Spectacular performances at FIDE championship
FIDE's big 8-player double round robin world championship tournament in Potrero de los Funes, San Luis (Argentina) has been a sensational event with some amazing performances. The participants: Peter Leko, Veselin Topalov, A. Morozevich, R. Kasimjanov, Peter Svidler, Michael Adams, Judit Polgar, Vishy Anand. Unlike so many of the super GM tournaments, this event has had fighting chess in almost every game in every round. In the first eight rounds (out of a total of 14 rounds) fully three rounds have had ALL decisive results. Even the draws have been extremely hard fought. It would appear that all eight candidates are fighting for every half point.
Topalov is leading with six wins and only two draws. He's only a few rating points behind Anand in the current FIDE rating list, so he'll certainly leap over him in the next list if he doesn't collapse in the final rounds. That could give us a new number one in the world (not counting the retired Kasparov who is still listed as numero uno). I wonder if Topalov has a shot at getting the 30 rating points needed to catch Kasparov. Perhaps that would give Kasparov the incentive he needs to return to chess.
An attentive reader may have noticed a change of spelling in the list of participants. The name of FIDE's 2004 world champion GM Rustam Kasimjanov of Uzbekistan has changed in the FIDE rating list from Kasimdzhanov to Kasimjanov. Actually, ICC was having difficulty fitting his complete name into the game headers in their live coverage before switching to this new, more concise spelling. Suddenly his full name fit … then I noticed the new spelling.
We had to get to round 8 before getting a second draw out of tournament leader Veselin Topalov. "Toppy" has been the sensation of the tournament, scoring 6.5 points in the first round of 7 games. Amazing! He simply refused not to win. The only draw to Anand was a perpetual up a couple pawns in a Q&P ending … really a remarkable save by Anand. With only six rounds to go he leads by 2 full points over Svidler and 2.5 over Anand, the only other two players over 50%. If Topalov loses to both Svidler and Anand in the second round we may yet have a contest, but at the moment it looks all Topalov. This has been one of the most dominating performances I've ever seen.
The top four finishers reportedly get special treatment in some future event, but I've been unable to discover what. I thought it was probably byes in the first round of the FIDE World Cup (formerly known as the Knockout World Championship), but I see no evidence of this on the FIDE site report. Perhaps this will become clear at the end of the event. This year the World Cup will take place in the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Region-Yugra at the Arts Centre for the Talented Children of the North. 128 players will play for about two million dollars in prizes. This location appears to be in Russia roughly between Moscow and Siberia. Don't ask for any further details!
Update: two more rounds have been played since I wrote the above. In round 9 Anand had White against the leader Topalov, so everyone expected a big push for a win to cut his lead. Anand has been one of my favorites for years. He has a unique talent for working through impossibly difficult looking positions to find the win. However, he also often applies a practical approach and plays quick draws with Black to conserve his energy for his White games. OK, this game with White should have been a major winning effort. Topalov played a Berlin Defense of the Ruy Lopez against Anand. Anand sacrificed a piece on move 13 in an apparent attempt to create an attack on Topalov's King, but after an obvious defense by Veselin Anand forced a draw by repetition in this 19-move draw. What a disappointment! Peter Svidler couldn't take advantage and move half a point closer since he also played a draw, but it was a dynamic game against Kasimjanov where Rustam was able to sacrifice material to force a draw by perpetual. Exciting chess by both players! In the meanwhile, the unpredictable Alexander Morozevich won his third straight game (Anand, Kasimjanov, Leko) after a weak 2-4 start, which moves him into a 3rd place tie with Anand 2.5 points behind Topalov. Svidler still trails by 2 points.
In round 10 Anand's game was once again the first to finish, a draw as Black against one of the tail-enders Michael Adams. This game went 25 moves. Can Moro win as Black against Topalov to move within 1.5 points of the leader? Leko-Svidler ended in a 36-move draw after a spirited fight. Kasimjanov is pressing a strong attack against Polgar's King, and the Topalov-Morozevich game is a rather complex affair resisting any conclusion by me. Some people have speculated that Toppy has a good shot at overtaking Kasparov in the rating list with a +7 or +8 performance. He is already at +6. A win today could move him within a couple points of Kasparov (how many years has Kasparov topped the rating list?). Even though Garry is inactive now, he still is listed at number one. Oh, oh, it looks like Topalov has the initiative, not to mention a couple extra pawns and pressure on Moro's position. Waaa! … Topalov sac'ed the exchange, seemed to me to be obtaining a won position, but the game drifted into a very interesting drawn position. So Topalov stopped Morozevich's win streak and maintained his lead going into round 11. I'll probably submit this column before that round is completed, so my "coverage" ends here. I encourage everyone with Internet access to check out live coverage of major tournaments. It's really a lot of fun. Oh, it appears that the top four finishers get seeded into the next world championship event, probably to be played in 2007.
Update: due to a minor illness I was unable to finish this column as quickly as expected, so two more rounds have completed. No one can stop Topalov, but they have slowed him down a bit. In round 11 Adams with White had winning chances against Topalov but couldn't pull it off (draw). But both Svidler and Anand won. In round 12 Anand (with Black!) defeated the always tough Peter Leko, while Peter Svidler with Black held an easy draw vs. Topalov. This moves both Anand and Svidler within 1.5 points of Topalov, but with only two rounds to go it may be too little, too late. By the time you read this it will be past history, but I hope you've enjoyed my running commentary during the event. It sure has been fun for me. I suggest you access the daily reports at the ChessBase web site for a full account of the event.
Lineup announced for Wijk aan Zee 2006
Chess Today gave the following list of competitors announced for the annual Corus A Super GM tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Holland January 13-29, 2006. The following players will be invited: Anand, Topalov, Leko, Ivanchuk, Kramnik, Bacrot, Aronian, Adams, Gelfand, Tiviakov, Sokolov, Kamsky, Karjakin and van Wely. This is a tremendously exciting list. We have a great mix of the elite players (Anand, Topalov, Leko, Ivanchuk, Kramnik), the top-rated American (Kamsky), the young and exciting talent Karjakin, the mystic Tiviakov, top Dutch competitor and very talented van Wely and some other great players who are fully capable of winning the event. I'll be watching this event daily on the Internet, that's for sure!
ICCF Congress promises to be exciting
This is sure to be a very interesting annual Congress for ICCF (Oct. 29 - Nov. 5, 2005). Since my last column we've had another resignation, the Finance Director Grayling Hill. Filling in for him till he is replaced is the USA's Ruth Ann Fay, who is also the North American/Pacific Zone Director and who runs the ICCF-U.S. office. There are still no nominees for the other vacant Executive Board position of World Tournament Director.
I have read the statements of the two gentlemen running for ICCF President, Mohammed "Med" Samraoui (Algeria, but living in Germany) and Claudio Javier Goncalves (Argentina). I am impressed by both statements and am confident we'll have excellent leadership, whoever is elected. I particularly liked Samraoui's commitment to restoring Amici Sumus, the official motto of ICCF ("We are Friends"). I think this is a critical issue for the future health of ICCF.
ICCF Chess Server
The ICCF server continues to improve as a tool for playing chess in ICCF events. Additional features are also being added to provide administrative tools, such as calculation of ICCF ratings and creating pairings for non-server tournaments. On one hand it is a fabulous feature of ICCF chess. On the other hand it is a huge expense for the organization, creating new challenges and financial demands. ICCF must find the proper balance between being a volunteer led organization and needing a professional staff to update and support the chess server. I understand that USCF is interested in adding server tournaments to their correspondence chess program. ICCF must respond to the needs of the various National Federations to add users to the server and better serve all players.
ICCF Server Tutorial
There are still many services provided unofficially by ICCF enthusiasts such as me. The ICCF server tutorial is one of the most popular web pages I've ever created, with 1900 users so far. It has been translated into (or served as the model for tutorials in) five different languages (Spanish, German, Czech, French and Dutch). There is a sensational interest in the server. If you haven't tried a server event I suggest that you look into the possibility. As with many others, I plan to play all my future correspondence chess strictly on a server.
Input from readers
Thanks to the two readers who sent the following.
Walter J. Lewis of Soledad, CA:
Thanks, Walter, for your useful suggestion. I personally believe in the value of chess in prisons. I won't ever forget playing the prison chess team at Leavenworth, Kansas maximum security prison. I encourage readers who have unused chess tapes to send them to the address you've supplied.
Russell House of Edwardsville, IL:
Thanks for your comments, Russell. I think many people would agree with you. There is a legal separation in how our government deals with drugs, with "natural" agents not coming under the control of those who administer "drugs". Thus, the natural "drugs" are considered similar to food items and aren't required to meet certain standards of testing before they can be sold. However, in practical terms I agree with you that there aren't any real differences.
I've also heard some very strong chess players comment that if something came along that actually improved chess performance, then they would expect players to use it. We've seen the extremes the sports competitors will go to, using drugs that are known to create great risk to their health. Why is winning so important to people? Some players violate the APCT rule against using computers to analyze their games in progress, even though this means their results are tainted by cheating.
One thing that I found interesting was that USCF simply removed their mention of their Brain Speed involvement from their web site without any explanation. I think this is probably normal procedure with many organizations. I had hoped that USCF's Chess Review Online publication would provide some news of USCF actions, such as when the editor is fired or someone resigns, but instead the newsletter contains very little of any interest to me. I guess a lot of organizations prefer to keep such information out of the public view.
"Franklin" and chess
I was quite surprised recently to sit down with my little granddaughter and note that the children's TV show she was watching featured chess. The character "Franklin" (a turtle) was having trouble sneezing every time he saw a checkerboard design. It seems he was the school chess champion and was to meet the champion of another school in a match. His schoolmates were counting on him to defend the school's honor. This made him so nervous that the sight of a chessboard (or similar device) caused him to sneeze as a nervous reaction. Just before the match was to take place he saw a child sitting on the school steps in discomfort. He had a bad stomach ache worrying about playing a match with the school champion. That was the last of the TV show that I saw, but I found it very interesting that a lesson was taught about human feelings using chess. Our art/sport/science has an excellent reputation in the world. Of course, some people consider us weird … unjustly so?
Some Tidbits from Chess Today
One of the best chess publications available is the daily Chess Today, published by GM Alex Baburin and distributed by email each day. I heartily recommend this outstanding and most interesting publication. Here are a few tidbits I found particularly interesting in recent issues.
Parade Magazine has named Susan Polgar one of the top 100 smartest people in history. She was placed at number 19, one place above Picasso. CT went on to quote Bernard Shaw as saying, "Chess is a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever when they are only wasting their time."
In a review written by IM Sam Collins I read, "Over dinner at one of Berkeley's finest Ethiopian restaurants (believe me, they do exist, and they're good), IM John Donaldson told me that mine is the last generation of chess book readers. Citing Nakamura as an example, he suggested that most players under 20 no longer even look at chess books, instead relying on databases."
Another interesting quote
One of my current ICCF opponents just said the following about a game in our event: "(an opponent) just sacrificed the exchange for a long-term Kingside attack. I will now have to mount a difficult defense that, if things go well, will drag on and on and on. Man, what fun!" I can understand this feeling, and like many correspondence chess players I can relate to this very well. You get a tough position but cannot simply resign. It is almost an obligation to carry on, finding the best possible defense and fighting every move. Against a solid opponent you know you'll probably lose, but the hope of saving the game and gaining the draw drives us to torture ourselves for months or years. Perhaps "fun" is not the word to describe this, just as my friend implied.
Chess in a new way
Bridget Stamford recently sent the following:
This is an interesting idea, to be sure. Like many people I haven't spent much time with variants, but I have enjoyed my small excursions. In high school I use to enjoy the odd game of Kriegspiel, and I played correspondence chess with the Transcendental Chess organization for about six years (TC is similar to Fischer Random chess). A current advantage to a variant, as Bridget pointed out above, is that the chess engines don't handle these non-standard versions of chess (yet). If we played cc using one of these variants we would be guaranteed that no opponent would cheat by using a chess engine. Of course, if the variant got popular eventually we'd see chess engines available for them. We would at least buy some time.
Nigel Short Switches Newspapers
Recently the ChessBase web site reported that GM Nigel Short had been fired by the London Sunday Telegraph. For years he had written a popular chess column, but the paper had determined it would be better to devote the space to a second column on poker, which had become very popular. Fortunately for his fans the rival newspaper The Guardian has picked up his column. They will also run additional longer features by GM Short, plus they have assigned him the task of teaching another journalist how to play better. The newspaper will report on his progress from time to time. It sounds interesting!
Nigel Short has been reporting daily on the FIDE world championship tournament for the ChessBase web site, and I must say it is some of the most interesting reporting I have read in a long time. I've had a special interest in Short since I was appointed the official match photographer for the Match of Champions, between British Champion Short and American champion GM Lev Alburt some years ago. It sure was fun to experience top GMs first hand.
copyright © 2005 by J. Franklin Campbell
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