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Drawish in Dortmund

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It's getting hard tell the difference between the rest days and the game days in Dortmund. For the second straight round all four games were drawn, three of them in fewer than 30 moves. Leko and Svidler still lead with +1 after three rounds. Jobava and Aronian took just 21 moves, but at least it was a repetition after many exchanges. Black is down a pawn and White has to accept repetition or give it back with annoyingly weak light squares. Not guilty.

Adams played a Shabalov idea in a crazy opening line that has been known for years. Black gives up three minors for the queen with four rooks still on the board. (Shaba played this in a Playchess online blitz tournament in 2004!) Not finding any way to break through against Leko (surprise, not), Adams acquiesced to a repetition on move 23 instead of playing on with, say, 23..Rd6 when 24.Nc6 Rxc6 25.Bxc6 Qb6 is good for Black. Just 24.e3 looks unbreakable, however. Guilty with mitigating factors since it looks pretty clear there's no way to make progress for Black and if White tries to go forward he'll be eaten by rabid beavers.

Grunfeld maven Svidler took on Grunfeld basher Gelfand in an accurate draw that swapped down to bones. Not guilty. That leaves Kramnik-Naiditsch, which very early on looked like it would fulfill its billing as a one-sided way for Big Vlad to get on track. As in their Turin game, Naiditsch played over-friskily and got into serious trouble early on. They followed two recent Naiditsch games until 10.Qd3 instead of Qc2. Black threw caution and good sense to the wind with 10..c5, allowing a fork on g7 and it looked like Kramnik was going to get away with a clean pawn after some calculation.

Instead White swapped queens instead of taking the rook on move 14. The game eventually ended in a draw, although it wasn't without interest the rest of the way. According to Kasparov, Black could have played for a significant advantage with 20...Rc2. I'll let Kramnik off the hook on this one because it's simply not his style to get into such messes. The position after 14.Qxh8 Rxc1+ 15.Kd2 Rxh1 16.Bxh1 looks quite unpleasant, although the computer shows White can get out fine with his pawn with precision. Kramnik quite likely would have won had he gone for it, so he gets a slap on the wrist. They also played down to kings, which is always nice.

An honest but cautious day, excepting Naiditsch. So far there have been any number of Morozevich games from Biel with more excitement than the entire Dortmund tournament has produced unless they are playing in the nude and nobody told me.


On the topic of chess and nudity, I submit the following:


More exciting?
Posted by: Frank Sträter at August 1, 2006 16:41

Risking being called sexist, I still opine that Krasnoturinsk would be considerably more exciting than Dortmund with Mig's nudity suggestion implemented.
Posted by: dcp23 at August 1, 2006 17:03

Actually, I prefer Dortmund
Posted by: peach at August 1, 2006 17:08

Interesting game between Volokiting and Morozevich in Biel today; 43...Bc5 is especially cute. The alternative, 43...Bd6+, seems to win the exchange 'for nothing', but in fact allows a probable fortress draw.

Moro is white vs. Pelletier tomorrow, while his closest pursuers both have black. It's not unreasonable to assume he'll win the tournament with a round to spare.
Posted by: Alex Shternshain at August 1, 2006 20:28

Trollery and idiocy deleted, including my own. Hands back on the keyboards, heads out of asses. See if we can keep something on topic for a day or so. Nude photos excepted.
Posted by: Mig at August 2, 2006 02:21

One need not be a star athlete to be a sportwriter, and one need not be a star chessplayer to be a chess writer. Otherwise, close to 100% of the commenters on this blog would be disqualified, including both Mig and Greg Koster.

When you are the reigning world champion, you come for heavier criticism. It comes with the territory.
Posted by: Marc Shepherd at August 2, 2006 02:24

Today Mig expressed concern again about the high draw rate:
"It's getting hard tell the difference between the rest days and the game days in Dortmund. For the second straight round all four games were drawn"

Seems like everyone wants to reduce the draw rate in chess, yet most people are unwilling to make the few rule changes that could accomplish that reduction (the rules seem "untouchable").

Some draws are inevitable. But such a high draw rate is not inherent with these pieces on this board. It is partly caused by our failure to evolve (yes change) the rules of chess to address this ongoing problem. The castling rule is one place to start (can be slightly re-designed to increase the rate of opposite wing castling).

Forbidding draws before move 30 might be a good idea. But when chess books publish games from a tournament or a career, they are still going to omit all those 30 move draws. More moves per draw is not the goal, fewer draws is.
So a rule change to rule change to increase the life span of each draw offer might work better. Ironically, the LONGER THE LIFE of any draw offer, the LESS LIKELY a player will be to offer a draw in the first place (longer lived draw offers give the opponent "safe" moves he can use to take gambles, hoping you will miss the proper defense).

The grandmasters are not to blame for the excessively high draw rate. Our stubborn rule choices are partly to blame. Major League Baseball made a radical rule change during my lifetime by its adoption of the Designated Hitter rule: the chess world should be able to at least consider rule adjustments.

Posted by: Gene_M at August 2, 2006 02:27

Well, that adds to the irony. The best player in history DID contribute some notes and that still got whines! Actually I'm supposed to be saving Garry's stuff for his NIC column but the impressions he gets during the game, as opposed to the analysis he does weeks later for the columns, are interesting for the differences.
Posted by: Mig at August 2, 2006 02:33

[My above comment was a response to Marc's.] Gene, my problem isn't with draws, but short draws. That's why today's games weren't so bad. (My joke was more a reference to the fact that the standings don't change on rest days or when all the games are drawn.) The draw rate rises with the strength of the players and that would be true if they had to play every game to bare kings. But barely playing at all is very much worthy of condemnation. If breaking windows weren't illegal it would still be wrong. The players are within their rights, but it's still wrong. Rule changes are clearly required, and they are happening. Meanwhile, there's nothing wrong with complaining about it and shaming the players. Ban the draw offer!
Posted by: Mig at August 2, 2006 02:40

hehe.. Am not sure though, that I particularly want to see the Dortmund participants in the nude. Moro played another smasher today, he really is in form. His middle game has been inspired more or less every game, though he did lose his concentration against Carlsen last game.

Alex you're right, after a quick glance I thought that the 43rd move spurning the xchg was a transcription error, but it probably does give the possibility of a fortress like draw.
Posted by: d at August 2, 2006 05:41

I don't think drastic rule changes are necessary. As John Nunn and others have pointed out, a draw is the expected result with correct play, and top GMs often play correctly.

Where the Sofia rule has been in place (and the M-Tel Masters in Sofia is not the only tournament to have employed it), the percentage of short draws has gone way down, just as it should.
Posted by: Marc Shepherd at August 2, 2006 10:32

While a draw may be an expected result with correct play, a draw in 18 (17 of them theory) with a boardfull of pieces hardly is. Most of the people seem to have beef not with the a draw, but with the non-game.

Updates from Biel:
Morozevich-Pelletier - a sharp game with opposite-sides castlings. Moro castled queenside, then played ... no, not g4 an h4 -- he played c4 and b4. Had I not known who's playing white, I would have assumed those are the moves of a rank patzer.

Volokitin-Carlsen - sharp endgame with passed pawns on opposide sides. Carlsen, as usual, has much more time, but white's c-pawn seems to be more dangerous.

Bruzon-Radjabov drawn in 16. The Cuban is tired of his lack of success and is happy with a half-point, and the Azeri wants to conserve his strength for Morozevich tomorrow -- Stock-Exchange Chess in action.
Posted by: Alex Shternshain at August 2, 2006 11:06

omigawd moro wins again.
Posted by: d at August 2, 2006 11:55

Well, seems like we have a paradox on our hands:

Carlsen - Morozevich 2-0
Morozevich - Volokitin 2-0
Volokitin - Carlsen 2-0

Just who IS the better player of those???
Posted by: Alex Shternshain at August 2, 2006 11:58



Recent posts on this blog and others concerning the alleged Topalov cheating have alerted me to the possibility of bending the rules in chess. I propose the following solution that will eliminate cheating, barring a supreme technology that I do not know of:

I think we are all in accordance that cheating is accomplished with the help of direct transmissions over the internet; that is, a top player does not need to relay his moves because MonRoi/DGT/ICC/PlayChess/etc. is doing this for him. Thus, I humbly suggest a TEN-MOVE DELAY on all transmissions, so that the accomplice on the other side would never know where the game is at.

The only way to cheat would be to be in cahoots with one of the aforementioned companies.

Posted by: Chess Auditor at August 2, 2006 12:03

And Chess Auditor's one-man crusade against ICC continues. What a long, strange trip its been...
Posted by: just another idiot at August 2, 2006 12:21

Alex Shternshain: "Well, seems like we have a paradox on our hands:

Carlsen - Morozevich 2-0
Morozevich - Volokitin 2-0
Volokitin - Carlsen 2-0

Just who IS the better player of those??? "

Yes, it's funny how adding the third player into the mix casts new light on the attempt to use head-to-heads as evidence of who's 'better'. In mathematics, we call a relation (say) @ 'transitive' if

a@b and b@c implies a@c. Clearly, you've proved that head-to-heads don't pass that test. (another example would be Shirov defeats Kramnik in match, Kramnik defeats Kasparov, Shirov never beats Kasparov in 19 attempts) Sometimes, it may be that one player defeats another because he's better. Otehr times, I think it's best to say that some players just 'matchup' better with others, the same way some teams matchup better in the NBA or NFL. One's strengths are more likely to exploit the other's weaknesses.
Posted by: shadows at August 2, 2006 12:23

The Germans have a rather splendid word for this phenomenon (well not exactly this phenomenon, but it's a splendid word anyway) - angstgegner. I think this means an awkward opponent whom one always loses to despite roughly equal ratings, although I'm not sure of the exact literal translation.

Slightly strange choice of opening by Carlsen today. That sort of calculating game is exactly the kind of thing Volokitin is good at, I would have thought, and I suspect Carlsen has a better all-round game. I'm sure it was meant to be a surprise, but the wrong customer, as events proved.
Posted by: rdh at August 2, 2006 12:53

does anyone know what Magnus final elo will be after the end of this tournament if in the last game he wins, draws, loses.

thanks ahead of time

Posted by: Frank H at August 2, 2006 13:30

Approximately 2680-2690 depending on last round result.
Posted by: Alex Shternshain at August 2, 2006 13:39

rdh - That's funny because my perception would have been exactly the opposite. A good number of the Magnus games I've seen have been total bloodbaths, and his ability to out-slug Morozevich suggests really extraordinary tactical acumen. I would have thought that sharp play would favor Carlsen.

(Of course as you note, the evidence of this last round game suggests you're right & I'm wrong ... )
Posted by: Derek at August 2, 2006 14:28

This angstgegner phenomenom is an interesting one. A german guy whose name I cannot remember tried to explain it as "an overinterpretation of probability considerations" i.e. along the lines :it's not improbable that one loses, even several consecutive losses to the same opponent are not so improbable so that it's needless to postulate the existence of angstgegners, it's just a perfectly normal matter of statistics that among a pool of players there may be x and y (of about equal strength, or even x stronger than y) such that x has lost to y several consecutive games. For x,losing many times to y is psychologically difficult to deal with and so x might well start believing (erroneously) that y is his angstgegner. I think this is a very refreshing explanation especially keeping in mind that after a few losses x wants to win at all costs (remember the match Fischer-Larsen).
Posted by: Dr X at August 2, 2006 15:05

Gelfand put up some major resistance against Adams. The game was pretty boring for me, but I see the point Kasparov makes about the elite being master defenders. Two pawns was just too much though. Adams was up to the task. It's nice to see him winning some after the trouncing he took from Hydra.
Posted by: Todd C. Reynolds at August 2, 2006 16:33

I would say Carlsen is a good all-round player, certainly for his age. I remember seeing him quoted as saying that his strength was short-range tactical calculation, but that's true with most strong juniors, of course. To be fair, I reckon I could have 'outslugged' Morozevich if he'd played Bg7 against me, although I do realise that the earlier play might have gone differently.

Dr X and angstgegners - yes, I agree. Although there is also the phenomenon of the player whom you simply can't play against, as well as the one who just happens to have beaten you a few times.
Posted by: rdh at August 2, 2006 16:39

Adams-Gelfand: For one fleeting moment, Gelfand *did* have a draw towards the very end. But it is asking to much for him to see that after over 7 hours of hard work (and without tablebases, needless to say).
Posted by: Charles Milton Ling at August 2, 2006 16:43

You're saying top GM's don't have complete 6-men tablebases memorized?
Posted by: acirce at August 2, 2006 17:22

Just the younger ones. Gelfand is a relic of the pre-tablebase age and tries to figure these things out himself, the poor guy.
Posted by: Charles Milton Ling at August 2, 2006 17:34

just for the record: A literal translation of Angstgegner (again, in german, nouns are capitalized) would be "feared opponent" or "most feared opponent" or simply Nemesis ;o) It's a compound noun made up of Angst - fear, dread and Gegner - opponent.
Posted by: Albrecht von der Lieth at August 2, 2006 17:43

Indeed, Albrecht. But English does not respect German capitalization, alas. I do, however, think that using the correct plural, viz. "angstgegner", is correct and commendable.
(I might add that I do generally use German capitalization in English, quite against convention.)
Posted by: Charles Milton Ling at August 2, 2006 18:14

oh albrecht please the term in english is bête noire yes? it is same as french. like shirov for kramnik, yes? my english not so good but i try yes? please albrecht stick to subject you know even if you know little subject
Posted by: Chop Suey Hang Bang at August 2, 2006 18:17


now that you mention it - german doesn't respect english in this regard as well. Ok, last time I will mention it :o)

Chop, I don't know what your problem is, but it seems to be considerable. Above, someone expressed uncertainty if his traslation of Angstgegner was correct.
Posted by: Albrecht von der Lieth at August 2, 2006 18:33

rdh - Yes, Morozevich blundered. I thought "outslug" implied less qualitative judgment than the "thoroughly outplayed" phrase already discredited in recent Ninja threads :) Point being, regardless of who outplayed whom and who blundered or didn't, when this sharp game ended Carlsen got to write the 1 on the wallchart. Metaphorically speaking.
Posted by: Derek at August 2, 2006 19:55


I don't know about this queen-for-three-pieces line being Shabalov's idea. It was covered fairly extensively in Richard Palliser's excellent Tango book, and while I don't have that here I'm sure many of the references dated back a long time before 2004.

Angstgegner is literally translated as "fear-opponent" (angst=fear;gegner=opponent). So the word means an opponent whom you fear (because you've lost many times to him/them in the past).

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 1, 2006 8:10 AM.

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