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Message from Donostia

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From San Sebastian event organizer Felix Izeta in the comments. First, at the start of the final round:

I'd like to apologize for not including the Sofia rules, even if we had not too many short draws here.

I guess this is the price we have to pay in order to learn from experience. Please understand this is our first big event. By the way, if we continue next year, the tournament would be by knockout system (2 games, then blitz tie break if needed), which I think decreases the risk of having short draws anyway.

Interesting, though I liked the 10-player all-play-all just fine. If it's a KO, I'd like to suggest using one of the formats in which the eliminated players continue playing each other to establish final placing. (Like the FIDE rapid grand prix did.) More games that way so your favorite guy doesn't get sent home in three hours. Just don't make it another double all-play-all with six players!

And more from GM Izeta after the final round:

Thank you all for the nice words I'm reading when I'm back home from the closing dinner. At the end of the second game Ponomariov had about 4 seconds when he resigned, Nakamura more than 1 minute. Anyway [Ponomariov] was totally outplayed in both blitz games. These games have been recorded by video so we will provide the correct moves.

Nakamura's play has been impressive both in the normal games and in the blitz. In my humble opinion he has huge potential and this tournament is only the start of a successful career at the world's top. Incidentally, Capablanca also won San Sebastian 1911 when he was very young and relatively unknown, like this nice American guy. We are very happy about Nakamura winning our tournament although Ponomariov would have been also a great winner as he's very nice too. Greetings from the Basque Country, time to go to bed here!

Gabon! I thought the old quote was "nice guys finish last" so I'm not so sure about that part! Zing! Bang! Plop. Oh well, thus ends a great event, short draws aside. A pity about Svidler and Vachier-Lagrave getting sick, as well, as it clearly took a toll on their play. It looks like Nakamura will settle in at the #17 spot on Hans Arild Runde's Live Top List as the meat in a Chuk sandwich. Here's some trivia for you brainiacs. Who was the last American other than Kamsky to be in the top 20? And in what year did that person first do it and when did he leave?


The last US person in the top 20 would have to have been Yasser Seirawan in the mid-80s.

Yeah, Seirawan would've also been my guess. If not him then Christiansen? No clue about the years though.

I remember Kaidanov was in top 20 at some point.

Congratulations, Hikaru Nakamura. Big win, and for us in the USA, gives us somebody to root for (if that's ya-hoo nationalism: hey - whatever. I'm surely not rooting for Goldman Sachs, if that makes you cranks happy).

I hope Nakamura does some serious study in the leadup to the London tournament and Corus A, and moves into the elite. He can play some dynamic and interesting chess when he's motivated (he also seems to lose his nerves a bit when he's on top - needs to work on that). And he played some really good endgames in this tournament.

" If it's a KO, I'd like to suggest using one of the formats in which the eliminated players continue playing each other to establish final placing."

Or how about that pitifully neglected tournament format: double-elimination? It has the potential to be exciting, and as for the players who get knocked out early- well, we won't have to feel so guilty about it.

I seem to remember Alex Yermolinsky catching fire in 1997 and I am pretty sure he was briefly in the Top 20 in 1998 (one FRL or maybe two).

Wow! Chessbase certainly has a European agenda:

"The Ukrainian former FIDE world Champion Ruslan Ponomariov was better on Sonneborn-Berger tiebreak points, but according to the regulations he had to play two blitz games – 5+0 min – against US grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura to decide who was the winner of the the tournament."

One will always find something to support/confirm prejudices if looking carefully enough ... . But the Chessbase article was written by tournament organizer David Llada.

And of course a European agenda is awful, an American agenda would be perfectly fine.

Actually I think it would be good to get a US/Europe rivalry going. The US has been a barren wasteland in terms of chess (notable exceptions acknowledged...). If this changes and it challenges Europe then that can only be good for chess as a whole.

There isn't really a Europe in chess, though. There are a lot of ex-Soviet block players, but they're not exactly a team (Kramnik & Topalov, Radjabov & Aronian?). Then a few "Western" Europeans - Carslen, Adams, Bacrot and so on. But there's no sense of a unified Europe. Chess is an individual sport and if there is any patriotic support then it only really makes sense for team competitions like the Olympiad. I think that's why the USA support for Nakamura strikes most non-American chess fans as weird :)

By USA support I mean the "USA!USA!" sort of support.

For those of us in the USA, there hasn't been a really strong player from the USA competing in world-class chess tournaments for a very long time. Finally, in Nakamura, there is one. I do agree with you, however: the "USA!USA!" type of support is silly.

I don't think supporting one's country is silly at all. I will always root for family members, community members, and, yes, my countrymen.

Although he is a citizen of the USA, Nakamura's talent comes from within himself. The USA has done nothing. And that's the best way for extraordinary talent to develop...on their own.

Presenting an interview with grandmaster Yuri Drozdovskij who recently won a tournament in India. Yuri responds to numerous questions posted by audience of GrossClub.com.


Presenting an interview with grandmaster Yuri Drozdovskij who recently won a tournament in India. Yuri responds to numerous questions posted by audience of GrossClub.com.


"I don't think supporting one's country is silly at all. I will always root for family members, community members, and, yes, my countrymen".

That's perfectly normal - what's odd is then cheering the country, not the player. It's as if Mr Smith went up to his daughter after she won something and said "Well done, the Smiths" instead of "Well done, Lucy".

There's real difference between supporting your country and supporting a chess player who comes from your country. I don't see how supporting (or being a fan of) Nakamura equates to "supporting my country".

When I say "my country", I don't mean the mountains and rivers. My country is made up of people. If I support a countryman, I am supporting a part of my country. I am happy to cheer on those that represent my country (of people) well. There is no reason to get defensive.

Lol. I wish I had the same freedom of time and resources as Nakamura has in the US. He is definitely a product of innate talent, a lot of hard work, and the environment that allows the combination of the two. I would be more than proud to have him as an example of talent from my country (besides his young attitude, of course).

It will be interesting to see how he performs at Mainz Ordix open. He will be up against other rapid chess pros like Grischuk. Full report now at chessbase

The Chessbase article has an odd Pono slant ("Pono loses" rather than the more standard formula "Naka wins") because he is popular with Basques. From the article: "Ruslan Ponomariov is almost considered a 'local player'. His 'significant other' is a Basque girl, and he is very fond of the Basque culture himself."

Win or lose, the local player gets the headline.

Glad you agree with me.

With 2 hours on the clock, there are perhaps 6 or 7 players who are slightly better than Nakamura.

With 25 minutes on the clock, maybe half that number, or less.

With 5 minutes, forget about it.

I agree that the Chessbase article has an odd "flavor". Wonder why they have trouble just coming out and promoting Nakamura's win, or the event in general for that matter (usually they cover tournaments day-by-day or round-by-round). Wasn't like they even needed to have someone on site, they could have at least just reported the results.

Jim - With regards to 'I don't see how supporting (or being a fan of) Nakamura equates to "supporting my country".' It's simple; demonstrating solidarity with one's own countryman or fellow citizen shows that we are "together" or "part of a team". It's especially important in terms of nationality as it means that we all agree to live in a certain manner, laws and way of life. If you do not support a fellow American, then in a small way (at least I would say 'small' when it comes to sporting competition) you are indicating that you do not necessarily agree with the nation. Now I don't personally have a big problem with that. I would have been happier to see Karpov win San Sebastian than Nakamura, but I am very glad that Nakamura won, I wish him a great career, and agree that CB somehow seems to not show him the recognition they do other players with similar achievements. I am willing to speak up and show him support in that I think he's not getting the recognition he's due. If he keeps winning like this, they will not be able to ignore him!

"If you do not support a fellow American, then in a small way (at least I would say 'small' when it comes to sporting competition) you are indicating that you do not necessarily agree with the nation."

I do support Nakamura, not necessarily because he's an American, but because I see him as someone with the potential of entering the chess elite. Nakamura being from the U.S. is an added benefit, but only a sidebar. Through the years, I've also been a Karpov fan. So, does supporting a Russian chess player in a chess tournament somehow hurt my standing as an American? I also rooted for Nakamura. Does the degree of my support for Nakamura help recoup my standing as an American? This can get quite ridiculous. Chess players are individuals and that's who I cheer for. When Nakamura wins, I don't say that's another win for America, but rather I'm happy for Nakamura the player.

Good morning Mr. Izeta. I wish I can tell you this in spanish....but I want my friend Mig and the rest of the "gringos" could read this.
Thank you so much for a wonderful tournament. I was hoping my countryman GM Julio Granda could beat the U.S. Champion, the great GM Nakamura, but the game ended in a draw !
Everytime I see you Mr. Izeta I remember the movie "La vita e bella" (Life is beautiful) with the great Roberto Benigni.

Mr. Izeta, El ajedrez es bello y usted lo hace mas.
Rafael Llanos

As pointed out by Thomas the article wasn't written by anyone from Chessbase, but by the tournament director, David Llada. So you can't put it down to Chessbase bias (not that I think David Llada has anything against Nakamura either!).

But in any case I think the article puts a perfectly reasonable slant on the tournament. Chessbase covered Nakamura's amazing start: http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=5583 But after 5 rounds he just took 4 quick GM draws, hoping to limp to the finish line. The story of the second half of the tournament was Ponomariov's impressive run, and especially winning on demand in the final game. He was winning on the standard tie-breaks because he beat better players (how he must wish he'd played an opening that simply kept most of the pieces on the board against Karpov!).

My only criticism of the tournament organisation would be letting 3000 euros depend on a couple of 5-minute games played almost immediately after the final game finished. Either there should have been a more serious tiebreak (longer games first, a break before playing), or you could have the 5-minute tie-break, but simply split the prize.

Is the video of the blitz (it was mentioned that this was recorded) available anywhere ?

People will always find a hair in the soup concerning Chessbase. Concerning the article, it mentioned both "Pono losing" and "Naka winning" - and the title starts with "Ponomariov catches Nakamura" which is correct, isn't it?
And once again, this one was written by David Llada - who generally got lots of (deserved) praise here for his role in making the tournament happen, so he may be forgiven for being a bit pro-Basque. Should Chessbase censor their contributed reports?

"With 5 minutes, forget about it."
Once again, at the Gjovik rapid event Naka had lost the blitz tiebreaks against Carlsen and Svidler - so he is not invincible (notwithstanding his ICC reputation). As far as rapid and slower time controls are concerned, the future will tell. It will be interesting if Naka qualifies for Amber 2010 - but at least IMO he wouldn't be the (only) advance favorite to win the rapid event.

I just got to know that Nakamura has a packed schedule all of a sudden. He is also playing in the Rising Stars vs Experience starting Aug 20th, apart from the Ordix open at Mainz and the Chess 960 championship as well at Mainz where he will be up against the champ Aronian.

I find the Nakamura blitz hype hilarious sometimes. Not that I care either way about blitz, but the evidence that he is even close to the very top in blitz is... somewhat lacking, to put it mildly.

@Thomas - "It will be interesting if Naka qualifies for Amber 2010"

The individual in the rising star team who has the highest score in rising star vs experience, gets an automatic invitation to Amber next year. So this might be his chance.

Only 6 or 7 better than Nakamura at standard time controls? I think not. Anand, Topalov, Kramnik, Carlsen,Ivanchuk, Morozevich, Leko, Radjabov, Gelfand and Aronian are all (undoubtedly) stronger than he is.(Anyone who points out the Nakamura is higher rated than Ivanchuk right now is really an idiot.)There's also a group of players who are most likely stronger than he is, such as Shirov, Grischuk and Svidler.

Also, as far as rapid chess is concerned, I would wager that Nakamura is considerably weaker than Anand and Kramnik, and even Aronian and Morozevich.

In blitz chess he hasn't been too impressive against the super-grandmasters either, as Svidler and Carlsen both seemed to beat him fairly easily. Nakamura's blitz reputation seems to be based on an ability to crush IM's and average GM's on the internet, so he's rarely come across ultra strong blitzers like the world top.

Yes, and an internet chess server is just a big playground anyway.

If most of the top players played there, including the very top ones, AND took it very seriously, AND Nakamura still beat them... (AND if for the moment we ignore the fact that online blitz is very different from OTB blitz) he would of course have a case.

The very limited experience of Nakamura playing top players in blitz games that actually mean something, does not exactly prove any form of dominance. He thrashed Ponomariov 2-0, but lost to Svidler and Carlsen. Anything else? There are just few games to draw conclusions from, and it's not like Svidler and Ponomariov are Anand and Ivanchuk.

Nakamura has been regularly thrashing Kamsky (not just online, they played over the board too) in blitz, and Kamsky, to remind you, finished in the top 10 (or even 5) of the World Blitz championships.

So I think it is reasonable to say that Nakamura is at least a top 10 blitz player. He is obviously not a top 10 player caliber in classical chess but maybe one day.

By the way, I love the idea that a rapid/blitz tiebreak should have an effect on the prize money. Why not to reward players who are better in various time controls?

"Anand, Topalov, Kramnik, Carlsen,Ivanchuk, Morozevich, Leko, Radjabov, Gelfand and Aronian are all (undoubtedly) stronger than he is"

But isn't Nakamura higher rated than Ivanchuk right now?

"By the way, I love the idea that a rapid/blitz tiebreak should have an effect on the prize money. Why not to reward players who are better in various time controls?"

I don't mind the idea, but if it's going to be for a significant amount of money they I think it should be done properly. Ideally you give both players time for a rest (Ponomariov had played a much longer, tougher game) - then you start at, say, two 15 min games, then 5 min games if needed, and only then armageddon. I realise the problem is that everyone wants to get away at the end of the tournament, but then if you're going to have such a short play-off wouldn't it be better not to make it so financially significant?

The 15 min/5 min/armageddon tie-break was used in Biel when Carlsen and Onishuk tied for first place, by the way. I don't know if they split the prize money.

"...if it's going to be for a significant amount of money they I think it should be done properly."

"...if you're going to have such a short play-off wouldn't it be better not to make it so financially significant?"

If the players agreed to the play-off rules by accepting their invitations, why not?

Don't forget that Nakamura was tied with Carlsen and Svidler in the regulation Gjovik Rapids before losing in the blitz tiebreaker. Nakamura didn't even get to try out Ivanchuk in blitz for Cap D'Agde because he beat Ivanchuk in the regulation rapids to take the title. I would agree that nothing has been proven, but all indications are the Nakamura is as good as any of the aforementioned three.

I would just like to call attention to Stefan Fischl's "Very Unofficial Rapid Chess Rating" list. Based on games from 2000-2008, the 01-01-2009 top 15 looked like this:

#01 (2783) Anand
#02 (2768) Aronian
#03 (2759) Ivanchuk
#04 (2748) Topalov
#05 (2743) Kramnik
#06 (2736) Carlsen
#07 (2736) Svidler
#08 (2729) Radjabov
#09 (2720) Leko
#10 (2720) Gelfand
#11 (2717) Nakamura
#12 (2713) Bareev
#13 (2712) Grischuk
#14 (2710) Ponomariov
#15 (2708) Mamedyarov

"If the players agreed to the play-off rules by accepting their invitations, why not?"

Of course it was in accordance with the rules and I'm sure Ponomariov has no complaints. That doesn't mean the rules couldn't have been better.

Interesting data ,Jeff!
Specially since some people liked to point Topa´s allegedly bad results at rapid as proof of his cheating...
The rapid rating list would be a very interesting thing to have.

jsy, I am aware of all that... what is your point? I was specifically talking about blitz skills, not rapid. Some blitz games were played, others were not, and those that were played have results.

But if the players themselves evidently liked the rules for awarding the prize fund, and the organizers obviously did too, then why or how should they be "better"?

Perhaps the players could boycott tournaments by saying "we are highly skilled professional players and consider it demeaning that we should be required to play 5-minute chess for thousands of dollars."

That makes no sense. Do you really think the tie breaker rules are decisive in GMs deciding whether to play in a tournament or not? I might as well say: you voted for Obama so therefore you agree with his position on Japanese whaling. The organisers have already said that in hindsight they'd have used the Sofia rules - so you see, it IS possible to conceive of improvements.

Of course, you might disagree with my opinions, and the players might well too, but it's a little odd to dismiss the idea of having opinions on the matter...

Not exactly. That wasn't really an article, only some captions to the pictures I sent them, around the forth or fifth round.

Headline and statements on the results are not my work.

Ah ok, thanks for the clarification. I must say I don't think Chessbase have the slightest hint of anti-Nakamura bias, but their English coverage of the tournament has been a bit of a shambles, and the Dortmund reports were quite slapdash too (usually with very superficial "analysis"). I wonder if most of the staff are on holiday!?

I agree with mishanp. If the players are comfortable with all or most other things (appearance fees, overall prize money, playing conditions, hotel accomodation, ...) they will accept the invitation and sign their contracts. In that case, the organizers could even come up with very 'funny' tiebreak rules: coin throw, table football match, 1000m run, whatever ... .

Why should they? It doesn't matter - under such circumstances anyone could still consider the tiebreak rules odd. Even the players themselves could say so - but couldn't complain because it's in their contracts.

Personally, I do find it slightly odd that Nakamura won (an additional) 3000 Euros with two blitz games, if compared to the Canadian Open: Shirov, Ni Hua and Adams have to play a whole tournament, and (most probably) one of them will win 3000 CAN$ [which is less] in the end - yes, they face mostly weaker opponents, but at least they probably have to play each other.

Well, if the organizers want a 5-minute playoff format, and the players accept that by voluntarily playing under those conditions, why all the angst here about how it's not right and needs to be changed?

Where did you find this? I found
which differs from your list.
Here, Nakamura is even #8, but both the number of games (50, #1 Anand has 395 games) and the average rating of his opponents (2614) is (often much) lower than for all other players in the top 20 - so the predictive value for how he might do in Amber 2010 seems, well, limited. And BTW, here Topalov is #13.
@Harish: Yes, that (Rising Stars vs. Experience) is what I was referring to. Naka's qualification chances seem to be 'real' (the other young players are Caruana, Smeets, Stellwagen and Hou Yifan).

And, for what it's worth, Fischl also has a blitz rating list:
Here, Nakamura is ... #84 with 2622. The most surprising name in the top 20 is #11 F. Doettling (ELO 2730).

There was no "angst" until you turned up and took offence at a minor suggestion as if it was some sort of metaphysical challenge to your world view.

Thomas - I went up one level (i.e. get rid of the "/rapid.txt" part) and followed links on his normal web pages. It looks like the pages you referenced are for aggregate totals across all of 2000-2008, meaning games in 2000 or 2001 are treated the same as games in 2007 or 2008. Whereas the lists that the links take you to are for rating lists as of a particular date. Still it's all very interesting, though! I was surprised there was so much agreement between the rapid and classical rating lists.

Yikes, how sensitive you are. Where did you see any offence on my part?

As far as the blitz tiebreak is concerned: Yes, it was in the rules, so there is nothing _fundamentally_ wrong with it. And it is better than a coin throw ,:). Introducing another funny (questionable) analogy from a different sport: A marathon race is sometimes decided by a final 100m sprint, with no rest at all in between.

That being said: If there is more at stake in the tiebreak than some additional prize money and a Basque hat, it makes perfect sense to play it on the next day and start with slower time controls. Obviously, the FIDE World Cup is the best (or most prestigious) example.

And one more thing on time controls. As pointed out by an anonymous poster at Susan Polgar's site, the 'main' San Sebastian tournament was played at the rather fast time control (even by today's standards) of 90 minutes for the entire game with 30 seconds increment from move 1. That person suggested this was an advantage for Nakamura, predictably provoking some 'allergic' reactions.
Guess I am on safer ground stating it was a disadvantage for Karpov, who has most of his experience at slower rates of play. This came on top of being 'old', rusty, semi-retired and (apparently) unprepared for the tournament - partly unavoidable, partly his own choices.

"Where did you see any offence on my part?"

I said you "took offence", not that you were offensive. Never mind.

I want to clarify that both players Naka and Pono had about 1 hour and a half of rest before the first tie-break blitz was played. Then 15 minutes between the first and the second game (a bit too much in my opinion, not only for the spectators but even for the players themselves).

As for the 1st and second prize not being shared, probably it's a matter of philosofy of life. You can choose between justice, peace, friendship, siesta and love or a more perverse second possibility: a bit of thrill. Considering that we were not giving out flowers in a hyppie party but prices in a chess tournament, which has to be also an spectacle in order to atract sponsors, we just chosed the second way of life.

David Llada is working on the video format in order to put the tie-break games on Youtube as soon as possible.

As for next year's KO format, I have created a system in wich the main tournament subdivides in 2-3-4-N groups (as much as wanted) so that the first people leaving the tournament only do it after losing 3 matches in a row (6 games) (if 3 groups). Not a bad moment to go back home and think about love, music or flowers. Let's see if the tmt can be organized next year so that we can check this "Basque system" in practice.

Thank you all y saludos Rafael Llanos muy amable.

My main suggestion was to have a slightly longer tie-break e.g. first 15 minute games, then 5 minutes if needed. No handing out of hippie flowers :) Just a bit more chess.

But congratulations on organising the tournament! Next year sounds interesting - just as long as there's a tournament of some sort pretty much all of us will be happy :)

I think it might work better to do a double-elimination or triple-elimination tournament, since in this way the matchups mix around better rather than being confined within each group. I may not be understanding exactly what you are saying though.

LOL @ acrice sad attempt to undermine Nakas obvious blitz domination. The very top players do play on ICC - every single last oen of them. No one dominates Naka in Blitz.

Really? Kramnik too? can you post some evidence to support this?

You are so welcome Mr. Izeta.
Probably I need an extra explanation about next year K.O. system.
Saludos a mi amigo Julio Granda, si le dice mi nombre sabra quien soy. Espero algun dia conocer San Sebastian.
Un abrazo.
Rafael Llanos.

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