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Russia Returns

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Better late than never is the Russian team's new motto. The star-studded, if often underperforming, squad turned things around on the final day of the World Team Championship in Beer Sheva, Israel with a 3.5-0.5 win over the Chinese team that had led the entire way. This gave Russia a half-point victory in the event. The coincidence of scheduling made it more exciting and made China look better than its performance. Russia didn't lose a match; China also lost to Armenia. They use board points instead of match points in this event and China padded its total with a 4-0 win over the Chinese women's team and a 3.5-0.5 win over the US senior team. (Also 3.5-0.5 over Cuba and Georgia.)

For those who were ready to bow down to our new Chinese overlords, the Chinese team scored a combined -3 against traditional powers Russia, Armenia, and Ukraine. If you make a crosstable of just the top four finishers, it's Russia +5, Armenia +1, Ukraine and China -3. Individually the Chinese went +0 -3 against the 2700 club. It was still a great result for the Chinese team, but I'm not ready to give up Chigorin for Sun Tzu just yet. Great results for Bareev (5.5/6) and Morozevich (5.5/7).

As with most team events, this one was marred by several sets of agreed draws. It's tough enough to regulate short draws in individual play, but when team score is more important (not strictly the case here since they used board points, one thing in their favor) than individual scores another layer is added. Another good reason to legislate minimum move rules. Either that or officially allow arranged draws in team events so they don't have to play these 12-move farces.


It was sensational. Specially the last game with Hua crying at the end. It reminded me of soccer. :-)

BTW, any news from Russian superfinal? Its 10th November!

Come on, you can't pick and choose your rounds and stats. The Chinese clearly outperformed Ukraine and Armenia, and Russia clearly outperformed China. If you think they did it through rabbit-bashing, then say so. Rabbit-bashing, however, is a perfectly legitimate way to win a tournament.

Anyways, on an unrelated note, why on earth did they use individual scores? Just to kill team strategy?

if i was playing for russia, i might have considered throwing my match to let the chinese team win. for russia it is a meaningless trophy, whereas the chinese team might have been treated very differently back at home had they won. it's only my personal take however, i don't expect anyone else to agree.

Excellent idea, kiitos. Next on the list - throwing games to up-and-coming youngsters to bolster their self-confidence.

Also, the seasoned GM doesn't really need to win another tournament -- he's already had enough achievements. Why not throw a few games so that the norm-seeker has a chance at obtaining the long-desired title? After all, it's ridiculous to expect him to win because of "superior play" or "merit"

"It was still a great result for the Chinese team, but I'm not ready to give up Chigorin for Sun Tzu just yet."


The dates of the Russian superfinal were announced long ago. It starts on December, 16th.

Misha can you provide me with more information regarding the superfinal? I do not have any.

Mig, the teams that China beat 3.5--0.5 (the USA, Cuba, and Georgia) were not exactly pushovers. The Chinese outperformed the Russians in those matches. Sure, it may be a long time before the Chinese can establish a domination of the Chess world akin to what the Soviets had. Indeed, it's likely that after the Chinese start clearly dominating the (sporting) Olympic games, they may lose interest in throwing resources into chess. However, the writing is on the wall. Whereas before, it was acknowledged that the Chinese were a legitimate Top 10 team in the (Men's) Chess Olympiad, now they have to be seen as a likely medalist. Before, many a European squad would strive to press the Chinese men, and be disappointed if the Chinese held them to a draw. Now, almost every team will be glad to get 2 points against the Chinese, even if it requires a bit of groveling.

All of the players on the Chinese team are young, they all still have demonstrable weaknesses (which means that they have the potential to get plenty stronger), and there are probably a dozen more like them in the pipeline.

The only nations with similar potential are Russia, The Ukraine, and Armenia. Georgia and India also have bright prospects. Maybe Bulgaria ;-) But that is about it.

Better get used to the Chinese men being in contention to take the Gold Medal in Team Competitions. It probably won't be too long before they actually succeed in getting the Gold.

Kiitos, while winning the Team event might just represent "Another trophy" to the Russian players, you can be sure that had they lost, then the Russian Federation would have been none too pleased. Indeed, with the way things are going in Russia nowadays, there is more of a need than ever for such prestige accomplishments, particularly when so many have nothing better to do than live vicariously through the triumphs of their sporting heroes.

By the way, did anybody find it interesting that Egypt had earned the spot as the African representative, yet somehow did not end up sending at team to participate at the World Teams? Think it had something to do with Israel being the host of the event.

Israelis can't go to Libya (or, of course, Iran), and Egyptians won't go to Israel. The boycott is still as strong as ever.

Wouldn't it be a delicious irony if Israel and Iran both end up qualifying for the 2010 World Cup footbal in South Africa, and they were to advance to a later round (they would never be paired together in the same preliminary quad)

Can you imagine if Iran were to forfeit the World Cup Championship match, because they were slated to face Israel? [Of course, if Iran DID forfeit a match like that, FIFA would simply revoke their membership in the Federation--the hammer would drop really fast.]

Hesam, here is something I know:
It takes place in Moscow on 16th-29th or 30th of December, with pre-qualified Svidler, Morozevich, Grischuk and Dreev (the latter two are admitted as last-year's medal winners, while the former two are WCh participants) and qualified group of Bareev, Khalifman, Motylev, Najer, Volkov, Jakovenko and Rublevsky.

As for Kramnik, he is invited. If he turns the invitation down, then Zvjaginsev steps in.

But then it seems that it still conflicts with the World Cup, that has the games of the final round on 15-16 December and tiebreaks if necessary the 17th.

http://worldchesscup2005.com/docs/lp2005.xls is the first list over participants. Among those listed are Grischuk, Dreev and Bareev... (no Svidler).


You really surprised me with your use of stats. You mention China's combined -3 score against Russia, Armenia and the Ukraine, but the only relevant result was the one against Russia. China held a combined even score with Armenia (-1) and the Ukraine (+1), so those stats are relevant in your -3 score. The Chinese basically went -3 against the 2700 club which was essentially Russia.

You quoted some interesting stats of how the top four teams fared against one another, but what really is the point here? This is an eight-team round robin tournament. If it were a four-team round robin tournament, I could see your point clearly. However, with this stat, you seem to be implying that China was 4th best in the tournament.

I'm not sure what is meant by "coincidence of scheduling." China was leading up until the last round by a healthy 2Ĺ points. You also stated that Chinese men padded its score with a 4-0 trouncing over the Chinese women and trivialized their convincing +3 victories over strong teams.

Are you saying that before playing Russia, their stellar performance was earned because of weaker scheduling?? It's a round robin and both Russia and China had played the same opposition before their match. China merely collapsed in the last round... that's the only logical explanation we can draw here.

A better question would be why and how it happened. Was it the board order, choice of openings, lack of experience, poor match strategy? Ni Hua came off of a devastating loss against Armenia and probably couldn't hold his nerves under pressure. I believe we can safely say that the Russian players have a wealth of experience in these events and that was the deciding factor. Russia needed a miracle for this victory and they got it. This was an amazing comeback victory.

I agree with Doug, this was a must-win for Russia. They have not won tournaments (team or individual) with any regularity in quite some time. This experience will just make China work harder and results will follow very soon.

In the http://www.chessninja.com/dailydirt/archives/wild_linares_2005.htm thread Greg Koster used a similar argument:

"Drop Vallejo, Kasimdzhanov, and Adams from Linares and Kasparov finishes in LAST place."

Mig's reply then:

"Heh, yes, drop the results of the players Kasparov beat and he didn't win! Brilliant! We should do that for every tournament. They all played the same field and I think the point is to win the tournament."

But I think greg had a point then and that Mig has a point now.

What a dramatic finish! It's ironic that the Russians are now just a bunch of individualistic guys trying to eke out an artistic living in a capitalist society--and they triumphed over a well-oiled chess collective supported by a massive state apparatus. It's like the Russians themselves have taken the place of Bobby Fischer and Bent Larsen and Jan Timman and Nigel Short.

I was present at the tournament hall and the press room (where GMs Golod and Sosonko provided live commentary) during most of the last round (including the exiting finish), and I have to say that I had little doubt that the Russians will pull it off. Grischuk, Bareev and Morozevich looked very confident throughout, and they played very strongly. I donít think the Chinese had much chance. Their Russians only looked shaky for a moment when Grischuk got himself into a bad time pressure. Their choice of leaving out the drawing Dreev in this round, thus making Morozevich play with Black was spot on. Still, congrats to the Chinese team for a heroic performance in this tournament.

Let's be honest. The Chinese have a long way to go. None of the chinese guys are even in the same class as any of the Russian players(maybe,just maybe barring Rublevsky). Put any of those guys in Corus A and well look at what happened to Zhang Zhong he beat up on the B level players possibly with a higher score than some of the Russians would get and then crashed in the A division. Of course Bu was looking good in Karabakh but just because he was lucky against Ivanchuk in the bishop ending. In other words, they just had a good string of results before the Russians brought them back to Earth, whereas maybe the Russians were not doing well(Dreev and Rublevsky were struggling). It's easy for this to happen in team tournaments. In the end, just realize that ratings are a valid indicator more or less of strength and that a 150 point differents is so statistically significant that it reflects an enormous difference in strength. If the Chinese guys all get to 2690-2750 or so then maybe we can talk about this revolution.

Is it fair to generalize that many strong, primarily tactical players often crush weaker opposition, but perform (relatively) sub-par against the very top? Chinese chess is well-known for being super-tactical; I'm also thinking of Nakamura, Shirov, and I know there are other examples of this phenomenon ...

I think we should all applaud Ildar Ibragimov for his superb performance in the tournament. Barring that rather nasty loss to Ni Hua this guy played awesome chess. His FIDE has gone up quite a bit recently and he seems to be the only US GM right now that can cause problems for Nakamura. They played that crazy game in the US Championship(which was amazingly back and forth although Hikaru nevertheless won) and then Ibragimov beat him in the World Open.

1) "The chinese are not there, yet!"
2) acirce is back to using anti-Kasparov and anti-Mig logic to create a new "fuzzy logic" :) May be I should expect a nasty response form this Kramnik-fan (I, anyway, ignore thme because they are now on the verge of extinction :))
3) I like that hero-like performance which Russia showed. Man, they just pulled it off! whatever formula we use, team-wins or individual points!


China lost only in 2 last rounds to their main opponents. Ii is well known that it is much easier to win the position than to secure it. Chinese were prepared the best, but could not manage the psychological preassure of last 2 rounds while Russians being 31 year old in average, were much more experienced compared to 22 year old Chinese. If the schedule let them play vs. one another in the beginning, who knows who'll be the first.
Russians left a very depressing feeling for me. Thay had almost a dream team, and had to secure the 1st play at least a round before the end. Yes, I understand that previous dream teams lost few times in a row before, and now they won, but this win is not a good sign yet. After this win authorities can decide that worse is behind, but this is not true. Russians still suffer from absence of winning spirit, clever team strategy, and preparation, IMHO. They won the title because they managed to smash a single opponent in a single match when havinbg no way back, but by all objective factors they had to dominate in at least half of matches. I don't count the Chinese ladies, of course.
Only Ukraine performed even more below the expectations, but this is not strange because Ivanchuk's best days of the year are definitely in the past, and he had to take some rest before. I do not know why Pono have not played more games, and it is clear that Eljanov was also out of shape.
So, are Russians really back? Only the future event will give the definite answer.

Nice twisting of facts, Mig. The lowest rated Russian player, Rublevsky, is rated 14 points higher than China's top player! To downplay China's results the way you did, verges on racism and pure hatred. Congrats to the Russians, and especially the Chinese for making the WTCC more exciting.

These are excerpts from the recent interview with Dolmatov made by Yuri Vasiliev and published by Sport-Express (in my translation):
"Our leader Svidler achieved a draw playing with black on the first board." This was said about World Vice Champion playing vs. World No.70, who is more than 100 points ELO below him! These words belong to Yuri Vasiliev, and below is what Dolmatov, Russian Captain said:
"Both Chinese teams are composed from exceptionally strong players." This is about teams with average rating of 2582 and 2364!!! I was shocked when reading this. Russians were just afraid!!!

"For those who were ready to bow down to our new Chinese overlords, the Chinese team scored a combined -3 against traditional powers Russia, Armenia, and Ukraine. If you make a crosstable of just the top four finishers, it's Russia +5, Armenia +1, Ukraine and China -3. "

I must say, Mig, that I am very disappointed by the way you chose to look at this. Clearly, the Chinese played by the rules, got more than their fair share of good results and impressive wins, got somewhat less than their fair share of depressing defeats, and overall their second place is certainly justified - and constitures a very good result, given the pre-tournament standings.

While they apparently didn't have what it takes to finish first, that doesn't mean we have to belittle their achievement by way of choosing and picking statistics that "prove" they didn't really finished second, but only fourth ... no, fifth ...

Dionysus - Mig is not downplaying the Chinese result, just the premature predictions that have been tossed around of imminent Chinese chess domination.

The subtext is, of course, China's rise as a global (non-chessic) power. Some people extrapolate from that and conclude that the Chinese will soon dominate chess. Mig makes the perfectly valid point that it's still too early to tell.


Give China 7-10 years. No extrapolation as "superpower" needed. Russia is not as dominant as they were, but they will always be a force to be respected because of their depth. Clearly if one is following chess they can see what is taking place in the world... India included. The Chinese women are already there and who predicted this? Where did they come from amidst the dominance of Georgia? Their "B" team (with an 11-year old) held Armenia (!) and stole a point from Russia? Ye Jiangchuan has done a great job and and there are another group of Chinese male players about to emerge. Russia has Grischuk, Timofeev and Inarkiev (and few other talents), but the Russian empire is aging. How old is Bu Xiangzhi?

The predictions of Chinese winning were based on performance as the tournament evolved, not a surreal prediction before the tournament. It was an amazing run. China's lack of match experience was the deciding factor, but who would have picked China to come in 2nd?? No one here.

Russia was the best team here (by result and rating), but having to blast China to eke out a last-round win shows cracks in the foundation.

I wonder if the Chinese government is the kind that would do to Ni Hua what the Russian Federation did to Taimanov in the 70's (after the latter's loss to Fischer). While Ni Hua gathers the sympathy of the rest of the world for his tears after the last round loss, the Chinese government might well be awaiting him with punishment in the lines of "You loser, thanks to your losses in the last two rounds we lost a sure Olympiad win. We are cutting support for your and your family". Maybe it is not the loss of the gold medal that made him cry, instead it was the thought of what awaited him at home that brought about this reaction...


I think you do not know anything about China. Ni Hua is a young guy who really wanted to win and not let down his team. Of course, he is allowed to be emotional under those conditions.

Yeah, what about the US team? They'll probably all be sent to Guantanamo.

Nowadays nobody cares how the "US" team does, particularly in the US. That isn't a good thing.

By the way, if China had lost 3-1 in the final round but legitimately won the title it would still have seemed a travesty to me, so I think I'm agreeing with Mig.

Selective statistics is always "fuzzy", and not to helpful. However I think theres a difference between using it to state that someone is not dominating, and saying that a victory was undeserved...

US team US team.

it was the front page headlines on the New York Times every day of the tournament. there will be a ticker parade for the US Chess Team upon return to the United States.

oops the alarm clock just rang. I have to wake up from the dream.


If the USCF doesn't care enough to send a decent team, why should Americans care about how the team does?

To be fair to the USCF just this once, it is my understanding that Nakamura and Kamsky had security concerns and declined their invitations. Whether or not this could have been overcome with more money is another story.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on November 10, 2005 5:09 PM.

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