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World Teams 05

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The first round of the 2005 World Team Championship is on Tuesday, November 1 in Beer Sheva, Israel. It's a powerful field and Russia and Ukraine have sent top-level teams including Svidler, Morozevich, Grischuk, Ivanchuk, Ponomariov, and Karjakin. Russia, with largely the same team, will feel pressure to make up for their disastrous 14th place at the Euro Teams a few months ago. Gelfand and Sutovsky lead the home team. Cuba is there for the Americas and the USA got a special invitation after not sending a team to the Americas team championship.

Many were alarmed upon seeing that, as at the Olympiad, the top two American players aren't on the team. No outdated protocols were involved this time, however. Gata Kamsky and Hikaru Nakamura were both approached and declined to go. Kamsky led the US team to a mighty gold medal upset in this event at Lucerne in 1993. (Benjamin's +4 was vital.) Kaidanov and Gulko played then and are back this time on a team led by Onischuk.


Sigh, as much as I really like Gulko as a person and a player, I do get tired of seeing him on our teams. He just is not aggressive enough. It seems like each time I see him play for one of our teams he draws almost every game, maybe winning one or losing one or two. How about some fresh blood? OK, so Kamsky and Nakamura declined, but surely there are enough other up and comers or at least more aggressive players out there.

Average age of US team is over 40. Onischuk 30 and Novikov 38 are the youngest. But a veteran team won an Olympiad silver for the US, almost gold, in 1998, so you never know. But pumping in some young blood on teams is always a good idea, especially in marathon events like Olympiads.

Looking at the US team composition it makes me feel really pityful for US chess... Such a big country with so many tournaments, trainers, etc. but still relies only on ready-made immigrant players to make a national team. I have nothing against immigration but at least 1-2 players should be natives, I mean if they really deserve to be in the team. Take out Nakamura who is upcoming, who was the last great player produced by the US chess system? Maybe Seirawan, so we have to go 20 years back...

they say how you play chess reflects your character and vice versa...so i am just wondering...some countries like notably US and Australia dont seem to produce many (any?) strong chess players though they do rather well in other (physical) sports...
maybe people dont want to take up chess as it is not really a spectator sport..

Why did Nakamura decline?
I predict Russia will get the gold medal, Armenia silver medal, China bronze medal.

There is only one acceptable explanation why US is not producing grandmasters, but I am afraid to say it, as it may be misunderstood, or very wrongly understood.

Real "Native" players would mean, native americans, but the problem is that the white americans-immigrants killed them off, and forgot about it. So lets stop this rotten discussion of native americans vs immigrants, unless you are an Indian, u got no case to make!

OK then, I'm an Indian. Do I have a case now?

There is a really simple, obvious reason why America produced relatively fewer strong players- the is NO chess system in America! Everyone either develops or doesn't strictly by their own doing. Even those who can afford trainers are paying a fortune and are not truly getting a 'system' of training such as former Soviet players got. Right now China is proving that giving players a good living and free training is clearly a good method of producing GMs. Don't get silly ideas about Americans somehow not having equal chess strength as other countries. Give us the same opportunities to train as anyone else and we would produce just as well as anyone.

I'm not surprised Beer-Sheva was selected. I lived there for a while and was astounded by the level of chess. The town is full of Russian immigrants, and they've built one of the most impressive clubs outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg. It is stationed in a permanent building and operates every day of the week. They have regular tournaments, instruction for kids, etc. At last count, they had about 8-10 GM's playing for them.

As usual, behind every great chess organization, there's a single great man. In this case, the man is Eliyahu Levant, who immigrated from the USSR in the 1970's and single-handedly brought the club to where it is today.

You need either tradition - everyone playing and thereby increasing the chance of finding top talent - and/or a system so you can cultivate talent. The US has neither, hardly news. Chess will always be big in Russia and Eastern Europe because they have longstanding chess tradition. Everyone plays and it is respected as a career, if more difficult nowadays. Neither of those things is remotely true in the US. The two big young talents produced in the US this past half-century are Fischer, a maniacal genius, and Nakamura, whose father is a professional chess coach. Barring such anomalies, there is no reason to expect the US to produce any Grandmasters at all, certainly not consistently.

Those young players who do excel and who receive coaching early go to college to get real jobs. Life as a chess pro in the US is very hard and someone with the brains and work ethic to make it at chess in the US can make a lot more money at a dozen other jobs. Those GMs who battle and make a living playing in opens and coaching full time are almost all former Soviets who 1) were brought up in a culture that respected that choice of profession and 2) came here without another skill set. It's simply not going to be an attractive lifestyle to lure a bright 17-year-old who is getting scholarship offers. In Europe you have league play, constant tournaments that you don't have to fly to, and you can make a living at it for a while until you decide if it's really for you.

There are at least a dozen US IM's who would surely have gotten the GM title in the past ten years had they postponed college for a while, but what's the point if chess isn't going to be your life?

There are hundreds of chess training websites in the US, offering alleged high-quality chess training. But none I have seen offering GM training oportunities. Obviously, there is low interest in playing chess professionaly. That's very strange, considering the recent 500.000 US$ tournament and thousands of others being played throughout USA. After the recent disaster Bush vs Fischer, I doubt any American will pick up on chess. US needs foreign labor in certain areas, no problem. Europeans will soon dominate the NBA, too.


Please someone tell me:
What monthly salary will I have? My wife is asking me.
What pension?
How much free time?
How many days and hours a week must I work, before and after I become one?
Do I have to travel all the time, or I can stay at home in San Luis and become one? If I have to travel, can I brign my wife along, or is it too expensive?
How much money do I have to spend to become a Grandmaster?
Will I get my money back after I become a Grandmaster?
Will I have medical insurance during my GM days?

Thanks in advance for your replies.

i would've hoped becoming a Grandmaster has more than that to do with love for chess and it's not something decided with a calculator on one hand and a weighing scale on the other..

More questions:

I noticed many grandmasters do not place GM next to their name when signing themselves. Why is that?

If I become a grandmaster and beat Kramnik ina WC match, am I still a grandmaster, since the other organization is not FIDE, and GM is a FIDE title?

If we could live from love only, it would be a wonderful life. Then tell me, why do i have to pay to play on a gm tournament??

Joel Benjamin was in the 70s maybe the biggest USA talent after Bobby Fischer when he was U10-12, just about after Bobby got the title. I remember he was so superior, that he was even an arbiter to juniors tournaments of his age, as he was by far too strong to play with them. I wonder what went wrong with his becoming a WC close candidate.

It's good to see that FIDE awarded the World Teams to Israel. If they can do business with countries such as Iran and Libya, then surely it is appropriate to give Israel a chance to host such an event.

The problem the renders the US unable to regularly prduce great chess players is that America is perhaps the most anti-intellectual of any "1st World" nation. The US had far more respect for chess back in the 19th Century, than it does in the 21st Century. Let's also be clear that the Fischer boom generation led to the creation of several dozen "native born" US GMs. Almost all of them quit their professional chess careers in order to pursue more respectable (and lucrative) careers in White Collar fields.

Chess players are stigmatized as nerds, and many associate Chess with Bobby Fischer. People tend to invest effort in endeavors that are rewarded by society. So, a silly "sport" like Golf is richly rewarded, and players flock to it. However, chess, like the arts, is underappreciated by the American public. Ultimately, that is reflected in the prospects for making a living as a chessplayer.

Chess is not unique in this respect. Consider the dearth of American youth who choose an Academic career, for the sake of pursuing knowledge for its own sake. Most of the top research positions in the hard sciences are being outsourced to foreigners, jsut as is the case with GMs who immigrate to the US

I think when someone becomes a very good GM it is not really fair to ask what went wrong? Of course, there are many factors that contribute to whether someone continues to improve not just related to pure chess talent. Dvorestky feels Dreev was the most talented player he has ever seen. In Benjamin's case, maybe it was laziness, maybe it was nerves, maybe it was a lack of motivation.I think maybe what went right is still a better question.

I think when someone becomes a very good GM it is not really fair to ask what went wrong? Of course, there are many factors that contribute to whether someone continues to improve not just related to pure chess talent. Dvorestky feels Dreev was the most talented player he has ever seen. In Benjamin's case, maybe it was laziness, maybe it was nerves, maybe it was a lack of motivation.I think maybe what went right is still a better question.

Speaking on US chess, I saw this movie 'Searching for Bobby Fischer' - Josh Waitzkin was the prodigy featured in that film. Any idea what happened to him? does he still play chess?
there have been other American "almost-greats" - people who showed great promise in the beginning but somehow never realized their potential.
its a classic question in every sport - cricket you have Tendulkar - Kambli for example.
Sticking to chess, another example would be Anand-Barua.
GM Dibyendu Barua beat the then world no 2 and wc challenger Victor Korchnoi when he was fifteen years old! stunning achievement especially as it was in a regular tournament.
he also beat anand in the 86 world junior preventing him from taking the crown (anand subsequently won the next edition in bagiou).
yet barua never developed into a real world beater. good example would be 1993 when barua almost qualifed from the biel
interzonal. he played so well and anand played so badly that towards the end both had equal chances of qualifying. infact Kramnik commented that Anand could be a good second of Barua :-)
but after that anand recovered, scored 2.5/3 at the end (must-win situation, he beat korchnoi with black) and qualified, while barua lost to polgar and faded away.

JaiDeepBlue, Josh Waitzkin never managed to reach the Grandmaster level. He became an International Master at the age of 16, his peak rating apparently being 2464 (Grandmaster is at least 2500) . He has not played in a FIDE rated event for at least 5 years.

Josh Waitzkin became the Tai Chi Chuan World Champion in December 2004. So he did become a GM, just not at chess.

Joel Benjamin went to Yale, became a thoughtful adult with a great sense of humor, and has a really cute wife. Plus he's a towering presence in the history of American chess. Boy, what a failure.

Hello everyone! It is rather discouraging to see the current state of chess in the United States. It is sad how ever since the golden days of Fischer the US has failed to produce any "superstar" chess players. By far and away the best US-produced players are probably Seirawan, Benjamin, Christiansen, and myself. What is the reason for this?

I remember when I first started playing chess that it was all about winning games and trophies. Eventually it was about winning and making money, but even though I've made my fair share of money over my ten years of playing chess, it is nowhere near enough to live comfortably. Because everyone must fight to make a living, this leads to a lot of discord amongst players. When the chess pool in the US is so small as it already is, almost no one can succeed unless there is support. Unfortunately, our dog-eat-dog chess society does not pride itself on supporting up and coming chess talents. Why would anyone want to play chess forever if they have to deal with such issues? I know I wouldn't.

The blame should fall squarely on USCF for their lack of professionalism towards promoting the great game of chess. Chess Life is almost reporting about tournaments from a few months earlier; the website is outdated except for MSN(Member Services Area), and they don't promote chess. What more can you ask for?

AF4C on the other hand has solid sponsorship behind the US Championship and is run very professionally. Is it coincidental that AF4C has managed to secure the US Championship for the next 8 or 9 years? AF4C has shown that if promoted correctly it is quite possible to have many benefactors who will willingly donate to the game. In my opinion, US Chess interests would be better served if AF4C were in control of American chess. Unfortunately, it seems that the big-wig bureaucrats at USCF aren't attempting to further chess, but protect their own interests instead.

Now, a last little note on the US Championship. I think that this idea of breaking the championship into two separate groups is a horrible idea. If two players win their respective groups, they will not have to play the same competitors or level field. This will undoubtedly lead to a questionable winner no matter who wins the playoff. I hope that AF4C is not sacrificing quality for quantity just to try and make chess more "marketable."

US Champion
Hikaru Nakamura

No one can be marked as a failure, if deciding to play chess, whether succeds or not.

On Joel, I am sure his chess plans included becoming World Chess Champion, so my question stands. Becoming a very good GM and a valued person was just normal and expected of him.

I suppose local chess organizations have to be "blamed" here, too, for Joel not reaching what he could have.

I enjoyed very much reading the US Champion's post. It is sad that almost every Chess Federation in the World is so full of beaurocrats, etc. Must it really be this way? Maybe it does.

Thanks Hikaru for answering many of the questions I posted, that had remained unanswered. And a tip, if you don't mind - whatever problems you encounter on your way to becoming World Chess Champion, don't worry - be happy.

Omigawd, Moro crushed his opponents in the first two games. Hopw he comes back up to 2750+ where he belongs.

A book coming out soon - hopefully by the Xmas season - may go a long way towards answering the "why-not-become-WC" questions. I've been working most of this year on an English translation of Bologan's autobiography. It's mostly framed around his annotated games - something he's contributed to magazines for years - but there's a major effort, also, at telling his story. It's surprisingly detailed, and gets into a lot of personal issues, not something I'm used to seeing much of in chessplayer bios.

After spending a long time deeply immersed in a practicing - though not WC quality! - GM's psyche, I'd have to agree with all three reasons. You need exceptional talent - to stand out from the several-hundred-strong mob of grandmasters these days. You need to be discovered early on by another exceptional talent: the trainer who can mold you into world-beating strength, and make you study the essentials until they're part of your finger-responses. And you need exceptional willpower - the kind of drive that says, I *AM* going to be world champion, and NOTHING - no opposition, no personal relationship, no tempting career - is going to stop me.


This is off topic, but it's important: Who among the world's top GMs has the nicest watch?

Topa sports a tasty timepiece:

Kasparov checks in with a cheesy chronograph:

Anand's approach is adequate, though not as alpha-male as his arch-rivals':

Kasparov, and later Kramnik, have had watch sponsorship deals. I have a large poster of Garry's watch ad.

Kasimdzhanov's watch:

Great fighting match today, US-Armenia with 4 draws lasting less than 20 moves.
These guys are sure earning their appearance fees.
No wonder Nakamura elected to stay home....

Who is deciding who gets to be on our teams? They should be ashamed of themselves! As soon as I heard Gulko was on the team again I knew our team was going to be fighting not to lose rather than trying to actually (gasp!) win. It sounds like the rest of the team is no better.

I wish we could get a fighting team together. I wouldn't care if they crashed and burned as long as they really gave it their all to try to win.

I wouldn't be surprised if it's the U.S. team that ends up losing to the Chinese women.

Kasim's watch evinces a quiet elegance, not unlike the man himself.

It's not surprising that in cultures that value chess, Kasparov and Kramnik would get sponsorship deals from companies making fine watches. It's like here we have Tiger Woods advertising Tag Heuer, Pierce Brosnan Omega, and so on.

I can't imagine that Gulko and the rest of the US World Team competitors have very nice watches: hence their dispirited play.

Kasim's watch evinces a quiet elegance, not unlike the man himself.

It's not surprising that in cultures that value chess, Kasparov and Kramnik would get sponsorship deals from companies making fine watches. It's like here we have Tiger Woods advertising Tag Heuer, Pierce Brosnan Omega, and so on.

I can't imagine that Gulko and the rest of the US World Team competitors have very nice watches: hence their dispirited play.

The Kasparov signature model chronograph was part of the Royal Oak line by Audemars Piguet:


Current Audemars Piguet sponsors include world-beating cricketer Sachin Ramesh Tendular and the incomparable Michelle Yeoh:


Didn't Kramnik have a deal with Omega? the same company which has Anna Kournikova? I vaguely recall seeing an ad in the national geographic and being amazed.

The USA-Israel games in round nine will probably last 50 moves... in all four games combined! I don't see the point of fielding such an aged, out-of-form team... already a whopping six points back in the field! The USA team appear to be on vacation visiting relatives and old friends.

China has the lead over Russian by half-point despite having played one less match! China is showing why they will come to dominate chess in about 10 years.

Well China now has the advantage that the Soviets once had in state sponsorship, so that players can play and study chess full time as a profession with no financial worries. The only drawback China has is that few people in the country like Western chess, as opposed to Russia where vast numbers love chess. I am frustrated at living here in Beijing, because I love chess but I cannot play anywhere here. The Chinese keep their players in their private academy, and have no FIDE tournaments open to foreigners, except for special events that they sometimes organize for top GMs. They seemed like they were finally going to organize a 'tournament for foreigners' this past June (though it would not be rated), but they postponed it until September and then I never heard about it again! Sad for such a strong chess country to have no chess to play for average players.

The Chinese men blitzed the American team. If this doesn't send a harsh lesson, nothing will.

There is no American team. The Chinese beat the Russian 'B' team. Israel is fielding the 'C' team.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on October 28, 2005 12:08 AM.

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