.) } 42.Qxb7 Nxd2 43.Bd3 g3 44.Qb2 Nf3 45.Qb8 Rg8 46.Qc8 Bh6 47.Qc4 Nd4 48.Qxf7 Rc8 49.Qf6+ Kh7 50.Qe7+ Bg7 51.Qa3 Bf8 52.Qb2 Rc7 53.Bf1 Bc5 54.Bc4 Ba7 55.Qa3 Rxc4 56.Qe7+ Kg6 57.Qe8+ Kg7 58.Qxe5+ Kh7 59.Qh5+ Kg7 60.Qg5+ Kf8 61.Qxf4+ Kg7 62.Qxg3+ Kh7 63.Qh4+ Kg6 64.Qg4+ Kf6 65.Qf4+ Kg7 66.Qg5+ Kh7 67.Qe7+ Kg8 68.h4 Bc5 69.Qg5+ Kf8 70.a6 Be7 71.Qf4+ Kg7 72.a7 Ra4 73.e5 Ra1+ 74.Kh2 Nc6 75.Qg4+ Kh7 76.Qe4+ Kg8 77.Qxc6 { (Now it even becomes ridiculous to continue in standard-chess.) } 77...Rxa7 78.Qb6 Ra8 79.Qb3+ Kg7 80.Qb7 Re8 81.h5 Kf7 82.Qf3+ Kg8 83.Qg4+ Kh8 84.Qe6 Rf8 85.Qxe7 Rb8 { (Black lacks clearly respect for his opponent.) } 86.e6 Ra8 87.Qf6+ Kh7 88.Qg6+ Kh8 89.e7 Rb8 90.h6 Rg8 91.e8=Q Rxe8 92.Qg7# 1-0
As the standard rate is 10 moves per 50 days see iccf playing rules black has 500 days for his 92 moves. You really need to be very patient when you play correspondence chess.

Running down the clock is a weapon sore losers often use. It seems there is not much you can do against it. A smart Bronstein clock could avoid such bad behavior but very few are interested. Today's clock with fixed increments is already hard to manage for many players.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Schadenfreude and why we support for the underdog

In the last couple of weeks we saw the world-top playing -first in the World Cup, in which 2 places for the candidates were at stake (and ratingpoints for those not able to reach the final), next in the very strong Island of Man, which offered a second chance.

The WK-cycle offers today several ways to get to the candidates. For the world-top this is maybe a track which offers more opportunities to qualify for that tournament: via the criterium-tournaments of the Grand Prix, via the World Cup knock-out tournament, as the losing finalist of the previous world-championship, or via the rating. Only one strong (+2700) player will get a wild-card of the organizers - that is a matter of attracting sponsors of course.

A.f.a.i.k. this is a better and shorter system than in the past. Before Fide the world-champion chose the opponent, which wasn't fair (Lasker avoided Rubinstein and never granted Schlechter a real match; Aljechin avoided Capablance and did not permit Keres to play a match). The Fide defined a system but it became a terribly long path for the new challengers: zonal and inter-zonal tournaments first and then you had to survive the candidates-tournaments or matches. Only after having provided the world-champion lots of material to study, you could start as challenger the final match. And besides that Tal and Smyslov (and Kasparov) were also unlucky that a world-champion has the right to get a second match...

The actual cycle is much shorter - you already need to be world-top to get a chance. There are no surprises anymore like Van der Sterren, qualifying from a zonal tournament at advanced age to the candidate-matches.

But despite that as a world-top-player (say top-20) you are in a comfortable position at the start, you are not alone. In each tournament the road to the candidates is hard. If you look at the standings of the Grand Prix (see FIDE Grand Prix 2017) then well-known players like Nakamura, Aronian, Nepomniachtchi, Adams, Svidler, Giri, … did not succeed to qualify via this path.

And the World-cup as an enormous lottery, even Carlsen couldn't avoid elimination. We are lucky that two top-players have qualified for the candidates making it a lot more attractive. Aronian has a lot of fans and Ding Liren is still rather unknown - at this level anyway.

So for the aspiring world-champions there was only one real alternative: to get selected based upon the average rating. At twitter Martin Bennedik (@bennedik) offered live the average ratings so the players didn't need to calculate themselves. This service adds of course pressure - also in the world-cup at the players. If you checked the live ratings (2700chess) before and after the world-cup (and before Isle of Man) then you saw that almost all the top-players lost points. The reason was simple. The ratingdifferences were often too big that even winning a match with 1,5-0,5 would mean losing points. Besides also many top-players preferred the rapid-games and recorded 1-1 which also harmed their ratings. In the end even the 2 finalists didn't win any extra points after a couple of weeks playing.

But the Kramniks, Nakamura's and Anands of this world had to force something as their average rating was only second priority, next to getting through to the next round. This explained the sometimes forced play (see the elimination of Anand, after playing too aggressive against sensation Kovalyov).
[Event "World Cup"] [Site "Tbilisi GEO"] [Date "2017.09.06"] [EventDate "2017.09.03"] [Round "2.1"] [Result "0-1"] [White "Viswanathan Anand"] [Black "Anton Kovalyov"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2794"] [BlackElo "2649"] [PlyCount "86"] 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.h3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.Be3 h5 9.Be2 Nbd7 10.O-O Rc8 11.Qd2 b5 12.Rfd1 Nb6 13.Bxb6 Qxb6 14.a4 b4 15.Nd5 Nxd5 16.exd5 Bd7 17.a5 Qb7 18.Qe3 Be7 19.Qb6 Qxb6 20.axb6 Rb8 21.Rxa6 Bd8 22.b7 Ke7 23.Nc5 dxc5 24.d6+ Kf6 25.Bf3 Kf5 26.Bd5 e4 27.Re1 Bf6 28.Bxe4+ Kg5 29.Ra5 Bxb2 30.Rxc5+ Kf6 31.Re3 g6 32.Rf3+ Ke6 33.Rd3 Rhd8 34.Ra5 f5 35.Bf3 Bc3 36.h4 Kf6 37.g3 f4 38.Be4 Bf5 39.Bxf5 gxf5 40.Rb5 Ke6 41.Kf1 Rd7 42.gxf4 Rbxb7 43.Re3+ Kf6 0-1
It is why in the Isle of Man, there was a lot of attention to the rating-duel between So, Caruana en Kramnik, all very close in terms of ratings. The stakes were high, as elimination in this rating-race would mean no ticket for Berlin. Every player was a potential winner.

As the tournament started in the first round with Caruana-Kramnik, we immediately witnessed a crucial moment when it became clear the players were playing for a win. As Kramnik lost, he was forced in the next rounds to make up ground. But in round 3 he lost again - against a ghost of the past: James Tarjan. Also here - under pressure due to the circumstances-, Kramnik overplayed his position. Tarjan, with white, played quietly the chess-equivalent of Catenaccio and let Kramnik come. He built up a nice position but didn't calculate well his combination, Tarjan saw the hole and just took the point with "normal" play.

Kramnik must have been mentally broken - a more emotional player (think the type like Kortchnoi) would have destroyed the board. But Kramnik took the defeat with dignity and his - automatic- elimination for the world-title. In a "normal" open tournament against a veteran rated 400 points less. It must hurt.

The press loved it - what a story. A noble "unknown player" (although, double Olympic gold and in may 1981 conform Chessmetrics top 40 of the world), 23 years older, eliminates an ex-world-champion. This is the classic David against Goliath tale. The mouse that roared. It reminds me of the Tour de France of 1956 won by the absolute underdog Walkowiak. Or Rulon Gardner, defeating one of the best sportsmen of all time, the almost invincible wrestler Alexander Karelin, in his last match for Olympic gold.

We love champions and we like to keep track of records and lists. But at some moment their era ends. And this we also like to witness. How great Anand and Kramnik were, their generation must make slowly place for the superkids, able to play a gear faster - and especially are extremely tough, if needed playing till 2 bare kings (which Fisher also once did - and even played 3 more moves).

It is not hard to support Tarjan - it is a nice story. An old grandmaster returns to play chess and defeats one of the greatest players of the latest years. It’s the stuff that makes heroes. But as said, it was mainly Kramnik losing the game, not Tarjan winning it.
[Event "Isle of Man Open"] [Site "Douglas ENG"] [Date "2017.09.25"] [EventDate "2017.09.23"] [Round "3.28"] [Result "1-0"] [White "James Tarjan"] [Black "Vladimir Kramnik"] [ECO "A12"] [WhiteElo "2412"] [BlackElo "2803"] [PlyCount "111"] 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 c6 3.Nf3 d5 4.b3 Bg4 5.Bg2 e6 6.O-O Nbd7 7.Bb2 Bd6 8.d3 O-O 9.Nbd2 Re8 10.h3 Bh5 11.Re1 a5 12.a3 e5 13.cxd5 cxd5 14.Nh4 Nc5 15.Qc2 Ne6 16.Rac1 Nd4 17.Qd1 Nb5 18.Nb1 Qd7 19.Kh2 Ra6 20.Nf3 e4 21.dxe4 Nxe4 22.Rf1 Bb8 23.Nc3 Nbxc3 24.Bxc3 Rae6 25.Be1 h6 26.Rc2 Ba7 27.Qc1 Bb6 28.e3 Qb5 29.Nd4 Bxd4 30.exd4 Bf3 31.Bxf3 Nxg3 32.fxg3 Qxf1 33.Bf2 Qd3 34.Rc3 Qf5 35.Kg2 Rf6 36.Qc2 Qd7 37.g4 Rc6 38.Rc5 Rd8 39.Qf5 Rxc5 40.Qxd7 Rxd7 41.dxc5 d4 42.Kf1 d3 43.Ke1 d2+ 44.Kd1 Kf8 45.Bg3 Ke7 46.Bd6+ Ke6 47.Kxd2 b6 48.Ke3 bxc5 49.Bxc5 Rd8 50.b4 axb4 51.axb4 f5 52.b5 fxg4 53.hxg4 g6 54.b6 h5 55.g5 Kd7 56.b7 1-0

Losing a game when you are the big favorite (at rating) hurts - I can tell you from experience. I once lost a game against somebody 450 points lower rated in the interclub - the way how will likely be considered by my opponent as his most beautiful game ever:
[Event "IC3D1112 TW1 vs MSV1"] [Date "2012.02.12"] [Round "8"] [White "Surmont, Yves"] [Black "Facchin, Ronald"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B33"] [WhiteElo "1961"] [BlackElo "1519"] [PlyCount "58"] [Eventtype "game"] [Site "?"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 d6 6.N1c3 a6 7.Na3 Nf6 8.Bg5 Be7 9.Bd3?? { (Blind spot number 1.) } 9...Nxe4 $146 10.Bxe7 Nxc3 11.bxc3?! Nxe7 12.O-O b5?! 13.f4?! { (A try to create confusion but black responds correctly.) } 13...Qb6+ 14.Kh1 Nd5?? 15.fxe5? { (White wants to open lines against any cost as he wants to get something for this material deficit. For the moment he has something but not much.) } ( 15.Qf3! Nc7 16.fxe5 O-O 17.exd6 Qxd6 $11 ) 15...Ne3 { (Ai that was the second blind spot.) } 16.Qf3 O-O 17.Qxa8?! { (I was not playing well that afternoon but now I wanted to know if black had sufficient threats for this rook-sacrifice. Black loved to show the justification.) } 17...Bb7 18.Bxh7+ Kxh7 19.Qxf8 Nxg2 20.h3 Qe3 21.Qxf7 Nf4+ 22.Qxb7 Qxh3+ 23.Kg1 Qg3+ 24.Kh1 Qh3+ 25.Kg1 Qg3+ 26.Kh1 Qh4+ 27.Kg1 Ne2+ 28.Kg2 Qg3+ 29.Kh1 Qh3# { (That hurts, yes... a year later I played my last game. You have to cope with losses and that became for me harder and harder. If you once played at a certain level then you don't want to invest anymore time in playing such games.) } 0-1

It just demonstrates that you should never underestimate somebody. Everybody can have a good day and has a hidden supply of strength. The game against Kramnik was for Tarjan one of his best experiences in his career, but for Kramnik was it a bitter pill to swallow - especially considering the circumstances. His goodbye from the world-champion-cycle (together with Anand - Topalov, Gelfand, Ivanchuk which we already lost earlier) marks the end of a great generation of players - Kramnik was probably the last one of the school of Botvinnik-Kasparov.

It is now at the generation grown up with Fritz and internet. It is a generation which adds creativity to perseverance. The players don't know the classics anymore but can calculate very well and dare to take risks on top of a very good endgame-technique. And finally novelties at move 5 varied with novelties at move 25 or 35...

Chess has changed but not necessarily bad. The generation of Carlsen has shown us beautiful things and there are still nice things ahead of us.