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San Sebastián 09 r3: No Tourney for Old Men

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To get to the important facts first, top group leader Hikaru Nakamura held the draw with black against Svidler quite easily, even threatening to play for an advantage with the Caro-Kann at one point. (17..Qb3 looked promising, instead of swapping queens and retreating the knight.) That left the American in clear first in the "City of Culture" main event with 2.5/3. Ponomariov, Vallejo, and Vachier-Lagrave follow a half-point back. Maybe Svidler is still too into the big cricket match (if that is indeed what they are called) between England and Australia. The big Russian's opponents in the final week of the event should be warned that the cricket ends Sunday. Friday is a rest day.

A few of the results were initially reported incorrectly today, but all seem to be okay now. Apparently San Segundo and Movsesian really did draw in 12 moves, none of them new or interesting. Haven't heard anything about that yet, but doesn't it seem like it needs some kind of explanation? This wouldn't have raised many eyebrows in the no-go 80s, but in today's world of Sofia rules and professed professionalism, it's notable, and quite dubious barring illness. The Petroff between Vallejo-Kasimjanov extended just a few moves beyond well-known theory.

Everyone knows that chess is increasingly a young man's game. Although our world champion, Vishy Anand, will turn 40 this year, and despite the continued successes of a handful of other evergreens like Ivanchuk and Gelfand, the onslaught of youngsters cannot long be resisted. Six members of the top 20 were born after Kasparov became world champion in 1985. Two more of that up and coming generation, Nakamura and Vachier-Lagrave, are playing in San Sebastian. In the past three days both have scored wins against one of the game's all-time legends, 12th world champion Anatoly Karpov. You used to be able to count Karpov's yearly losses on one hand. Now that's only true because the 58-year-old rarely plays. When he does it's usually rapid, so it was a bit surprising he was lured to this very strong tournament in San Sebastian.

It might be hard for younger fans to realize how terrifying Karpov was as recently as a dozen years ago. As GM Jon Speelman, close to a contemporary of Karpov's, put it today on ICC Chess.FM, "these kids aren't scared of Karpov, are they?" No, and, alas, so far they have no reason to be. I don't doubt the great man is still capable of outplaying anyone in the world on a given day and given the sort of position he enjoys, but chess is too rigorous a profession these days to succeed without regular work and practice, especially if you're pushing 60. Regardless, it was a little sad to see Karpov beaten up again in the third round, this time by Vachier-Lagrave. It dropped the veteran into last place and elevated the Frenchman back into contention after his loss to Nakamura yesterday.

The other winner on the day was one of the two FIDE KO champions in the field, Ruslan Ponomariov. He demolished Peru's Julio Granda. Super-mariov, as I once christened him, is something of a mystery. He was clearly destined to be a perennial top-ten player when he burst into the top tier by winning the FIDE KO WCh in 2001-02 in Moscow. A few weeks later he finished clear second in a mighty Linares and the winner, Kasparov, welcomed the Ukrainian into the elite with effusive praise. Fast-forward to the long and gnarled negotiations around what was to be the start of a world championship unification series, a match between Kasparov and Ponomariov. (Ponomariov's representative was Silvio Danailov, before he became infamous for the toilet show with Topalov against Kramnik in Elista in 2006 and before he became known as the guiding hand of the excellent MTel Masters and the long-overdue Grand Slam.)

Without reliving all the pathos from 2003, the match broke down. Kasparov kept on being Kasparov, but it seems like Ponomariov was never quite the same after missing what would have been, win or lose, the opportunity of a lifetime. Correlation isn't causation of course, but Pono himself has talked about how badly he was affected by all the distraction and attention. After a year and a half in the top ten, he's been out of it on all but two lists since 2004, though never falling lower than #21. All reports say he's enjoying life away from the brightest lights and has rounded into a happy young man from the sallow youth who always wore the same ugly sweater. Still only 25 years old there's plenty of time for him to get his groove back, if he's willing to do the work.

In round three Ponomariov turned a Catalan squeeze against Granda into a surprising direct kingside attack with an h-pawn lunge. Classical stuff if you look at the way all of Black's pieces are stuck on the queenside. He finished with a nice little queen sac. Here are the round four pairings for Saturday: Nakamura-Vallejo could be a key game. If Nakamura beats another close rival to move to +3 he'll be hard to catch. Karpov-Granda, Movsesian-Ponomariov, Kasimjanov-San Segundo, Vachier-Lagrave-Svidler.


It's 2.5/3.

Yes, clear first with 2.5/5 is, as they say, impossible. :)

Oh god(?) not another day whinging about short draws..... Groundhog day.......

Not from me. The Dortmund players have come to play chess today.

It's a test match.
Australia and England are playing for the Ashes. The series consists of 5 tests, each match lasting for up to 5 days.


more here..


"It is one of international cricket's most celebrated rivalries and dates back to 1882. It is currently played biennially, alternately in the United Kingdom and Australia."

Australia have won every series played in the last 20 years (except in 2005 where England scored a rare victory)..

Nakamura is for real. I've discovered a sport even more exciting than cricket. Watching paint dry.

In view of the frequent use of "watching paint dry" on these pages, I here suggest an alternative, complete with link:


Are there no games from San Sebastian today?

g - According to the fist paragraph of Mig's post, Friday is a rest day in San Sebastian.

Go Naka!!

Carlsen went down in flames... Instead of 25...Qc7?, he probably should have tried 25...Rd8, and if 26.Qh6+ then 26...Kg8. As it was, Carlsen's Queen was misplaced which, after a couple of checks (perhaps to mislead Carlsen into thinking a draw was coming -- good psychology, yes?), Kramnik smashed with 29.Nb5.

Krannik-Carlsen. After 25...Rd8 (instead of 25...Qc7), Rybka gives 26.Qh6+ Kg8 27.Rxe6 Qd4 [27...fxe6?? 28.Qxe6+ +-] 28.Qg5+ Kf8 29.Rf6 Qxc4 30.Rxc6 Qxc6 31.Qxd8 Qd7 32.Qxd7 Bxd7 with a +/= (0.35)

To Hades with engine analysis, and the posting of it. In any case, if you promote 0.5 of a pawn, do you get half a queen?

Two king hunts in the same tournament for Kramnik. Against Carlsen, no less. Who would have thought? Just goes in showing that there is a reason why the man is one of the world's top elite.

"(perhaps to mislead Carlsen into thinking a draw was coming -- good psychology, yes?)"

I doubt it. Kramnik was probably just giving himself extra time to double-check his lines. I'm a weak FM, and even I could tell that black was in trouble -- I'm sure Carlsen wasn't "misled" into thinking anything.

p.s. help a poor idiot out -- why can't I put blockquotes in italics on this thing?

In the mean time Jakowenko is duking it out in yet another long endgame :-)

Maybe Carlsen (at the board with the clock ticking) is a bit weaker than Rybka - just like, to varying degrees, all of us [excluding cheaters]. Or maybe he even saw this computer line but didn't feel like defending the resulting inferior endgame - no fun against anyone, certainly not against Kramnik.
The way things went, Kramnik may be blamed for not even reaching 40 moves?

Kramnik-Carlsen: 18.f5 was a cool move, a real can-opener. Did Carlsen have to take with the g pawn?

Nice win. It was far from obvious why ..Qc7 didn't work, and it was far obvious that Rybka's equalizer ..Qc5 did.

25..Qc5 26.Ne4!? Qxc4 27.Nf6 looks extremely scary but 27..Ke7 actually holds. No immediate check leads anywhere for White and preparing it by 28.Rd1, so what, Black just plays the simple 28..Nd4 and it is obvious Black is just fine :) Not very human.

It should read "far from obvious" at both places.

Yes, apparently bad things happen on f7 & b7 after 18...exf5 and black ends up a pawn down. Shipov thought at first that 18. Ng5 was more promising (in the style of Kasparov!), while f5 just led to a perpetual, but Rd6 really put the pressure on Carlsen (it was also brave - there are some double-edged positions if Carlsen didn't blunder immediately).

The Chesspro commentary includes a few comments from Kramnik after the game. He said he found f5 at the board, that he was suprised that Carlsen, though young, seemed to miscalculate on almost every move, & that "draws in tournaments end up boring, but decisive games - are beautiful" - I think he may have had a mischievous smile on his face when he said that :)

I am just a weak amateur, and do not have Rybka at my disposal ... but I think 18.-ef5: would have been worse: it weakens f7 (at least potentially), a white knight may jump to d5, ... . Maybe white's best response is 19.b4 with the ideas 20.b5 followed by Ne5 or 20.Qb3.

Agreed the alternatives to Qc7 were tricky (no-one really wants to allow rook sacrifices you can't accept, and the like), but Nb5 was the most obvious response to Qc7, even for a patzer. At the very least you'd expect a player of Carlsen's ability to devote some serious thought to making sure it didn't end up badly (I'm sure he regretted it soon after he played it - and certainly after Qh6+) - but all chess players blunder from time to time.

Nb5 in itself is obvious but not enough to win the game -- you need to see the Rxe6+ and b4 combination and why it wins. It's possible to only notice Rxe6+ (which is of course completely obvious) but miss the b4 idea without which it won't win. I'm not saying Carlsen shouldn't have seen this, just that it wasn't obvious.

GM Kovalyov on ICC said even after Nxb4 that Re6 "should" win, but he wasn't sure how.

True, maybe you could even make a subtle move like 30.Kg2 or even 30.Kf1 -- to take away ..Qe1+ -- to prepare a different win. It's clear that it's not fun to be Black, of course.

Btw, Nb5, obvious as it was, wasn't his response to Qc7 -- Qh6+ Ke7 Nb5 was :) The immediate Nb5 is bad due to ..Qe7 and Black is indeed fine. So why not 26..Kg8 on Qh6+? Because 27.Rxe6 fxe6 28.Bxe6+ Bf7 29.Nd5!

There are quite a few different things you have to see to understand why ..Qc7 is so bad. Each of them may be "obvious", but to see it all, I don't think is all that simple.

BTW, the Chessdom live commentary on Kramnik-Carlsen was hilarious as always:

After 12.-Nh5: "I am curious why Kramnik has selected this variation [with 5.Bf4], it seems to offer white nothing more than he would be able to expect out of the more standard Bg5 setup, and is very aesthetically displeasing."
Huh? Both moves are common, and maybe 5.Bf4 actually offers white better chances to fight for an advantage? For example, it occurred in Topalov-Kramnik, Corus 2007 ,:).

"18.f5!? Unusually sharp move by Kramnik. He obviously wants to take a shot at the first place." [fair enough as a comment, but see below]

"29.Nb5! ... Kramnik might be a peaceful player, but once given a chance, he will make sure to use it." [12/10 on the cliche scale]

after the game: "One inaccuracy (25...Qc7) was sufficient to trigger Kramnik's killer instinct"
Huhhuhhuh?? Didn't he already show at move 18 that he was in an aggressive 'killing' mood today?

Overall, it seems that Pete Karagianis (ELO 2203) wasn't quite up to his task of commenting a top-level game ... .

That was far from Chessdom's worst, and I don't think the annotator meant any disrespect. But I agree about the clichés, and not just the one you gave high marks. :) (Here is the URL: http://games.chessdom.com/dortmund-kramnik-carlsen )

I had no problem with chessdom's coverage of this game. They reported, for example, that Vlad had won six of his last nine whites (in all formats).

In the middle of the sudden excitement about [Kramnik in] Dortmund ... : Did anyone notice Vachier-Lagrave - Svidler in San Sebastian? Svidler (also) has a reputation as a boring drawish player. He played the Marshall (fair enough), but didn't draw the endgame a pawn down. Instead, he won with an old-fashioned sacrifical kingside attack. PLEASE, we need some cliches to survive!

Me neither, greg. It wasn't of such a high quality, but I wouldn't have done it better.

I saw it as it was happening.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 9, 2009 9:31 PM.

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