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Lion Bites

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The Swedish half of the Sigeman tournament is over and aging lion Jan Timman is leading with an impressive 4/5 score. Young tigers Nakamura, Sasikiran, and Iordachescu are a half-point behind. (Actual Tiger Hillarp Persson has 1.5.) The 53-year-old Timman didn't play at Corus this year for the first time in ages. Keeping up with the 2700's is no walk in the park and as the Dutch legend got older, the tournament got stronger, a bad combination.

His humble rating doesn't mean Timman isn't the class of the Sigeman field. Even should he eventually falter, he has forgotten more about chess than his pursuers could possibly know. Of course forgetting isn't exactly a good thing in chess, and energy level is critical. The intense preparation, lack of rest days, and faster games make it tough on the veterans. The chess world's obsession with youth is hardly new, but it has grown more acute. It almost makes you wish for a chess "senior tour" with slower time controls and more rest days. Just because greats like Timman, Karpov, Ljubojevic, and Portisch can't keep up with today's elite doesn't mean they don't still have a lot of great chess to offer.


What is so humbling about Timman's rating? He is still 2600+ and there are 6 players below his rating in a field of 10. An erstwhile top ten showing up in a tournament after 45 is a rarity.

Humble is a relative term. Timman used to be one of the top three or four players in the world and is now out of the top 100.

I don't understand your other comment. I can't think of any former top ten players who stopped competing after 45. Kasparov will be one if his retirement sticks. Most of the 70's generation is still playing regularly. Karpov, Timman, Browne, Beliavsky, Andersson, et al.

Mig, your comment about being the class of the field really rings true. Ulf Andersson is one of my favorite players on the ICC, and while he has no lofty rating there, the level of his play is really still way above many of young GMs there (being older, he tends to lose a lot on time, thus the discrepancy in rating to true chess knowledge).

Timman rocks, plain and simple. I don't know why Mig is calling for a seniors league while Timman is still leading the tournament. He could hang on.

It was a lifestyle thing that kept Timman from more WC shots, and anyhow the FIDE match with Karpov was closer than it looked. The classic Korchnoi-Kasparov game cited by the latter as one of his faves was made possible by an idea Kasparov clipped from the game Scheeren-Timman, an idea Timman re-recycled for a win against Van Wely just a few years ago.

Plus he helped start New In Chess with its stable of the world's best chess writers. Dirk Jan's interviews over the years rank with the best Playboy interviews of the past three decades.

I'm pulling for a strong second-half Sigeman performance for the Jan-star.

The second half is usually the problem for him and other veterans. It would be interesting to chart his performance at events with and without an open bar for the players.

I mention the senior league because with slower time controls and more rest days these guys could still be showing great ideas and fighting spirit against the top 20, not just in B events. I wouldn't want to change the sport just to make it more comfy for the oldsters, but it's a shame to miss out on the great chess they can still play at times. Timman's Wijk aan Zee "disasters" were almost always full of missed opportunities and time-trouble meltdowns. Karpov mostly avoided this by avoiding conflict in his games, but for a fighter like Timman it's been rough.

I'd love to see Timman win the tourney, but fear a second-half sag, especially since he has yet to face Nakamura and Sasikiran. Still, Timman has a history of preparing opening surprises for "young lions"...

Timman is certainly still full of fight. Her's an interview he gave just before Wijk aan Zee this year. (Note that the Cors organisers still maintain that Timman was never invited to play in 2005, despite Timman's comment in this interview.

Angry Timman fights back

Author Marc Kok

Source: De Gelderlander (regional Dutch newspaper)

According to the Corus tournement organizing committee the troubled relationship with Jan Timman has been restored.However, Timman thinks differently.
“I was treated in a very bad way”. He thought he had made an arrangement with the tournament organizing committee. If Kasparov would decline his invitation, than the last invitation would go to Timman. However, after Kasparov cancelled, Timman was not invited.

Timman threatened with a lawsuit, after which the two parties came to an agreement about a month ago. Timman will be a commentator for the audience on two days (Sunday and Friday). According to Corus in a press statement this solved the argument between them. Reality is different. It seems that Corus paid Timman extra money to stay silent about this case. Timman received a total sum that is higher than his appearance fees from last year. In exchange Timman had to sign a contract stating he is not allowd to give any “comments’ about the case. Timman wonders “what is the definition of giving comments?” The statements I make in this interview are just a summary of things that actually happened, the public has a right to know.”

Tmman explains that after the last Corus tournament his physical state was very poor. As a result of all the unhealthy food, the smoking and large consumption of alcohol he had serious complaints. He had to change his lifestyle immediately. He gave up smoking drinks a lot less and eats more healthy. His physical state played an important role in May when he had a first meeting with Jeroen van de Berg, director of the Corus tournament. Timman would like to participate in 2005, but because of his physical condition he would like to be on the reserve list. “If someone would decline their invitation and his physical condition would be ok, then he would participate.”

In september Timman received good news from his medical doctor, he is healthy again. Soon after that Corus gives a press statement that Kasparov has declined his invitation and that Timman will most probably replace him. Then suddenly at the end of October Jeoren van den Berg gives the last invitation to Judit Polgar. Timman: “if they feel that I am not good enough anymore, than they should say so. I realize I ended up in the last spot in the last two editions. But to first make an arrangement and then to deny in the press that there was an arrangement is not very nice of course.”

Timman feels that what was even worse was the way in which he received the bad news. In October he is playing the Olympiad with the Dutch team. After the last round Jeroen van den Berg tells him the bad news, although van den Berg informed Timman’s wife the day before, adding that she should not tell Jan. Timman says: “ I noticed that there was something with my wife, but she said there was nothing. As result I was not playing comfortably in the last round, and made quick draw in a very promising position. After that draw I heard the news and I got very angry.”

Although some people may feel that Timman as a chessplayer belongs to history, he himself thinks differently. For the first time in many years he will participate again the Dutch championships. In 2005 he wants to play at least 70 games. “The more games I will play, the faster I will be back on a top spot in the world rankings. I am still full of ambition”.

There`s no reason Timman should be as "weak" as he is now. He`s still extremely strong, and his knowledge is of course very, very high. But yes, "weak". He COULD still be top 75 or 50. Look at Karpov! I`ve often wondered why Timman declined so quickly compared to Karpov. Does anyone have any idea?

Timman made another mistake I think though, which was not having a real opening repertoire. Even in his heyday he bounced around a lot, not taking the time to really specialise. I wonder if that hurt him also, especially in this age of databases.

What a great player though, he`s in his 50s but I think his rating could easily climb back up some. He was so strong at his peak that he surely has the potential to enter the top 75 or top 50 even now.

I don't think Timman is much weaker than Karpov today, if at all. Karpov mainly keeps his rating up by not playing much. Let them play a match and I'd bet it would be very close.

Mig, perhaps you can shed some light for us on the workload that the top GM's have in terms of preparation and study. I wonder if part of the reason that some older GM's lose some of their edge, besides factors of aging, is that they just don't want to spend as much time working at the game.

The workload is increasingly large and exhausting, but I think it goes well beyond that for most. As you get older you simply acquire other interests and it becomes harder to dedicate the time to any single task. It's not just the time, but the mental overhead and distractions, not to mention the fatigue and even boredom of focusing on one thing so hard for so long.

Korchnoi continues to excel because he has always been a creature of unique devotion to the game. In physical sports your body usually betrays you before these other responsibilities become a serious burden. It's rare to spend more than a dozen years in other sports. After 20 or 30, good god! It's amazing they can stay in that long. You have to have passion to maintain your energy level day in day out and there's no chess Viagra. Familiarity breeds boredom as well as contempt.

Thank you for your comments. You bring a glimpse of the highest levels of chess that I as an amateur simply cannot know. I tend to agree with the point about other interests and responsiblities, in particular. I hadn't thought about the familiarity aspect, but that makes sense, too. I think about how Shirov must have felt, facing Kasparov time after time and knowing how he almost always lost, even from better positions. How does one get "psyched up" for yet another encounter? What new ideas and opening lines need to be prepared for players who've studied every move of your games? The top players must know one another very well, at least from the aspect of chess...how do they keep "fresh" and competitive? I can see the boredom aspect. Thanks for your insight. I like the site, by the way.

Is the not the time control in the event Timman is playing in now the classical control?
Think I read it was 40/2, 20 in 1 and someting to the finish.

Hey, whatever happened to Sokolov? Anyone still remember him?

Dear Yuriy Kleyner and all friends,

If you're mentioning Andrei Sokolov and not Ivan Sokolov, then I should say that A.Sokolov diminished in his chess strength after getting crushed by Karpov in the candidates tournament in 1987. "A.Sokolov never regained his former self after that crushing defeat" said the late Mikhail Tal. However, as for I.Sokolov, he's doing quite well at the Euro team games in the German Bundesliga which finished a few days ago, his team Porz headed by Mickey Adams was first and I.Sokolov thrashed the spaniard Francisco Vallejo Pons (yes, it's him again, the guy who beat Kramnik under 25 moves in the blindfold)in just 22 moves!!The worst thing about that game was that 'Paco' lost with white against the Slav in a mating net! 'Paco' was humiliated simply due to a bad postional error made on move 11. If the person you want is I.Sokolov, then I must say that he's still doing well and is amongst the chess greats.

Perhaps it would be a great idea for some generous sponsor to organise a "Senior" tour (senior not meaning old or being insulting). I would love a chess event with players like Nunn, Timman, Ljubojevic, Andersson, Speelman, Hjartarsson, Vaganian, Portisch, Ribli, Hübner, Christiansen, Spraggett, and others...

Yuriy Kleyner:
>Hey, whatever happened to Sokolov? Anyone still >remember him?


The pro golf senior tour puts butts in the seats as they say. The events are very fan friendly. Would it work for chess?? It's a shame to see players retire in their 30's and 40's. I have nothing but contempt for chess fans who turn up their noses at aging greats. I think they're in the minority though. I know quite a few fans would actually prefer to witness legends like Pedro named compete than higher ranked up and coming players. Why?? They are more familiar to us..and have often written books that we fans have read making them easy to identify with.

Pedro: such an event would be great for chess but it would be a real downer for the featured players, who would enter the event with the knowledge that Korchnoi wasn't invited because he's too strong...;)

I really like the idea of watching older "greats". Even in sports like basketball, I would still rather watch Magic, Bird and Jordan than any of the kids playing today. But let's face it, our culture always hypes the "new". Everything is considered disposable, including our heroes.


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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on April 19, 2005 11:43 PM.

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