Travail Pursuit #62 : Cold Turkey?


A festive season without chess can feel a bit like cold turkey

A festive season without chess can feel a bit like cold turkey

During the festive season (already a distant memory), culinary experts try to find ever more creative ways to serve up the remains of the Christmas turkey. Meanwhile for chess addicts like me the holidays bring a different challenge. Unless you take the decision to travel down to take part in the annual Hastings Congress then you can end up suffering from serious chess withdrawal symptoms. This is a very different kind of ‘cold turkey’ and it can leave you feeling hungry for something more.

That’s why, this Christmas, I decided to spend some of my spare time revisiting the chess videos that I had enjoyed the most during the course of 2015. For me chess videos are a much easier way to try and learn something and improve my game than books. I don’t have enough time to commit to reading anymore so videos give me the chance to improve my understanding whilst I’m at the gym or on the train to work. What I thought I’d do in this post is share the cream of the crop with you in the hope that you too will find some of these nuggets at least entertaining and possibly educational.

I set myself the challenge of trying to find videos that have commentary on a single game and to provide one game for each month of 2015. As you’ll see below, I haven’t quite managed to adhere to these rules but the result is some sort of ‘Best Games of 2015’ compendium as well as a ‘Best Videos of 2015’ collection. The sources I’ve selected from are the channels I find myself looking at most frequently, namely three You Tube channels: PowerPlay Chess, Chess24, IM Andrew Martin and the video lessons that can be found on (which you might have to register for to view so apologies to those of you who aren’t members. Maybe you should be!). To watch each video all you need to do is click on the hyperlink in the green text next to ‘Game’.

So, without further ado, let’s dive straight in as we start with a game commentary by the World Champion himself!

Magnus commentates

Magnus commentates

Game: Carlsen vs. Aronian, Wijk aan Zee, Round 5
Commentator: GM Magnus Carlsen
Run time: 25:39
Views: 58,379
Magnus Carslen started 2015 in very bright fashion by winning the annual Wijk-aan-Zee super tournament. This video features one of his wins from that competition although it only landed on in March it was played in January.

Amusingly, he admits at the start of this video that he can’t remember all the moves to the game he’s going to present and suggests that this might be a bad thing. Magnus isn’t the most charismatic of presenters but he does have a dry sense of humour which comes across in this video. His commentary gives you a unique glimpse into the thoughts of a World Champion as he presents a game he considers to be amongst his finest efforts. No wonder, as he absolutely clobbers Levon Aronian from a very modest opening set up.

Game: Naiditsch vs. Carlsen, Grenke Chess Classic, Round 3, Baden-Baden
Channel: Power Play Chess (You Tube)
Commentator: GM Daniel King
Run time: 15:31
Views: 21,920
Carlsen followed up on his victory at Wijk-aan-Zee by taking part in the Grenke Chess Classic in Baden-Baden. Everything seemed to be going smoothly for him until he bumped into his nemesis Arkadji Naiditsch (once of Germany but now representing Azerbaijan) in round 3. The World Champ had lost painfully to Naiditsch in 2014 at his home Olympiad in Tromsö and was obviously thirsty for revenge. Choosing Tiger’s Modern as his opening therefore was both risky and provocative. It wasn’t one of Carlsen’s most successful opening experiments.

Grand Master Daniel King performs a typically adroit autopsy of this one whilst keeping his commentary down to the 15 minute mark.

Game: Muzychuk vs. Humphy, Women’s World Championship (QF), Sochi
Channel: Chess24 (You Tube)
Commentator: GM Jan Gustafsson
Run time: 21:35
Views: 3,494
The Women’s World Championship was one of the big tournaments taking place during March-April. Ukranian Mariya Muzychuk was something of a surprise winner as she was the 8th seed. However, she was certainly a worthy winner and proved it by defeating the top seed, Koneru Humpy of India, on her way to taking the title. Next year Muzychuk will play a match to defend her title against the previous incumbent and Women’s number 1, Hou Yifan of China.

Chess 24’s GM Jan Gustafsson navigates a clear course through the twists and turns of this critical encounter.

Game: Carlsen vs. Vachier Lagrave, 2nd Gashimov Memorial, R5, Shamkir
Channel: IM Andrew Martin Chess (You Tube)
Commentator: IM Andrew Martin
Run time: 21:40
Views: 1,656
IM Andrew Martin selects a ‘Game of the Month’ for the British Chess Magazine. This one was his choice for May (though it was played in April). To his great credit Martin likes to select games that are slightly off the beaten track or involve some unusual themes and ideas. This game from Shamkir Chess is one of his more mainstream selections but it certainly fits his criteria as it sets off on an original and interesting course when Vachier Lagrave responds to 1.g3 with b5 and a wonderfully unorthodox encounter ensues.

Game: Shirov vs. Kramnik, Russian Team Championship, R1
Commentator: GM Alex Yermolinsky
Run time: 21:27
Views: 11,017
Any scholar of chess history will know that there is a bit of history between Alexei Shirov and Vladimir Kramnik. Of course they played a match in 1998 for the right to face Garry Kasparov. Shirov won but the match with Kasparov never materialised for him and in the end it was Kramnik who played and beat the ‘Beast of Baku’ a couple of years later. Of course Kramnik used the Berlin variation of the Ruy Lopez to great effect in that match. Kasparov failed to win a game against it. It must therefore have been supremely satisfying for Shirov to win this outstanding technical game against Kramnik’s Berlin then.

The commentary here is provided by the cheerfully exuberant Alexander Yermolinsky who describes this as ‘The Perfect Game!’ ‘Uncle Yermo’s’ Russian accent is wonderfully thick but if you listen carefully you’ll pick up some great titbits from his exposition of this game.

Lawrence Trent commentates on Giri vs. Grishcuk from round 1 of  Norway Chess 2015

Lawrence Trent commentates on Giri vs. Grishcuk from round 1 of Norway Chess 2015

Game: Giri vs. Grischuk, Norway Chess, R1, Stavanger
Channel: Chess24 (You Tube)
Commentator: IM Lawrence Trent
Run time: 16:20
Views: 3,452
The first chapter of the Grand Chess Tour 2015 was the big Super-GM event in June. It was the Norway Chess Challenge and it took place in Stavanger Norway. Of course Magnus Carlsen was the big favorite but he always seems to struggle to deliver his very best when playing on home soil and this occasion was no different. He infamously lost in time in a winning position against Veselin Topalov in the very first round when he failed to appreciate that the time limit was slightly different from most tournaments. This set the tone for the rest of the event for both combatants as Carlsen struggled to shake off the shock and disappointment whilst Topalov went on to win the event in some style.

I’ve chosen for this month a commentary by Chess 24’s Laurence Trent on the game between Anish Giri and Alexander Grischuk which also took place in round 1 of this event. Grischuk chooses a typically combative but slightly unorthodox approach to the opening (a Sicilian Rossolimo variation) and Giri punishes him with extreme prejudice. Trent does a great job of drawing out the lessons from this exemplary attacking display.

Before we go on I have to admit that I’ve broken my rule to choose just one game played in every month because I simply had to put two games in for the month of July. The reason for this is that two of the most celebrated games of 2015 were played in this month and I just couldn’t leave one of them out. As a result I have skipped the month of August where are very strong contender wasn’t quite so obvious.

Game: Wei Yi vs. Bruzon-Batista, Hainan Danzhou, R2
Channel: Chess24 (You Tube)
Commentator: GM Jan Gustaffson
Run time: 19:10
Views: 221,495
The first game of this month has in fact has been dubbed ‘Game of the Century’ already (Although amusingly, in a poll on the Chessbase website it looks like readers are not even going to pick it as the game of 2015!) Of course I’m talking about the game between the 16-year-old Chinese genius Wei Yi and Cuba’s Lazaro Bruzon-Batista (who I fear will become best known for losing this game despite being a fine player himself). I think the romance of this game with its lengthy and intricate king hunt is what gave it such huge impact at the time. You’ll notice that this video is by a huge margin the most watched of all the videos in this collection.

There are several versions of this game out there on the internet but I’ve chosen Jan Gustaffson’s commentary for Chess 24. If you prefer the style of Daniel King or Simon Williams then you can find their version of events online as well.

Game: Navara vs. Wojtaszek, Biel Chess Festival, R4
Channel: Power Play Chess (You Tube)
Commentator: GM Daniel King
Run time: 13:29
Views: 14,710
The second ‘July’ game comes from the Biel Chess Festival. This game is perhaps less well known than the one above but had an equally striking impact on me when I saw it. It’s another Sicilian Najdorf and very theory-heavy but it’s well worth watching agog as David Navara marches his king right up the board through heavy enemy fire and then marches it all the way back again to help him win the endgame. In some ways then it’s the antithesis of Wei Yi’s effort as it is the attacking side who marches his king about the battlefield. This is the game that looks like winning the aforementioned Chessbase poll. It’s marvellous stuff commented on with great enthusiasm by Najdorf expert Daniel King.

Game: Sutovsky vs. Shirov, Karpov Poikovsky
Commentator: IM Keaton Kiewra
Run time: 13:27
Views: 5,553
There are some players whose games are worth seeking out even if they aren’t in the very elite group of world chess. Alexei Shirov is certainly one if these. Contrary to the game given earlier, he has a propensity towards uncompromising and complicated chess so it’s no coincidence that he appears in two of the games I’ve selected here. Emil Sutovsky is another who likes to go for the jugular especially with the White pieces. It stands to reason then that when these two face each other you should expect fireworks. In this encounter they don’t let us down.

I was surprised that none of the other ‘mainstream’ video channels picked up on this one. Thankfully, IM Keaton Kiewra at did spot it and provides excellent running commentary on this bloodbath.

Game: Howell vs. Arkell, Poker Stars Open, R3, Isle of Man
Channel: Power Play Chess (You Tube)
Commentator: GM Daniel King
Run time: 13:32
Views: 5,554
Finally here is an all British clash to entertain you. The Isle of Man Poker Stars Open is the strongest open tournament in the UK with Grand Masters travelling from around the world to take part. India’s Krishnan Sasikiran was the winner but this was the game that caught Daniel King’s eye.

This is a classic case of ‘unstoppable force’ meets ‘immovable object’ as Arkell sets himself up in the super-solid Fort Knox Variation of the French Tarrasch. David Howell plays in the most aggressive way possible and it only take one inaccuracy from Arkell to give his young opponent the opportunity to put him brutally to the sword.

Games: European Team Championship Round 4 Highlights
Ivanchuk vs. Svidler, European Team Championship, R4, Reykjavik
Adams vs. Aronian, European Team Championship, R4, Reykjavik
Naiditsch vs. Esen, European Team Championship, R4, Reykjavik
Channel: Power Play Chess (You Tube)
Commentator: GM Daniel King
Run time: 14:58
Views: 8,840

This is certainly one of my candidates for 'Mating Attack of 2015'. White to play and win. Can you find the winning continuation and calculate it through to the end? The answer is ion the video.

This is certainly one of my candidates for ‘Mating Attack of 2015′. Black (Esen) has just played 23…Nb4 attacking the queen but now it’s White (Naiditsch) to play and win. Can you find the winning continuation and calculate it through to the end? The answer is ion the video.

This selection is a bit of a cheat because it actually has three games highlighted in it. But what games they are! The European Team Championship was probably my favorite event from 2015. I managed to catch a fair bit of the live coverage and enjoyed it very much. There were also a plethora of tremendous games to enjoy.

Here Daniel King picks out three gems from the fourth round. First up is Peter Svidlers critical win on board 1 for Russia against Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine. This result helped Russia win the match on their way to becoming champions. Second is Michael Adams positional masterclass against Levon Aronian and last but by no means least comes the game which contains the combination of the tournament (possibly the year), Arkady Naiditsch’s jaw dropping mating attack against Baris Esen. Enjoy this one!

Game: Carlsen vs. Li Chao, Qatar Master, R5, Doha
Channel: Chess24 (You Tube)
Commentator: GM Jan Gustaffson
Run time: 20:40
Views: 7,131
December saw the World Champion dominating the chess scene once again. He won the London Chess Classic and then the Qatar Masters which was the first Open tournament he’d played in for years. Of course Qatar is not ‘any old Open’, the field was mind-bogglingly strong.

Winning an Open requires a very different approach to a closed tournament. The stronger players simply have to win games against weaker opposition and that can often mean taking more risks and encouraging unbalanced positions. Carlsen didn’t get off to the best of starts as he drew in the first round. However, he then went on a four game winning streak which saw him hit the front. The most memorable win was this powder keg of a game against the Chinese Li Chao who has been in the lead until he met Carlsen.
Grunfeld players will enjoy Jan Gustaffson’s expert analysis of this game.

So there you have it, my best videos of 2015. Interestingly I’ve just realised that they are all (except for one) White wins! I enjoyed watching these again during the Christmas break. I hope you’ll find one or two to enjoy here too. If I’ve missed a video out that you consider to be worth watching then please do leave a comment with a link to it.


2 Responses to “Travail Pursuit #62 : Cold Turkey?”

  1. James Carpenter

    Jan 19. 2016

    Thanks for posting these Dave, plenty of entertainment in there :)

    Reply to this comment
  2. Andy Bak

    Jan 23. 2016

    Thanks for trawling the webs and picking these out – I’ve started to go through them and I’m enjoying your selections!

    Reply to this comment

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