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The Greatest Generation

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With three rounds to play Nigel Short is in clear first of the category 17 Hunguest Hotels tournament in Budapest. You don't have to be all that old to remember that Short challenged Kasparov for the last truly legit world chess championship in 1993. Yes, they had broken off from FIDE before the match was played, but Short won the official qualification process, beating the likes of Karpov and Timman in candidates matches.

Many might take Short's subsequent lack of top ten status as proof that his lunge to the top was a fluke. And of course he was pummelled by Kasparov, as everyone predicted. But unless you were following the match you might only look at the lopsided score (12.5-7.5 and -5 after nine games) and not know that Short really put the heat on Kasparov in many games with white. (Much more than Anand did two years later.) Short attacked relentlessly and had several winning positions that he failed to convert.

So "what happened to Short?" is an excusable question, although he has never dropped all that far. His occasional excellent results make me think that it was never really a problem with his play, but the outstanding talent that was growing up right behind him a decade ago. First it was Anand, Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Bareev, then a few years later came Adams, Kramnik, Shirov, Topalov. Add Kasparov and Karpov and you have a top 10 for the ages.

You have to go back 40 years to find its equal. Look at the 50-60's generation that included Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Fischer, Petrosian, Keres, Korchnoi, Geller, Bronstein, Portisch, Spassky, and Larsen. You could add another ten great players from that decade with room to spare.

Kramnik Berlined him in London 2000, but one of the most impressive things about Kasparov's run has been staying a half-step ahead of this incredible pack of talent. Now you have Leko, Ponomariov, Morozevich, Polgar, Grischuk, Svidler, Radjabov... What defines their strength as a group is that any one of them could (and do) legitimately defeat Kasparov, Kramnik, or Anand on a given day, or even finish ahead of them, and it wouldn't be a big shock.

From 1972-1990, "the Karpov generation," there weren't more than three or four contemporary players who could threaten Karpov, Kasparov, and Korchnoi without lightning striking. Certainly not a dozen or more like you have today. Timman, Ljubojevic, maybe Andersson, Vaganian, Jussupow, Seirawan. Most of Karpov's competition came from that older 50's-60's group until Kasparov arrived.

I think a 2003 Dream Team would give a 1965 Dream Team a pretty good run for its money on a dozen boards. Sacrilege?

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on April 17, 2003 9:30 AM.

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