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Jubilee in Zurich

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The celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Schachgesellschaft Z├╝rich spared no expense. The weekend of Aug. 22-23 will see Anand, Kramnik, Kasparov, Karpov, Spassky, Korchnoi, Topalov, Ponomariov, Khalifman, J.Polgar, and, well, Swiss veteran Werner Hug giving a 200-player simul and playing in a rapid event. (Garry, Spassky, and Korchnoi aren't playing in the rapid tournament.) Both events are open to the public, so get out your autograph books. It's a shame the winner of one of the most famous tournaments in chess history, Zurich 1953, Vassily Smyslov, won't be there. But the 88-year-old did share some comments on the website, as did a few other players.

But wait, there's more! There is also a Jubilee Open from Aug. 9-15, headlined by Alexander Morozevich. 600 players and nearly 50 GMs have signed up, including 17 of the over-2600 species. Top games will be broadcast live here.


Wow, I never realised Smyslov was still around! I keep meaning to look at his games after reading Kramnik's description of him in the interview he gave about his predecessors:

"- How would you describe the seventh World Champion, Vasily Smyslov?

- How can I express it in the right way? ... He is truth in chess! Smyslov plays correctly, truthfully and has a natural style. By the way, why do you think he lacks that aura of mystique like Tal or Capablanca? Because Smyslov is not an actor in chess, his play is neither artistic nor fascinating. But I am fond of his style. I would recommend a study of Smyslov's games to children who want to know how to play chess because he plays the game how it should be played: his style is the closest to some sort of 'virtual truth' in chess. He always tried to make the strongest move in each position. He has surpassed many other of the World Champions in the number of strongest moves made. As a professional, this skill impresses me. I know that spectators are more interested in flaws ... ups and downs. But from the professional standpoint, Smyslov has been underestimated.

He mastered all elements of play. Smyslov was a brilliant endgame specialist, all in all his play resembled a smooth flow, like a song. When you look at his games, you have that light feeling as if his hand is making the moves all by itself while the man is making no effort at all - just like he was drinking coffee or reading a newspaper! This has the feel of Mozart's light touch! No stress, no effort, everything is simple yet brilliant. I like this feature of Smyslov and I am fond of his games."

There's more here: http://kramnik.com/eng/interviews/getinterview.aspx?id=61

For the American fans: the field of the open includes Robert Hess (#29 by ELO). A while ago I suggested he should play in strong European opens, does he read this blog? ,:)

Other interesting sub-2600 names: youngsters Hou Yifan and Anish Giri, and "oldies" Ulf Andersson, Artur Jussupow and Lajos Portisch.

A shame that Smyslov at his 88 is not flying to Zurich?

So much surprised that Smyslov is still around??

Guys, are you crazy compelely here, or what?

LOL...it might be questionable whether avid chess players are crazy...but there is no question that avid chess bloggers are totally nuts!

I don't really mind being considered stark raving bonkers... but Mig saying that it's a shame Smyslov won't be there is hardly the same as saying he should be frog-marched to the airport! It's also a shame Tal won't be there...

I remember once reading that the sheer number of Smyslov systems in several openings is a testimony to the great man's depth of understanding. He didn't just invent moves but whole opening schemes.

On another note, I hope Topalov and Kramnik use this event to melt some of the ice between them. If Karpov and Korchnoi could mend fences, then it's not beyond these two otherwise fine gentlemen.

Yes, they could shake hands and share the same toilet.

I thinks Mig's "It's a shame ... Smyslov, won't be there." should be interpreted as "Too bad that ...". Yes, Smyslov is (88 years) old and his health is very fragile - if I remember correctly, he is almost blind. I wonder if the organizers invited him, or even didn't want to put him into such a dilemna [he might feel inclined or obliged to give it a try?].

I also understand that mishanp is, well, surprised, that Smyslov is still alive. To put it bluntly: Statistically spoken, chances of still being around at the age of 88 are rather small. He hasn't been in the news for a while (when was his name last mentioned on this blog, other than discussing chess history?). And it would be conceivable to miss, or later forget the news about his death!?

Similar hopes that Kramnik and Topalov would get back to at least speaking and handshaking terms with each other were already expressed during the Amber tournament, another relatively relaxed occasion. Back then, both were asked about it and both made very clear that it won't happen for the time being.

Regarding Karpov and Korchnoi, they only became friends (or at least team colleagues in the Russian team competition) when both were no longer serious WCh candidates. So, as I wrote at an earlier occasion, it might also take one or several decades in the Kramnik-Topalov case.

I'm not sure if it's me or just the ESL crowd, but I in no way suggest or imply that Smyslov either wasn't invited or should risk his health by going to Zurich. You people are strange. The phrase is used to mean "a pity it's not possible" and nothing more, as the context should make obvious.

As for Smyslov's continued existence, he's not active and I don't doubt there are quite a few other players who would be eligible for a tough round of "Dead or Alive?" trivia even among chess geeks like us. Obits usually go by pretty quickly. Just take Smyslov's opponents at Zurich 53. I believe only two are still alive, but wouldn't have bet the house on a few others.

My Smyslov-Kramnik pic:


In chess as well as other fields, those who died early [for whichever reason] are more likely to be remembered as being dead (Tal, Fischer - James Dean, Grace Kelly, John F. Kennedy, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson). And in Tal's case, we are reminded once every year during the Tal Memorial that he is no longer with us.

Before anyone jumps at me, this of course does not imply any disrespect for Tal or Fischer, certainly not concerning their chess.

"I'm not sure if it's me or just the ESL crowd, but I in no way suggest or imply that Smyslov either wasn't invited or should risk his health by going to Zurich. You people are strange." (Mig)

ESL = exceptionally sensitive lamebrains.

To the best of *my* knowledge, Averbakh, Gligoric, and Taimanov are still with us.

Mig, it's almost certainly an ESL problem. For a native English speaker the difference between "It's a shame that he won't be there" and "It's shameful that he won't be there" is clear, obvious, and automatic. It didn't occur to me that there was a subtle quasi-ambiguity until Thomas pointed it out. Mikhail's must have been misreading the former for the latter.

It's a question of context. Mig's use of "it's a shame" is unobjectionable, of course, but disgrace (instead of regret) can be implied. The reader must judge, and usually can without difficulty.

Actually I hadn't seen the possible ambiguity myself (when I first read Mig's piece) and wouldn't put any blame on him. It arises if one tries to translate the sentence _literally_ into German [don't know about Russian or Ukrainian], then "it's a shame" takes the connotation "shame on ... well on whom, Smyalov and/or the Zurich organizers?".

BTW, in German the difference between the two meanings is remarkably small, basically one letter:
"it's a disgrace" - es ist [eine] Schande
"it's regrettable" - es ist schade

To Luke, or anyone else making fun of the "ESL crowd", just one simple question: How many foreign languages does the average American speak or understand?

"To Luke, or anyone else making fun of the "ESL crowd..."

Wasn't me.

Knallo, "It's a shame" is a very common phrase in English, and I'm not sure it EVER has a connotation of disgrace. Do you have an example in mind?

Let's leave the "average American" out of this, or the "average" anyone else. It's a one way ticket to stereotype city.
Also you have no guarantee that Luke or any other English speaking poster here is American, apart from the blogmeister.

well, I agree, it must be an ESL problem

"shame" as shame on someone is easier to understnad that "shame" as shame on anyone

I did not know that "shame" also means "pity", or "I am sorry to hear"

shame on me, really


"What a pity" or "What a shame" Fig. an expression of consolation meaning 'That's too bad.'

As cc points out, it's hard to even conjure a use of this idiomatic (or "figurative," as the dictionary has it) expression that actually implies shame in the primary sense. That doesn't mean non-native speakers would be aware of it, of course. That's the very heart of idioms, to throw the ferners off the chase! Not that I did so intentionally, of course. It's a pretty routine one, enough so I'd never thought about it before. And I spent quite a few years teaching phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions. The word "get" plus just about any combination of prepositions is always good fun.

I will rephrase my last paragraph, making it longer but possibly clearer:

To all native English speakers (from the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, ...): You are arguably lucky that English is widely spoken and understood, and there may be no need to learn other languages. ['Arguably' means that spaking only one language may be like playing only one chess opening, you may miss out on something!?]
But IMO, this privilege doesn't give you the right to make derogatory remarks about ESL people. Obviously this is directed not at Mig, but at Luke (or whoever posted under his name). And the victim was Mikhail Golubev, who - I think - genuinely misunderstood something, so I would say his "shame on me" was not necessary.

I can add my personal touch: While my mother's tongue is German, I speak three other languages (English, French and Dutch) quite fluently. When native speakers make fun of my (German) accent or of any mistakes I still make, I may show an 'allergic' reaction along the same lines. It depends on the situation - who is making such comments and how they are made.

An ESL comment, so no guarantee that my example is valid and relevant. What if someone said or wrote
"It's a shame that people are imprisoned in Guantanamo?" (obviously referring to how they are treated, their legal rights or lack thereof, ...)
How would it most likely be interpreted?
1) What a pity, too bad, but nothing can be done about it, or:
2) It's a disgrace, something should be done about it

Of course I do not mean to start a Guantanamo thread, just explaining why Mikhail Golubev may have misunderstood Mig ... .

No 1. You'd need to say "it's shameful", or "we should be ashamed" etc. if you wanted to express anything stronger.

Thomas, if you say, "It's a shame that people are imprisoned in Guantanamo," the meaning is, "what a pity." The idiom is so common that it is quite a stretch to take it any other way. Like saying, "Good-bye, Kasparov" and having someone throw a fit: "Bye?! I know Vishy didn't play very well in that game, but to call it a 'bye' is an insult. And saying it was a GOOD bye is beyond the pale."

If I read "It's a shame that people are imprisoned in Guantanamo" with no context, I don't know if you mean:
(a) Too bad they are imprisoned. They should be executed; or
(b) Too bad they are imprisoned. They should be set free; or
(c) Too bad they are imprisoned there. They should be moved to somewhere else.

I take your post as written by an "informed native speaker" [your user name doesn't give a hint on where you are from ,:)]. And I had provided 'context' in brackets after my quote question ... .
Maybe there could still be subtle differences between American and British usage - cannot come up with other examples, oh wait: Isn't "toilet" colloquial or rude in American English, but normal usage in British English (or is it the other way around?). Anyway, the misunderstanding has been cleared up by now.
Oops, did I say "toilet"? Noooo, I don't want to start another Elista thread ... ,:).

A definition from dictionary.com:

4. a fact or circumstance bringing disgrace or regret: The bankruptcy of the business was a shame. It was a shame you couldn't come with us.

The more I think about it, the more I tend to agree that "it's a shame" never implies disgrace.

About 15 years ago or so Smyslov played in Goodricke Open, Calcutta. He didn't do too well but still very impressive especially in a harsh environment like India (harsh to foreigners that is).

In Russian, "shame" is "pozor", and it is a really strong word

E.g. when one discusses politics ot specific country, hard to say immediately which word is stronger, "pozor" or "fascism", for example.


From other point of view, I remember how some 19 years ago in Belgrade I saw for the first time

"Srpsko [Serbian] narodno [national] pozoriste [theatre]"

There is certain level of similarity of languages ["narod" is a common word in Russian] so a Russian-speaking may easily understand it wrongly, especialy when it is written in cyrillic.

rather a typical example of how shame/pozor is used

found in Google

(in English)

Look at this:

One would think a lot of players have dropped out.

Yah, what's up, they can't be giving byes to those players, can they? There's similar stuff in the pairings of previous rounds as well. Guess we'll see tomorrow if Morozevich plays.

Up to the 5th round byes are given. There is a double round today. Probably Morozevich, Harikrishna, and Meier calculated that an easy half point, a good night's sleep, and a fighting mood in the afternoon is worth more than rising early for an unsure full point.
Most of the other unpaired gentlemen are somewhat older, and wise enough to prefer sleeping long.

Dreev and Areshchenko (the only ones left with a 100% score after four rounds) just did more or less the same, drawing their game in 9 moves. Taking such a bye is probably better for your tiebreak score, on the other hand they had to get out of bed - maybe they are back in bed now as I am typing ... .

Wow. Just came back from standing next to Morozevich's board for three hours, watching him pushing and pressing and sacrificing and attacking, making all his little men fly like eagles. First class entertainment.

Great stuff. Vintage Moro. Always remains true to his style.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 6, 2009 3:07 PM.

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