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MTel 2009: Bleeping Nuts

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The latest issue of New In Chess contains Garry Kasparov's latest column. It's mostly on Corus, Linares, and Melody Amber, but it also has a timely clip on our favorite unibrow, juxtaposed with an unexpected Al Pacino reference. This after praising several recent Ivanchuk wins:

Unfortunately for Ivanchuk and the chess world, his angels travel arm-in-arm with demons. Tragic time management, inexplicable blunders, you never know what to expect. I thought of Ivanchuk when I saw the recent Al Pacino film "Righteous Kill," only one of many recent Hollywood movies to showcase chess scenes, by the way. In the opening credits Pacino's character, a hard-nosed cop, is apparently giving an informal simul while reminiscing about Bobby Fischer. "He became world champ, didn't he?" he says, only to make every chess fan cringe when he continues "but then he went bleeping nuts!" The great Vassily's games rarely fail to provide pleasure and inspiration. But occasionally he just goes bleeping nuts!

(The lucky few who saw Garry's keynote presentation in Nashville last month will remember that Pacino clip from the slideshow, along with a few other chess clips from recent films. Of course we cut the "bleeping nuts" part there.)

Ivanchuk lost helplessly with white against Shirov yesterday at the MTel. Today he outdid himself, losing to Wang Yue from the white side of a Petroff endgame in which only he should have had any chances. In what can only be described as an epic fail, he managed to give up his advantage and then stalemate his own king and practically force Wang Yue to mate him. Comedy and tragedy. This is the same Ivanchuk who tied for first undefeated in Linares a few months ago. Or maybe he has an evil twin. He must have completely missed the clever 47..h4+, which flips the result instantly. Nothing like starting out with two whites and losing them both. Last year Ivanchuk started with two blacks here, won them both, won three more in a row after that and finished with an incredible +6 to run away with this tournament. A year later and you're wondering how this person can feed and dress himself before the game.

Meanwhile, over on the boards fielding two sane people, well-played draws were the order of the day. Topalov ended up with a tiny plus with black out of a 4..Bc5 Berlin against Shirov. Topalov and Kamsky have played 7.a4 with white this year. I don't know what's wrong with the old 7.Bg5, but Shirov went for 7.dxe5. It didn't seem like White had anything by the time he allowed his dark-squared bishop to be hunted down.

Dominguez used Carlsen's own preferred 6.h3 against the Norwegian's Najdorf, but maybe it only works well if you're from Scandinavia and rated over 2750. Carlsen, impressed with Hess's success with the Dragnorf against Kamsky yesterday, went for the ..g6 line himself. After 16..Qa5! Dominguez wisely declined to enter the complications of 17.exf6 Qxa2 and Black was fine with his knight in the center. Cute that the d5 pawn is immune to capture, even with check.

After two rounds, Carlsen, Shirov, and Wang Yue lead on +1. Topalov has -1 and Ivanchuk -2. Round 3: Wang Yue-Shirov, Carlsen-Ivanchuk, Topalov-Dominguez. Which Ivanchuk will show up?


Chucky this, Chucky that....why do many not point out the obvious...he is absolutely tired!!!

Ivanchuk has been playing chess nearly every month for the last 2 Years.

A mental breakdown is bound to happen at any point.

While I appreciate chess players have high and lows... Chuckies recent bad streak has nothing to do with 'inconsistency'... but tiredness and tiredness alone... his brain has simply had enough.

The capacity to battle whole games at this level would prove too much with his current energy levels.

I Long predicted (2 months in advance)Chucky would be massacred in Mtel....

Chucky has:

No time to study his own games properly.
No time to come up with new opening ideas.
No time to rest and thus stay sharp game after game for the whole game.

Unless Chucky takes a break his Kamikaze drop will continue. Time will tell.

I agree , he should take a short rest every now and then.

On the other hand, with each year's advance, perhaps Chucky has decided to drink from the cow while it still has udders.

Does the Ivanchuk loss truly count as a "collapse"? One has to admit h4+ isn't an obvious move at all, very easily overlooked.

I thought I told you to stay in the barn.

He should have seen it. The position was simple enough to calculate. Not only is he playing badly, he looks totally wiped out. Here is his round 2 photograph. Not a pretty sight.


Ivanchuk has played even more frequently in recent years and his occasional disasters seemingly aren't connected to activity. Sometimes his best results come after long stretches at the board. He thrives on playing constantly. His being exhausted would have been a valid excuse for just about any bad result of his over the past decade. Or you could take the same data and make a case he plays better when tired... "Form" is an overused term, but he's been playing badly since sharing first in Linares. He was also playing not very well before sharing first in Linares, and constantly. Last place in Pearl Spring, -2 at Corus, then boom, +2 undefeated in Linares. Planet Chucky moves in mysterious ways.

Regardless, I just hope he doesn't come completely unglued and really unbalance the tournament. When one guy tanks in such a small event it really leaves a poor impression.

..h4+ is cute, but not difficult, and in such a position you have to look at every possible move. There are only a few, after all. He apparently didn't double check his line at all.

Isn't it always the same in any sport? The "great" are so because they combine talent, hard work, and consistency. ImGonnaChoke's favorite song must be "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad".

I don't know if I'd call Ivanchuk's losing 44.Bxg5 an "epic fail" (and what preteens did you learn that term from?:-).

Rybka 3 when run in 5-PV mode from that position has 44.Bxg5 as its first choice giving +0.50 in all of depths 14-17. According to the truly-involved part of my statistical model---the part I haven't automated yet and may need a supercomputer to regress on anyway---this will pick up a fair share of the weights over the depth spectrum.

Translation: my numbers will say that quite a few players of Ivanchuk's class would fall into this trap. Based on the depth-17 values +0.50 for 44.Bxg5, +0.39 for the sensible but boring 44.Bxe6, +0.17 for 44.gxh5, 0.00 for 44.Bxc6, and -0.55 for 44.h4?, I'd put 44.Bxg5 at about 50% times the proportion of those weights, which I'd guess would be near 1/3 for a super-GM at depths 14-17 in a minor-piece endgame. But also 44.Bxg5 shows as only about 0.20 worse than 44.Bxe6 thru depths up to 13 and still 0.00 at depth 18, so it gets an extra (about) 25%*(1/2) from that---here I'm estimating the remaining weights for depths 19 and higher in these endgames at 1/6. That adds up to 16.7% + 12.5% = about a 30% chance. Maybe it would be a 20% chance for GK, allowing Wang Yue a good poker face.

Of course the experiment is not repeatable, so the only way to test the accuracy of this projection---or whatever my model will ultimately say---would be to find a big lot of examples of traps that both humans and Rybka 3 judge to be analogous, and see how often the heffalump fell for it. And how often the opponent was able to set the trap 3 moves in advance! My model has to do its projections off a hodgepodge of all kinds of moves and positions, so it will need this kind of special-case sanity testing anyway.

But I think my rough numbers are close enough already to lift the "Fail!" tag from Chucky. And my real final point is, if this had happened to Spielmann a century ago with Duras finding the 47...h4+!! shot (rather than move 99 of this which truly was an epic fail), then I think it would find its due place in anthologies of classic moves. And be remembered as a stunning crosscourt passing shot rather than for White's insufficiently deep approach shot.

In my last paragraph, "this" was meant to be http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1003754, the Chessgames.com link for Spielmann-Duras, Karlsbad 1907. WKf3, WRa4; BKg6, BRf5 giving check, BPf6; Spielmann interposed 99.Rf4?? overlooking 99...Kg5!, fail.

The fail was not the move, or any move, it's turning the position he had into what he got! Glancing at that game anywhere up to move, oh, 42, it's pretty clear only White should have winning chances barring a hideous blunder and a little less clear that he actually does have chances. But anyone would play that out with White expecting to press with the bishops for a while.

Going from that to the comical endgame zugzwang lesson 101 by trapping his own king is a gargantuan fail. Head stuck in the bars of the lion cage fail. If it were on YouTube it would be a baseball player swinging for a home run, driving the ball down where it bounces off the plate and hits him in the nuts.

"Not a pretty sight.


What are you talking about ? That, Sir, is the next James Bond !

Looks a little more to me like the stunt double for Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind"---for the scenes after he goes bleeping nuts. But I shouldn't talk---I've worked on some of the same math for the same people...

I actually thought while playing over the game even going back to Move 32 that White's pawns were too inflexible to co-ordinate with the bishops. The only good lever is c4-c5, but for effect that needs White's dark-squared Bishop on the h2-b8 line (switching to g1-a7 if needed), which isn't on. And Black has the better King. Yes Rybka says +0.40ish all throughout, but at Move 42 the other top-5 alternatives to 42.Kg3 are distinctly uninspiring: 42.Bc1, 42.Bd2, 42.h3, and 42.c3. The white-square complex on the Q-side takes the mickey out of a try like (42.Kg3 Ne6) 43.hxg5 hxg5 44.h4 (such unbalancers usually help the Bishops) 44...Kf5! 45.Bxe6+ (anything else and White is actually worse---owing to that better King) Kxe6 46.Bxg5 Be8! or 46.hxg5 Kf5 with ...h4+ in the air, and either way Black's bishop will soon land on b1.

So I disagree with your assessment on the board, and I think Wang Yue earned it by working out 43...Ke5!, which is close to losing without the move-47 shot.

I am very weak chess-wise,

when I followed the game I thought there were a relay error where white could have exchanged his one bishop for a knight and grapping a pawn afterwards. I will have to look it over, because I am really missing something !
But seriously, I dont think he looks bad at that picture. And he has seemed less uncomfortable with being in this world in some of the newer interview-clips with him than earlier. So maybe just getting older and shifting focus/less motivation.

i blame the fish tank. have you ever seen a goldfish make a good chess move? i rest my case

Bravo Lone-Tiger, couldn't have put it any better myself.

Mig, respectfully, you're out in left field on this one. Chucky has a long history of burning himself out by playing too often for long stretches. Surprised you missed the mark on this one!

Ivanchuk plays constantly with results both good and bad. Show me a bad result after many consecutive events and I'll show you a good one after just as many. Maybe his result here is from tiredness, who knows? My point wasn't that he never gets tired. It's that there is no way to know when to say that based on his history. He won Linares after playing in the Euro Club, CCAS Trophy, Spanish teams, World Blitz, Olympiad, Benidorm Stars, Pearl Spring, Leko match, and Corus in three months time! Certainly that stretch was no less exhausting than Amber, Russian teams, and the Nalchik GP before coming to Sofia.

He even had a two week break before MTel. For Ivanchuk that's like four months off for a normal person! In his last great run up the rating list in 2007 he won event after event rarely with more than a week between them. From his own interviews his perception of being burned out has more to do with just feeling uninspired than anything about how often he's playing.

Speaking of, he played a brilliant game today, after two very bad ones and a decent one. He's just exhausting himself into form!

"Speaking of, he played a brilliant game today, after two very bad ones and a decent one." (Mig)

Mig, you lost me on this. How could it be a brilliant game when he missed multiple wins? For example, 33...Qf7 is pretty much lights out, right? This game is far from brilliant.

I also just noticed that chessbase said "35...Rxg2 would have brought instant victory"

There's more, but you should be able to see from these examples that this game is not brilliant. But, perhaps you were being sarcastic? Hard to tell.

I know, I looked at the game. He played brilliantly until he threw away multiple wins. Still played brilliantly, which was the point of how different it was from his decidely non-brilliant earlier efforts.

Here we go again: The predictable Topalov "comeback." I thought he would lose a few more games to make the fraud more believable. Prepare to see two or three consecutive wins and his taking the title soon after.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 14, 2009 4:29 PM.

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