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2005 Year in Review Preview

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[Update: I put up a new version of the same poll so you can pick four stories instead of one to make it more interesting. The obvious winner (with 73%) was Kasparov's retirement, but there should be more variety with the third and fourth spots. So vote again!]

There's a week left in 2005 and it's been a big year in the chess world. I'm putting together a year in review item that will focus on the most important stories. Of course some of the biggest were things that didn't happen, or may happen, but I didn't include those in the message board poll up now. In no particular order:

-- FIDE Announces World Championship Cycle
-- Garry Kasparov Retires
-- Hydra Beat Michael Adams 5.5-0.5
-- Topalov Wins FIDE WCh and Becomes New #1
-- Rise of Unknown and/or Open Source Chess Programs
-- Classical Champ Kramnik Falls Out of Top Five
-- Arkady Naiditsch Wins Dortmund
-- Bessel Kok and Others Challenge Ilyumzhinov
-- Bobby Fischer Released to Iceland
-- Ninja T-shirts and Mig's New Nephew!

None of these require explanation to Dirt readers, so go get your vote on. (Again!) "Important" is open for debate, just like "great" and the other adjectives that fuel our endless discussions. I mostly considered relevancy and the amount of debate sparked. I tried not to get too abstract (six supertournaments this year, for example). Feel free to go through the monthly archives on the left, very handy. I have my own opinions of course, but won't spin yet.


It was a pleasure to see that those who own and run america failed to persecute Robert The Great - citizen of Iceland. Finally he can concentrate on chess and feel free to say what he likes.

Yes, because Fischer's speech was certainly constrained these last few years. By the way, could you do us a favor and try posting with one name for a while instead of posting to the same thread with five different names as in the superfinal threads? Agree with yourself on your own time. Thanks.

Bravo Mig for this vote !
Here is my verdict :
IMPORTANCE : from 0 to 10 (10 = very important)

-- FIDE Announces World Championship Cycle : 3
-- Garry Kasparov Retires : 10
-- Hydra Beat Michael Adams 5.5-0.5 : 6
-- Topalov Wins FIDE WCh and Becomes New #1 : 9
-- Rise of Unknown and/or Open Source Chess Programs : 2
-- Classical Champ Kramnik Falls Out of Top Five : 6
-- Arkady Naiditsch Wins Dortmund : 6
-- Bessel Kok and Others Challenge Ilyumzhinov : 4
-- Bobby Fischer Released to Iceland : 9
-- Ninja T-shirts and Mig's New Nephew! : 10

To follow in bizbezet's footsteps:

IMPORTANCE : from 0 to 10 (10 = very important)

-- FIDE Announces World Championship Cycle : 0
-- Garry Kasparov Retires : 10
-- Hydra Beat Michael Adams 5.5-0.5 : 7
-- Topalov Wins FIDE WCh and Becomes New #1 : 8
-- Rise of Unknown and/or Open Source Chess Programs : 3
-- Classical Champ Kramnik Falls Out of Top Five : 5
-- Arkady Naiditsch Wins Dortmund : 6
-- Bessel Kok and Others Challenge Ilyumzhinov : 9
-- Bobby Fischer Released to Iceland : 5
-- Ninja T-shirts and Mig's New Nephew! : 11

Congrats Mig on another year of moderating the best blog around; no contest!
For me, the most outstanding issues of the year have been, in descending order:
Kasparov's retirement (tectonic shift in chess hierarchy; it IS different now, isn't it?);
Hydra's whitewash of Mickey Adams (we are all doomed; finally the day has dawned when carbon can no longer hold out hope of even wafer-thin superiority over silicon; maybe this was already well known: maybe I missed it)
Emergence of Topalov as a 2800 level world-champ (his fighting chess, particularly at San Luis has helped soothe the disappointment from Kaspy's retirement)
The rest are either irrelevant (Bobby who? Vladimir who?) or going to build into big issues in 2006 (e.g Finally, a serious challenge by Bessel Kok to the corrupt Ilyumzhinov regime). It's going to be very interesting watching things develop.
Happy Christmas and/or Happy Holidays to all.

Here are some other noteworthy events that happened this year in the Chessworld:

* The failure of the $500,000 HB Chess Tournament and the resulting collapse of the HB Foundation.

* US Chess Federation Membership dropping below 79,000 members, it's lowest level in 10 years.

* The US Chess Federation breaking new ground on its headquarters in Crossville, TN.

* PlayChess.com surpassing ICC as the #1 Chess site for serious chess players.

IMPORTANCE : from 0 to 10 (10 = very important)

-- FIDE Announces World Championship Cycle : 4
-- Garry Kasparov Retires : 10
-- Hydra Beat Michael Adams 5.5-0.5 : 1
-- Topalov Wins FIDE WCh and Becomes New #1 : 9
-- Rise of Unknown and/or Open Source Chess Programs : 2
-- Classical Champ Kramnik Falls Out of Top Five : 6
-- Arkady Naiditsch Wins Dortmund : 7
-- Bessel Kok and Others Challenge Ilyumzhinov : 3
-- Bobby Fischer Released to Iceland : 8
-- PlayChess.com surpassing ICC as the #1 Chess site for serious chess players! 5

"PlayChess.com surpassing ICC as the #1 Chess site for serious chess players."

How do you know?

The HB Global Chess Challenge did not cause the collapse of the foundation. The tournament was actually a good thing... see the HB thread.

""PlayChess.com surpassing ICC as the #1 Chess site for serious chess players.""

Was that supposed to be funny, playchess is not even in the same league yet for serious or non-serious players, except for the ACP cash tournaments.

Anyway Hydra wooping Adams was a slap in the face for the human race, but GK retiring was the main story.

Kasparov's departure, and Topalov's emergence, were the main news items.

You left out Kamsky's comeback.

I actually had Kamsky on my list but he really came back last year.

To my mind, there is little question that Kasparov's retirement and Topalov's ascension are the first and second most significant events in chess this year.

But I will add a third that almost no one noticed at the time. Yet I think that, 20 years from now, it may well be identified as a historic moment in chess.

That was the presence of Chouchanik Airapetian at the 2005 US Championship. Chouchan became the first woman ever to earn a gender-neutral spot at the US Championship.


Up until now, some people have tended to dismiss the accomplishments of the Polgar sisters or of Pia Cramling by saying that they were too exceptional to be considered in any way an indication of proof for the statement that "women can play chess."

Even many very bright guys continue to confuse "can't" with "don't" and point to the relatively few numbers of women who play as somehow proof of a genetic inferiority. Despite statistical evidence to the contrary (women tend, if anything, to be overrepresnted at the top levels).

But Chouchan is an ordinary 2100 player, someone who is sometimes a little over 2200, sometimes a little below. She played the tournament of her life at the Chicago Open in 2004 and qualified for a 2005 spot that was open to either men or women. The fact that she's not a GM, not a Polgar, not a top 100 player is what makes this so significant.

Susan Polgar has long said that "a 2400 player is a 2400 player." That is, a woman who is 2400 is neither stronger nor weaker than a man with that rating. Events that mix men with 2500 ratings and women with 2300 ratings tend to foster the illusion that women "can't" play chess--but men with 2300 ratings would do no better in that field.

Chouchan played fine at the 2005 event, a little better than her rating, and finished ahead of some men as well as some women. She didn't equal her qualifying performance, and no woman has yet qualified for the 2006 event on a gender-neutral basis.

But...it was done. It can be done. And it will be done again. Not just by superstars, but by women at every level of the sport.

20 years from now, I hope we will see many more women playing. I believe there will be no gender-restricted events, and no gender-restricted prizes. And people will look back at 2005 as the point when we stopped assuming that a woman had to be a superstar to compete. And that will make it easier for everyone, at every level, to relax and just play chess. :)


I thought Magnus Carlsen's performance at Corus and WCC were worthy of top 10 chess stories of 2005. Wunderkind can never get enough attention if you ask me.

Women have qualified, on their own merit, for male events for a long time. Not a whole lot of them, perhaps, but there have certainly been examples. I don't see Airapetian's achievement as especially noteworthy, given that the US Champ is a relatively minor event as far as international chess events go. Certainly not one of the watershed events of 2005, although the list is a highly subjective one, and what you personally draw inspiration from is an individual matter.

Carlsen's impressive performance at Corus was in 2004. This year it was Karjakin who impressed.

Well, it doesn't quite fit in here, but Duif's posting gives an excuse to bring it up - Nigel Davies' recent column in Chesscafe.com. Advice on choosing games from a database for study.


"At the risk of sounding politically incorrect itís good to ignore games by women and children unless theyíre over 2400. Men have to be a lot stronger to get their games into databases, but here too a 2400 cut-off isnít a bad idea."

"Is there a particular number of games one should study? Probably a maximum of 6 per variation is a good way to start, and one good way to select them is to take the games of a particular player (human, male, above 2400 and over 18) who plays the line and look."

Can ANYONE think of ANY sensible reason why he does not just say 'study games of players rated over 2400'?

Why should a person TRY to sound so silly (and succeed so well?

How can a male 19 year old 2401 game be more useful than that of a male or female 15 year old at 2401? Or that of a female 30 year old at 2401?

Why does he then write a whole column based on the games of 1600 level players?

Why does he bother to be a chess coach for young players?

Yep, open mouth, insert foot. Rating is rating. And going over ANNOTATED games of weaker players, players near your own level, can be vastly more instructive than going over games by players rated hundreds of points higher, or a thousand points higher in many cases. Almost all the feedback I get from White Belt readers is about how much they learn from going over the annotated reader games.

Sure, if you're just plowing through games on your own it makes sense to go through games with fewer errors, I suppose. But even this doesn't convince me. It's not as if you are studying them in order to imitate them directly. You learn from the work, and this is true no matter the level of the players unless they are far weaker than you are.

Btw, I posted a new version of the "top stories" poll so you can pick more than one story. Should make the results more interesting despite having two runaway winners. I'll see about poll code for allowing rankings.


IMHO there are two important events this year:
#1 Kasparov retires, which makes #2 important,
#2 Topalov's 2005.

Two others could go either way, and the historians will make it sound obvious with the benefit of hindsight:
- Naiditsch winning Dortmund
- Kok challenging for the FIDE

A new nephew ranks right up there. Mine now has a new huge bin of mega-legos. Next year we are going to work on saying 'My daddy's a loon' ...

IMHO there are two important events this year:
#1 Kasparov retires, which makes #2 important,
#2 Topalov's 2005.

Two others could go either way, and the historians will make it sound obvious with the benefit of hindsight:
- Naiditsch winning Dortmund
- Kok challenging for the FIDE

A new nephew ranks right up there. Mine now has a new huge bin of mega-legos. Next year we are going to work on saying 'My daddy's a loon' ...

I'd rate them as follows:

1. Kasparov's retirement
2. The rise of Topalov
3. Kramnik's decline
4. Hydra's victory over Adams

Topalov's "miraculous" ascencion is more like it. Without sounding paranoid, here are some questions someone around the world might be able to answer:

1) Can anyone name a famous player who has seemingly plateaued for a number of years (Topalov = 2000-2004) and suddenly experiences a meteoric rise in strength?

2) How did Topalov improve? By working with Cheparinov? What new knowledge does Topalov possess that Anand does not have?

3) Who can explain the amazing coincidence that Topalov only lost to Kazimdjanov in rapids in 2004?

To sum up, I was about to give "10" to Topalov's special exercise regimen in San Luis, but anyone can see he is skinnier than the Olsen twins!

Ivanchuk has a simliar pattern to Topalov's over the same period.


"Topalov's miraculous ascension": Isn't he just doing what he did in 1996, just even better?

Dear Mig!
Are there any updates on Max Dlugy story? Was he released, or he is still inprisoned? IMO this sad story is also quite important piece of chess news of the year 2005.

Max Dlugy was acquitted and freed on December 21. You can read it in the Dirt http://www.chessninja.com/dailydirt/archives/freed_dlugy.htm

Three most important events of 2005:
1) Kasparov retired,
2) Gary Kasparov retired and
3) Oh my God! Gary Kasparov retired.

or maybe:
1) Press conf at end of Linares...
1) Kasparov announces retirement
2) Kasparov actually retires

Everything's Eventual

Vote for top story of 2006:

1. Kasparov comes out of retirement to face Topolov.

Peter Leko's quick decline may be worth discussing. Also, the domination of Ponmariov, Khalifman and Kasimjanov by Hydra, Junior and Fritz (which went even being run on a generic laptop).

I suspect if we lived in Norway we might want to add something about Magnus Carlsen's performance in the World Cup. what was his final performance rating on that.

news for 2006 just might be about him in the Candidates. who knows.

Good news was the nice performance of Gata Kamsky. By the way I just read that he also won the New York State Championship. So he has been playing some games warming up for WAZ and US Championships and the Candidates next year.

I am super happy that Gata Kamsky has returned and I cheer for him all the time. He even defeated the red hot Magnus Carlsen on the last day of the tournament. However, I do cheer for other people also. especially at the US Championships there are so many I will be cheering for. hopefully one of them will do well.

And lastly I want to say Thank You to Duif. I find her comments to be terrific. they are so well thought out and so well presented. I almost always agree with her. over 90% I would guess. even when I had been holding a different view, her comments caused me to reassess my view. she presents her view so well. I know she has changed my mind more than a few times. but I can remember once I decided to keep my old view.

Thank You Duif. You are Wonderful.


I would vote for Topalov winning the world championship.

The 2nd by a longshot would be Kasparov retiring. The rest of them arent very comparable IMO.

Topalov is a great player and he had an excellent year but still he is the strongest(active) player in the world. The qualifier points to Kasparov's importance. I would add that, apart from Kramnik's poor form, his title was also diminished by Kasparov's retirement, as Kramnik's career, at least for a couple of years, consisted largely of denying him a chance to play for the title.
The retirement of the No. 1 player for two decades is the event that will be remembered for many, many years.

Would you please post an article about the list for candidates that FIDE gave. Thx in advance.

Kasparov and Anand log in all the time to PlayChess.com, not the ICC. There's nothing cooler than being on Playchess and seeing "Garry Kasparov has logged in."

'Nuff Said!

Tommy, thank you for your comments. Much too kind.


i agree that most people will find it a very ordinary and umimportant accomplishment. But it is the fact of its ordinariness which is what is so significant. To be able to take for granted that a woman could qualify for a gender-neutral spot simply by playing good chess at her level (NOT by being a superstar) is, I think, a really significant shift in chess culture.

But it is also true that lists like this made contemporaneously almost always choose the most exciting events rather than the most significant. They have to, since it's hard to see the signficance of things in advance.

Perhaps Mig's nephew will be the one to make the medical breakthrough that will give each human an extra 25 years of quality life.

Perhaps Nakamura will continue to improve, go on to win the World Champonship, and future lists will all include his "first US championship."

Who can say? That is part of what makes the discussion fun. :)

I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays.


Chess Auditor,

Actually, cases of a seemingly plateau followed by a meteoric rise are not rare in chess history. They are just more evident now, when ELO ratings are calculated periodically.

The 10 most dramatic cases I can find are, in reverse cronological order:

Valery Salov in 1987
Rafael Vaganian in 1983
Viktor Korchnoi in 1977
Bobby Fischer in 1970
Bent Larsen in 1964
David Bronstein in 1950
Isaac Boleslavsky in 1945
Mikhail Botvinnik in 1941
Miguel Najdorf in 1941
Efim Bogoljubow in 1925

As for your other two questions, I have no idea. I pretty much would like to know the answer to the second one, to use that knowledge myself. But unless someone can prove me wrong, I guess the answers might be simply (2) "by working harder" and (3) "Kasim played better".

In a similar vein, can anyone name a "World Champion" (besides Kramnik) whose playing strength decreased to such an extent while in possession of the "crown"? As much as anyone, I would have liked to seen a reunification match between Topolov and Kramnik; but the current Kramnik model needs a major overhaul first, and I don't see that happening? In a nutshell...Alas poor Kramnik, we knew thee well. My apoligies to Bill Shakespeare.

About the most important story of the year, the criteria is simple:

"20 years from now, or even 10 years from now, what will you remember?"

So my vote is:

-- FIDE Announces World Championship Cycle : 2 (the anouncement, not the cycle itself)
-- Garry Kasparov Retires : 10
-- Hydra Beat Michael Adams 5.5-0.5 : 3
-- Topalov Wins FIDE WCh and Becomes New #1 : 9
-- Rise of Unknown and/or Open Source Chess Programs : 0.5
-- Classical Champ Kramnik Falls Out of Top Five : 7
-- Arkady Naiditsch Wins Dortmund : 6
-- Bessel Kok and Others Challenge Ilyumzhinov : 1 (the result of the election will be another story)
-- Bobby Fischer Released to Iceland : 8
-- Ninja T-shirts and Mig's New Nephew! : ???

I think that the rise of Levon Aronian is quite noteworthy also. He won the World Cup, and this is the new Fide rating list preview, excluding Kasparov:

Topalov, Veselin 2801
Anand, Viswanathan 2792
Svidler, Peter 2765
Aronian, Levon 2752
Kramnik, Vladimir 2741
Leko, Peter 2740
Ivanchuk, Vassily 2729
Gelfand, Boris 2723
Ponomariov, Ruslan 2723
Morozevich, Alexander 2721
Bacrot, Etienne 2717
Grischuk, Alexander 2717
Polgar, Judit 2711
Shirov, Alexei 2709
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2709
Adams, Michael 2707
Akopian, Vladimir 2704
Radjabov, Teimour 2700

I think this shows what a dull year we had. kaspys retirement was the big news. But given that he wasn't playing much anyway and we don't know how long he will remain retired its not as big as it could be. However its the clear winner and is big news.

Personally what about some other stories. Like Topalov refusing to play Kramnik? You may disagree with me but the biggest thing about San luis was Kramnik's statement that he woudl play the winner. That was the *only* reason that torunament held more interest to me than the other super tournaments this year. The prize funds support my claim that the bigger news story was hsi turning down kramnik.

When you say FIDE anounces a WC cycle which announcement are we voting on? Was it the one in may or the one in october or the one for San luis?

Aronian has reached 2750 already? Impressive. He's done it almost imperceptibly, without playing in almost any supertournaments. I'm curious to see how his opening preparation holds up to 2700+ scrutiny in 2006.

Yeah, I would vote for Aronians rise as one of the top stories, after Kasparov retiring of course.

using someone's 0-10 scale, which wasn't what Mig asked for,

FIDE Announces World Championship cycle..........2
Garry Kasparov Retires...........................5
Hydra Beat Michael Adams 5.5-0.5.................1
Topalov Wins FIDE WCh and Becomes New #1.........8
Rise of Unknown and/or Open Source Chess Programs4
Classical Champ Kramnik Falls Out of Top Five....2
Arkady Naiditsch Wins Dortmund...................6
Bessel Kok and Others Challenge Ilyumzhinov......1
Bobby Fischer Released to Iceland................0
Ninja T-shirts and Mig's New Nephew!..sorry......0

I would like to write in 7 points for Aronian, so second most important

Top stories 2005:

1) Kasparov's retirement.

Obvious. I wish he will not comeback, but I hope he can participate in exhibition tournaments, or rapid play; I am a Kasparov fan, but retirement should be made in the best way, he has nothing to win (he does not need to prove anything to us, let the man to live!) and much to lose if he thinks in a comeback. What about his political career? I see no special future, he can be an excellent analist, but nobody pays attention on him as a politician.

2) Topalov's rise to the top.
Obvious, the player of the year!

But for how long? What is behind Topalov's success? Downfall of rivals, better preparation, others?

3) The rise of a new top player: Levon Aronian

The question is: How goog will perform in supertournaments, he will be another player like Morozevich? He will be for greater things as a professional, or just a "gifted amateur" (I dont talk about styles, just in the sense that he smashes 2600's, he has sudden rises, but did not succeed in super tournaments)?

4) Naiditsch wins Dormund: This confirms that
"top" players are not as good as we think and not as far of the 2600's players. That probably overstimates the quality of the "tops", just because we see them more and pay more attention to the supertournaments.

5) Other stories, I don't care too much (well, probably I care the Ninja T-shirts!), why pay attention to an unprepared Adams against a computer, the downfall of other people (Fischer, Kramnik)?

It seems also interesting to guess what would be the top stories of 2006. This is my guess:

Top stories on 2006

1) Topalov's confirmation as #1 player?
2) Aronian confirms his rise?
3) The FIDE qualifying cycle will work? Who will win?
4) New FIDE presidency? new organization?
5) Kasparov wants to be FIDE president an quit russian politics? (just joking)

Take a look at a Russian journalist's top 50: http://www.e3e5.com/petersburg/competitions/article.html?455

So far in Russian only, but the pictures are for the most part self-explanatory.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on December 24, 2005 1:28 PM.

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