Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Youth Is Served

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A few days ago I got the press release for the 18th Ciudad de Leon tournament that isn't until June. Event press chief GM Zenon Franco, a top-notch sort whom I hired to cover Spain for KasparovChess.com back in the day, is certainly on top of things. The players are Viswanathan Anand, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Alexei Shirov and Magnus Carlsen.

(The website only has a Flash placeholder up right now. In keeping with the tradition of Spanish chess sites I'm sure they are busy building even more Flash in order to make the site so heavy nobody will be able to see the games come June.)

Not that I'm against it, but when was the beginning of our obsession with youth in chess? Wunderkinds and prodigies have been around as long as the game itself, but we weren't always so eager to pop them into premier events in place of elite professionals. Of course today these kids ARE elite professionals. Judit Polgar really didn't get extraordinary invitations when she was 12-13.

In events like Leon, the rapid time control provides something of an equalizer. Still, there is much of the upset watch and man-bites-dog in these invitations. Results like Karjakin's Bali win over Shirov and Radjabov's Linares win over Kasparov make news and organizers like news. And we all want to see the Next Big Thing in action. You can't expect them to turn down the chance to make money and play the best, even if they are overmatched.


They should call it a world championship. If Krush and Zhu Chen can hurt chess by playing in an event called a world championship, we should just start calling all of them world championships.

Please don't hijack the topic. And why blame the players for what the organizers want to call their event?

You're question is a good one, Mig. I can't say exactly why, but putting Magnus Carlsen or a few top women players into a tournament seems to be the easiest way to get me to follow it, which I imagine is what the sponsors are looking for. Or is it?

For example, I'm still not sure exactly what Corus were supposed to get out of my watching the Wijk aan Zee tournament on their web site, or following it in Chessbase news or TWIC. On the one hand, I now know the name "Corus", but on the other hand I have no idea what it is they sell (or make or do).

I'm sure I'll be following the Ciudad de Leon tournament on the web one way or another (in real time, or daily reports) but I haven't the slightest idea how that can translate into something that puts money into the chessplayer's pockets.

Likewise, as the father of a daughter, it kind of vaguely bothers me that women are required to be more than chessplayers; they must also be models! But, I guess this does boost interest and thus will generate more cash for them so I can't blame them. At the end of the day however, I just wonder if it is even possible to expand interest in chess. Has anyone ever done any study on this? I can't even imagine how you would design something that would measure potential interest but if we could it would certainly be helpful.

I'm surprised Mig didn't mention Carlsens upset of Shirov at the Smartfish Masters a few months ago. Granted it was due to a Shirov blunder but a win is win. If Carlsen gets whitewashed, the organizers look silly but I say give him a chance. I'd much prefer to see the youth movement represented as opposed to the "insert former top ten aging grandmaster here" mentality many organizers use to round out thier fields. Who is going to play more exciting chess....Carlsen or Karpov?

rwgambit, if you're going to mention his upsets, why not mention his disastrous results in the past 3-4 tournaments?(corus excluded, where he placed according to his rating). This has nothing to do with giving a chance.

i've nothing against watching Karpov's games...he's still a legend.


Don't get me wrong, I'd much prefer to see a Topalov or Polgar or any other top ten player in the field as opposed to Carlsen. I don't think its fair to call his recent performances disasters though...hes gained nearly 200 elo points over the last year. But when the top 10 aren't available, who do you invite? Mixing the Super GMs with some lowly 2500+ GMs that are highly motivated to score some upsets will lead to some exciting chess, especially in rapid play. While it pains me to say it, the last FIDE knockout was a good example of this...look at Nakamura and Kasimdzhanov. I'd much rather see Nakamura essaying an Alekhines defense against Michael Adams (as in the Knockout) than Karpov blundering around against Shirov (as in the Keres Memorial).

Is it possible that getting very young players in too many super-strong tournaments can actually hurt their chess development? I think it has been mentioned that by playing too many super GMs a talented, but not fully developed youth can actually forget how to play for a win and develope an overcautios, always-play-to-draw style!?

That is a point, but as long as you're not ONLY playing in Linares it is not a problem for your development.

The absence of World Championship Qualification system hurts the young talent the most. Only with the worthy goal in mind could Tal, Karpov and Kasparov become what they became.
Today's young stars allow themselves to be manipulated by the chess media into believing that garbage events like Leon is what chess is all about. Nothing good will come out of this. In 10 years we'll still be sitting there debating a Kramnik-Kasparov match.

Re: rwqambit
Karpov's mistake didn't come out of sudden, before the game he needed to win as White (he was one point behind) and he thought for long in the opening only to get to an inferior position with a big time disadvantage. I believe he played f3?? thinking it would be a forced draw but in fact there was an easy win (dxe4+! instead of Qxe4 that he possibly counted on).
Elsewhere on this forum I see a lot of discussion about rapid and slow chess. I used to strongly advocate classical chess until I realised that with all these short draws and the artificial priveleges it's not the way even if I myself have no reasons to complain. I find the knock-out system the most appropriate and of course, it can't work without rapid tie-breaks.
Re: Yermo
I know you've always lacked diplomacy but what is so 'garbage' about Leon except my participation? :)

Alexei, what is your opinion about Magnus' rook sac against you (29.fxg6) objectively and practically speaking? A combination of a lot of brain and computer work on another site came, I believe, to the conclusion that Black objectively keeps an edge but that the lines are so complex that, in mutual time trouble, no one would be able to see all that anyway, while there are several pitfalls for both sides. I heard he said after the game that he had planned 29..dxe3 30.gxh7+ Nxh7 31.Qd3? instead of the 31.Qe2 he needed. What did he say to you?

Re: acirce
I think I saw 31.Qe2 during the game, please dont' forget that the position is extremely complicated without chess engine at hand. Funnily I chose my moves in order to avoid possible blunders and when the job was done I played Be4?? instead of Rf8 that would lead to a draw or more ambitious Bc8. Still I think it was a good game, probably my best in that tournament if we forget about the blunder. I only discussed the position before the blunder with Carlsen, afterwards he went to the audience.

What a great forum we have when we get the occasional chance
to converse with a great player like Shirov! It can only be good
for chess.

Welcome Shirov!!!What a pleasant surprise.

Thanks for your response Alexei, much appreciated.

Needless to say I agree with RS.

I agree with Bronstein that rapid chess is a valuable game because GM's with their experience and skill don't need all that long to make decisions. I think if you talk about quality of course it goes down, but 90% of the moves GMs play in classical they will also play in rapid. Plus it is far more interesting to fans. So garbage I am not sure. But I can see what Yermo is saying that of course people need goals. Nakamura/Radjabov have both said they want to break 2700 in a year and that is a good enough goal but its doubtful that that is as good a motivation as WC(Actually Radjabov did say he would bring the crown back to Azerbaijan;either he still has faith or or is just talkin'...) . What about Morozevich, Topalov and Shirov ? They have already been very high on the rating list. The only thing that could motivate these players to become stronger is a WC cycle regulated by a credible organization so that it is run honestly. I am of course talking about Shirov Kramink

GM Shirov

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on our discussions. I watch your tournament games very closely via the internet and I really value your insights regarding the Karpov game...it puts things in perspective. Congrats on your recent performances, if I'm not mistaken...first or equal first in your last three events. I hope to see you beat Anand in "garbage" Leon, best wishes!!

Flashback to last year's Leon final: Shirov 3.5 - 0.5 Svidler! What can you do against a guy whose online handle is "Leon"?!

Another item that ties in with all of this is to rate rapid games in the main list (not a separate list). One one hand I would hate to see players get more conservative in rapids if they were rated (even at 1/4 or 1/5 of the weight of a regular game). And I'm a classical chess supporter, so giving more relevance to rapid seems contrary. I admit I'm torn. But there are simply too many rapid games to ignore and the list needs to be made more dynamic anyway. If it moved a lot more it would be given less importance.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 7, 2005 11:50 PM.

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