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Whole Lotta Dong

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Several Vietnamese sources have recent stories on newly entitled 14-year-old GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son. This one includes this terrifying and tragic line:

"At the age of only four, Truong Son became a professional chess player."

Makes you wonder what the lazy brat was doing during his first three years. The teen has been feted and now rewarded for his successes according to this story:

"The Tien Dat Electronic Company on Feb. 2 rewarded Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son, who had just clinched his International Chess Grandmaster title at the age of 14 years and 10 months, with a sum of 1,000 USD.

With the aim of creating favourable conditions for the talented young athlete, the company is also providing a sum of 45,000 VND per day for three years (from June, 2002 to June, 2005). Son has recently obtained high results at domestic and international tournaments.

The Deputy President of the Viet Nam Chess Federation (VCF) said that the success of Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son who topped Viet Nam's list of 10 outstanding athletes in 2004, was the result of the effective combination of his talent and the Viet Nam Sports and Physical Training Committee's training scheme."

Before you get all impressed with that per diem, that's, umm, a little under three dollars a day. Purchasing power equivalency brings that up a lot, however, and $1,039 a year isn't so bad when according to this page: "The annual base pay [in Vietnam] for fresh graduates from the Business Administration faculty is at an average of US$2,476." In other words, 45,000 dong a day is more than the average Vietnamese wage, as you can see here.

More importantly, chess. Truong Son is another Nagy Baby, gaining his GM norms at the First Saturday tournaments in Hungary expressly created by Laszlo Nagy to have optimum norm chances. Three GMs, all usually rated under 2500, are invited in while the norm-seekers pay to play. From what I can tell, Son has never played anyone rated over 2550 and has three career wins against players rated over 2500.

This doesn't mean he isn't a great prospect or that getting a GM title is trivial other than relative to 20 years ago. (More on that later.) But comparing these kids to Fischer and Judit Polgar, who were regularly playing and beating world-class GMs at 14, is way off the mark. Bu Xiangzhi, a brief "youngest ever" who also got his norms in somewhat contrived fashion, is now 19 and isn't currently in the top 100.


Poor kid!

Hey,there are many inaccuracies here and you probably don't know what you are talking about.GM Bu Xiangzhi has made it many times to the World's Top 100 list and has clearly held his own against elite GMs. An Nguyen Tgoc Truongson HAS beaten quite a few >2500 GMs to get his title at the first Saturdays.Check out the tournament websites.
Why don't you get your facts straight before you post something like this? And dissing the First Saturdays like that, lets just see you play there and see if you can get a GM result! For your information, GM Peter Leko is another prodigy who got his GM norm at the First Saturdays. Why don't you list him with your Fisher and Polgar big names you wrote?

You need to switch to decaf, Joe. Always sad when someone has information but is such a jerk you don't care to read it.

I could list Leko and many other teen wonders, but why? Two seems enough to make the point. Leko LIVES IN HUNGARY and it seems reasonable to play in a nice round robin in your home town. And Leko was turning in GM performances in Category 12 events at 14. (Leon 93, Hungarian championship 92) I think he got one norm at a First Saturday.

Where do I dis the First Saturday tournaments? I only explain what they are. For many players it is almost impossible to get norm chances in their own countries. I even explicitly say it's NOT easy to get a GM title. You seem confused.

Bu Xiangzhi is a fine player. I'm not insulting him. He entered the top 100 last year and left again this year. (Hardly many times.) At 19 he hasn't fulfilled the hype of the "youngest ever" (nor did Bacrot for a long time).

Actually I meant 2600 (top 100), not 2500, and will change that. I looked at all his recent games. I believe he has three career wins against players rated over 2500, two of them against Ilincic. Again, it's hard to find these guys in Asia so it's understandable.

Is there anything specifically wrong with Ilincic? I don't know the guy, just idly wondering. What if his name was Smith? I recently changed my own name to a more Western-looking, maybe Ilincic should do the same.

You guys really look for trouble tonight! I don't know anything about Ilincic and wouldn't say a bad word about him. I just thought it was worth noting that two of the three wins were against the same player. Yeesh!

The moment you have rules, the human brain tries to exploit it. Now First Saturday experiment is being generalised. We have in India, Closed Circuit Tournaments to get FIDE rating! One particular state specialises in it. And the kids less than 10 years flaunt rating as high as 2200.

I am sure we can decide the rating we want and pay accordingly. I am also sure India is not alone in this nonsense.

Becoming a GM is also in the same vein. Our immensely talented Koneru Humpy was (dis)credited with taking GM norms this way.

Why should someone set up GM norm Chances (for money obviously)? Are First Saturday tournaments running in losses ? Or are the organisers making money?

This however does not dicredit the talent of Son, as you say or for that matter any other daughter who might take the same route.

The only way, imho, to stop this nonsense is to keep only open tournaments upto Category 12

Sorry Mig,
its just that I'am Asian and it really annoys me that young talents from Asia and Europe are always put in a different light.
Its seems young Asian talents(GM Bu,Truongson, Koneru etc. etc.) are always accused of being underserving of their titles and of being inferior just because they have not drew with big guns in big fancy international closed events yet.
And what do you expect from journalism? The Vietnamese media has the right to sensationalise their chess prodigy and to excite the public in order to promote chess in these areas. Why should you care?

Joe, good points!

I dont know, I'm just asking. Was Anand also a bit discredited when he was young, compared to his european colleagues back then?

I don't believe that Mig had any intention of denigrate Son...he was simply placing the young Vietnamese's achievement into perspective. Time will only tell how strong Son really is. I share Mig's skepticism about Son until he can prove himself against stiffer competition. I, too, was disappointed with the hype surrounding Bu. Zhang Zhong has proven to be a brighter star for the chinese men. I could say the same about Harikrishna being outshined by Ganguly. It takes time for the young prodigies to really mature into the top-tier of GMs. Mig has hailed Hikaru Nakamura's talent often. The 'search' for an even younger GM really loses its meaning when it is accomplished at any cost and at the expense of the integrity of the standard. There are few players that can be placed in the same class as Polgar or Fischer as far as child prodigies are concerned...they are usually the same people who end up winning the World title or at least legitimately challenge for it. I really hope Son does make it to the world's elite, but I am not going to hold my breath since as time goes by there seems to be new prodigies popping up everywhere...but how many of them are destined to fulfill their early promise? Just my meager two cents worth....

I guess you got the priorities wrong.

Nobody here is suspecting their talent. I'm an Indian and I'm proud of Humpy. I have known Trong Son for more than an year now - Ever since he came to India to play his Asian Championship.

No one will spend the money (what ever it takes) to attend First Saturday if he/she does not have the talent to become a GM otherwise.

Why would the parent purchase rating for their child unless they are convinced there is some chess talent in the child ?

Mig's oblique reference and my direct reference is not with respect to talent. It is with respect to

1. The moral issues involved. Surely if you can set up a tournament you can obtain norms and ratings. Give me $1000 dollars and I'll take my son to 2150 in less than 6 months. He is ten years old. I know children who play to a strength of less than 1800 and yet have a rating close to 2200.

2. Second issue is touting it as real achievents. In making it look as though they are the best things to happen to chess after Paul Morphy walked the earth and nothing in between.

This immorality sucks.

True media will fan it. Saner minds should try to put an end to it.

No Titu. Anand became a GM by virtue of his becoming World Junior Champion. He is a super talent

You know, I really don't wish to get into such arguments about chess prodigies and such.
The simple point I am trying to say is that Mig went about with bashing a 14-yr old kid without getting his facts right. For example, he said that GM Truongson had NEVER beaten a 2500 player.

(Don't look at his post now, they have been modified in many areas after my comments)
"At the age of only four, Truong Son became a professional chess player."
How can he complain about this error in the Vietnamese media when his post contained so many wrong and made up details obviously for the purpose of bashing?

There is no point defending the indefensible. I have traced Truongson's progression in the last 7 quarters and it makes interesting reading. He has been playing only First Saturday Tournaments for the past 2 years. Starting with IM and gratuating to GM.

In this period he also competed in a fairly weak open tournament. He also competed in Asian and World age category tournaments and without fail he lost points with his peers. Whats the big deal? You can make it up next month's First Saturday.

The system sucks. It really does.

I guess the New York Masters is also a way for young talents to get Norms?!

I could be wrong, but I believe a norm tournament requires at least 9 rounds. Also, I don't know if it's even possible for rapid tournaments (25+5 or such) to have norm possibilities.

No, no norms at the NY Masters (RIP). I was a rapid event.

It's nice for players who might not otherwise have a chance at norms, particularly round-robin norms, to be able to buy that chance each month. The problem is then comparing these title achievements to those of the past. Polgar broke Fischer's record and was winning tournaments like Hastings. Leko (well, his mother), very consciously went after the "youngest GM ever" title and it became a big chase after that. Obviously it was somewhat cheapened, but on the other hand just about everyone who has held it has gone on to be an elite player, even Bacrot, who was the exception for quite a while.

As for the GM title in general, it still provides cachet and money and is worth having. The irony is that these title factory events make the title worth less each year. This is really for a separate item and is one of the oldest discussions in modern chess. I've long advocated making a 2600 rating necessary, like 2500 is now. I would even favor tying qualification to a floating mark, such as breaking into the top 100. But since quite a few people profit from more GMs and more titles and no one is directly harmed by the proliferation, this won't happen. This is where a strong federation would step in and make a tough decision "for the good of the game" to protect the title and the players from short-term greed. But we don't have a strong federation.

I think the sad point is that Vietnam as a country is just trying to buy their way into chess status. What makes it sad is that no one in the US has these opportunities! Tho I suspect that the former soviets now wish they had more business majors than the glut of titled humans that swarm their shores - they must because they're all coming over here to attend college. Titles have apparently been devalued the last whatever years but entrance to the top ranks and thus serious recognition is still by invitation only and is therefore quite safe from anyone who buys-in. Maybe we need a new "Super-Grandmaster" title?

Despite the common brouhaha regarding undeserved GM titles, it stands to reason that a 2500 today plays better chess than the best GMs of the 60's. Players got better.

Should the GM title be a measure of absolute understanding of the game, or performance relative to peers?

That's somewhat of an urban legend. Certainly players have improved, but inflation of rating and titles has increased in the past 20 years. You don't need to go back to the 60's (and are you saying a 2500 of today would be a match for Tal?). Just look at Kasparov and Karpov in the 80's compared to now. It's not as if Kasparov and Karpov in 1985 rated 2700 would be beaten by the 20 players with that rating today.

It's not about absolute understanding, which you can't measure anyway. It's about relative performance de facto. But it would be nice to have the titles maintain a value instead of depending on rating. We have players with the same title rated 300 points apart. To preserve the title of GM for elite players is the point.

An idea I once bounced off Yasser Seirawan (he bounced it right back with a definite "no") is to introduce a new title, a "Senior GrandMaster". SGM for short. The intention is to formalize the notion of what people today call a "Super GM" -- roughly, a player that can hold a rating of 2700+ for several years; i.e. the truly elite.

My argument was that the GM title has already been so diluted that it's too late to tighten the requirements. The original meaning has been betrayed and there is no going back. A new term, and new title, is required. That the chess public has already invented an informal term proves the need. "Super" has too many comic book connotations, though, and you can't expect a serious international organization to go along with that. "Senior" is serious, has precedent, and retains the S.

The two requirements of titles -- ratings and norms -- would be kept, but with alteration. Mathematically, ratings are a "bottom-up" statistical measure; inflation is inevitable with an expanding pool of serious players. Norms are a "top-down" bestowment. They help prevent non-uniform scales in distant player pools, and ensure that to demonstrate ability you have to repeatedly beat already-demonstrated ability. Here too there is inflationary pressure, as the retirement of titled players is not keeping pace with fresh generation.

As Mig suggests, a floating rating threshold is necessary to preserve the meaning of titles, and this clearly must be enacted for the honor of Senior GM. It might be defined as N standard deviations from the mean, or it could be a fixed count: you have to spend so many consecutive quarters in the top 20, say. To incorporate a norm requirement, the candidate has to achieve three SGM norms. This per se is a normal extension, except as to the question of where the first SGMs come from. It's not unreasonable that Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand, and Leko are introduced as charter members.

In effect, these are the guys you have to beat if you too want to lay claim to being a Super GM.

There are other reformations I'd be glad to see enacted as well, such as the elimination of separate women's titles, but the official declaration of an SGM title is what I'd champion first.

[Mig: are you saying that a 2500 GM of today would be a match for Tal?]
Absolutely no GM would be a match for Tal in full health!!!!! He's the greatest ever!!!!!!!
Tal = Beautiful, brilliant and baffling Chess!!

[Mig: are you saying that a 2500 GM of today would be a match for Tal?]


ok murali, now i see that you really are talking poppycock. For a couple of moments in your varied posts i thought there might a possibilty you were not deluded. Now I see I that was a delusion..

Murali post's opinion is a classic in every sport's discussion.
The focal point is that we all know that Mr Jesse Owens cannot compete in today's 100m olimpic final. We know this becouse his results can be evaluated in an objective mesaure,the seconds.
ATTENTION, we mean THAT Jesse Owens, not an hipothetical Jesse's body living today with today trainers foods, science and all...

But in the same time often we like to tell that Tyson was weaker than Ali and Ali would be lost against Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano...Ok it's due to our respect for old legends and we can say that becouse in any case we have no way to evaluate objectively a real boxer strength.

Ok, I think Mureli is completely right if his opinion is that a good 2500
(...uhm, may be over 2550 in my real opinion but the sense is the same)
a good 2500 with his laptop databases and engines would give serious problems to great Misha in a match...
Yes chess level is improved in theese years (see Kasparov analysys and comments about legendary players' games) but I imagine Mureli is thinking to the real Misha, with his little bag of old russian chess papers, not a Misha 8 hours a day at work in Kramnik's or Kasparov's Information Tecnology Chess Center

I had something t add to my prev post...
And I would like to know Mureli's opinion...
I really cannot imagine the result of a today's match between Korcnoj(age 74) and the Korcnoj who lived in the age of Tal world champion.

My 2 cents: The Grandmaster and International Master titles are both honorary and are not meant to indicate an ongoing level of skill or ability. That's what ratings are for. The titles indicate that an individual has, at one time, met certain highly challenging criteria. It's like a PhD degree. Even if you never practice that profession or fail to keep up with changes in that profession, you're still called "doctor" and allowed to use the "Dr." honorific.

I am going to have disagree with the idea that Tal would lose to 2500 guy X(he is very strong of course) Tal it is true would not have a successful opening lets say that with white he comes out = and black slightly worse but the difference in chess class is so great(Tal in chess class we consider at least as good as Shirov (probably better), which is 200 points higher than 2500. This enormous difference would have been able to make up for his trouble in the opening.

There was a large difference between pre-WWII elite players and the level of work that started to go into the game with Botvinnik. Before that you have some obsessed individuals like Alekhine and Rubinstein. I have no trouble with the top 10 of today being stronger and more sophisticated than past masters. But no way are there 400 players on Earth today stronger than Tal and Smyslov were in the 60's.

It's probably true that the 2500 of today has more sheer information than Botvinnik and Bronstein did in the 50's. Kasparov makes a good case for this in Predecessors and his talks about the books.

Voss sums it up nicely. It's a title, not a performance indicator. My main concern is that the GM title mean something. It still does today, but when there are 10,000 of them and a 400 point rating range it will be rather pointless.

Hmm.. my "I" should have been an "it" in my previous post. Anyway..

I think there is actually a relatively simple albeit somewhat subjective way to judge the quality of past against present players. All the greats then, just as the greats now, demonstrated ideas and abilities which were way ahead of their time and competition respectively.

Tal did things on the board that astounded his peers, and befuddled them, and most of the time left them with no answers. The greats in the next few generations, like Fisher, Karpov and Kasparov, did exactly the same. On a level playing field, they were clearly streets above the rest plying the trade. That's what counts. How many 2500s today have any games that are memorable except for having been on the losing end against somebody like Karpov or Kasparov? Misha Tal's ABILITY is what set him above the rest in his day, not his capacity for memorizing tons of opening theory.

To use a parallel, I have a PhD in electronics, and that required some intellectual capacity of course, and a lot of very hard work. I dont kid myself however, that however hard I work, I can ever make contributions like the greats in Electronics and Physis. For example, the amount of knowledge I have about motion of bodies is more than Newton ever had, because I have studied the developments that took place since he made his seminal contributions. However my intellectual capability at this fundamental level is limited to understanding the theories that others put forward (after painful study) and using them correctly. This extra knowledge CERTAINLY doesnt make me smarter than Newton.
I'm pretty confident that if I work as hard at Chess as I do at work, I can at least touch 2500 once. Does that make me stronger than Tal? Dont all laugh at once..

Just because people like Tal were great doesn't mean that only a few people are better than them today. There has been revolution in chess in the last 10-15 years, with all the computers, databases and so forth. It is easier then ever to become a chess master - you have better chess books and more of them than ever before and people in 1950s and 60s could not dream of such a great infrastructure as there is today. They couldn't test opening ideas against Fritz or practice endgames against Shredder. Chess has advanced immensly. Also, more people than ever play chess. If anything, there has been rating deflation, not inflation - because so many people have such good excess to chess resources that people in 1950s and 1960s couldn't even dream of. Rating inflation is an urban legend, Mig, not the other way around.

And why can't there be hundreds of players in present time who are better at chess than Tal? Better training methods, computer preparation, databases, access to information - all of it amounts to a huge leap forward in chess understanding. You wouldn't expect someone like Wilt Chemberlain to even make it to today's NBA. Even the fastest and biggest hockey players of 1950s would be too small and too slow for today's NHL. Why should chess be any different?

I was thinking about the question of Tal v. 2500 I think the defensive technique has improved alot due to the computer(Shabalov said something about this). People are less afraid to defend and take material. I think that 40 years ago guys like Sutovsky, Zvigantsev, and Shirov would have been top 5 players. Even so 2500 seems a little low. Top 30 vs Tal seems more interesting

Actually one more comment on the East vs. West thing Karjakin got a lot of respect because he came out at age 12 and beat Alexei Shirov. Carlsen recently did the same. When this Vietnamese fellow demonstrates that level of skill, I am sure that people will be equally impressed

Oh and a final(sorry guys!!) point about Tal is that he touched number 2 on the rating list at some point during the 1980's which gives you an idea of his playing strength. His knowledge of course would have grown considerably since the 1960's(so a direct comparison cannot be made) and he solidified his style but even so one presumes that he could go only have been significantly weaker in poor health and 20+ years out of his prime


You really disappointed me with your post. You're saying that you cannot make any significant contributions in the field that you have mastered. You're a GM in electronics and I'm sure you can come up with some theoretical novelties (TNs) in your research. Are you so in awe of Newton that you don't feel you can improve on or even refute some of his theories? Why do you put yourself in such a theoretical box?

I also have a Ph.D. and worked VERY hard as well (please don't anyone compare getting a GM title with getting a Ph.D.), but I'm thinking everyday of what innovative ways I can add my morsel of knowledge to the expanse of the academic universe. Maybe the papers I've published will not see the light of day, but the world is not static and you can keep trying for the "eureka" moment. Such is true in chess... with new prodigies.

Back to chess...

Your analogy is correct. The 2500 of today has the knowledge of every player leading up to the present... including Tal's. It would then be silly to make such comparisons. However, that doesn't mean that a 2500 couldn't totally refute some of Tal's ideas. I'm always trying to refute theories I've read from "giants" in my areas... who's to say that you, I or that 2500 cannot do the same thing in our respective fields?

I heard of Truong Son before the Olympiad and wanted to see him play in Spain, but unfortunately he didn't play in it. Given some of the talent the Vietnamese has produced, I wouldn't doubt Truong Son's talent one bit. It's important not to look at things in such a linear fashion. Sometimes talent explodes.

One point was made that there is always critcism of Asian players. Well... it won't be long until Asians begin to heavily dot the top 50 lists. This whole question will become moot.

Dear Daaim,

I didnt say I havent made any significant contributions. I have, otherwise I couldnt get a PhD. And my papers unlike yours have seen the light of day, in the best peer reviewed journals for my field. I have had a Eureka moment, when I found the solution to a particular type of circuit which nobody had solved analytically before. This methodology is now used in an experimental tool for timing analysis in Electronic Design Automation.

However you completely missed my point. If Newton had been around now, his contributions would have been as fundamentally ground breaking as they were then. Its the ability to significantly advance the state of the art that defines a PhD. Somebody like Newton did much more, he singlehandedly changed the entire field. You can trace these outstanding individuals right throughout history. Maxwell's spark of genius that enabled him to conjure up a displacement current term out of thin air to provide a wonderfully elegant unified theory of electromagnetics; Einstein's conception of the interdependency of space time; Schroedinger, Feynman etc etc. They were something special.
That some of these theories were subsequently shown to be not quite accurate for all boundary conditions is irrelevant. At the time they were amazing leaps of intuition. And if you think an ordinary PhD compares with those achievements, your ego does seem typical of most PhDs.

Tal was one of the elite, just like Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov. This was some abillity he was born with. Poor sod, he could do with some advantages because he was also born with a pretty bad constitution. To overcome that and become world champion.. well words fail me. And to think there are actually some people who think any 2500 GM has his talent..

Talent and strength are not the same, that's what people forget in these discussions.

Players like Tal were of course immensely talented, but chess has developed so much and so fast that in terms of *strength* they were nowhere near today's best. Where Tal would be if he was resurrected today and put up against today's competition with the chess strength he once had? Impossible to know, but I'd definitely guess below 2600 at least. Morphy? Below GM level for sure.

It's often hard to discuss these things sensibly since people let emotions take overhand. But pointing this out is not disrespectful to the older masters at all. On the contrary, chess has obviously advanced to a large degree thanks to later players being able to stand on their shoulders.

acirce, to make my point YET again, if he was resurrected, he wouldnt start from where he started in his life time. He would start with what everybody started now, and he would probably wipe the field with most of today's elite. How do I know that? because he did the same with a level playing field in his lifetime. This is really a complete waste of time :-) I got drawn into this discussion because I couldnt believe that people could not recognise that. I stand corercted..

What he could have done under completely different circumstances is just speculation and absolutely nothing else. You may or may not believe that he would "wipe the field". It may be possible. It may be possible that Topalov would have been the best player in the world today if he had receieved training from Botvinnik. *shrug* Who knows? But thanks for illustrating my point.

d Clearly Tal's talent level is of such that if he (Tal of 1960!! not later people on this site are not so precise Tal continued to play very strongly until his death in 1992) were placed in the present then he would become very strong (I think defensive technique has improved so he may not be able to get away with some of the stuff he did but whatever.) I think what people are alluding to would be better described as follows(it amazing to me that a PHd cannot understand this point) what if random Top 30 guy time travelled back to the era of Tal(1960's!) and played him ? Tal knows nothing about English Attack so if he decides on the Najdorf wham!!!!. The question is one on absolute terms not on relative terms or even talent terms. To put it simply what level of time traversing grandmaster could Tal handle. Which is the only analogue to how much have chess players improved over the last 30 years. Human beings will remain human beings with normally distributed talents... that is not such an interesting question.

d, as far as i can see your point about talent/genius is completely true. It's just that no matter how simple and undeniable something is, there will always be people who will dismiss it with an air of pseudo-intellectual superiority.

acirce: certainly there are many circumstances that could have affected Tal's performance today, but i believe, and this is so simple even you notice this but refuse to acknowledge, d's analogy makes the presumption that if the circumstances had been such that Tal would have become involved in chess and would have had the chance to nurture his chess talent, like he did (my point here is, Nietzsche wrote that for genius to become widely known, many circumstances have to be favourable, and that it's of course possible Tal would have now born into circumstances that would not have allowed his talent to be used as it was; however, this is completely irrelevant to the point d was trying to make).
You alter completely meaningless paremetres to d's point when you start talking about Topalov. What you say about Topalov has nothing to do with talent. He is a player now, and he is not the best. Whether something could have changed that or not is irrelevant to the point d was making, i think.

It still never ceases to amaze me, and i have seen this kind of things for decades, that no matter how reasonable something is, there'll always be people who for their own agendas want to try and distort the simple thing.

i'll give you another example from the chess world. Before Kramnik no one was complaining about short draws and boring playing style (not in any sort of meaningful scale anyway). However, after people started saying Kramnik is boring, some people started calculating statistics that this and that player's short draw percentage is as big or higher than Kramnik's, in order to try and prove that Kramnik is not boring. Statics show what they show, but the simple truth of the matter is, no one complained about such things before Kramnik.


sacateca: I wonder if you have understood anything about this discussion at all. What Tal or anyone else could or could have done under the best of circumstances is irrelevant for a discussion about the strength he actually had, while it is relevant for a discussion about talent. The whole discussion started with Murali's post about how today's players are much better. Then the issues got confused.

"could or could not"

Kramnik once said that old chess games do not provide any instructive value, theory was much behind in those days, everyone today knows everything that was known back in those days. Was he wrong?

Korchnoi was at his peak in the late 70's, and would have won a match against himself in mid-80's or after that.


This is not a waste of time.

I suppose my point was that everything has not been created or discovered about electronics or chess. One thing's for sure... there will be discoveries by "average" Ph.D.s today that will become just as amazing as Newton's.

Likewise, there is still much to learn in chess as with anything else. Who will be the next chess pioneer? I'm more interested in the forward argument of future talent.

Perhaps we have not seen the world's greatest player yet. During the 20s's I'm sure no one could imagine someone like Kasparov or Fischer (for obvious reasons). Perhaps today we cannot imagine anyone as strong as Kasparov. Well... one day there will be. The question will be how that strength is measured.

I don't think we can develop a time machine to settle these arguments, but perhaps one day we will be able to come up with a method of assessing chess strength in different eras and run some simulations. That would be interesting (e.g., Alekhine 1920 vs. Kasparov 1985; Fischer 1962 vs. Anand 2004).


Thanks, I'm glad that at least somebody got my point. There's basically no point discussing anything with acirce, he likes to have conversations with himself. A somewhat arrogant though very necessary precept I try to follow is: never argue with fools, they only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience. But sometimes I get suckered into forgetting this. DP's point is so asinine however, I have no problem ignoring it. :-)

The fact that Tal was a genius for beating most of his competitors(not all) is a point only sophisticated enough to be made by a PHd. Clearly you don't have the chess understanding to realize that the question acirce and I pose (which for your information amount to the same thing) is very interesting. To have more knowledge does not make you a stronger player(as in the player with more knowledge does not always win) To say that it is obvious that 2500 player has more knowlegdge than Tal replying the same way that he would in 1960 and would thereby win is insane. At the same time it does seem clear that that Tal(not Tal reincarnate) could not compete with todays top 10 as they stand today. At what level would this Tal perform. I just don't understand how someone with your educational background could not realize that your point is TRIVIAL (as you yourself admit) AND THEREFORE COMPLETELY UNINTERESTING! As it pertains to the proposed super grandmaster title should it be be restricted to players who can play against Tal(Kasparov?? an absolute scale) in the future or should it be players who are the Tals(Kasparovs) of their generations.

With more people playing chess, the spread between weak (beginner) and strong (super-GM) players widens. Rating inflation ensues, IMO justifying Mig's requirement that the bar be raised for the higher FIDE titles. A GM title should be a recognition of being among the very best in the world, not simply a recognition of being a strong enough player.

As for the other discussion: would someone born in 1960 with Tal's genes, who dedicated his life to chess and was tutored in the Russian chess school, be a super-GM today? Most likely, and (as DP says) an uninteresting point.

Meanwhile, would a 2500 GM TODAY be able to consistently defeat someone playing exactly like Tal did in 1960? I think so, based on opening theory alone (on which someone playing like Tal in 1960 would be severely handicapped).

I don't agree with that point about opening theory that's important, but not a decisive advantadge as it can be avoided using less theoretical paths. Of course if Tahl with his opening knowledge of the 60's tried to played in the white side of the Sveshnikov against a well prepared 2500 GM from today, he'll most probably lose, as minutes of thinking over the board of a no matter how talented individual can't be compared with years of GM and computer analysis. However it would be perfectly possible to play a not so theoretical opening, so that play would be centered in the middlegame. And even though it's true that there have been quite a few advances in that topic lately, as is magnificently exposed in Watson's books, don't think this would make a great difference. Indeed, I don't think he'd have much trouble against a 2500 GM. Probably he couldn't compete at the same level with the top-10, but I doubt he would be much lower than that.

Actually perhaps I was to harsh perhaps the question of whether Tal born in 1960's would be as great as he was could be an interesting question. I was just put off by the naive answer as well as the arrogant tone of the response. In the sense that I don't think that it is 100%correct to think of chess talent as a one dimensional thing constant throughout the ages. I think that it must be multi dimensional and that some dimensions/abilities could be more important than others. In ours like no other I feel like the capacity for work and preparation away from the board is more important then before. For example a guy like Capablanca although enormously talented would have a hard time surviving in the modern era. Any thoughts?

Coincidentally, found a very interesting and typically precise article by Dvoretsky on Tal vs Botvinnik. He articulates Tal's genius in a very interesting way at the end, for those interested and who havent seen it already. Probably link wont be current too long.


Is Kasparov aware of the following quote, excerpted from d's link? I guess Kasparov did learn something from Botvinnik!

" When analyzing an unfavorably concluded game, chessplayers have a habit of discovering the last error which had an effect on the outcome, and seizing upon precisely that error as the cause of their misfortune. So it was here: Botvinnik explained his failure to win this game by a single error he committed in time-pressure on the 31st move. Such an explanation does not withstand criticism. And it’s not even that his “error” did not exist: already, there was no win. And even if there had been one, it’s still impossible to believe that a grandmaster who had already missed – as we saw – more than one favorable possibility, should now have solved this precise problem correctly, especially considering how difficult it was."

Murali, I love your posts.
To the one before the last. When you were talking about a hypothetical Tal born in the 1960's, did you have Shirov in mind? If so, I'm afraid you're wrong.
Tal's approach to chess was unseparable from his lifestyle. Tal would wither and die in corporate-run chessworld of today and tomorrow before making it anywhere near where Shirov is.
Trust me, I met the man.

i have just been revisiting some games of the man in question, and I continue to be mesmorized. The way he beats karpov in 1987 for example, very sick as he was then, its just amazing. You dont know where the attacks come from, and he doesnt even seem to have enough pieces at the end to do anything leave along mate, but mate he does deliver! There is that ethereal quality about his moves, just unbelievable. Oh wait I forgot, Karpov in 1987 was only world no 2 I think, and couldnt defend as well as a 2500 GM today, so it was a rubbish win of course.

Interestingly, I didn't have anyone in mind when I mentioned "someone born in 1960 with Tal's genes" - that only came as a logical follow-up to the existing discussion.

The fact that Shirov appears to match this is an interesting coincidence.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 2, 2005 5:49 PM.

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