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Turmoil in Tomsk

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The mighty 2006 Russian championship is underway in Tomsk. Various Russian sites are covering it, this one in English. The top seven finishers qualify for the Russian superfinal, which will include another five (?) seeded players of the 2700 denomination. Kramnik, Svidler, Morozevich, Grischuk, and defending champion Rublevsky are the likely choices. After five of nine rounds, Timofeev, Inarkiev, and IM Vitiugov are leading with 4/5. Bareev, last year's winner, isn't playing. Nor is Jakovenko, another qualifier last year. Tkachiev was listed but isn't playing.

It's an incredibly strong event, as usual. It's also an e4 crowd, with 81 of 145 games starting with the king's pawn and Black answered with 1..c5 in 48 of those. If Anand wants to improve against the Sveshnikov next time he plays Radjabov, maybe he should follow Timofeev, who played 16.Nce3 instead of 16.0-0 and demolished Smirnov in 24 moves. I see Karjakin played that move when he was a tot back in 1998. It certainly looks natural, if hardly devastating. I find I've played it myself in all four of the four online blitz games in which I've reached that position so it must be obvious indeed. Malakhov played Zvjaginsev's 1.e4 c5 2.Na3 against Vorobiov. The knight then went c4-d2-b3-c5, not exactly a useful performance.


It's very crowded at the top of the crosstable, so it will probably come down to tie-breaks.

BTW, the official site has a large pictorial section here:


I found that amusing:

"Malakhov played Zvjaginsev's 1.e4 c5 2.Na3 against Vorobiov. The knight then went c4-d2-b3-c5, not exactly a useful performance."

Since Zvjaginsev experiment last year, Malakhov has been the only one (besides maybe Zvjaginsev itself) who has used this opening frequently in tournamets, however with a negative balance. I don't know why he keeps using an opening that didn't bring him good results, in which he has no original ideas, specially being such a good player.

In this, Malakhov reminds me the kind of person who heard a joke and was so fascinated that he keep telling it to friends like if it was the "eight wonder", but none of them find it that funny or special, because he lacks the grace to tell it properly or simply because he insited too much in the same. In other words, like the character Seinfeld in this episode of his series:


shabalov has been playing 2.na3 american opens lately, granted against lesser masters

Wow, it's amazing that a relatively weak player can be so very critical of a strong GM Malakhov. Comparison with aforementioned Seinfeld episode is at best marginal.

I have used Na3 move at the US Open, got a nice opening, but drew in the end. Does this qualify me as dull?

Feel free to guess my name!

Surely everyone is allowed to express their point of view inspite of their chess strength. After all that is the case in other walks of life: for instance how many times regular people i.e. 'patzers in science' have strong views on matters they don't really understand and definitely are criticizing leading scientists? Are GMs somehow untouchable in their ivory towers? Surely not.

Everyone IS allowed to express their point of view inspite of their chess strength. Everyone is also allowed to give whatever credence they wish to the analytical opinions of a) anonymous posters and b) titled players.

yes, america in the 21st century, where there is no higher celebration than our right to express a point of view. polls, blogs, talkback, radio call in shows, the list goes on. having an opinion has become its own justification. it's almost as if it's considered bad form now to tell someone their opinion is wrong.

for me, I'd rather listen to people who know what they're talking about.

Dear GMAlex (Shabalov),

Don't take my previous comment too personal, was a bit sarcastic but not that serious. The point I tried to make is that for Zvjaginsev, doing experiments is part of his personality, is the way he is.

And probably when he used it on the Russian Championship, he had no intentions to consider this a novelty and probably he had never study the possible variations; other people took his play as an invitation to make opening analysis and take seriously something he perhaps had conceived as a joke, maybe to avoid mainstream lines, I don't know.

For Malakhov, he is a very strong Sicilian player and is quite different to Zvjaginsev in approach. He tried that idea twice in Bosna, with +0=1-1, and now tried this against a much lower rated player (more than 150 rating points of difference), given that by continuing the Sicilian he might likely won (and this is a qualifier for an important tournament).


- Grandmasters, as well as other people are free to play the way they want. So, I am not criticizing the person, I was respectful and I was just pointing out the situation with some sarcasm, . They are free spirited people like the rest of us.

- As well as the comment in a previous forum on whether Mig has the authority to set a discussion on what is the best English player given his rating... we arrive GMalex to the same point: What would make a person appropiate to make a post regarding a player? Do posters need to be GM's when talking about GM's? (in your mentioned relatively weak player without even knowing me ...)

On the internet, the effect of a comment does not depend on the the poster, depends on the people who pay attention to it. Based in your comment, you seem to be a person who got affected for other's opinions about you, you just need to relax. Besides, if comments would be disrespectful, then Mig could delete them.

Good luck in your activities,

2.Na3 seems bad, but i never studied it. Though I'm only an 1800 player (like Mig ;-)), I'm sure I'd be happy to play the black pieces against most everyone...

FYI - I have no reason to believe the person posting as "GMalex" is Alex Shabalov. He's posted here before without frivolousness.

Seems somewhat Yermoesque

Yes, Pascual may not be a GM but I thought he made some some good observations. GMs rule but sometimes they seem misguided in ways that even amateurs can see.

Speaking of Zvjaginsev, he has just lost vs. Dmitry Bocharov (round 7) using 1.e4 c5 2.Na3 in just 26 moves...

PGN should be available later in this page: http://www.aeroflotchess.com/games/tomsk/

Indeed. GMs make good judgments on the board, but not necessarily good meta-judgments, such as which opening to play against which opponent.

St.Petersburg website http://e3e5.com/eng will have analyses of selected games and game fragments from the event, in English. Today they are posting the rounds 1-3.

I thought GMAlex was someone or other well-known (at least when on the ICC)? Not Shabalov – either Yermolinsky or Sutovsky, but my memory is letting me down.

This kind of how-dare-you-cricitise-a-GM stuff puzzles me though. No-one replies to suggestions that (football reference coming up; non-UK readers avert their eyes) Titus Bramble is a complete donkey by saying ‘how dare a bad football player cricitise a Premiership defender?’. I can’t quite work out why GMs get so arsey about it in chess. But maybe it’s just that we can actually hear them say it? Maybe once Titus B has got home from the nightclub after the match he starts whinging on to the missus about how millions of Newcastle fans think maybe it’d be a good idea if he marked people occasionally and they’ve got a cheek considering they couldn’t run a hundred yards?

They probably do, actually. If there’s one thing following sport teaches one it’s how incredibly difficult sportsmen find it to remember where they come from and how they got from there to where they are now. They have a childlike tendency to imagine it was largely due to their own efforts and merit.

I recall many of Yermo's posts, and do not believe "GMAlex" is the same author.

The late great Robert Durkin of south Jersey (United States) chess fame is one of the few people in history to have an opening named after him . . . 1.Na3!!!!

Maybe Zvjaginsev is bucking for the same honor, and that is why he persists in playing the Durkinesque Na3 against the Sicilian, in spite of horrendous losses?

They say that Pal Benko is the last person who will ever have a major opening system named after him.

GMAlex is Sutovsky. Speaking of "criticism", I don't know what is going on with the guy. He is an absolute beast, who some short time ago was rated nearly 2700 ELO. Now he has just 2607? Lost inspiration?


curious, I would think that this "GM-attitude" is very understandable.

In most other sports, you can criticize someone for not doing this or that in a particular situation, but criticism is always "just" about a moment's reaction. You should have run left, not right! Why didn't you just raise your hand and block that damn ball?!? etc. The player can always reply with something like "Yeah well, true, I should have. But there was this guy running to the other side/this flash light irritating me/whatever that distracted me for just the blink of an eye."
Most sports are about instant reaction and we all know that those are error prone.

Not so with chess. A blunder is ultimately a confession of not seeing good/deeply enough. And I guess it's always harder to admit that someone else performs mental tasks faster and more accurately than you yourself...
And, what I could imagine adds to it, is that it's a lot harder for a GM to actually explain why he did make a mistake in judgement. At least to patzers like us. Everybody understands if that defender in soccer says: "I got confused - there were five guys running at me and I picked the wrong one to confront."
But if a GM tries to convey how he got lost in the intricacies of a position and needs 10-15ply variations to do that, and by giving those, realizes that he is simply castinng pearls before swine... ;o)

An angle some have touched upon re: should we pay any attention when "patzers criticize GMs"?

Let's start by clarifying each term. Start with "GMs".

GMs are superior (to the rest of humanity) at formulating chess strategies and choosing chess moves.

Are they perfect even at that? Obviously not -- in fact, not even close, as has been proven time and again by human and computer analysis.

Nor is the fallibility of GMs even in the single area where they ARE good (formulating chess strategies and choosing chess moves), limited to difficult conditions of competitive play with the clock ticking. Even before computer engines, the number of documented analysis errors in published reference works like Basic Chess Endings had grown so long that if published on its own it probably would occupy half the number of pages of that lengthy tome.

Moreover, when it comes to non-chess matters, or even chess matters that don't involve chessboard analysis or judgments, other Daily Dirt discussions have established conclusively that GMs are no more perceptive than the rest of us. In fact, this Web site has produced much suggestive evidence that the reverse may be true: GMs' judgment and intellect about matters unrelated to chess positions, on average may be INFERIOR to us woodpushers. (See the now-infamous Feingold threads, and the comments by "Grandmaster b" and "Amandaw" on those threads.)

Now let's talk about "criticize." On the one hand, it isn't the least bit presumptious for me, Mig, Pascual or anyone else to offer an opinion about a particular move, opening line, etc., that was chosen by a GM.

Public forums ideally are a marketplace of ideas, whose ultimate result is a meritocracy. Now here's the crucial part and a potential source of confusion for some: It's a meritocracy of IDEAS -- NOT TITLES. That is, meritocracy means the best ideas win out, without regard to the qualifications of the person who suggested them.

We in the chess world are very fortunate to have an objective criterion for judging the merit of ideas. It's called analysis, and evaluation of positions that result from the analysis. Computers certainly help with that, although at this point they aren't infallible either.

Even before computers, I saw people with ratings in the 1600s improve upon GM games and analysis published in numerous reference books, magazines, etc. I saw this happen time after time, over at least a decade and a half (roughly 1968 through early 1980s), with ideas that readers had mailed in to Larry Evans' Chess Life Q&A column.

If you have trouble accepting this, go dig out the old issues and see for yourself.

I remember feeling very empowered by reading those comments month after month from ordinary readers like myself, and seeing so many of them earn GM Evans' endorsement.

So that is my gloss on the word "patzer" at the start of this comment.

When a "patzer" disputes a GM's move or opinion, is the patzer likely to be wrong? Yes -- 90% of the time, or 95% of the time, or maybe 99% of the time.

Does that mean a patzer's suggestions NEVER have value? NO!

The Internet is a big place, and patzers like me have made many times more than 100 suggestions. So it is all but certain that some of them had value, which will be missed by any person or discussion forum that made a blind assumption that no comment from anyone below a certain rating should ever be taken seriously.

Finally, consider again the word "criticize." While criticizing moves is fine, there's no denying that boards like this produce plenty of petty, silly criticism of top chess players, coming from a more typical "fan" perspective that's often seen with physical sports.

Sports fans the world over can do and say some mighty idiotic things; the chess world is hardly an exception. I suppose a psychologist would speak of transference (sports hero as role model - cathected into an idealized father-figure) perhaps being a partial explanation for the intense emotions that lead fans to sometimes go so far overboard in what they feel, say and on rare occasion act out, in relation to their heroes.

There is no reason to criticise Zvjaginsev's 2.Na3 in the Sicilian. If you think Vadim plays it for sheer surprise value, you are wrong. After the Superfinal Peter Svidler spent some time introducing the main ideas of this explosive move to me (yes, there are some ideas in it). In fact, with patient 2.Na3 White aims at reaching favorable versions of various sideline Sicilians, especially 2.f4. This is a serious test for Black. If he does not know much about sideline Sicilians, he is likely to end up in an inferior or bad position. The likes of Khalifman, walking encyclopedia people, know too much, and end up in a complex approximately even position but in a time trouble... In short, 2.Na3 is not worse than any other sideline Sicilian.

A reader, DP, comments that "GMAlex" is Sutovsky - which I find odd, since that GM's 1st name is "Emil". Whatever. Anyway, given that it's Sutovsky, he asks off-handedly why Sutovsky, who used to be 2700-rated, is now 2706.

If I may - Sutovsky is a fairly frequent, and popular, annotator of his own games in "64", the Russian-language monthly I subscribe to. The reason for his popularity is obvious, both from his notes and from his occasional interviews. Emil is what we used to call a "bon vivant": besides chess, he has a nice singing voice, he's got tons of friends - and whether he's playing a friend or a stranger, he is always looking to create something beautiful, a classic attack, over the board. It doesn't matter if he's playing Watu Kobese or Alexander Motylev - he'll sacrifice something, first chance he gets, and ride it wherever it takes him.

When this approach works - as in last year's Aeroflot Open, he wins tournaments; when it fails - as in the Dortmund Super-GM he qualified for from Aeroflot - he loses bunches of rating points. The point is: he doesn't care. Top 10, top 100, mean nothing to him. All he wants is to see the Evergreen Sutovsky Game - better yet, a whole bunch of them! - written down in the history books.

I wish we had a hundred "grandmasters" like him.

I repeat, I have no reason to believe the person who posted as "GMalex" (which is Sutovsky's ICC handle, btw) was a GM, let alone one named Alex. The email address used was not Shabalov's (or Sutovsky's) or any other in use by a GM. Not that this invalidates the discussion. GMs and other public and semi-public figures post here and I don't mind sending identity theft complaints to ISPs (a university in Wisconsin in this case) to dissuade such things, at least if they post serious misinformation, not the case here.

Most of the 2.Na3 games I've seen aren't any worse than the Bb5 stuff, except with an out of position knight on a3. It's still a chess game and White still has the move, at least if he can reach a game in which Na3 is better than "pass."

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 8, 2006 10:40 AM.

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