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Aronian & Mamedyarov Rule Rapidly

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Moving house this month (just a few blocks, still Brooklyn of course) so a bit spotty on the coverage these days. But baby will have her own separate room soon, and more sleep means more coherent blogging. At least that's the theory.

Aronian lost his Chess960 title to Nakamura but just three days later took the Mainz rapid crown from Anand. Nice consolation prize! Aronian coasted to an easy win over Ian Nepomniachtchi in the final, winning the first two and drawing the third to lock up the title that Anand had held since 2000. He even passed up a win in the final game to force a draw. Of interest was Nepo's use of the old 4.Qe2 "anti-Berlin Wall" line to avoid the dreaded instant-endgame. History buffs might remember Howard Staunton and Mikhail Chigorin making use of it. Unfortunately, it and 4.d3 score worse for white than the endgame. (Much the way we might dream of the King's Gambit scoring better for white than 2.Nf3.)

You can't trivially blame the opening for Nepomniachtchi's loss to Aronian in the crucial second game, but it does seem to be the case that white has little more than the old "avoid theory and outplay the guy." Which ain't easy on the best of days, but when you're giving up 100+ points against the world #4 even the optimism of youth isn't going to be enough. Meanwhile, over at the paper plates and plastic forks table, world champ Anand and Naiditsch played for third place. Or better put, didn't play for third place. They phoned in four draws and the Mainz organizers mercifully don't bother to play off further than that.

Aronian will have Mamedyarov to deal with in the final next year. The Azerbaijani put up a record 10/11 score in the Ordix open to take clear first. It wasn't easy, but as the winner said, you need some luck to win such a strong open event. He got his full share against Nakamura in the critical 10th round encounter between leaders. (Clearly the new Chess960 champion does all right with his pieces on the usual squares.) Mamedyarov lost a piece but managed to keep some pressure with a very unusual pin on the 8th rank. Nakamura was unable to find the right configuration with his pieces and first missed the win and then blundered into a mate. (41.Nb3 was one way for White to start to unwind.) A bit of luck indeed, though you call it tenacity when you win the tournament. A quick draw in the final round was enough for clear first for Mamedyarov. Naiditsch, Akopian, and Gashimov tied a half-point back.

Lots of fun tactics as you'd expect in a rapid event of this caliber. Check out 31.Bxf5+ in Moiseenko-Potkin. Bologan missed a quick win against Guliyev and went on to lose in the 10th round. 30..Bh3! wins after 31.Rxd6 Bxg2 32.Nxg2 Rg4 or 31.Qd3 Bxg2 32.Qf5 Qg7. The last three moves of Zvjaginsev-Akopian are also good entertainment value.

Next On The Menu Dept.: In the "Learn the Geography of the Caucasus FIDE Grand Prix," Chessdom has info on the last-minute Armenian edition. It will be held in Jermuk, which apparently has nice scenery. It begins on Aug. 9. The organization of the GP has been a disaster and the replacement sites haven't exactly been household names, but the tournaments and the chess have been excellent. Thomas in the comments hints at some shenanigans about rescheduling the event to accommodate local hero Aronian, but all I know is that the event was originally scheduled to begin on Aug. 1. (And to take place in Elista, but Ilyumzhinov had to host the Doha event there in November.) That would have robbed Mainz of several players and much attention, so it seems like a legal j'adoube to me. Jakovenko, Leko, and Gelfand are the other rating favorites.

The Staunton Memorial starts in a few weeks, and then Svidler, Nakamura, and Caruana headline the NH "Pups vs Geezers" team tournament, which has revamped its formula to try to balance the fields a bit after last year's Massacre of the Ancients. Now Svidler, van Wely, and Nielsen are on the veteran squad, which is a little rough for such strapping young lads, all born after Woodstock. I mean, they only look old!


@Mig: In your last paragraph (upcoming events), did you "forget" the next FIDE Grand Prix event in Jermuk, Armenia (8th to 24th August)? Or were you unaware of it, as it was only announced or confirmed a few days ago?

5 out of 14 players (Aronian, Bacrot, Kamsky, Akopian, Kasimdzhanov) were also playing in Mainz. And a German site (http://schach.twoday.net by IM Stefan Loeffler) says that the GP event should have started a week earlier, but was postponed at the request of "Armenian VIP" Levon Aronian. No independent confirmation available, but the FIDE homepage and other sources may be updated leaving no traces of earlier versions?

Oops, meant to link to the Chessdom item on that, actually. Thanks.


Actually (my brother-in-law told me) moving baby to another room actually led to "less" sleeping :D
I think the expectation about rapid and chess960 may justify official ratings, so organizers could use them (for both marketing and invitation matters). Actually, i wouldn't mind including rapid chess (until 30') into classic ratings: there are several tennis surfaces, each players plays better in one or another and it's the sum of everything that gives you the best player.

Ah, you mean it can lead to another baby and then the need for another room! Could be worse fates.

They should maintain separate and combined lists so people can pick and choose. Certainly easy enough to do with modern databases. Weigh rapid and blitz accordingly (rapid at 30%, blitz at 10%, for example) for a combined list and also have the separate lists available. Norms and such would still use the "pure" classical list, and that might still be considered the main one. I generally favor that since I believe in maintaining and promoting classical chess. But it's a shame to discard so much interesting information about the other speeds.

As for variants like Chess960, why not? Again, you can still separate everything into separate lists. It's just trickier to establish proper weighing unless you do it by predictive value relative to classical play. That is, do Chess960 results less accurately reflect a player's classical results than blitz or rapid? How about blindfold? Would be interesting, but the samples are just too small right now.

"Thomas ... hints at some shenanigans"
Well, actually I wouldn't call it shenanigans (though I am unsure about the _exact_ meaning of this term). As I hinted Aronian intervened not only on his own behalf, but also representing other players. That's based on Stefan Loeffler's story, who gives Aronian lots of praise ("Feiner Zug von Aronian"/ Nice move by Aronian). The organizers might not have listened to similar requests from Bacrot or Kamsky?!

In any case, I am 99% confident that Aronian would have abandoned Mainz if it had collided with the GP tournament, so - and here I agree with Mig - the date change was a 'legal' (or rather legitimate) j'adoube.

Interesting turn of events: an anonymous poster at Susan Polgar's site managed to find a 'historic' FIDE document (created 5-3-2008):
It states that the Elista [sic] GP will take place August 8th-24th, and mentions some other tournaments in Doha, Montreux and Karlovy Vary. So these were the initial plans, and maybe the Mainz organisers picked their date to avoid collision with the FIDE Grand Prix. Then everything makes sense!?

I like separate lists. A combined list just mushes everything together and you don't know what's what. Weighting just means giving rapid games the equivalency of longer classical games. How so? If rapids players normally play 4 games a day (at the recent Ordix Open, they played 6 games on Sunday), and the classical events usually schedule only one game per day, then 4 rapids games (one day) = one classical game (one day). End result = they both count the same.

By the way, are rapid games getting shorter? Didn't they used to be 25 minutes + 5 seconds a few years ago? Now, they are 20 minutes + 5 seconds. Maybe next year, they'll be 15 minutes + 5 seconds?

Nothing against Svidler, Nakamura, and Caruana (I love them all), but the real headliner of the NH Touranment (http://www.nhchess.com) is Ljubomir Ljubojevic.

And you knew that!

"In any case, I am 99% confident that Aronian would have abandoned Mainz if it had collided with the GP tournament ..." Looks like some people are believing that contracts are made just for fun. Funny! Btw, Aronian already gave his word to come again next year. Mamedyarov also and Anand will get a "wild card". So you can try to figure out the fourth participant. ;-)

"Maybe next year, they'll be 15 minutes + 5 seconds?" No, we are not planning any changes in this case!

Well, they didn't add another room (so far) but the fact is that they will have to since that enormous baby is getting bigger by the minute (even if he didn't come to visit his uncle in Paris) You're warned!

The point on unifying classic and rapid (i could even throw in blitz, but with reserves) is having a best player overall ranking. Right now we now Topalov is (at least by rating) the strongest player, we have a hint that Anand may be the strongest in rapid (although Aronian and others are also there) and that, for example, Grischuk is a nightmare to face in blitz. But it would be nice to put everything together, especially if we're going to have tournaments with rapid/blitz tiebreaks, etc... It may open a door to rapid/blitz official tournaments, easier to organize and also fun to play in. I'm not saying it should be done by all means, but that the idea deserves thinking. That doesn't mean of course the disparition of the classical list, which i think should stay as the main reference as long as the tournaments are mainly with classical time controls (whatever that means to FIDE)

"Looks like some people are believing that contracts are made just for fun."

I see your point, but I just presumed that you would have understood Aronian's situation. Not only did he (also) sign a contract for the Grand Prix [which may be legally irrelevant if venue and dates are changed], but he has "very good to excellent" chances to qualify for the candidates tournament - provided it will happen and qualification criteria won't change again. Then getting a shot at the FIDE WCh title (classical time control) may be worth more than playing for the GrenkeLeasing rapid WCh? And - strange comparison - it could be considered 'force majeure' just as illness or death in the family [though, again, not from a legal point of view].

All that being said, "abandoned" seems the wrong word in my previous post, what about: "Aronian would have cancelled his participation in Mainz, the organizers would have understood, but both parties would have regretted the situation."? In any case, good that all of this is hypothetical - can you confirm that the Mainz event was scheduled to avoid a clash with the Grand Prix?

Concerning the fourth participant next year: Is it someone from a third continent besides Europe (Caucasus) and Asia? If it's the one coming to my mind: no need to give his name, he will let all of us know by his blog or other means at his earliest convenience ,:) .

Finally on a personal note: Nothing of the above should imply any disrespect for the Mainz event. I am originally from that part of Germany (but left ~20 years ago). Back then I used to play in rapid tournaments in Frankfurt-Hoechst ... not sure if those were predecessors of the Mainz event, but if so: it really has grown over the years (while the 'predecessor event' already had significant GM participation, though noone from the world top).

I wonder why somebody like Cheparinov is still playing in the cycle. He can no longer qualify for the top two spots even if he secures clear first in both the remaining ones. And this list of obvious non-qualifiers will increase after the completion of the 5th. So are these people bound by some contract to still play, or they just play for the prize money? or may be with a good hope that fide could end up changing something like the top 4 qualify etc. etc.

Nakamura might not be high on the Mainz organisers' invitation list for 2010 after skipping the prizegiving ceremony after the Ordix Rapid (the only top finisher to do so).

"He's a willful little boy!" (Jack Torrance, "The Shining")

Yes, they are bound by their contracts, at least officially. From the FIDE GP regulations ( http://grandprix.fide.com/regulations.html ):
"Each player agrees and will contract to participate in exactly 4 of these tournaments."
I wonder if this is really enforced - read: if FIDE dared to penalize Carlsen and Adams for dropping out of the series. And the regulations page is outdated concerning another aspect:
"The winner of the Grand Prix series at the end of 2009 will play the winner of the World Cup held in 2009 in an eight game match to become the challenger to the World Champion ..."

On the other hand, yes there is still prize money - and each tournament is attractive in its own right. As you singled out Cheparinov: He ("the other Bulgarian") may not get that many other top tournament invitations. And he might have a specific reason: not putting Bulgaria-FIDE relations at stake because Bulgaria wants to organize the Anand-Topalov match !?

BTW, Cheparinov has already played three GP tournaments - and even his chances to reach 10th place in the overall standings (which would secure some extra prize money) appear rather theoretical.

"...there are several tennis surfaces, each players plays better in one or another and it's the sum of everything that gives you the best player."

However, in tennis, when seeding players to major tournaments such as Grand Slams, the tournament organizers have had (at least in the past) the liberty to override the official rankings and shuffle players around a bit to take into account, say, how a players plays on a particular surface.

With the proposal of using chess ratings as one component of determining who gets into the world championship tournaments, does anyone really trust FIDE chess organizers to use good judgment and override the ratings independent of politics, given FIDE's history?

Keep classical and rapid ratings separate.

They have a couple of wildcards, and some more players come out of... qualifications. Very little transparency there. The pairings are done by taking into account how players fared in last year edition and their overall ranking. And i don't understand, you fear that FIDE would do the exact thing they're already doing? They bypass whatever you put in, so no (new) danger from that side. If you don't like it, say it, but the reasons you gave aren't enough, at least for me.

@Thomas: You can believe it or not, but Aronian wouldn't have cancelled Mainz - even not for the GP! We talked to him about this possibility and he gave us a clear statement. Family or health problems are naturally different situations! And yes, the Mainz event is the successor of the Frankfurt event.

@Tessie Devil: Nakamura explained that he needed a long walk after losing the last two rounds in the ORDIX ... Well, it's quite easy! He simply didn't get the money he won in this tournament. But as the Chess960 World Champion he will be naturally invited to the next championship. Actually we don't know if this will be in the next year, but he is still very welcome in Mainz. Nakamura is of course a charismatic and sometimes difficult man and he is still young and has to learn a lot. But we are willing to teach him how to behave at a top event. ;-)

I forgot: The fourth participant for the next rapid world championship still has to be found. But this is not a big problem since many top players like Mainz very much.

Someone should have given Hikaru some flowers. They make him feel better and he might have showed up for the closing ceremony.

Chess Professionals of all ages are very high strung individuals, and most of them react very badly to losing. Some are able to hide it, like good poker players can, but some cannnot. They each deal with it in their own way.

Organizers should look into the known habits of their invitees, and make arrangements so such occasions as the closing ceremony can go smoothly.

Thanks for the clarification. In that case, Aronian presumably made a similarly clear statement to the GP organizers - and the GP probably would have been postponed even if Armenia wasn't the host country. The GP clearly doesn't need another scandal such as "top competitor forced to drop out because the tournament dates were changed at short notice".

But there were one or maybe two precedents earlier this year when top players "changed their tournament plans" due to WCh-related issues:
1) Topalov couldn't play Linares because it 'suddenly' collided with his match against Kamsky. Quite similar to Aronian's situation - even down to detail: both Topalov and Aronian had to choose between events in their home country and their current country of residence ("home away from home").
2) Anand doesn't play Nanjing because - so I understand - it interfers with his preparations for the match against Topalov. Here things are less clear for the wider public: Did Anand sign a contract and then changed his mind? Or didn't he sign a contract, and the Chinese organizers prematurely 'claimed' him as a tournament participant?

So contracts are contracts, but sometimes a way out is found. And Topalov's as well as (hypothetically) Aronian's reasons are more convincing then [making up some absurd cases]:
"On second thought, I rather want to celebrate my (or someone else's) birthday at home", or
"Oops, I don't have my agenda under control - as it turns out I have two commitments the same weekend".
In this respect, I consider your first reaction a tiny little bit unnecessarily sneaky - but maybe so was my initial post ("Aronian would have 'abandoned' Mainz").

A decent cooling off period should be provided between the end of the last game and the awards ceremony.

But as our game generally has an excess of prima-donnas and a deficit of sponsors/organizers, the former should be encouraged to accommodate the latter.

After an infrequent loss even the mercurial Kasparov could (generally) get his act together to not only handle an awards ceremony but a press conference. Lesser mortals should be expected to do the same.

More briefly on Nakamura: With your additional information, I would consider his behavior 'semi-acceptable' - at least he informed the organizers in advance and accepted the consequences. Things would have been worse if he simply hadn't shown up on the closing ceremony - imagine he would have been called on the stage and everyone had to wait five or ten minutes to see if he still appears from somewhere in the back of the room ... .
And I had considered your remark about next year's fourth participant (with a smiley behind) as a reference to the "Nakamura hype" on this forum. Mig also stated that Naka should play Anand and Aronian next year "with the pieces on the right squares", but 'recommended' that Hikaru should qualify by winning the rapid open.

"Organizers should look into the known habits of their invitees, and make arrangements so such occasions as the closing ceremony can go smoothly." (Inky)

Better yet, the organizers should not invite the babies, pouters, poor sports, and tantrum-throwers. That could solve the problem. Plus, forfeiting their prize money is a great idea. Build that clause into the invitations. Donate their forfeited winnings to the local orphanage or mental institution.

I notice that someone said Nakamura informed the organizers in advance that he would be taking a walk and wouldn't be at the closing ceremony. However, Deep Mikey didn't seem to say that in his post. He simply said "Nakamura explained that he needed a long walk..." He could have offered that explanation after the fact, when he was told that he wouldn't be getting any prize money.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 4, 2009 2:06 AM.

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