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Bust out your best pair of cords and turn up the Pink Floyd, we're going to party like it's 1979. At least that seems to be the theme at the Bazna Kings Tournament currently underway in Romania. Is this an anniversary event in which they invite everyone back 25 years later? There must be something going on. It's a strong round-robin, but the youngest player is Andrei Sokolov, who is 44. (Khalifman is 41, but some of his major organs are in their seventies.)

I'm happy to report all of the following are alive and well and playing in Transylvania. The Sibiu area, to be precise. Portisch, Ribli, Andersson, Timman, Vaganian, Chiburdanidze, Suba, Mecking, Beliavsky complete the, umm, 11-player field. (Was Ljubo a late dropout? Nunn?) I'm sure this will come as a shock, but there have been a lot of short draws so far. It really is like the 80's are back. Nothing like a 13-mover in the first round to make you regret wishing our many great veterans had more chances to play. Two of the world's greatest-ever Hedgehog experts, Andersson and Suba, and they decide to skip it. Sigh. Vaganian, bless him, isn't ready for the dustbin and has scored 2/2 to lead. Check out the pawn wall in Vaganian-Mecking. It's just two pawns shy of being an Alterman Wall. Khalifman is also at 100% but he had a rest day after beating Portisch. I'm sure other fighters like Timman and Beliavsky aren't just content to be there. This is all making me want to go rent Breaking Away.

Anatoly Karpov isn't there with his old punching bags because he's playing in the Gorenje tournament in Serbia. This is the first classical tournament Karpov has played in since Carlsen's voice changed and he has a share of the lead with 3.5/5. He even played 1.e4 against Nikolic (!) and 1.e4 e5 against Iordachescu instead of the Caro-Kann he's been over-relying on for years of not studying seriously. I think his last (non-team) classical tournament was coming in last at Essent in 2003, and he made the decision to stick to rapid after that. It's tough for someone so great and so competitive to struggle with age. Nice to see him back and facing players against whom he can show his old black magic. Let's hope he keeps it up.

You get a cookie if you remember the last time Karpov played 1.e4 in a classical tournament game. I thought it might go back to the Polugaevsky Sicilian Thematic in Buenos Aires in 1994, when of course he had to play 1.e4 in all the games. But the MegaBase says it was against Jussupow in 1996. Everybody knows the story of Karpov pretty much giving up 1.e4 after failing to beat Kasparov in game 24 of their 1985 world championship match and losing his title. Garry likes to give that as an example of someone learning to adapt and find his true style, saying it's a big part of why Karpov managed to remain at the top level for another ten years.


So Ulf Andersson shaved off his beard again? What a shame!

"Khalifman is 41, but some of his major organs are in their seventies."
Typical Mig: an irreverent but witty and accurate remark on what a potential chess genius has done to his health after years of hard drinking (or so I've heard).

I didn't know that some of these guys were still alive. After looking at their pics on the webiste, I'm afraid I might be right.

Ljubo was planned for Gorenje but he said he's not feeling like playing. Instead, he helped negotiating with others. Michael Roiz was invited after he and director Milan Bozic became friends on (former) WCN.

Andersson and Beliavsky were originally invited for Gorenje. They gave up on Ulf after Dresden and Beliavsky probably withdrew after he was invited to Bazna Kings (Some say he canceled because of Karpov but I don't believe it). Atalik and Pavasovic replaced them.

When I arrived to Valjevo they said "Karpov brought some 17-yo kid as a coach". It turned out his coach is a few yrs older GM Riazantsev. (Karpov played 1.e4 e5 vs Iordachescu)

Breaking Away is a great movie. I know someone who was an extra in it!

Trivia question: what brand of bicycle did Dennis Christopher ride in the film?

Mooch has had something of a renaissance lately, with roles in the films Little Children and All the King's Men.

And it looks like GM Andei Sokolov is actually two people, the curly-haired man I remember from my childhood and a rather beautiful dark-haired woman. Any idea who she is?

I was in Bazna for the opening of the tournament, which was covered live on Romanian television. The Organiser of Bazna, Dan Mitaru, has big plans for future tournaments in Romania and hopes to have this event on an annual basis. I am not sure if anyone dropped out, I think they wanted to have an even number of white and black and give the players an extra rest day.

Suba's comment about his draw with Andersson was that he wrote the book on the Hedgehog and Andersson played most of the best games in it, so if Andersson played the Hedgehog, it was bound to be a draw. Portisch was unhappy with his loss and told me that, several times, he had forgotten to press his clock and that Khalifman had, most ungentlemanly, taken advantage of this.

Suba came up with the interesting theory that the last individual World Chess Champion was Fischer, after him it was team Karpov, team Kasparov, team Kramnik etc., not the player himself.

Thanks Nigel, good stuff. Any insight on the veteran theme of the tournament? It can't be a coincidence.

Re: Suba, the Soviets were using the team theory long before Karpov; they just made it a full-time thing with him and later Kasparov took it pro. But it's still a bit silly. There are very heavy books full of Karpov and Kasparov's greatest games. How many of those games would Suba credit to their teams?

Pity about Portisch, was an interesting game. What's the time control? I guess the daydreaming senior isn't just a stereotype. Maybe we could have a new item on the ancient "do you tell your opponent if he forgets to hit his clock" debate. I once took around eight minutes off my opponent's clock having that debate internally until I figured it was costing me more in distraction than it could be worth on the clock anyway.

They decided that it would be nice to have a "Chess Kings" Tournament, as I believe "Regilor" is translated. They want to make it an annual event, inviting their chess heroes from the past.

Time control is new FIDE (90 minutes for 40 moves, 30 minutes for the rest of the game with 30 seconds added for each move from move 1).

On the 'daydreaming senior' theme, here's one of the strangest incidents I've seen as an arbiter.

A, who was an elderly gentleman and also happened to be the chairman of the club that arranged the tournament, made a move, forgot to press the clock and fell into a state of half-sleep. B, his opponent, let the clock tick away and took a long think. When he finally made his move, it caused A to suddenly wake up, slap his hand hard and claim that it was his move.

We had to reconstruct the game to establish that it was indeed B to move... but shaken and confused as he was, B went on to lose.

They wanted to invite their heroes from the past and aim to make this an annual event.

Time control is new FIDE (40 moves in 90 minutes, 30 moves for the rest of the game, with a 30 second increment from move one).

Apologies for the multiple posts. Internet keeps going down here in Athens, so I was not sure what was sent.


1. Khalifman, Alexander g RUS 2624 3.5/4
2. Vaganian, Rafael A g ARM 2590 3.5/5
3-8. Ribli, Zoltan g HUN 2580 2.5/5
3-8. Beliavsky, Alexander g SLO 2648 2.5/5
3-8. Portisch, Lajos g HUN 2512 2.5/5
3-8. Chiburdanidze, Maia g GEO 2510 2.0/4
3-8. Sokolov, Andrei g FRA 2584 2.0/4
3-8. Andersson, Ulf g SWE 2528 2.0/4
9. Suba, Mihai g ROM 2537 2.0/5
10. Timman, Jan g NED 2545 1.5/5
11. Mecking, Henrique g BRA 2565 1.0/4

Not bad for a drunk!

Karpov's tournament performance rating of 2680 shows his long lurid slide may have bottomed out - Bravo! While some commentators are pointing out that as rating favorite, Karpov should have won the tmt, that ignores his rating's free fall over the past 5 years of near-inactivity.

Plus, he got to play a fine queen sac at the end of a nice mating attack, so I suspect he will be pleased overall with his performance.

When Karpov was young, it was often mentioned how small and slightly built he was, and people worried if fatigue might be a factor in his play. Although he looks like a well-rounded 56 year old, I wonder if age + fatigue affects him these days.

Small? Slightly built? Haven't you seen the youthful photo of him walking through a field slinging a scythe?

"When Karpov was young, it was often mentioned how small and slightly built he was,..."

There was a great quote about this in the very aptly titled, "Great Chess Movie." It's a terrific documentary made in 1982 or so, with Camille Coudari among the producers, as I recall.

Someone, I forget who, says that people in the know -- top Russian GMs, presumably -- assumed very early in Karpov's career that his seemingly frail physique would prevent him from reaching any great heights in the chess world. This person said something like, "He was so thin, which we viewed as physical weakness."

Then comes the kicker: "It was the thinness of steel."

(Inter alia, that's also the movie where I remember the scene of Karpov and his KGB stooges stonewalling and berating the Spanish journalist and playwright Fernando Arrabal at a press conference when he tried to ask Karpov a question about the 1974-75 negotiations with Fischer.

Arrabal began asking the question in Spanish, but Karpov cut him off, saying the rules of the press conference only permitted French, Russian or English.

Arrabal evidently didn't speak French or Russian. So he gamely tried English.

"Master Karpov,...." he began.

Having succeeded in shifting the verbal battle to a sector of the board where he knew his opponent would be weak (i.e., English, rather than Spanish), Karpov haughtily cut off Arrabal after those two words -- feigning outrage at being addressed as "Master" rather than "Grandmaster" or "World Champion."

Even more than acquiescing in the imprisonment of Korchnoi's son as a means of bolstering his odds of retaining his title, that incident with Arrabal shows the sort of stuff that Karpov was, and is, is made of.)

Hi Jon,
Over the years I have tried and tried to like Karpov, but he has made it difficult, hasn't he?

I had the usual American's suspicion of Karpov when he first was declared champion over Fischer, but the years since may have shown Karpov wasn't the worst character of the two in 1974-75 negotiations.

I was won over by his play and his successes from 1975-84, a time when he trounced everyone from his generation, and whipped everyone from the previous generation (Tal, Petrosian, etc). Only Korchnoi caused him minor trouble in those years. He went several years only losing 3-4 games per year. Of course, then came Kasparov...

I blame Karpov less than you do about the Korchnoi's son thing - what was he to do, refuse to play? He saw what that brought Fischer - loss of title. And as a Russian, in the stagnant final Brezhnev years, with many thousands still in the gulag, and Russian chess careers ruined by non-travel rules, etc, I don't know if he had the power to change something about Korchnoi's sons arrest. But I agree, it all smelled so bad - worse than the recent toilet...

The final kicker for me was more of a fan's disappointment than any great moral crisis - I still haven't forgiven him for withdrawing from the Botvinnik memorial against Kramnick and Kasparov. Yes, he was unprepared, and weakening with age, and he could have gone 0-4 against them, and I understand he could not allow himself to be so humiliated. Still, as a fan who'd tried to like him, Karpov really disappointed me there. Oh well, I understand it. I guess. I am sorta rooting for him on his "comeback".


The story regarding Karpov's frailness stemmed from Gufeld, who said he was too small to ever become a grandmaster. "Ah but you Edik" replied someone (Geller maybe?), "You only became a grandmaster when you reached 100 kilos!".

The "Great Chess Movie" was fun in that it was a full-length feature about chess, but it was a also a piece of anti-Soviet propaganda fluff, and was denounced as such by (for example) the audience I watched it with in New York (Oh, Commie New York!). The whole theme of the film is to characterize Karpov as "the Soviet Man", etc. and a tool of the state battling the heroic Korchnoi. Not in any way an unbiased film, and designed to be less than flattering to Karpov.

Arrabal was a supporter of Korchnoi, and like many other chess pseudo-journalists at the time, had an agenda (as did the film...) and went out of his was to try to embarass Karpov. So there is a history behind the edited footage shown in the film, and quite frankly, in Karpov's place, I would have probably reacted the same way - whether you are sympathetic to Karpov or not, a pain in the ass is a pain in the ass... It is naive in the context to think that "Master Karpov" may not have been an intentional insult.

Partizan wrote: "It is naive in the context to think that "Master Karpov" may not have been an intentional insult."

As I noted above, and as can be readily verified by anyone with access to the film, Arrabal spoke those words in a language he was stumbling in, after Karpov had quite deliberately refused to let him ask the question in his native tongue, Spanish. Then, as soon as Arrabal acquiesced to the unfair rules and tried to ask in English, Karpov refused to answer anyway -- and acted like HE, Karpov was the victim. Despicable. And typically Soviet.

Is ducking questions from an opponent in a public forum an honorable trait; or is it something else?

Karpov WAS "the Soviet man," as everyone knows -- everyone that is except partizan and the few fellow-travelers who voluntarily confine themselves to the dustbin of history by pretending that an anti-Soviet tone would make a piece of independent journalism of the 1970s or 1980s any less trustworthy.

Blaming Karpov for the Soviet state imprisoning a draft evader according to the law? Get real.

In any case, Karpov said he DID try to help Korchnoi's son, but the authorities did not listen. I don't know if this is true, and neither does any of the Karpov bashers.

I note that Korchnoi wasn't the only one in this story with family-related problems - Karpov's father was seriously ill during the 1978 match - but he was the only one with the nerve to blame them on his opponent.

We must thank Master Jacobs for so well illustrating the FOX News approach to world events...

Of course, from the single event in the film concerning Arrabal, we can infer that he (Arrabal) was in all cases correct and that Karpov was invariably wrong - naturally, he ws a Soviet! Allow me to repeat - context? Clearly, the "sound bite" edited into a film with an agenda is the absolute truth...But I'm sorry - I forgot. Propaganda is something only the evil Soviets, Nazis, etc. deal in. Never us!

And ah yes..."Everyone knows". A concept so common nowadays - if we can't actually back up what we're saying, let's just announce it as a fact. Very common, especially among the right-wing TV talking heads - say something often enough (and loudly enough) and it must be true.

Love the "the few fellow-travelers who voluntarily confine themselves to the dustbin of history". So if anyone disagrees with Master Jacobs and his simplistic and biased read, he is an old-school unreconstructed Commie. I made no complaint that all "independent journalism" with an anti-Sovet tone was untrustworthy - just this particular film. God help us if we can't take one case and extrapolate all truth from it, otherwise we might have to think...

And the Reaganism "dustbin of history"...I'm sure that Master Jacobs is aware that the world's fastest-growing economy belongs to, horrors, a Communist country, while here in America we do the proper thing and push more wealth to our richest 1/2 percent of the population, while letting a million people a year slip below the poverty line. Hmmm, I'd given up on old Karl myself, but it does make you think, if you are able or have the will.

pro and anti-Communist rhetoric aside for one sec, partizan, do you actually think Karpov was not a "Soviet man", an obedient "tool of the state", a man, (at least in action if not in thoughts) dedicated to what the party wanted?

Of course I'm not going to support either side in this worthless debate, because I've learned to laugh instead of getting angry when people try to pollute discussions about my favourite pastime and heroes (Karpov in this case) with ideology; still, the earliest use I recall of the expression "dustbin of history", Mr. Partizan, is older than Reagan, in fact it dates back to Lev Trotzki, and perhaps there are earlier examples still...


Sure, I pretty much agree that Karpov was a good party man - it was certainly in his interest to be. Certainly opportunistic, and I'm sure that he largely did what he was told, etc. I don't know what was inside his mind either way. Wasn't Kasparov also a party member when (very) young? Maybe not, but also took advantage of his connections, Aliev for example.

I just dislike "absolute" characterizations as they are usually simplistic - Karpov was a tool, evil, etc. Not saying he's a great guy - I have no idea - but people (and life ...) are generally more nuanced than can be captured in knee-jerk one-line characterizations.

My arguement was just with accepting as gospel an opinion presented in a film wth a definite point of view - not that there is anything wrong with a film with a position, but just because the film has a certain slant, it doesn't mean it's (entirely...) correct. Whatever one thinks of Karpov (and many positions can be defended), it's also true that Arrabal was a provocateur in the interest of "edgier" cinema.

Of course Kasparov was a party member, and he didn't hide his sympathies. I don't think he left it until 1990. Yes, Aliev was terribly powerful at his "peak".

And by the way, it's capitalism that is a terribly outdated system, sooner or later to be relegated to the dustbin of history unless it destroys the planet first.

We agree, partizan, as far as the problem with absolute characterization, and I also think the Arrubal story doesn't mean much. However, to be a party man was also in the best interests of Spassky, Tal, Kasparov, Bronstein, and many others, yet they chose a different path. Karpov is one of my favorite players so I don't want to be overtly harsh on him but I honestly haven't heard any stories that make him look favorable as far as ethics go.

The whole "party member" thing means little. Pretty much prior to 1990 everybody who wanted to be anybody was. If you stayed past 91-92, it does indicate something of your sympathies, and if you left early, prior to 90, it also means something, but otherwise it is just part of regular career promotion.

"The whole "party member" thing means little. Pretty much prior to 1990 everybody who wanted to be anybody was."

Yuriy, that's not true. Everybody who wanted to be somebody AND have it easy, became a member. It was possible to stay out and achieve something, but then you'd have to put up with constant nagging and suspicion.
Spassky was one who didn't join, I think Tal was also not a member, and there must be others.

In Hungary (I know, it's not the same) Portisch was never a member of the party, plus he was very open about being a Catholic and there wasn't a thing the establishment could do about it.

Smyslov surely didn't join the party either? Kasparov joined either out of conviction or for purely opportunistic reasons, not because it was somehow "necessary".

I don't know which GMs specifically joined the party, but joining it or not joining it did not mean a whole lot. Did Spassky or Smyslov have it difficult because they did not join? No. Nobody is saying it was necessary ... the point is joining it says nothing about your political views or being an opportunist. You are kind of proving my point by conjecturing who joined or did not, based on their public profile, in reality of course joining the Communist party said little to nothing about a person's convictions. It takes a lot more than that to be viewed by the higher-ups (and the public) as a party man. Botvinnik, Petrosian, Averbakh and Karpov were perceived as such. Kasparov never was.

To me, it says something about Kasparov that he joined the party :) But never mind.

Also, to get back on the subject of Karpov, it says something that he never denied his past or team up with the other side when the tide changed.

It is a typical gut reaction when one hears "so and so was a member of the Communist party". But from talking to the people who lived in the USSR during that era one gets a different, real idea of how little it really said about a person.

>Also, to get back on the subject of Karpov, it says something that he never denied his past or team up with the other side when the tide changed.<

Yeah, that the other side wasn't offering any money or title shots. Seriously, what do you expect him to say? "I was never a communist"? "I wasn't part of the party's propaganda"? "I did not support the old regime side during the late 80s and early 90s?" And while I do think that Karpov probably would have stayed on the side of communism even if the democrats tried to swing him, nobody tried to get Karpov to switch sides. He has clearly identified himself with the falling and subsequently fallen regime. I don't know enough about the guy to say if it was because of deep inner convictions or because he has made his bed and now had to sleep in it.

"I honestly haven't read any stories that are favourable to him as far as ethics go."

Come, Yuri, surely you've read Roshal's books? There's plenty in there....

Don't know if this is part of the ethics department, but still: when Tal passed away, and his body had to be taken from Russia to Latvia, there was a lot of red tape making this quite hard. It was Karpov who pulled some strings to make sure everything went ok.

Source: not Roshal, but Timman.

Good tidbit, Oscar. There is no player that Karpov speaks of with more fondness than Tal in his chess books. I got the feeling the pragmatist admired and feared this opponent. Plus, weren't they friends?

rdh, no I haven't. Worth a read?

Yuriy, yes they were (Karpov/Tal). Tal was Karpov's second even on some occasions, I think (Merano, possibly?).

By 'Roshal's books' I meant Karpov's 'autobiographical' hagiographies, for example 'Chess Is My Life'. Worth a read only for students of that genre, really. I'm afraid I was speaking ironically.

Thought so (both on Tal and books, but wasn't sure). Actually some of the best chess books out there are Karpov, he had good collaborators (Gik, Roshal). I loved both his 50 (or was it 100?) Greatest Games, released after Bagio match and one called something like Many Sides of Chess. I enjoyed those as a child for his stories about players and the games, as an adult for good appropriate analysis.

Re Karpov's fondness for Tal, I guess it was impossible to be exposed to Tal for long periods and not come to admire him! He was after all, the greatest ever! :-)

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on June 18, 2007 6:35 AM.

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