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2006 Candidates Pairings

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FIDE has gone ahead and announced the pairings for the 2006 six-game candidates matches. They have confirmed to their satisfaction that Kasparov and Kramnik (I reflexively typed "and Karpov" there. How old do I feel?) aren't going to participate and so their rating spots kick down to Shirov and Bacrot. As predicted, this creates a final spot for 11th-place World Cup finisher Malakhov since Bacrot is also in from that event.

1. Levon Aronian (ARM) - Magnus Carlsen (NOR)
2. Peter Leko (HUN) - Mikhail Gurevich (TUR)
3. Ruslan Ponomariov (UKR) - Sergey Rublevsky (RUS)
4. Boris Gelfand (ISR) - Rustam Kasimjanov (UZB)
5. Etienne Bacrot (FRA) - Gata Kamsky (USA)
6. Alexander Grischuk (RUS) - Vladimir Malakhov (RUS)
7. Judit Polgar (HUN) - Evgeny Bareev (RUS)
8. Alexei Shirov (ESP) - Michael Adams (ENG)

Send your condolence cards to Vallejo Pons, who lost to Malakhov for that 11th spot, and to Ivanchuk, who is the next rating reserve despite being higher-rated than Bacrot and Shirov over the past year. As I've ranted many times in the past, it's a crime that FIDE is using such old rating lists for the 2007 championship. It's another that they have given free rides to half of the San Luis field to the next final tournament. As currently planned these 16 players will fight for four spots in a final double round-robin tournament. Bleh. Maybe new FIDE leadership can come in in time to save us and institute a worthy finish to this first decent cycle in a decade.

Of course it's great to see Shirov squeak in even at the cost of poor Chukky. He's a formidable match player and I can imagine him seeing this as his chance to catapult back into the limelight after an obscure 2005. But he has a tough "old school" match against Adams, another fallen angel.


Mikhail Gurevich, not Dmitry.

Heh, after the Karpov thing that's a small one. Shows what a week of vacation can do to your brain!

So now is FIDE accepting bids to host the set matches? How many games? Believe Norway wants to host for their favorite son. How about the USA for GATA? Suppose France would not like that.

Note that all top 15 players in the latest FIDE list save for one (unlucky Chuky...) were invited either directly to the 2007 WC tournament or the 2006 Candidates. Of course two of them declined, but that's their problem. The fact that the entire chess elite will be participating is sufficient for me to say that the 2007 FIDE World Champion will be (again) the only legitimate champ.

Hi Mig

Off topic but I wondered if you know the release date for OMGP V. Amazon says February first is that correct?

Isn't it ironic that Mig should not remember the name of Mikhail Gurevich, as a certain Mikhail Gurevich is the aircraft designer who developed the MiG.

I'm certain Mig would prefer Kramnik's imaginary method of selecting a candidate.

If this goes ahead, it will totally avoid the need for a Kramnik unification match.

On the pairings , they all look very tasty. My predictions for the winners:

Aronian,Leko,Ponomariov,Gelfand, Bacrot, Grischuk, Polgar and Shirov to march on.

Happy New Year


First time reader here, Dionyseus, or just trolling?

I've been here for quite a while, Mig. I find it so ridiculous how you try to attack FIDE and Ilyumzhinov in just about every post you make, yet you fail to realize how much FIDE and Ilyumzhinov have helped. No one's perfect, he made a mistake (knockout championships) and he's tyring to fix it, but still you are unsatisfied. Sometimes people should appreciate what they have.

Ah, sarcasm shields up, I see. Or I must have mistaken you for one of the group that find it so ridiculous how much I support FIDE and always attack Kramnik. You guys should really get together. Or realize that there can be good and bad on both sides and that it's better to have an informed opinion and sincere goals than blind allegiances.

I have no patience for people who, when they hire someone to build them a house, thank them for building one with no roof. "Hey, these walls are great! Nice floor! It's more than I had before so I guess I won't mention the lack of a roof. I'll act happy with the status quo even if I'm not and have no reason to be."

FIDE and Ilyumzhinov do enough self-promotion; they don't need my help. I'm happy to cheer what's right, and I often do, but I'd rather work on what's wrong. I praised FIDE to the skies when they announced a classical cycle, you can look it up. But then they took the roof off by changing the rules to have another final tournament instead of the match they announced.

I've certainly spent equal time criticizing Kramnik and his inactivity in organizing over the past five years. No cycle, etc. But if someone is devoted to the long match tradition of world championships, and many people are, why not say so? Kramnik has a match with no cycle; FIDE has a cycle and no match. Plenty of criticism to go around for both. I don't have to conform to a black and white world in which I must embrace one of them when in reality both are deeply flawed.

Is Topalov "more legit" than Kramnik right now? Sure. But had he and, say, Svidler both finished on +3 and gone to blitz tiebreaks it would be a different story. So the current format sucks despite the good result. So I campaign for a long match final.

I'm sorry for the stupid question, but where do Anand and Svidler fit in this scheme?

And is it true that Mikhail Gurevich represents Turkey these days? Hard to believe.

What is the tiebreak for 3/3 scores in the six game matches? Rapid playoffs?

Mig, on one hand I am sorry that you have to waste time reiterating your position for the likes of Dionyseus, but on the other, I am thankful. I love how incisive your response is! Why can't more people be objective?!?

Kramnik drops out of Wijk Super-Tournament ... At least now all could concentrate on a GAME itself, but feel pity...

Penguin_with_visor: The top four in San Luis, Topalov, Anand, Svidler, and Morozevich, are seeded directly into the final 8-player round robin tournament.

Just seen that Kramnik's had to drop out of Corus because of worsening health problems. Before all the usual suspects pile in to say how funny this is, I should like to wish him success in his treatment and recovery, and hope to see him back to full health and form in the future.

Hi guys, I wanted to add to Mig's article that right now ACP Board (in which I have been elected some 10 days ago) is in permanent contact with FIDE concerning the future WC system and although we haven't made the official statement yet, it seems that some of my colleagues agree that the eight players tournament is not at all bad format to determine the world champion. The main question is how to make the just qualification for it. We have also thought that in future only the latest rating list should be taken into account when qualifying places are given according to ELO. Stay tuned.

My opinion is that in eight players format there is always someone who may feel that he should have been selected as eight and not ninth. But when there are only two players involved the injustice may be a lot higher. I happened to be victim in both cases but it was a lot easier to overcome 2005 when Judit Polgar shouldn't have played (in my opinion) in San Luis because her rating was inactive, rather than what happened in 1998-2000.

Now I am suddenly in and Ivanchuk is out. But maybe there is no such crime as Mig says. Curiously enough our ratings right now could be similar because his result in Stepanakert wasn't calculated yet and the European leagues in which I am doing well will only be counted for the 1st of July 2006. But I don't think it really matters. Both Ivanchuk and me did badly in Khanty-Mansyisk missing the chance to qualify directly but now I have this gift. 'Proehali' as we say in Russian (translation - it's passed)

My picks, repeated from New Years thread (this time with a bit of naive analysis):
FIDE World Championship matches.
1. L. Aronian - M. Carlsen
2. P. Leko - M. Gurevich
3. R. Ponomariov - S. Rublevsky
4. B. Gelfand - R. Kasimjanov
5. E. Bacrot - G. Kamsky
6. A. Grischuk - V. Malakhov
7. J. Polgar - E. Bareev
8. A. Shirov - M. Adams
Aronian (too much savvy for the kid), Leko (mismatch), Rublevsky (close call - slightly hotter right now than Ruslan), Gelfand (in good form with the right experience, but Rustam could make a fight of it), Kamsky (really tough to pick - Bacrot's openings vs. Kamsky's nerves - I'm going with nerves), Grischuk (hot and determined), Bareev (only Evgeny appears to be regularly performing at top-5 level), Adams (tough pick, but tactical games are perfect for Mickey, as long as they aren't against a computer).

These are very interesting matchups. You have a lot of players at different points of their careers - on the rise, coming up, fighting to hang on (esp. Shirov-Adams). Magnus has been getting stronger lately, and I hear he's doing serious training. I don't think an upset here would be the most outrageous thing ever. Kamsky will have a long tie to prepare for a specific opponent, and I doubt seriously that he is the guy that Bacrot wanted to play. Who do you call in Gelfand-Kasimjanov?

Should be great matches.

My picks, repeated from New Years thread (this time with a bit of naive analysis):
FIDE World Championship matches.
1. L. Aronian - M. Carlsen
2. P. Leko - M. Gurevich
3. R. Ponomariov - S. Rublevsky
4. B. Gelfand - R. Kasimjanov
5. E. Bacrot - G. Kamsky
6. A. Grischuk - V. Malakhov
7. J. Polgar - E. Bareev
8. A. Shirov - M. Adams
Aronian (too much savvy for the kid), Leko (mismatch), Rublevsky (close call - slightly hotter right now than Ruslan), Gelfand (in good form with the right experience, but Rustam could make a fight of it), Kamsky (really tough to pick - Bacrot's openings vs. Kamsky's nerves - I'm going with nerves), Grischuk (hot and determined), Bareev (only Evgeny appears to be regularly performing at top-5 level), Adams (tough pick, but tactical games are perfect for Mickey, as long as they aren't against a computer).

These matches really are going to be enjoyable to observe and discuss while they unfold. I was going to list my picks, but after reading Dan's...there verbatim. As a Kramnik critic of late, I too hope his treatments are successful. He did look disheveled in his pictures from his last event. I'm hoping that's all it is? I'm not trying to be controversial, but I know from personal experience that painkillers (vicodin, etc.) and chess are not good bedfellow's. This is only conjecture on my part, and I hope that my instincts are absolutely wrong.

Shirov vs. Adams is the perfect matchup - Fire vs. Ice! Anything could happen! Anything could also happen in matches 3-7. 1 and 2 are a bit too lopsided to seriously consider an upset. Both the kid and the veteran did a great job getting to the candidates, but Aronian and Leko will prove too tough for them.

In the second round, Aronian vs. either Shirov or Adams, will be the match to watch.

Mr Shirov,

Of course you've been lucky to play the matches. But you don't have to justify yourself : the rules are the rules, and ... I guess that everybody still can remember that you did defeat Kramnik in a match before Kasparov picked up the looser to play against him (which was a clear mistake by the way, since Kasparov lost to Kramnik, and ... you'll probably admit that you had almost no chances against Kasparov).

But that's not the reason of my post. I am happy to see you back in the "business" : you are a player that everybody loves to see over the board. Your attacking chess is amazing, you're a modern Tal. Your books "Fire on the board" are simply wonderful. I'll be happy to watch your games and wish you the very best.

As a lot of people I'd be very happy to see such players like you, Aronian, Morozevich, Anand and Topalov playing the tournament in 2007 for the title. That would be bloody, juicy :o)

And just a little remark to everybody : in a few posts, I said that Kramnik would probably not play in Corus after his remarkable "showing" in russian superfinal.

After Drawnik, after Blundnik, here comes Cowardnik. Of course, he says he's not Cowardnik but just Illnik. But I don't believe him.

4 years ago, there was 800 points between me and Kramnik. Now, only 500. Hold on, Vlad, I'm coming !!!

I must side with Mig on Fide's lack of a final match to go with the candidates match cycle.
Yes an 8 player RR is "not bad at all" when compared with nothing, but the sitting champ doesn't have to be beaten to lose his title!
The sitting champ can go unbeaten (maybe even scoring a win) against the eventual winner of the tournament, and still lose his title! This is no way to hold a world chess championship in my opinion. This makes chess just like tennis - no champions of note to speak of, just the current no.1-10ís to fawn over.

A big part of competitive chess for me was the eventual head to head battles for the world championship. Itís a big part of the history of chess. All the real significant media attention that chess has gotten as a sport has come from head to head matches, and the world championships in particular. Nothing lasting will come from such a break from tradition.

To make the majority of chess fans happy, just have:

1: A fair and unbiased qualification system, leading toÖ
2: A series of candidates matches, which lead toÖ
3: A undisputed match for the Chess Championship of the World.

Itís so simple it makes my eyes bleed with despair that Fide is still having issues with steps 1 & 3.

If they did, with the top players in the world competing, there would be no noises about ďunificationĒ.

I want a strong World Chess Champion, such a champion has always given the game of kings a lot of prestige that carries with it the weight of tradition. And after the last decade or so of mess, chess needs all it can get of both.

That being said, itís time for me to also say, go Shirov! As a fan-for-life itís nice to see you get a real shot. Not even my American patriotism can make me root for Kamsky. Nor can my bandwagon jumping tendencies make me throw in my support for Aronian. Donít you dare feel one ounce of guilt for accepting the ďgiftĒ that has been placed in your lap (Kramnik didnít!). Take it and make the run of your life.

And should you get the chance to sacrifice a few of your fellow candidates into submission along the way, your fans would be eternally delighted.

1. One thing i dont understand easily, is why people are always so obsessed with tradition. OK Classical cycles are a very important institution of chess tradition , but that alone cannot prove their irreplaceability. San luis tournament was quite successful. Nice fighting chess, very few dry games, innovations and finally an undisputed champion. So i think that the success of the new can and ought to overpass the old.

2. As far as the argument that only a classical world champion can get media attention is concerned,i will answer that it is not the format of the world chmapionship , neither the pure chess skills of the champion which can bring popularity but his personality. Unfortunately recent top players are lacking that...

Neither Anand, nor Topalov or Leko have something special to tell or do. They just cannot capture people 's imagination or curiosity.

No special sense of humour.
Mediocre education.
Trivial opinions.
Modest behaviours.
Conservative look.

In a non-chessplayer they look (and are ) boring. It would be really great for chess if there comes a person which will combine chess excellency with a gifted personality. That really could boost our sport.

I fully agree with Shirov when he says that, if invitations are made based on rating, then the latest numbers should be used.

Taking an old debate back, I think that it should come together with a change in the rating formula, to reward activity. Today, if a player does not play, his/her rating simply does not change. If a player has a rating high enough to ensure an invitation by rating, it may have the perverse effect of encouraging this player NOT to play, to mantain a high rating by inertia rather than by good results.


In former threads, when Kramnik had poor results and said that it was because of his match against Leko, (the "Brissago virus", as it was sarcastically called) I doubted it, and wrote it here. This time, when the disease is explicitly described, and a former competition is not mentioned as an excuse, I have no problem at all in taking his word. I wish him a good recovery, and that he goes back to his old good form.

Kramnik is like the boy who cried Wolf. I guess this time he really is sick, but that doesn't excuse his shifty behavior for the past, what, 14 months?

Anyway, I wish him a speedy recovery and many great chess victories.

By the way, I find it poetic justice that Shirov can play for the world championship as a result of Kasparov and Kramnik giving up their spots, since in 2000 those were the exact 2 players who prevented him from playing for the title.

Penguin, re. Gurevich / Turkey, he explained his decision in an interview on the official FIDE World Cup (Khanty-Mansyisk) site. I no longer have the URL, but I recall MG citing two factors: an attractive financial offer and the Turkish climate (resort city of Antalya was cited).

Mr. Shirov,
First of all, I named my youngest son after you (my wife is Russian). Thanks for all the blazing chess!

Second, though, if you really want to have a tourney to decide the world title, I think it has to be far more rigorous than just two cycles. It should be 4 cycles at least. Why not use the tourney to decide the qualifier to face the world champ in a match? Many people say that this gives the champ too much of an advantage because he or she gets to sit there while everyone else plays to qualify, but I think you can mitigate that by giving the challenger the draw odds for the match, ie. make the defending champ have to WIN the match in order to retain the title.

Match vs. Tournament?

While I do recognize that a tournament has some drawbacks, and would love to see Topalov defend his title in a match, I think there is one important point missing from this discussion:

When FIDE lost control of the title in 1993, I think they learned an important lesson. If the two players in a WC match decide so, nothing can really stop these two from "hijacking" the championship the way Kasparov and Short did.

In fact (and this may sound provocative to some), the system introduced by FIDE in 1948 has only proved it's worth during the Soviet times. In all the WC matches from 1951 to 1990, at least one and normally both players were Soviet citizens and, since they couldn't keep the prize money anyway, had no economical incentive to break away from FIDE.

Arranging the WC match is financially attractive, because it can attract sponsors, while arranging the qualification system is not. The way it worked before 1993, in my understanding, was that FIDE collected half the prize money from the WC match and spent this money to arrange the qualification. But in the post-Soviet era, this money could instead go directly in the pockets of the two players in the WC match, which is what Kasparov and Short realized in 1993.

So the "good old" system with qualifications leading to a championship match, as much as we love it, may just not be compatible with capitalism. When you have eight players in the final, a hijacking like we saw in 1993 becomes virtually impossible, because all eight have to be in on the "crime".

So, to (finally) get to my point: The eight player final seems to me to be an important part of FIDE's strategy to keep control of the World Championship - and like it or not, what we learned from the years 1993-2005 is that we need an organization to arrange a fair qualification stage of the WC. I'm sure Shirov would agree here!

Regarding Alexei Shirov's statement about whether to use the current rating list to determine the qualifiers for the final tournament, I would like to point out that even using the latest list, there is still an incentive for highly-rated players to hang on to their high ratings by remaining relatively inactive, which might allow them to keep their high rating longer than they really deserve. For instance, Bobby Fischer could come out of retirement, forfeit four rated games to IMs in Iceland, and then disappear again, and he would receive an active FIDE rating sufficiently high to grant him entry into the next world championship final! Although this is an extreme case, I think that most people would agree that you want the players with the best recent results to qualify, rather than the players who did very well in the past and then hardly played at all more recently.

Because of this, I think it would be better to use a performance rating measure, which only considers games played over the previous 12 months (or possibly 24 months). It would still need to reward activity (otherwise you could stop after just a few successful games at the start of the year) and it should also reward players who play strong opposition (otherwise you can build up a huge performance rating against low-rated opponents). Or perhaps only tournaments of a certain category would be considered. I have developed such a performance rating measure and I use it all over the place on my Chessmetrics site and in my various statistical articles on chess. As a test, if you apply this formula on a yearly basis, to see who had the best performance of each year, you would find that over the past 26 times that the Chess Oscar (a subjective award) was voted on, the top player on my formula-based list matched the top player on the Oscar list, 24 times out of 26! This is a much better rate than if you just used the top player on the FIDE rating list each year. It is interesting that I developed the rating formula objectively, to optimize predictive power of the ratings, but that it agrees so well with a subjective measure such as the Chess Oscar.

With a formula that only considers games played during a certain time span, and which rewards activity to a certain degree, and which rewards someone who plays strong opposition, there would be incentive for top players to continue playing frequently against strong opposition (great for the chess world!), and it would reward recent tournament success more than just using the rating list. I think this would be a great improvement upon the current plan. More specifically, I would use a "padded performance rating" based on the opponents' FIDE ratings, as described on my Chessmetrics site at http://www.chessmetrics.com/CM2/Formulas.asp . I plan to write another article soon which will cover this topic in more detail.

1. Levon Aronian (ARM) - Magnus Carlsen (NOR)

Carlsen is getting stronger fast, but Aronian is also improving! Aronian should win the match, but Magnus will win a game off of him.

2. Peter Leko (HUN) - Mikhail Gurevich (TUR)

Even if Leko's form is not great, he should prevail in this match. However, this is an important test for him, and Gurevich has nothing to lose. It could be an interesting clash of styles.

3. Ruslan Ponomariov (UKR) - Sergey Rublevsky (RUS)

Yawn....I'll give Pono a bit of an edge here. Of course, one has to be impressed by Rublevsky's Russian Championsip victory, but it remains to be seen if he can maintain such winning form. Pono seems to have less baggage now that he has finally given up his struggles with FIDE.

4. Boris Gelfand (ISR) - Rustam Kasimjanov (UZB)

Gelfand is a cipher. Everybody likes his style, but the results never seem to be commensurate. Kasimjanov is tough in these mini-matches. Therefore, I give him a slight edge.

5. Etienne Bacrot (FRA) - Gata Kamsky (USA)

Bacrot's flake-out against Aronian has me wondering about his toughness. Gata will have a couple of big tests in elite tournaments, after which we can better judge his form. As of now, Kamsky has not demonstrated that he is back to his mid-'90s form. Therefore, Bacrot has to be deemed the favorite, although this match could well be the upset special.

6. Alexander Grischuk (RUS) - Vladimir Malakhov (RUS)

This match is Grischuk's to lose. Malakhov played to his potential, and more, at the World Cup, but he should be outmatched, if Grischuk is in any sort of form.

7. Judit Polgar (HUN) - Evgeny Bareev (RUS)

Not a bad match-up for Polgar. Before her hiatus from chess, she had scored quite well against Bareev. True, Bareev is in much better form than she is, based on recent results. But I have no doubt that Polgar is the superior player, and the Bareev's style suits her. I'd be surprised if Judit didn't win.

8. Alexei Shirov (ESP) - Michael Adams (ENG)

I'm really looking forward to this match, which ought to feature some obscure tactics and wide open positions. It's hard to pick a favorite, so I'll flip a coin: Ah... Shirov

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on January 4, 2006 8:51 PM.

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