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MTel 2006 Round 1

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The MTel supertournament is underway in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. It runs through May 21. This is the second edition, again a six-player double all-play-all. The world's top two players, Topalov and Anand, are in action together with Svidler, Ponomariov, Bacrot, and the comeback kid himself, Brooklyn's own Gata Kamsky. A repeat of Corus? Fugheddaboudit! Topalov won by a full point last year.

Topalov and Anand are the big favorites, but Linares showed us that anything can happen. (Linares winner Aronian didn't want to play in this event. The event runs into the start of the Olympiad. Some of the players have to run to Turin after missing the first few rounds.) The ceremonial first move was made by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho.

The anti-draw rules are in effect. No direct offers at all, instead they must declare their intent to the arbiter. Draws only in the case of repetition or theoretically drawn endgame. Yay! Ban the draw offer! First tiebreak is most wins, second is head-to-head, third is the Berger system, fourth is higher number of total moves played (!). Don't remember seeing that one before. The regulations go on to say that if there is a first-place tie between just two players, there will be tiebreak rapid-blitz matches. The various formulas will only be used if there is a tie between three or more players.

ChessBase intro article and pairings schedule. Update: Anand beats Bacrot with black in the first round. Pono-Kamsky and Svidler-Topalov drawn.


Aronian declined the invitation because he wanted to concentrate on the upcoming Olympiad. That's what he told '64', at least:


(in Russian)

Ok, What does Fugheddaboudit! mean? I even lived in Brooklyn for two years and don't know.

Literally it's a contraction of "forget about it," but the usage varies from that to things along the lines of an incredulous "come on" or "don't worry about it, it's taken care of" depending on context. Mostly it just means "no way." You need to watch more Sopranos, though maybe the Jersey version is different...

I'd like to hear some people weigh in on Anand's Nf3+ move. My guess is that after he made the move he probably thought to himself ... "Fugheddaboudit!"

Do most of the pundits here think that move is easy to see in a tournament game when you haven't been informed that, "There is a puzzle here for you to solve, a schweet tactical shot, an opportunity to uncork a real shocker!"?

Was there no way around the scheduling conflict with the Olympiad? I'm assuming the Olympiad was scheduled first. (Although who knows with Kirsan?) Was there some reason the MTel tourney couldn't have started a few days earlier?

Actually, if you were watching and taking it form the Sopranos, it would be...Dohworbouit.

OH GNOS 2/3 of todays games are drawn... GMs Find ways to draw no matter what!! OMG.

Ponomariov? Bacrot? Kamsky? My enthusiasm for this tournament is somewhat tapered. Even in his current shape our arthritic world champion could probably beat half this field without much difficulty. Last year's lineup looks stronger.

To Todd C. Reynolds,

If you're genuinely interested, then yes, I think Nf3+ is easy to see, especially since Anand had set it up with ..Qf4. But the way he reached that position was impressive. I have to admit, in briefly looking at the game, my feeling was that the two rooks + pawn would outweigh the queen, but I was completely wrong, and Anand's ability to correctly assess the position after ..Bg5 is amazing.

Was there not anything that Bacrot could do to avoid Anand's Nf3+ then?

Not that I can see. If 42.Ne3 then 42..Nd3 (there's no Re7+ now and Rf1 loses the knight). If 42.Ng7, 42..Nd3 or 42..Qg5.

Dear Yuriy,

Your arthritic idol finished exactly ... last in the previous edition of Mtel in a field of lower average ELO, and one that still featured three of the current participants. Too bad that Aronian declined, but who knows, maybe we wants to enjoy the spotlight a bit longer without his butt being kicked too badly.


I think you are a tad presumptuous to assume that the winner of Linares and the FIDE World Cup (current #3 in the world) is overly concerned about getting his butt kicked by anyone.

Nah. I've been playing around with Trends for a few days. Unfortunately Anand's name is too common relative to Topalov's and Kasparov's. Same with Fischer, although "Bobby Fischer" full name was searched for a lot as well. I'll have an item up on it tomorrow, though maybe at ChessBase first.

C Riordan and Todd C Reynolds, I too was amazed at Anand's vision. My guess is he probably saw the Nf3 position as a possible line when he sac'd the g pawn ages earlier. I also found it very difficult to see why he went in for the position immediately after the Q for 2 rooks xchg. White had a row of pawns, and it seemed just as soon as White coordinated his rooks, he would be fine. But the genius that is Anand showed otherwise.. picked up those pawns with ridiculous ease, and he never seemed to break a sweat, never had an uncomfortable position. Maybe Bacrot didnt play the best, or maybe he put up the best defense, but anyway this was an awesome exhibition. Anand is in form folks, watch out, watch out... This is the reason I love to watch top level Chess, these guys are at the very top for a reason.
Speaking of which, thought Topalov played extremely well. Was expecting a bit more there.

It is ridiculous to accuse Aronian of being afraid playing in a tournament. He has proved his bravity by playing uncopromising against the very best. In contrast with players of his generations like Radjabov or Bacrot who seem to incorporate an overcautionary style against the elite.
As far as Anand is concerned, i am too very impressed...After Bxe3, thought that white is clearly better and in any case he should not lose.Nevertheless Anand played with computer-style precise and won. It seems that the intuition driven strenght of Anand can challenge the precise of a super-computer,like Hydra! For if someone had shown me the score sheet (covering the names of the players) and ask me to quess who is playing who, i would bet at something like that "Hydra- someone"!
It is pitty that we havent ,untill now, enjoyed a match between this wonder of nature, Anand, against a wonder of modern technology like Fritz, Shredder, Hydra etc.

We look forward...

Anand said after the game that he miscalculated when sacrificing his g pawn and was lucky not to be worse. (I guess he's not an all-seeing genius after all!)
Bacrot wasn't happy with a (not so great) extra pawn and tried to win with Qxa8 but he admitted that he probably overrated his chances.
At the press conference after the game both players said a draw was the logical result of the queen v two rooks position - Anand even admitted that in a tournament with different draw offer rules, he might have offered one!

Just because I think Kramnik could beat Bacrot, Pono and Kamsky does not make him my idol. It doesn't even mean I like the guy. Average ELO can be pretty meaningless to measure overall strength of tournament. For example, last year, Pono was lowest ranked participant, by 35+ points. This year, there are two people below him. His rating rose because of a few wins in tournaments of lesser stature. Forgive me if I am not impressed. The increase in this tournament's average ELO is due to Anand and Topalov's rating increasing by over 20 points. But that has nothing to do with my statement, which had to do with the quality of the lower half of this tournament. The rating of three GMs who didn't play last year averaged to 2741. This year's three newcomers average out to 2707.

Anand's 12... Bf6 was a novelty. 13.Rc1 seems planless by Bacrot. 13.e5? would be a mistake.
Maybe 13.Bc2!?
In other respects, Bacrot did not seems to find the correct approach, and Anand's luck held out to a nice win.

Is this the case that Anand said he would have offered a draw if he could???

Then this game is a clear empirical proof of the superiority of Sofia's anti-draw rule. The game is marvellous and if it had stopped at move 20, chess literature would have been poorer.

Yuriy, i disagree a bit with you. Player's belonging to the top 20 or even top 30 are not experiencing big strength differences. It is all about opening preparation and their current form. Do not forget that ,for example , Kamsky in his prime seemed to be a future crown contender.

Anand only siad that he might - not that he would - have offered a draw under other tournament rules. From his point of view, the good point about Sofia rules is that he doesn't have to worry about whether or not to offer a draw - he just has to try to find the best moves.
However if you are a high rated player with a dubious position, Sofia rules may not always seem so attractive. (Ditto if you are a weker player with a good position that you don't know what to do with!)

If, from a little room in Sofia, Leko was secretly transmitting his moves to Bacrot-sitting-at-the-board, (or Aronian transmitting to Kamsky) I wonder how many people would notice the difference.

Kramnik's level of play dropped in the past two years from roughly Topalov-Leko level to that of Bacrot-Kamsky. People noticed. Topalov raised his level from just another top 5 GM to strongest player level. People have noticed. Kasparov went from winning everything he was in in 2001 to finishing reliably in top 3 in 2004. People noticed. Naiditsch and Aronian win a super GM tournament. People notice. I agree that the difference in level of play is generally not on a "oh my god" level. And that Kamsky was probably in top 4 in mid-90s. But that there is no difference in play between #1 and #20 is ridiculous. Results such as Topalov winning 50 percent of his games against Nisipeanu in a recent match or the fact that Vallejo Pons never finishes near top 3 in Linares prove it.

I never said that there is no differences between top players. I said that this difference can be explained by factors such us opening preparation and current form. So , for instance, i do not believe that the pure chess strength between Kamsky and Leko or even Anand and Topalov is so vast..

Therefore i want to highlight two sepatate issues:
A. In case someone organizes a Fisher Random Chess World Championship (thus eliminating the opening theory advantages some people have) the final rankings will be different than the current elo rating lists suggest.

B. Current lists are current! We have to calculate long -term averages if we want to cancel out the current form effect. Again the rankings would be different , and the "Elo inequality" reduced... For example do you really believe that after tree or four years the difference between Topalov and Kamsky would be so vast as it is now?

Opening theory is part of the game and part of someone's "Pure Chess Strength". If someone works harder at home he deserves every extra half point he gets (Kasparov and Anand are prime examples- look at the number of Informant best novelty awards they've won). Complaining about someone else preparing a win at home is a complaint of the lazy and inferior. i.e. jealousy

Same as in Gridiorn when teams practise their moves on the training field. When they come off, do their opponents whinge "but we have similar pure Football strength"

A sprinter who trains harder and wins a race because of it doesn't have his opponent saying that his pure speed isn't that different.

e.g. Greg Lemond was a top US innovator in cycling. He led bike design and won Tour de France because of it. People whinged, mainly because they were incapable of looking outside the square.

Respect hard work and smart preparation. No sportsman gets to the top without it.

Great comment, Al! I've been saying, or at least feeling, everything you said for some time (the general complaint that opening prepration has distorted results, or even made "chess as we know it obsolete", is often heard on a number of these threads -- even sometimes cited as an unfair advantage of computers vs. people when in reality it works exactly the opposite way in that case, favoring the creative hard-working human over the inert machine!). But I never managed to express it so elegantly.

One needn't know anything about chess to climb onto this blog and expertly declare that because Topalov and Anand win more games and tournaments, they are better chessplayers.

But given a random assortment of wins, losses, and draws played by unidentified members of the top ten, precious few could distinguish those played by #1, #2, and #3 from those played by #8, #9, and #10.

See Anand has smashed Topalov with black!

"I said that this difference can be explained by factors such as opening preparation and current form."

Entirely? The top still on average finish towards the top and the bottom towards the bottom. I agree that preparation and form matters, and anybody who watches results can tell that Leko, Topalov, and lower-ranked GMs have had an opportunity to observe this. We are a little handicapped by the fact that most of the time when a GM has a bad tournament, we don't really know how hard he was preparing. I am willing to stipulate that tournament to tournament variance is due to condition and luck. However, such factors as opening preparation, chess knowledge and willingness to train for the upcoming tournaments certainly are a major factor in evaluating one's chess strength and you yourself acknowledge that this will matter in results they obtain. In terms of pure chess talent, Morozevich has shown incredible cleverness at the board. Leko shows fure board thrills, yet seems to be in good preparation for each tournament. When ranking them, I would put Leko slightly ahead. Who is the better player in a situation such as this? It would seem to me that the player who is able to obtain better chess results is ultimately the better chess player, though not necessarily the most talented one.

B: It depends on what you mean by "cancel out the current form". I agree that Topalov can be fairly said to have had a great year and a half. I don't agree that how well Kamsky was playing ten years ago should be given the same weight as how well he is playing now. I don't know how good Kamsky will be in three years. He may regain his past form and he may not, it's hard to say not being clairvoyant. My evaluation therefore applies only to his current performance as a chess player.

"One needn't know anything about chess to climb onto this blog and expertly declare that because Topalov and Anand win more games and tournaments, they are better chessplayers."

Agreed. All it takes is common sense. (however, you should also know they are playing--are they winning in a cafe or against fellow 2700s)

"But given a random assortment of wins, losses and draws played by unidentified members of the top ten, precious few could distinguish those played by #1, #2 and #3 from those played by #8, #9, and #10."

Agreed. Our knowledge largely comes from the fact that the percentage of wins, losses and draws the top ten accumulate to each other and even to the non-top ten is not random.

Omigawd, what an exhibition by Anand. Tal like tactics.. Vishy is sending a message here...

Al , i think that you didnt understood what i have said. I never complained about anything, nor i said that outplaying someone in the opening constitutes an undeserved win. You just raped my arguments..

I argue that Elo differentials among players reflect a variety of factors.Among those factors are current form and opening theory preparation (there are many others such as fighting spirit, mental endurance etc.). I just believe that these particular factors are very important when you are above 2700..Does not Bacrot or Adams or Leko or whoever of them know how to play the endgame? Or to calculate a variant? Or to structure a kingside attack? What really can make the difference in such a level is the above aforementioned factors.And my point is proved by the fact that among top 30 there exist a great amount of rating mobility.

I feel reluctant to include opening preparation into the notion of pure chess ability mainly because:

1. It depends on effort, in contrast with other aspects of chess play like engame which depends on BOTH effort and talent.

2. It reflects the resources available to player. For example i know that a top elite player bought from a Greek champion a novelty the latter have found and kept unpublished.

3. It can be easily acquired. Anyone can memorize thousands of variants but not anyone can be an ending virtuoso.

4. It has not a per se value. For example if the initial position of pieces changes then all opening books are useless. In contrast tactics will be always tacticts!

Anand gave Toppy a good spanking today! Wow! I particularly like 23)...d4!, 27) ...Ng5!, and (of course) the coup de grace 36) ...Bg3!

A great start with two blacks!!!

Anand, "This is going to hurt you more than it's going to hurt me." (plays d4)
Topalov [Gulps]
Anand, "Come here my child." (plays Ng5)
Topalov, "Yes sir."
Anand, "Bend over my knee." (plays Qf5)
[Topalov reluctantly obeys]
Anand with paddle in hand: "Wham" (plays Bg3)
Topalov: "Owwww" (high pitched scream)
[Topalov rushes back to hotel room to sit in a bucket of ice water. After a small "tssss" sound, a small trail of smoke rises from his posterior.]

I felt during yesterday's Anand game (against Bacrot) that it was sublime, but that feeling somewhat got reduced when someone later posted here that in the post-game analysis Anand said he hadn't seen 'everything' when he allowed Qxg4 by Bacrot.

Anand's game today against Toppy felt even more sublime than yesterday's game. What an exceptionally good play by Anand in such a well-worn opening as Ruy Lopez! I particularly had a good feeling at the end when Anand played ...Nxh3ch, because as early as around move 18 I myself was thinking that Anand had a possible good king side attack if he played ...Qd7 and then ...Bxh3 then bring the rook into the attack via Re6. However, Anand beautifully opened the way for his king-side attack with 22...e5 and then 27...Ng5. Both opening and middle games were marvelously played by Anand. The entire game is a Tal-like attacking game, born out of Petrosian like positional manouvering (think of 11..Bf8 and 16...Bc8 retreats!!). Now, THAT is a truely heady mixture of chess wizardry.

Having finished his M-Tel review, Todd pries apart the stuck-together pages of his "Scarlett Hills" magazine and continues reading.

TassieDevil, could you give the link for the transcript of the post-game press conference? I can't find anything on the official website. thanks.

The fact that Aronian was afraid of playing at Sofia is just bull.


Anyway, he is playing at Dortmund.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 11, 2006 1:09 PM.

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