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Bielieve It or Not, It's Biel 2009

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The massive annual Biel chess festival is underway. The top GM event that begins tomorrow at 1400 local, 8am EDT, is just the cherry on top of a menu of events that include rapid, blitz, and even chess-tennis and chess-poker tournaments. I guess chess-tennis is a natural in the land of Federer and at least it's not chess boxing. The main GM event in Biel has usually focused on an interesting mix as well as having a spot for at least one local player, Yannick Pelletier in recent years, after he surpassed Korchnoi on the rating list. This year they've fallen in with the Elo maximalist crowd and put together a category 19. The format is the extremely tired six-player all-play-all, which they also used last year when the event was won by Alekseev in a playoff with Dominguez after they split first ahead of Carlsen. Onischuk and Carlsen tied for first in 2007, the Norwegian winning the speed tiebreak.

This 42nd edition is the strongest yet, even with Ivanchuk's abnormally deflated current rating bringing down the expected average. The field: Gelfand, Morozevich, Ivanchuk, Alekseev, Vachier-Lagrave, and Caruana. Not a Swiss player in sight. Maybe the fact that Pelletier's rating has dropped to 2574 hurt him, or perhaps it was his horrific 1.5/10 score last year. Or maybe he's just busy? The tournament breaks down the middle into veterans with high ratings versus young guns with big aspirations. 16-year-old Brooklynite-playing-for-Italy Caruana will turn 17 at the end of the event and it's been another impressive year for him. His last event, the Ruy Lopez tournament in Spain, wasn't very good for him, however, and it can be dangerous trying to bounce back against such a powerful veteran crowd. It's like having Paris Hilton as your rebound girlfriend. But Caruana has no fear of 2700s and he pummeled a few of them at the Russian Team Ch this year.

The pairings are up and the first round is: Morozevich-Alekseev, Gelfand-Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave-Ivanchuk. Live games here. Ivanchuk, of course, is coming directly from the Greek Team Ch and Vachier-Lagrave had only a day of travel after his wild (and illness-marred) San Sebastian. Morozevich has barely played in the last few months. Alekseev also seems to have taken the last few months off, which is a bit odd.


I believe that by chess-tennis, they mean a tennis game between chess players (not a combination of the two games)....

Pelletier is playing in the open alongside the main event. He is just rated too low to be invited.

Should be a lot of good chess, and Moro must be a favorite as he always does well in Biel.

Well, Pelletier was rated 2569 last year... and not that much higher other years either. Curious that he's not playing this time.

Hard to "bielieve" indeed...

(Sorry Mig, couldn't resist...)

maybe he just didn't want to get absolutely destroyed again.

Ah, Biel, la creme des tournaments.

I can understand it's usually more interesting with a big field like Corus, but getting to see Moro vs Chucky twice more than makes up for it. I love Biel. :)

Please change the link.
The correct one is :

I will be rooting for Morozevich and Ivanchuk. I hope Ivanchuk gets his act together this time and get back to at least in the top 10 of live ratings. Morozevich should also start treating this in a bit more focussed manner. Too bad we won't have Anand or Kamsky in the lineup.

A very nice tournament indeed, all players are interesting, even Gelfand is playing good chess nowadays. Too bad we won't have Kramnik here, there's no player to bash!

No comments on the games themselves even though the first round is over since several hours. Must have been a really dull one :) (No, it wasn't, but presumably some would be enraged over the "premature" Gelfand-Caruana draw? Well done by Caruana to create chaos on board from a bad position. Gelfand seems to be winning in the final position, but he had very little time left to make 6 moves.)

hmm, or 7 moves? Now the live games page show the game as ended after 33..Bf7, but originally there was also 34.hxg7 Qe5. Maybe just moves made on the board after the draw was agreed. Maybe even 33..Bf7 was wrong and he repeated moves again by 33..Bd7 (no objective reason not to, and if he didn't, why should he offer a draw with the same move, if that's what happened?) Oh, well...

If the first round had been a dull one, there would be ~25 comments already requesting Sofia rules ,:). As far as I am concerned, I will wait for expert's opinions on the games rather than making amateur comments ... .
Something funny about Gelfand-Caruana, though: The live viewer first showed the additional moves 34.hg7: Qe5, which later disappeared again. Did the players start analyzing the final position, and the software didn't realize the game was already over?

@Bowles regarding Gelfand: He always played "good chess" (you probably mean dynamic, exciting games and no short draws). Just have a look at his book "My most memorable games".

"If the first round had been a dull one, there would be ~25 comments already requesting Sofia rules ,:). As far as I am concerned, I will wait for expert's opinions on the games rather than making amateur comments ... ."

Both good points :) I don't really understand much of the games either, neither in general nor today. Particularly not Ivanchuk's game, messy and complicated.. I thought Morozevich's game was very nice though.

"Just have a look at his [Gelfand's] book "My most memorable games"."

I recommend this one too, very highly.

In other news ... the NY Times reports that Susan Polgar's assistant, Gregory Alexander, was arrested for "identity theft." Will he cop a plea and turn in his master(s)?!

Yet another affirmative action experiment gone wrong.

Ashish, the Gregory Alexander news is indeed bad. Now USCF politics has taken a criminal turn. I am not sure if he can get away with a plea as Polgar seems to have abandoned him (though it is not clear why he would get involved in criminal acts involving USCF board and politics except on the orders of his boss). Let's hope he was smart enough to have kept some evidence as that will help with the plea bargain.

It is surprising that Mig prefers dirty politics in far off countries but ignores his own backyard.

What do you mean?

The whole USCF saga is surely deserving of a separate thread. Please let's have one, Mig.

Thanks, Thomas, I'll take a look at the book, I love positional chess.
And yes, Gelfand has been playing good chess since a long time, but I find interesting that he continues doing so at his 'old' age. It wouldn't surprise me if he manages to be at the top standings by the end of Biel.

If we are on the subject of the Polgars now, I don't know what the hell this is about. I found it by pure accident.

'For some time now, spokespeople for Hungary's extreme right have been arguing that Israel aims to "colonize" Hungary. As proof of this claim, the right often misinterprets an (unfortunate) quote by President Shimon Peres, who spoke about Israel's investments abroad, and said that Israel was "buying out Manhattan, Poland, Hungary..."

Now these claims have escalated to the next level: A well known extreme rightist Web site, www.hunhir.hu, is now saying that Israel and American Jews are planning to transport three million Jews with dual Israeli-U.S. citizenship into Hungary over the next two years.

According to the Website, the quarters designed to house the new immigrants are already being built. Every one of them will sign an agreement to stay in the country for at least ten years, after which they will automatically become the owner of an apartment in the designated quarters, the Website says.

This operation, including a guaranteed job for degree holders, is being organized by Judit Polgar, the famous Jewish Hungarian chess player who currently resides in the U.S., the Website argues.' http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1100939.html

My only comment is ???? Bizarre and disturbing.

I can add that I bought two other highly recommended books (Shirov's Fire on the Board Part I and II) without much hesitation - title and author's name were sufficient. But it had taken me a bit longer (reading favorable reviews and browsing through the book in a store) before I spent 30 Euros on Gelfand's book. Of course I knew his name, but I wasn't really aware that he does play such 'good chess', at least in some games (of course he also has 'less memorable' ones).
Going into the cliche department: Gelfand can both "attack like Topalov" and "play Kramnik's positional chess". Of course this is a cliche, see Kramnik's wins in Dortmund. I am not aware of any games where "Topalov played like Kramnik" against top opponents - but this may be my ignorance or selective memory, so anyone is welcome to prove me wrong ,:).

I will single out one game from Gelfand's book, because it relates to recent (recurrent/eternal) discussions here and elsewhere: Gelfand-Yusupov (Linares 1992, p.92 in the book) was drawn by forced repetition after 21 moves. But both players showed creative chess, and the game is important for opening theory (queen's gambit with 5.Bf4).
Quoting Gelfand: "After this game both players received a letter from the tournament director Luis Rentero with a warning that we would be financially penalised for making a quick draw. I still don't know if this was a publicity stunt or if he simply wrote it before looking at the game."[the game is also on chessgames.com, but of course Gelfand's annotations and variations have added value]

Those Hungarians forgot to mention the Martians that are getting ready to throw fireballs at them, and the Giant Planet-Eater Bunny that devours planets even though people are living on them.

Holy crap, and what are world governments doing against this Bunny? Why is it only now, through a chess forum, that we are being informed?

Biiiiiig blunder by Gelfand, ouch, gotta hurt, Moro had a little pressure but it didn't look fatal up to that. According to clock he was down to a few minutes.

The second round of Biel was, well, altogether less exciting than the first one. But Ivanchuk-Gelfand is a mystery: How could Gelfand miss such an obvious threat (while he still had three minutes on the clock)? Any precedents at this level?

Only thing I can think of is the unusual placement of Gelfand's rook, such a lateral pin is not something you see every day- it just didn't register as a threat to him. Still, one of the biggest blunders of recent years I should think.

Morozevich-Gelfand, of course ... . And one could say that Gelfand 'prepared' his blunder. What was his rook doing on h5 in the first place?

On the subject of great chess books, dont forget two of the greatest ever written: MSMG by Bobby Fischer, and Tal's autobiography, "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal". Riveting stuff.

As our comments keep coming in almost simultaneously ... : Fair enough, but then what did Gelfand think was the idea behind 30.Rd4? Of course there is "the other threat" 31.Rdb4, so 30.-Nf6 seems to lose a pawn (and probably the game). So the knight move - slightly paradox anyway as the "horsie" had come from f6 just one move before - wouldn't do and the very slightly ugly 30.-g6 was needed.

In any case, Mig(stradamus) was quite prophetic: "Bielieve it or not", it happened.

¨ Any precedents at this level?¨

Sure , look at this http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=3509

I was waiting for that one.

I knew that one, but actually I was thinking about games between human players. And Kramnik's blunder at least has sort of a psychological explanation: He wanted to avoid a draw, and - rather unusual for him, took "excessive risks" in the process ,:).

One way of getting at the unconscious roots of blunders and other "accidents" is to ask what benefit the individual derives from the accident.

Games-against-comps form a tiny fraction of Kramnik and Kasparov's games, but Kasparov's worst(?) blunder and Kramnik's two worst blunders ever were committed against computers.

A player who feels he's being outclassed might unconciously desire to lose-by-blunder because it's quicker, less painful, and easier on the ego ("he's not better, I just screwed up") than letting yourself be slowly outplayed.

I think that the rational explanation would be that he went to the bathroom only to find that this time Fritz was at the board...

Maybe you are right in a general sense (I didn't check the two other blunders by "K&K"), but in the given game Kramnik had actually outplayed the computer ... . Only then he blundered.

At least at amateur level something similar is understandable and not that uncommon: you play for a win and lose your sense of danger - because you don't expect threats by the other person (or machine), certainly not one-movers.


Manu cannot stop himself. His computer must be in his bathroom.

Actually , i write only while at work , it helps release some stress, but thx u for another nice image.

You are welcome. No mention of "bathroom" and Kramnik in your last reply, so thank you for that. Keep up the fight.

When a kid gets lost at the beach people clap hands ,but here ... i m afraid i can´t help you.

Manu, you've gone about as far as you could go, and it's time to call it a day. You have done well. I'm going to add you to my list of non-morons.

This little foolishness has at least had one benefit: it apparently has distracted you from your fixation on Kramnik's bathroom. Anyway, good luck to you, Manu, the non-moron.

Back to the chess... I have to admit when I was watching the game I also missed the tactic Gelfand missed :) Of course I'm a patzer, but Rd4 had such an obvious positional intent (doubling rooks and so on) that I think it was possible to miss the tactical threat. His position was pretty horrible, anyway, and he was in serious time trouble. When Morozevich is on form he has no rivals for being able to magic something out of nothing in the most innocuous of positions.

One problem with that psychodynamic postulate is that it should hold true for minor blunders as well. You know the kind of little errors that are punished severely and lead to almost certain losses at the higher levels.

I was watching also and I saw the Rd4 - Rxe4 idea right away and wondered why Morozevich took a few minutes before playing it. I don't think Gelfand was in serious time trouble...he had about 5 minutes left and spent a couple of minutes on Rd6. My first thought was that it must be a transmission glitch from the site. Gelfand may have thought that he had played his rook to e6 instead of d6. Even without the blunder, he was heading towards a loss anyways.

"little errors that are punished severely ..."

Applying this to Moro-Gelfand: I don't know if Gelfand's rook maneouvre to the h-file still counts as 'little error'. Concerning my impressions when the game "approached Gelfand's blunder": I immediately thought the rook looks strange on h5, maybe that's why I saw the tactical threat of Rd4 before the slower positional one (but Gelfand somehow liked his rook on the h-file, else he wouldn't have played some of the previous moves).
@Luke: Maybe Moro considered the threat Rxe4 as too simple and obvious and thus spent a few minutes looking for something else, e.g. trying to trap black's rook.

And only Gelfand himself can tell (if he ever feels like it), but it wouldn't surprise me if he had even seen Rxe4. However, then he may have focused on Moro's _longer-term_ threats, desperately looked for some counterplay and in turn forgot about the _immediate_ danger !?

I'm pretty sure Morozevich took the knight instantly, by the way. I just had time to read someone saying that Gelfand had blundered (and still miss the obvious) when the winning move and 1:0 was posted on the official site.

I also think so, but my comment referred to 30.Rd4 (when Moro may have spent some time looking for alternatives containing more subtle threats). I thought Luke also referred to move 30 rather than 31.
The live viewer on the tournament site has 'snapshots' of the players on the stage, but no continuous videos. On one picture, you could see the players seated and thinking, on the next one a third person (clearly an arbiter) appeared. And a few pictures later there was just an empty table.

Oops, yes, it's all clear now! :) I don't think there was anything strange about not playing Rd4 immediately as white had lots of ways he could try and make black suffer - and Rxe4 isn't really something even the most optimistic GM's likely to try and play for...

In my mind, during a game or while analyzing, I hear "Rd4 - Rxe4" without reference to move numbers, but when writing, I should be more clear and say "30.Rd4 and 31.Rxe4"

Ivanchuk has won! Have you seen how he dealt with the half American?

Wow , what can possibly be your problem with a 16 year old kid?
He was doing quite well until now.

No problem there. I just enjoyed the game. Good stuff.

Nice game indeed, although it looks like white is winning right out of the opening (i don´t have engine here).

"it looks like white is winning right out of the opening"
I also found it hard to believe that Caruana had compensation for being up to three pawns down - even though he fought back well and 'almost' equalized. Was the opening all theory, or did he mix up something somewhere?
This reminds me a bit of Nigel Short at Corus B, winning in a "19th century 1.e4 e5 opening" against a young opponent (was it Erwin l'Ami?). I also don't remember Short's exact words after the games, something like "those kids are booked up on modern theory, but do go wrong quickly on some of the old stuff".
BTW, I took Bartleby's initial remark about the "half-American" as a reaction on the recent Nakamura hype here ... . If I am right, it may be a bit unfair to make Caruana pay the prize for it.

This is actually pretty new stuff. I don't know the latest developments, but 6..d5 is from Short-Piket, 1992. The Nd4 line is theoretically hot, at least compared to the average temperature of the Four Knights. Usually Black finds yet another way to give up his e pawn, and win it back later to equalize. But not so this time.

I believe it's his upper half that's American. The Italian part is from the waist down.

And which part of Caruana's body is Hungarian? ,:)

BTW, on a related topic: Susan Polgar has an item entitled "Setting the record straight". Given the blog owner, I first thought this must be about USCF issues (yawn as far as I am concerned), but it's not. It's copy-paste from an Ukrainian source, stating that Karjakin did not, and will not apply for Russian citizenship and give up his Ukrainian one.

I wonder if there is anything going on behind the scenes. Wasn't it that Dokhoian (Karjakin's new trainer, also indicated by that article) has a contract with the Russian federation, and is only allowed to work with Russians?

Sort of related to both things - I saw an article on Chesspro quite a while back looking at Caruana's play and claiming him as a product of the Russian chess school:)

He has a Russian trainer/trainers, I think, and the author said that Caruana's play had all the background knowledge and "good habits" that they teach (something like what that chess book phrase "as every Russian schoolboy knows" used to mean). It was claimed this made him stand out in some ways from self-taught players like Carslen. Kramnik made a similar point in one of his interviews recently that Carslen doesn't really seem to know what to do in various positions and just makes moves without a plan. Though obviously phenomenal raw talent will go a long way :)

Sounds like an interesting interview. Any chance of a link, mishanp?

Yes, interesting, does this make him Caruskyana? ,:)

In this context, what about another (relatively) young player, Nakamura? He had some formal chess education, but not from Russian trainers. And, at present and to my knowledge, he is the only 2700+ player whose second is as much as 400-500 points lower rated.
One thing's for sure: If Nakamura decided to get Russian coaches and move to Russia to improve his chances of becoming wold champion, people would comment here. To me it also seems at least 99.9% sure that it won't happen, for various reasons ... .

The article on Caruana: http://www.chesspro.ru/_events/2009/caruana.html

Kramnik's interview (the same one with his discussion of Topalov-Anand): http://news.sport-express.ru/2009-07-15/311161/

His comments about Carlsen:

"Magnus is exceptionally talented and everything that I've said about him before I can repeat: at some point he'll probably become world champion and, perhaps, for a long time. But for now he still has a lot of work to do. Ideally with a good trainer so that he doesn't have to learn from his mistakes, and so someone can explain what to do. Because he has clear gaps in his handling of games, it's too light-weight. Moreover, it seems to me that he's not yet working enough at his chess. However talented you are you can't become first without working your fingers to the bone."

Some other interesting stuff in the Chesspro article (as always, I have to rely on Babelfish translations):

"But in the usual life to trainer in the USA there is no difference, with whom to be occupied: all trainers pay the same 80-100 dollars in the hour, independent of level and successes. A quantity of students becomes the main things, and to pay special attention to someone is difficult with this approach."

Later Chesspro also ascribes successes by Indian players (the next generation after Anand) in youth championships to Russian trainers, and then comments on the relative failure of Russian players:

"But now increasingly more in the role of spectators, and this is not chance. We in many respects adopted American model, to Russian trainer it is now more important entire quantity of students. But you will not bring up large chess player in the group. This the process is individual, is labor-consuming, it requires efforts from many people. Into our time it is necessary early to enter into large chess, but independently this is not obtained (although Magnus - special case)."

Caruana as 'half-American':
He was born in US, learned his chess in US, spent most of his childhood in US, and now, after living for a few years in Spain and Hungary, thumbs his nose at America and decides he's Italian.

Actually Caruana's mother is Italian and his father is an Italian-American guy.
He , or to say it better , his parents , have decided him to play for Italy , even if he's currently living in Hungary.

Guess this is due to a complete lack of support from USCF ... I can't see any other reason. Although the Italian Chess Federation ( FSI )is not a rich one for sure.

As I understand it he moved to Madrid and then to Hungary because that was where some excellent chess trainers were living - plus of course most top tournaments are in Europe. I think just geographically it must be easier to be a member of the Italian federation. (He's taken the opposite approach to Nakamura.)

That said, I haven't seen him disowning America anywhere & I don't see any reason why Americans shouldn't cheer him on as their own (which American doesn't mention that they're x-generation something else?). You're a bit spoiled for choice at the moment :)

There's quite a nice interview with Sergei Shipov by Natalia Pogonina on her site, if anyone's interested: http://pogonina.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=75&Itemid=1&lang=english

It's not directly Biel related, though I've only ever (accidentally) been in attendance at one top level chess event and that was Biel - where Carlsen and Shipov were both playing, albeit in different tournaments :)

It's a shame Shipov doesn't play much chess any more as his commentary on his own games is even better than his commentary on the games of others.
This is his commentary of the tournament he won in Norway where he beat Carlsen (it's in Russian): http://www.chesspro.ru/events2/norway.shtml

p.s. and on Natalia Pogonina's site you get to vote on "Do you practice sex when playing in chess tournaments?" :)

Yes, lack of support by the USCF ("America thumbing his nose at him") presumably played a role. But choosing Italy (of all countries) is probably due to his heritage. The only chessic reason would be playing first board at the Olympiad - can an event happening once every two years be THAT important?
But unless Uff Da or anyone else can come up with quotes where Caruana spoke badly about the US, he might still be considered partly American.

BTW, I don't know how many Japanese are interested in chess at all. But those who are probably know Nakamura's name, and probably cheer for him. And I guess they also understand that we would never have gotten where he is now if he had grown up (and stayed) in Japan ... .
Maybe an odd addition to Caruana's case, but - in terms of both (top) trainers and (top) tournament opportunities - I guess the following relationship holds: Japan << USA < Europe.

Japan < USA < Poland < Europe < Moon < Planet Unknown

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 18, 2009 7:09 PM.

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