How Anderson became the world's best – and is he getting better?


James Anderson has played 143 Tests, a record for a pace bowler

England’s James Anderson is now the most successful pace bowler in Test history.

Fifteen years on from his Test debut, Anderson’s five wickets against India at The Oval took him past Australia great Glenn McGrath and on to 564 wickets.

So how has the man nicknamed the ‘Burnley Express’ got there? BBC Sport breaks down the numbers.

From debutant to record-breaker

Interactive

James Anderson’s changing teammates

2018

Image of James Anderson in England squad photo in 2018

2003

Image of James Anderson's first England squad photo

Anderson made his debut as a 20-year-old against Zimbabwe at Lord’s in 2003.

His first over in Test cricket cost 17 runs but in his third he bowled opener Mark Vermeulen.

He finished the innings with 5-73, the first of 26 five-wicket hauls in his Test career.

Anderson now has 564 Test wickets to his name, meaning only spinners Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble have taken more.

Anderson’s bunnies

Of those 564 wickets, some batsmen feature more than others.

Anderson has dismissed Peter Siddle 11 times – the most he has taken any player’s wicket – but the ex-Australia bowler is in good company.

India’s Sachin Tendulkar may have scored a record 15,921 Test runs, but he was dismissed nine times in 14 matches by Anderson.

Anderson has played a significant part in four Ashes series wins for England – and a few big-name Australians have also found things difficult…

Modes of dismissal

It’s an image we have seen so many times. A full, inviting delivery from Anderson, late swing and an outside edge.

More than a third of his Test wickets have come courtesy of catches by a fielder, with caught by the wicketkeeper the next most common dismissal, and then bowled.

Former England keeper Matt Prior has taken more catches off Anderson than any other bowler in Tests.

The pair combined 68 times, with current England keeper Jonny Bairstow next on the list.

Alastair Cook, who has fielded at first slip for much of Anderson’s career, is the highest non-wicketkeeper in terms of catches off Anderson’s bowling with 40.

Wickets by opponent

Anderson loves bowling against India.

He has taken more wickets against them than any other team – 110 in 27 matches. More than three-quarters of those have come in England.

Australia feature prominently here again too. Anderson has taken five five-wicket hauls in Ashes series and was the leading wicket-taker in the 2010-11 series when England won down under for the first time in 24 years.

Simon Hughes, The Analyst

Indian players are probably the worst at adapting to seaming conditions.

They are not used to the ball swinging or seaming much and Anderson examines their tendency to drive at balls that are not quite full enough with the bat face open. Often these shots slide off the face of the bat and are caught in the slip cordon.

Also, because they were the last to agree to use the decision review system (DRS), their techniques are a little more fragile.

Home comforts

Like most bowlers, Anderson has a better record at home than away.

He has taken 368 of his 564 wickets in England with a bowling average – the number of runs conceded per wicket taken – of 23.76. Overseas his average climbs to 32.63.

In England – where the Dukes ball tends to move more through the air than the Kookaburra used in Australia – Anderson is often able to take advantage of swinging conditions.

Simon Hughes, The Analyst

Anderson’s first overseas tours were poor. For example, he had no skills to fall back on in Australia or India other than swinging the ball conventionally.

His ability to master the ‘wobble seam’ delivery – which he used superbly in Australia in 2010-11 – and utilise reverse swing, which won the Kolkata Test in 2012, has markedly improved his performances abroad.

His superior control has brought his average down. Still, he accepts his overseas record is not as good as it should be and says he is still up for the challenge of improving it in Sri Lanka and West Indies this winter.

At home at the ‘Home of Cricket’

Anderson has taken more wickets than any other player at Lord’s.

His 103 wickets have come in only 23 matches at the ground and include career-best figures of 7-42 against West Indies in 2017.

Simon Hughes, The Analyst

Anderson is a brilliant exploiter of the slopes and angles at Lord’s. He loves starting his bowling at the Pavilion End, where he can both swing his outswinger against the slope but also use the slope to bring the ball back into the batsmen, making them play more balls than they need to.

When the ball is older, he likes the slope of the Nursery End to take it away from the right-hander. As Glenn McGrath did, Anderson brilliantly utilises the advantages that the unusual Lord’s geography offers. Plus, the lush outfield helps the ball keeps its shine.

Mr Reliable

Anderson has been the go-to bowler for many England captains throughout his career and one clear strength has been his remarkable consistency.

Whatever the stage of the match, the seamer has been able to take wickets. His bowling average across all four innings is remarkably similar…

Improving control?

When selected, Anderson has been a consistent wicket-taker throughout his England career, ever since his five wickets in his first innings.

But over time he has seen his economy rate – the average runs conceded in an over – drop significantly as he has become a more accurate, miserly bowler.

He now concedes about two runs less per over than when he was most expensive in the early stage of his career.

Still getting better?

This is a worrying sight for Anderson’s opponents: he seems to be improving with age.

His bowling average has been lower in the past two years than at any point in his career. There may well be more wickets to come…

Simon Hughes, the Analyst

I divide Anderson’s Test career into four phases:

1. Arrival. He burst on to the scene charging in to bowl his swingers, taking wickets but also going for plenty of runs as he tended to strive too often for the unplayable delivery and bowled a lot of hittable half-volleys.

2. Disruption. Soon after he made it into the England team there was a general obsession with pace – it came mainly from then head coach Duncan Fletcher – and there was an attempt to lengthen and straighten Anderson’s run-up and change his action slightly. He lost his natural outswing for a while, got into trouble for running on the pitch and was generally expensive, going at about four runs an over.

3. Graduation. By about 2010 he had reverted to his original run-up, rediscovered his natural skill and fine-tuned it to become a consistent wicket-taker, excelling at home and spearheading England’s climb to become the number one Test team in the world.

4. Sophistication. Since being spared playing one-day cricket, he has been able to save his precious skills for the Test format. With fitness and expertise, he has evolved into a supreme wicket-taking machine, adept in all conditions, using subtle variations to command great respect from all the world’s batsmen to become the most successful Test seam bowler of all time.

Can you name the batsmen James Anderson has dismissed more than five times in Tests?

Score: 0 / 20

You scored 0/20

Share your score with your friends!

Copy and share link



Arena Kings Streamers Championship Returns For Season 2 – Chess.com


Chess.com and Twitch will partner again for season two of the revamped Arena Kings chess tournament series starting next week, Monday, Sept. 17.

The series adds an event to give streamers and fans a third date each week, and will culminate with the Streamers Championship in December. The new season will feature $21,600 in prizes, a 44 percent increase in the prize fund from season one.

The tournament series will allow both super-grandmasters and casual players to earn cash prizes and grand-prix style leaderboard points to play their way into the season’s big event, the Streamers Championship finals, alone worth more than $3,000 in prizes.

See the full schedule below.

All Chess.com members are eligible to join the Arena Kings Streamers Championship season by playing an Arena Kings tournament on the Chess.com live server and streaming their games to Twitch.tv.

All players must stream their games to earn cash prizes and Arena Kings Streamers Championship leaderboard points. 

You can find quick links to important event information below:

Arena Kings Season two kicks off with its new format on Monday, Sept. 17, as it moves to a three-times-per-week schedule. Each week will feature three different time controls: 1/0 bullet chess on Mondays, 3/0 blitz on Wednesdays, and 5/0 blitz on Fridays.

Continuing its success from last season, this year’s schedule includes three weeks of Royal Arena Kings, with larger prizes and streamer points, allowing the world’s best players to win cash and qualify for the Streamers Championship. The Royal Arena Kings event runs every fourth week of season two. 

arena kings season 2

Are you ready for Arena Kings three times per week?

The three weekly Arena Kings and Royal Arena Kings events will form a four-month streaming circuit, concluding with the Streamers Championship, giving chess fans a distinct arena-streaming season to follow and enjoy. 

After the next Streamers Champion is crowned in December, the series will begin again in 2019.

Players must earn their way to the new Streamers Championship qualifier by accumulating at least 125 leaderboard points, earned in the Arena Kings and Royal Arena Kings events for placing and streaming. New for this season: If a player plays and streams enough events, he or she will earn the required leaderboard points to play in the qualifier regardless of over-the-board results. 

For tips on how to stream your games and the best ways to get more viewers, see these three articles:

Arena Kings Streamers Championship Details

Streaming and Identification Requirements:

  • All players must stream their games to any earn cash prizes or leaderboard points. 
  • Per our standard identification rules for all cash-prize events, we require all finalists in Royal Arena Kings or the Streamers Championship events to identify themselves.
  • Real names must be listed on your Chess.com profiles, and streamers must appear on camera during their streams or provide verbal commentary of the games in progress to earn cash prizes during Royal Arena Kings and Streamers Championship events.
  • Anonymous players cannot earn prizes in Royal Arena Kings and Streamers Championship events.

Format:

Arena Kings

  • Three per week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, three times per month
  • 1/0 bullet chess on Mondays, 3/0 blitz on Wednesdays, and 5/0 blitz on Fridays.
  • Two-hour arena tournament
  • Live broadcast on Twitch.tv/chess

Royal Arena Kings

  • Once per month on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
  • 1/0 bullet chess on Mondays, 3/0 blitz on Wednesdays, and 5/0 blitz on Fridays.
  • Two-hour arena tournament followed by a 1.5-hour, eight-player knockout bracket
  • Live broadcast on Twitch.tv/chess

Royal Arena Kings Bullet Rules:

Arena Kings Bullet Rules:

Royal Arena Kings Blitz Rules:

Arena King Blitz Rules

Streamers Championship Qualifier:

  • Once per Arena Kings season (every four months)
  • 125 leaderboard points needed to qualify (see chart below)
  • 3-hour, 3/0 blitz arena
  • The top 10 finishers qualify for the Streamers Championship
  • Live broadcast on Twitch.tv/chess

Streamers Championship Qualifier

 Streamers Championship Final:

  • Once per Arena Kings season (every four months)
  • One-day event
  • 10-player round-robin championship
  • Each finalist plays every other player in a mini-match of 1/0, 3/0, and 5/0 games
  • Tiebreaker: sudden-death 1/0 games until a match winner is determined
  • Live broadcast on Twitch.tv/chess

Streamers Championship Final:

Cash Prizes:

All players must stream their games to earn cash prizes and leaderboard points. All finalists in Royal Arena Kings or the Streamers Championship events must identify themselves to win prizes. See further requirements above.

arena kings prizes

Leaderboard Points: 125 required to make Streamers Championship qualifier tournament

leaderboard points

Full Schedule: Click the image for a larger version. 

arena kings schedule



Machine-Learning Lc0 Joins 'Big 3' Engines Atop Computer Chess Championship Half – Chess.com


The machine-learning engine Lc0 (nicknamed “Leela“) is in undefeated clear fourth place behind the world’s top three traditional chess engines—Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish—halfway through the Computer Chess Championship double-round-robin.

The inaugural Chess.com Computer Chess Championship event is called CCCC 1: Rapid Rumble. In stage one, each engine plays every other with both White and Black to determine the top eight to advance to the next stage.

cccc 1: rapid rumble

After 276 games, all 24 of the engines have played one another once, and will reverse colors to wrap up the round-robin. Houdini sits in clear first place after the first half with 19/23, while Komodo and Stockfish share second and third at 18.5 points.

While the success of Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish was largely predictable as those engines dominate the computer-chess ranks, the strong push (and hype!) by Lc0 at 16.5 points is the big story of the tournament as fans flock to watch the self-taught engine’s games day and night.

lc0 leela chess

Lc0, which learns chess by repeatedly playing games against itself and using neural networks to organize the lessons, has wowed both computer-chess experts and casual fans with its intuitive, creative, and almost-human approach to the game. Lc0, the only neural-network engine in the tournament, is also the event’s only participant to run on a GPU-optimized computer rather than one built for CPU performance. 

None of the engines in the top four lost a single game in the tournament’s first half; while that result was somewhat expected for the top three engines, the inclusion of the often error-prone Leela in the undefeated group comes as a welcome surprise for advocates of an artificial-intelligence approach to chess mastery.

cccc crosstable

The CCCC 1 crosstable after 276 games. Click the image for a larger version.

Lc0 benefited from some early adjudications per the CCCC official rules, but has played stellar chess throughout the first half of the stage. Its win against the engine Nirvana is a candidate for the game of the tournament, prompting IM Daniel Rensch to analyze the masterpiece.

Rensch also recorded a video lesson about the game, available below:

Watch Computer Chess Game of the Week: Leela vs Nirvana from Chess on www.twitch.tv

Tournament statistics:

At the halfway point of the round-robin, 44.9 percent of the stage’s 276 games have been drawn. White won 33.6 percent, and Black won 21.3 percent.

Lc0 itself played more peaceful chess than the overall group, drawing 15 of its first 23 games for a 65.2 percent clip. Significantly, Leela’s wins have been spread in the crosstable’s bottom two-thirds—after drawing with the top seven engines, Lc0 has won and drawn with the middle and bottom engines at roughly the same rate.

This is in stark contrast to Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish, which all beat up on the bottom engines, with just two draws and 16 wins in their 18 games vs the bottom-six engines.

Despite the lack of opening book, and each engine (aside from Leela and its saved neural network) playing the starting position completely from scratch, the engines chose from just three moves to open the games.

According to analysis at the LC0 blog, 1. e4 was the most popular opening move, played 55.0 percent of the time and scoring 52.9 percent for White. 1. d4 was next, seen in 36.9 percent of games, but scoring significantly better than the king-pawn opening at 61.2 percent. 1. Nf3 was the only other opening move played, appearing in 7.9 percent of the games and scoring 54.5 percent.

Tournament leaders and selected games:

The second half of stage one, already in progress at www.Chess.com/CCCC, will determine which eight engines advance to stage two. At the halfway mark, it’s a familiar group including the big three of Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish; Leela in fourth place; and four more strong traditional engines in the top eight with Shredder, Fire, Booot, and Ethereal in prime position to advance.

Tournament leader Houdini picked up a nice win against a tough opponent in sixth-ranked fire in game 195:

Komodo certainly got 22nd-ranked Senpai to notice it with a brutal checkmate after promoting two pawns into queens:

In game 153, Stockfish squeezed the life out of Crafty, looking more like a snake than a fish in a positional buildup that frightened some viewers in the live chat:

Note to engines: Do not play the Philidor against the world’s top computer players!

Shredder, a rare participant in public computer chess tournaments, was an early surprise leader before settling into fifth place. Its win vs Fire was instructive:

Ethereal clawed its way into the top eight at the halfway mark by winning seven games against the bottom 10 engines in the crosstable. The engine pulled a quick win out of the ether against the as-yet-unenlightened Nirvana, which managed just one win and four draws in its first 23 games:

Chess.com ran a prediction contest for fans before the tournament, with members asked to rank the engines 1-24. At the halfway mark, the wisdom of the crowd was spot-on, as Chess.com contest participants correctly predicted seven of the top eight engines, missing only on Ethereal, which was the ninth choice on average.

The average rank predicted by Chess.com contest participants

The average rank of each engine predicted by Chess.com contest participants.

Chess.com predictors were bullish on Lc0, slating Leela as the fourth choice, but even that optimism undersold the engine’s success, as it has significantly over-performed its average predicted rank of just below sixth.

The second half of CCCC 1: Rapid Rumble is now in progress, running 24 hours a day until we reach game 552. Watch and chat at www.Chess.com/CCCC or our dedicated Twitch channel (complete with AI-generated background music) , and stay tuned to Chess.com for more Computer Championship coverage, including highlights and live shows as the tournament heats up.

What do you think of the first Computer Chess Championship event so far? Are you a Leela believer? 

Let us know in the comments. 



Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand's money tricks – Livemint


Viswanathan Anand is willing to take more risk in chess than in his finances and for a reason.

Viswanathan Anand is willing to take more risk in chess than in his finances and for a reason.

Mumbai: What’s the similarity between chess and finance? Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand says there is a basic connect in the method of learning chess and finance. “You can relate chess to finance. Quite a lot of chess players have moved on to finance after their chess career,” said Anand. The ability to look at past financial transactions and apply them differently is something conceptually very similar to looking at a previous game of chess and understanding what was done well or badly and applying a same opening in a different way, he explains. Through his life journey, Anand gives us five money lessons:

Seek professional advice

Anand is a world champion in chess and has trainers to guide him. Similarly, he has a professional financial adviser to help him with his finances. “I have advisers to help me. In chess, my trainers help me see what I have missed. Here (in finance), I don’t have the time to follow my investment portfolio on a daily basis. Hence, I have professionals to eliminate rookie mistakes. I follow and grasp their strategy,” said Anand. He says that in chess, you can follow the game without following the details. But to play it, you need to get into the details. Similarly in finance, to manage your money, you need to know the details. Anand’s wife Aruna Anand manages most of the investments with the help of advisers.

Diversify investments

When you dig deeper into Anand’s investments, you will notice it has a good mix of equity and fixed income. “We have a mixture of products. We do a lot of investment in equity and fixed income instruments. Occasionally, we add alternative products as well. But I do most of my investments through equity, usually with a mix of mutual funds and other kinds of equity instruments. For liquidity, we have some part in cash,” said Anand. He says he doesn’t invest in gold and real estate. “I prefer equity and fixed income,” said Anand.

Take calculated risk

Anand believes in investing in equity for long-term needs. “I have accepted the idea that if you have to beat inflation, you have to be in equity. And if you are in equity, there has to be some risk. I am not against risk. In my investment portfolio, some part of the risk is hedged and some part of the risk is balanced. I am not an all-in kind of a person. I don’t play hunches. I try to understand the risk-reward ratio. If I am comfortable with it, I will do it. I don’t see myself as an aggressive investor. I think of myself as a planner,” said Anand. He is willing to take more risk in chess than in his finances and for a reason.

“I may take risk in chess, but it is completely unacceptable in finance because my skills are completely different. In chess, I am one of the best players in the world. However, I think your personality determines your style in many things,” said Anand.

Goal-based approach

Usually, most people tend to look at highest returns or for the right instruments. Anand says there is no right strategy, but “strategies that you discover are appropriate for you”. In life, you see people who do things radically different from you. “Finance is just an enabling mechanism, as long as it is well thought out and you revisit it occasionally to see if it still makes sense to you. It has to express your personality. Professional help, I felt it was right for me and we benefit from it. Money is not a goal in itself, it is what you want to do in life,” said Anand.

Take responsibility

In many households, one of the spouses is considered in charge of money while the other is a mere spectator. But not in the case of Anand’s household. When it comes to money management, Anand says they both share responsibilities. “She is more disciplined and able to spend the time to understand the money we have, where it is put and the tax implications. She helps me in that area. We have a good division of responsibility as a couple. She takes on quite a lot of the hard work. But that gives me the freedom to dream about chess and immerse myself deeply in it. We discuss the financial instruments together. I understand it conceptually where we are. However, I am not following it on a daily basis,” said Anand. Though his wife deep-dives into the investments, Anand is completely in the know about the strategies they take.



Viswanathan Anand returns to form ahead of Chess Olympiad – Livemint


A file photo of Anand who is part of the Indian contingent for the Chess Olympiad later this month. It will be his first appearance in the tournament since 2006. Photo: AFP

A file photo of Anand who is part of the Indian contingent for the Chess Olympiad later this month. It will be his first appearance in the tournament since 2006. Photo: AFP

Former World Champion Viswanathan Anand finally regained some form at the Sinquefield Cup that ended on 29 August in St Louis, US, after a bout of uninspiring performances since May. Anand, the first Indian to become a chess grandmaster, went undefeated in the tournament, though he didn’t manage any wins either, and finished sixth out of 10 participants.

Ranked 10th in the world currently, Anand is one of the strongest players in the world, even at 48, and his performance has put scepticism around his age to rest. At least for now.

And this is why his inclusion in the Indian team that will participate in the 43rd Chess Olympiad—the sport’s biennial equivalent of the Olympics—starting in Batumi, Georgia, on 23 September has sparked a fresh sense of excitement. This is the first time since 2006 that Anand is participating in the tournament. His presence not only boosts the morale of the team, but also gives it a stronger chance to win.

The Indian men’s contingent won a bronze at the 2014 Olympiad in Norway. In Azerbaijan in 2016, both the men’s and women’s teams finished fourth, agonizingly close to a podium finish. In fact, the men’s team of Pentala Harikrishna, Vidit Santosh Gujarathi, Baskaran Adhiban, and S.P. Sethuraman lost its way in the second half of the tournament after dominating the first half. Anand’s experience should help this young team navigate the pressures of the competition this time.

The Chess Olympiad features male and female teams of five players each from all the chess federations affiliated with FIDE, the world governing body for the game. The format is the Swiss-system, a non-elimination format in which the number of rounds are predetermined. In each round, a player plays an opponent who has a similar score but never faces the same opponent twice. The winner is decided by points at the end of all the rounds. Players earn one point for a win and half a point for every draw. The uncertainty of the format gives players very little time to prepare for an opponent or a team. Pair that with India’s ratings—the country is ranked sixth in the world by average ELO ratings in the men’s section (also called the Open section) and seventh in the women’s section—and Anand’s inclusion, and India seems to have a fighting chance of a podium finish.

“Last time we were fourth. This time, with Anand around, I’m sure we can do better,” Gujarathi, India’s latest Super-Grandmaster (an unofficial title for players with an ELO rating of 2700+) told The Hindu in March during a training camp with the Olympiad team in Delhi. His teammate Adhiban expressed a similar view. “It was my dream to interact with Vishy Anand and to play the Olympiad in the same team with him,” he said.

Anand represented India in five Olympiads between 1984 and 1992, then India’s only Grandmaster, and again in 2004 and 2006 at the peak of his career. He has delivered some exquisite performances, like his unbeaten run on Board 1, (where the strongest players from each team play) in the 1992 edition in Manila. And then he was also a part of the 2006 team which was seeded second in the tournament but finished 30th. The Indian grandmaster had distanced himself from the Olympiad over the last decade owing to several issues, including the “zero-tolerance” policy (the policy forces a player to forfeit a game for being late by even a few seconds) and the unpredictability of the Swiss format.

Despite his misgivings, this time, “the camaraderie, the team and the positive vibes will more than make up for it,” the Press Trust Of India quoted Anand as saying in January when he announced his interest in playing in the tournament.

Anand’s first job will be to foster the team-spirit that was absent in his last outing in 2006. He will almost certainly play on Board 1 and India will rely heavily on him to lead from the front. “The most important thing is the ability to overcome any individual setbacks as a team”, he told Lounge.

This is also where Anand’s personal form and age become significant factors. Anand finished the Grand Chess Tour 2018—a combination of blitz, rapid and classical time-control tournaments comprising four major events—in last place, with only 15 points scored against the leader Hikaru Nakamura’s 34.5. His last tournament victory came in March at the Tal Memorial rapid tournament in Moscow. At the Sinquefield Cup, Anand had his last chance of playing against the strongest players ahead of the Olympiad, many of whom he is expected to compete against in Georgia.

Chess has increasingly become a young people’s sport. The classical format sees gruelling matches that often go on for more than six hours. Many more hours have to be spent in preparation. The physical and mental demands on a player, over a tournament as long as the Olympiad, are immense. It is here that Anand’s experience will come handy—he is likely to have a strategy to deal with the fatigue that killed India’s chances of a medal in 2016.

Asked about it, he doesn’t seem to be too worried. “Every classical tournament you play, you bring your age to the tournament. This is something we deal with on a daily basis. Players can be rested during the Olympiad (since there are 5-member teams for 4 spots) and that should help us cope,” he said.

It would be fair to say that this contingent of players is closer in strength to Anand than others he has played with in the past. Therefore, it will be interesting to see what influences Anand adapts into his play. Anand has an uncanny knack of making strong comebacks after a string of bad performances. His performance could end up determining how far India goes in Batumi.



CHESS#1317 – Business Standard



Business Standard

CHESS#1317
Business Standard
As anybody who follows chess blogs knows, Viswanathan Anand won the World Junior Championships 31 years ago, on September 3, 1987, in Baguio City, the Philippines. It was the first time an Indian had won any world title. The Junior is prestigious.