Greengard's ChessNinja.com

2009 US Ch Round 4: Leading Group Grows

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The inevitable Kamsky-Nakamura clash is postponed again as Kamsky-Friedel and Shulman-Nakamura are the top pairings today. All four have 2.5/3. Live here. Official site. FM Doug Eckert makes his debut, replacing the ill Anna Zatonskih. Get well soon, Anna. Thanks to Eckert for saving the day and kudos to arbiter Jarecki for having a backup plan. Also back-pats and brownie points to Chris Bird, who has resuscitated the live broadcast and website. Sponsor Rex Sinquefield has graciously promised that both Eckert and Zatonskih will qualify for prizes. He'd better watch out or he's going to get a reputation as a compassionate conservative!

Whew, after saying all those nice things I feel kind of sticky. I hope somebody does something for me to rant about today, and quick. Updates here later, post'em if you've got'em. What's your opinion on all the video work, by the way? Hope to have more time to check it out this week.

Add: Not much in the way of off the board drama today, I'm happy to report. The live broadcast seems to have gone well, too. That's not necessarily good news for everyone though. For example, Doug Eckert might have preferred his 21-move Championship debut loss to Boris Gulko to pass unnoticed thanks to a technical snafu. Sorry Doug, you should have been here in the first round when the scores were tweaked.

At the other end of the standings, none of the four leaders could break away. It looked like Kamsky got everything he wanted against Friedel to then swap down into a winning endgame. But Friedel put up good defense and somehow Kamsky's passed pawns weren't enough for a win. He could have won a piece only to be left with an extra bishop and the wrong rook pawn. 48.Rh7, keeping an eye on the b-pawn and threatening to take on h6 with check, looks like a winner for White. The rook endgame after 48..Nxb7 49.Rxh6+ Kc5 50.Bxb7 Rxb7 51.Rh8 is winning since the black king is too far away.

Nakamura won a pawn with black against Shulman but 84 moves showed he couldn't make any progress in the bishops of opposite color endgame with queens. Akobian grabbed a share of the lead on 3/4 with an energetic win over Becerra. Ehlvest had Kaidanov pinned down but managed to get lost on the way to administer the knockout blow. Kaidanov scammed a perpetual with his last breath. The expected 47.Qxe1 loses to 47..Qe4. Miracle save. Avoiding the perp and keeping the pressure with 46..Ng6 looks tough to deal with.

Shankland got a dream knight vs bishop and eventually squeezed out the win over Sevillano, who should ask to be paid per move. Christiansen-Shabalov saw a janky sideline of the Four Pawns Attack KID. Like so many high-level KID games, this one had White go from dominating to crushing to aww crap to draw. Shabalov was simply getting obliterated for hours. But on his 44th move LarryC put his queen on one of the few squares that gave Black enough counterplay to hold. Miracle Save II, Wrath of Larry. Ray "Real Deal" Robson already has plenty of cred, but it was still impressive to watch the 14-year-old fend off Ibragimov's piece sac and collect the full point. The computer finds very little to disagree with in White's play in the razor-sharp position. 19.Rf3! is probably what Ibragimov missed, causing x-Ray problems against the queen. Tyler won the just-happy-to-be-here battle against Lawton to drop the local hope to the only 0/4 score. (Technically, Zatonskih's replacement Eckert is also 0/4.)

Glad to see arbiter Jarecki given the opportunity to clear up the Sevillano-Lawton incident in round two. As I surmised in the comments, it wasn't about needing to keep score but about not having kept score. Ceasing to keep score when you get under five minutes is fine. But continuing to play when you have an incomplete scoresheet is illegal unless you're already under five minutes. Waiting until you're under five to continue with a still-incomplete sheet doesn't cut it either. It was unfortunate, but the bottom line is that he shouldn't have stopped keeping score. The only intervention required in round four was when Benjamin and Brooks repeated moves a few extra times and Benjamin asked permission to draw before the 30-move minimum.

The big showdown between Nakamura and Kamsky finally arrives Tuesday. Pairings. I couldn't remember their personal score and looking it up it's easy to see why. Remarkably, the two top US players have only faced each other once, a NY Masters rapid game in 2004 when Kamsky was just coming out of retirement (drawn). That's sort of sad, but it adds additional spice to tomorrow's main course. (Then there were all the games of 1 and 2-minute chess Nakamura and Kamsky played against each other at the US Ch in San Diego in 2004, to the great entertainment of the spectators and the other players. I wonder if my ex-girlfriend still has the video footage she took of that.)


Hi Mig -

"I hope somebody does something for me to rant about today, and quick."

Ok, here's a softball for you:

A 9-round Swiss with only 24 players could end up with some strange pairings in the last round. For example, if players A, B, and C each have 6 points and have already played each other, and they have also previously played the next 6 players who have 5½, 5, and 4½ points, then players A, B, and C will be paired way down against players with 4 points. Having people on the top three boards in the last round who have no mathematical chance of winning or perhaps even finishing in the top 10 is not a good way to decide the national championship. Especially if one of them doesn't keep score at the end of the game...

Go ahead and rant.

Luke, that is interesting and creative and is at least marginally worth ranting about if it actually occurs.

But I think what Mig had in mind for rant-candidates, was more like something that happened already, or something that happens during this 4th round.

Holding a 9-round Swiss with 24 players is a little bit odd. The possibility you raise - which I agree wouldn't be desirable, and I also agree doesn't sound far-fetched - is just one reason it's odd. Yet, there are obvious reasons for structuring the event this way, as a compromise between the over-inclusive formats of recent years (i.e. 64 players, or even 32), and the old-fashioned, too-elite 8-player or 12-player Round Robin.

I've participated in a few high-level, 9-round Swisses in my time that had only 30 or 40 players - the last one less than a year ago. And I don't recall any problems arising as a direct consequence of the structure.

Well, actually I was once a beneficiary of it, sort of. The top guy had already clinched clear first (win, lose or draw), and 5 or 6 people were tied for second, including me. I ended up facing the top guy in the final round - something I considered a privilege (although some others might consider it a punishment, or even complain about an "unfair" pairing. Inter alia, there was no hope of the top guy accepting a quick draw, since he'd already rejected a pregame draw offer for THAT SAME ROUND from someone higher rated than me - who responded to the rejection by abruptly withdrawing, thereby opening the way for my pairing against the leader).

Hello Fly -

I agree, that was pretty soft stuff. But, I'm not a nasty guy. I didn't want to say anything bad about those lame videos...oooops.

Any idea why Chessbase isn't covering the US Championship?

It's beneath their high standards?

looking for a rant? go back to complaining about why the Grand Prix winner Alex Lenderman wasn't seeded.

@Luke 4:41PM: I agree that your scenario is far from ideal, but quite realistic. However, it would also be a likely scenario for the last round of a round-robin event - the recent Nalchik Grand Prix (where leaders Leko and Aronian played each other in the last round) was exception rather than rule ... . Arguably it is even more unfair if one of the three leaders plays a much weaker opponent, and the other two have to fight it out between themselves?
@noyb: Maybe odd that there is no coverage by Chessbase at all (so far), but still normal that the US Ch gets less attention at a European site. Chessvibes (a Dutch site) had their first report today - BTW a very enthusiatic one ("This is how chess should be"), lots of praise for the strong field, the venue, the tournament website ... nothing mentioned about [initial] live transmission problems ,:) .

If I were the ranting type, I'd rant about Alex Lenderman not playing. He is not only extremely talented, but also one of the nicest people I know.

But, this "championship" is really a private event, even though most of the top players are participating.

ChessBase is broadcasting all the games on their Playchess server. You can watch them for free - just go to www.playchess.com for the download. When you're finished you can play chess there, too.

Oh, you're talking about write-ups? Well, the playchess office is in Hamburg, Germany. For most of the events they cover, they do so because someone sends pictures and a story to the editors. I guess no one has volunteered to do that from St. Louis.

amen inky. Lenderman is extremely talented and very nice.

Adding to Inky's note about how Chessbase chooses what to cover:

A couple years ago I learned the hard way about Chessbase editorial standards. I sent out an advance press release about the anti-cheating conference I organized at the Marshall Chess Club. Naturally, the release included contact information - my own email address and home telephone number.

To my amazement and horror, Chessbase simply published the entire press release, unedited - including my personal (home) contact information at the end. I was afraid the world elite among hackers/spammers/scam-artists would soon deluge me with phone calls, emails, or worse. (Fortunately, my fear proved unfounded.)

The FIDE 13th ranked US player Sergey Kudrin is not playing. Lenderman is not one of the FIDE top 52 US players and has no business being in the 24 player US Open field.

I guess the folks at the US Championship were paying attention. They sent all the information and some nice pictures to ChessBase, who has published an article here: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=5420.

I'm looking forward to more reports on the ChessBase site.

John Olsen, stop calling it the "US Open." (You also did so on the Round 3 thread.)

Take a hint from Karl Marx: The first time is tragedy, the second time farce.

I think what John Osen means that US Championship is Open to all kind of nationalities and creeds to participate in it!

How about Nick Defirmian, my favourate American player, seems like he didn't participate because he resides in Denmark now, I always liked his style and aggressive play.


"For most of the events they cover, they do so because someone sends pictures and a story to the editors. I guess no one has volunteered to do that from St. Louis."

That's a pretty silly guess. There's no need for volunteers. There's a whole PR firm in St. Louis sending out press info multiple times a day.

But I'll go one step further. News organizations don't sit around WAITING for info and photos to be dropped in their lap. They go out and get the story and contribute their own labor and expertise to inform the public and contribute to the public discourse.

I agree with you that the genesis of most CB "reports" is someone sending pictures and a story to the "editors." (The "big illustrated report", now on the CB home page is a perfect example -- with "credits" that say, "all information for this report was provided by the official web site, by special commentator Jennifer Shahade and by Arbiter Carol Jareci [SIC -- 5/12, 6:45 AM CET].")

But that's not "covering" an event -- at least not if you mean engaging in journalism or news gathering. There's nothing there that you couldn't find on the official tournament website. (Except ChessBase doesn't even spell "Jarecki" right!)

OK, that's method -- now for motivation.

Here's an interesting exercise. Try this search:

That's should return articles on ChessVibes in which "Chessbase" is mentioned. There are pages and pages of them.

Now go to Chessbase.com and search for "chessvibes". You will get an empty page.

Curious, no? The leading so-called chess "news" source has never found anything on ChessVibes to be even worth a mention in over two years of reporting -- much of it original, well sourced news and opinion! Not once.

Concluding rhetorical question: What do "ChessBase News" and "Hawaiian Interstate Highway" have in common?

In defence of Chessbase: They are a chess software company which publishes chess-related articles to promote their products. They are a good place to start looking for chess news, because usually they publish anything as it comes. They don't aim for quality journalism. Their competition is Rybka, not Chessvibes.

I think 9 rounds/24 players is well-suited. In the top group everyone will play everyone else sooner or later, so the final result should approach the objectivity of a round robin. Last-round anomalies are possible in every format.

And wow, it's great that they got all the stars!

"The leading so-called chess "news" source has never found anything on ChessVibes to be even worth a mention in over two years of reporting -- much of it original, well sourced news and opinion! Not once."

Not sure what's wrong with their search function because they have certainly mentioned and referred to ChessVibes (or "Chess Vibes") many times. Use Google to see.

ChessBase has a long-standing policy of doing as little linking/mentioning of other chess sites as possible. Their suits simply don't understand why doing so could possibly be a good thing. They have the #1 site the way it is and take an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude. Allowing comments, linking to other sites, etc., just seems messy to them.

This occasionally gets into dubious territory, as when someone reports or links to something interesting and CB runs it a day or two later without any mention of its appearance elsewhere. Sometimes that just happens -- we all use the news crawls -- but sometimes it's poaching.

They've actually mentioned ChessVibes a few times. It's just that the silly search at the ChessBase site only searches the title and blurb, not the story content.


That turns up some videos and mentions, though that doesn't alter the truth Macauley laid down.


Round 4 report added above.

Yah, I was a little surprised when I heard about this format. But it's not like round-robins are much for drama. You can have your top seeds playing each other in the first round and a loss or two puts you out of contention. Knock-outs have drama but aren't serious unless you need to find a winner quickly with a large field. Having a Kamsky or Nakamura bounced in a first-round upset isn't going to make anyone happy. Plus, no norms.

The AF4C fished around trying to come up with an interesting format. Remember the two groups and rapid final in 2006? Every system has its faults. I wouldn't be against seeing more experimentation to spice things up, really. In the world championship I'm more of a purist. But in trying to juice things up in the generally chess-ignorant or chess-agnostic US, may as well experiment and see if it helps. I do like the idea of trying to work in a final match. But everything costs money...

Chessbase, like most of its companions/competitors, is a free newssite. So why would they in any way be _obliged_ to cover any given event - using material provided by the organizers or, one or several steps further, having someone onsite to provide original own coverage?
I (or someone from Bosnia) could make a similar complaint that Mig 'ignores' the current Bosna tournament in Sarajevo [not doing so, already for the simple reason that he is only so many hours each day to update this site ...].

Naturally, Chessbase pays more attention to European events, often including their own independent coverage - because one of their freelance(?) writers happens to be there anyway as player, second or coach. And while their report on the US Ch indeed doesn't provide 'anything new', it may already alert their readers to the fact that there is a strong tournament going on on the other side of the Atlantic [not everyone would know, not everyone follows several chess newssites].

"I wonder if my ex-girlfriend still has the video footage she took of that.)" Maybe Mig is getting the couple of year's itch :-) Sending up a flare to contact an ex hmmmnnn ...... Go on deny it!

Brian, in case you don't know ... Mig seems to be perfectly happy with his present partner (girlfriend? wive?) and recently became a father. Of course there still wouldn't be anything wrong with trying to get back in touch with his ex - or he is indeed mostly interested in the videos.

Thanks Macauley for mentioning, and Mig for confirming, Chessbase's policy. At first we were an interesting, small Dutch blog that suddenly started making videos of elite chess, and all our YouTube stuff from WaZ was taken and shown on chessbase.com with links, without asking by the way - not very chique, but correctly assuming that the immense exposure and incoming links would make us happy enough.

Meanwhile we've established ourselves as "one of the bigger news sites out there" (@Thomas: we're trying to cover chess worldwide, so as far as content is concerned, we're not a Dutch website anymore) and things are different. The big Ignoring Phase that we're still in, and which only includes a few exceptions when the news we brought was simply too big, started during Dortmund 2007 (most links you find with Google are from before), when the editor of the English homepage told me he couldn't link to us anymore because of commercial reasons - he was referring to the ICC banner we had back then, but disappeared from the homepage over a year ago.

A clear example is the current K-factor debate. We've discussed Nunn's, Macieja's and Sonas' arguments and then we came with a guest column by a statistician who is working with different rating systems and K-factors on a daily basis. According to Macieja and others, his ideas are important and it would be a very good idea for FIDE to invite our author to their planned meeting next month. Chessbase however refused to mention the article and instead presented Nunn's last letter, which still contains enough material for discussion, as the "final installment".

Don't get me wrong: Chessbase has meant a lot for chess - I love their software. Chessbase.com is the biggest news site and not a bad one. However, the readers should keep in mind that in the first place it's a commercial chess software company, and that this clearly influences their (selection of) news coverage.

Hi Thomas. The :-) in my post was intended to indicate I was joking.......

I just figured ChessBase has something against Hikaru, since it seems like the tournaments he plays always seem to be undercovered...

Also, having read the Jarecki version of the Lawton incident, with all due respect, what business does Lawton have playing in a tournament like this? Wow.

John -

Unless there is something that refutes Jarecki's version of the controversy, Lawton's actions do not look good.

However, he is a Missouri player and rated 2350, so I have no objection to him being one of the two local player wildcard invitees.

are you nuts John Osen? Lenderman is A) the Grand Prix winner and B) the 18th highest rated player at 2603 to Sergey Kudrin who is 16th highest rated 2616... Oh my 13 points!!!!

Just spoke with Lenderman, who feels his exclusion was unfair. Look for him to make a bigger splash in the near future, building on the gains (rating and otherwise) he achieved en route to winning the Grand Prix.

I have more-concrete details but it wouldn't be right for me to make what would amount to an announcement on his behalf, since I didn't even ask his permission to post about him.

I am honestly not sure what kind of website or what blog it is. First of all I would like to thank everyone for their support towards me and for their consoledences. Even though I might be a little bit dissapointed in not being selected in the US Championship this year, that just tells me that I have a lot to prove and a lot ahead of me, and that gives me extra motivation to do great in my next tournaments and not ever make "chess politics" an issue. I do want to say one thing however. Possibly it was best to instead of having two locals, add just one local, and have one just in case for a replacement. As a result, now there are 3 locals playing in this tournament, and only one of them seems to really be sharp enough for this tournament. Also maybe a rule towards limiting inactive players was good. I feel like there are a lot of deserving people who were left out besides me. Say Stripunsky, Bryan Smith, Mark Esserman, Daniel Ludwig, Larry Kaufman, and many many others of course. I think a qualifier, like in Foxwoods or another big tournament would also help.

Alex -

Good luck to you in the future. I've seen your games and they are impressive.

"Possibly it was best to instead of having two locals, add just one local, and have one just in case for a replacement. As a result, now there are 3 locals playing in this tournament, and only one of them seems to really be sharp enough for this tournament."

One, two, not much of a difference. Give the organizer some options here. I'd say 10% of the number of players could be local invitees. As for a replacement player, it seems that should be a local player also. Otherwise, you've got a situation of someone from thousands of miles away just hanging around town. Replacements don't happen that often anyways.

"Also maybe a rule towards limiting inactive players was good."

I don't understand what you mean. Aren't all of these players on the USCF active player list? Who do you have in mind? Larry Christiansen?

I agree with a replacement being a local. That's why 1 was enough from the beginning in my opinion. THat way maximum would be two. AS for inactive players, I mean players who has not played for at least a year or played less than say 20 games a year. They get in by rating but likely because they haven't been playing. For example Stripunsky could've sat on his rating a long time and played here but he chose to play and lose rating. I feel that for this effort you shouldn't be punished, considering that this person has tied for 1st once and tied for 2nd once. I prefer to not mention particular names though.

@Peter Doggers:
"(@Thomas: we're trying to cover chess worldwide, so as far as content is concerned, we're not a Dutch website anymore)"
I know, I am the same Thomas also commenting on your site ,:). And, in my very same sentence, I mentioned that Chessvibes had a report on the US Championship (later than this site, earlier than Chessbase ...).
What I meant with "Dutch site" was 'content generated (mostly) by Dutch people, more (but certainly not only) coverage of Dutch events' - and BTW, some of your Dutch readers may not really like your categoric statement ,:).

Back to the main discussion: I can only repeat that FREE newssites are in no way obliged to cover any given event - it is simply fact that the various major (and minor) chess newssites around all have their strengths and 'weaknesses' (or rather gaps in coverage).
But people could complain if databases (PAID Chessbase products) don't include games from the US Ch, or any other games by Nakamura ... .

Finally, I don't quite understand your last sentence: "... it's a commercial chess software company, and ... this clearly influences their (selection of) news coverage"
How exactly?? They won't mention, or at least not praise their direct competitors (Rybka competing with Fritz, ICC competing with Playchess) - but with regard to tournament coverage, I cannot imagine how their (legitimate) commmercial interests affect their selection of events.

Thanks for clearing that up.

I'll go along with limiting the participants to people who have played within the previous year before the tournament. As for people who play, but lose rating points, like Stripunsky, well, that's just tough. An argument could be made that he wasn't good enough if his rating went down below the 12 who were invited ahead of him. That's not punishment, that's just the rating system. After all, if he had played better, his rating would have gone up and he's be in St. Louis.

This is what a lot of people are upset about:


Type chessvibes.com and chessdom.com below the graph in the "compare" fields and you will see why they are becoming strident.

Tom -

Thanks, that's interesting, though not related to the US Championship. However, I see that you were following up on some tangenital comments made by previous posters, so I won't bark at you.

I also typed in chessninja.com. The graph showed a flat line way, way, way down at the bottom.

Luke, were you at the sunbeds this week?

Hello Doc -

No, just doing my normal stuff. Nice catch. I guess it should be tangential, right? You're the doctor.

"I also typed in chessninja.com. The graph showed a flat line way, way, way down at the bottom."

Did you - or anyone else - look further down on these statistics ("[Site] users come from these countries")?
Apparently (and to me a bit surprisingly) Mig's site seems to be hardly known outside of the English-speaking world: 52.7% USA, 18.3% UK, 3.7% Canada.
Chessbase: 15.9% Azerbaijan (!!?), 14.5% USA, 8.9% Germany
Chessvibes: 21.6% Greece (!?), 10.7% Netherlands
Chessdom: 39.1% Greece (!?), 10.3% USA

So - back on thread - it makes sense that this site has by far the most detailed coverage of the US championship ,:)

Using Alexa numbers for anything is silly, first off. It only works in certain browsers and is removed as spyware by many security packages. Second, using it for anything beyond the vaguest relative positioning is insane. My traffic has barely changed over the years and I've gone from top 10,000 to 100,000 or whatever it is these days. If five regular readers here installed it I'd probably be back to 50,000. Big deal. Nobody uses it anymore and for good reason. Its user base is extremely outdated and its system is opaque. They recently changed it radically to include "other metrics" because nobody is installing the toolbar anymore. As for tracking, its regional stats don't agree whatsoever with my own server's stat package, so whatever.

My traffic has gone down slightly over the past year for the logical reason I've been posting less since my daughter was born. No posts, no peeps. It fluctuates between five thousand uniques when no events are going to ten thousand during supertournaments. Now that I'm no longer producing the newsletters, I'm happy to keep enough traffic to allow advertising pay for my hosting and software updates. I'm glad there's a cool community on the boards, but if they find a better place to hang out I'm not going to lose any sleep or money over it. It's for them, not for me.

As for the blogging, I enjoy it. If traffic dropped to sandwich blog level I probably wouldn't bother anymore, just write the occasional piece elsewhere. Few would lose any sleep over that, either, I'm sure.

Chessbase.com is what it is. They put in significant work and have become the paper of record, as it were. So everyone sends them things. They have no obligation to cover anything just because they get so much traffic. What is weirder to me is how so many official sites don't link out. It's as if they think of the internet as a one-way street.

I might not lose any sleep if you stopped updating, but it would be a sad day. This is the only site where I genuinely enjoy reading each article, as opposed to just "reading the news".

Thank you Mig! :)

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 11, 2009 2:55 PM.

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