Svidler Beats Shankland In Hoogeveen Match –

Despite starting with a loss, Peter Svidler defeated Sam Shankland in a six-game match held in Hoogeveen, the Netherlands.

In the same playing hall, Vladimir Fedoseev and Jorden van Foreest drew all their classical games.

A long tradition of chess in October in Hoogeveen is still kept up. The tournament held in the town in the northeast of the Netherlands is sometimes confused with “Hoogovens,” even though that sponsor name for Wijk aan Zee hasn’t been used since the year 1999!

The two events used to have the same tournament director (Jeroen van den Berg), but a few years ago Loek van Wely took over in Hoogeveen. The 46-year-old Dutch GM still plays chess (e.g. at the Batumi Olympiad), and is an organizer once a year.

The main event included just four players, who played in a small but stylish hall—part of the Hoogeveen town hall—which is often used for weddings when there is no chess. It has been like this since the first edition in 1997, when the players still played with glass pieces and the then World Junior Champion Emil Sutovsky won the round robin ahead of Judit Polgar, Vassily Smyslov(!) and Van Wely.

Hoogeveen chess town hall

The Hoogeveen town hall. | Photo: Hoogeveen Chess.

For the third year now, instead of a “crown group” there were two six-game matches, with Svidler vs Shankland as the headliner. The St. Petersburg grandmaster was perhaps only a slight favorite, considering his disappointing score at the European Club Cup and Shankland’s excellent year 2018 so far.

On that note, a prediction of 3.5-2.5 for Svidler would have made sense, although it’s easy to say in hindsight. The match winner hadn’t shaken off his bad form from Porto Carras just yet, and went down in the first game.

Svidler spent some time before trying a recipe of his good friend Alexander Grischuk that involves an early pawn sacrifice, and developed his bishop to c5 despite having played …g6 earlier. Shankland remained a pawn up and eventually converted in a double rook endgame.

Sam Shankland Hoogeveen

Sam Shankland started well, but wouldn’t win another game. | Photo: Hoogeveen Chess.

Svidler levelled the score right away in the next game that had some similarities: again he sacrificed a pawn, and again Black went …g6 but then also …Bc5. The main factor, however, was Black’s king not finding a save haven.

Peter Svidler Hoogeveen 2018

Peter Svidler won two of his white games. | Photo: Hoogeveen Chess.

After a draw in game three, Svidler also won his next white game—the last decisive game in the match, as it turned out, and arguably the best.

The players of the other match, former Dutch champion Van Foreest (Jorden that is, the oldest of a large chess family) and Fedoseev (like Svidler from St. Petersburg) are not exactly known for their quiet playing styles, but somehow all of their six games ended in draws. (The Russian player eventually won a blitz playoff.)

Van Foreest Fedoseev Hoogeveen

Van Foreest and Fedoseev starting one of their games. | Photo: Hoogeveen Chess.

It was definitely a fighting match: the shortest of those six games lasted 48 moves, and in two they played until bare kings. Here’s game four:

The open tournament was won by Bassem Amin. The Egyptian grandmaster was the strongest in a playoff that was played after round seven among the top four players by that point, while the rest of the players played their regular rounds eight and nine. It was an interesting format that more open tournaments might want to consider.

Amin had a lovely way to finish his tournament:

Bassem Amin Hoogeveen 2018

Bassem Amin, the winner of the Open event. | Photo: Hoogeveen Chess.

Games via TWIC.

Play Great Stupid Chess Moves! –

The last European Chess Club Championship was a nightmare tournament for Peter Svidler. I don’t recall another case of an elite grandmaster losing four games in a row against mostly lower-rated opponents!

Only in the last round we could finally see why the grandmaster from St. Petersburg is rightfully considered one of the best players in the world. The world champion Magnus Carlsen had to use all his skills to survive in a very unpleasant endgame.

It was not the most exciting game I ever saw, so I might have forgotten about it very quickly if not for GM Golubev’s tweet. In that tweet written in Russian, GM Golubev suggested that GM Svidler didn’t play 9. Ne2 because of 9…h5. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes. You mean Carlsen was going to play 9…h5? Seriously, 9…h5??

Magnus Carlsen at the European Club Cup

Magnus Carlsen at the European Club Cup. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

You see, I played this system for White long time ago and even won a very short game in one of the most memorable tournaments of my life:

The 9…h5 move looks so outrageous that I didn’t even consider it. Indeed, White is about to castle queenside to start a pawn storm on the kingside and Black makes his king more vulnerable? Are you kidding me? 

A quick database check revealed that this new move appeared only recently and became quite popular in 2017. In fact Black has a positive score in the games played with 9…h5!!  Here are two examples from U.S. tournaments:

So, what’s going on here? What’s the method in this madness? Well, surprisingly it turns out that it is very difficult for White to create an attack after 9…h5! I don’t know who the first player was to introduce this shocking move, but I tip my hat to him or her.

This episode only proves the wisdom of David Bronstein, who wrote about the following position:

As soon as I have a convenient opportunity I will try to work out a harmonious plan of attack even, say, with a move so illogical at first sight as 4. Qd2. One needs only to be aware of all the pluses and minuses of this idea and everything will be fine.

Indeed, 4.Qd2 looks weird, but Tigran Petrosian managed to turn a similarly foolish looking move into a system that bears his name.

Look at the moves 5…Qd7 and especially the unprovoked retreat 6…Bf8. Don’t they look really stupid? And yet, they are the main elements of the Petrosian variation in the French Winawer!

So, I recommend you to follow Bronstein’s advice and from time to time look at random moves that look really stupid.

Try to find a potential hidden point of such moves. Chances are that 99.9 percent of the foolish-looking moves are indeed stupid. But you have a chance to uncover a real gem.

Besides, thinking outside the box can broaden your chess horizons! 

Ball-tampering review finds Cricket Australia 'arrogant and controlling'

Steve Smith and David Warner wearing the baggy green caps of Australia's Test team

Image copyright

Image caption

Steve Smith and David Warner are currently serving suspensions

A scathing review into Australian cricket has condemned a “winning without counting the costs” culture that left players in a “gilded bubble”.

The independent report was commissioned by Cricket Australia (CA) after a ball-tampering scandal rocked the Test team in South Africa in March.

The review found that CA was partly to blame, and viewed more widely as “arrogant and controlling”.

The governing body said it would accept most of the report’s recommendations.

The ball-tampering incident shocked Australia and led to 12-month suspensions for team leaders Steve Smith and David Warner, and a nine-month ban for batsman Cameron Bancroft.

It also hastened the departures of coach Darren Lehmann and CA chief executive James Sutherland.

“Responsibility for that larger picture lies with CA and not just the players held directly responsible for the appalling incidents at Newlands [in South Africa],” said the report released on Monday.

The report may fuel calls for the three players’ suspensions to be reduced, Australian media reported.

‘Play the mongrel’

The 145-page review was conducted by not-for-profit organisation The Ethics Centre. Its other findings included:

  • that players were frequently pushed to “play the mongrel”, often against their nature,
  • they operated in a bubble “disconnected, for much of each year, from families, friends and the grounding influence of community”,
  • CA reverted “to bully tactics or worse, ostracising” when situations went “against them”, according to one unnamed insider.

Among 42 recommendations, the review proposed setting up a new ethics committee and selecting players based on character in addition to ability.

CA said it would accept 34 recommendations and consider seven more. It had rejected one proposal that would excuse players from taking part in T20 cricket.

“We are very committed to moving the game forward and using this review as a platform to do that,” chairman David Peever said.

However, he also described it as “at times difficult to read and in some instances, difficult to agree with”.

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Media captionAustralia’s former PM Turnbull in March – tampering scandal ‘beyond belief’

Tim Paine, who succeeded Smith as Test captain, said the players had adjusted their priorities.

“I think, potentially for a little bit, we got a little bit wrapped up in our own self-importance,” he said.

World Chess Championships: Kasparov-Karpov, Capablanca-Lasker, Alekhine-Capablanca –

Counting down the list of the most exciting world championships, staff landed on a three-way tie for 10th place with 12 points.

Capablanca – Lasker (1921)

In Capablanca-Lasker, the first world championship held after an 11-year hiatus partially caused by World War I, Jose Raul Capablanca won four games without any losses and 10 draws to finally wrest away the title from Emanuel Lasker.

Lasker chess

Young Lasker via Wikipedia.

The match ended Lasker’s still record-setting run of 27 years as world champion; maybe that’s why it received as many votes as it did.

Their contest was the first person to 12.5 points, but Lasker resigned the match after losing game 14. He was down 9-5 and without any wins and it probably didn’t help that he was playing in Havana on Capablanca’s home soil.

Here was their round 11 game, which became the second win in a row for the Cuban maestro. He annotated it himself:

Alekhine – Capablanca (1927)

The next match to end tied for 10th place was the one immediately following the previous one. After “only” a six-year hiatus this time, Alexander Alekhine took away the title from Capablanca.

alekhine chess

Alekhine via Wikipedia. 

This time the match was the first to six games (and unlike in 1984, those rules did produce an actual winner!). Capablanca, who had previously never lost a game to Alekhine, dropped game one but rallied and held a 2-1 lead in wins after round seven. But he would only win one more game in the next 27 rounds before Alekhine finally got his sixth win in game 34.

Garry Kasparov noted several missed chances for Capablanca to even the match score. In fact he may have been incredibly close to maintaining the crown. Was there a condition that he keep the championship in case of a 5-5 score? Chess historian Edward Winter delves deeper than you ever want to know!

In total the match, held in Buenos Aires, took 2.5 months.

That final game took four adjournments before the Cuban resigned the match and the title by letter. Here it is:

Kasparov – Karpov (1990)

The third match ending in a tie for 10th place was decidedly more modern. The fifth and final Garry Kasparov vs. Anatoly Karpov affair was incredibly close, just like the previous four. With their last match ending in a 4-4 tie and Kasparov keeping the title, this best-of-24 could have gone the same way. The match was tied 6-6 after the New York leg, and after Kasparov built a lead in Lyon, Karpov rallied in the penultimate game to get within one point before Kasparov drew game 24 to win 12.5-11.5.

kasparov karpov 1990

The Kasparov-Karpov match in 1990. Image via 

Overall Kasparov won four games and lost three—all seven combined match victories came with the white pieces. His fourth and final win in game 20 set him up with a two-point lead with four games to play. Not only was it critical for the match score, it was also beautiful and vintage Garry.

Coming up next: Number 9 on our list! You can view the archive here.

PRO Chess League Qualifier Saturday Fields Stars –

Are you excited for the PRO Chess League qualifier tournament? You should be.

This Saturday, November 3, some of the biggest names in online chess will compete along with a host of PRO Chess League hopefuls for spots in the upcoming 2019 season.

Be sure to watch live on on

Where else can you watch the current U.S. chess champion, Sam Shankland, play pros and amateurs alike as he tries to earn his San Francisco Mechanics a spot in the league?

You can read the full details of the qualifier here.

PRO Chess League Qualifier Stars

About 30 teams will try to qualify on Saturday, and all teams have an average rating near the cap of 2500. Here are some of the big chess names and their teams that will play on Saturday:

  • Warsaw Fighters: Jan Krzysztof Duda, Kacper Piorun

Jan-Krzysztof Duda

Duda has been taking #speedchess by storm! Will he do the same to #prochess?

  • Kazan Archers: Vladislav Artemiev, Gata Kamsky
  • Moscow Phoenix: Daniil Dubov
  • San Francisco Mechanics: Sam Shankland
  • Malmo Vikings: Nils Grandelius
  • Montreal Chessbrahs: Ivan Saric, Robin van Kampen, Eric Hansen

Eric Hansen, Montreal Chessbrahs

Eric Hansen and the Montreal Chessbrahs were sadly relegated last season. Will they get back in in 2019?

  • Tbilisi Gentlemen: Baduur Jobava
  • Granada Red Noses: Ruslan Ponomariov, Luis Siles

Ruslan Ponomariov, PRO Chess League

Francisco Vallejo Pons, Ruslan Ponomariov, and Luis Siles will give Spanish chess fans someone to root for.

  • London Towers: Gawain Jones
  • Sao Paulo Gorillas: Krikor Sevag Mekhitarian
  • Barcelona Stlye: Francisco Vallejo Pons
  • Atlanta Kings: Gadir Guseinov, Ben Finegold
  • Stockholm Wasabis: Bassem Amin
  • Bordeaux Sharks: Arkadij Naiditsch

PRO Chess League Qualifier Format

Stage 1:

There will be two groups with 12-15 teams.  Four of these teams will qualify for the PRO Chess League.

Stage 1 format:

In the first stage, every team will play a one-game match against every other team. In these matches, board one for each team will play the board one for every other team. Board two will play the board two, and so on. The time control will be three minutes plus a two-second increment.

The scores for this phase are total game points and not match points.

At the end of this round robin, the top two teams from each group (four in total) advance to the PRO Chess League.

Stage 1 tiebreaks:

First tiebreak is board one score. Second tiebreak is board two score. Third tiebreak is board three score. Fourth tiebreak is head to-head. Fifth tiebreak is highest-rated lineup advances.

Stage 2:

The 3rd-5th place teams from Stage 1 all advance to Stage 2 in a last chance to earn one of the last four league spots.

The 6th-8th place finishers in each group will head to a Twitter fan vote, which will last for exactly five minutes. The winner of this poll will advance to Stage 2 as well. In case of a tie, the tiebreak is highest finisher during Stage 1.

That leaves eight teams fighting for four spots in Stage 2.

Stage 2 format:

  • The teams will be paired off in an all play all PRO Chess League style match, with a time control of seven minutes plus two-second increment. This will be the same format used during the PRO Chess League regular season, but with a faster time control.
  • The winner of each match advances to the PRO Chess League.
  • If the match is tied, the players play one more round of three minutes plus two-second increment. Board one will play board one and so forth. If that ends in a tie, the match goes to sudden death. Board one plays against board one in one single game, using reverse colors from the previous tiebreak round. If that’s drawn, then board two plays board two. The first team to win a game wins the match.
  • The pairings work as follows: The third-place finisher from Stage 1 gets to choose its opponent for Stage 2 from the other three teams in the group. The two unchosen teams then play against each other. Isle of Man: Shirov Ignites Fire On Board –

Michael Adams won in round seven at the 2018 Isle of Man International to join yesterday’s six leaders. Adams was the only one of the round’s winners to join the lead group.

His victory over Abhijeet “Superman” Gupta was a great bishop endgame win that seems sure to appear in the endgame textbooks. Interestingly, before the bishop endgame was reached, both players missed an opportunity for …h5! that could equally go in the tactics textbooks.

Michael Adams, Isle of Man International

The “Delayed Exchange French” does not initially strike one as a winning attempt. | Photo: John Saunders.

While Adams won the most instructive game of the day, it was another top-five player from the 1990s who won the overall game of the day as Alexei Shirov collected another victory worthy of his future games collection “Fire on Board Part III: 2005-Infinity!” As Shirov described it, “It was a complicated game as it should be.”

Shirov’s game against Le Quang Liem featured amusing king play from both players as Le castled on move 36 (!) while Shirov marched his king fearlessly through the wilds of the queenside.

Game of the Day, Dejan Bojkov, Isle of Man International

Although the round’s six leaders drew their games, the games were not without life. The most interesting was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave against Arkadij Naiditsch. Vachier-Lagrave came prepared with a topical and innovative line and seemed close to victory right out of the opening. However, Naiditsch would be a candidate to win the moniker “Least Likely to Roll Over and Resign” in an Isle of Man vote. He sacrificed a piece for two pawns and drummed up enough counterplay to intimidate Vachier-Lagrave into a repetition.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Isle of Man International

Vachier-Lagrave in a fateful moment. Should he have captured with the king? | Photo: John Saunders.

Radek Wojtaszek and Wang Hao also saw their game fizzle after a sharp opening (Sicilian Dragon) and middlegame in which both players declined to make any critical errors.

Most but not all of the drama between Hikaru Nakamura and Jeffery Xiong occurred off the board as Nakamura had commented yesterday that Xiong’s opposition on the Isle was “soft.” Xiong proved that he was more than up to the challenge of playing Black against a perennial top-10 opponent like Nakamura. He even could have pushed for a win with slightly more accurate rook play late in the game.

Jeffery Xiong, Hikaru Nakamura, Isle of Man International

Current and future U.S. Olympiad team members? | Photo: John Saunders.

Another convincing victor who joined the chasers was Levon Aronian who destroyed Nigel Short’s advanced kingside, handing FIDE’s new vice presidential appointee his first loss after he ran undefeated a gauntlet that included Grischuk, Karjakin, and So.

Short’s opening was divisive as some liked Black’s grip on f3 while others liked Aronian’s central play, knight on f4, and bishop on b2. As a Dutch player myself, I hated Short’s position! I’ve lost too many games in such positions where I lacked pawn breaks as Black. Short’s eventual collapse recalled vivid nightmares of my own similar counterplay-less defeats.

Nigel Short, Levon Aronian, Isle of Man International

Both Short and Aronian have been mixing up their openings. Did either anticipate this one today? | Photo: John Saunders.

With seven leaders, 10 chasers, and two rounds to go, there’s sure to be plenty of drama in our concluding weekend at the 2018 Isle of Man International. Don’t miss the action live on!

2018 Isle of Man International | Standings After Rd. 7 (Top 20)

Place Seed FED Name FED Elo Score
1 3 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2780 5.5
1 8 Nakamura, Hikaru 2763 5.5
1 10 Wojtaszek, Radoslaw 2727 5.5
1 12 Wang Hao 2722 5.5
1 13 Naiditsch, Arkadij 2721 5.5
1 15 Adams, Michael 2712 5.5
1 29 Xiong, Jeffery 2656 5.5
8 1 Aronian, Levon 2780 5
8 2 Giri, Anish 2780 5
8 4 Kramnik, Vladimir 2779 5
8 6 Anand, Viswanathan 2771 5
8 7 Grischuk, Alexander 2769 5
8 9 Karjakin, Sergey 2760 5
8 11 Rapport, Richard 2725 5
8 17 Artemiev, Vladislav 2706 5
8 24 Jones, Gawain C B 2677 5
8 25 Sethuraman S.P. 2673 5
8 33 Shirov, Alexei 2636 5
8 36 Parligras, Mircea-Emilian 2623 5
20 5 So, Wesley 2776 4.5

Full standings here and round-seven pairings here.

Games via TWIC.

Watch Isle of Man, Round 7 from Chess on

The 2018 Isle of Man International is a nine-round Swiss from October 20-28 beginning at 2:30 p.m. local time daily (GMT+1), except for round nine, which begins at 1:00 p.m.. The host site is the Villa Marina and the tournament is generously sponsored by the Scheinberg Family. Live coverage can be found at either or

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