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Kramnik, King of Dortmund

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World champion Vladimir Kramnik cruised through the 2007 Dortmund supertournament without even needing his top gears. He finished off the event with well-calculated series of simplifications against pursuer Alekseev in today's final round. He won three of his four whites and won the event by a full point with a performance of nearly 2900. It's certainly no insult to say he did it without having to show his best. Carlsen and Naiditsch helped make Big Vlad's Catalan look like an alien death ray beyond human ken. Is it just that Kramnik's mastery of this most subtle of openings is so advanced that he can tie strong GMs in knots right from the start? Is he starting to pick up an aura of precision that unnerves his young opponents? He was like a snake charmer at the start of those games. (Naiditsch missed several draws in the difficult endgame.)

This is Kramnik's eighth first place in Dortmund, although I was a little surprised to find that five of those were shared firsts. (With Anand in 96, with Adams and Svidler in 98, Anand again in 2000, Topalov in 2001, and Svidler in 2006.) He took clear first in 1995 (7/9!), 1997, and 2007. He owns Dortmund the way Kasparov owned Linares. (9 wins, two of them shared). Dortmund has usually been a relatively short event, so you're going to have more shared firsts. More on Kramnik after the recap.

Leko, Anand, and Alekseev all finished undefeated with +1, not exactly inspiring stuff. Only one player both won and lost a game, a rather bizarre statistic if not a necessarily a meaningful one. Four more draws in the final round brought the total up to a tidy 75%, 24/32. We don't know if the four WCh players were saving anything for Mexico, but that sounds a bit silly considering it's two and a half months away and this was only a seven-round event.

Naiditsch-Gelfand looked headed for a droll draw when Gelfand started shuffling his king back and forth between h7 and g8. Surely the two tailenders were just headed home in a hurry, went the line of thought on ICC Chess.FM where GM Larry Christiansen was holding court. But Naiditsch failed to putter (or "poddle," in Speelman-speak) as well as Gelfand and the Israeli lashed out on the kingside after lulling the German to sleep. He had some chances but they fizzled against good defense by the now-awake Naiditsch. Gelfand finished on -2, ahead only of Naiditsch on -3. The king shuffle made me recall the Serper-Nakamura game from the 2005 US Championship.

Leko woke up as well in the final two rounds. He played a classy grind against Gelfand in round six and came close to taking clear second today against Mamedyarov. Rather surprisingly for a technician of Leko's caliber -- only Kramnik could be called a better endgame player among the elite -- he wasted a lot of time shuffling around and left himself without enough to find the win when the opportunity came. 92.Ka4, keeping the king closer to the c-pawn, saves a tempo and wins comfortably. 100.Re7 was still a win, however. With the black king cut off, there is no way to avoid the simple check and promote. Both players were on the increment by that point.

Carlsen tried for a while against Anand with a bishop pair in an endgame but Vishy drew confidently. It looked like he was going to suffer, but it seemed he knew exactly where he was going. 23..g5 is an instructive touch. Alekseev tried the new 14.Ra2 Kasimdzhanov used against Gelfand's Petroff in the candidates matches a few weeks ago. Kramnik played the new 14..Bf6 instantly and held without much trouble after finding a nice liquidation sequence. Larry thought 22.Qa4 offered White more chances.

Getting back to Kramnik and his Catalan successes, it reminds me another K and his openings. Kasparov's knowledge and affinity for the Najdorf (and earlier the King's Indian) put him miles ahead of his colleagues. He spent so much time working on them for his matches that even today he occasionally finds deep analysis decades old on today's novelties. In 1998 he spent months preparing the Najdorf for his match with Shirov, analysis that was used to push his rating to record heights in tournaments after that match was abandoned. Kramnik's Catalan and Petroff are different in that they don't require the same epic memorization of forcing lines. But his understanding of the positions seems well ahead of everyone else's and, as with Kasparov and his Najdorf, they fit his style perfectly. This combination was also the case with the Berlin for a while, which, blessedly, seems to have been played these days.

Before the event I wrote about Kramnik's "gravitational pull," the effect he seems to have in slowing the pace of the tournaments he plays in. I don't think this is entirely an illusion, although obviously he achieved something close to escape velocity in this event with +3 and a full-point victory margin. The presence of someone who you can practically be sure isn't going to lose and who will inevitably score a pair of wins must have an effect on the other competitors. Corus is too big and too long for this, but in smaller and/or shorter events, you can almost sense the rest of the players becoming more conservative, knowing that a loss will put them out of the running. Kasparov's presence was almost the opposite and quite a few players had career-best performances finishing second, or even third (!) behind him. (I believe Anand, Adams, and Shirov all had their best rating performances this way.) They knew, or perhaps just sensed, they had to throw caution to the wind and go for broke to compete for first because Kasparov was probably going to put up a huge score. Either way, it's imposing one's will on an event and the other players and the stuff that champions, or at least myths about champions, are made of.


Have the comment system errors mostly gone away? I spent some time on it the other day finally. The server logs show they are just about gone on that end but I wanted to check.


Interesting how you can turn a post about Kramnik's win in Dortmund into a Kasparov promotion. You realy should get into PR if your not already ;)

BTW how is the Kasparov book selling?

Well said Mig! I believe that Kramnik definitely influences the chess of his times, much in the same way as did Karpov and Kasparov.

Kramnik is definitely Capablanca to Kasparov's Alekhine. The way he wins so simply is a real joy. Watch the vid on ChessVibes where he was playing blitz with the amateur and you see the same thing. Complete control moving inexorably to a hopeless situation for his opponent. Will it continue? Mexico will be fun, whatever happens.

I knew that Kasparov "owned" Linares, I wasn't aware that it was 9 times. I often thought of the Capablanca-Alekhine comparison, but it was with Karpov and Kasparov.

In all three wins, Kramnik had a knight vs. a bishop in endings.

Does anybody doubt that if, say, Morozevich and Shirov were invited instead of Leko and Anand
( +1, but 6 draws each), that the number of drawn games would still have amopunted to 75% of the total? The field at Dortmund was comprised of rather conservative players--not just Kramnik.

Anand seems to have trimmed his sails a bit, and now seems to be less inclined to take risks. He loses with less frequency, but he also wins few games.

Anand, Leko, and Kramnik all tend to draw amongst themselves, and they comprise a good chunk of the Dortmund field.

Gelfand is known for being solid (entailing many draws) at elite events; he might have been a bit burned out by the two tough matches that he recently played.

Carlsen is trying to ratify his entry into the elite club. He's not really ready to defeat Kramnik, Leko, and Anand, and he was motivated to avoid the debacle of a big minus score.
[It is interesting to speculate what effect it would have had on results, had Carlsen's color assignments against Anand and Kramnik been reversed. Kramnik was fortunate to get an extra White (with which he scored 3.5/4), and was lucky to get White against Carlsen. Anand would probably have had good chances to beat Carlsen, if he had been given White. The final results might have been a different story, with Anand and Kramnik co-winners at +1]
Alekseev must be thrilled with his performance, finishing at +1 (=2nd!) , without a loss--when many people had pegged him to finish in the cellar. One can't blame him for playing a solid game, happily garnering draw after draw. Any other player in his situation (getting the opportunity to play (in his first elite event), by dint of Qualification, would adopt a similar tournament strategy.
"Local Hero" Naiditsch did his part by participating in 3 decisive games (although the results must not have pleased him), and Mamadyarov can't really be faulted.

Wijk aan Zee can absorb the Kramnik, Leko, and Anand triad, other events cannot.Dd

Well said Terrier - It's obviously a question of taste but I prefer watching a Kramnik positional demolition of a 2700 guy to an equally brilliant Kasparov or Topa slash, bang wallop attack........


Taking risks = playing crap moves and hoping that you will deal with the complications better than your opponents. You can get away with this for for beating up lower rated players, but useless against 2700+ players.

You seem to be celebrating losers and bad chess here
""Local Hero" Naiditsch did his part by participating in 3 decisive games (although the results must not have pleased him), and Mamadyarov can't really be faulted."

Mamadyarov (sic) won the same number of games as Anand and Leko who you criticise, and still lost one. As far as those three are concerned, I know whose shoes I'd rather not be in in that group, and it ain't Anand or Leko.

Kramnik, Anand and Leko play good moves or maybe excellent moves, because their aim is to beat the best. The only way to do that is to cut out the crap moves and make more excellent moves than your opponent. With these guys you play one bad move against them and you are toast.

As for your comment on Anand's style of play, you've based it upon 7 games, 4 of which he had black. Even if you extend this to super tournaments this year, Anand had 4 wins and 2 defeats at Corus and 4 wins and 1 defeat at Linares. Hardly boring conservative stuff. Kramnik beat Anand in Wijk, Anand beat Leko in Linares, games between them are not all draws...

It should be noted that Kramnik had 4 whites and Anand only 3. That makes quite a difference in such a short event. Nevertheless, Kramnik's performance is impressive.

It´s about time for Kramnik to have an extra white. He had a white game less in Wijk and in the Topalov match.

"Have the comment system errors mostly gone away? I spent some time on it the other day finally. The server logs show they are just about gone on that end but I wanted to check."

BTW, I saw an error message after the last comment.

I posted earlier during my lunch break (about the revised FIDE ratings), and then went out.

No errors, but the hour glass cursor was still there when I came back an hour later. I cancelled it and refreshed the page, and my post appeared on the blog.

Now that both Dortmund and Aerosvit are over, what are the WCH participants' reactions are to the FIDE proposal? Any news? Anybody?

I was very impressed with Vlad's play. Like we say in german "this was chess from a different star". Not only his wins were impressive but also his will to go into difficult defences. His slav, his petroff - it seemed to me that he wanted to prove that he can hold even "bad" positions. His opponents Alexejew and Leko got positions you can normally dream of at first sight, but they couldn't break trough. There seemed to be not the slightest chance to break trough.

Hope Vlad can conserve his form for Mexico.

There Vlad goes again...blowing out the bottom-enders (three victories, all against the bottom 3 finishers) :)

Curious about the"Änand, Adams & Shirov throwing caution to the wind" theory. I have always believed that with a steady #1, you play less decisively because #2 isn't as much of a prize to fight for--it's more important not to lose prestige by losing a game to a bottom ender. I would guess that if it's a case of looser approach rather than just a better year, you would see more loses (ie: a higher decisive percentage) and not just a higher winning percentage.

I can bet now Mig wont update for a while because it says King Kramnik, and actually Kramnik is 3rd after Anand and Topalov in the lists.

Carlsen and Naiditsch helped make Big Vlad's Catalan look like an alien death ray beyond human ken.

-- Mig


pfu - you may want to double check the latest list! ;)

LOL @Yuri:

without the losses vs. Kramnik none of the "bottom - 3 - finishers" would have been a "bottom - 3 - finisher".

A matter of course, especially in a seven round tournament - and finally a matter of calculation, isn't it?


i'm quite sure, Zenon turned over in his grave reading your last comment.

"A matter of course, especially in a seven round tournament - and finally a matter of calculation, isn't it?"

Actually a matter of sarcasm, which you didn't see :) (I was making fun of similar criticism of some of the other great performers in the past--there isn't much to it for most players. Though I must point out to you that without Kramnik losses both Gelfand and Naiditsch would still have been bottom 3 finishers--now that is definite matter of calculation)

I am intrigued by your Zenon comment (I presume you mean the Stoic philosopher)... go on.


Taking risks = playing crap moves and hoping that you will deal with the complications better than your opponents. You can get away with this for for beating up lower rated players, but useless against 2700+ players.

-- Posted by: al at July 2, 2007 06:57

Taking risks is often necessary if you want to win games. Playing without taking any risks means that often you do not have enough to win.

Look at Kramnik's win over Naiditsch. Naiditsch missed several drawing lines. Another example is Kramnik's game-deciding win over Leko from their rapid match. Again, Leko missed a nice drawing sequence at the end based on a knight fork.

My point is that a slight advantage obtained by risk-free play often ends in a draw if the opponent plays accurately. Taking risks gives your opponent many more chances to go wrong.

And are you really suggesting that Fischer was playing "crap" when he played the risky Sicilian, KID, Benoni, and Grunfeld in order to unbalance the position and win his Black games? It's a matter of style. Kramnik does not care if he ever wins a Black game. Fischer wanted to win damn near every game he played, White or Black. You do not win 20 games in a row(!) when you play the Petroff and Queen's Indian with Black.

@yuri - mea culpa - mea culpa - watch me to throw ashes upon my head ... again - again ashes - i did not recognize the sarcasm... ashes upon my head!

but - Zenon may forgive me - Kathekon - it sounds like Catalan, doesn't it? But it is the opposite, isn't it? i'm quite sure... :))

pfu, Vladimir Kramnik is World Champion; he is the king of world chess, and nobody else has a claim to this throne right now, least of all the scoundrel Topalov. It matters not one bit that he is tied for second in the world rankings right now, and please pay attention to the list before you say silliness about him ranking behind Topalov.



Kramnik is third and it is official. If he had played more than 1 game it could be different. But no, he plays only where he can receive strong support i.e. Germany and Russia, sometimes Holland. And that is pathetic since everybody knows the Russian government has supported by all means their national sport. Now he has double support. I think he plays well for a top 100 GM, but a top 10? He is on 3rd and that is exagerrated. Do not worry, starting mexico he is going to drop.

PFU - you talk rubbish. Please do not make a fool of your self again. It is quite boring.

Well Niel, this is an educated guess. Mexico will be much more intensive than Dortmund and Kramnik will suffer a bad defeat. Well, he does not care since FIDE arranged for him a rematch.... Something is not right here. Sad story for chess. Maybe Chucky should replace Kramnik. Ivanchuk showed really good chess at Foros.

"Ivanchuk showed really good chess at Foros"

by drawing all his games, except for a few wins against tail-enders? (sorry, this sarcasm is infectious - actually I'm a great admirer of Ivanchuk and delighted to see him doing so well).

As for Kramnik playing in Germany so much, that might be because he lives there :)

James, Topalov lives in Spain, he travels to Argentina, Svidler in Russia and travels to Mexico... come on. Kramnik should behave like a world champion and he does not.

Ivanchuk crushed opposition at Foros. If all games are taken into account I think the place of Kramnik as third is not so sure. And the world champion played 1 game in the period??? Great promotion for chess.

James, Topalov lives in Spain, he travels to Argentina, Svidler in Russia and travels to Mexico... come on. Kramnik should behave like a world champion and he does not.

Ivanchuk crushed opposition at Foros. If all games are taken into account I think the place of Kramnik as third is not so sure. And the world champion played 1 game in the period??? Great promotion for chess.

"Ivanchuk crushed opposition at Foros. If all games are taken into account I think the place of Kramnik as third is not so sure."

You're right, taking all games into account Kramnik is currently second, Ivanchuk third and Topalov fourth.

Acirce, please don't point out how stupid people are.

Leave him to rant about his hero, it's highly entertaining. :-)

mmmmmmmmmm rants


Nicely done.

pfu, you speak absolute foolishness. When two players are tied with the same rating, one of them has to appear on the list before the other; nobody with any sense will argue that Kramnik is currently ranked #3 in the world and Topalov #2. Furthermore, your hero Topalov lost to Kramnik head-to-head despite being spotted an entire point and an extra game with white, so enough of your apologizing for his standing. Kramnik just picked up points at Dortmund, so you are quite right to suggest that he would not be #3 in the world; he would rather solidify his position as clear #2 in ranking if all games were accounted for. Furthermore, this business of harping on ranking is idiotic since Kramnik holds the undisputed title of World Champion. Go cry about it some more if that makes you feel better, but stop trying to make stupid claims just because they give your idol a chance to still appear dominant.


In a small Sofia cinderblock office, toy toilet-wielding Bulgarians busily spam chess blogs with absurd pro-Topalov insinuations while holding "Peace" and "Hotep" hostage.

I cannot deny I prefer Topalov. But my hero is another one. It is Kasparov's favorite Tatiana. She is climbing and I am happy.
Topa played close to a hundred games (rated and non rated, but public) after San Luis. In the same period Kramnik played 15... or less??? That is not a world champion, except if we are talking about hide and seek.
I do not support Topa, I just do not like Kramnik's example for chess.

No comments I get... I accept you agree with me.

"Taking risks = playing crap moves and hoping that you will deal with the complications better than your opponents. You can get away with this for for beating up lower rated players, but useless against 2700+ players."

I know that you are trying (merely) to be provocative, but your assertion is illogical. Taking a risk often entails (among other things) playing sharp line that lead to complications that cannot be calculated out in advance. A risky, sharp move may in fact also be the best move, even though it may lead to unforeseeable consequences. Subsequent analysis may validate the risky move as being sound. Thus, there is no basis for claiming that risky moves= "Crap" moves". It is true that players will enter into unclear tactical positions
in the hope that they can deal with the complications better than their opponent. However, few strong GM will play into complicated lines which they have analyzed to be objectively bad for themselves, merely for the chance to get their opponent to fall for a trap.

If you look at various chess statistics, this is made manifest. There are sharp openings where a decisive result is relatively more likely. This means that a player might lose with a bit greater frequency, but that the number of additional wins means that overall, that player will achieve a higher percentage (of points, from total games played). It is pretty naive to think that chess can (or ought to be) risk-free.

After Elista Kramnik played at least 21 long games and 36 rapid/blindfold games, and yes, he also played blitz vs. amators. You can easily find pictures of these games yourself.
And I believe that it is better to play 10 high quality games, not 100 blunderfest ones.

"Kramnik should behave like a World Champion" ??

Those Topa fans can keep dancing around the same old crap but the bottomline is that Topa lost to Kramnik in a WC match. So in whatever way Kramnik wants to behave, the fact remains that he is the World Champ whether Danailov and his lost siblings like it or not! For all of their reasons, interviews, blogs or posts, Danialov and his stuntmen cannot change this one fact that Topa lost to Kramnik in Elista.

I think it depends on what you define as "high quality" and "blunderfest" games. It is the tendency of those who can outcalculate their opponents to choose and play "blunderfest" games in contrast to the pretenders to play well prepared, familiar positional, "high quality" games.

I think it depends on what you define as "high quality" and "blunderfest" games. It is the tendency of those who can outcalculate their opponents to choose and play "blunderfest" games in contrast to the pretenders to play well prepared, familiar positional, "high quality" games.

>>> "Have the comment system errors mostly gone away?"

I don't mind the occasional server error, the idiot trolls however are are getting on my nerves. ;)

I do not reject their right to play blunderfests, as Topa and Moro did. But for me chess is not about adrenaline, it is about beauty. My all time favorite is Tal, because his play was a miracle. Unfortunately, no Alekhine, no Kasparov, no Shirov, no Topalov can stay even close to what his mind did OTB, because their moves can be predicted. Topalov's games are calculations, as you said, and miscalculations. No big fun for my taste.
Kramnik's positional games are as miraclous as Karpov's and many Kasparov's ones. You watch, and you do not understand why the opponent who did no single mistake got a hopeless position in 25 moves vs. an opponent who made only 'easy', 'obvious', 'natural' moves. And this is another kind of beauty I admire for.

A new book about Kramnik will come out in the fall. It is about his three world championship matches and one of the authors is Bareev. Cool!


Bareev's book is reviewed, not altogether positively, at:


Kramnik has only played one rated game during the rating period, but he played twelve rapid games in Hungary and Armenia which attracted a lot of interest (possibly more than many tournaments).

He may not be the most active champion, but at least he's more active than Fischer was :)

I usually only get time to read this blog during my lunch break, so apologies to pfu if you were expecting a quicker response.

If for this rating list Kramnik got just 1 game (plus 16 rapid games), and Topalov - 10, then for the next list Kramnik will have 7, and Topalov - 0. It is stupid to evaluate player's input to chess by counting the number of rated games.

I vote we make whoever plays the most games in the top 100 World Champion.

Congratulations to Konstantin Landa. With 51 games, he proves he is 5x better than Topalov!

I guess the fact that some player had best-results being 2nd behind Kasparov comes from the fact that when Kasparov was succesfull in the old pre-computer days where generelly the better prepared player had more wins. After 2000 Kasparov didnt manage to win the ways he did before. The same you could say about Fischer. A today-Fischer wouldnt win his matches 6-0 just because everybody can prepare with computers now.

A really great review of Bareev's book!

"[Kramnik] being aware of an once-only, win-in-a-lottery nature of his victory [over Kasparov in 2000] spared no efforts to avoid rematch." Absolutely true of course, and this was the way it felt watching it unfold at the time. Only rabid anti-Kasparovites, or those with vested interests, denied this.

"He [Kramnik] enticed him [Kasparov] with pretended kindness and cut his hair off, as Delilah had done to Samson." Quite so.
Kasparov helped Kramnik enormously in the 1990's: Got him into the Russian Olympiad team at age 16 in 1992; had him as his second in the 1995 Anand match; in 1998 required him to win only one match (vs Anand) to challenge him for the Title, and when Anand declined to play, gave him what should have been a pretty easy task - beating Shirov; upon Kramnik's failure to manage even this, gave him a completely free shot at the title without any qualification at all. All this, and look how Kramnik repaid Kasparov.

Also intersting is the Anand interview mentioned by Mig on the 'Wanna Go to Mainz?' thread.

"I do not believe that any player should have this kind of privilege." (Kramnik getting a match with the Mexico winner if it is not him.) "On one hand, I believe it is wrong, on the other hand, I do not intend to make a big fuzz about it. In any case, it is very good that Kramnik will play in Mexico."

Kramnik is a betrayer of friends that help him; and is interested only in gaining, without scruple, unjustified priviliges for himself, no matter what damage it does to the chess world.

Topalov, too, has gained ridiculous priviliges. He certainly should have been allowed into Mexico; and given nothing else.

Unfortunately, Ilyumzhinov's disastrous reign has allowed a wild west situation to develop. Thugs like Kramnik and Topalov can bribe or threaten not to play and thus gain quite unjustified privileges for themselves.
The only solution of course is to get rid of Ilyumzhinov; years of chaos lie ahead otherwise as of course is evident in the dreadful proposed future plans for the World Championship.

On the contrary, the review is barely literate agenda-driven drivel. Like your post.

Who was it by? It didn't seem to be signed.


Yep, still dishing out the gratuitous insults without providing an argument, rdh.
I suppose what Anand is saying is 'agenda-driven drivel', too.

Not so fast, Chris B -- you didn't provide an argument either. Your post was a cowardly assault on Kramnik's character with none of the subtleties practiced to effect by Mig in his lede to this thread. You seem not to understand the difference between innuendo and evidence, so rdh's dismissal is not gratuitous in the least.

I don´t know about the book but the review is extremely confusing. Many times it is hard to tell which opinions are Bareev´s and which are the reviewer´s.

Clubfoot, what are you talking about? Of course I provided an argument. I showed how much Kasparov helped Kramnik. I quoted Anand's opinion.
Neither you or rdh have yet addressed what Anand said. It would be nice to see an argument from either of you two, actually.

Chris B.,

Did you notice that the flaming pro-Kasparov quotes which you used to support your "argument" were written under the caption:


Didn't think so.

Ha, ha, Greg. He is referring to Bareev's writing.

It's very simple, Chris.

Give Kasparov a 70% chance of beating Anand or Kramnik in a long match and the laws of probability say he's got only a 49% chance of defeating both men.

Give him a more reasonable 50-60% shot against Kramnik or Anand and he winds up with a 25% to 36% chance of defeating both men. So Kasparov sensibly demanded a straight rematch.

For public consumption Kasparov argued that he was so far superior to Anand, Leko, et.al. that playing a qualifier was pointless. People bought the argument which was, of course, nonsense:

--By the exact same logic, Kasparov was so far superior to Kramnik that playing the 2000 match was pointless.

--Prior to their 2000 match, Kasparov and Kramnik had agreed in principle that there would be a qualifier for the next WCC match. Why, then, following the 2000 match, did Kasparov not publicly lend his name, support, and influence to finding sponsors for a rigorous long-match qualifier which would have proven his superiority over Anand et. al. and put money in his pocket?

Because the laws of probability made it sensible for him to play a straight rematch, or to play nothing. And he ended up playing nothing.

Does this make him "afraid" of Kramnik and Anand? No. It just makes him someone looking out for his own interests.

If you look at chess as a coin flip rather than as a contest, there's no point in playing it at all.

Actually the impressive use of "--" and the baseless probabilities notwithstanding, the argument boils down to "Since every additional stage reduces probability of ultimate victory every GM who wants to skip a stage does so because he feels it increases his chances." Not to mention that probability of Kasparov beating Kramnik is irrelevant since Kasp never demanded THAT stage be skipped. It would have been interesting to hear Kasparov's reaction to a single match against Anand as qualifier or to a good round-robin. Instead Kramnik gave us Dortmund 2002 which combined worst features of Mtel (lack of rest days in schedule), FIDE knockout (rapid matches as basis for advancement, very short classic matches) and an average 4-man round robin (check how drawish those were when they tried them again in Dortmund a few years later). The probability of the best man winning such a tournament was, shall we say, 23.5 percent? Far cry from the qualifier actually agreed upon by Kasparov and Kramnik, information about which may be found here: http://www.chesscenter.com/twic/press.html

I thought a round robin was exactly what Kasparov flat-out rejected, fearing that the other participants would gang up against him. I agree with him in principle, although not just for this reason.

The Dortmund format was ridiculous (few rest days, the inclusion of Lutz, etc) and it's one of the worst things Kramnik has done since winning the title to endorse it as perfectly fine (as opposed to the reasonable "flawed but better than nothing").

Kasparov rejected just one specific type of round robin with the 'ganging-up' comment - an 8 player double round robin. The event originally agreed to by Kasparov and Kramnik in April 2000 would have been less subject to 'ganging-up'.
Why didn't Kramnik offer the event that was originally agreed to? I don't understand this.

Kramnik must have known for certain that the ridiculous format that was announced for Dortmund would be unacceptable to Kasparov. So why did he offer this? And why (having ample time to do so) did he refuse to change it despite general public disapproval and Kasparov's protests?

Considering that until the announcement of this Dortmund qualifier (in July 2001), Kasparov had not ruled out playing in a qualifier in general, it would therefore have to be said that it was Kramnik, not Kasparov, that took the decisive step that ensured Kasparov would not be taking part in a qualifier.

With Kramnik refusing to offer Kasparov an acceptable qualifier to play in, Kasparov would thereafter have very considerable justification for claiming parity with Kramnik, would he not?

And Greg's claim that 'Kasparov argued that he was so far superior to Anand, Leko, et.al. that a qualifier was pointless' is not entirely fair. For the next thing that happened was Seirawan's 'A Fresh Start' proposal. For this, Kasparov agreed to play in quarter-final matches, which is a long way from a direct rematch with Kramnik. But this proposal was torpedoed by Kramnik.

(Very good post, by the way, Yuriy.)

Here's some info Eric Schiller gave us on chessgames.com a while ago:

"It might be of interest to look at the proposed Braingames.net World Championship Cycle, prepared by me in consultation with Kramnik and Kasparov's representatives for BGN. The Internet part of the event was mandated by them for commercial reasons. Of course BGN imploded, and the idea died.

The next Braingames.net World Chess Championship match will take place in 2002. In order to allow the maximum number of players to have a shot at the title, while maintaining standards of quality chess, Braingames.net have devised the following qualification cycle.

In December 2001 there will be a qualifying tournament to choose the Challenger who will face the reigning Champion. Participants will be:

• The loser of the Braingames.net 2000 World Championship match
• Six qualifiers from a competition conducted on the Internet by Braingames.net, as detailed in a separate document.
• 18 of the top 20 players on the Braingames.net ranking list as at 1 July 2001. (The World Champion and 2000 Challenger are automatically included.

Qualifying tournament format:
Preliminaries: four sections, six players, double round robin (10 games over 12 days)
Finals: The loser of the 2000 World Championship plus winners of each section plus the highest scoring second place finisher play a double round robin (10 games over 12 days). Should there be a tie for the second-place qualifier, a playoff match will be arranged.

Prizes: Prizes will be awarded according to the number of points scored.

Each point in the preliminary section will be awarded (1/3 total prize fund divided by 120). Each point in the finals section will be awarded (2/3 total prize fund divided by 30). Thus, assuming a total prize fund of $360,000, each point in the prelims would be worth $1,000 (Maximum $10,000) and each point in the finals would be worth $8,000 (Maximum $80,000).

The format has been designed to meet the criteria of including a greater number of participants while insuring a high quality of play and an appropriately qualified challenger. Specifically, we have taken into account Mr. Kramnik’s wish that a greater number of players be given a chance to share in the prizes and Mr. Kasparov’s wish to restrict the final candidates’ tournament to a small number of highly qualified participants, while at the same time allowing all chessplayers in the world to take part in qualifying competitions.

Prepared by Eric Schiller, 14 October 2000."

The way I read this, Kasparov indeed agreed to be seeded into a round-robin, just a 6-player instead of an 8-player. If this was acceptable to him then, it wasn't entirely unreasonable to think it would still be acceptable to him one year later. What made him change his mind, or think "ganging up" would be a much bigger problem with two more participants, only Garry knows. As for the rest of Chris' post...same old yawn-inducing rubbish as always. I just thought I'd add some hopefully new information here.

Yeah, it would have been interesting to see Kasparov's reaction to a better qualifier ... the public support for one would definitely be less on his side if he were to reject that one. But there is a huge difference between Schiller's description and Dortmund 2002. One, Dortmund was not a 6-man round robin but rather 2 groups 4-man round robins. Those are usually rather drawish (if you get the first win in each group you can easily hold off all challengers because you control 50 percent of outcomes in each round--witness Dortmund in 2004). The second is the short playoff matches, with rapid tiebreaks. Essentially what it comes down is each stage heavily favored the person who got the first win. There is roughly a 9.6 probability that in 2002 Kasparov would have lost a match of reasonable length against any of the Dortmund participants. But the chances of him or simply "the better player" suffering the first loss are fairly high. Which is one more reason I think Dortmund 02 is not a very good qualifier.

What WOULD have been a "better" or "good enough" qualifier? You said "It would have been interesting to hear Kasparov's reaction to a single match against Anand as qualifier or to a good round-robin." Well, we already know Kasparov rejected Keene's suggestion of an 8-man round robin. What else is a "good" round robin? Does it have to be 6? Would 7 be good enough?

"Well, we already know Kasparov rejected Keene's suggestion of an 8-man round robin. What else is a "good" round robin? Does it have to be 6? Would 7 be good enough?" To me, 6, 7 or 8 is fairly good, provided it has enough rest days. When did Kasparov reject this offer? Dortmund 2002 is not an 8-man round robin.

"Keene responds to Kasparov criticism

Last week in a press release by Owen Williams it emerged that Kasparov has turned down the Braingames qualifier in Dortmund next year.

Ray Keene has kindly responded to some questions I asked about this letter today (11th September) in a personal capacity in an exclusive interview with TWIC.

Keene started by saying that he had personally proposed an 8 player double round robin as his preferred option. He discussed this with Kasparov and Owen Williams at a lunch after the match against Kramnik last year. According to Keene he "rejected it since he [Kasparov] claimed opponents could gang up on him and cheat thus eliminating him".

BGN's initial proposals for the Candidates in Dortmund were for 2 groups of four double round robin with the first two to qualify followed by a 2 game match semi-final and a 4 game match final. They extended the semi-finals from two games to four games after a general negative reaction hoping that this would make it more likely that Kasparov would play. In Kasparov's official invitation it was made clear that the semi-finals would be a four game match.

Dortmund were happy to make such a change. It should also be made clear that there are many new people involved in the organisation of Dortmund, very few of the old guard with whom he had bad relations in 1995 remain. The Dortmund organisers are quite puzzled by Kasparov's apparent animosity to them since he had earlier been very friendly to them.

Keene says that invitations for the Candidates have already gone out to Kasparov, Anand, Leko, Adams, Topalov and Morozevich. They will be joined by "two website qualifiers who will have to go via an additional preliminary to which elite GMs will be invited."

BGN has written to Owen Williams noting his views and pointing out the deadline for final acceptance is not till the end of December 2001.

Keene feels he has bent over backwards to keep Kasparov on board. He also adds that BGN has a contract with Kramnik and he wants a qualifier and this decision was his. With contracts signed a qualifier will go ahead. BGN really don't want to get into a fight with Kasparov over this and perhaps part of the problem has been that they've been trying to second guess his views."


Thanks for the info, though I am wary of how Keene might choose to recall a year-old lunch conversation. It is also apparent that the actual concrete Dortmund proposal on the table (as opposed to some ideas Keene might have had over a meal) was always a 2 group of 4 rr with very short match playoff. However, the Williams press release also makes it apparent that it would have been doubtful Kasparov accepted any form of qualifier--he felt like already established himself as the best by winning every tournament he played in the past year.

It does indeed seem strange for Kasparov to have agreed to a 6-player double round robin, yet reject an 8-player double round robin. Perhaps Mig can get Garry to enlighten us on this one.

However, something does not add up here, viz:
"As part of the BGN 2000 contract, both Kasparov and Kramnik had committed themselves to accepting a candidates' qualifier event to determine a Challenger for the winner in the next cycle... BGN had a limited period to set up its qualifier for the second cycle, the company delayed the announcement of its qualifier, and the period expired [This was in January 2001]. Kasparov was no longer contractually obliged to participate in the BGN qualifier." - Seirawan in 'From a Fresh Start to a New Dawn, Part 1'
And: "BGN had an opportunity to offer him [Kasparov] conditions in Nov. 2000 and did not bother to meet the deadline" - Owen Williams press release 6 September 2001.
So if this Schiller proposal of 14 October 2000 was all cut and dried, and had been agreed to by Kasparov, why didn't they enforce it on Kasparov before time ran out in January 2001? Instead they delayed a whopping 9 months and came up with something completely different!!
I am not sure we know the full story here.

It is to be noted in the Keene response that he claims he is 'bending over backwards to keep Kasparov on board'. In fact, all he did was make a paltry change, ie increasing the semi-finals from 2 games to 4 games. This did not alter the fundamental nature of the proposal at all.

The Owen Williams press release does go somewhat overboard in its last paragraph. However, it was released 2 months after Kramnik's Dortmund announcement and was in response to it. In view of the fact that Kramnik was refusing to offer Kasparov a reasonable qualifier at the time, most of it seems pretty reasonable. It should be remembered that Kramnik's proposal was very similar to the FIDE KO's ("This is almost a copy of the FIDE system" - Mark Crowther in 'The Week in Chess 349'), which both Kasparov and Kramnik had condemned.

The bottom line is that Kramnik offered an unacceptable qualifier and refused to change it. Why?

You're right to be wary about that...it was a reference, not a proof, though I don't see why he shouldn't be trusted about that. I also thought this was not controversial, and I've a recollection that Kasparov has confirmed it, but I didn't find it.

Yes, the Dortmund proposal was always a 2-group thing similar to what actually happened. It's kind of the point that it was different from what Kasparov had apparently already rejected. So what kind of qualifier DID Kasparov want now? Probably, as you indicate, none.

It wasn't just "Kramnik" who offered the qualifier and "refused" to change the format. I haven't yet understood what interest the conspiracy theory assumes that Keene and BGN had for keeping Kasparov out.

Regarding your first post, acirce, Braingames do not seem to have made much effort to find out. They did nothing up to January 2001. In the 6 months following, they did not consult with Kasparov at all, then sprung the Dortmund surprise, which they must have known would be unacceptable to him.
After that, it is not surprising that Kasparov did not want to play in a qualifier.

Regarding your latter post, I would say it was pretty much a case of what Kramnik says, goes. Braingames was in a pretty parlous state by this time (Keene's borrowing scandal, etc) and Kramnik was virtually their only asset.

I think that if Keene knew BGN's final official proposal was lacking, he would be interested in making it seem like Kasparov was not ok with a better, more reasonable one. And his goal logically would be to make it seem like Dortmund would be a proposal that any reasonable candidate would accept. With Kasparov out, it was in BGN's interest to make it seem like he was being too picky and not that their idea was bad. And perhaps had it been a better idea, Kasparov could have been negotiated into coming aboard.

It would be interesting to know at what point "the Schiller proposal" was put forth to Kasparov and when Keene had that lunch. God, now I sound like something out of Woodward & Bernstein. The point is whether one was before Kasparov lost the title and the other one after, and how soon after. Nonetheless, here are my conclusions:

1. Kasparov was not under any contractual obligation to accept the proposal.
2. Dortmund 2002 was a lousy way to stage a qualifier, with low chance for the best player to emerge victorious.
3. Within a year after London 2000 Kasparov believed himself to be so overqualified over other chess players as to be entitled to a straight-up match.


1. You're probably right.

2. Dortmund was a qualifying event in a minor sport lacking the world champion and the sport's most prominent player. Dump a boatload of money into that picture and any fool could dream up a satisfactory qualifier. If there was no money for Kasparov-Shirov, how was there going to be money for a long, rigorous Dortmund qualifier?

3. A 37-year-old Kasparov was soundly beaten by the much-lower-rated Kramnik in 2000. How can we assume that Anand, or Leko couldn't also have beaten a 39-year-old Kasparov in a qualifying match? If anyone felt overqualified to play candidates events it was Fischer in 1970. Aren't we glad he didn't linger on the sidelines demanding a straight title shot?

It's arguable that Kramnik did the best he could with limited resources. Perhaps he could have saved a year by staging Dortmund in 2001.

The same cannot be argued for Kasparov. Who knows how much money would have been available if Kasparov had signaled in any way that he might consider participating in a sufficiently rigorous qualifier?

1. or to participate in a qualifier or not to demand a rematch. Nobody (Keene, Kramnik, BGN) seems to disagree with the assertion that the qualifier proposed was sufficiently different and more significantly that the contract expired.
2. When you can't stage a long multiplayer event which is likely to result with best player winning you can either
a) choose best player on some other criteria (rating, tournament win, face-to-face results)
b) stage better qualifier but with fewer players
c) go ahead and play a bad qualifier anyway

Given the same number of matchdays as there were in Dortmund you can stage a 6-man double round-robin or even a two stage 6 to 8 game match elimination. The option chosen by Kramnik or, if you prefer, BGN, maximally favored the person to get the first win at each level, the person with the most endurance rather than skill and shortly maximized the role of luck.

Nor is it a fact that there was no money for Dortmund. Just means the BGN and Kramnik couldn't find any. Since 2000, all kinds of events have happened that did have money in it, Aerosvit, Mtel, Brissago, Astana...

3. You can't assume anything. But the alternative is to say that results mean nothing. Then you have to ask how can you assume Kramnik could have beaten Lutz or why Kramnik deserved to play Kasparov in 2000. Maybe Kramnik's victory was not as sound as you think or maybe it was an indication of Kasparov's decline--without a rematch, we now will never know if it was a fluke or not.

Forget the ratings. Here you have a player outperforming everybody, with a + against virtually every player in the top ten, winning everything he is in. Now to me is that guy is a clear #1 contender, deserving of a match. It is certainly better to pick him than to stage a bad qualifier. It might even be better to pick him than to stage a good qualifier.

But that was actually not the point of my #3. My point was not that Kasparov was entitled to a straight up match, but that Kasparov genuinely believed he was entitled to one.

"If anyone felt overqualified to play candidates events it was Fischer in 1970. Aren't we glad he didn't linger on the sidelines demanding a straight title shot?"

Not really. I could do without his little psychological ploys, hysteria and anti-Semitism. But regardless of how I feel about Fischer, what made him overqualified in 1970? He did sit out the zonal, didn't face most of the top contenders in Palm (except Larsen who he lost to) and didn't really solidify his claim as world's undisputed #2 (or 1) till 1972. I have some other reservations about his road to the top but we are getting off-subject.

So back to Kramnik. He could have done much better with the same resources. Everything about the qualifier, from picking Dortmund as organizers to the short round robins to quick playoffs to lack of rest days, suggests a design that is as unpalatable to Kasparov as possible. Who knows what would have happened if Kramnik worked with Kasparov on proposal instead of springing the invitation on him in late 2001. Or, he could have given a rematch, "soundly defeated" him again and then worked on a qualifier at which point nobody would have felt like Kasparov was entitled to another rematch.

This kind of debate often becomes too subjective. "They didn't choose this or that format, even though I like it better! Outrageous!" When it's bound to be a choice between alternatives that are all bad in some way it easily becomes a bit meaningless. I think with all Dortmund's flaws even that was better than just a round-robin, where after all you are not in control over your own destiny. (It's easy to see how you can play the best chess but not win a tournament, but it's very unlikely that you would not finish on the upper half, as in Dortmund's group stage.) And it was more inclusive than just one or two matches. I would also think the main problem was lack of resources. Even given this it could surely have been better, but also easily much worse. We know it was just a few years earlier. And Lékó at least did get the match...

Of course, it's subjective since there is no true measurement of a format's fairness. But note that nobody, not even Greg is calling it a good tournament. Given the number of play days Dortmund had that year, it is more than possible to have a 6-man round robin and then a 6-game playoff between the two top finishers. I also think that in r.r. of sufficient lengths (at least 7 games, maybe 8) with more than 4 competitors, and with all competitors at fairly elite level, your final standing is a good reflection of your actual playing strength.


Given the limitations, Dortmund was a reasonable format.

"Nor is it a fact that there was no money for Dortmund. Just means the BGN and Kramnik couldn't find any."
--Do you have any reason to suspect that there was a sponsorship source undiscovered by BGN and Kramnik? Otherwise this is a very silly argument.

"Since 2000 all kinds of events have happened that did have money in [them], Aerosvit, Mtel, Brissago, Astana."
--Each of these events had fourteen rounds or less. Like Dortmund.

"Given the same number of match days as there were in Dortmund you can stage a six-man double round-robin..."
--allowing "Larsen" to demonstrate his "superiority" over "Petrosian;" and possibilities of collusion.

"...or even a two-stage six to eight game match elimination."
--So you want Leko, Topalov, Shirov and Lutz? If we kick Lutz out does Dortmund still agree to stage the event? Who's the lucky player who gets Lutz in the semi-finals?

Your mission should you choose to accept it is:
1) Identify a source of additional funding for a better qualifying event, or
2) Design a rigorous 14-round event, not a straight round-robin, which includes Lutz.
3) Suicide is not an option.

"Forget the ratings. Here you have a player outperforming everybody with a + against virtually every player in the top ten, winning everything he is in. Now to me is that guy a clear #1 contender and deserving of a match."
--You're again ignoring the argument. If results in miscellaneous TOURNAMENTS guarantees success in WCC-related MATCHES how do you explain Kasparov-Kramnik 2000; Topalov-Kramnik 2006? Anand and Kramnik had similar ratings, if Kramnik beat Kasparov in 2000, why not Anand or even Leko in 2002?

Losing a second match to Kramnik would have dented Kasparov's legacy. He was pushing forty. Of course he had to SAY he wanted another shot at Kramnik, but what did Kasparov actually DO to get that shot?
--publicly push for a rigorous Candidates event ending in an eight-game match?
--publicly try to drum up big money for a "Challenge" re-match?

By sitting back and doing neither of these things the master politician won either way:
--a rematch served up on a silver platter or
--a legacy which would not again be put at risk.

Too long. Sorry.

Yeah, that's right, Yuriy. Even Keene, in the 'Keene responds to Kasparov criticism' document admits to 'a general negative reaction'.
And Mark Crowther, Jeff Sonas, Seirawan, and Mig all criticised it. (eg "From BGN we've gone to BTN (Better Than Nothing), but nothing would actually be better than dragging the traditional title down to the FIDE KO level" - Mig.)

"it's very unlikely [if you play the best chess] that you would not finish on the upper half, as in Dortmund's group stage." - acirce. Actually, this is exactly what very nearly happened to the eventual winner, Leko. He drew his first game and lost his second and looked out. Only by a desperate effort, winning his last two games, did he scrape into second place in his group.

I doubt that many would agree with you, acirce, that the Dortmund format is better than a round robin. (And given that you earlier called the Dortmund format 'ridiculous', I am curious to know what your description of a round robin is...) But don't just take my subjective word for it. Take a look at Jeff Sonas' 'Championship Chessmetrics Analysis' [ www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=260 ]. In this, Jeff analyses the effectiveness of 13,000 different World Championship formats. Dortmund comes in way down the list at 10,945. In contrast, Seirawan's 'A Fresh Start' proposal [early 2002], in which Kasparov agreed to play in quarter-final matches, comes in at 181.

"Do you have any reason to suspect that there was a sponsorship source undiscovered by BGN and Kramnik? Otherwise this is a very silly argument."

No, what's silly is arguing that simply because somebody hasn't found sponsorship that that means there wasn't any. Especially since BGN was quickly becoming a non-functioning organization at this point.

"Each of these events had fourteen rounds or less. Like Dortmund."

Each of which (with exception of Mtel) had better format than Dortmund. And no Lutz. On the other hand, none of these other organizers are known to be good friends of Kramnik, so perhaps he simply decided to look no further.

"--allowing "Larsen" to demonstrate his "superiority" over "Petrosian;" and possibilities of collusion."

It's not perfect. But it's several strong GMs each competing against the same field over a reasonable period of time.

"--So you want Leko, Topalov, Shirov and Lutz? If we kick Lutz out does Dortmund still agree to stage the event? Who's the lucky player who gets Lutz in the semi-finals?"

We have established that several tournaments took place worldwide recently that were of reasonable length and didn't require Lutz's presence. However, when Braingames originally proposed this qualifier (around July of 2001) Lutz's name was not mentioned. Instead the last two slots "were to be contested in an Internet tournament". Lutz's presence was not essential in Dortmund deciding to host the event.

"If results in miscellaneous TOURNAMENTS guarantees success in WCC-related MATCHES how do you explain Kasparov-Kramnik 2000; Topalov-Kramnik 2006?"

Such an argument (even if not accurate) would make sense if you were talking about having a MATCH-based qualifier. But Dortmund was a short round-robin. With short match playoff and rapid tiebreaks. Maximum possibility of having the better player eliminated. Since Keene mentions Kasparov being unfavorable towards a r.r.-idea, that logically suggests he would have been more receptive of a MATCH-based qualifier.

Success in tournaments in fact is not very meaningful if your success comes as result of blowing out the bottom enders or if you play lower-end tournaments. On the other hand achieving positive or negative face-to-face results against the same competition is by logic independent of whether the games take place in tournament or a match.

It is also interesting to note that the players who achieved truly great tournament results were also the ones who traditionally won the matches in the same period, ie Fischer in early 70s, Karpov 75-95, Kasparov 82-03. The only exception is Kramnik's match with Kasparov. Which would make it all the more curious to see in a rematch if it was a fluke or a reflection of something.

Topalov did not achieve results anywhere near on par with Kasparov in 00-02. In fact, it's Kramnik who has the better tournament results since coming back from his illness, which after all, is the period closer to their match.

"what did Kasparov actually DO to get that shot?'

Outperformed everybody else on the planet and publicly asked for a match. That he didn't drum up money is simply a reflection of the fact that Kramnik was not willing to have a rematch.

Calling Kasparov a master politician, who was trying to avoid a rematch, shows either lack of understanding of the man's character or a desire to come up with a flimsy scenario that would give a negative explanation for the man's behavior.


Kasparov's rematch demand cut the legs out from under the possibility of a well-funded, rigorous qualifier; perhaps one which would have concluded with an eight-game Kasparov-Anand match. Or would Kasparov's overwhelming superiority have made such a match pointless?

You blame Kramnik for failing to stage a round-robin format qualifier which Kasparov specifically rejects.

Then you mistakenly say that I'm accusing Kasparov of "trying to avoid a rematch."

Enough of this.

Had Kramnik proposed a good qualifier, Kasparov would have held some of the blame. As it was a bad one, Kasparov's decision not to lend support and credibility to it is very understandable.
Kasparov and I do not agree on what would make a fair qualifier, but then again I don't go around agreeing with everything a player I like says and does.
You weren't accusing Kasparov of trying to avoid a rematch? I could have sworn you wrote that he only SAID he wanted a rematch and in reality didn't want to put his legacy at risk.
However if you had enough of writing such claptrap I totally understand.

Probably neither player really wanted a rematch. One wanted to hang on tight to a fresh title and the other didn't want to get humiliated again. Not unlike the two 1927 guys.

Incidentally, Yuriy's comments about Fischer are on balance quite wrong:

"I could do without his little psychological ploys, hysteria and anti-Semitism."

There was no anti-Semitism on display from Fischer in 1970. He did not resort to psychological tricks either, certainly nothing of the sort visited on Korchnoi later: in fact, he apologized to Spassky in writing for delaying the beginning of their match. Fischer was just stunted and selfish and behaved accordingly. He didn't need any chicanery to hedge his edge, unlike Karpov in Baguio and Topalov in Elista; indeed, in that realm he appeared to be guileless. Moreover, there were no thugs nor con men in sight -- his second was an ordained minister.

"He...didn't face most of the top contenders in Palm"

At Palma he faced 23 top contenders and finished 3.5 up on the field, going +3 -1 =1 against Candidate qualifiers. The only opponent he missed in the zonal/candidate process was Korchnoi.

"...and didn't really solidify his claim as world's undisputed #2 (or 1) till 1972."

His rating was so high after the 1971 Candidates that Spassky, in a losing effort at Rejkjavik, actually picked up rating points.

"I have some other reservations about his road to the top"

Please share with us.

Kasparov didn't want a rematch? Capablanca didn't want a rematch? ROFL!! You obviously have nothing to contribute to this debate, Clubfoot. Please stop trying to hijack it with Fischer stuff.

As it turned out, all the Dortmund contenders were originally selected from rating lists. But FIDE wouldn't allow Ivanchuk, who had been selected, to participate. Instead of going to the next guy on the rating lists to replace him, they selected Lutz... Thus Lutz was the eighth player to be selected, not one of the first four. Therefore Greg's idea that Lutz would have been selected as a participant in semi-final matches is a fantasy.

Another reason that Kasparov wouldn't have wanted to go out and drum up sponsorship was that he was sick of doing this. In an interview given shortly after losing the match, Kasparov said there was "at least one silver lining to losing the championship". "To some extent I am happy because somebody else has to assume the responsibility of organising the world championship."

I am sure that Kasparov would have been more receptive to a match (of proper length) based qualifier. (this is clearly indicated by his 'ganging up' comment.) Kasparov himself organised his qualifiers as matches.
Yuriy's original suggestion of a match with Anand looks best to me. No one else would have had any real chance of beating Kasparov in a 12-game or longer match at that time. (And Anand himself would have had only a slim chance.)

And Kasparov went out of his way to try to get the strongest challengers to his title, to give it credibility. Of which efforts Kramnik was the main beneficiary... Contrast this to Kramnik's avoidance of the strongest challenger for 5 years. This avoidance was already clear to the Kasparov camp as early as 6 September 2001. "Compare Kramnik's not-so-subtle avoidance of the top challenger...this will haunt Kramnik as he searches for future respect." - Owen Williams press release.

Probably neither player really wanted a rematch. One wanted to hang on tight to a fresh title and the other didn't want to get humiliated again. Not unlike the two 1927 guys.

"I have some other reservations about his road to the top"

Please share with us.

Chris, most of the time I like clubfoot's presence. He is usually funny, unafraid to discuss facts and seems to believe in most of what he is saying, which is more than I can say about some of the other posters.

I guess winning top tournaments while challenging the champion to a rematch is how people have shown lack of desire to play a rematch both in 1927 and in 2001. Some additional similarity perhaps is shown by these quotes. When Alekhin was asked a few years later how he had beaten Capablanca, who had a positive record against him and generally was considered a better player, he responded with "Even now I cannot explain that." And Bareev, Kramnik's second in London apparently said to Chessbase in 2002 in reference to the London match that "We were lucky."

On to Fischer.

"There was no anti-Semitism on display from Fischer in 1970."

Nor did I mean to imply that there was. But I doubt the public would be paying as much attention to it today if it wasn't for his win in 1972.

"Fischer was just stunted and selfish and behaved accordingly."

I can't disagree with that. But to me it's kind of tomato-tomatoe. A spoiled kid will demand for things both because he believes he is genuinely entitled to them and because he knows he can get them that way. I am willing to believe that Bobby actually thought the cameras were evil or whatever it was he thought, but that doesn't take away from the fact that every account of that match I have read, both very pro-Fischer accounts and very anti-Fischer accounts, point at events like that as being more pivotal to the outcome of the match than actual happenings on board.

"Moreover, there were no thugs nor con men in sight -- his second was an ordained minister."

That's just a different kind of con man--and many of them come with their own thugs :P

"At Palma he faced 23 top contenders"

People forget that for much of the FIDE era Interzonals omitted the top finishers and ex-champions from previous cycles. Petrosian, was not at Mallorca, nor Korchnoi nor Tal, the finalists in the last two candidates. Also, coincidentally, the three men who Fischer had his worst face-to-face records against. Let's continue. There have never in history been 23 serious contenders for the world championship. According to Chessmetrics, Mallorca had #405, #52, #99 and #140 in the world (and that's not a full list of the spectrum). Out of the 23 men in Mallorca, only 9 were in the top 23 in the world, and only 5 in top 10. Against those 5 Fischer scored +2-1=2. Against the top 3 he scored -1=2. The highest ranked player he beat there, Taimanov, was ranked ninth in the world. The guys he beat were ranked 11, 9, 21, 10, 19, 35, 13, 30, 99, 76, 25, 119, 57 and 223.

Next we have his match with Taimanov. Mark never was much of a combatant and I think was just lucky to be there (especially considering how I have heard people say he got there). Undoubtedly Fischer was the superior player but the final score is more of a reflection of how quickly Mark felt crushed. Past his prime and never having accomplished much while he was in it, he played like the loved social presence that he was. (fans of Mark will forgive me, I hope, I have read a lot about and by him--no disrespect is meant) Against Larsen I think also the final score does not reflect the relative strength of the two players. (though again definitely reflecting that Fischer is better). A player as combative as Larsen will try to win every game, especially when behind in a match, and in such a scenario the actual edge that Fischer had on him, which was lower than the final score indicates, materialized into a win in each game. I have also read that he claimed to have been sick during this match--but I would have see more proof of that to believe it. Larsen and Taimanov are as two ideal a couple of opponents as Bobby could have asked for going in.

Fischer's match against Petrosian. To me that was his most impressive achievement from that era. Tigran is psychologically tough, has many match victories and does not have an easy style to play against. Their lifetime score aside from this match is 3-1 Tigran with 14 games played. I was impressed. Then I looked at the final scoresheet. And apparently Fischer's clobbering didn't start till game 6. I have to wonder--having just played a very tough match in Moscow against Korchnoi, was the 43 year old Tigran really up for a long match?

None of this is meant to say that Fischer didn't win each match fair and square. But I have to wonder. Had he faced somebody as tough as Korchnoi, would he have won? Had he faced somebody with the fighting spirit of Tal, what would be the effect of a loss on Bobby's mindset? What if the champion was somebody more adapt at psychological warfare than Spassky? There is plenty of stories, like the ones about Fischer crying in Belgrade and him not showing up for Game 2 in Iceland that confirm that when things got tough Fischer found it tough to go on. When praising candidates match-tournaments, we should remember that it allows a challenger to avoid facing more than half of the top players over the board.

"His rating was so high after the 1971 Candidates that Spassky, in a losing effort at Rejkjavik, actually picked up rating points."

That's one way of looking it--the other is that Fisher's rating was so over-heightened by the results of the candidates that he lost rating points in his more down-to-earth Rejkjavik performance. There are other examples of candidates tournaments having similar results on a player's rating; for example Chessmetrics indicates that Kasparov would be a two game favorite going into his first match with Karpov, which I think is nonsence.

BTW, I was mistaking in the original post--I thought that Fischer didn't finish with candidates till early 1972 and that's why I wrote that he didn't really solidify his claim till 72. I now realize the Petrosian match was in September of 1971.

I agree with you on most of your points. It's true that game 6 busted Petrosian. Fischer squeezed every last drop of an opening advantage and exploited his opponent's diminishing nerves and endurance (not unlike Ric Flair/Dusty Rhodes, or McEnroe-Borg). But didn't Petrosian, who had just lost his championship, get a bye into the Candidates? (I don't know for certain).

Granted, Fischer caught a lot of fish in Palma. But his score against the Candidates finalists was strong, including a long endgame win against Geller, his toughest career opponent hitherto, who was leading Palma at the time.

I don't think we should dwell on the what-ifs when we have the hard results: 21 straight wins until Petrosian game 2. I think we all agree Korchnoi would have given Fischer a headache, but he lost a heartbreaker to Petrosian, while Tal was going through another sick period. Moreover, Fischer did not dance over the bodies of the wounded like Karpov a few years later: he faced the toughest opponents and successfully crossed Rubicon.

And thank you for your kind words, Yuriy.

The Palma cross-table is here, for anyone who doesn't have it to hand:


By my reckoning, there are no less than 15 players who had previously played in a Candidates Match, or went on to play in one. Granted, some (Ivkov, Reshevsky) were past their best, while others (Hort, Mecking) were still progressing.

Even though three of the world's top players (Petrosian, Korchnoi and Spassky) weren't eligible, and Tal missed out, it was still a very strong tournament and, with 22 rounds, must have been exceptionally gruelling.

Taimanov scored very well against the bottom 10 players - only three draws, the same as Fischer - but actually had a score of -2 against the rest of the field! Like Uhlmann, he was rather lucky to qualify ahead of the likes of Smyslov and Portisch, who must have bitterly regretted losing to last-placed Jimenez. In a tournament like this, a killer instinct - and a bit of luck - is absolutely essential.

Didn't Geller have a net plus score against Fischer?

Petrosian got a bye, but had to play two very tense matches against Huebner (who dropped out after complaining about noise) and Korchnoi, his bitter enemy.

A contemporary article by Larry Evans (written after the first round of matches) is here:


And here is the chessmetrics table for Palma de Mallorca, showing the relative playing strength of those 15 at the time. Reshevsky was 25th in the world, Mecking 52nd, Gligoric 19th, Uhlmann 21st. That's a cross section, not the worst offenders. Given that the top finishers qualified, at least 6 would be guaranteed to have played in a Candidates :)

I am not suggesting that Fischer's result was not impressive or that it wasn't a tough tournament to play in. But people overestimate the strength of this field as well as of Fischer's head to head results against the tougher players in the tournament. The inclusion of 23 players in Mallorca results in a format that favors ability to achieve maximum number of victories against lower-ranked competition rather than superior face-to-face results against better players. The average strength of Fischer's opponent was 2643. The median was a slightly stronger 2659. And the 23 rounds, of course, were equally grueling to all players, maybe more so to the 47-year old Geller.

Fischer-Geller is lifetime 3-5 with 2 draws. Thanks for the great link to the Evans article.

Yes, I agree with your comments generally.

It's a mathematical truism that 6 of the players must have been Candidates at some time - however, Huebner and Uhlmann were the only "virgins" (Taimanov had played at Zurich 1953). Uhlmann's qualification, despite losing to all the top four, clearly illustrates the problem with the format.

The 23 rounds (ironically, I was trying to avoid an off-by-one error and over-compensated :-) would have been gruelling for all, but must have exaggerated the effects on players who a bad start, encountered health problems, etc.

Thanks for confirming the Fischer-Geller score. I remembered Geller had a plus score against several World Championships, as well as creating a large part of modern opening theory, yet he seems to be somewhat overlooked compared to his peers.

There are a number of interesting contemporary articles from Fischer's career at that site (not to mention the infamous "I was tortured in the Pasadena jailhouse!")


I haven't had time to look at most of them, but numbers 15 and 18 (written after the Petrosian match) continue the story of Bobby's rise to the top.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 1, 2007 8:12 PM.

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