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San Sebastián 09 r8: Karpov's Nightmare

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In progress, live here. The only game to finish so far is Nakamura-Movsesian, a 17-move draw in the Philidor. (Didn't the Philidor used to be considered just bad? (Other than by Bent Larsen.) It actually has a plus score in games between 2600+ players over the last few years! From people trying to pound it and failing, I assume, but still.) No doubt the pressure of running out to a big lead in the biggest event of his life is having an effect on Nakamura, not to mention the energy it took. Obviously it's always a tough choice between wanting to fight when you're in good form and not wanting to risk ruining such an amazing result as the end nears. I'm not sure whether to criticize the short draws with white or commend his professional pragmatism in the home stretch. Had he forced the issue in an equal position and gone on to lose we'd be calling him an idiot for not being realistic, mature, etc. So I'll have it both ways and say they were lame, smart draws! I can do that, I'm just a blogger.

I should also mention the importance of accumulating rating points, as lame as that sounds, and is. Until you push up high enough you're just another schmuck unless you're under 17 or so. That's just the reality of the way the invitations go out and the top players are well aware of it. That's why we see so many pragmatic draws near the end from guys having bad tournaments instead of the do-or-die fights the fans want. Pragmatism isn't a spectator sport and without Sofia rules and organizers who look beyond Elo, this is what we're going to get. Once again with feeling: the players aren't stupid. They will use the rules to their advantage and would be dumb not to. So shame the players a little and root for the fighters we love, but it's the rules that need changing.

Svidler has the flu (Vachier-Lagrave was also in a bad way for a few days) and was expected to use white against Ponomariov to make a quick draw today, but so far that hasn't happened. [They drew ten minutes later.] The position after move 20 does look pretty even though, so it looks like Nakamura will take the black pieces tomorrow against Kasimjanov needing a draw to guarantee himself at least a share of first even if Ponomariov beats Vallejo with white. Tiebreaks for first place are two blitz games followed by an armageddon game and you know Nakamura would be the favorite there. Btw, in the all-Spanish match-up San Segundo just totally lost control of a wild tactical mess against Vallejo and is now dead lost. [He just resigned, so Vallejo is now in a tie for 3-4 with Svidler on 5/8. Ponomariov has 5.5, Nakamura 6.]

Update: Damn, poor Karpov just lost again, this time blundering a piece sac against his kingside against Kasimjanov. Terrible. 31.Be2 heading to f3 and White is probably only a little worse. He has black against San Segundo tomorrow and I hope the veteran can get out with a draw and a little dignity. I also hope this doesn't mean he stops playing entirely. He just needs to be a little more realistic about how much prep he needs to do and the category of event he can handle these days. Maybe he believed his own rating, which has been kept artificially high for many years due to inactivity. I always figured the hyper-competitive Karpov would be one of those guys who refused to play in any serious tournament he didn't think he could win, or at least manage a plus score. I was glad when he proved me wrong and eased into a sort of ambassadorial role and maintained a little activity. But this is rough. I'm trying to think of any other former WCh being knocked around this this. It's hard to imagine a worse result.

Final round: Kasimjanov-Nakamura, Ponomariov-Vallejo, Granda-Svidler, San Segundo-Karpov, Movsesian-Vachier-Lagrave. The round begins a half and an hour earlier than usual, so 10:00am Eastern.


You are less than consistent Mig, in your attitude to Nakamura's draw. You have not allowed others the licence that you allow Nakamura in your comments. Poor stuff. Personally I think draws, pragmatic or otherwise should always be a part of the game at any level. No-one has to accept the offer.

if you can't see the difference in circumstance b/w naka's recent draws and the typical 18-mover non-game, then i don't know what to tell you. it's pretty obvious he fought hard for 6 rounds and now he's dealing w/ his very specific tournament situation. good luck to nakamura in the final round.

I hate short draws and at the same time I understand they are going to be part of the game until the draw offer is banned. Those who want to yell and scream at every short draw and those who think they are no big deal will both have problems with my stance.

As long as there is a draw by mutual agreement chess can never be taken seriously as a sport. It's ridiculous and has no equivalent in any sport.

As for consistency, go look at what I said about all the other short draws in Dortmund and San Sebastian. The tone is basically the same. Some rage, but mostly directed at the organizers unless the draw seemed completely senseless from a sporting point of view. I even made a little list of why every single player had a good reason to draw in one round!

But a foolish consistency is also for people who don't want to think. Not every situation is the same so why should my reaction always be the same? Nakamura is leading the tournament with the result of a lifetime. Is his short draw with Movsesian in the penultimate round the same as Bacrot taking a pass with white against Leko when he had nothing to lose but respect and a few points? People who demand consistency and objectivity from others usually don't understand either and are just asking you to be stop thinking.

That said, of course I'm rooting for Hikaru to win the damn tournament more than I am for him to fight to the death in every game. I have my interests and my writing obviously represents them. If these draws give him the best chance to win the tournament (which may or may not be the case, but he's the player) then as much as short draws suck, why shouldn't I be happy about the result they achieve? I'm a fan and blogger, not a robot. I have friends, favorites, and people I don't much care for. I think I'm reasonably consistent with my views, but I'm the first to admit I'm unapologetically subjective and partisan. I.e. human.

Yah, how about Topalov -- the fighter's fighter -- making four very short draws in the second half of San Luis after starting with 6.5/7. He would have been considered insane not to. I'd still be happy to have Sofia rules there just so the fans get their money's worth, but if he used white to shut things down and draw with no risk while in first place of a WCh event, well, of course.

Football teams play defensively with the lead in the final 15 minutes. Baseball teams put better defenders on the field in the later innings if they're ahead. American football teams stop throwing and run the ball. It's boring and we don't have to like it, but at the end of the day it's about winning the damn game/tournament/match.

Oh man, Karpov going down again. Damn. What was he thinking coming here with no prep? I hope he's at least enjoying the beach.

A very very sad game by Karpov vs Kasimdzhanov. He was totally outplayed in a type of position we would never have expected him to any problems with let alone lose. Karpov isn't even a shadow of his former self. Instead, he's looking more and more like a patzer, a characterization I would never have thought to make as I, during the 70s, 80s, and first half of the 90s, was a great admirer of his games. In their coming, Kasparov not doubt will blow him off the board (or maybe Kasparov will take pity and give him Knight odds).

I agree there is a difference between Naka's defensive tactics and someone like Leko who appears to start touranments with a draw attitude. Naka needs to try and win this tournament any way possible. He is going into the last round with a 1/2 pt lead against the strongest field he has ever faced. Why question his strategy? The results speak for themselves.

Cricket occasionally has draws by mutual agreement, just proving what a great sport it is :)

I think there's an element of protesting too much in defending Nakamura - pressure, loss of energy, form, thoughts about ratings and so on (you missed out money which has often seemed his dominating motivation in the past). It really is a bit ironic after Nakamura was used as a stick to beat the Dortmund players - though they also had no doubt had their excuses: no air conditioning in a heat wave, form, illness, concerns about ratings, the fact there were no much weaker players to beat etc. Nakamura's draws have been more blatant than almost all the Dortmund draws - but again, good luck to him. He's doing what's in his best interests.

I agree with the general consensus that Sofia rules are more a good than a bad thing... but would maintain that criticism of players should be kept to a minimum as long as they're playing within the rules. The response to Dortmund went to far.

I think it also has to do with the position on the board - Nakamura had no edge in either of the games he drew with White in the final positions. You don't intentionally play substandard moves, so this is probably more likely bad or flawed prep than anything else.

Or even TOO far...

Is the objection to short draws that (1) we think it is "bad strategy" for the players, or (2) because we find it offensive to the sponsors and the spectators, and a hindrance to the mainstream acceptance of chess?

If the former, why would any one of us presume to second guess the tournament strategy of a professional who is not only much more experienced at tournament situations than we are, but is playing to put food on the table? Whether on top or bottom of the crosstable - makes no difference - they are maximizing their expected dollar value from a game. So if Naka thinks quick draws will help him win and help his tournament career, he's better placed than we are to make that call.

But if the latter, I'm a little surprised to see Naka get such a free pass from Mig. Sure, it's convenient for Naka to take draws - just as, presumably, it was convenient for all those other drawmakers. And just as detrimental to the image of the game.

In the words of Dennis Monokroussos (on Chessmind):
"I'm sure Karpov loves the game, but I wish he'd love it enough to work at it. Not even a legend can compete with elite opponents when he doesn't really work at the game for a decade or more, especially when approaching 60."
Well, Karpov presumably doesn't enjoy losing - but he might enjoy the beach ... and his appearance fee. Not that he really needs the money, but it wouldn't surprise me if he asked and got more than any of the other participants!?

If Nakamura ends up winning the tournament, he has done everything right. If he loses against Kasimdjanov tomorrow and Ponomariov still overtakes him .... of course (shared) second would still be a [more than] fine result in his strongest tournament so far, but still people might ask some questions.
BTW, while John Fernandez is a stronger player than I am, I would say that Naka still had a slight edge in the final position today. Is his control of the only open file irrelevant? How does black develop his bishop? Black may well end up equalizing, but has he really done so yet?

I think it is fantastic that Bobby Fischer went 11/11 in the US championship in 1964. From a tournament-only strategic perspective, he could have just opted for easy draws in the second half, but, then, we wouldn't still be talking about it. I like to watch chess for the great stories. If it were just great games that were interesting, then watch Fritz play Rybka or scan through the chess database of 3.7 million games--there's plenty there. Short draws have a way of sucking the life out of a story.

Nakamura has performed phenomenally and in my humble opinion he has the right to ensuring that his ultimate aim (i.e. to win the tournament) is put in least jeopardy.

Having said that my respect for how Fischer conducted his chess career only grows. A person has to be absolutely convinced that he is out of this world to take the 'take no prisoners' attitude he displayed even at the brink of winning the tournaments.

Cricket doesn't have draws by mutual agreement, Mishanp. It might happen that teams tacitly agree to let the clock wind down, since it's clear no win/loss is in sight -- but this can happen in any game where a draw is a technical outcome. It's certainly not built into the cricket rules that the players can cease trying and end the game early.

I was being a bit mischievous, but in test cricket captains can definitely agree to call a draw and stop playing - e.g. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/cricket/article-1034873/CRICKET-South-Africa-frustrate-England-Test-ends-draw.html (don't worry, I don't read the paper, but it was the first example on google).

Of course they only do it when there's no chance of another result and usually in special circumstances (e.g. "bad light") when they won't infuriate the spectators/TV.

Nakamura of course has the "right" to play for short draws, but it sucks the life out of the story. Instead of the possibility of hearing: "After blazing through the first half with 4.5/5, Nakamura did not let up and finished at a startiling 7.5/9, two full points ahead of Ponomariav and Svidler and proving that he is a force to reckoned with on the world stage. By virtue of his performance, his rating rocketed to 2744 putting him at 11th in the world." The story would be talked about for years.

Now, we may well hear: "After blazing through the first half with 4.5/5, Nakamura chose to rest in the second half, playing for short draws with the hope of cruising to victory in the end. That strategy came crashing down in the final round as Nakamura overlooked the quiet-looking Qf4 in the final round to fall to former FIDE champ Kasimdzhanov with the black pieces. In the meantime, Nakamura's rivals Svidler and Ponomariov both won their final games to knock Nakamura down to a tie for second and third place."

Most likely he'll win by the narrowest of margins. Dullsville.

One interesting experiment... if you only take the top 6 players in San Sebastian, to get a balanced tournament closer to the strength of Dortmund, you find that they've played 26 games, with only 4 decisive results, or nearly 85% draws. The inclusion of weaker players always forces/encourages the stronger players to go for wins. It doesn't mean those players are heroic fighters.

I've never seen this mentioned...

Instead of the "no draw offers" (aka Sofia rules), what about this?

Allow players to have a number of draw offers allowed PER TOURNAMENT. Something like two or three (depending on the number of rounds). In this case, they would have to carefully 'spend' their draw offers? If a draw offer is decline, the player does not get another chance -- that draw offer is spent.

What do others think of this?

Excellent observation, mishanp!

Thomas, I don't think a 2700+ player is losing that position with Black in most normal cases. If anything, Movsesian definitely has more experience in those positions than Nakamura, so maybe he's really the one in danger there.

Uff da, okay, Fischer bla bla, who cares. All Hikaru has to do is find 9. ... a6! against Granda and we're probably not even having this discussion. I also don't get the thesis of your argument - Hikaru DOESN'T want to go 7.5/9? He DOESN'T want to win?

The truth is that Nakamura will eventually offer and accept the same types of draws that criticizes when they come from the "ususal suspects" (Kramnik, Anand, Ponomariov, Leko, Karjakin, Svidler, etc.).

Chess is a very marginal activity, where most professional players can't even make a living from the game. The few who actually make decent money do so for no more than a few years - their peak years. So, it stands to reason that professionals will do whatever is convenient to them.

I put the blame for the blodless spectacle squarely on the organizers' shoulders. They are the ones that can fix the problem with the easy, obvious solution I have proposed for years: ban the drawn result, without banning the actual draw. Any drawn game is re-played at a progressively shorter time until a decisive result is achieved. For rating purposes, only the first game counts (the one played under regular time controls). For scoring puroposes, only the decisive game counts.

End of the quick and not-so-quick, arranged and not-arranged GM draw. Guaranteed.

How big was Naka's advantage against Vallejo Pons after 17 moves? Well, then the tournament situation was different ... . Of course, today there was no need for Nakamura to 'go wild' against Movsesian, for example advancing his kingside pawns. And maybe he became more cautious because yesterday's game against Granda showed that he is not invulnerable after all.

As the "Dortmund-bashing" is sort of continuing: Kramnik started quietly, then sealing tournament victory with a strong finish. Nakamura started strong and seems to become quiet now. What's the fundamental difference?

I see in front of my eyes the Wimbledon final Federer-Nadal, huge hype, match starts with a couple of easy service holds, sellout crowd holds breath who would break first, in commentary booth McEnroe analyzes small signs of weaknesses -- then at 2-2, Nadal goes to the net instead of starting to serve, Federer joins him and they shake hands, nobody understands first what's going on but then its announced that Nadal offered a draw and Federer accepted, commentator explains that of course, they both have tremendous respect for each other, they are both extremely tired at the end of the long tournament, this way they bot get the shared title, this really makes ominous sense for both of them and they are still tremendous sportsmen.

But what I cannot see in front of my eyes is how the tennis bloggers the day after will express their satisfaction at this turn of events, and call it totally understandable and OK...

hehe...still laughing...great analogy, ra!

I totally agree on your analogy with the tennis guys, but the bloggers part, if Mig is hinted, is a little unfair, since he said it is understandable and ok, IF IT IS ALLOWED by the organizers.

Of course Nakamura makes pragmatic draws. If a draw suits him that is what he will do, if his opponent agrees. EXACTLY the way every top player does. I've been trying to get this message through ;) And no, no top player would have been any less ambitious than Nakamura was with White against Karpov, Vachier Lagrave, Vallejo and Black against San Segundo. Anand, Kramnik, Lékó alike would all have been trying hard for a win. Most of the time they would have against Ponomariov and Movsesian as well in the exact same situations, but that's because they're better than Nakamura.

Btw, I had indeed begun to strongly suspect that something was wrong with Svidler.

But to me the biggest story is Karpov's collapse. Even considering age AND rust AND relative lack of motivation of course he should do better than this. I guess also in his case there may be something unknown factoring in.

I wish everyone would get over the "short draw" phenom. If the players aren't in a combative mood or if a draw helps their sporting position, they are going to draw, whatever the rules. If they draw too often, they will damage their reputation and lose invitations. The problem solves itself.

Nakamura is spot on in his drawing the last two opponents. They were both potentially dangerous and there was no need from a competative standpoint to jeopordize his winning the event. He'll win or tie for a win with a draw in the last round, so drawing would be savvy if it's possible. It's all up to Pono and Kasim! It's up to them to "knock him off". It he wants to play for a win and risk it all, that's his priviledge.

The problem is this constant need for organizers to get the biggest category they can for their events. If they just made it clear to players that only those who fight (win, lose or draw) every game will be invited back there wouldn`t be a problem. When you tie invitations to rating categories then you cannot be shocked when players play lifeless draws to protect their ratings.

In this tournament, I don't see how the organizers could have chosen a more combative lineup. Okay, there's no Shirov/Moro/Chucky but those guys don't come cheap. I think it was a great chance to see some of the 2700ish players who don't get as many opportunities as they might deserve.

Sofia rules with the current group of players might have been better, but overall it's been an awesome tournament.

Capablanca, as with most chess lovers, has always held a special place in chess for me. But, in one of his greatest tournament victories -- New York 1927 -- he was leading by such a score that he offered draws to all of his opponents in his final games. How much better it would have been for his prestige as a great master, and for us, if he had continued to pursue the advantage in every game rather than writing, as he did, a note to Nimzowitsch to play better or else he would have no choice but to win!! An exaggerated application of a practical approach... Who knows, had Capablanca embraced a more dedicated attitude to proving his superiority and regularly doing battle, the results of his match vs. Alekhine could well have been different.
I'm fully in support of doing away with draw offers. Meanwhile, the players will offer draws when it appears in their best interest to do so.

Someone beat me to it...

Re: Short draws: What would Fischer do?

You know the answer -- he'd laugh at the offer and keep playing.

Think about it -- what accomplishment is it to "win" a tourney with the following result?

G1 win
G2 win
G3 win
G3 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 1/2-1/2
G4 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 1/2-1/2
G6 1. Nf3 d5 1/2-1/2
G7 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 1/2-1/2
G8 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 1/2-1/2
G9 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Qxd4 1/2-1/2

Is this really stretching oneself and learning chess? Is this what counts as growth in developing players?

Good heavens -- if this was a player at a local club or at the US Open showing off his "games" -- his friends would laugh their heads off.

Young players are supposed to play with abandon and grow -- not act like 50 yr olds protecting the rating growth of a lifetime.

You are supposed to PLAY to a natural conclusion of every game, not freeze up and play paralyzing short draws. They sap your will, they don't increase it. "Make a draw, don't take a draw" is our local club motto.

We don't see ratings mania locally -- why is it tolerated at the top?

Nakamura is calculating, tournament-wise, but my guess is that the stakes (winning the biggest tournament of his life, rating, money, etc.) have gotten to his nerves a bit.

I don't think he had any great advantage today against Movsesian, and probably didn't anticipate that he would be playing a Philidor. I myself am not sure how to play the final position for advantage. Now he has a tough game tomorrow with black against Kasimdzhanov.

It all comes down to decisions - some work, some don't. We'll see how it goes down tomorrow.

"Young players are supposed to play with abandon and grow -- not act like 50 yr olds protecting the rating growth of a lifetime.

You are supposed to PLAY to a natural conclusion of every game, not freeze up and play paralyzing short draws."

That is your opinion chesspride. But I wonder how you'd play if you knew that drawing out the last several games of a tournament would give you $$$ and the celebrity to garner numerous invites and further $$$ and that by risking the outcomes you could wind up with nothing and no further chances...? There is taking risks and then there is stupid pride.

Just an FYI in case nobody else mentioned it. They just sent out a note saying the final round tomorrow starts at 1600 local, 10am Eastern. I had it a half an hour later as it was in the original schedule, I believe.

The players who act against their own best interests to satisfy an abstract ideal or the desires of a detached audience may be beloved by the fans, but they usually aren't going to be all that successful. I think the draw offer should be banned precisely because the players are "supposed to" play to the end. I agree. But asking them to do so, pretty please, when it is against their highest goals (becoming world champion, say) and most invested interests (making money, adding rating points, winning tournaments) is ludicrous.

Do you see the prisoner's dilemma in this? If players stopped making short draws and could count on their peers to do the same, they would all gain a lot as the sport would gain PR, image, sponsors etc. But if they stopped making short draws and their peers didn't, they would lose out competitively, as Mig correctly says. So know we are stuck at the worst quadrant of the prisonner's matrix, the lose-lose situation.

Of course the exit strategy from a recognised prisoner's dilemma is well-known: to talk and cooperate if possible. In this case it's eminently possible. So players shouldn't just be happy with their "best interest" behavior, as "allowed by the rules", but organise themselves for a cooperative strategy (everybody avoiding short draws). With small confidence-building "cooperation offers" first, as computer-run prisoner's dilemma simulations suggest.

Hey, if organisers don't do it for them, tournament participants themselves could agree on a no draws behavioral code when there's life in position. This would even improve on Sofia rules as it's voluntary so there's no artificial contraints on the judgement on a combative draw. They themselves can punish together competitively those who break this cooperation mode. Now THIS would be in their own best interest if they are really that smart, as Mig believes.

"The players who act against their own best interests to satisfy an abstract ideal ..., but they usually aren't going to be all that successful."

That's like saying someone who risks their personal safety to protect their family or country is a failure.

Agreed. Chess needs leadership. I think if Kasparov, Kramnik, and Anand made a joint statement that draws of less than __ moves are unacceptable at the 2700+ plus level, we're not going to accept them in our games, or respect those that do, then you'd less draws at the 2700+ plus level.

I left out the word see the first time.

Agreed. Chess needs leadership. I think if Kasparov, Kramnik, and Anand made a joint statement that draws of less than __ moves are unacceptable at the 2700+ plus level, we're not going to accept them in our games, or respect those that do, then you'd see less draws at the 2700+ plus level.

Comparing chess to tennis is insane..it's analogous to comparing oranges with apples and then wondering why apples can't be squeezed like the oranges! Draws and resignation are part of chess while in tennis you can't offer resignation - you can forfeit citing injury in tennis but that has to be authorized as well by the chair umpire and the relevant medics as they have a binding contract to play, with the organisers. You don't have to condone short draws to realize that the game of chess will have its share of 'pre-planned' draws and theoretical draws along with resignations, forfeits and downright checkmates as valid results. Fatigue plays vital role in chess as well and Nakamura is using these short draws (whatever his reasoning might be) to ensure he lasts the whole stretch. He'd look more of a prat if he fights to the bone and achieve a draw after 80+ moves (that which he could've achieved at move 20 and saved his energy)..then proceed to the next day's game and lose it due to tiredness!

Nakamura put himself in a good position, well-rested for the final game, and needing two things to happen for him not to get a share of 1st: him losing, and one other dude winning. A draw by either one of them, and Nakamura gets a share of 1st. Nakamura is not playing only chess, but also the standings.

Obviously fans of Nakamura, like fans of local sports teams, don't care if his games are sloppy - they only care that their team wins. To people who have no interest in either player, they only want to see a good game, just like people who watch two non-local teams play each other.

I agree that a main problem is the organizers. A few months ago I read Svidler complain about the lack of invitations he received for not being in the top 10. This is a very hard reality for many elite players, and now Svidler is #11, which means he could easily be included in the Wijk aan Zee player selection that will take place next month or so. He needs to keep this position if he wants to be invited to top tournaments, so this limits his willingness to take risks.

I think San Sebastian, in spite of having no Topalov/Anand/Carlsen, is being a very interesting tournament, which proves that we don´t need to see the same players all the time to get good games. Furthermore, tournaments like this help bring more fluctuation to the top rankings, which in my opinion is very good, since it provides variety and encourages players to fight more to keep their top spots.

But as long as organizers keep their blindness for any player below the top 15, players will have to carry on playing short draws once they won a few games in a tournament.

Nakamura played very well in San sebastian, but I really hope Ponomariov wins today :D

The Tour de France Yellow jersey battle has draws most days very often agreed between the multiple major contenders. (It's irrelevant that the event has been discredited in recent years because of drugs). It appals me the criticism Kramnik gets for his frequent draws. Unlike Mig I actually admire the way he puts up a Petroff or Berlin wall and has the very elite try (and mostly fail) to topple it. I think the skill level of achieving this is totally underestimated on this blog. I think Kramnik is as ambitious with white as any other player. These two aspects reflect his philosophy. I like it others hate it. He wants to play "proper" sound chess and to hell with the brgrudgers. Hail Vlad .......

Your justification of the status quo is absurd and misses the whole point of why many of us want to change the rules. Short agreed-upon draws make our game appear not as competitive as sports like Tennis and will always be a factor against our game being viewed as a blood-and-guts sport. The whole point of banning the offering of draws by the players involved is to make the game more competitive in spirit and reduce the impact of those who, like Leko, tend to coast through tournaments by unhesitatingly offering and accepting draws, counting on a +1 or +2 score by winning against the lower-ranked players. Yes, it saves energy and retains rating poonts, but we should expect more out of our professionals and, more importantly, they should expect greater efforts out of each other.

One day a friend of mine had a long quarrel with his wife. That evening he won the blitz-championship of his club.
But when everything is ok and he had a good breakfast or lunch he will offer everyone a draw.

But you're missing the point about many of us being fairly happy about the status quo and not worried about short draws (Sofia rules would be fine, but I can live without them). You claim to be a great admirer of Capablanca and mentioned the 1927 New York tournament - but did the draws really spoil that event? Would you prefer Capablanca to have been a street fighter rather than the effortless champion he was? Similarly, why the desperation to make chess more like tennis or some other physical sport? Why can't we celebrate its tradition and uniqueness? What would e.g. TV coverage actually add?

The phenomenon of quick agreed draws is self-limiting, anyway. You don't get to the top or stay there by only drawing. You don't win money or prizes that way (it can be part of a strategy, but why not?). Even if Nakamura takes a few quick draws it has the benefit of meaning that now we're going into the final round with a chance for someone else to win the title. The tournament situation/prize structure will always mean that some of the games will be hard fought. I think the key factor for spectator entertainment is just to have more games each day and a varied field - the factors that made the old 14-player Corus & Linares tournaments so entertaining (usually).

I think you're wrong in your description of Leko's tournament approach, by the way (or at least wrong if you wanted to extend that to Kramnik). It's often the "attacking" players who have the approach of beating up the tail-enders and drawing with the stronger opposition. That's because a slightly loose tactical approach is the most effective way of confusing weaker players (even if your position is worse you'll often win). Leko/Kramnik play a similar, more positional, chess, regardless of the opponent - which means they're more likely to draw against weaker players (there's a greater margin of error for their opponents), but often gives them a better chance of beating their rivals.

The tennis analogy is weak, as it has been explained numerous times. How long is an average chess game compared to an average tennis match? Federer and Nadal can dispatch people quickly, especially in the early rounds. An average chess game is probably over 4 hours long. Add to that the preparation that top players have to put in in between games - that can easily be another 2 hours a day. So we are talking at least 6 hour of chess per day, but in reality it probably ends up being much more. Federer/Nadal only play 7 games over 2 weeks. Chess players play that many over the span of 7-8 days, depending on whether they get a rest day or not.

So here is my point: if Federer and Nadal had to play tennis for at least 6 hours a day (in tennis 5 hours is considered a marathon), and had to play about 7 games in 8 days, who is to say they wouldn't agree to a draw by the time they reached the final? If it wouldn't be a draw, it would be a double withdrawal.

All of the analogies have some accuracy to them, but none of them are perfect. I've seen reasonable analogies to golf, tennis, soccer, etc., being scorned and dismissed as "apples to oranges" because people focus on a few minor inconsistencies in the analogy.

I don't care if players draw. The point of the tournament is to win, and everyone starts at the starting line with zero points. Like a marathon. How you get to the finish line in first place is your business. If a few draws will get you there, great. A runner may have a big lead near the end of a race and then just ease up and coast home (draw) to victory. Isn't a tournament victory or winning the race what's important? What difference does it make if you went win-win-win-win-draw-draw-draw or draw-draw-draw-win-win-win-win or win-draw-win-draw-win-draw-win?

Analogies will never fully work because chess is a game , not a sport .

So what?

So what? ...
That is not that some people focus on ¨minor inconsistencies¨ , the game can only take some elements from sports because of its nature.

I agree. A tennis player with a broken foot is unlikely to win, but chess players have won tournaments while hobbling around on crutches.

However, strip all that away and get down to the core, which is simply a bunch of human beings engaged in some type of competitive activity that awards a title to the winner. If the tennis player can win the title by lobbing the ball over the net endlessly, or the golfer can win by always playing safe lay-up shots, then why not?

Dignity? Yeah, a sixteen move draw is the path to dignity.

Mig had said: He [Karpov] has black against San Segundo tomorrow and I hope the veteran can get out with a draw and a little dignity.

I have been a Karpov fan for some time, so this was a painful tournament to watch. Several years ago an article was written (was it by Jeff Sonas? I can't find it now by Google) about the best players of each age group. In the article, the author predicted that Korchnoi would be the highest rated player ever in certain age groups, like 60 year olds and 70 year olds. At the time, Karpov was rated higher but was falling faster. Will we see the article's hypothesis born out - that Karpov falls below his old nemesis in rating, before they both retire? Ouch.

You really have to consider activity for that to be anywhere near a fair comparison. Korchnoi was still playing constantly in his 60s. The only reason Karpov's rating is still so high is that he plays barely enough classical chess to stay on the list. Of course there's no way to be 100% sure he wouldn't play better if he played more, and that's probably true in fact. But he hasn't been playing at a 2650 level for a quite a while.

He could play up to that rating when dropped in with some weaker guys, but that's nothing like trying to play 2650+ players. He had a solid +2 performance in Valjevo 2007, but that was a cat. 15 where he was the top seed and finished a point behind Roiz and Atalik. Other than that he hasn't played in a strong classical round robin since 2003. (-1 at Corus, -2 at Essent.)

I guess you don't know until you try, but with all that in mind I thought he was nuts to play in San Sebastian. Sorry to be right on that one though, truly painful to see. I imagine he'll get up for the Kasparov games though and won't be a pushover.

What about a tournament in Vitoria, Spain in November 2007? Karpov scored 3/10 in what seems to be a double round robin against Topalov, Polgar, Ponomariov, Nisipeanu and Kasidzhanov.


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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 15, 2009 1:40 PM.

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