The Gods by the North Sea

by Jonathan Speelman
2/5/2023 – The recent firefight in Wijk aan Zee was a magnificent tournament. While trying to follow his nose (i.e. not merely checking the engine evaluation) as to what was going on in the players’ minds during the battle, Jon Speelman found a number of remarkable ideas! | Photos: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

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Follow your nose

[Note that Jon Speelman also looks at the content of the article in video format, here embedded at the end of the article.]

Ding Liren, Vincent KeymerThe recent firefight in Wijk aan Zee was a magnificent tournament — constantly intriguing and with much enjoyable Caissic violence. While I did watch some of it in real time (and did stream one round) much of the time I played through the games in the evening, normally with an engine on in the background.

The most important thing about this is to take notice of the engine — after all, if the evaluation jumps madly, then there’s going to be a good reason — but to follow your nose as to what was going on in the players’ minds during the battle and provide your own suggestions, however much this may make the glorious silicon sniff disapprovingly.

That at least was its most common reaction, but sometimes I did find ideas which were interesting, and while beyond my ken — certainly during a game — turned out to be correct. Today I'm looking at a couple of these, plus an ending which the tablebase clarifies, and also a superbly violent game from the Challengers group. Bits of this will have appeared here in other columns, but I hope you’ll enjoy my take.

Just over half a year ago, in column 173, I did similar work mainly on tablebases in ‘Conversations with the Gods’. And so we continue today with the ‘Gods by the North Sea’.


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Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.