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Archive for the ‘Chess’ Category

Koneru Humpy: Back to the forefront – Deccan Herald

Posted: January 6, 2020 at 10:44 am


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It is ironical that despite shattering many chess records and being the strongest and the highest-rated women chess player (Judit Polgar is the highest-rated player ever but played only in Open section) for many years, a World title proved elusive for 32-year-old Koneru Humpy. Incredibly, it came her way at Moscow when she triumphed in the Womens World Rapid Chess Championship last week after starting as the 13th seed.

The youngest ever to win a World junior title at 14 years, the youngest woman in the world to earn the GM title at that time, Asian Champion, British Womens Champion and numerous titles in Age Categories, none doubted that winning the Womens World Championship would be a natural transgression for Humpy. One of her best performances was at the North Urals Cup, Russia which featured the top ten women players of that time.

Her troubled equation with AICF (Indian chess federation) resulted in her missing a few prestigious events. In fact, in 2015 AICF moved the FIDE Ethics Commission to ban Humpy and take necessary action against her and strip her of the GM and other titles after she withdrew midway through the Commonwealth Championship. It was the Association of Chess Professionals which stood strongly behind Humpy and asked FIDE for a fair enquiry.

Always calm, shy and soft spoken, Humpy always keeps a low profile off-board but once at the chequered board, her personality undergoes a dramatic transformation.

Her brand of fighting chess, dislike for any short draws, made her a feared opponent. Returningbackto chess after two years, after the birth of her daughter, her recent triumph might just spur her on to settle some unfinished business -- that of winning the Womens World Chess Championship. Excerpts...

Your thoughts on this Womans World Rapid chess title?

To be honest, I didnt think that a gold medal and title would come my way when I started the event. I had modest expectations of a medal of any hue. It is no secret that I am more a classical player and the shorter time control formats have never really been my cup of tea. After glancing at the final 12thround pairings, I realised that I had an opportunity to secure silver if I beat Tan Zhongyi. I had the advantage of the White pieces and refused a draw offer and went on to win the game to force a tie for top place. At this point I realised that I had a golden opportunity though it would not be too easy. Adapting to the Blitz format was not easy and I ended up losing the first tie-break because of slow play, that too with the White pieces. I opted for the Modern Defence and tried to complicate as the pressure was high to score a win and stay in the hunt for the title. This was literally a game where I gambled! After winning the game and forcing a tie, the Armageddon too was taxing but by then I was comfortable with the time and position both! It was just my day. After so many years of hard work, finally a World Champion title as a reward. I was so happy and relieved to finally, finally have the tag of World Champion.

Did you make any specific preparation for the World Championship?

I hardly had time as I played the Grand Prix at Monaco where I finished second. There was a 10-day break in between but I played the European Club Cup. With so manybacktobackevents, it was difficult to specifically prepare for this event.

Your father Ashok has been your only coach. Does he still continue to be so?

It has been a while since we stopped working at the board as for the last few years I am preparing on my own. He is more of a mentor and guide now. We discuss strategy for the tournament and things like which opening to play and other things. The fundamentals ingrained by my father have been very strong and have stood the test of time.

From 2007 you were practically the highest rated woman player for a few years, yet the World title eluded you. Do you wonder why?

Yes, I do think it really appears strange. On hindsight, I feel like I played my best chess ever in World championships but the title never came my way and the best I managed was a bronze. I kept getting knocked out. Maybe I was unlucky. We dont know what life will throw at us in the future. We can only focus on doing our job to the best of our ability and see what comes our way.

How much time do you devote to chess?

It used to be a tough, disciplined grind of 8 to 10 hours every day without a break -- even on Sunday. I would spend half a day working on chess. Now I spend about three to four hours every day. After the arrival of my daughter, things have changed. I no longer work on festivals and few other days. I have to do a balancing act but I never miss any opportunity that I can spend working on chess.

How much had chess changed after your comeback?

There are a lot of changes. I realised that most of the preparation I had done a couple of yearsbackor earlier was not at all useful or had become redundant. With powerful engines, chess has changed. Younger generation play the best possible opening. When I became a GM, we did not have such exposure to technology. These days if you dont become a GM by 12 or 13 years then there is virtually no future for you as a chess player.

How do you look at the current crop of youngsters?

When I made a comeback at Gibraltar, I met a few of them, most of them just 15 or 16 years old and already enjoying an Elo 2500 to 2600 rating. Frankly, I am overawed and sometimes I feel that I am already a veteran!

Which are your next events and are you expecting invitations to niche events?

Nothing is planned yet but maybe February or March. I have received a few invitations but I have become a bit choosy now. I cannot play all events but play in all official FIDE events. This title has sort of rekindled my hunger for winning a World Womens title.

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Koneru Humpy: Back to the forefront - Deccan Herald

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January 6th, 2020 at 10:44 am

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The 10 Best Chess Games Of 2019 – Chess.com

Posted: January 3, 2020 at 10:47 am


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Another complete year of exciting chess has ended2019 has had the most power-packed schedule in recent years with elite tournaments, official events and strong opens. Overall, it was a fun year that gave us plenty of awesome games.

The strong chess players of Chess.com's content team (@peterdoggers, @danielrensch, @samcopeland, @Luisfsiles,@mikeklein, @gmkrikor, @Isaacsteincamp, @coachjkane, @fischwitsch and @rakesh) had the fun and tiring(!) task of short-listing and then ranking the year's most memorable games.

(Note that our columnist @Gserper wrote about his most memorable10 games of 2019 as well and it's quite a different list!)

Each person next voted on his 10 favorite games with the top game getting 10 points, the 10th-best game getting one point, and so forth.

Below you'll find the list of the games finishing in 10th to first places.

We kick-start our countdown with this fascinating win by the eventual winner, Valentina Gunina, at the Cairns Cup. Playing as White, Gunina shows immense attacking prowess as she blows away Marie Sebag, who was making her comeback to top-level chess after a short absence.

Gunina plays a typical Sicilian style with a free-flowing attack on the kingside even though Sebag hasn't castled. The computer dislikes White's overambitious playbut Sebag errs. Gunina then executes the attack to perfection with all her pieces and forces resignation!

Two games tie with the score of 30 points, but the Dubov-Giri game ranks behind Carlsen-Ding that is much more significant. Daniil Dubov is also the only player to have two top-10 wins in 2019.

This win by Dubov is true to his style. Get an advantage out of the opening. Complicate things and go for a wild attack. Then win!

Dubov plays the brilliant 19.0-0-0 to win an absolutely crazy game. His king doesn't have any pawn in front of him but still is completely safe! Then all of Dubov's pieces combine to create havoc. In the end, his knights dazzle beautifully, and he crashes through against the solid Anish Giri.

This game was beautifully played by both sides in the blitz playoff of the Sinquefield Cup.Apart from being an astounding game, it is also historically important becauseMagnus Carlsen lost a playoff match for the first time in more than 10 matches and 12 years!

Ding Liren was already leading the playoff and expected Carlsen to come "all guns blazing." Ding equalized comfortably as Black in the Spanish and then put pressure along the c-file. Carlsen complicated matters as expected, and a slugfest was underway. In wild complications, Ding kept his cool and gave up material for the initiative. Carlsen risked more, but Ding was ready. He gave up his queen and made good use of Carlsen's weakened position in what may be the best blitz game of the year!

The following game was essential in July to determine two candidates' spots from the FIDE Grand Prix. EventuallyAlexander Grischuk and Ian Nepomniachtchi qualified, but Maxime Vachier-Lagrave should be proud of his effort.

Grischuk played an offbeat line against the Grunfeld. It later transposed into a Benko with the inclusion of h4 for White. Vachier-Lagrave played energetic chess and never really allowed White to get back in the game. Interestingly, Grischuk's rook went to a3 on the 10th move and didn't move again in the game!

Meanwhile, the Frenchman used both his rooks and his bishop beautifully and wrecked White's position completely. Domination personified!

The following game was played at the world's strongest open, the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss. In round eight, David Anton Guijaro uncorked an idea researched by his trainer and deviated from theory. Anton took a full hour for his next move and then only 19 seconds on the following move to sacrifice a piece.

White's initiative was more than clear, and his play was precise. Grischuk's king made more moves than his queenside pieces! Finally Anton's attack crashed through, and Grischuk stretched out his hand in resignation.

Watch David Anton on his win vs. Alexander Grischuk from Chess.com on http://www.twitch.tv

This game wasn't played at the highest level, but thanks to social media, it didn't go unnoticed. The two next games feature strong international masters beating super-grandmasters in tactical skirmishes and with black pieces!

Mikheil Mchedlishvili is an Olympic player for Georgia while his opponent is a strong Indian IM, who is nicknamed Indian Tal. Rathnakaran K was relatively unknown at the global level but not anymore. If you think my compatriot's nickname is unwarranted, please check for yourself!

In this game, Rathnakaran doesn't go for the normal recapture and gives up his queen on move eight! He gains tremendous compensation in terms of development advantage, activity and initiative. His play is far from perfect, but the energy and style in which Black plays are sure to leave a smile on your face!

Danish-American IM Kassa Korley scored a sensational win over seasoned campaigner Alexander Moiseenko of Ukraine at the Xtracon Open in Denmark. In this game, Korley played an idea that two others had already played, including himself!

Korley's knights maneuver majestically to blow up White's kingside. He then shows no mercy to his former-2700 opponent and mates in 25 moves!

This incredible game was played in the recently concluded European Club Cup. Croatian number-one, Ivan Saric, is a seasoned campaigner and has had great results, but none of his former games features such an immense material imbalance.

Saric started with a side line in the French Winawer. A typical fight ensued with the position being closed but with plenty of tactical possibilities. Saric sacrificed some material and then some more. On move 51, the position imbalance was bishop, knight and six pawns for White versus two rooks, bishop and a pawn for Black. Saric then played beautifully (but Black missed a draw on move 65)a spectacular game with high instructive value.

A strong contender for game of the year is this thrilling one played at the European Team Championship in November.Dubov, who also was on World Champion Magnus Carlsen's team during last year's world championship match, is well-known for his opening preparations. He uses an interesting idea of castling queenside on move eight in the Queen's Gambit.

Dubov continues his explosive play on the kingside and manages to open several files. In the middlegame, he suddenly shifts gears and goes on a rampage. In typical Tal style, he sacrifices one piece after another. He literally drags Black's king from g8 and finally catches him on a2! Rasmus Svane was gracious to allow checkmate in one of the best attacking games of the year.

The year 2019 was definitely the breakthrough for the former Iranian prodigyAlireza Firouzja. The youngster had an absolutely topsy-turvy year having crossed 2700 and having to switch federations to play in the World Rapid & Blitz Championships. In this game, he was on the receiving end of an amazing queen sacrifice by the Indian grandmaster Murali Karthikeyan.

This theme is very similar to the one in Nezhmetdinov vs. Chernikovin 1962. Karthikeyan's game is more impressive because it wasn't played in the Romantic era of chess and he isn't always an attacking player like Nezhmetdinov.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the best game of 2019!

What makes a game stand out from others? A brilliant king hunt, a positional squeeze, an endgame masterclass or a brilliant opening novelty that wins?

What's clear from the results is that the bar is very high this year.Magnus Carlsenhad an amazing year but doesn't have a win featured. Maybe his unbeaten 107-streak is the reason. Many weird and bizarre games happened. Carlsen and Vidit Gujrathidrew in just five moveswhile David Howell and Harikrishna Pentala played for 236 to split the point.

Two honorable mentions that are notable wins happened too late to be considered:

Several fantastic games received double-digit points but nevertheless did not make it into the top-10:

Think we have overlooked a game? Have a favoritegame of your own? How much do you agree with our scoring?Let us know in the comments!

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The 10 Best Chess Games Of 2019 - Chess.com

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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Chess: Carlsen wins speed titles after controversial game with rising star – The Guardian

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The world No 1 dominated his rivals in 2019, winning 10 elite tournaments, but is expected play less in his title defence year

Hikaru Nakamura v Jan-Krzysztof Duda, world blitz 2019. Can you find a win for Black

(to move)? Duda, Polands No 1, got it wrong.

Magnus Carlsen ended his vintage year of 2019 as he began it, as a superb all-round player who outclasses his rivals. Carlsen won at Wijk in January last year and at Moscow in December where he took both the world 30-minute rapid and the five-minute blitz crowns, losing only one game out of 38.

Overall the Norwegian, 29, won 10 elite tournaments over the year, with just two odd failures at speed in St Louis and at Fischer Random in Oslo. The standout difference between todays champion and Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov is that Carlsen has been far more active than the other legends in their peak years, taking on new challenges with hardly a break. And in his spare time he briefly became world No 1 in Fantasy Premier League. True, Kasparov was No 1 for some 21 years while Carlsen is eight years and counting.

Carlsens style has become sharper since he worked in 2018 with AlphaZero and the creative tactician Daniil Dubov: For me it is easier to play for a win. Perhaps the others risk more if they do so. I think thats the brutal truth. If you are a bit better you can afford to take more risks.

It will be different in 2020, as Carlsen has already announced: I will definitely play less. I have played a lot this year and my level of energy has become empty at the end. Not realistic to play as much in 2020, he said.

Three major targets remain. At Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee starting on 11 January he can break Sergei Tiviakovs record of 110 classical games unbeaten. Carlsen missed out on a 2900 classical rating despite getting near it in mid-year, so this can be a 2020 target. His current rating is 2872 and his all-time peak remains at 2889.

Perhaps most of all, Carlsen will want to defend his title more convincingly than in 2014, when with the scores level at 2.5 each Vishy Anand missed a simple winning chance, or 2016 and 2018 when the classical scores were tied at 6-6 before Carlsen defeated Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana in speed tie-breaks. As of now, Caruana and Chinas Ding Liren are the favourites to win the candidates in March and Carlsen respects them both as serious contenders.

Aside from Carlsen, the main talking point at Moscow was Alireza Firouzja, who quit his native Iran due to its ban on playing Israelis and will probably represent France, where he now lives.

The 16-year-old is already perceived as a potential world title challenger in the mid 2020s, so the dramatic end to his blitz game with the champion, where he missed several wins before his controversial loss on time, has become compulsive viewing.

The final position, where Carlsen had a lone bishop and a tablebase draw, was a loss for Firouzja under Fide rules because a mating position was legally possible. The teen often plays blitz games on websites where the rule is different, so that WK a8 WP a6 v BK c7 BN c8 with White to move and 1 a7 Nb6 mate is forced, may become a draw online if White loses on time and the server then decrees that Black lacks mating material.

Firouzja requested to see the Fide rule in print, an action paralleled long ago when Yuri Averbakh and Viktor Korchnoi were not sure of the rules on castling. His appeal against the result was doomed to fail because he had not complained during the game when he alleged he was disturbed by Carlsen speaking in Norwegian. Carlsen was magnanimous afterwards, but such incidents can have lasting effects on relationships between players.

Hastings has its final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday afternoon (2.15pm start). Online viewing is available on two different sites and includes computer commentary.

3652 1...Bxg2+! 2Rxg2 and now Duda fell for 2...Re1+?? 3 Rg1 Qc1 4 Rxh5+! Instead 2...Qc1+! 3 Qg1 (3 Rg1 Rxh2+) Re1 wins for Black.

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Chess: Carlsen wins speed titles after controversial game with rising star - The Guardian

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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What Chess Can Teach Us About the Future of AI and War – War on the Rocks

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This article was submitted in response to the call for ideas issued by the co-chairs of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, Eric Schmidt and Robert Work. It addresses the first question (part a.), which asks how will artificial intelligence affect the character and/or the nature of war.

***

Will artificial intelligence (AI) change warfare? Its hard to say. AI itself is not new the first AI neural network was designed in 1943. But AI as a critical factor in competitions is relatively novel and, as a result, theres not much data to draw from. However, the data that does exist is striking. Perhaps the most interesting examples are in the world of chess. The game has been teaching military strategists the ways of war for hundreds of years and has been a testbed for AI development for decades.

Military officials have been paying attention. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work famously used freestyle (or Centaur) chess to promote the third offset strategy, where humans and computers work together, combining human strategy and computer speed to eliminate blunders while allowing humans to focus on the big picture. Since then, AI and supercomputers have continued to reshape how chess is played. Technology has helped to level the playing field the side with the weaker starting position is no longer at such a disadvantage. Likewise, intimidation from the threat of superhuman computers has occasionally led to some unorthodox behaviors, even in human-only matches.

The experience of AI in the chess world should be instructive for defense strategists. As AI enters combat, it will first be used just in training and in identifying mistakes before they are made. Next, improvements will make it a legitimate teammate, and if it advances to superhuman ability in even narrow domains of warfighting, as it has in chess then it could steer combat in directions that are unpredictable for both humans and machines.

What Does Chess Say About AI-Human Interaction?

Will AI replace soldiers in war? The experience of using AI and machine learning in chess suggests not. Even though the best chess today is played by computers alone, humans remain the focus of the chess world. The world computer chess championship at the International Conference on Machine Learning in Stockholm attracted a crowd of only three when I strolled by last year. In contrast, the human championship was streamed around the globe to millions. In human-only chess though, AI features heavily in the planning process, the results of which are called prep. Militaries are anticipating a similar planning role for AI, and even automated systems without humans rely on a planning process to provide prep for the machines. The shift toward AI for that process will affect how wars are fought.

To start, computers are likely to have an equalizing effect on combat as they have had in chess. The difference in ability among the top competitors in chess has grown smaller, and the advantage of moving first has become less advantageous. That was evident in last years human-only chess championship where competitors had the closest ratings ever in a championship, and the best-of-12 match had 12 straight draws for the first time. There have been more draws than wins in every championship since 2005, and though it is not exactly known why, many believe it is due to the influence of superhuman computers aiding underdogs, teaching defensive play, or simply perfecting the game.

AI is likely to level the military playing field because progress is being driven by commercial industry and academia which will likely disseminate their developments more widely than militaries. That does not guarantee all militaries will benefit equally. Perhaps some countries could have better computers or will be able to pay for more of them, or have superior data to train with. But the open nature of computing resources makes cutting-edge technology available to all, even if that is not the only reason for equalization.

AI Favors the Underdog and Increases Uncertainty

AI seems to confer a distinct benefit to the underdog. In chess, black goes second and is at a significant disadvantage as a result. Fabiano Caruana, a well-known American chess player, claimed that computers are benefiting black. He added that computer analysis helps reveal many playable variations and moves that were once considered dubious or unplayable. In a military context, the ways to exert an advantage can be relatively obvious, but AI planning tools could be adept at searching and evaluating the large space of possible courses of action for the weaker side. This would be an unwelcome change for the United States, which has benefited from many years of military superiority.

Other theories exist for explaining the underdogs improvement in chess. It may be that computers are simply driving chess toward its optimum outcome, which some argue is a tie. In war it could instead be that perfect play leads to victory rather than a draw. Unlike chess, the competitors are not constrained to the same pieces or set of moves. Then again, in a limited war where mass destruction is off the table, both sides aim to impose their will while restricting their own pieces and moves. If perfect play in managing escalation does lead to stalemate, then AI-enhanced planning or decision-making could drive toward that outcome.

However, superhuman computers do not always drive humans toward perfect play and can in fact drive them away from it. This happened in a bizarre turn in last years chess world championship, held in London. The Queens Gambit Declined, one of the most famous openings that players memorize, was used to kick off the second of the 12 games in the London match, but on the tenth move, the challenger, Caruana, playing as black, didnt choose either of the standard next moves in the progression. During planning, his computers helped him find a move that past centuries had all but ignored. When the champion Magnus Carlsen, who is now the highest-rated player in history, was asked how he felt upon seeing the move, he recounted being so worried that his actual response cant be reproduced here.

It is not so much that Caruana had found a new move that was stronger than the standard options. In fact, it may have even been weaker. But it rattled Carlsen because, as he said, The difference now is that Im facing not only the analytical team of Fabiano himself and his helpers but also his computer help. That makes the situation quite a bit different. Carlsen suddenly found himself in a theater without the aid of electrical devices, having only his analytical might against what had become essentially a superhuman computer opponent.

His response might presage things to come in warfare. The strongest moves available to Carlsen were ones that the computer would have certainly analyzed and his challenger would have prepared for. Therefore, Carlsens best options were either ones that were certainly safe or ones that were strange enough that they would not have been studied by the computer.

When asked afterward if he had considered a relatively obvious option that he didnt chose seven moves later in the game, Carlsen joked that Yeah, I have some instincts I figured that [Caruana] was still in prep and that was the perfect combination. Fear of the computer drove the champion, arguably historys best chess player, to forego a move that appeared to be the perfect combination in favor of a safer defensive position, a wise move if Caruana was in fact still in prep.

In war, there will be many options for avoiding the superhuman computing abilities of an adversary. A combatant without the aid of advanced technology may choose to withdraw or retreat upon observing the adversary doing something unexpected. Alternatively, the out-computed combatant might drive the conflict toward unforeseen situations where data is limited or does not exist, so as to nullify the role of the computer. That increases uncertainty for everyone involved.

How Will the U.S. Military Fare in a Future AI World?

The advantage may not always go the competitor with the most conventional capabilities or even the one that has made the most computing investment. Imagine the United States fighting against an adversary that can jam or otherwise interfere with communications to those supercomputers. Warfighters may find themselves, like Carlsen, in a theater without the aid of their powerful AI, up against the full analytical might of the adversary and their team of computers. Any unexpected action taken by the adversary at that point (e.g., repositioning their ground troops or launching missile strikes against unlikely locations) would be cause for panic. The natural assumption would be that adversary computers found a superior course of action that had accounted for the most likely American responses many moves into the future. The best options then, from the U.S. perspective, become those that are either extremely cautious, or those that are so unpredictable that they would not have been accounted for by either side.

AI-enabled computers might be an equalizer to help underdogs find new playable options. However, this isnt the only lesson that chess can teach us about the impact of AI-enabled supercomputers and war. For now, while humans still dominate strategy, there will still be times where the computer provides advantages in speed or in avoiding blunders. When the computer overmatch becomes significant and apparent, though, strange behaviors should be expected from the humans.

Ideally, humans deprived of their computer assistants would retreat or switch to safe and conservative decisions only. But the rules of war are not as strict as the rules of chess. If an enemy turns out to be someone aided by feckless computers, instead of superhuman computers aided by feckless humans, it may be wise to anticipate more inventive perhaps even reckless human behavior.

Andrew Lohn is a senior information scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. His research topics have included military applications of AI and machine learning. He is also co-author of How Might Artificial Intelligence Affect the Risk of Nuclear War? (RAND, 2018).

Image: U.S. Marine Corps (Photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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What Chess Can Teach Us About the Future of AI and War - War on the Rocks

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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World title triumph was unexpected success: Koneru Humpy – Times of India

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CHENNAI: India's newest world champion Koneru Humpy says it was a dream to win a world title but the triumph in the blitz format surprised even herself as she was always a contender in the classical format.

Humpy capped the 2019 in a stunning fashion since she made a comeback to the sport this year after starting a family.

"This is my first world title. People were expecting me to become a world champion for a long and it really came unexpected. I was not favourite in the rapid tournament. I finished well in the final standings and it went into the tie-break," Humpy told PTI after returning from Moscow.

She had finished 12th in the blitz event that followed the triumph in rapid format.

The Vijayawada-based Humpy said she has unfinished business in winning the world title classical format and she will strive to achieve that.

She had lost in the world championship final in classical format to Hou Yifan in 2011.

"I was always the contender but I did not become the champion. I came close to it. I will continue playing and fighting for that. It will come, when it has to. It is a totally different challenge for the classical world title. You need different types of skills for different formats. I will continue to give my best to realise that one big goal."

About being away from the game and what motivated her to make a comeback, the 32-year old, who has a two-year old daughter, said she had never quit the sport.

"I always wanted to come back and it was planned. Once she (my daughter) was born, I thought after she was one-year-old, I decided to start playing tournaments. But, of course, the first few tournaments were bad performance for me.

"Obviously with a break, playing at a higher professional level, it is expected that it is not easy to succeed. From January onwards, I started doing well. I started off with Gibraltar and did pretty well there."

Her major victories were in the women's Grand Prix in September in Russia and joint first finish at Monaco Grand Prix. She was also the best foreign player in the Chinese League, where she remained unbeaten.

"Overall, I had a good performance in the year (2019) with a gain of 30 rating points in classical and around 45 points in rapid."

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World title triumph was unexpected success: Koneru Humpy - Times of India

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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Nike, The International, and Auto Chess2019’s Top 10 Esports Business Stories in China (5-1) – The Esports Observer

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Mentioned in this article

League/Tournament Brands:

In part one of our top 10 esports business stories from China (which you can read right here), we detailed five of the most important stories of 2019 from the region.

Those included team investments and major international wins, plus one of the industrys largest multi-million dollar media rights deals to date.

In this second half looking back at the milestones of Chinas esports business in 2019, all but one of the top five stories involve Tencent, Riot Games, and League of Legends in some way.

Here are the top five entries in the top 10 esports business stories of 2019 in China.

Between August 20-25, game publisher Valve hosted Dota 2s The International Shanghai (TI9) at Shanghais Mercedes-Benz Arena. TI9 was the first event of its kind to be hosted in China in nine years, and also the first esports tournament in which the winner could win over 100M ($14.31M) in prize money in China. Eventually, esports organization OG took home $15.5M of the $34M prize pool and became the only organization to win the TI championship for two consecutive years. OG and its players also ranked #1 in The Esports Observers Top 10 Esports Players and Teams of 2019 by Total Prize Winnings.

Since 2011, The International has broken its own record as the highest esports prize pool tournament every year. This time, TI9 surpassed the $30M Fortnite World Cup and kept its crown.

However, the event not only broke the record, but also broke hearts. The event showed a significant lack of control in ticket sales, which led to a serious problem for fans trying to attend the event.e. In September, the League of Legends community also reported ticket sales issues during the 2019 World Championship, highlighting a growing issue within top-esports events.

In the past three years, the Tencent Global Esports Annual Summit has become the most significant esports conference and summit in China. On June 20, Tencent Holdings first detailed at the summit that it earned $66M from media rights and another $64M from sponsorship deals related to its esports operations in the first half of 2019.

In addition, TJ Sports released a while paper for League of Legends esports, reporting that the 2017 LPL Summit Split contributed 3B ($436M) media value for itself and its six official partners, including Jeep. Mercedes-Benz also received approximately 600M ($87.2M) in media value as the official Chinese partner of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship.

TJ Sports also revealed that the company would open bids for one-two new franchise spots in the 2020 LPL. In December, Wuhan-based esports organization eStar became one of the new teams in the 2020 LPL.

On Jan. 10, Tencent Holding and game publisher Riot Games established a joint venture called TengJing (TJ Sports) in Shanghai. The companys main focus in 2019 was on the League of Legends relevant esports business in China, including tournament organizing, and talent management. Tencent and Riot Games equally hold 50% of shares in the venture. In addition, TJ Sports named Jin Bobby Yibo and Lin Leo Song as the co-CEOs of the company, and announced Mercedes-Benz as the head partner of the LPL.

The establishment of TJ Sports could be considered the beginning of major Chinese esports business news in 2019. It also signals that both companies want to entirely separate esports from the gaming industry, and create an exclusive space for League of Legends esports. In June, TJ Sports partnered with Riot Games to create the 2020 League of Legends World Championship Committee, which will co-host the 2020 World Championship in China.

In February, one month after TJ Sports established, the company brought global sportswear brand Nike to the sponsors list of LPL. Nike is now the exclusive apparel sponsor of the LPL from 2019-2022.

According to Chinese media outlet Lanxiong Sports, the deal was valued at 50M ($7.48M) a year, including cash and equivalent products. Sources close to the deal also confirmed these details with The Esports Observer.

For a long time, people were struggling to evaluate the sponsorship value of Chinese esports. For the first time, Chinas esports industry saw a shadow of what might be if it reaches the heights of a traditional sports league. For example, Nike signed a 10-year sponsorship deal with the Chinese Football Association Super League in 2018, for 300M ($45M) a year.

The deal also started an apparel business competition in esports in the region. Brands and the industry started to consider what should esports apparel line look like? In April, Nike unveiled its first LPL co-branded t-shirt called Gamer to the public. In September, the company unveiled all 16 LPL team uniforms, featuring a wide V style with the Nike Swoosh and LPL logo, but no team sponsors logos.

Another major Chinese apparel brand Li-Ning also created its own esports apparel line with multiple Chinese esports organizations. Compared with Nike, Li-Ning decided to direct sponsor teams and players, even acquiring LPL team Snake. (Snake was later rebranded to LNG).

What is going to be the next big esport? No individual or organization is 100% sure how to answer this question. If 2018 was about the rise of the battle royale genre (games such as Fortnite and PLAYERUNKNOWNS BATTLEGROUNDS), then 2019 belongs to the auto battler genre, and it all came from a Dota 2 mod called Dota Auto Chess.

On Jan. 4, an unknown game was released in the Dota 2 game system. Dota Auto Chess was designed by a five-man Chinese game studio Drodo Studio, and in only a month reached a peak of more than 300K concurrent players and 4.13M subscribers, globally.

For a while, Dota Auto Chess became the hottest card-style game not only Chinese live streaming platform Douyu and Huya, but also on Twitch. The huge success attracted plenty of partnership offers from game publishers, most notably Valve and Tencent. In March, Drodo Studio decided to partner with Chinese tournament organizer ImbaTV and game company Long Mobile to develop a mobile game called Auto Chess, and unveiled a $1M Auto Chess Invitational esports competition in Shanghai.

Meanwhile, Valve and Riot Games started to develop their own standalone versions inspired by Dota Auto Chess. A new game genre was officially born the auto battler, complete with competition from game publishers around the world.

At time of writing, Riot Games has developed Teamfight Tactics (TFT), which was directly inspired by the popular Dota 2 mod. The game had massive viewership on Twitch at launch and Riot Games claimed that the company would double down on developing TFTs esports scene.

Valve developed Dota Underloads, which also featured a 5K ($5.7K) esports competition at the ESL ONE Hamburg Dota 2 event. Blizzard Entertainment also announced an auto battler mode in Hearthstone called Hearthstone Battlegrounds at BlizzCon 2019. Despite the fact that Tencent owns Riot Games and indirectly owns TFT, the company has added an auto battler mode into its Honor of Kings system called Kings Simulation Battle.

In many ways, the phenomenon of Dota Auto Chess is the best underdog story not only the Chinese esports industry, but also the gaming industry as a whole. Despite the fact that the Chinese game publisher Tencent indirectly owns most of the esports titles including League of Legends, Fortnite, Clash Royale, Rocket League, PUBG, and CrossFire, Tencent still has not developed an esports title from China that has found worldwide appeal. Dota Auto Chess was actually the first game with a worldwide player base that can also boast made in China.

It is still too early to say that the auto battler genre is the next esport, however. Looking on TEOs retrospective of esports history, its easy to see that an esports success is defined by the community rather than game publishers. The success of the auto battler as a genre can not only credit those five Chinese developers from Drodo Studio, but also the esports community, who embraced this clever game mod.

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Nike, The International, and Auto Chess2019's Top 10 Esports Business Stories in China (5-1) - The Esports Observer

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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Bill Perkins And Chess.com To Launch Skylar Chess Fest In Houston – Chess.com

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Chess.com and Bill Perkins to launch Skylar Chess Fest in Houston April-May 2020.

San Francisco, Dec. 27. 2019Some of the world's biggest celebrities and chess starswill travel to Houston to take part in a first-of-its-kind event, the co-organizers announced today.

This event will feature celebrities from sports, music, poker and chess with activities planned throughout the weekend to celebrate chess. A group of super-grandmasters vying for their piece of a $150,000 prize fund will play an elite rapid and blitz tournament.

Bill Perkins, the hedge fund manager and poker star, contributed $150,000 towards the prize fund, which will be available to be donated by the winners to various charities to support chess around the world. The four-day event kicks off with a gala on April 30, followed by the three days of events at the Westin Galleria Hotel and will be broadcast live exclusively at Chess.com/TV.

Editor's Note: Want to be notified when tickets go on sale?Click here!

Various tournaments, guest speakers, a silent auction and a scholarship tournament will headline the festivities, including a pro-am event featuring six of the world's best chess players and six celebrities. The marquee event, a rapid and blitz tournament, will feature one of the biggest prize funds of the year and some of the top players in the world. Regular and VIP passes will be available for purchase in early January and demand is expected to be high while availability will be limited.

Bill Perkins, founder and manager of Skylar Capital, commented on his motivation to organize this special event: "I'm very excited to partner with Chess.com to promote chess and support charitable causes at the same time in the dynamic city of Houston, Texas. Looking forward to a fun format and meeting chess lovers from around the globe."

A scholarship tournament funded by Perkins will be a highlight during the event. Young chess players from across Houston will compete for their piece of a $10,000 scholarship fund, which will promote academic excellence through chess.

Chess.com will act as the official organizing partner and technology platform for the event, managing the chess activities on site with its events team. A commentary team featuring IM Danny Rensch will call all the action for the elite rapid and blitz tournament from the Westin Galleria, which will also be broadcast live across Chess.com's video platforms and Chess.com/TV.

Among the celebrities expected to attend are Houston sports stars, professional poker players, Houston musical artists and other influential people from around the world.

A later release containing ticketing information will be published after the new year and will provide a link to purchase passes for this groundbreaking event.

Contact:

Nick BartonDirector of Events & Business Development, Chess.come-mail: nick@chess.comphone: (800) 318-2827

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Bill Perkins And Chess.com To Launch Skylar Chess Fest In Houston - Chess.com

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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What happened in Carlsen vs. Firouzja? – chess24

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Magnus Carlsens triumph in the 2019 World Blitz Championship owed a lot to his win against Alireza Firouzja with just three rounds to go. 16-year-old Firouzja had been winning the game at various moments and would never have lost the final position but when he knocked over a king and his flag dropped the game was adjudicated as a win for the World Champion. International Arbiter Alberto Muiz explains why that was the correct decision and how the rules apply something we may all need a refresher course on seeing as even a 2700+ rated prodigy was confused!

by IA Alberto Muiz

Once again we had an interesting case involving arbiters at the World Rapid and Blitz Championship, and once again it was in a game of Magnus Carlsens. The World Champion was previously a participant in a curious double illegal move incident in his game against Ernesto Inarkiev in the first round of the 2017 World Blitz Championship in Riyadh. Ernesto gave a check while in check (!), Magnus moved out of the check and Ernesto then claimed a win for his opponent's illegal move! Chief Arbiter Takis Nikolopoulos intervened to suggest the players continue the game, but Ernesto appealed, had the appeal denied and lost the game instead.

This time round the action again took place in blitz (3 minutes per player with a 2-second increment after each move) on the top board during Round 19 of 21in Moscow. There was, of course, a huge amount at stake. 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja from Iran was playing White and trying to win an opposite-coloured bishop endgame with three extra pawns, but he was also in time trouble. After some earlier moments when he misplaced his pieces, he finally knocked over his king while playing 66.Kg4, and his flag dropped before the three seconds it took him to put it back and hit the clock.

The final position after Magnus replied 66Bd2 was as follows:

What should the result of the game have been? Does White lose on time? Is it a draw because Black has no material with which to give mate? Lets take a look at the key article of the FIDE Laws of Chess.

6.9 Except where one of the Articles: 5.1.a, 5.1.b, 5.2.a, 5.2.b, 5.2.c applies, if a player does not complete the prescribed number of moves in the allotted time, the game is lost by the player. However, the game is drawn, if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the players king by any possible series of legal moves.

Its not relevant for our case, but the articles 5.1.a and so on refer to a game that ends in checkmate, stalemate or in some other manner. The critical point of the article is that the player whose time has run out always loses UNLESS his opponent has no possibility of giving mate, however remote that may be (a previous version of the FIDE Arbiters Manual included, even by the most unskilled play).

Applying the article its clear that Carlsen wins, since there are possible mates. For example:

Chief ArbiterTakis Nikolopoulosmade the correct decision and even showed the relevant law to Firouzja after the game, and after some deliberation an appeal by Firouzja (based on being disturbed by Magnus speaking during the game, not the final position) was rejected and the game was declared won by Black. I dont want to stop there, however, and would like to take this opportunity to explain a little more about this area of the laws of chess, since many players are unclear about it.

The regulations make no mention anywhere of having enough material to give mate, only that the game is drawn, if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the players king by any possible series of legal moves. If the flag falls you only draw the game if its totally impossible to lose, even, we might say, on purpose. But the false rumour of being able to draw based on the remaining material alone is widespread, and partly fuelled by the different conventions of internet chess.

Of course the wording can give rise to controversial cases like this one, where many feel its unfair that White loses while having a bishop and three pawns. In fact without the piece and pawns for White it would be a draw note, however, that its still possible to mate if White had no pawns but just a bishop e.g.

However, the rule has a key advantage its objective. You cant have regulations that apply only to a particular position, and the current wording allows all of the worlds arbiters to take the same decision in a game involving any players. Because yes, no-one has any doubt that Firouzja would never have lost the game if it was played out, but where do we draw the line? What happens if youre in a rook ending which has reached the Philidor position? A draw if a grandmaster loses on time, but a defeat if it involves a beginner? Or Rook + Bishop vs. Rook in a position which is a theoretical draw? It would be impossible to define which positions are draws and for whom. The current rule is simplistic, but it has the great advantage of being objective giving half a point after a flag falls only to a player who had no way of losing the game by any moves you could make on the board. It may seem harsh, but lets remember that the player has, after all, lost on time!

I want to end by giving some exercises for interpreting this rule. In all of the following positions White has played and his flag has fallen. In which cases does he lose the game and in which is it a draw? You can answer in the comments section and Ill give the final answer in a couple of days.

Position 1: White has just played Qe8+ and his flag has fallen

Position 2: White has just played Qe8+ and his flag has fallen

Position 3: White has just played Rc7 and his flag has fallen

Position 4: White has just played c7 and his flag has fallen

Dont forget to leave your opinion in the comments section! Are you confident of what the result would be in each of the four positions?

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What happened in Carlsen vs. Firouzja? - chess24

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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Chess: White is six pieces and six pawns up, but can you find the mate? – Financial Times

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Magnus Carlsen won two more global crowns last weekend when the Norwegian, 29, dominated the world 30-minute rapid and five-minute blitz world championships in Moscow. He lost only one of his 38 games and was impressive in all phases. This was one of his best wins.

Since 2009 the No1 has won four classical global titles, five at blitz and three at rapid. It is reminiscent of the vintage years of Jose Capablanca, Bobby Fischer or Garry Kasparov, except that Carlsen puts his reputation on the line far more than any of his legendary predecessors.

Alireza Firouzja, 16, won the rapid silver medal. A few days earlier, the Iranian teenager opted to play under an international flag rather than obey Tehran officials who ordered him to withdraw to avoid meeting any Israeli opponents.

In England the traditional Hastings congress, staged annually since 1920, is under way with its new sponsor Caplin Systems, specialists in desktop and mobile trading technology, plus a record entry for recent years. The three-time British champion David Howell, who lives in Sussex, is the favourite.

Hastings has its final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday (2.15pm start) and is free and live to watch online.

2348

White is six pieces and six pawns ahead here, and its just a two-move mate, but it is easy to fall for a false trail.

Whites first move is not a check and at first glance seems an irrelevant piece retreat to the back row. Can you find it?

Click here for solution

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Chess: White is six pieces and six pawns up, but can you find the mate? - Financial Times

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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Quebec teen beat her mom at chess at age 5 and hasn’t looked back – CBC.ca

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Maili-Jade Ouellet won an international chess championship in Mexico in November, earning her an invitation to compete for the Women's World Chess Cup.

A 17-year-old from Saint-Lambert, Que., is heading to Belarusin 2020to compete for the Women's World ChessCup,after winning an international chess competition in Mexico earlier this year.

Maili-Jade Ouelletis a CEGEP studentat Champlain College.

In November, she travelled to the Women's North American Continental Championship, an invitation-only tournament in Aguascalientes, Mexico and one of only two qualifying championships for the Women's World Cup in chess.

Ouelletwon it handily, beating the runner-up bya wide margin. She was the youngest competitor in the tournament.

"I was really surprised at first. I had set up goals for myself, but it was a bit unrealistic. I was disciplined throughout the whole tournament," she said. "I know I deserved it, but it was still really, really cool to win it."

Ouellet has been playing chess since she was five years old and competing since she was seven.

She and her family realized early on that she had an aptitude for the game.

"I beat my mom when I was only five, so that helped," she said. "And when I started winning chess tournaments, that, too."

"Chess is a game that leaves very little room for luck," said the Quebec Chess Federation in a statement, congratulating Ouellet on her recent win.

"Good mental discipline is a fundamental characteristic to succeed in chess. There's no doubt the new champion has this trait."

Ouellet was also awarded the St-Lambert prize in culture.

Ouellet is a regular competitor, both in Quebec and nationally, although since starting CEGEP, she's been focusing on her studies.

She organizes her life so that she does her school work during the week and is available to play chess on the weekends.

"It's not much of a hassle," she said. "It's more like I have my school schedule ... then I do everything around it."

She said her CEGEP schedule is actually more forgiving than her high school schedule. She's managed to do everything in part because she says she requires less sleep than others, sleeping about six hours per night.

Ouellet is looking forward to the competition next September in Minsk, Belarus, although she's not sure what will come of her chess-playing in the long term. She hopes to go into law.

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Quebec teen beat her mom at chess at age 5 and hasn't looked back - CBC.ca

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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