The recent attractions in international chess have been the Tata Steel Chess and the Zurich Chess Challenge. The Tata Steel event is over. World champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway was absent, so the top seed was Levon Aronian of Armenia, who has been the winner three times in the last six years. In this tournament, he certainly starred, creating intense speculation that he may be the next challenger to Carlsen later this year. He scored eight points, chalking up six victories, four draws, and only one loss — to Loek van Wely of the Netherlands. In a second-place tie were Anish Giri, also of the Netherlands, and Sergey Karjakin of Russia. American Hikaru Nakamura had a poor tournament, ending up ninth. Nakamura has a dramatic attacking style, could become a national star, and is able to defeat the best, but he also periodically falls short.
The Zurich encounter is advertised as being the strongest tournament ever held, but the claim is based on ratings, which fluctuate throughout the years. It had only six players, but the star of the event was Carlsen, playing in his first event since becoming world champ. The other players were Aronian, Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana of Italy and the United States, Boris Gelfand of Israel, and Viswanathan Anand of India. The format at Zurich is unusual: Instead of drawing lots to determine pairing numbers in round robins, organizers held a blitz tournament to make the determination. Carlsen having won the tournament on tie-break over Aronian got the No.1 pairing, Aronian No. 2, etc.
Another odd twist of the Zurich’s playing format is that after the blitz tournament, comes the main event, classical round-robin where a win awards two points, and a draw one point. On the last day, there is a rapids round-robin where a win gets you one point and a draw a half point. The overall winner is then determined by adding a player’s score from both the classical and rapids events.
Another, perhaps even more compelling event than those above will be the Candidate’s Tournament at the oil-rich Siberian city of Khanty-Mansiysk, where eight players will play a double round-robin to determine who will try to depose Carlsen. Among the players are Russians Vladimir Kramnik, Karjakin, and Dmitry Andreikin; Bulgarian Veselin Topalov; Aronian, and Anand. Russian Peter Svidler made it as a wild-card selection, chosen by the hosting Russian Chess Federation.
Brevity: W. Reichenbach v. H. Pfleger (1960) 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 d5 4.fxe5 Nxe4 5.d3 Nxc3 6.bxc3 d4 7.Nf3 dxc3 8.d4 Be6 9.Bd3 c5 10.0–0 Nc6 11.Rb1 Qd7 12.Qe2 0–0–0 13.a4 Nxd4 14.Nxd4 cxd4 15.Be4 Bc5 16.Rb5 b6 17.Rxc5+ bxc5 18.Qa6+ Kb8 19.Bf4; 1-0
Winners: Western Mass. 23d Mid-winter Classic: 1st-3d: Cliff McLaughlin, Mark Cote, Dan Pascetta, 3-1; MCC New Year Swiss: 1st: Vadim Martirosov, 2.5-0.5, 2d-7th: Jonathan Yedidia, Mika Brattain, Ilya Krasik, Siddharth Arun, Eric Godin, and Fred Pearson: 2-1
Coming Events: GM Larry Christiansen Simultaneous at South Station, Feb. 11; Queen City Tornado, Feb. 22, Radisson Hotel, 700 Elm Street, Manchester, N.H., halterrie@comcast