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FBI, Fischer, Castro, Excuses, Thanksgiving

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Give a FOAF some traffic on this NYC News Service story about the FBI's investigations into Bobby Fischer's trip to Havana for the 1966 Olympiad. I wonder what those old Cold War hacks would make of how dozens of Soviet chessplayers have now infiltrated US soil. Sound the alarm! Some old news in the piece, some new. If you want to get even more into the Fischer-Castro game itself, The Kenilworthian blog has you covered here. The last comment there bears a read as well.

Chessdom has translated some comments from Russian Olympiad coach Bakh, who blames bad luck for Russia's second-consecutive medal-free appearance. Alexey Dreev sounds more like he wants a Beria-like truth commission to investigate. Again I ask, is it just about players not winning or is there something to all this leadership and camaraderie and blah blah? Do the other players push harder when they know there is an intimidating Botvinnik/Karpov/Kasparov on board one who will not hesitate to rip them for not giving 100%? Or is loose chumminess just as good, a la the Armenian squad?

Meanwhile, I'm giving thanks for being over the plague that half our family came down with over the past week just in time to binge today at my wife's aunt's house. And of course thanks for the shiny bronze medals for the US Olympiad teams (and individual gold for Anna Zatonskih and silver for Goletiani)! We must give thanks for FIDE and Khan Kirsan guaranteeing we will always have plenty to be entertained and outraged about.


It's not because of the luck. Simply-they don't play like a team, and that makes a difference. Morozevich, instead of trying to hold to a draw with black against Efimenko, tried to be a hero and fails. They came from hotel not together, didn't wait for each other after the games (at least that was my impression), didn't talk to each other. Never saw Kramnik looking at others' games. Armenians prepare together (result-opening wins of Akopian against Mamedyarov and Vachier-Lagrave, both 2700+). They have a team strategy, like "Petrossian-try to make a draw, Akopian - play it safe, Aronian and Sargissian-press". They look at each others' games all the time and adjust the strategy. In Russian team, the only one who seemed to resemble something close to this was Svidler, who was looking at teammates games and checking other teams-Armenia, China and so on. From Kramnik's LOOK you could see that he absolutely does not care.

Mig, don't binge after plague. You will only get re-plagued.

One of the few pieces of wisdom I have gained in this life: the BRATS diet. From Cornell health services:

Bananas, bread
Rice, rice cereal
Apples, applesauce (unlike apple JUICE, these have pectin which tends to thicken bowel movements)
Toast (no butter, small amount of jam or jelly ok)
Saltines-or other crackers-help replace lost salts

FIDE not just changed the current world championship cycle, to bring us back to the good old days where nobody had any idea what is going on in and with the world of chess, no, they just managed to destroy any hopes (which may have been illusionary anyway) of chess becoming Olympic in the future:
You don't believe it?
Eat this!
(Quote from chessbase.com:)
"The unexpected ½:3½ loss to the USA – it could easily have been a 0-4 blowout – was quite traumatic for the Ukraine, which lost a clearly attainable medal in the process. Vassily Ivanchuk, who can suffer like no other contemporary chess player from an unnecessary loss, emerged from the hall and started kicking a pillar ("A wonder," said a spectator, "that he did not fracture a number of toes.").
Unfortunately the Ukrainian team had been selected for a FIDE doping control, and an arbiter tried to lead Ivanchuk to the checking area for a unrine sample. But the distraught Ukrainian star broke free and disappeared for the rest of the evening. This put FIDE into a quandary: to cancel all results of the Ukrainian team at the Olympiad, as clearly prescribed by the IOC rules, and give the medals to different teams; or to make an exception and risk chess not becoming an Olympic discipline for ignoring the doping rules. After some passionate canvassing by former World Champion Boris Spassky FIDE went for the second option."
Oh boy...

I saw that bit, Raffi. Tactful call to grab the pillar-booting board 1 choker doyen instead of a teammate. Difficult to make sense of all this, so let's hope Irv posts here with a timely sodomy metaphor.

I’m grateful for Mig and the Daily Dirt, among other things.

Team spirit may be important, but more importantly for Russia is for their guys to play like they're capable. All but Jakovenko played well below their ELO. I'm sure the biggest reason for their problems is the pressure from home to win and win big. If they would just relax and play like they do the rest of the year, it would be a blowout. Jakovenko on board 4, Morozevich on 3? Wow, what a squad on paper. But Kramnik a lowly +1 at an Olympiad? Hard to believe even with him in the recent World Championship.

I think one reason for Russia's failure is that in the two matches they lost (against Armenia and Ukraine) the other team was highly motivated 'for historical reasons'. This does not take away that Russia played below expectations in most other matches (the two exceptions were against Cuba and Slovenia), but the two losses got them out of the medal race.
And don't blame everything only on Kramnik. Svidler's 50% on board 2 and Grischuk's +1 on board 3 were, comparatively spoken, just as disappointing. I concede that you first mentioned "all but Jakovenko well below their ELO", before singling out Kramnik.
Morozevich is another story, not sure if the tactical decision to put him on board 4 was a good one after all ... .

"Tactful call to grab the pillar-booting board 1 choker doyen instead of a teammate."

I am not sure if this was an option .... don't know how they choose 'doping control victims', but it may well be a specific person rather than anybody from the team.

Imagine the same thing at the Tour de France: If we cannot get hold of a certain cyclist, let's simply take another one from the same team? The obvious difference is that 'doping makes sense' (of course this is an euphemism) in cycling. On the other hand, "rules are rules" - and if you don't like them, don't play ... . Not completely sure, but I think hating doping controls were the reason why Huebner and Timman stopped playing for the German and Dutch teams.

Singling out Kramnik isn’t fair. That being said, there was something wrong with his play. He had a plus score, but had this been a regular tournament instead of a match oriented Olympiad, i am sure he would not have fared as well as he did. In most of the games he was better at the beginning, to suddenly lose his advantage as the time control approached. In at least 3 of his games he was significantly worse than his opponent when they signed the score sheet. My guess is that he needs a long break to think things over.
Svidler has had a bad year, and he only climbed back to an even score in the last game. His performance at the Russian championship surprised me. He won the tie breaks, and the right with it to play second board with it, but he only tied for first in the last round, and early on looked like he was going to have another bad tournament. I think that Morozevich was placed on board 4 because at the Russian championship he only managed to come in 4th-6th.
Analyzing together before the match, does not a good team make; thought i am certain it can help. Having an able captain who can make a good team strategy goes a long way toward success, and i am guessing this is what Dreev was so upset about in his statement.
Historical reasons.... well... that is a very nifty excuse. But unfortunately, its much like tracer bullets. They work both ways!

Maybe i'm naive , but does someone think here that chess players could benefit from any product or drugs to boost their performances ?

I would think anything that can affect their nervous system or affect their health in general (ie: cocaine) would be quite dangerous for their career . Maybe amphetamines to struggle against tiredness , but is that really making you stronger at chess ? i understand doping controls for athletical performances in sports like cycling , 100m , swimming etc.. but not for "lighter" sports like chess or even golfing ( the kind of disciplines not very demanding athletically ) . If someone can enlighten me , would be kind , cheers

When they didn't win a medal in Turin 2006 they put the blame on Rublevsky losing too many. I was in Turin, and saw one of Rublevsky's losses. When he stood up, he looked around, devastated, went a few steps, stood, needed someone to talk to, looked around again, a tragic figure to look at. The other guys just didn't care, didn't speak to him, looked the other direction.
In Dresden it was basically the same team, without Rublevsky. I don't feel sorry for them.

Zigomar, let me reply to your comments one by one:

Kramnik - I agree that he needs a break. Not sure for how long, but clearly the time between the Bonn match and the Olympiad wasn't long enough, not really surprising. As I posted before, I think he still deserves credit for playing the Olympiad (of course I fully understand Anand's desire to take a break to relax and celebrate). Moreover, at least that's my impression, he at least tried to play for a win in most of his games, and with both colors. Can you point out the three or even more of his games where he was 'significantly' worse when signing the score sheet? Against Sasikiran (who could/should have played on, but went for a repetition probably in time trouble), OK. But IMHO in any of the other games he was at most 'slightly' worse (nothing a player of his calibre and endgame technique wouldn't draw rather easily).

Svidler - Concerning the Russian championship, you did not tell (or did not remember) the whole story ... . He started like a rocket, seemed well underway to win the tournament [just like China in the Women's Olympiad ,:)]. Then he lost track and had to win the last game with black against a direct competitor ... which he did ("winning when it matters"). So I do not think he was a lucky winner .... .

"Historical reasons" - well, did not know how to phrase it differently; in any case I guess matches between Russia and other ex-Soviet countries are 'something special' (like some other matches, e.g. Armenia-Azerbaijan). I agree that this should work both ways - but if one team has a stronger team spirit to start with (and this is not necessarily the team with the higher average rating!) they are more likely to benefit from extra motivation, extra adrenaline [no, not talking about doping], .... .

Finally, an own point: In two years, Russia as the host country will be allowed to send two teams. I would say their second team may well also be a medal candidate, with an average rating comparable to the first three teams of Dresden. And if they select a young, highly motivated TEAM - maybe including Nepomniachtchi (how do you spell this name exactly?) and other names hardly known outside of Russia and maybe not yet known inside of Russia - it could even outperform Russia 1 !!?? That would be funny and unique indeed.

In Checkmate in Prague, Ludek Pachman speaks about Fidel's playing strength:

From page 67: "We talked afterwards and I discovered that Fidel also played chess. Later I saw him playing a game in which his very second move was a horrible blunder. Apparently members of the Government occasionally held small tournaments among themselves, where Fidel ranked second --- I wonder if the others helped him there." It seems that he was only second, as the unchallenged supremo was Dr. Guevara.

And, since it is Thanksgiving, and you are in NYC, you can't fail to recall the Guevara-Castro plan to blow up your city on Friday, 46 years past. Or, as someone else put it: Give Thanks that Che Guevara is Dead. See http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/6499

"to cancel all results of the Ukrainian team at the Olympiad, as clearly prescribed by the IOC rules"

That is impossible in a Swiss tournament. Some teams such as Hungary would get two extra points for beating Ukraine without having to face harder teams in later rounds. To cancel any result, later rounds must be reassigned and replayed.

The only solution would be to take the Ukrainian team out of the final table, moving the fifth team to fourth place and so on.

Mig, Would someone like to talk about Judith's meltdown at the Olympiad and World Blitz. I know she just had a second child...but Kosteniuk just had her first and she is better now than ever.
Also live ratings: All the top (who played)10 players performed well below their elo (except Wang Yue, who is unbeaten in classical chess in what seems like eons and who just keeps getting better and better, shocking Magnus with RxN!!!),discounting minor gains by Topalov and Leko. Again the "tourists" showed they can play chess too. Oh one more thing, Nakamura gotta be invited to some big events so he can show what he's capable of.

BolivianExile wrote :
> since it is Thanksgiving, and you are in NYC, you can't fail to recall the Guevara-Castro plan to blow up your city on Friday, 46 years past. Or, as someone else put it: Give Thanks that Che Guevara is Dead

"If the missiles had remained (in Cuba),We would have used them against the very heart of the U.S., including New York City. The victory of Socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims."
- Ernesto 'Che" Guevara, November 1962.

"We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world."

-Imam Khomeini

Messages and Speeches of Imam Khomeini,
Nur Research and Publication Institute
Tehran, 1981

Not sure what you mean with 'minor' gain: Leko had a pre-tournament rating of 2747 and a TPR of 2834; he gained 10.8 points on the live rating list. At this level, isn't it a bit unfair to ask for more??
BTW: Movsesian is now #11 on the live rating list, 2 points behind Aronian. So, for all it's worth, indeed he is still not part of the top 10.

Russia is not winning medals because they are not the strongest TEAM... not even close. Their lineup issues, lack of focus and lack of chemistry has stopped them from being a viable contender. I don't see the same cameraderie in the Russians as I do in the Ukrainians (2004) and Armenia (2006 & 2008). Even the USA has much more chemistry than Russia. Varuzhan Akobian is one of the main reasons. He is said to be an ultimate teammate... spirited, helpful, sacrificing, loyal. I got the inside story from a good source. China has great chemistry, but poor nerves on a couple of boards. Wang Hao sat out the last three... wonder what's up with that? Illness?

So many people on blogs look only at ratings and pick Russia as a favorite for the gold. I would have been surprised if they had gotten silver. I do agree with Thomas that Russia should stock up with Jakovenko, Alekseev, Inarkiev and Nepomniachtchi. The old guard of Kramnik, Svidler, Grischuk and Morozevich is passe'. Move on. Well... I'd keep one veteran and ditch everyone else. Morozevich would be good, but not sure of his leadership. Build around Jakovenko and Alekseev.

Armenia has great chemistry and it helps that Aronian is a super talent and good person. IMHO, second to Anand is Aronian in his chess strength, persona and likability. Then you have this madman of Sargissian who plays like a 2900 every Olympiad. They have a steady, unpretenitious veteran like Akopian who can show a thing or two (see his demolition of Vachier-Lagrave). Tigran Petrosian on board #4? Anyone with a Petrosian on board 4 should win! Then their President shows up! It's a storyboard ending... Asrian's death, repeat, etc.

Paradigm shift.

Okay Leko played three 2700 players. He lost to Ivanchuk, Drew Kamsky and Leinier. He beat those he was supposed to beat(according to his rating). I was actually throwing out a poisoned pawn to shed light on rating inflation. How some of the top players protect their rating by playing in closed events and draw games with other 2700 players. However in an Olympiad there is incentive to play for blood so to speak( from the lower rated player's perspective)and no place to hide for the 2700 players. Provocative? Or just maybe some truth. BTW I love Judith, but without preparation in this computer-based chess environment she won't survive.

Have you read the Iljumzhinov interview on Chessbase? I love the part where he says he trusted Alexander Chernenko (Kamsky's ex-manager) because he knows his uncle very well.

Nice post Daaim. Varuzan Akobian is Armenian too btw :)

Maybe they should find someone for the Russian team. Kasparov? hmm....

Concerning team chemistry, an interesting quote from an interview with Jan Gustaffson after round 9: "The team chemistry is fine because we are doing well." With respect to Russia, the team dynamics may have worked out differently if their early victories against Switzerland and Poland haed been convincing ?! The way things went, it was an early sign (to themselves AND their future opponents!) that Russia was vulnerable .... .

In this respect, the Russian coach may have a point that they were unlucky [though his comment referred to the later matches against Ukraine and Armenia]. If the early opponents had put up less stiff resistance, shown more unwarranted respect, half-resigning before the first move ..... . I do not really believe myself in this idea, but it cannot easily be discarded altogether. And this does not take away that the Russian coach deserves at least 9.9 on a 1-10 cheapo scale.

Of course, team chemistry becomes particularly important when things are (temporarily)going not-so-well. Armenia managed to recover after their loss against Israel - and it was quite normal, rather human to have one bad (or unlucky) day given the strength of the field. Russia probably would have performed worse in a similar situation - well, actually their last-round situation was to some extent similar: All they needed to win bronze and half-save their tournament was an 'obligatory' win against Spain.

Back to the German team(s) in the press conference after the final round: The men were understandably "70% happy and 30% disppointed". And when Naiditsch was positively singled out by some journalists, he said "we played as a team [on good and bad days]" and gave due credit to the lower boards Fridman and Baramidze.

And the women's team was a 'textbook example' of bad chemistry, with the experienced players (this includes of course Elisabeth Paehtz despite her age) blaming the young ones: "We had to take excessive risks because we knew we could not trust board 4, then at some point we started blundering." In German sources this (already going on during the tournament) was referred to as "Zickenkrieg" - but it is nothing typically female, just look at how the Russians treated Rublevsky two years ago .... .

And some thoughts about Judit Polgar's recent play: I agree with you, Robert (and some other bloggers), that she will need serious [computer] preparation to 'survive' - you certainly mean "maintain her current ELO, world ranking and chess reputation" (not a matter of life and death after all ,:) )
But I do not think we can yet close the curtains on her based on two 'meltdowns'. If she was ill during the Olympiad, to me this counts as a valid explanation, I wouldn't even say excuse.
And I think it is a bit odd to mention World Blitz; blitz chess is fun but shouldn't be taken tooo seriously. My impression (mostly based on players between roughly 1800 and 2200) is
1) Blitz is more prone to 'erratíc' results, both positive and negative. If the same event was played again next week with the same player, I would be surprised if Dominguez comes out on top again.
2) Lack of practice is even more relevant than in conventional chess. I do not know if Judit Polgar was a) convincingly outplayed during or soon after the opening, or b) had trouble handling her time properly, causing blunders or meltdowns only at a later stage.

In the (near) future, I think it depends on whether Judit Polgar can motivate herself again for top-level chess, including the required preparation. If not, she may well switch to other activities, chess-related or nnot, just as her sisters did.

Thanks Thomas. I would never have asked if I had known Judith was ill. She is under a microscope because of her status being the only woman to have play at the elite 2700 level. She is also young and aproaching the time when most chessplayers reach their peak in strength. I would love to see her reach new heights but I hope she doesn't stop reaching- with that peak approaching.

Thomas, how did the Russians treat Rublevsky?

Thomas, how did the Russians treat Rublevsky?

Should have read more carefully above... sorry

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on November 27, 2008 2:38 AM.

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