GM Maxim Dlugy has published a statement on the Hans Niemann cheating affair. After Hans Niemann defeated the World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen in the third round of the Sinquefield Cup 2022, Carlsen decided to withdraw from the tournament without detailed explanations. Two weeks after, Magnus Carlsen refused to play against Niemann in the Julius Baer Generation Cup and resigned his game after two moves of play. By the end of the tournament, Magnus published the official statement on the case publicly accusing Hans Niemann of cheating. GM Alejandro Ramirez was one of the commentators of the Sinquefield Cup 2022 who interviewed players and did analysis with them after the games. During the Julius Baer Generation Cup, Ramirez joined the live studio and shared his insights on the happenings during the Sinquefield Cup. He then said that he doesn’t think Niemann cheated in Saint Louis. Maxim Dlugy was one of the implicated in the scandal. Carlsen couldn’t particularly speak on the topic, but he mentioned “Niemann’s mentor” GM Maxim Dlugy: “I have to say I am very impressed by Niemann’s play & I think his mentor Maxim Dlugy must have been doing a great job“. Hikaru Nakamura commented the Maxim Dlugy’s leaked e-mails: This is spicy
Maxim Dlugy decided to come clear on the Hans Niemann cheating affair with a statement, initially published on Google sites, shared and verified in a Reddit post. Here is the original text, followed by a timeline of events.
GM Maxim Dlugy statement on the Hans Niemann cheating affair
A grandmaster and a chess professional for more than 40 years, I have found myself dragged into the cheating controversy rocking the chess world, following the release of confidential emails by chess.com – a company with a huge financial stake in supporting the version of events pushed by chess world champion Magnus Carlsen. The first bolt from the sky came when Magnus said that I was a mentor to Hans Niemann, a former student of mine with whom I’ve kept in occasional touch over the years, insinuating that I helped him cheat.
Then came calls from reporters seeking comment on two-year-old emails between chess.com and me that the website had agreed in written form to keep confidential and released without my consent. In a roundabout way, the exchanges could be purported to prop up claims made by Magnus…. with whom chess.com just happens to be negotiating a huge financial deal.
So even though I had absolutely nothing to do with the now infamous match between Magnus and Hans, I am now compelled to defend myself against completely absurd and slanderous accusations made against me.
My Chess Career:
I’ve been involved in chess for the vast majority of my life. I won my first chess tournament when I was 15. I won the World Junior Chess Championship in 1985, was the highest-rated blitz player in the World Blitz Chess Association in the period between
1988-1992, and tied for first in the World Rapid Championships in 1989, I also was elected as one of the 7 members of the Grandmaster’s Association’s Board of Directors in 1989 and as President of the US Chess Federation in 1990.
More recently, I was Chairman of the Association of Chess Professionals, helped Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov run their bid for FIDE Presidency and started an online chess matching service www.chessreach.com to match Titled Professionals and chess students.
In recent years, I have tried to maintain my blitz form. My official FIDE blitz rating dropped from 2731 about 10 years ago to slightly above 2600. Still, six years ago at the end of the Sinquefield Cup, I managed to split an informal match of about 50 bullet games with Magnus Carlsen, prompting him to muster a compliment “You are very strong” when the match was over.
As a coach, I helped Garry Kasparov in his matches against Anatoly Karpov and years later Anatoly Karpov in his Rapid tournaments in France and Russia.
I was involved with chess.com as one of their Banter Blitz showmen and as a commentator for a number of their events and have produced over 30 instructional videos for the website, which it displays to this day.
In 2013 I orchestrated the capture of infamous chess cheater Borislav Ivanov. You can read more about it here: https://en.chessbase.com/post/ivanov-ends-his-che-career-051013
I also wrote the book “Grandmaster Insides,” detailing my chess career, and have recently completed work on the Queen’s Gambit Accepted book for Russel Enterprises.
In 2015, I founded Chess Max Academy on New York City’s Upper East Side. Today we operate 3 locations (Greenwich CT, New York’s Upper East, and Upper West sides) and
my students have won more than 20 National scholastic titles in the last several years.
I have played tens of thousands of games on lichess.org, chessbase.com, playchess.com, chess24.com, and chess.com. Aside from the incidents on which I will expand below with chess.com, I have never been accused of foul play by any other website or in any over-the-board competition.
Relationship with Hans
I met Hans during the World Youth Championships in South Africa 8 years ago when he was 11. I started working with him around October 2014. In the short three-four months, he went up from 2150 to 2350. I was not so much amazed by his progress, as I had students who demonstrated similar growth, but by his ability to digest the information I would give him and then improve on it.
Most of my sessions would take place between rounds of major tournaments on the West Coast and it was clear that Hans could take in information as quickly as a top GM could, immediately being able to implement it in the game he played. When Hans moved to Connecticut with his family, I imagined how much more work we could do together, but unfortunately, this was not to be.
Various family circumstances prevented us from working together, and though I would always be happy to give him pointers as we would meet in some rapid or blitz events in the NY area, this was no longer an ongoing relationship.
When Hans became stronger, he started giving lessons in the neighborhood of Chess Max Academy which was located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He would sometimes stop over for a few minutes to grab a snack, play a blitz game, and then he would be off.
I didn’t feel he was too serious about his chess career and so I didn’t offer to help him out. The change came when he applied to Harvard University and didn’t get in. At that point, he made a firm decision to work extremely hard to become the best chess player he could be.
As I never demanded anything of him and always supported anything he was doing, Hans reached out and I was happy to ensure him that if he ever needed any advice or help or ideas on how to improve in chess, I would be happy to offer them.
As I mentioned, in my Facebook post after Hans beat Magnus, one of such suggestions happened over a year ago, as Hans was preparing for the U.S. Junior Championship 2021. I invited Hans to Chess Max Academy at 110 West 79th Street, in Manhattan, and we spent 4 hours going over some complicated endgames, to improve his endgame understanding. I truly thought this was his weakest part of the game at the time and pressed him to do more work on it.
My Facebook post, thus, reflected my jubilation at the fact that it seemed he listened to me, though post factum, as his play in the U.S. Junior Championship where he misplayed two endgames which cost him a full point, barely enabled him to win that event.
More recently, Hans reached out a bit more for advice on the right coach for him. It took some time, but that issue has also been resolved. (To maintain the integrity of Han’s chess preparations I am not at liberty to disclose the name of his coach.) I didn’t have anything to do with Hans’ success in his game against Magnus, contrary to what Magnus has insinuated, as I don’t prepare Hans for his games. That is his own job and potentially the job of his current coach. Since 2014, I have also not given Hans advice on actual game preparation for any other tournaments, whether online or OTB, as in my opinion, only a full-time coach would have enough knowledge to be able to do this in a professional manner.
Magnus Carlsen Accusations:
I do consider myself something of a mentor to Hans, though this is clearly a very tentative title, one that is established at both participants’ will. On the Monday before Magnus referred to me as Han’s mentor, I had what I believed to be a friendly chat with a mutual acquaintance of mine and Magnus. Clearly, this chat formed the basis of Magnus’s claim.
It looks like Magnus has been told by advisors to avoid direct accusations and work with insinuations. He insinuated that Hans cheated in their game, without saying as much, and when it came time to say something of note, he insinuated that Hans has a mentor, myself, who is doing a great job helping him to play well, which to Magnus now is equivalent to cheating. He then came out openly and claimed Hans has cheated and he will not be playing in tournaments with him anymore. Magnus’ plan is to try to prove “Guilt by association”. If Hans has a mentor who is a cheat, by definition Hans must be a cheat and therefore he did cheat in their game, as he looked relaxed or rather “not tense” when playing him. The public was then directed to check out my alleged cheating incidents in 2017 and 2020 on chess.com, which would firmly establish that since I admitted to violating Fair Play policies of chess.com, I clearly helped or advised Hans that the only way for him to make progress in chess is by cheating.
Since Hans has by then already admitted that he has cheated when he was 12 and 16, it would get social media firmly behind the World Champion’s plan of further implicating Hans by connecting one “cheat “ with another.
There are a number of problems with this concept:
Although to cheat with an actual device you do need an accomplice who has access to the device with a chess engine running on it, you also need a connection to the device which given the precautions taken at many of the modern tournaments, especially the Sinquefield Cup, is not even remotely a possibility.
None of the specialists tasked to find anything wrong with the actual Carlsen-Niemann game in question, came up with anything substantive pointing to any outside influence in generating moves. In fact, Hans has on at least two occasions during that game relinquished much of his advantage gained in the early opening phase, but Magnus failed to capitalize on it. Kenneth Regan, the accepted foremost authority on the subject presented a detailed report where he found no evidence of Hans using an engine neither in that particular game nor in any other Over the Board game. This hardly gives merit to the idea of a “device” passing moves to Hans during the game.
There is no plausible method known to me or anyone I know, including thousands of social media posts, where I could be acting as an accomplice to Hans’ insinuated cheating in his game with Magnus. There is no device, there is no actual cheating and I was in New York City when the game was played.
My relationship with Hans is explained above. There is no work done on tournament or game preparation between the two of us going on now or in the last 8 years, except for the 4-hour session before the U.S. Junior Championship 2021, focused entirely on endings. Managing three physical Academies in Manhattan and Connecticut as well as 7 School programs and an Online School doesn’t give me enough time to work with players such as Hans and so this possibility is a non-starter.
The emails submitted by chess.com showed that I indeed violated their Fair Play Guidelines twice in 2017 in two tournaments where one of my students in a class was shouting out moves together with other students while consulting with the engine.
I realized that the accusations in 2017 had some truth to them a few months later only after I caught the student in question cheating. As soon as this happened I immediately reached out to Danny Rensch and admitted to the breach of fair play guidelines that I didn’t know I had committed until that moment. I admitted this was a violation, though the recent videos of Magnus Carlsen receiving advice from one of the top British players David Howell (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNMcnrmb97g) to beat a major competitor in a money tournament on lichess.org seems to be a larger violation, as he willingly played the move which won the game on the spot. It can be seen clearly in the video that tMagnus didn’t take this too seriously, admitting that he was cheating on the spot.
In my case, I truly had no reason to believe that I had actually cheated and was adamant I did not cheat until I realized what was happening months later, as the thought that kids rated over 1000 points lower than me could be helping me play better never occurred to me. I think I was negligent in not imagining that such a thing could occur, but having apologized for it and having offered to return the prize money for the event, an offer Danny Rensch did not comment on, I think I did as much as anyone would under the circumstances.
On May 10 th of 2018, Danny Rensch offered me to start playing in Titled Tuesday tournaments by October, if I start streaming. This was my reply:
I am fine using my current bestinblitz account and so if you could switch it to my name it
would be fine.
Problem is my groups are not allowing me to compete in Titled Tuesdays because of
the time conflict, and clearly I am not going to repeat what happened with the students
offering advice, so until my new Academy gets off the ground allowing me my personal
time, I won’t be able to compete or stream during those events. Hopefully by Jan 1,
2019 I will be available to play or otherwise participate in the PCL, so that solution
seems most likely. If anything changes in my schedule And I can start playing and
streaming the Titled Tuesday earlier, we can revisit.
In 2019, I resumed playing on chess.com and was kicked out of a tournament for no apparent reason. Here’s the email exchange between me and Danny Rensch pertaining to that event:
First, my apologies for the delay. I wanted to be sure what happened before responding.Your removal
from the tournament was based on old information for our Fair Play team, and the action was taken
based on the understanding that a restriction for you to compete in prize events was still in order.I have
now confirmed to my team that your restriction is lifted and that you are free to compete in prize events
once more.My apologies for the inconvenience.
Chief Chess Officer
There was another Title Tuesday event around the same time, where I started with 4/4 before the chess.com server crashed. After wasting 2 hours including the waiting time to hear announcements, it was announced that the afternoon tournament’s prizes will be combined with morning prizes and the results of this morning event are annulled. All this made my participation in Titled Tuesdays a rare phenomenon as I simply had too much going on in my life at the time. Yet in the Spring of 2020, I decided to play again.
It should come as no surprise that even if my 40 plus years of a distinguished chess career weren’t there, the thought of using engine assistance given the above history would be furthest from my mind.
In the Spring 2020 tournament which I played in after my account was fully reinstated 3 years after the 2017 events, I was kicked out by chess.com during the 9th round of the tournament where I had a score of 6,5/8, while NOT USING ANY OUTSIDE ASSISTANCE!
I was shocked by this, as I was playing the tournament from my apartment and could not understand what occurred. I was informed that I was kicked out for Fair Play Guidelines violations and that given the past history, I would have 72 hours to confess to anything regarding Fair Play Guideline violations or my account would be closed permanently.
This created quite a dilemma. On the one hand, from my previous discussions with Danny Rensch on the subject, it became quite obvious that he believes in chess.com methodology more than in anything else, although having recently studied the materials on the chess.com website, I found out that it turns out that 5 or 6 appeals per month are actually satisfied and those accounts are reinstated. I simply didn’t have the time to deal with this situation, and since I took chess.com at their word that the email exchange would continue to be confidential and private as stated in all of their correspondence, I made the mistake of agreeing to admitting that I used some help in some of the games in the event. The flip side would be potentially worse.
When you are kicked from chess.com, rumors start circulating immediately that you cheated and therefore were kicked out. Remembering the messages I got back in 2017, I decided that it’s best to admit to wrongdoing, and if they ever made this public, I would always be able to prove that I didn’t cheat by simply analyzing the games in question. Sadly, it has come down to this. Since chess.com can now not be trusted with keeping their promises, I will have to do what I do best: Analyze chess games. My analysis of the games in question will be at the bottom of this statement. I would also like to mention that since I “confessed” to violating Fair Play Guidelines, my account was reinstated by chess.com and until recently, I regularly played using this account, which I agreed with chess.com would remain anonymous. This account is known by a handful of my friends as well as my students. It is a titled GM Diamond account.
My battle with the Russian Legal system:
When my name was first brought up in this scandal, a number of articles made a point of mentioning that I was “imprisoned for embezzlement in Russia” as further “proof”
that my character is that of a cheater.
This is in reference to my waiting for trial in a Russian holding cell 17 years ago, a deeply painful and damaging time in my and my family’s life. At the time some business rivals with close ties to Putin’s government used my friendship with Garry Kasparov (who besides his role in the chess world was one of Putin’s most vocal critics) to have me arrested and force a sham trial.
Even with the full force of the Russian judicial system working with the prosecution to keep me detained, they eventually had to acquit me when none of the false evidence could stand up to scrutiny. After I was acquitted, Garry sent his own head of security to make sure I made it back to Moscow safely. That evening I had dinner with Garry and his mother before flying back to New York the following day.
Analysis of my 2020 Titled Tuesday games:
Game 1: MilanovicDan (2462) – MaximDlugy (2902) [D21]
Live Chess Chess.com, 28.04.2020
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 a6 4.a4 Nc6 5.e3 Be6 The engines prefer 5…e5, but I
have advocated this move since Sergey Rublevsky suggested it to me after my draw
against Inarkiev at the Aeroflot 2011 tournament in the last round, where I thought I
needed to play for a win. 6.Be2 Nf6 7.0-0 h6? I am on slightly unfamiliar grounds
and spend the time to stop Ng5. Correct was 7…Bd5! 8.Nc3 e6 with a great position.
The engine would have helped me see the bishop is not in danger on d5. Oh, well.
8.Qc2 Na5? An even more serious inaccuracy after which White has a marked
advantage. It was important to play 8…Nb4! 9.Qc3 Nbd5 10.Qc2 Nb4 11.Qd2 Nd3
with good chances to equalize. 9.Nbd2 Rc8 Black must play for c5 after trading on
c4. 10.Nxc4? This gives up most of the advantage. After the stronger 10.Rd1! Black
would not be able to play c5 as after 10…c5 11.dxc5 Rxc5 12.b4 White wins material.
10.e4! would also secure a large advantage. 10…Nxc4 11.Bxc4 Bxc4 12.Qxc4 e6
13.b4 Qd5! An obvious move, making use of the weakness of the b pawn. 14.Qc3
Ne4 15.Qb2 Bd6 16.Rb1 0-0 17.Qc2 c6 The immediate 17…b5! was stronger.
18.a5 f5 Strangely, this move barely makes it to #8 on the engines list at 20 plies. I
don’t know – I like it! 19.Ne1 e5 It’s pretty obvious that I need to get rid of the weak
e6 pawn. 20.f3 Nf6 If I had X-ray vision the amazing 20…exd4! would have been
much stronger. After 21.fxe4 fxe4 Black has surprisingly huge positional
compensation for the piece. The engines give 22.Rxf8+ Rxf8 23.Qb3 Qxb3 24.Rxb3
d3 25.Bd2 Kf7 as the key idea, suggesting that it’s time to White to start defending a
much worse ending after 26.Nxd3 exd3 27.Rxd3 Ke6] 21.Qxf5 exd4 22.Qd3 dxe3
23.Bxe3 Rfe8 The fifth best move. After the stronger 23…Rcd8 24.Qb3 Kh8 25.g3
Qh5 Black has a sizable advantage. 24.Bf2 Rcd8 25.Qxd5+ Nxd5 26.Nd3 Nc3
27.Rb3 Ne2+ 28.Kh1 I squandered my advantage and the position is now equal.
28…Nf4 29.Nc5 Bxc5 30.bxc5 Rd7 31.Bg3 Ne6 32.Bd6 Nd4 33.Rd3 Nb5?!
Only an engine can spot that 33…Nf5 is significantly stronger. After 34.Rb1 Re2 35.h3
Ra2 36.Rdb3 Nxd6 37.cxd6 Rxd6 38.Rxb7 Rdd2 39.Rg1 Rxa5 White would have to
play very well to survive. 34.Kg1 Red8 35.Rfd1 Kf7 36.Kf2 Nxd6 37.cxd6 Ke6
38.Re3+ Kf6 39.Red3 c5 As I playing someone significantly lower rated then me, I
try to win at all costs. Pretty soon the position will become lost for me. 40.Ke3 Rc8
41.Ke4 Ke6 42.Rd5 Rc6 43.Re5+ Kf6 44.Rf5+ Kg6 45.Rfd5 Kf6 46.Rf5+
Kg6 47.Rfd5 c4 Once again, refusing to draw the game. 48.Ke5 Kf7 49.Rc1 c3
50.Rc2 g6 51.f4 Rc8 52.g4 Re8+ 53.Kd4 Re6 54.Rxc3 After 54.Kc5 I would be
close to being lost. Instead, I am just worse. 54…Rexd6 55.Rxd6 Rxd6+ 56.Ke5
Re6+ 57.Kd5 Re7? It was much more important to go for activity. After 57…Re2
58.Rc7+ Kf6 59.Rxb7 Rxh2 60.Rb6+ Kg7 61.Rxa6 h5 I should be able to draw. 58.h4
h5 Checking the king away first with Rd7+ was much more exact. 59.gxh5?! After
59.g5 Rd7+ 60.Ke4 Re7+ 61.Kf3 Rd7 62.Rb3 Re7 63.Rb6 Kg7 the position looks
unpleasant, but holdable. 59…gxh5 60.Rg3 Re3?? Clearly, we are in the final
seconds of this game here. The rest is random. 61.Rg5 Rb3 62.Kd6 Rb4 63.Rxh5
Kg6 64.Rg5+ Kf6 65.Rh5 Rxf4 66.Kc7 Rb4 67.Rh6+ Kg7 68.Rb6 Ra4 69.h5
Rxa5 70.h6+ Kh7 71.Kxb7 Rb5 72.Kxa6 Rxb6+ 73.Kxb6 Kxh6 Game drawn
by insufficient material. “The chess speaks for itself”. ½-½
GAME 2: MaximDlugy (2903) – KarstenHansch (2450) [D00]
Live Chess Chess.com, 28.04.2020
1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 e6 3.e3 Nf6 4.Nd2 Bd6 5.Bg3 b6 6.Ngf3 c5? 7.c3? Any engine
user would immediately be alerted to the possibility of 7.Bb5+! forcing either the win
of the c5 pawn after 7…Bd7 8.Bxd6 and 9.dxc5 or the move of the king, both of which
lead to a large advantage for White. 7…Qc7 8.Bd3 Nc6 9.Qe2 Bb7 10.Rd1 I am
trying to transpose to the position I know if White castles kingside. Black should
avoid it with either 10…Bxg3 or 10… Ne7 with a roughly even position. 10…0-0 11.e4!
dxe4? after this move which has occurred in many of my own games on chess.com
and lichess.org White is much better. 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Qxe4 g6 14.dxc5 to make
it very clear, I am repeating not only my own opening preparation, but that of 20
other games found in the Chessbase database. 14…bxc5 15.Bxd6 Qxd6 16.Ba6
Qc7 17.Bxb7 Qxb7 18.Ne5 Rac8 19.0-0 f5? A novelty. In Esipenko-Principe
played two months earlier Black tried 19…Qa6, but still lost after 20.Nd7. 20.Qf3
Rc7? Black should not give White time to infiltrate with the rooks. 20…Qc7 was
necessary to limit the damage. 21.Nc4 An obvious defensive move which also
threatens Qe3 and the inflitration down the d file with the rooks. 21…Qa6 22.Qf4
The engines prefer 22.Qe2, but I didn’t want to pin my knight on c4. 22…Re7
23.Rd6 Qb7 24.Rfd1 White’s advantage with the full domination of the rooks and
the weakened pawns is pretty obviously decisive. 24…Rfe8 25.h4 The fifth best
move according to the engines, but one that made most sense to me. As Black is tied
up, opening up their king seemed completely winning. The engine prefers 25.Qe3,
25.Qf3, 25.Qe2 to this logical human move. 25…e5 26.Qg5 Qd2 and Qh6 are
favored slightly over this move, but White is decisively winning in either case.
26…Kg7? 27.Qf6+ Kg8 28.Rxc6 1-0 In this game, the opening went to move 19,
whereupon my opponent’s play was quite weak and the position close to lost. I didn’
play the best moves, and certainly 25. h4 was just a good human move which doesn’t
make it into top 4.
Game 3: DrVitman (2564) – MaximDlugy (2905) [B01]
Live Chess Chess.com, 28.04.2020
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 4.d4 c6 I have played this line for years, going back
to when I decided to restart playing chess competitively about 10 years ago with good
success. I even got a winning position with it in the last round of the US Senior
Championship this year against Alex Shabalov. 5.h3 Nf6 6.Nf3 Bf5 Since my bishop
can’t go to g4, it settles for f5. 7.Be3 e6 For some reason, this obvious move doesn’t
make it to the top 3 on stockfish, which prefers 7…Nbd7, 7…Bg6 and 7…Qb4 instead.
8.Bd3 Bxd3 9.Qxd3 Nbd7 Controlling the e5 square now is important. 10.Ne2
Nd5?! Amazingly, this is not a top 10 move according to the engines! Preference is
given to the greedy 10…Qb4+ 11.Nd2 Qxb2 12.Rb1 Qxa2 13.Rxb7 Qa1+ 14.Rb1 Qa5 with
a good position for Black, as White will have to work to prove he has something
significant for the sacrificed pawn. 11.c3? A strange decision to part with the bishop.
Both 11.Bc1 and 11.Bd2 were stronger with a slight advantage for White. 11…Nxe3
12.fxe3 Be7 Stockfish prefers 12…g6 by a bit. 13.0-0 0-0 14.Rad1 Rad8 15.e4 e5
The third best choice. The engine prefers c5 or Qc7 followed by c5 as the best way to
undermine the center. 16.Qe3 Qe6 17.Ng3 g6 Allowing Nf5 seemed wrong, though
17…Qxa2 doesn’t lose. 18.b3 Rfe8 The 7th best move according to the engines. After the
strongest [18…Bd6! eyeing the knight on g3, White’s best is 19.Nh1. Had I known that…
19.d5? A serious positional error, which gives Black an advantage. After the correct
19.Ng5 Bxg5 20.Qxg5 Qe7 The game would be equal. 19…cxd5 20.exd5 Qb6
21.Qxb6 Nxb6? The engine move which gives Black a huge advantage is the strange
21…axb6! 22.c4 f5? The fifth best move, effectively giving away all of Black’s advantage.
According to the engine after 22…h5! 23.Ne4 f5 24.Nc3 h4 25.a4 e4 26.Nd4 Bc5 27.a5
Nd7 Black would be much better. 23.Rfe1? The correct defense was 23.Ne2 preparing
the not-so-obvious g4! The position is equal. 23…Bd6? The fifth best move again. After
the strong 23…Nd7 Black’s advantage grows to over 1.75 pawns. 24.Ng5 e4? 9th best
move, leading to equality again. After 24…Nd7 25.Ne6 Rc8 26.Rc1 Nc5 27.Nxc5 Bxc5+
28.Kf1 Kf7 Black is better by 1.5 pawns. 25.Ne2! Nd7 26.Ne6 Rc8 27.N2d4 27.g4!
Undermining Black’s pawn mass equalizes easily. 27…Nc5 28.Nxc5 28.Rf1 preparing g4
is equal again. 28…Bxc5 29.Kh1 Even here, g4 would minimize White’s problems.
29…Kf7 30.Ne6 Bd6 31.Rb1 a5 4th best, as it’s not necessary. 31…h5 was the top
choice. 32.Rbc1 b6 33.Nd4 Kf6 34.Nc6 f4 The position has become winning for
Black as the combined strength of the advanced pawns and the domination along dark
squares is deadly. 35.a3? Bxa3 36.Rf1 Bxc1 37.Rxc1 Rxc6 This human method is
number 2 on Stockfish’s list. 38.dxc6 Rc8 39.Rf1 Ke5 0-1 on time. I don’t think
anyone should have any doubts about the nature of this game.
Game 4: MaximDlugy (2908) – lucliasco (2638) [D00]
Live Chess Chess.com, 28.04.2020
1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c5 3.Nc3 I have developed this move, during the National Grade
Championship in Orlando in 2019, when my student, Nate Shuman used it in the game
against Singh Hersh in the 6th round of the Championship to win an important point.
He went on to become the National Champion after also winning the 7th round game
against Alan Morris-Suzuki. 3…a6 This rare move has some point as it stop an eventual
Nb5, but is inferior to the common 3…Nc6 and 3.. .Nf6 moves. As I wasn’t prepared for
it, I played what seemed to be the most aggressive move in my opinion. 4.e4?! Stockfish
prefers 4.dxc5! by quite a bit and the lines look really nice for White. For example:
4.dxc5 e6 5.e4 d4 6.Na4 Qa5+ 7.c3 dxc3 8.Nxc3 Bxc5 9.a3 and Black will be pushed back
with about a pawn plus to White. A clear choice for the engine user, which is easy to
disguise as opening prep.4…e6? 4…Nf6! is much stronger, when the best the engine
offers is 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxd5 Qxd5 7.Nf3 Nc6 with a rough equality.5.exd5 exd5
6.dxc5 Nf6 7.Na4?! 7.Be3! is far better, and according to the engines, White keeps the
extra pawn with a 1.33 advantage. 7…Bxc5 8.Nxc5 Qa5+ 9.Qd2 Qxc5 10.Bd3?! The
engine prefers 10.0-0-0 with the point that 10…Ne4 is answered by 11.Qe3!, while after
10…Be6 11.f3 Nc6 12.Ne2 0-0 13.Be3 Qe7 14.Nd4 White has a .9 pawns advantage.
10…Nc6 11.Nf3 0-0 12.0-0 Bg4 13.Ne5 Bh5 14.Nxc6 Qxc6 15.Be5? Quite
human, but way worse than 15.Rfe1 Bg6 16.Qb4 retaining a .5 pawn advantage according
to the engines. Now the position becomes equal. 15…Bg6 15…Ne4 was even stronger.
After 16.Qb4 Nc5! Black snaps up the bishop with the knight and has nothing to worry
about. 16.Bxg6 16.Rfe1 is engines preference. 16…hxg6 17.Rad1 Rad8 18.c3 Rfe8
19.Rfe1 Qa4 20.Bxf6 gxf6 21.Rxe8+ Rxe8 22.Qxd5 The ending is completely
equal according to the engines, as the e file and the possibility of Black’s queen getting
active is simply enough for the pawn. 22…Qc2 23.h4?! trying to damage the position
of Black’s king is very human. The engine recommends 23.Qb3 with equality.
23…Qxb2 24.h5 gxh5 25.Rd3 Clearly my chances are based on creating some attack
on the king. 25…Qc1+ 26.Kh2 Re5 27.Rg3+ Rg5 28.Qxb7 Rxg3 29.fxg3 Qxc3
30.Qxa6 The endgame is drawn, but Black needs to force h4 to make it easy. 30…Qd4
or even 30…h4 immediately would have clinched the draw. 30…Kg7 31.Qa4 stopping
h4. 31…f5 32.Qf4 Qa3 33.Qg5+ Kf8 34.Qd8+ Kg7 35.Qd4+ Kg6 36.Qb6+ Kg7
37.Qb3 Qd6 38.Qc3+ Kg6 39.Qc4 Qe5 I would block the a pawn with Qb3 renewing
the threats of f4 or h4, once White plays Qb3. 40.a4 Qe1 41.Qc6+ f6 42.Qc4 Qe8?
letting the pawn advance. 43.a5 Qb8? The cool move 43…h4! would have still drawn,
as 44.Qxh4 Qb5! wins the a pawn, while otherwise the White king becomes exposed
enough for a draw. 44.a6 Qb6? The final hope was still to play 44…h4! After 45.Qxh4
Qa7 46.Qc4 Qh7+ 47.Kg1 Qa7+ 48.Kf1 Qe3 The exposed position of the White king
makes all the difference. The position is likely a draw. 45.Qa4? Armed with an engine,
the win would like this: 45.Qg8+ Kh6 46.Qh8+ Kg6 47.Qe8+ Kh6 48.Qa4 Qa7 the point
of checking the king to h6 is to avoid Black’s counterplay with h4, which would now be
answered with Qxh4+. 49.Qc6 Qd4 (After 49…Kg6 50.Qb7 Qd4 51.a7 h4 52.Qb8! wins
handily.) 50.Qc7 Qd5 51.Qb8 45…Qa7? 45…h4! 46.gxh4 Qc7+ 47.g3 Qb6 48.Qa2 Qa7
would make this a tough endgame to win. Not sure if this is objectively winning or not,
but the point is that if Black get in h4 it becomes difficult. 46.Qe8+ Kh6 47.Qf8+ Kg6
48.Qd6 With low time on the clock, I am just playing moves to keep the position going,
while stopping the only real threats Black has …h4 or …f4. 48…Kg7 49.Qc6 To break
through I need to play Qb7+. 49…Kg6 50.Qb7 Qe3 51.Qf3? The win was clear cut
here, if I had the time or an engine helping. After 51.a7! h4 52.Qb8! There are no
variations, and anyone using outside assistance would not even be suspected of finding
such a long 2 move combination. Now instead, its objectively drawn again. 51…h4?
Obviously, so sort of a pre-move. Amazingly after 51…Qc5 no win is in sight. 52.Qxe3
hxg3+ 53.Qxg3+ Kh5 54.a7
This game which featured me misplaying the opening, then the middlegame and then
the endgame numerous times is very human. Any engine intervention at any of those
points would have created a huge or decisive advantage in this game. 1-0
Game 5: VincentKeymer (2727) – MaximDlugy (2912) [D27]
Live Chess Chess.com, 28.04.2020
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 a6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 Nf6 6.0-0 b5 7.Be2 Bb7 8.a4 b4
9.b3 c5 10.Bb2 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Be7 12.Nc4 0-0 13.Rc1 Rc8 After my US Senior
Championship with Alexander Goldin, which I won in 2019 after 13…cxd4, I did a lot of
work on this variation and realized that 13…Rc8 is a slightly better way to handle the
position. 14.h3? A strange waste of time from the young German Grandmaster, but in
fact the number 2 move according to Stockfish, who besides the typical 14.Nfe5 doesn’t
see another reasonable way to fight for an advantage. 14…cxd4 15.Nxd4 Nc5 The
main idea of this set up for Black, is to tie up White’s knight on d4 to the defense of the
b3 pawn, followed by Nfe4 and Bf6 with the idea of Nc3 at the correct time. 16.a5 Rc7
This is necessary to stop White’s knight from jumping to b6 at an opportune time. Now I
continue with my plan. 17.Bf3 Nfe4 18.Qc2 Bf6 19.Rfd1 Qe7 19…Qb8 was equally
good, but I wanted my queen to be closer to the center. 20.Qb1? White has tried hard
to weaken the f2 square, first by playing h3, then by playing Rfd1 and finally by
withdrawing the queen from the second rank. It’s clear that the next move tries to
punish White for that. 20…Bh4! Stockfish likes the strange 20…h6 instead, a move I
don’t quite understand but one that gives Black about a pawn advantage. I was planning
to meet 21.g3 with Qg5 to pile in on White’s weakened kingside, but Keymer played
21.Rf1 Instead. 21…Rd8 Stockfish number one choice is 21…Qg5, but my move makes
human sense. White retreats the rook, Black moves their rook into position. White is
close to being lost after misplacing his pieces. 22.g3? A grave mistake, allowing the
winning idea. 22…Qg5! Of course! White is not able to ward off 4 of Black’s attackers
with a lone bishop. 23.Bg2 Nxg3! 24.fxg3 Bxg2 25.gxh4 Qg3 Once I saw this far, it
was pretty obvious the attack has crushed through. 26.Ne2 Qxh3 27.Rfd1 Bd5! With
the major point that 28. Rxd5 will be answered by 28…exd5 when White’s e pawn will
fall with check. 28.Nf4 Qg3+ 29.Kf1 Qf3+ 30.Kg1 Qh1+ 31.Kf2 Ne4+ 32.Ke2
Ng3+ 33.Kf2 Qh2+ 34.Ke1 Qg1+ 35.Kd2 Qf2+
Although this game is clearly my best game in the tournament and could well have been
played by someone using engine assistance, the first 19 moves of the game were part of
the opening system that I studied, played and taught numerous students. The only
“tough move” to find was 20…Bh4, but since as I teach my students – the first question
to ask in blitz should be not “What’s my opponents threat”, but “What did he weaken or
unprotect with his last move?” This saves time in blitz and allows you to immediately
find all new weaknesses. In this case, the pawn on f2 has clearly been neglected by
White and the only thing I needed to assess was that after 21.g3 Qg5! the position would
look extremely dangerous for White. I didn’t see the point of Qg5 without g3, unlike the
engine and continued with normal development, but as soon as White played 22.g3, I
pounced with Qg5! after which even an average master could take the position to a win.
Game 6: MaximDlugy (2916) – Kezin_Roman (2703) [B13]
Live Chess Chess.com, 28.04.2020
1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 At that time, I was still refining my 4. e4 ideas and
wanted to try the line played by Daniel Naroditsky against Daniel Yuffa back in 2016. It
seemed very dangerous for blitz. 4…cxd4 5.exd4 a6 The typical way to meet the Nb5
threat. 6.Nf3 Bf5 7.Ne5 Nc6? An opening mistake. Black must make room for the
bishop by playing h5 or h6 instead. 8.g4! I analyzed this line before and concluded that
Black doesn’t have an easy way to equality. 8…Nxe5 9.dxe5 Nxg4 10.h3 Before taking
on d5, it’s good to kick the knight back to h6. 10…Nh6 11.Qxd5? Amazingly a mistake.
The engines are happy to report that only 11.Qd4!! could well be stronger. After 11…Qd7
12.Bxh6 gxh6 13.Nxd5 Rd8 14.Bc4 Bg7 15.Rg1 Bg6 16.0-0-0 e6 17.Nf6+ Bxf6 18.Qxd7+
Rxd7 19.exf6 White has a sizable advantage in the endgame that with serious analysis
could probably be nursed to a win. 11…e6? Black is just feeding me pawns. After the
best 11…Qxd5 12.Nxd5 0-0-0 13.0-0-0 Be4 14.Nb6+ Kc7 15.Rxd8 Kxd8 16.Rg1 e6 the
position would be equal. 12.Qxb7 Now White is just winning by a lot. 12…Be7 13.Rd1
Qc8 14.Qxc8+ Rxc8 15.Bxa6 Rb8 16.Bb5+ Kf8 17.Rd2 g5 18.Be3 Bg6 19.Rg1
With the win of the g5 pawn, Black’s position will have nothing left going for it. 19…Nf5
20.Bxg5 Bb4 21.a4 Rg8 22.Rg4 The 12th best move in the position according to
stockfish, but definitely good enough to win. 22…Ba5 23.b4 Bc7 24.Bf6 Bh5
25.Rxg8+ Kxg8 26.Rd7 Bb6 27.a5 Bd4 28.Ne2 Bxe2 29.Kxe2 Bc3 30.Kd3
Bxb4 31.Rd8+ Rxd8+ 32.Bxd8
A good game for me, no question, but after Black’s 11…e6??, there wasn’t
much to do except to take and trade. 1-0
Game 7: IMTominho (2817) – MaximDlugy (2922) [D20]
Live Chess Chess.com, 28.04.2020
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 e5 4.Nf3 Bb4+ 5.Nbd2 This move is a mistake, played
against me in tournaments by Gilles Miralles, Joel Lautier and others. Black wins two
pawns now, but White gets miracle counterplay so Black shouldn’t relax. 5…c3!
6.bxc3 Bxc3 7.Rb1 exd4 8.Bc4 Nc6?! This is the most natural move, though in
the book on the Queen’s Gambit Accepted which I recently finished, I suggest 8…c5!
with a good position for Black. 9.0-0 Nh6 The engines prefer 9…a6 to be able to
block the a3 bishop with Nge7 10.Ba3 a5 The only move to blockade the a3-f8
diagonal. 11.Bb5 Bd7 12.Nb3 Nb4 The choice between 12…Bb4 and 12…Nb4 is an
easy one as I want to keep my dark squared bishop. 13.Nbxd4 0-0 14.Bxd7 Qxd7
15.Ne2 Qxd1 16.Rfxd1 Bf6 17.e5 Rfe8 the pin needs to be utilized to get the
pieces going. 17…Bxe5 was an alternative. 18.exf6 Rxe2 19.fxg7 Rxa2 20.Bxb4
axb4 21.Rxb4 Ra1 22.Rbb1 Rxb1 23.Rxb1 b6 24.Nd4 Kxg7? The engine move
would have been 24… Ra4! getting the rook over to c4 to protect the c7 pawn from the
front. 25.f3 Rd8?! 25…Ra4 is once again much more precise. 26.Nb5 Rd7 27.Rc1
c5 28.Rb1 Nf5 29.Nc3 Rd6 30.Na4 Rd4?? After this mistake the position is
likely drawn. The strongest and decisive continuation was [30…c4 31.Nxb6 c3 and
Black wins a piece using the c pawn. Simple, but missed by me.] 31.Nxb6 Rb4
32.Rxb4 cxb4 33.Kf2 b3 34.Na4 Kf6 35.Ke2?! After [35.g4 Nd4 36.Ke3 the
ending should be drawn.] 35…Ke5 36.g3? This loses. White can still draw with a
typical trick, seen by all the engines: [36.Nc5 Nd4+ forced as 37.Kd2 Kd5 38.Nd3 and
White should hold using the kingside pawns.] 36…Kd4 Now the Black pieces
infiltrate and White is lost. 37.Kd2 Nd6 38.h4 Nf5
Game 8: Hikaru (3236) – MaximDlugy (2920) [A06]
Live Chess Chess.com, 28.04.2020
1.Nf3 d5 2.b3 Bf5 3.g3 e6 4.Nh4 As I am running an engine on this now, I see two
moves the engine is suggesting: 4…Bg4 and 4…Qf6 with a slight edge to Black in both
cases. 4…Be4 5.f3 Be7?! The fifth best move! After seeing Hikaru’s video on the
game, it was pretty clear he has never seen or analyzed this move. Well, neither have
I, but considering Hikaru usually plays suspect openings with White giving his
opponents the chance to think and try to refute them, so he can go up on time against
them, I wanted to see if I can punish him quickly. 6.fxe4 Bxh4 7.e5? The engine
gives the following line leading to a White advantage 7.Bg2 Bf6 8.d4 dxe4 9.Bxe4 c6
10.c3 and White is clearly better having secured the two bishops. 7…Nd7? The eighth
best move! With this kind of track record I should be lost by now. The best response
was the simple 7…Be7 followed by c5 with a comfy position. 8.d4?! 8.Bb2 avoiding
the trade of dark-squared bishops would lead to a slight edge for White. 8…Bg5 9.e3
c5 10.h4 Be7 10…Bh6 was better and it seems Hikaru thought so as well. Now with
precise play White could still fight for an advantage. 11.c4? That’s not it. The engine
offers the weird 11.Bh3 to quikly castle and press on the kingside as the best chance
for White. 11…dxc4 12.bxc4 Nh6? The third best move. After the strongest
12…cxd4 13.exd4 Nxe5 14.dxe5 Qa5+ 15.Kf2 Qxe5 16.Qa4+ Kf8 17.Qb3 Nf6
threatening Qe4 and Bc5+ Black is close to winning. After the best 18.Kg2 Qxa1
19.Bb2 Qxb1 20.Bd3 Qxh1+ 21.Kxh1 b6 Black’s material advantage is likely decisive.
13.Bd3? This makes matters even worse. White is slightly worse after 13.Bh3, but
now he is just lost. 13…Qb6 Strong, but only second best. After the correct 13…cxd4
14.exd4 Qb6 15.Be4 Rd8 16.Be3 f5 17.exf6 Nxf6 18.Nd2 Nxe4 19.Nxe4 0-0 White’s
king is stranded in the center and Black has a decisive advantage. 14.Qb3 cxd4
15.Qxb6 Nxb6 16.exd4 Rc8?? 16…0-0-0! still led to a decisive advantage while
16…Rd8 to a large one. After 16…0-0-0 17.Be3 Ng4 18.Ke2 f6! Black’s pieces come
into the game with a resounding effect. White is losing. 17.Nd2 Bb4? The 6th best
move and one that gives White a large advantage. After the correct and natural
17…0-0 the position would be equal. 18.Rb1! I am missing that White will keep my
king in the center. Otherwise I would have gone for 18…Bxd2+ 19.Bxd2 Nxc4 with a
much worse but still not “game over” position. 18…Bc3? 19.c5 Nd5 20.Rxb7
Bxd4 21.Bb5+! Now I am lost. 21…Kf8 22.Nb3 Bxe5 23.0-0 f6 24.Bd7 Rd8
25.Bxe6 Nc7 26.Bc4 Bxg3 27.Bxh6 gxh6 28.Rxf6+ Ke7 29.Rf7+ Ke8
30.Rbxc7 Bxc7 31.Rxc7 Rf8 32.Bb5+
As you can see, it is possible to get a completely winning position against Hikaru
without the use of an engine and with the Black pieces. Just play aggressively and
develop your pieces and you may get lucky as well. For me, better luck next time. 1-0
Game 9: MaximDlugy (2910) – pheonixking2000 (2829) [D00]
Live Chess Chess.com, 28.04.2020
This was the game I played where I was kicked out of the tournament during the actual
game in a winning position. Let’s take a look:
1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.dxc5 This idea which was discovered by Alexander
Grischuk over 6 years ago, still gives me winning positions right out of the opening.
4…Nc6 5.Bb5 e6 6.b4 a5 7.c3 Ne4 A strange move order, which I knew was not the
best, as the position is well known and the normal line: 7…Bd7 8.Qb3 Ne4 9.f3 has been
played countless times by me in offhand games on chess.com and lichess.org. With the
early Ne4, I can try to find a way not to play Qb3 when Black plays Bd7. 8.Ne2 Bd7
9.Nd2! This avoids Qb3, which leads to a position I prefer less than the one mentioned
after 7…Bd7. 9…axb4 10.Nxe4 dxe4 11.Bxc6! Bxc6 12.Qxd8+ Rxd8 13.cxb4 This
was the point of 9.Nd2. Black is in serious trouble, as the extra two pawns on the
queenside could become deadly. 13…f6 14.a4? A serious mistake. With some time or
an engine at hand, one would definitely go for keeping the bishop active with the
decisive 14.Bc7! Rd7 15.Bb6 whereupon the pawn storm on the queenside decides. A
glaring error on my part which keeps the game alive. 14…e5! With the bishop locked
out, Black gets chances. 15.Bg3 Rd3! 16.0-0 h5 17.h4 Be7 18.Rfc1 I need to push
through with b5, so I defend the c5 pawn. 18…Kf7 19.b5? Another serious inaccuracy.
The engines clamor for 19.Nc3! first, trying to get at the e pawn when the bishop on c6
leaves. 19…Bd7? Only this move gives White a nearly decisive advantage. After 19…Bd5
20.a5 Rb3 21.Nc3 Bc4 22.b6 Rc8 23.Nxe4 Ba6 24.Nd6+ Bxd6 25.cxd6 Rbc3 26.Rxc3
Rxc3 27.Rd1 Ke8 White is better, but likely not even winning.] 20.c6 bxc6 21.bxc6?
Oops! Wrong again. I keep getting my wires crossed. The winning move, handily offered
by the engine was 21.b6! Now even after the best 21…Bc8 22.a5 Ba6 23.Rxc6 Rd6
24.Rxd6 Bxd6 25.Nc3 f5 26.Nd5 White should be winning. 21…Be6 22.a5 Ra8? The
strange move 22…Rb3 keeps the game going. After the best 23.c7 Ra8 24.a6 Bc8 25.Nc3
Rxa6 26.Rxa6 Bxa6 27.Nd5 Bc8 White is only slightly better. 23.Nc3 Bb4 24.Nxe4? A
distant second best move. The less obvious 24.Nb5 which helps escort the c pawn is
much better and leads to a clear win. 24…Bd5? That’s just a blunder leaving the c8
square unprotected. After the correct 24…Rxa5 25.Rxa5 Bxa5 26.c7 Bc8 27.Rc5!! The
only winning move, which tries to force the bishop to either b6 which allows Rd6 and
Nd6+ or to b4 which allows Rb5 followed by Rb8. After the best 27…Rd1+ 28.Kh2 Be1
29.f3! Bxg3+ 30.Kxg3 Ke6 31.Kf2 The engine claims White is clearly winning, though to
be honest, I think many GMs would struggle to earn the full point. 25.c7 and just when
I was planning to play 26.Rab1 following 25…Rc8, I was kicked out of the tournament.
WOW! I think this game clearly shows the significance of opening preparation. I think I
am currently one of the best prepared players in the London System. I keep getting
winning positions out of the opening, not only in blitz but even in the OTB Classical
tournaments. In the US Senior Championships played this summer in St. Louis, I was
winning my games against Igor Khmelnitsky and Dmitry Gurevich after 9 and 14 moves.
In this game, I also got a nearly decisive advantage after 13 moves, but failed to find the
logical 14.Bc7. I continued to struggle, letting my opponent off the hook on moves 19, 21
and 24. While my moves were not weak, they continuously missed out on finishing off
my opponent until the very end of this mysterious game. 0-1
The timetable of events related to the Carlsen – Niemann case: