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Kamsky-Topalov Begins at Last

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This is it! After months of moving deadlines, spurious bids, and assorted shakedowns, the Kamsky-Topalov candidates final is set to get underway in Sofia, Bulgaria, just hours from now. The first pawn will be pushed tomorrow at 8am EST, 1500 local time. Topalov drew the white wine and so will have the first move in tomorrow's first game. I'll be on ICC Chess.FM live with none other than Peter Svidler for the first game.

New official site here. They play two days on, one day off until the finish. Eight-game match with rapid tiebreaks. Time control is 40/2, 20/1, g/15'+30". The winner will face Anand in a title match that is currently unscheduled. Chessdom has minute-by-minute coverage of today's press conference and opening ceremony. Not much to thrill to, with this a highlight:

[Kamsky] is not happy that there is light into the playing hall. Kamsky and his team want the windows to be covered with dark cloth, while the lamps to be directed only towards the playing tables.

Gripping stuff. And of course there was folk dancing. Always with the folk dancing. (Chessdom also mention that Kabardino Balkaria will be hosting one of the fugitive FIDE Grand Prix tournaments. The capital of this Russian republic in the Caucasus region is Nalchik, which hosted the 2008 women's world championship.)

Topalov is the clear favorite against Kamsky for well-known reasons. The Bulgarian is the world #1 and his 2796 is well up on Kamsky's 2725, which puts the American in the #17 slot on the FIDE list. Topalov has also dominated their personal encounters since Kamsky's return, winning three in 06-07 and drawing two at the MTel Masters last year. Lastly, the importance of opening preparation is often accentuated in match play and Topalov's prep is explosive while Kamsky's has often looked fragile, if recently improved. Topalov comes in on an impressive hot streak, putting up great scores in his last three events -- Bilbao, the Dresden Olympiad, and Nanjing. Kamsky had an even score at the more recent Corus, but had wins over Svidler and Ivanchuk at the Olympiad. But recent results don't say much if we recall Anand's horrible Bilbao result right before his demolition of Kramnik last year.

Those looking for Kamsky's chances point to his experience and his legendary toughness; he has the calm nerves and tremendous instincts that can make the difference in high-tension match situations. The conventional wisdom is that he has to rope-a-dope it Muhammad Ali-style, survive Topalov's shots long enough to get in a counterattack. Kamsky has had good success in match play, though his big wins over guys like Kramnik, Short, and Anand were over a decade ago. Kamsky for his part says he's a more balanced person now, and that this stability gives him confidence. He'll need every bit of it, and a little more, to survive eight rounds with Topalov.

Just to shoot the breeze a bit, it should be noted that Topalov's only other big match outing, his WCh match against Kramnik in 2007, showed him at his best and worst. His play was often fantastic, but he badly misplayed several superior positions and it's just that sort of instability Kamsky will be ready to punish. If his nerves cost Topalov early, the pressure factor could almost level the chances. I'm very curious about Kamsky's black repertoire. He's been playing the Grunfeld a lot lately and Topalov must have one of the best records against that defense of anyone in history. It also contains many of the ultra-sharp lines Topalov and his team excel in blowing away with sharp novelties. Not that I'm in love with the ..a6 Slav either, so Kamsky has some tough choices. Topalov is simply devastating with white against just about anything and has scored +9 =4 with white over his last three events.

Both players are ambidextrous and regularly play both 1.e4 and 1.d4. Kamsky scores better with the king's pawn, Topalov better with the queen's pawn, but such database generalities don't mean much here. Topalov's nearly two months off shouldn't mean any rust. Kamsky has had serious problems with his clock now and then since his return. Prompt play on his part will be a good sign his confidence level is good. All bets are off if the match is tied after the eight classical games and the rapid tiebreak games are required. By that point Kamsky's sang froid must be worth any number of novelties. And if there are any off the board shenanigans don't expect Kamsky to get ruffled. I'll toss in the random stat that back when candidates matches were a regular occurrence, the few to take place on one player's home turf almost always went in favor of the visitor. (6-1 was my quick count.) Just sayin'.

My head says Topalov but my heart has to go with the underdog from Brooklyn. And if there's anything to be said for caissic karma, that will help Kamsky since his World Cup win should have qualified him directly for the Anand match. But that's an old sad song. Btw, Chess.FM will also be covering Linares, which begins on the first Kamsky-Topalov off day on Thursday the 19th. On several days there will be a chess double-header!

Theorist in the comments reminds me of my little piece on first match games from Anand-Kramnik.


I hope Topalov wins!

Hunt him down, Gata! Don't move until you see the whites of his eyes...then en passant at will.

If I was Kamsky, I wouldn't eat anything sent up from the hotel kitchen. Does he have a food taster in his group? I wouldn't buy a used car from Topalov or Danilov, not even a brand new Subaru.

I think Kamsky has been seriously underestimated. He has had a year+ to prepare for Topalov. Reminds me of how Leko did pretty OK against Kramnik despite being notch below in playing strength. Leko too had nearly 2 years to prepare for Kramnik.

Talking of whom, did anyone catch Kramnik's response to Kasparov's NiC article. Pretty strong stuff - although I dont entirely buy this "yes Shirov was shafted, but that is not my problem - it is Kasparov's". Either you have principles or you dont. Clearly Kramnik is not principled enough to put principles above his personal interests. Then why pretend to be principled? Just say - "I did what was best for me".

One of the most interesting matches of our time, going in. Aggressive, universal openings expert (Topalov) against one of the great defensive players of all time. It's like an Alekhine-Lasker matchup.

I think the match all depends on Topalov's constitution. If he's consistent, no way he can't win. If he makes psychological errors like he did against Kramnik, Gata could win.

Mig, I'm worried: isn't there a good chance the first game will be a short draw? A little sparring, feel each other out -- then back to the planning huddle (that sounds much more homoerotic than I intended). My main point is: what if we waste Svidler on a 16-move draw?

From a wider -- and maybe more interesting -- perspective: has there ever been any statistical analysis done of when in a match games tend to be decisive? I mean: if you had only one chance to bring Svidler in to commentate, what -- from a statistical point of view -- would be the best time to do it?

Actually, even as I ask the question, I seem to remember Mig did a wonderful piece at the beginning of Anand-Kramnik about WC first games through the ages...

Thanks, Mig. Good balanced warm-up.

I don't know if I completely agree with you on Kamsky's nerves. Don't be fooled by a calm look on his face. Remember how badly he reacted to Short's breaches of chess regulations (coughing, chatting, laughing), how he took them to be devious off-board tactics rather than a cold virus and English social manners. Chess at this level is very nerve-racking, and I bet everyone feels tight.

If Topalov beats Kamsky with the openings or early midgame TNs, well, so much for that. What I hope to see are games which are equal or near-equal in the early midgame, because I want to see Kamsky's famous maneuvering. Kamsky is supposed to be one of the best at maneuvering since Karpov. If Topalov can hang with or even best Kamsky in maneuvering games, then all hail Topalov, as he will conquer. If Kamsky gets to play maneuvering games, and still loses, well, we will have seen Kamsky at his best, and it won't have been good enough.

I wonder if Kamsky's "soft" openings will act like a catcher's mitt, and smother Topalov's aggression? (In American baseball, a catcher's mitt allows the catcher to safely smother a 95mph baseball in about 4 inches of travel.)

I'm with you, Mig, my heart with Kamsky, but my head and the ratings say Topalov.

Heart says a mass brawl ending in life bans for both players who have done more to ruin fair play in chess than anyone else.

My head says that Danailov will ensure that Topalov will win.

This dark playing hall business makes me wonder if Kamsky wants to play the game of often looking in the direction of his coach/seconds sitting in the shadow, who might even do some neck exercises occasionally.
As we know, it's not cheating but the *suspicion* of cheating that destabilises the psyche, and Topalov proved vulnerable in Elista.

It's a dark, dark day for the Bulgarian orange-juice producing companies.

"And if there's anything to be said for caissic karma, that will help Kamsky since his World Cup win should have qualified him directly for the Anand match. "

I thought Kamsky played that World Cup tournament KNOWING that the prize was a match with Topalov, not Anand.

Yes he did , but some like to forget about that.
Tough match ahead of us .

already dreading your lame trivia spots.

If Kamsky gets to play Anand after this ridiculously short match (anything can happen in only 8 games at this level ) , it's really one of the most schocking scandal in chess history

Not only Ivanchuk , Carlsen , Kramnik , Aronian , Radja , etc.. , actually about 10 players deserve far more than Kamsky to have a match with Anand , heck , even Gelfand does .. that's really unfair

it's so comfortable to criticize FIDE in every single of your articles while your propose nothing to replace it , and then say nothing when your mercenary who happen to represent your country will get an unfair privilege of playing Anand while other players have shown Much more these last years , i really hope for the sake of justice and credibility of Chess that Topalov win this

Kamsky legitimately qualified. If Carlsen had won you would not complain.

Did you guys see the "Currently the broadcast rights are being violated by ChessBase on its software PlayChess" comment in the Live-Window...

First time I noticed this during a live broadcast...

Isn´t the game score a public Information. Are journalists prohibited to report during the game?

They obviously stoped the live transmission of the moves at the original site... only the video feed is available ...

anon, that's quite true, but where are these articles?

Something called a qualifier tournament took place - Kamsky won that. Not only Ivanchuk , Carlsen , Kramnik , Aronian , Radja , etc did not win it. Kamsky did. That is why he is there playing. Simple enough?

The Kramnik-Anand match was 12 games. If you accept THAT as legitimate, then surely an 8-game qualifier to determine Anand's next opponent is reasonable. If they were still playing 24-game WC matches, perhaps it would be another story, but those days seem to be behind us.

Kamsky is here because he prevailed in an event where most of the other top players, such as Carlsen, Aronian, Ivanchuk and Radjabov, were also present. Kramnik, of course, just had a shot at Anand last year. I do agree that Kamsky, based on his results, is not the most worthy qualifier, but he did all you could ask of him to reach this point.

From the Chessdom commentary after 17. e5

Kamsky is still thinking and has 53 minutes on the clock. He has to chose between letting White shatter the pawns covering his King, or simplifying the position a bit but leaving Topalov with a strong passed pawn on the 'e' file.

Doesen't sound good!

he's still thinking?? or is something wrong with my connection speed??

oh wow, the live coverage is amazing!! there is a live video feed for free!! Again, Sofia sets the standard for organisation.

Interesting... looks like that d pawn will survive to the endgame (28. Rh5 was just played).

Psychological win for Kamsky.

Go, Gata, go!!

Huge boost for Kamsky surviving the attack with the Gruenfeld (for all the reasons Mig pointed out above).

Something called a qualifier tournament took place - Kamsky won that. Not only Ivanchuk , Carlsen , Kramnik , Aronian , Radja , etc did not win it. Kamsky did. That is why he is there playing. Simple enough?"

I knew about that .. my point is that the best player should play the undisputed world champion .. not the opportunistic one who one 1 tournament at a crucial time when the others were tired or out of form ..

Kamsky after winning this tournament should have played matches against better rated players than him before being handed such a huge privilege , the players i quoted have won many tournaments as well every bit as strong and proved much more over the years ... when Kasimdjanov or Ponomariov was world champion , they also won a crucial tournament but do you believed they were the best in the world ? there is no credibility if Kamsky goes to face Anand after that , anyone is entitled to his opinion ...

Only 7 games left , nice lottery ..

According to poll results most of us would like to see long matches producing a worthy challenger...

But it would not be appropriate to change the rules in a cycle already under way.

There is a huge difference between what Kamsky is now attempting and what Kasimjanov and Ponomariov did. Kasim and Pono were declared WC after winning knockout tournaments. Kamsky, in contrast, would need to defeat the world #1 (Topalov), and THEN he would need to defeat the reigning WC (Anand). If he could manage all of that, how could you say it was not credible?

I would add that, according to my recollection, a lot of the top players were absent when Kasim and Pono won their "championships." In the World Cup that Kamsky won, the only relevant absence was Kramnik, who of course has just lost to Anand. Topalov and Anand were not there, but Kamsky is playing Topalov now, and if he wins will next play Anand. It is hard to argue, if Kamsky can navigate that gauntlet, that he is not a worthy champion.

"The winner qualifies for a World Championship Match against Viswanathan Anand, scheduled for later this year."

Anand needs to defend his title every year?!?!

Every 6 months. Kramnik, Topalov, Kramnik, Topalov...That's called FIDE cycle.

As a Topalov fan i had the impression that if Kramnik were on the other side instead of Kamsky , he would have make Topalov suffer a lot more in the endgame.

You'd have thought there'd be some hormones to help with that.

Interesting point, Manu - particularly for a Topalov fan ,:). But - while I didn't yet have time to look at the game (and various analyses which start coming up on the Internet) in detail - psychologically it probably made sense for Kamsky to steer the game towards a draw. He had to face a novelty from Topalov, find several defensive moves, was behind on the clock, ... .

In any case: Referring to jaideepblue's first comment (9:23AM), it seems that Chessdom was overly optimistic at that point [we all know whom they prefer ....]. But it is easy to say so in hindsight.

ChessVibes has an interesting legal note here (http://www.chessvibes.com/reports/topalov-kamsky-starts-with-a-draw-and-an-odd-legal-note/#more-8281):

Many of you who were following the game live today may have wondered about the following. From the start, below the famous, blue DGT game viewer there was a remarkable legal note:

Warning! It is absolutely prohibited the live broadcast of the moves or video during the game on other websites, media or software without the explicit permission of the orginizers [sic] of the match.

When the game was running for about half an hour, another, interesting line was added:

Currently the broadcast rights are being violated by ChessBase on its software PlayChess.

Since many other sources were covering the game live, including TWIC, Chessdom and ICC, we’re clearly dealing with some private war between the Bulgarians on one side and Chessbase on the other. It’s well-known that their relationship hasn’t exactly been “deeply in love” for quite a while now, but to bring it into the open like the official site was doing today is, well, remarkable, let’s put it that way.

A comment from Michael X Tractor (#12) notes:

Actually, the Bulgars recognise that Playchess/Chessbase offer the best coverage. When the official site’s game relay went down, because they had more than two dozen visitors, they put a note on the bottom of the screen, recommending that people go to Playchess to see the games!

All that remains is for you guys here to come to the same realisation. Chessbase is king!

All this resonates with Andy Soltis' current Chess Life column (http://main.uschess.org/content/view/9077/365/) (might not be visible to non-USCF members), about how Internet kibitzing and news are "the scene" while in-print news of chess events has declined.

Whoops---links used to be automatic here; I haven't commented one in awhile. Clickable links are: ChessVibes item (including MXT's comment), Soltis item.

ChessBase is king? They do many interesting things, true (like absurd mistakes in grammar and spelling on their website), but I still think that ICC is far more efficient.

I know criticizing Chessbase's journalism is like shooting fish in a barrel, but I love this extract from Frederic Friedel's "retrospective" of the Wijk aan Zee tournament (published Feb. 16). You should know that he's talking about Arianne Caoili (Aronian's girlfriend), although you'd be excused for thinking that -- like some intrepid nineteenth-century anthropologist -- he's just discovered some strange new species:

"Arianne is a Australian chess player of Philippine extraction (as you can plainly see). She is not just a pretty face. Her highest rating, in 2002, was over 2300, but now she has embarked on serious academic studies. Her level of discourse is generally very high. [etc.]"


What's that Poesque buzzard brooding over the match Web site? The spirit of Danailov?

A raven, perchance?

Did you guys notice Mig has this weird struggle more often within him, his heart over his head or his head over his heart. :)

Knallo, could you perhaps have a vested interest? I was briefly a member of ICC and hated it. I always had a sense of arrogant and unnecessary policing, and that the ego of the admins was far more important than anything else. Perhaps its changed now, but I won't be trying it out.

d_tal ive been a member of ICC for seven years now and my path has rarely intersected with that of the admins. I'm curious how you managed to get afoul of them in your brief tenure.

Theorist, with all respect I consider your comment just a bit unfair: If a site/a journalist wants to provide humorous background information it always runs the risk of having some questionable 'extracts' - in the cited article, Fredric Friedel's conversation with Leinier Dominguez' girl-friend was probably worse (but requiring a more lengthy quote).

But other sites run the same risk, e.g. Mig also had a few questionable jokes .... . Or do you want Internet coverage of chess events to be limited to results and 'dry' game analyses?

BTW, as a whole I consider the Corus retrospective by Chessbase worthwhile reading (and looking at the photos) - but that's my personal taste.

Unfortunately all these players were not good enough to beat Kamsky when required, so keep dreaming... prey a lot for them, they need your help and consolating words!

Thomas, I know what you mean, but I'm not sure it's so easy to account for the astonishing amount of badly-formed judgements in terms of "jokes" taken out of context.

"Arianne is a Australian chess player of Philippine extraction (as you can plainly see)"
-- Yes, we can see the photo. Would it matter if it wasn't so plain to the eye? Friedel sounds like he's dissecting a spider (or presenting a weird "native" from the tropics to an audience).

"She is not just a pretty face."
-- Why would we think she's just a pretty face? Is our first thought of Aronian that "he's a white guy, who's not just a pretty face, though"...

"Her highest rating, in 2002, was over 2300, but now she has embarked on serious academic studies."
-- Ah. Jane Austen would be proud.

"Her level of discourse is generally very high." -- Fascinating. I didn't know these Philipinos could even talk in complete sentences. And a woman too! What a curious creature.

I'm not sure I've ever seen so much patronizing squeezed into just a few short sentences. A masterpiece of its kind.

Lol , the curious thing about chessbase is that the worst writer is the director of the site.

Well Kamsky got stuffed in game 2 - it was very easy for Topalov after Kamsky got into ridiculous time trouble.

Maybe the Germans have different standards for political correctness. Honestly, something like this wouldn't have been *too* amiss in the US 20 years ago.

I think it's called having appropriate regard for other human beings; synonyms are sensitivity and politeness. No assumptions of inferiority or otherwise, based on superficial appearances.

And besides that , if you are reporting such a big tournament you should be able to generate better material than that.
How many times i will receive a link to the day someone punched Aronian (it shouldnt be so dificult after all , at least easier than beating him at the board) ,IMO that just dont qualify so many times as something worth reading.
On the other hand the analisys of GM Marin of Topalov´s victory contains some statements that i´ve been waiting to hear for a very long time , it really surprised me to read it in chessbase:

¨¨During his unlucky match against Kramnik, he (Topalov) did not seem to take this detail into account and went for sharp and uncompromising fight from the very first game. As a result, he suffered two defeats instead of what could otherwise have become two of his best games ever¨¨

I felt exactly the same at the time of the match and always expected someone to say it in such way.
Kudos to him, and to chessbasefor publishing it.

Manu, I will first reply to the second part of your post - which is interesting and 'remarkable' in my opinion. Until now I often had the impression that you see things 'black or white': Whatever Kramnik/Chessbase do and write must be wrong, whatever Topalov or Danailov do must be right - and maybe even "Manu still follows Chessbase mostly to confirm his ideas and blog about it ... ." Your last post is 'new' [a different Manu ,:)] - take it as a compliment and do not attempt to read between the lines.

That being said, several additions from my side:
1) As you said, this was Marin's opinion or analysis. The very suggestion that chessbase _might_ have deleted (censored) those sentences can only come from someone who is (was?), well, negatively biased against chessbase.
2) Marin's first sentences (the 'detail' referred to later on)was: "Experience may have taught Topalov that his peak of form usually arises in the second part of important matches and tournaments." With respect to the Elista match, this may actually be a bit unfair towards Topalov!? Before (San Luis WCh) he took an early tournament lead and consolidated in the second half - only in hindsight this turned out to be the exception not the rule.
3) And BTW, in the first game against Kamsky Topalov was on the verge of overpressing. Actually YOU suggested that "Kramnik on Kamsky's chair" might have punished him for that, or at least tried harder to do so .... .

My three [or five or ten ,:)] cents about reactions on the Chessbase Corus retrospective:

macuga wrote: "Maybe the Germans have different standards for political correctness. Honestly, something like this wouldn't have been *too* amiss in the US 20 years ago."
Mig's remarks about Moldavian prostitutes were at least as funny and as dubious as Friedel's writing ... . Sorry to put this up, Mig, I know it is long ago (Dortmund 2003, that's six years but not twenty ... couldn't find any 'traces' on this site, but it was recently mentioned regarding Movsesian in your Corus preview). But the bottom line is that Americans or no better or worse than Germans - more properly and to the point: Mig Greengard and Frederic Friedel both have their bad days (paragraphs/sentences) ... . BTW, I am not sure if '[absolute] political correctness' is per se always mandatory or even desirable.

Manu wrote: "And besides that , if you are reporting such a big tournament you should be able to generate better material than that."
Well, at least they generated much _more_ material, both in this retrospect and during/before the tournament ... if THAT was better or even worse is anyone's own opinion.

These were just the 'preliminary remarks', my main point will follow in a little while ... .

I readily concede that the way things were presented was 'not a masterpiece', but the final conclusion (and Friedel's presumed intention) that "Arianne Caoili is not just a pretty face" may well be not as patronizing or derogatory as theorist thinks.

Why? Because most other sources do not go much further than her looks. Either she is solely connected to 'Gormallygate', or it is mentioned that she aims/dreams about a career as a professional singer and dancer - not all that successfully that far, at least not outside of Australia. I will not mention other names, but comparisons to other 'celebrities' (who have the looks but maybe cannot even sing ...) could come to one's mind.
And indeed, one could reach the same conclusions from a casual look at Caoili's own homepage - with the 'minor' difference that photos show not only the face, but the entire body (I may well get 'feedback' on that one ...).

Whatever one thinks about the presentation, "Arianne Caoili is more than just a pretty face" makes sense and is to some extent new in this context.

BTW: I cannot speculate about Caoili, but Levon Aronian most likely will not be offended - or has no right to be, because he also makes lots of more or less funny jokes or public statements.

"24 hours after the beginning of the game of chess crown pretenders to Sofia broken scandal saga reminiscent toilet in Elista. Moreover rear, now in a plot to interfere espionage, interception and jamming. Opponent of Veselin Topalov - Gittaim Kamski together with his team installed a camera to the two toilets in Sofia, forward-Blitz Sport. By the express insistence of the American people grosmaystor, the recording device was installed to monitor who enters, who and what goes there.

Recordings of WC-camera before it will be available to both teams. Bulgaria has allowed this compromise, because there is a threat first appeared: "There is a camera - there is a match, no camera - semifinal clash for the world chess crown will be terminated."

From the headquarters of Kamski not only satisfy that, and took second action - ding-dong device installed in Hall 6 of NDK. In essence, it is representative of the company's Syurtel "Alex Kucheryavi dealing with such specialized equipment, inform the" Gong ". Russian came in as part of a team Kamski, looking for space in Sofia. On Tuesday, however, he already has as an employee of FIDE. Kucheryavi is accommodated in a hotel Kamski and not that of the International Center.

The third action Kamski scandalous and company is that on Tuesday the manager of the guests - Emil Sutovski, wished appointed Gittaim Guard and members of his team to be eliminated. Environment of people from rival Topalov to believe that espionage and tapped by security guards in favor of Vesko. The aforementioned actions are against the contracts signed between FIDE, Topalov and Kamski.

Meanwhile, Emil Sutovski to spread negative information about Bulgaria and its household. In the Russian media he complains that the together with Kamski not been met on February 12. The truth is, however, that in his letter to the organizers in Sofia on 11 and Sutovski mentions only that arrives in our country the next day, without specifying at what time, where, what and how."

This is a Bulgarian source of course, keep that in mind.

I didn't quite understand, maybe this time I have the right to blame it on English language issues ,:).
@osbender [posted in another thread]: Are there also bookmaker odds on whether the match will end prematurely with a scandal? ,:(

Me neither, I am willing to admit. Btw, I like the headline of this version much better: http://translate.google.com/translate?prev=hp&hl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gong.bg%2Fview_article.php%3Farticle_id%3D69449&sl=bg&tl=en

Toilet-ding-dong scandal! That's just brilliant! (Whatever it means.)

If you scroll down on that page there's a story: "Topalov to pull Kamsky"! Surely taking psychological warfare a step too far...

For some more Slavonic translation fun this is the interview with Sutovsky that seems to have "outraged" the Bulgarians (as much as you can be outraged when you first make false claims that your opponents have a member of Mossad on their staff).


I was curious, so I read the original interview( in Bulgarian).
Honestly, it's the type of pseudo-journalism we all dismiss immediately after no more than 2 sentences.
First the source - Gong is the type of radio which will report a football game and dissect all the Yellow and Red cards, and all the scandalous situations and will forget to mention the final score if you know what I mean.
Second - I did not find the same story described by any other respectable media.
For me it is no-news and should be disregarded.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 16, 2009 8:25 PM.

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