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Preparation A-mazing

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My podcasts and Macauley's cool videos and GM commentated A/V at chessclub.com. More in-depth videos at chessvibes.com. Freddy finally had time to go outside and has some nice photos and reports at ChessBase. Ian is still bringing the scene at CLO and even gets into the blogging spirit by rocking the links. Dylan's NY Times chess blog has basic wrap-ups and occasionally games to replay with light notes. Europe-Echecs.com has analysis and more cool video. Not sure what Polgar and Kasparov are doing in the intro tho'. I'm not really buying the method of showing the games by filming a real board from above. Better than nothing, and more fun, but application recording is much easier to follow.

Round 11: Anand - Morozevich, Gelfand - Svidler, Grischuk - Kramnik, Leko - Aronian. LIVE.

The leaders take the white pieces. Will Gelfand try to make a move or is he going to try and sit on +1 to the end? Don't forget there's a huge amount of money on the line even in the middle of the pack. World Champion: 390,000 2nd place: 260,000 3rd place 182,000 4th place 130,000 5th place 104,000 6th place 91,000 7th place 78,000 8th place 65,000. The half point that separates 2nd from 5th could mean more than anyone outside of the top few usually makes in a year. Does that make you more or less conservative? Hmm. All I know is that Svidler, in clear last, should be playing like Nezhmetdinov's lunatic cousin at this point.

I spend way too much time doing things like watching, commentating, and annotating professional chess games, talking to chess players, and reading chess books and magazines. All of this makes me very well qualified to say I often have no clue what is happening in the opening phase of top GM games. I guess I do have some insight into why this is, which is something. I've often said that elite chess is a very different game from amateur chess and that the best we can hope to do in translation is pick a few instructive moments to focus on. Even with a GM guide there is only rarely a way to break down decades of opening refinement and preparation into pithy chunks or explain the product of profound positional understanding in terms of concrete objectives. Chess, it has been said, is hard. Anyone can play 'what if' with variations or drop moves into Fritz, which is usually, but not always, better than nothing. The great books and the great writers can communicate the underlying logic of the key moments of a game or event and make it entertaining. Players annotating their own games can do a far better job, but for various reasons they often don't. Too often they want to analyze "objectively" instead of talking about their thoughts and impressions during the game, robbing us of the things only the player knows -- which are usually more interesting and useful than variations anyway.

This preface is based on the extreme opening preparation we've been seeing in the Mexico City world championship tournament. How, and why, to explain the convoluted piece amalgamations black often ties his pieces into against the Catalan? Every move has a purpose, but that purpose is connected to dozens, or hundreds, of previous games and countless man-hours of empirical research. Even when things can be boiled down to useful shorthand -- the Marshall gains rapid development for material and white has trouble developing -- it's by necessity terribly simplistic. It's not practical or interesting, if possible at all, for even an expert in a line to talk about it in just a few minutes. You get a good sense of the size of elite chess theory by watching the ChessBase DVDs. It takes experts like Kasparov and Shirov hours to communicate a tiny fraction of what's in their heads. Of course players select swaths of it to focus on and narrow it down more before individual events and games. On occasion, two players will pick the same line for the same game and when that happens you get something like Kramnik-Anand in round 10.

Both players had deeply prepared this fashionable line of the Semi-Slav Meran. This was the fourth appearance of 6.Bh4 in this event and Anand had recently faced this exact variation personally, against Radjabov in Mainz, 2006. Kramnik played it against Gelfand in round seven, where Black played 11..h5 instead of Anand's 11..Bg7. Also worthy of note is that, like Anand, Kramnik's second van Wely faced this line through move 16 last year. The players banged out their moves even after Kramnik's new 17.b3, starting off action on the queenside where Black's king is obviously headed. They played almost without pause until move 20, when Anand's 20..Qb4 made it clear he was prepared to sacrifice the exchange on d6. Kramnik went forward and Larry Christiansen decided Black had a fine position, although he liked 22..Nc4 more. (The computers were in serious disagreement. Fritz and Shredder loved the rook and were giving +1.50 and higher for Kramnik. Rybka wasn't convinced and evaluated it as even, concurring with GM Christiansen. This led one to quip that they must prepare with different engines. "But who is using Zappa?" might be the right question now.)

Anand's knight was headed to d5 and he wasn't worried about the h6 pawn. He didn't take a serious think until 27.Qh5. Now Larry was wondering if Black wasn't going to have trouble holding on to his pawns while worrying about a rook invasion on the c-file. 29..Nf4 made it clear that White had his own problems. (Note the amusing 29.Qxg5?? Ne2+ 30.Kh1 Qxh2+!) Kramnik did his best, getting a rook and queen on the 8th rank with threats. Anand calmly moved his king up and threatened to push his queenside pawns. Kramnik had to bow to the inevitable and offer a draw on move 41. Were the players reversed you might even imagine Black playing on with ..Kb4, but it would have entailed considerable risk with those white rooks roaming around. Black has almost no winning chances and a very good chance of losing if he pushes too hard. I played out a few dozen tries against an engine and could never get the black pawns moving without getting cut to pieces or forced into a repetition.

A tremendous analytical and practical achievement from Vishy and a game that lived up to the hype. There are still four rounds to go so it's premature to hand Anand the crown. He's a full point ahead of Gelfand, but it only takes one loss to put things in doubt. Gelfand didn't exactly display ambition in his 24-move draw against Leko today.

Svidler and Morozevich played our second game to begin with 1.e4 and something other than 1..e5. Moro can play just about anything and here it was the Caro-Kann. Things got sharp after Moro took a long time getting his kingside sorted out. The resolution of the tension didn't come until mutual time trouble. Black missed some chances (30..Bc5) and then made a few mistakes that set up a winning shot for Svidler. The pretty 33.Bxe6+! would have won material and the game, but Svidler missed it and his first win slipped away.

The only decisive game was an obscure duel between Aronian and Grischuk. A boring QGD got exciting quickly thanks to mutual pawn pushing on the kingside. Aronian worked wonders with his knights, looping them around until one moved in to win material on e6. Grischuk's time management was even worse than usual. He spent nearly 70 minutes on his first ten moves! He had around two minutes for his last ten, making a difficult task impossible. At least we got a pretty mate at the end, one Larry had shown us earlier as a possibility. A few days ago Macauley Peterson asked Grischuk about his time issues and the Russian said he had no idea and asked Macauley for advice. If he got any it's safe to say it didn't help.


Mig, what did Kasparov say on the Kramnik-Anand game?
Today's game predictions: I suspect Anand-Morozevich will go on the lines of their encounter in the 2004 Olympiad.

Time management (Moro's that is) will be crucial - his loss after achieving a strong position in Linares this year could be ascribed to zeitnot.

Garry thought Black's position looked dangerous and was surprised to hear that most of it was preparation. (Anand used around 10 minutes for his first 25 moves.) He hasn't had time to look at the games much, unfortunately.

Was the kramnik-anand game "sharp" for both sides ?

Why was it drawn ? Both wanted to avoid risk of continuing or there was a perpetual-check available ?

It would have required extreme risk for Black to avoid the perpetual check. Black would still have almost no chances of winning and many chances of getting mated. There may be some incredible line with a few dozen only moves that allows Black to inch his pawns forward, but basically it looked suicidal to continue in that position. As for Kramnik, he had to find a way to penetrate and force a repetition before Vishy could get those pawns further down the board. There were several places he could have failed to do that and been in serious danger. Both players handled it very well and a draw was a natural result.

"(Note the amusing 29.Qxg5?? Ne2+ 30.Kh1 Qxh2+!)". That was cute and hard to see (for me) I suppose these guys would see such traps even at blitz speed! I suppose there's a reason why I'm not a world championship candidate

Funny that Anand prepares this line 26 moves deep with black, but never plays 1.d4 with white. Surely he knows the white side pretty well in order to prepare this deep with black, so I wonder what his reason is. One can easily imagine how this might cost him in a match, if his opponent keeps playing the Petroff for instance.

Mig, weren't you going to ask Anand about this after his charity match in April? Did you get an answer?

diaphanous: Don't miss Kramnik's reply to a question about that line at the end of his press conference. From chessvibes.com -- http://blip.tv/file/get/Doggy-R10PressConferenceKramnikAnand171.wmv

´´ Mig, weren't you going to ask Anand about this after his charity match in April? Did you get an answer? ´´

Probably, no.The ICC coverage of that event were turned into a shameless promotion and display of kasparov products and relations even though this was Anands event for a nice charity

´´ Mig, weren't you going to ask Anand about this after his charity match in April? Did you get an answer? ´´

Probably, no.The ICC coverage of that event were turned into a shameless promotion and display of kasparov products and relations even though this was Anands event for a nice charity

Very interesting column, Mig. Having missed most of the games yesterday I appreciated the highlights. Also liked your preamble on the opening phases of the elite games.

Yes, Mig--great insights into super-GM openings. It takes the discussion far beyond the cliche of "the game began at move 25, when the players' opening preparation stopped."

Somewhat offtopic: I was just watching Anand's interview after his draw with Leko. Apparently both of them had looked at it (the archangelsk) when Leko was Anand's second ten years ago! Luckily Leko had forgotten the lines and had to solve his problems over the board.

RR - Anand played 1.d4 for the first time against Adams a long time ago and beat him in a nice game. He has gone on record saying after that game "I wasted my life playing e4".
He has some near losses with 1.c4 against Vallejo and other low rated players though.

Tonight, Vishy will secure his position, unfortunately by beating Moro...

Now, what thread do I have to read to find out wether Vishy only qualifies for an 1/2^n - final,
or if he simply, after this tournament, is the WC awaiting someone else to qualify for a shot ??

Today's live commentary:

Anand and Gelfand's games at http://www.chessdom.com IM Karakehayov

http://www.crestbook.com GM Shipov

"Nezhmetdinov's lunatic cousin"

nice. :)

Wonderful essay on top level openings!

If Vishy wins this, I think he is the undisputed champion, especially as he is also the world No 1. I'd also like to think that his champion status has a "shelf-life" of 1-2 years until his match with Kramnik.

I think Moro is probably the last hurdle for Anand in winning the championship. Moro is capable of beating anyone on his day and also throwing it away and thus Anand needs to be careful (he has already played the other leading players in the 2nd half).

Moro's unpredictable play also adds to the uncertainity. One day he could give relatively easy wins to Gelfand and then defend tenaciously against Anand or beat Kramnik. This unpredictability can impact the results in a big way as the beneficiaries like Gelfand benefit and the chances of Kramnik are vastly reduced.


@DaneDude: from what we have last heard from FIDE, Anand will be "World Champion" but he will have to play Kramnik in a match. Also, Topalov will play a match against the 2007 World Cup winner in a match. The winner of that match will then play the winner of the Anand-Kramnik match in 2009.

So depending on your perspective, this event can be seen as a World Championship or, as a qualifier to get into the semi-finals of the World Championship cycle with Kramnik and Topalov being directly seeded into the semis.

Again, does anyone know if this Mexico WC will be on the FIDE Oct-1 rating list?

How can Zappa be beating the (supposedly) invincible Rybka? Any insights from someone close to that match?

AnandDude, I am surprised that at times you are cheerleader for Anand to everyone's annoyance while also claiming that this is a quater/semi final.

According to FIDE, Kramnik, all other players and everyone else who matters (except rabid fans), the winner of this tournament (whether it is Kramnik, Anand, or anyone else) is the unified/absolute/undisputed world champion just like kramnik currently is. What Kramnik gets next year is not a final but a rematch. Hope that helps.


Interesting game Grischuk-Kramnik. Mig has often said that elite chess is a very different game from amateur chess and that the best we can hope to do in translation is pick a few instructive moments like this one to focus on. Even with a GM guide there is only rarely a way to break down decades of opening refinement and preparation into pithy chunks or explain the product of profound positional understanding in terms of concrete objectives. Chess, it has been said, is hard.

Anand is going to be THE World Champion.

I think it's eminently fair that Kramnik gets a rematch. And what a match it will be!

I even think it's okay that Topalov will be seeded into the next cycle as semi-finalist. And believe me, I'm no fan of the Topalov/Danailov two-man-juggernaut-set-on-destroying-every-vestige-of-taste-and-sportsmanship-in-world-chess.


I am an Anand-fan, but I do not feel that I have been acting as a cheerleader for Anand in here.

If I have been a nuisance somehow, I apologise.

I did not claim that this was a semi or a quarter
final. I simply asked for a pointer to a description of what would follow wrt. the WC title after Mexico because I haven't had time to follow the chess scene since the time where rumours about Topalov being smuggled into the cycle started surfacing.

How can Zappa be beating the (supposedly) invincible Rybka? Any insights from someone close to that match?

rumor has that Zappa is cheating using GM-input, (perhaps Topalov) at those critical moments when strategic decisions are to be made

The official site shows Grischuk Kramnik as a 13 move draw? Is this correct? If so I'm very disappointed with them. That's totally ridiculous.

>The official site shows Grischuk Kramnik as a 13 >move draw? .. That's totally ridiculous.

well now, the depth of their games is based on decades of opening refinement and preparation. It is not easy to explain the product of profound positional understanding in terms of concrete objectives.


I have to say that your last two posts are the funniest I've read in awhile! Well done.

Is Zappa cheating using human input?

Let's check the warning signs....

--did Zappa's rating show a striking upsurge at a relatively advanced age?

--does the strength of Zappa's games at normal time controls far exceed its strength at rapid and blitz time controls?

--does Zappa's play decline markedly in cheating-proofed venues?

--does Zappa sit in the same chair each game?

--does Zappa's creator stride in and out of the playing hall jabbering on his cell phone after each move?

--does Zappa think of itself as "one entity" with its creator?

--does Zappa make absurd cheating accusations against its opponents to deflect the spotlight from its own behavior?

--does Zappa daydream about cruising Moscow nightclubs with Rybka?

Kramnik used 13 min of his time, and Grischuk 18 min. Perhaps the final position is indeed a draw for Super-GM's, but Kramnik opened with the Petroff and initiated all the piece exchanges at the first opportunity. It will be really difficult for him to explain this at the press conference, after saying yesterday that he is still trying to win. If Anand lost to Moro today and Kramnik won, there could still have been a fight for the title.

This 13 move draw is a shame. It's more offensive than 13 restroom trips.


With the 13-move draw, it is clear that Kramnik has thrown in the towel. He is hoping for 2nd place - pretty much what Vishy did towards the latter rounds in San Luis two years ago..

Looks to me (move 29) like Anand will have a dominating position after he gets his N to d5. Does Moro have anything with all his K-side maneuvering?

Svidler drawing after 22 when he has nothing to lose is also kind of lame. I suppose one can argue that he'll take the draw vs Gelfand and try to go psycho on some of the weaker competition, but still...

Looks like Anand-Moro are going to draw by repetition.

No, Anand presses on.

Fatigue must be a factor at this stage too. Quick draw is an extra rest day, and one "earns" a half point... Kramnik's best target now seems to be the 2nd spot.

Anand rolling his e-pawn. This is the end, surely?

Moro, hasn't resigned yet, but it seems the Championship effectively is over as of now.


Ah, a final twist provided by the Rook which moves to c4 not allowing the "b" footsoldier to finish things off.

Anand-Moro 1-0.

Congratulations World Champion Vishy Anand, again!

Kudos to Kramnik, Gelfand and Leko for drawing their mini-match against the big Vish..

Waiting for the 'rematch' now..

Here is the breakdown of wins after 11 rounds, it is great to see that the leader has twice as many wins as anybody else he throughly deserves his position at the top of the table.

Anand 4 wins
Gelfand 2 wins
Aronian 2 wins
Grishchuk 2 wins
Morozevich 2 wins
Leko 1 win
Kramnik 1 win
Svidler 0

After all we all know wins are what really count :)

Now it is, yes, safe to congratulate Vishy on being the world champion. The only way he ties is... he draws the rest and Gelfand wins the rest. And Vishy still crushes him in the rapids.

Kramnik cannot possibly have a rematch with Anand. You know why?
Cause they never played a match before!

In San Luis, Anand won Rounds 11 and 12 (the latter with black against Leko), played a nice tactical game against Moro in Round 13 (sacrificing 2 pieces and a queen for perpetual check), and only had a short draw in Round 14 with black (against Svidler). No way can you say he gave up fighting after it became clear he couldn't catch Topalov.

Will Kramnik still claim to be WC?

Kramnik won't claim to be WC... or he will be reprimanded by FIDE! Oh, the humanity!

Remember - Kramnik may prefer not to win this tourney (though I'm sure he would like to be better than where he is). If he wins, he must play Topalov in a match. If he loses, he plays Anand. Given his feelings about Topalov, who would he rather play?

I am sure that a tournament victory was desirable for Kramnik. This is sort of the one thing his career is missing and would in an odd way help ensure that historically he is perceived as legit. For what it is worth, he played well. He had arguably the best preparation and had better, nearly winning positions in alot of games,even twice against Anand. For whatever reason, he just couldn't get the job done. This was the first real competitive failure for Kramnik in the last couple of years, so I hope that he still has his illness under control.

>Will Kramnik still claim to be WC?

No, of course not. Because this time he can't just get the title and walk
away with it. The title has been unified for good.

Of course, there will always be the Kramnik ultras, but they'll learn
to stay quiet, as they do now.


Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. I am sure the cellar dwellers will play for honor and try to play for a win against Anand. Luckily Anand came to play too. I can only hope its a 3-0 rout in the last 3 games but 1.5-1.5 will be OK too! I think thats probably one of the reasons why Kasparov had such awesome results. Everyone tried to play to defeat him(for honor) and in sharp play he was/is god.

AAF(Another Anand Fan)

Not entirely sure what Anand is supposed to be "world champion" of. Another tournament with the same old faces, with half of them apparently not trying anyway? How is this different from winning Linares or Wijk an Zee, or any of these tournaments? (Except that this one has had bizarre qualification rules that have served to leave out some of the world's best players). Anand can only win what's put in front of him, of course, and he deserves great credit for both his play and the spirit in which he's approached the tournament -- but let's not pretend that this is some extraordinary, unmatched feat of chess prowess for which only the moniker "world champion" will do. It's just another ho-hum Super-GM tourney. Yawn...

I think Theorist missed the qualifiers...ho-hum.

Not sure what what exactly Anand has to do to be called a world champion by some folks. Maybe he needs to beat Alekhine's ghost in a match.

Theorist, Linares is not called world championship. Players do not prepare for months for linares. The tournament in Mexico is called the world chess championship. All the players brough their best preparation here to try win the championship. Monstrous difference between linares and mexico championship.

The first non-Russian WC since Bobby Fischer. The first WC from a developing country (India, where the game was invented). Early chess education in Tal Chess Club, Chennai. Contrast with the chess education of his Russian competitors. A truly historic moment. Way to go, Vishy!

Paul, don't get too excited. Anand has been WC before, and as a non-Russian is joined by Ponomariov, Kasimzhanov, and Topalov.

Well, for chess purposes we can consider all Ov's (including Pono, Kasim and Topa) to be honorary Russians. The point is they are part of that incredible chess culture that flourishes in eastern Europe. This takes nothing away from their accomplishments, of course. But we can admire Fischer and Anand for what they were able to achieve while coming from 'chess-poor' backgrounds. (I think Kasparov, in one of his more gracious moments, has said this about Anand.)

Also, Paul probably refers Anand becoming a 'unified' world champion, which is indeed the first time for him, and for any non-Russian after Fischer.

What, a commentator with the humility to state that he doesn't understand the game as thoroughly as top Grandmansters? You have just become my favorite chess journalist, Mig, although you where near the top any old ways.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 25, 2007 12:20 AM.

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