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Chess in the Mainztream

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The Chess Tigers Mainz Classic is underway with its incredible set of large and powerful events. Most eyes are on the self-proclaimed GrenkeLeasing world rapid championship, though I liked the old straight-up match play instead of this two-stage process. World Champion Vishy Anand is there yet again to play king of the hill. Trying to knock him off and prevent his 10th consecutive and 12th win overall are Aronian, Nepomniachtchi, and Naiditsch. Anand has won every event but one since he first participated in 1997. (In 1999, the "past and future champion" edition with Anand, Kramnik, Kasparov, and Karpov in a quadruple round-robin, Garry took it.) Twice Kramnik took Anand to blitz tiebreaks before going down. The most sensational match was surely that against Judit Polgar in 2003: eight games, all decisive, with Anand trailing after five only to win the last three in a row. Over the years, in various formats, Anand has also knocked off Kasparov, Karpov, Aronian, Radjabov, Carlsen, Shirov, Grischuk, Topalov, Ivanchuk, Ponomariov, and, well, Eric Lobron. I think Morozevich is 0/4 against Anand in these events.

In sum, Vishy is the favorite in Mainz until his wheelchair rusts. Aronian got some consolation revenge by beating Anand in the "Chess960" shuffle chess final last year and the Armenian is also back to defend his title. The opening ceremonies are over and group play in the two premier events begins tomorrow. The two massive opens, Ordix rapid and FiNet chess960, don't start for a few more days and are back-to-back so players can participate in both. There's even a prize for best combined score. Nakamura won the FiNet last year and so will challenge Aronian for the chess960 title, along with Bologan and Movsesian.

The all-important page of links to the live broadcasts is here. PLEASE update html results and PGN somewhere promptly, Tigers! It's always a struggle to find out what happened because the new live games replace the old ones and we spend half the day asking around if anyone saw the results of round x. Danke! [There's a round-by-round list of replay links on the bottom of that live page, which isn't as handy as having html results and crosstables, but is a help. Just add up all the scores yourself. The other reason I complain about this regularly is that like many people I'm often checking in on a mobile device that can't view Flash objects like the DGT Toma board software.]


I didn't know that there is some type of world ranking system for Chess960. It appears to be called the "IPS", which is an acronym for "Individual Player Strength". According to the link below, Aronian is number 2 with an IPS of 2800, Nakamura is number 5 at 2777, Movsesian is number 6 at 2771, and Bologan is number 22 at 2702.


So, I learned something today, but I have no idea where the complete list is or how it has been developed.

Would be interesting to see Karpov play chess960. To see how much his recent losses are due to lack of opening preparation.

He has become very ssslllooowww. I doubt that Chess960 would help him.

Seems they have a separate page for each round in the live coverage which should get rid of the problem of finding out what happened in the previous round (see the same page you link to further down).

Hey runner -

Thanks for the link, even though it is the most ridiculous rating list I have ever seen.


Besides Mainz, this list contains (only) tournaments from the same part of Germany - a few names are still familiar to me [I lived and played chess in this region, but left ~20 years ago].
Are there also Chess960 events in other countries, unknown to the people compiling this list?

Before anyone starts nitpicking, "besides" should probably be replaced by something like 'beyond'!?

Nakamura should be invited for the rapids! After all he is the rapid champion beating Ivanchuk and also quite fast on net.

Man, every year I forget how looking at these shuffle chess positions makes me queasy. In fact it looks like someone already threw up on the board. Often they boil down to relatively normal positions, but jeez. Soooo ugly!

Nakamura lost the first two games today, to Aronian then Movsesian. Up a pawn against Bologan now.

There's (now?) a round-by-round list of replay links on the bottom of that live page, which isn't as handy as having html results and crosstables, but is a help. Just add up all the scores yourself.

The other reason I complain about this regularly is that like many people I'm often checking in on a mobile device that can't view Flash objects like the DGT Toma board software.

Wow, Levon Allmighty - 3 out of 3. Movsesian, Naka, Bologan were really wiped out.

Upon reflection, I wouldn't call this "Chess" in the Mainztream, but "Chess960" in the Mainztream. Certainly isn't chess...

I've tried many games of 960 or "FischerRandom" and it leaves me a little cold. Just not very interesting for some reason. Perhaps it's more comforting to play from a repeated position that can be studied with lots of research available, or perhaps it's that the movement of the pieces was designed with the starting positions in mind. Albeit there have been some changes over the years, such as pawn, bishop and queen movement, but nothing as radical as placing ALL of the pieces randomly.

This variant is so much fun to play and you have to be so much more alert because the usual patterns are different in the opening. Pawns that aren't usually hanging are prey and rooks and bishops come to life quicker in some positions. It also helps middlegame training.

960 FischerRandom rules!

I do like the idea of 960, seems interesting, but at the same time I share Mig's impression, the board seems/feels totally strange. And I guess I've never won a 960 game hehehe.

I love to play Chess960, and it's fun to play especially when you don't like to memorize openings and like tactics.

So let me repeat the question I asked yesterday: Are there Chess960 events in other countries (for example, Armenia) besides Germany? Or do you play it only "privately" (with friends or at club evenings)?

My own Internet research: Wikipedia mentions one tournament in Yugoslavia in 1996, a few GM against computer matches, and Mainz, Mainz, Mainz, Mainz and Mainz ... . The Dutch Chess Federation mentions the Open Dutch championship in Fischer Random Chess - held for the 6th time on May 16th this year, won by good ol' Seirawan ahead of GM Reinderman and IM Bosboom. Link (in Dutch) http://www.schaakbond.nl/laatste-nieuws/nieuwsberichten/seirawan-souverein-bij-open-nk-fischer-random-chess

But that seems to be it, at least as far as events with GM's are concerned.

I have never heard of 960 events here in Armenia.

I'm not a big fan of 960, but I do like this similar variant... Each player sets up his/her first rank as normal, but then shuffles the locations of all their pawns...


Does anybody know how we can play chess 960 or regular blindfold chess against Fritz ?

I've said this before, but, well, who hasn't repeated themselves on this blog?... I think one of the things that Chess960 does is destroy the classic "narrative" of the chess game: the beginning-middle-ending paradigm that is one our most fundamental metaphors and organizing principles ("our" as in human). Instead, Chess960 seems to call forth a chaos-clarity course (darkness-light, disorder-order) -- a no less potent paradigm, but one profoundly unsettling to those who've grown up "living through" the beginning-middle-ending sequence of events.

Theorist -

Have you ever played Stratego or Risk?

My view is that chess is a fight. People don't always obey the rules in fights or in wars. There is no predictability once someone punches you in the nose or starts shooting at you. The openings in standard chess are getting to be like learning military troop movements from text books 150 years ago. After the opening, there is a free-for-all scramble with fists swinging and bullets being fired. So, why not get there immediately? Why not go to fist city right away instead of going through some kabuki dance?

Stratego and Risk introduce unpredictability from the beginning because the players can choose their own formations.

I like standard chess once it has left the opening cookbook stage.

Luke -- Yes that's an interesting idea... if you could decide your OWN placement of the pieces on the back rank, and the other player would have to mirror them....

So, white places one piece (and black mirrors), and then black places two pieces (and white mirrors), white places two (and black mirrors), black two (white mirror), and finally white places the last piece. (The last piece is already determined).

Now *that* would be interesting....

I, too, think that opening theory is far too dominant. But if you chuck "classical" chess for 960, the problem is, you not only chuck opening theory, but also much middlegame theory- a lot of what players know is based on typical positions and structures arising out of different openings. All that would be lost, and with it much knowledge of the game! Still, 960 is an interesting sideshow, let's have more.

Fischer chess is awesome , different patterns only means chaos if you are too dependant on opening theory .
I play both (regular and 960 ) and always had the feeling that oponents had to prove a lot more in 960 , not just that they memorized some lines.

I've always found it ironic that Fischer would invent a form of chess whose starting position is chaotic and minimizes the influence to opening theory to almost zero. In his practice, Fischer leaned heavily on a limited repertoire of opening systems, which he knew inside and out, and played in a very classically efficient style. He was NOT a player who reveled in chaotic positions.

Hikaru obviously wants ChessBase to post:

Chess Classic: Nakamura dominates in Chess960

As today's report.

Precisely , he was mostly looking for the perfect response to any particular problem , hence he quickly understood that the game was being played and found the best solution to that.

Of course you guys are all queasy and a little cold and miss your narrative: you're just thrown out of Mommy's comfortable womb (your well-known opening and middlegame patterns), and asked to live and breathe on your own. No wonder you hate that and cry and wanna go back -- but come on guys, Mommy can still help you, just try to think

Chess960 has its place along with bughouse. They are interesting in that you can play them if you know the rules of chess, but neither "fixes" chess. I am not opposed to Chess960, but I always find it funny how many amateurs cling to the idea because it means less upfront work (so they think). No doubt some will try it and still get killed by stronger players--only now they can't blame openning theory.

I play it from time to time and enjoy the challenge. I'm just sick to death of hearing about how chess1 is played out and how it now requires too much knowledge to play. I don't think there is anyone on this site, me very included, who is strong enough to honestly hold that position.

Looks like a Nakamura vs. Aronian final in the 960.

Benko's Pre-chess allows each side to set up the pieces on the back rank, one at a time, white first.
It can be asymmetrical or symmetrical depending on what the players do. Black may have a slight advantage that compensates for white's first move, if black can respond appropriately.
Bishops must be on opposite colors.
Benko allowed castling only if king and rook were on the squares as regular chess.

An interesting modification is to allow fischer random castling frc constraints - king between two rooks.

This would be FRC but not necessarily symmetrical nor is it random. So its Fischer random Benko Pre-Chess.

I meant to say it would be Fischer Castling rules /Benko Pre-chess.

Is not about strenght really , is more about diversity , about not looking at the same openings the whole year.
Of course that is not entirely true , strong players have a more sensible idea of what diversity is, but for the rest of the world repetition of patterns is a big issue and Fischer's idea is the best try so far.
I would agree that chess can't be fixed, though.

"I play both (regular and 960 ) and always had the feeling that oponents had to prove a lot more in 960 , not just that they memorized some lines."

Hmm, can your opponents in regular chess really win "just by memorizing lines"? This would mean that all of your openings (with both colors) are simply bad, almost losing by force - or that you fall into known opening traps in every single game.

Of course in certain variations (e.g. the Najdorf) theoretical knowledge is crucial, but even here the game usually continues once theory is over. To come up with an (admittedly strange) analogy: Many people can memorize, say, poems by Shakespeare - but it takes more than just memory to continue writing in his, or any other sophisticated style.
To continue along this track (and to continue exaggerating a bit): Chess 960 is somewhat comparable to forcing Shakespeare to write in French or Spanish. An interesting experiment or exercise, but not the solution to all the (conceived) problems of chess. I can understand when Mig writes "looking at these shuffle chess positions makes me queasy. In fact it looks like someone already threw up on the board."

@noyb: So here I am with you ... but Mainz will also have regular (rapid) chess later this week, more interesting as far as I am concerned.

Why do you call the starting positions of Chess 960 chaotic? It the same as what we play now. We play one position out of 960.

Thomas -

There you go again.

"I play both (regular and 960 ) and always had the feeling that oponents had to prove a lot more in 960 , not just that they memorized some lines." (Manu)

Seems like a pretty straightforward statement of Manu's views concerning chess960.

But no, Thomas cannot resist the temtation to once again twist someone's words and add stuff that wasn't said:

"Hmm, can your opponents in regular chess really win "just by memorizing lines"? This would mean that all of your openings (with both colors) are simply bad, almost losing by force - or that you fall into known opening traps in every single game." (Thomas)

Nice little choice you give Manu...either ALL of his openings are bad, or he falls into known opening traps in EVERY game. There is no logical way for any fair person to reach those conclusions based on Manu's statement. So, perhaps you are neither logical nor fair. Too bad. You shouldn't have to resort to such cheap debating tricks. It makes you look, well, kind of cheap.

(And now will come the rabid attack from Thomas, or he will simply silently slink away.)

I like Thomas' "narrative" theory. I don't believe there is anything random about the starting position. The game evolved into this perfectly balanced form that resembles harmony. You'd better think hard before throwing it away for a little fun.

Not to mention all the history and culture that would be lost.

I suppose that chess 960 is "interesting" to those who think chess master are creative geniuses who, by mental force, can just whip up something in any position (I call this the Arthur C Clark theory of chess "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" -- also known as 1400-chess or "any sufficiently stronger player can generate moves or plans that dazzle a beginner").

But don't most of these chess 960 games just putter around until they reach a position where the normal version of chess strategy rules apply? They don't show new positional ideas, do they? The pieces don't suddenly change their relative values or take on new strategic values, do they? Bishops still like open positions (even if they might be harder to obtain), right? Knights still like closed positions (even if they might be harder to obtain), right?

If so, what is the point?

IMHO, true art is not acting out of chaos, but acting within very defined rules to create something only slightly new. It is like crafting a new song or piece of music. Rock music may be 4-4 rhythms, but there is almost infinite variety in that very limited space. That is what art is about.

Similarly, chess openings and middlegames (and endings, too) are hard-won knowledge gained by years and years of trial and error experimentation.

Frankly, chess is fun *because* one can try to judge one's moves according to principles that are known from experimentation. Chess is fun *because* one can go back and see what went wrong...and obtain greater knowledge and try again.

How can chess 960 be "fun" if one isn't sure whether one's first move is good, bad, or indifferent? Whether it is brilliant or horribly weakening? Whether one had a good game and blundered or a miserable position?

I'd rather not recreate the wheel or fire, thank you.

Einstein found e=mc2 because of Newton...not by generating an entirely new universe.

¨IMHO, true art is not acting out of chaos, but acting within very defined rules to create something only slightly new.¨

Congratulations, you just gave one definition of mediocrity.

¨ Rock music may be 4-4 rhythms, but there is almost infinite variety in that very limited space. That is what art is about.¨

No ,it is not , that is called being a cyclope who claims that 3d is a fake.

¨How can chess 960 be "fun" if one isn't sure whether one's first move is good, bad, or indifferent? Whether it is brilliant or horribly weakening? Whether one had a good game and blundered or a miserable position?¨

Ask a Grand Master , use an engine , trust your judgment ...

I like the idea of asymmetrical starting positions. I would give White position #x of Chess960 and Black position #y, where x and y are random numbers from 1 to 960. It would create nearly a million different starting positions.

Actually, Einstein's theories fundamentally contradict Newton's so I'm not sure what you're talking about.

I will neither remain silent nor start a rabid attack, but explain what I meant. There are two options:
1) Manu's knowledge of chess openings is that absurdly low - which I don't think, but suggested for the sake of argument.
2) His statement that opponents in regular chess "just have to memorize some lines" is absurd(ly wrong).

@boz: Nice that you like my narrative theory ,:) but actually I do not necessarily mean to imply that the 'regular' starting position is perfectly balanced, hence better than the 959 alternatives. Just as I wouldn't say that English is better, richer, more sophisticated than French, Spanish, (German, Russian, Chinese, ...).
If - by some divine or devilish interaction - another starting position became standard, chess would reach its current level eventually (a matter of decades or centuries?). This includes opening theory. But I would say the main objective of opening theory is to reach middlegame positions which may be somewhat favorable, yet more important is that they are familiar and you know what to do.

BTW, why does Chess960 seem to be more tactical - recurrent statements here and empirical evidence? In regular chess, everyone but absolute beginners knows that f7 is a weak square - so sacrifices here are less common than 100-200 years ago, and the fool's mate, the name speaks for itself ... .
But in Chess960, sometimes even GM's lose in ten moves - funny to see, but is this really what we want and need?

In my view, Chess 960 and all of its possible variants are fun. I found something closer to what Manu said: many (especially blitz and lightning players) use custom schemes they can play fast no matter what the other does (ex 1... g6. 2 ...,Bg7. 3 ...,d6) so they can win a few seconds on the clock. With the variants all of that is ruled out. But that's not as much (at least in this context of "not-too-strong-online-players") theory but coffeehouse playing: it exists since two players asked for a coffee while playing. I find some variants very much fun, while others aren't interesting at all (as shuffle pieces and pawns on the 4 rank). There are many on FICS, i don't know if they're available on ICC. One good point for this kind of chess is that while it's harder to find an opponent to play with, I've never found one who would complain or insult after a defeat. Sure online players know what i mean. As for engines, I think Sjeng can play many variants and you only have to find a client for it.

¨I've never found one who would complain or insult after a defeat. Sure online players know what i mean.¨

Absolutely , and now that you say it i think that it is because there is not much frustration involved in the losses at all .
Like travelling lightly , without all those books in your head ,maybe some people are better prepared to face defeat that way.

Well, i've found it's not exactly those with better theoretical knowledge who complain the most. It's maybe that they take variants with a lighter heart, only for fun and not at all hate-inducing as the lightning rankings seem to be. Check out this essay: http://zezzle.com/stuff/pdeck/thehate.html
the site is full of other gems, as RussianBear's guide to 1 0 (i guess it's the same russianbear here at the Dirt. If it's so, congrats, it's a very effective guide :D)

Thomas -

You just can't think straight. I'll try one more time, but if you continue to make a fool of yourself, I'll give up.

Please read Manu's statement slowly several times, or maybe have someone else read it to you. After you have done that, answer this question:

Where in Manu's statement did he say that his opponents "win" their games against him by "just memorizing some lines"?

The correct answer is that he did NOT make those statements. Yet, you go off prattling that either Manu's openings (ALL of them!) must be "simply bad, almost losing by force" or that he "falls into known opening traps in every single game." EVERY game!

If you don't see that you were completely incorrect to make those invalid and non sequitur conclusions in response to Manu's simple and understandable statement, there is no way to help you. You're not as smart as you think you are or try to pretend that you are.

I guess it is pointless to argue about this. Either proponents of Chess960 replacing Chess are correct that Chess is played out, or they are wrong. If they are right (although it mostly sounds like they are just burned out because of their opponents' hard work), then I will be one of the last humans on earth still trying to figure the game out for myself. If they are wrong, then Chess960 will stick around as a diversion--a parlor game to be played in skittles rooms and PR events among strong players (like blindfold events and simuls). Time will have to tell.

I am not anti-Chess960, just anti-anti-Chess1.

I'm with you guys, stendec and Thomas.

Manu -- if people are delighted at losing in Chess960, it's probably because it was a joke to begin with, and nothing was at stake. I think the key test will be when players start making a living from it; then see whether they're so happy...

Rather than ridiculing chesspride because he had the temerity to include Newton and Einstein in the same sentence -- people should try to understand what he's saying. Technical difficulty, aesthetic constraints, and stylistic continuities have been part of the conception of "art" for a very long time (this is why modern art has been so difficult for some to accept "as" art). Chesspride's idea that Chess960 does away with those important factors -- or relocates them to places where they can be so difficult to discern that they may as well not be there -- should be taken seriously. If one values chess as an art at all (rather than as a game or diversion), Chess960 cuts away at its foundation. Those foundations can, I'm sure, be replaced or reconfigured -- but don't underestimate the difficulty of that project.

Finally, you may wish to wonder about why it is that a man with such an apparently warped, even fractured, sense of the world about him (is it fair to say fractured sense of the self?) became so besotted with a form of chess that apparently institutionalized incoherence.

Thomas, my statement on the starting position was just my two cents on the general subject and had nothing to do with your narrative idea. I should have begun a new paragraph.

Also, I wouldn't compare chess 960 to French, German or any other language that has evolved over centaries. It's more like esperanto if you want to pursue that analogy.

¨Manu -- if people are delighted at losing in Chess960, it's probably because it was a joke to begin with, and nothing was at stake.¨

At ICC you have a separate rating for each variant so actually the same rating points are at stake in both cases (normal or 960), and when you play a rare variant you need to maintain your level high enough to be able to enter the formula of more demanding players..
I am not talking about replacing normal chess or anything radical , i guess very few 960 players would say something like that.
There is something less stressing on playing it , that´s all.
IMO all the main variants should become important parts of the chess show (IMHO those are : blindfold,rapid and 960) , they all have something in particular for the audience.

Aronian about Chess960:

You have a preference for many chess variations like bughouse etc. Above all, you are the world’s leading expert in Chess960. Can you give our readers an idea what is most important in Chess960?

I think you need a feeling for harmony. You have to develop your pieces properly and must know how to manoeuvre them. It is a very tricky game. Tactics play a much bigger role in Chess960 than in classical chess. Some players who play this game well survive because of their tactical strength. But if you want to play a perfect game, you need a strategic vision.

Why are tactics more important in Chess960 than in classical chess?

In Chess 960 unusual and tactical motifs often crop up, motifs, which you might see in problems or studies but rarely in classical games.


You have been a regular guest of the Chess Classic for many years. Before you won the Chess960 World Championship, you were the only player ever to win the FiNet Chess960 Open twice. What does the Chess Classic mean for your career?

Well, you know, the first time I won the tournament, my rating was around 2600 or maybe even less. Winning that tournament gave my self-confidence a boost. For me, Chess960 is a kind of pure chess. This kind of chess somehow shows whether someone knows where to put his pieces. Maybe that was the reason why I won this tournament twice, to show that my success was no coincidence (laughs). In my opinion Chess960 shows that a player has talent. And that was a good feeling.

You think Chess960 is a good indicator of talent because you cannot hide behind your opening knowledge?

Yes, I think in Chess960 the more creative players are in a better position than people who are more into remembering opening lines.

Did you play Chess960 in other tournaments or in private?

No, somehow I have never played it.

Did you do any preparation for Chess960?

Yes, I read some books and watched some movies (laughed). To be relaxed is good training for your inspiration.


The reason why tactics are more importatant in chess 960 is that the strategy hasn't been figured out. But it's the absence of coherent strategy that makes the variant uninteresting to me.

Here is a book (or whatever) to be published (or whatever) in the year 2050:

“Winning Against Position 933!” (special sale price: 1 trillion yubos).

244 pages (or whatever) of detailed analysis, extending to the 25th move on how to defeat position 933. By the author of “How to Play Position 341 as Black” and “Black is ok in Position 45!”

Here is an excerpt from the book: Kladimir Busbaro, commenting on his game against FIDO Champion Flashovina Uwansum said “She seemed unsure where to put her left corner knight. I remembered the game Yabalot – Usuk from the Bumbolodian Invitational, 2045, also a 933 position, where Usuk played his corner knight to b5 by the brilliant maneuver Nh8-g6, then Ng6-f4, followed by Nf4-d5, Nd5 to b4, and only then, Nb4 to a6 (what a move!), Na6 to b8! (incredible concept), Nb8 to c6, and finally, Nc6 to d4, with the obvious point of Nd4 to b5! and the game was just a matter of technique after that.”

You really must buy this book and add it to your collection! Order now, and we will send you our entire series of books on positions 900 through 960 for only an additional 18 trillion yubos.

Luke, sounds familiar. Glad I won't be around to hear people complain that there's too much theory to memorize.

If you think about it though - most of the strategy in chess is relatively easy to learn while its the superiority in tactics that win the game in the end. Fischer having mastered chess and being disgusted with it in his own mind must have been fascinated with the random nature of shuffle chess and added the castling rules to make it come to the more familiar middle game.
The castling rules actually make sense -- too many people are confused with the joint movements of the rook and king. Just think that the king and rook conspire to transpose in any way possible to 1 of two wing hideouts.
I like the earlier comment on benko prechess. It seems that setting up your pieces on the backrank allows the best of both ways and a totally different strategical element.

"most of the strategy in chess is relatively easy to learn while its the superiority in tactics that win the game in the end"

If that were true, Nakamura would already be WC and Leko wouldn't even be in the top ten.

So Nakamura is the best tactician in the world? What a bizarre idea.

Ok, who knows who the best tactitian is? The point is not to undervalue the importance of strategy at the highest level.

By the way, really good tactitian's like Anand and Topalov are better at assessing the positional merits at the conclusion of a combination.

Well I agree with both those points :) It's not quite correct to even make such a distinct separation between "tactics" and "strategy" in the first place.

Now the _really_ bizarre comment here was really "most of the strategy in chess is relatively easy to learn" :) I wish!

Actually the discussion in the other thread (Biel 09 final round) may be a case in point: Relatively weak players can find tactical shots missed by super-GM Morozevich. The reason their rating is far below 2700 may be that they are not as good in strategy.

BTW, Leko can also find tactical shots - but they usually result from prior positional/strategic play. He just doesn't like speculative chess, i.e. objectively unsound play which may then be justified by some tactics coming up (as the opponent got confused).

"Ok, who knows who the best tactitian is?"

Historically, I think Tal and Kasparov are good candidates for best tactician, based on their games over a very long period. GM Ray Keene makes this comment on Tal on the game page of http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1259999&kpage=1 over at Chessgames.com

"black (Tal) played with amazing ingenuity-for a simul game its a real gem-i onced showed tal a series of incredible combinational positions which i was preparing for my book on nimzowitsch and he saw solutions so fast you wd not believe it-to the most extraordinarily difficult and recondite ideas "

Kasparov himself has a dazzling array of games in which his amazing tactical prowess is obvious. Interestingly, he also wrote in "My Great Predecessors" that Tal was the only person he ever knew who saw "through" combinations without actually mechanically calculating them, in the sense that hundreds of wonderful variations were swirling around in his head at any given time. (I cant recall the exact words.) This seems to imply that Tal's tactial ability was unique, at least in his experience.

I think its the way your brain is wired for Chess; its something you're born with to a great extent.

"black (Tal's opponent) .."

GM Sutovsky once explained in an ICC broadcast (possibly, during the US champioships) that there is no such thing as a tactical player or a strategic player. The only difference is whether a player chose to accumulate static advantages or dynamic advantages.

That's just a way of characterising playing style. I think the points made above by various posters relate to how one person can be better or worse at tactics than another.

On Tal: Dvoretsky suggests in one of his books that he was actually more of a positional and intuitive player than a tactician like Kasparov. Of course, he had a brilliant mind and saw tactics and combinations with incredible speed, but he didn't tend to fully calculate everything in advance. Plus he transformed himself from the sacrificial player of his early years to become a much more solid positional player after that.

Re: Leko - I posted this before, but I think Kramnik's comments in relation to Petrosian are relevant (also to Tal) before anyone thinks Leko might not be so good at tactics:

"Defence and a magnificent tactical vision were his strongest points - that's why he was so good at defence. Only a brilliant tactician can succeed in defence, and he had perfect sight of all the tactical opportunities and nuances for his opponent. I would even say that attack, rather than defence, is a positional skill. You can attack mostly on the basis of general ideas, whereas in defence you have to be specific. Calculations of lines and verification of specific positional features are more important for defence than for attack."

Petrosian was an extremely gifted tactician, as was Euwe, somebody who you would not immediately associate with tactics perhaps. Alekhine and Fischer are two others who do spring to mind. I still think Tal and Kasparov stand out a bit above the rest, in terms of combinative and tactical vision, although they went about it in very different ways probably.

I know that I've read an article in which someone took thousands of games of the greats and had a computer check for tactical errors. The authors then gave each player a coefficient and ranked them on their accuracy of play. Can't remember where I read it, though. Anyone?

Nice to read the posts in support of Leko. I agree that he is underestimated as a tactitian. But I don't think of him as a defender in the Petrosian style. Leko is tough in defence but I believe he prefers the initiative and, unlike Petrosian, loves space.

That article was comprehensively debunked, I believe.

"Tal is the only player I can remember who did not calculate lengthy variations: he simply saw throught them! Hundreds of fantastic combinations were constantly whirling around in his brain, and his imagination knew no bounds."

Garry Kasparov, My Great Predecessors, Part II, page 382

Ah, thank you, my memory is not that bad apparently..

The article on accuracy was here: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=3455

There's some "debunking" and comment here: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=3465

Though personally I don't think the criticisms - e.g. that you shouldn't use a weaker program to assess stronger players - really add up. The results are very likely to be similar if you use Rybka. Anyone who thinks e.g. Capablanca coming out as an extremely accurate player is an anomaly should just play through his games with a computer running (of course Capablanca's showing is one of the best rebuttals to silly claims of the moves of top players corresponding to Fritz being evidence of cheating).

Of course there's a lot of scope for interpretation - if you want to compare strength instead of simple accuracy then you'd want to compensate for the obvious increase in mistakes in players who favour complex positions, and so on. The young Tal was no doubt less "accurate" than the young Leko, but you might well prefer to have played Leko!

While we're on the topic. The most interesting statistics on a site mentioned on here recently for blitz ratings are the "sacrifice percentage" ones. e.g. for world champions:
or 1981-2004: http://members.aon.at/sfischl/style.jpg

You can see e.g. how quickly Tal's percentage dropped from his meteoric start and how most world champions saw a "decline" (not necessary the correct word), though e.g. Kasparov was consistent over his career. Alekhine and Topalov also seem to be players who started off sacrificially, became more "peaceful", and then bucked the normal trend by becoming more sacrificial again. It's fun to look at, anyway, though I don't know how much you can really read into it... (of course a lot depends on the opposition and talented young players tend to play a lot more sacrifices for the simple reason that their opponents allow it).

"of course a lot depends on the opposition and talented young players tend to play a lot more sacrifices for the simple reason that their opponents allow it"

Yes, for example, look at how Anderssen's sacrificial tendency dropped off when he played Morphy.

Yup, this was the exact article I was thinking of. Thanks for finding it for this lazy guy.

The more I think about it, Capablanca may have had the lowest "miscalculation" rate because of his unparalleled tendency to go for simplified positions. Not to take anything away from him as a player, but I don't remember him ever complicating things when miscalculation would be more likely.

In "My Great Predecessors" Part I, Kasparov gave Capablanca some compliments (he had to), but he also trashed many of Capablanca's games. Kasparov used a lot of ?! and ? when annotating Capa's games, and seemed to question his work ethic.

I don't have original sources, but I thought it's pretty widely known/accepted that Capablanca had hardly any work ethic at all - as regards chess, at least. I'm not saying that determined his style, just citing something I heard in a lot of places.

The other criticism - I don't recall whether this gained credence through Kasparov, or if some other trusted figure said it first - is that Capa got an unjustified reputation as an endgame "magician" simply because endgame theory was poorly understood during his time. So, a lot of endgames Capa won from what people in 1920 or 1940 had viewed as dead-even positions (contributing to his "magician" reputation), are nowadays recognized as clearly favorable for him....so his ability to win such positions was no big deal after all. (I'm not expressing any opinion myself, just passing along what I read, though again I can't recall the source.)

"I like to play Chess960. I enjoy the FiNet Open in which I can play Chess960. This year Grischuk was unbeatable in Chess960. It is a pity that I can only play it once a year on top level here in Mainz. I get bored from playing openings like the Slav over and over again. I think that in about 15 or 20 years we will only be playing Chess960."

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (article in chessdom)

Jon & Luke,

If Capablanca was lazy and end-game theory was undeveloped then surely that should only add to our admiration for his end-game ability. It might not be magic (what is?), but he clearly outcalculated his opponents.

I haven't seen what Kasparov wrote in his Great Predecessors book, though this is attributed to him (I'm not sure from where):

"Capablanca invariably chose the right option, no matter how intricate the position".

Personally I don't think Capablanca or Kramnik topping those rankings based on the pure quality of their chess can be explained away by suggesting they only played simple positions (not true of either in their early careers). It's also worth bearing in mind that Kasparov no doubt sees himself in the line of hard-working, aggressive players like Alekhine rather than the more "effortless" chess of Capablanca, Karpov or Kramnik. So you'd expect him to be a little more critical of Capablanca.

I don´t understand why would you call Kramnik ´s chess as "effortless" , he has been described as a workaholic by his seconds many times (Bareev for example).

Which is why I used quotation marks... even Capablanca was of course working hard at the chess board (and could have done with working a bit harder off it to counter Alekhine).

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 27, 2009 7:44 PM.

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