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Grand Slammed

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The old, factually challenged, bit about how the late replacement player always wins the tournament actually happened this time in Bilbao. Okay, Aronian was the top seed despite coming in as a late sub for Topalov so it's not exactly an underdog story. To toss out a few high-profile super-subs from memory: Kasparov was a late replacement for Nigel Short when he won his first Wijk aan Zee tournament in 1999; Salov a very unexpected non-1.e4 player late-substitution winner of the Polugaevsky Sicilian thematic tournament in 1994. He might have filled in for Gelfand but all my books are still in boxes so I can't check that one. I think it was Leonid Stein who earned the title "super-sub" for scoring +7 as first reserve on the 1964 USSR Olympiad team, but I might be mixing up him or the event.

To tangent from that tangent -- taking license since Aronian already had Bilbao wrapped up and both games were drawn today -- the last time we mentioned the long-retired Valery Salov on Chess.FM a listener in Turkey sent me this link to a recent appearance Salov made at a chess club in St. Petersburg. I either missed this or forgot about it.

Back to Bilbao, Grischuk had the most interesting comment to Leontxo Garcia at the venue after his game ended yesterday. He complimented Aronian and said, paraphrasing here, that Aronian's carefree image wasn't the reality, that he worked very hard on his chess and this was the result. No doubt, and this emphatic win puts Aronian quite close to world champ Anand's spot as #2 on the rating list, though he hastened to say he didn't really care about rating. Topalov is still a long sight ahead at #1, and Aronian doesn't need to worry about qualifying by rating for the candidates since he won the Grand Prix.

Aronian said he couldn't remember winning four in a row since his junior tournament days. Svidler said the same, confirming unscientifically how rare it is at the top level. Ivanchuk started with 5/5 at the MTel last year. Topalov scored 4/4 to finish the 2006 MTel and famously won five in a row (and 6.5/7) at the San Luis FIDE WCh tournament in 2005. Part of the difficulty, if a small part, is that few players are trying too hard to win with black and take draws when they are equal or even slightly better. So such streaks are more likely in events with the Sofia rules. Probably not a coincidence that the three most recent 4/4 streaks were all in events with anti-short-draw rules. Other good recent winning streaks at the top level?

Grischuk finished second thanks to the Bilbao 3-1-0 scoring system functioning as a tiebreaker. He had the same even score as Karjakin, but with an extra pair of decisive games to give him eight points to Karjakin's seven. (Aronian had 13.) Shirov's -3 score was quite possibly better than his play. He had a great shot at finishing on a high note today, getting an overwhelming and sharp position against Grischuk in a Keres Attack. It was the sort of position you would normally expect Shirov to execute with his usual spark, but he just isn't himself. By the time the game had faded into an equal endgame, Chess.FM guest commentator Peter Svidler remarked that had Shirov been playing like Shirov, it would have been over long ago. Hard to disagree, especially after Svidler tossed out a few variations. 20.Rdf3 Rg7 (20..Qa5!?) 21.g5! hxg5 22.Rxf7! and Black is toast. Later, 34.Rd4! looks very strong. It was Grischuk who was again in bad time trouble but he held up well while Shirov lost the thread.

Aronian's unusual handling of the black side of Karjakin's "at least it's not a Marshall" Exchange Ruy led to a very interesting middlegame. I thought the point of his offbeat 5..Be7 was 6..Bf6, but instead the tourney winner put his pawn there. Speelman was also curious on Chess.FM, but later sounded impressed with the development plan that took shape. He was critical of Karjakin's 11.d4 push, saying it "helped Black's position to make sense," a frequent GM turn of phrase I much appreciate. It illustrates a sort of holistic approach to evaluation that is more visual and instinctive than many would care to admit in this day and age of Our Lord Rybka. But a veteran like Speelman first feels a position with a sculptor's hands, searching for harmony and logic. Human chess! Coincidentally or not, the comps agree in this case. When Karjakin missed the chance to play 20.b5 Black was fine, and later even better than fine. If he hadn't already locked up the tournament Aronian surely would have continued with 33..Nd4 and good chances.

I like tournament narratives even though I know they are mostly artificial. Karjakin's is the toughest one to tell. He lost rather helplessly to a strong Aronian effort and then played a wonderful attacking game against Grischuk. After that it was draws of various flavors, twice in the deep Zaitsev line both Shirov and Grischuk failed to dent. He certainly didn't look overmatched at all. Grischuk's early lead disappeared along with the time on his clock. His obsession with early time trouble ruined any hope of defense in both his losses. Only his famous blitz skills and considerable help from Shirov saved him from a third loss today.

Next up on the calendar there's Kasparov-Karpov in Valencia on the 21st and Pearl Spring in Nanjing on the 27th with Topalov, Carlsen, Radjabov, Jakovenko, Leko, and Wang Yue. And Svidler gave us the line-up of the Tal Memorial in early November. Looks like the strongest event of the year: Anand, Aronian, Carlsen, Kramnik, Leko, Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Morozevich, Svidler, Ponomariov. Plus the accompanying blitz event. Yowza.


I had the pleasure of meeting Valery Salov in Tehran, Dec 2000 when he was one of the commentators on Shirov-Anand match.
I asked him for an autograph which he kindly accepted. Accidentally I had an old chess magazine with me which had his game against Miguel Illescas with his own analysis. He signed under his own photo. I still have it.

Other events...
Don't forget the spice cup starts on the 19th!
With Ray Robson, Ben Finegold and Wesley So!

"the late replacement player always wins the tournament"

Most sensational example (for europeans) was probably the danish victory in the 1992 UEFA European Football Championship. The danish team was not qualified, had no preparation and most players came righ from their vacations.

"Originally, Yugoslavia qualified for the final stage, but due to the Yugoslav wars, the team was disqualified and their qualifying group's runner-up Denmark took part in the championship. They shocked the continent by defeating first the defending European champions the Netherlands in the semi-finals, and then the reigning world champions Germany for the title."

"Aronian's carefree image wasn't the reality, that he worked very hard on his chess and this was the result"

Obviously Aronian is now determined to exploit his full potential. (May be this wasn't always the case)
It looks like it will be very exciting race for the next WC title (after Anand/Topalov) between Carlsen and Aronian.

I'll check it out if the site makes it easy. Is there an official site or just Susan's blog? "The highest rated invitational chess tournament in US history"?! Good lord. Is that sort of hyperbole really necessary? I mean, no offense to the players, half of whom I doubt even Dirt readers have heard of, but San Antonio 1972 it ain't! That had what, five or six members of the world's top dozen? Karpov! Larsen! Petrosian! Portisch! Keres! Nobody in the SPICE A event is in the top 75. Rated, schmated.

Anyway, nice to have strong closed tourneys in the US even if there's only one US player in the top event. So and Robson (going for his third GM norm) are definitely the main attractions. No offense to Ben. No shabbat issues with Diamant, I hope. He seems to be quite observant, and not just in the chess sense. Starting date misses the start of Rosh Hashanah by a day. Hmm, probably not kosher to use a Texas steer horn for a shofar.

I saw that Danish team play against Argentina in early 1993 when the Euro winner faced the Copa America winner. Technically a friendly. Mar del Plata, Argentina on penalties. I was in the cheap seats and it was so crazy I was lucky to even know the score.

yea no kidding they should really have a site.
But I know you mean no offense to Ben but truly if not for Ray and So ages he would be the main GM norm contender attraction of this event. 2 gm norms already and held a 2600 rating for years... I mean everyone calls him a GM anyways cause they know he's that strength. It would be nice to see both Ben and Ray score norms (I think its gotta be 6.5/9).

"They shocked the continent by defeating first the defending European champions the Netherlands in the semi-finals, and then the reigning world champions Germany for the title"
this makes no sense.... Defending and reigning are the same thing...

"And Svidler gave us the line-up of the Tal Memorial in early November. Looks like the strongest event of the year: Anand, Aronian, Carlsen, Kramnik, Leko, Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Morozevich, Svidler, Ponomariov. Plus the accompanying blitz event. Yowza."

10 of the top 13 in the world. Wow. Has Judit Polgar ever replied to Levon's statement that women are too emotional to play chess? Elton John wrote a song about him:

"Levon wears his war wound like a crown
He calls his child Jesus
`Cause he likes the name
And he sends him to the finest school in town

Levon, Levon likes his money
He makes a lot they say
Spends his days counting
In a garage by the motorway

He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day
When the New York Times said God is dead
And the war's begun
Alvin Tostig has a son today"

Actually, Nariu's phrasing is fine. Netherlands had won the previous European championships in 1988 and so was the defending champion. Germany had won the World Cup in 1990 and so was the reigning world champion.

"this makes no sense.... Defending and reigning are the same thing..."

But defending european champions and reigning world champions aren't.

I thought you mentioned in the chessfm broadcast that Karjakin was in the lineup.

Do you play ches?

"The highest rated invitational chess tournament in US history"?!

Susan is a master of deception. Through assertions that are technically true, she purposely evokes self-serving, false implicatures to polish her image. The obvious implicature in the "highest rated" is "strongest", which the SPICE Cup surely isn't. More honest would have been to say something along the lines of "strongest in decades" or "highest rated (but there were stronger tourneys in the days before there were ratings)."

"I mean, no offense to the players, half of whom I doubt even Dirt readers have heard of, but San Antonio 1972 it ain't! That had what, five or six members of the world's top dozen? Karpov! Larsen! Petrosian! Portisch! Keres! Nobody in the SPICE A event is in the top 75. Rated, schmated."

That was an awesome example, Mig. Even the 2009 US Champ. with Kamsky, Nakamura, Onischuk, Shulman, and Akobian is much higher rated than hers.

"Even the 2009 US Champ ... is much higher rated than hers."

Although the 2009 US Championship was not an invitational, as stated in the promo.

Also, "highest rated tournament" may be interpreted (especially by less-than-insider people) several ways, including not only the tournament with the "highest average rating", but also as "highest regarded tournament" in stature, regardless of rating, although none of us feels that is true.

I met Susan back in the mid-80s, a time when the young Kamsky always had taped up glasses. She seemed so shy and naive (socially) at that time. I wonder if it was only a lack of confidence in English conversation that gave that impression, or did she learn the "ways of the world" from her contacts in New York as she matured?


The US Championship was closed, invitational--and was clearly stronger than year's SPICE. The average rating is lower, but SPICE has no one to compare to Kamsky, Nakamura, and Onischuk. "Highest rated" on average, perhaps, but not the "strongest in decades" or even the strongest this year.

The chess-in-the-schools tournament from 1996 (in NYC) was definitely stronger. It had Adams, Sokolov, Salov, Korchnoi, wolff, Benjamin, Serper, Defirmian, Dzindzihashvilli, Neto, Ashley, and Waitzkin.

Anybody knows why Kasparvo didn't play Wijk aan Zee before 1999? Was it not as a prestigious tournament before then? My history is not up to scratch.

Salov looks pretty much how he did in the 90s. The man seems to be in good shape (despite all the rumours of his health). I couldn't figure out from the site (about homecoming)- does this mean he has returned to Russia?

What rumours?

Salov was one of the top chess players in the world sometime ago and then just disappeared. Does anybody know what happened to him? I realize he critized Kasparov and then stopped getting invitations but what did he do after he quit chess?

Re: Kasparov in Wijk aan Zee. When asked why he'd never played there before, Garry said it was because he'd never been invited. When asked why they'd never invited him, the organizers said it was because they never thought he'd come! But thanks to Nigel dropping out in 99, Kasparov had one of his best-ever tournaments there that year, +7 including the famous seven wins in a row. He came back to win it the next two years as well.

If I recall, Salov had some serious physical ailments but came back at the top level. But his extreme paranoid outbreaks -- more ethnic and religious than just the usual "Kasparov is responsible for everything bad in my life" -- marked a decline that even many of his St. Petersburg friends had trouble explaining. (Masons, Jews, the media, the Jews again, etc.) He and his spurious "World Players Council" were a useful tool for Ilyumzhinov and FIDE for a brief while, but eventually his rants went too far even for them.

An erudite, sophisticated guy, but something went a little wrong upstairs based on his often interesting but increasingly terrifying and profane writings. He was supposedly working at a Spanish hotel for a while. (He moved to Spain long ago, while he was still playing.) Not sure what he's been doing recently. That's why I was interested in his popping up in St. Petersburg. One of the all-time great endgame players. He was one of several to briefly hold the #3 rating spot behind Kasparov and Karpov before Karpov faded and Anand and Kramnik put a ring on it for a while.

Salov certainly didn't stop getting invitations, not before nor after his earliest remarks about Kasparov I can recall. Although it was something of a tradition to blame Kasparov any year you weren't invited to Linares. Salov did look and apparently sound good at that St. Petersburg appearance this year, so that's good news. But a few of his comments and the books he recommended aren't reassuring on other fronts.

If a wildcard would count for "the old, factually challenged, bit"... Clijsters!!

Could there be a positive correlation between certain *forms* of mental illness and excellence in chess? Prophylaxis is applied paranoia.

Best wishes to Salov, who is a truly great player.

quoting Mig: "San Antonio 1972 it ain't! That had what, five or six members of the world's top dozen? Karpov! Larsen! Petrosian! Portisch! Keres!"

Mecking had a bad tournament IIRC, but he was already stronger than Larsen and Keres.

Hyperbole Alert ! Susan compares Kim Clijsters' comeback win in the US Open to her comeback win in the 2004 Calvia Olympiad.

Don't forget the Piatigorsky Cups. For instance the second Piatigorsky Cup (Santa Monica, 1966) had the following line up: Spassky, Fischer, Larsen, Portisch, Unzicker, Petrosian, Reshevsky, Najdorf, Ivkov and Donner.

This is just Susan and Paul shooting their mouth off. New York 1924, New York 1927, etc, etc. Susan and Paul, that's all it is. Let them have their little spice cup.

Zsuzsa Polgar's quite self-serving advertising/hype has made me nauseated for years already. That is why I have basically stopped reading her blog.

Did you guys see this story at Chessbase? It will difficult to prove.

"China wins World Women's Team Championship
14.09.2009 – By the skin of their teeth, we might add, half a tiebreak point ahead of Russia, which took Silver, and 1.5 ahead of Ukraine, which took Bronze. In the final round the Chinese team played Vietnam, which was in last position but appeared to be winning two games against the leaders. However, both were suddenly agreed as drawn, which led to suspicion of match fixing. Report and games."

Your books are better than my memory, but wasn't it just a Sicilian Thematic in Buenos Aires in 1994? Shirov-Polgar is a rather famous game from that event, and it's not a Polugaevsky, would be the only reason why I'd know.

Field had Anand, Kamsky, Polgar (J), Shirov, Ivanchuk, Ljubojevic, Karpov, and Salov. Double round-robin.

Calling it Polugaevsky Thematic is chronic to this blog, for see comments of: http://www.chessninja.com/dailydirt/2006/08/nh-tournament-06.htm

Another recent replacement: Radjabov in Mexico (Morelia/Linares) 2007, after his residence was burgled, with Ivanchuk conveniently available, though he didn't win.

The commies are fixing games again, Fischer would have liked that :)

Chessvibes has a report on this and more comments already. "gg" managed to find a rule (FIDE handbook
" “Prior agreement between players or captains as to the result of individual games or of a match will be penalized with the utmost severity. If any such agreement is proved to have taken place, the points apportioned by it will be forfeited, and the matter will be referred to the appeals committee for the fixing of the penalty”

Of course "If any such agreement is proved to have taken place" is the critical part, how could this ever be proven - beyond any doubt (not just "beyond reasonable doubt")? As I wrote at Chessvibes, I guess only if team captains were negotiating in the hotel bar, and an arbite overhears their conversation?

I think the result will be that next time when China holds such a thing no one will go there from the top teams.

So, you can well imagine the result if the Anand - Topalov match is not held on neutral territory.

It was Polugaevsky's Sicilian Thematic Tourney, not "Polugaevsky Sicilian" Thematic Tourney.

Chessdom is reporting that Jakovenko is playing in the Tal Memorial, not Ponomariov.


Also that the No. 1 Player of the 21st century :) was not invited.

I guess such an incident (I would say "scandal") could have happened at any tournament location, here it is irrelevant that China was the home team. And of course nothing analogous could happen during the Anand-Topalov match.

BTW, Chessvibes already has another related(?) report: Two GMs agreed to a prearranged last-round draw after the opening ceremony(!?) and informed the tournament director, who was not amused. For what followed, see

Re Tiviakov: In the US we do it with half-point byes. Even in the last round. Reduces the need to pre-arrange draws to resolve a scheduling conflict.

GM Ernst says there is nothing wrong with a pre-arranged draw, but the players should be quiet about it.

I wonder if he thinks there is nothing wrong with buying the IM and GM norms if you keep quiet about it? Perhaps he has some inside information.

Actually Chessdom mentions Anand, Aronian, Carlsen, Ivanchuk, Leko, Gelfand, Kramnik, Jakovenko, Morozevich ("still awaiting confirmation") and "Tenth player is yet to become known".
Indeed, Svidler's list does not include Jakovenko, while Chessdom doesn't mention Ponomariov and ... Svidler! I guess we can trust Svidler that he does not make things up, but that he was invited and signed the contract.

Regarding Topalov, the actual quote from Chessdom goes "Veselin Topalov and Teimour Radjabov are not invited (or confirmed), but the final 10th spot is still available."
Things may well be analogous to what Mig wrote above: "Re: Kasparov in Wijk aan Zee. When asked why he'd never played there before, Garry said it was because he'd never been invited. When asked why they'd never invited him, the organizers said it was because they never thought he'd come!"
The Tal Memorial organizers may well have reasons for thinking so, given recurrent anti-Russian statements from Topalov and/or Danailov?!

Yes, but at least some (European) eyebrows were raised when Nakamura won the World Open in such a way - or actually shared first, but couldn't play the tiebreak because he was already on his way to San Sebastian ... . In any case, this works only in Swiss Opens, and the Dutch championship is a round-robin event - otherwise, Tiviakov wouldn't even know his last-round opponent as early as the opening ceremony!

@Luke: Not sure if Sipke Ernst was even thinking about "buying norms". At least in the given situation, neither player needs a norm (both are already GMs). GM Ernst may simply be referring to draws between friends: the Chessvibes report emphasized that Tiviakov and Ernst both are from Groningen, actually they also play for the same club (S.C. Groningen) ... .

"are not invited (or confirmed)" is completely ambiguous. Perhaps they were invited, perhaps they weren't. These are the scraps we're left to discuss when nothing's happening in the world of chess :)

There's a Russian interview with Danailov here: http://www.e3e5.com/article.php?id=1595
but he's not asked any interesting questions... and doesn't give any interesting answers.

Buying and selling a norm is just a little more unethical than pre-arranging a fake game. In some cases, a fake game is probably the way to disguise the norm buying deal.

Nonsense. You don't know what you're talking about. Everyone preagrees draws occasionally. Buying norms is far lower: most players can name someone who's done it, but they're never respected again.

The fact that the Chinese cheated in agreeing to a drawn match in exchange for some quid pro quo is in the result itself.

It's blatant, it's obvious, it's cheating, it will go completely unpunished.

It is simply not true that everyone preagrees draws. Some regard it as the moral equivalent of game-throwing and would not contemplate it.

I recall an article by the late Tony Miles in the Chess Cafe website (too lazy to check it out) complaining about Chinese game-fixing and other unethical behaviour such as exploitation of young players.
The most specific accusation from Miles that I can remember was about a Chinese boy resigning in a drawn position against Wang Yue in some Under-10 or Under-12 World Championship in order to let Wang finish in front of Stellwagen and become champion. Luckily it seems that this did not affect personal relations between the two, since they both played in the Youth team which slaughtered Experience last year in Amsterdam...
In my opinion, the occasional crooked behaviour carried out by chess officials from China and some other countries pales in comparison to what happens daily in other sports, but never mind.

"Everyone preagrees draws occasionally." (rdh)

And yet, rdh is the one who spouts "Nonsense" and "You don't know what you're talking about."

Ha ha.

Apparently, he didn't have a drop of alcohol. From Chessbase:

"Tkachiev: Problems with health and acclimatization
15.09.2009 – "I would like to explain the recent incident," writes Vladislav Tkachiev, who caused an international stir by appearing in a near-comatose state for a game at the Kolkata Grandmaster Open. "From the very beginning of the event I experienced problems with health and acclimatization, and had to take strong medications, which obviously affected my ability to play." Tkachiev's statement + reader feedback."

Before Tkachiev takes over in every single thread ,:) :
@John Fernandez: You have a point, but we don't even know what _exactly_ happened:
Did the Chinese team captain offer a team draw? That may be considered unethical, but it was still up to his Vietnamese counterpart to say yes or no (I wonder if he consulted his players first).
Did the "Vietnamese counterpart" offer a team draw? This could be chicken behavior and excessive respect for the higher-rated team. The Chinese would obviously agree and cannot really be blamed IMO. I once declined a draw offer in a worse position from a nominally much weaker opponent saying "I don't deserve a draw" - but that was a rather unimportant club game ... .

@rdh, Tassie Devil, Luke: Maybe/probably not "everyone" preagrees draws occasionally, but "several or many" players might do so. In most cases, it's also difficult to tell what exactly happened. Take the common repetition in the Zaitsev Ruy Lopez (11.Ng5 Rf8 12.Nf3 Re8 13. Ng5 Rf8 14.Nf3 Re8). How can we know if this was prearranged or spontaneous (anti-)inspiration over the board? A different story is when they play, for example, the well-known Pirc drawing line and this opening is normally not part of either player's repertoire ... .

"Did the Chinese team captain offer a team draw? That may be considered unethical, but it was still up to his Vietnamese counterpart to say yes or no (I wonder if he consulted his players first). Did the "Vietnamese counterpart" offer a team draw? This could be chicken behavior and excessive respect for the higher-rated team. The Chinese would obviously agree and cannot really be blamed IMO"

I wouldn't be too quick to assume that China cannot really be blamed or that it is a question of chicken factor, considering how the games looked. I don't know if "team draws" are allowed, I just looked at the rules and they say that the only way the captain is allowed to interfer at all is by telling a player to offer draw or resign, and this is only allowed in the presence of a controller. Here all four games were drawn at the same time, two draws offered by China, two by Vietnam. It would be fun to know if the players agreed to the four draws as soon as they saw that the draw was agreed in Russia's game, or if they had to be told by the captain (in the presence of the stipulated controller).

Very well then, the vast majority pre-agree the occasional draw. Jon Speelman and John Nunn did it to give Jon S his first GM norm, for example, and have been quite open about it in print. I'm not saying you can't produce one or two players who object to it, but they are few and far between. I don't think many people would dare say that JN and JS aren't pretty decent folk.

Buying norms is far, far worse. That was my point. If Luke thinks they're not that different, he's smoking dope.

I don't know JN or JS, but if what you said is true (if), then I'll put a bad mark next to their name.

I had to say "if" because you have shown that you are not the most reliable source of information.

Let me guess.

Your "Exhibit A" is "everyone preagrees draws occasionally."

You'll prove the unreliability of this information by saying that you've never had a pre-agreed draw.

Have you any other examples?

A friend of mine told me a good story which I suppose is the rugby equivalent of pre-arranged draws. My friend, a prop forward of just below professional standard, was making a rare appearance for Harlequins reserves. They were playing Wasps and Jeff Probyn, England's World-Cup winning prop, who was returning to fitness after injury, was having an outing for the reserves.

Round about the first scrum my friend, being a keen young man, performed some manoeuvre or other which was designed to disrupt Wasps' ball. There was a grunt, some countermanoeuvre on Probyn's part, and Wasps took the ball away. At the next break in play Probyn approached my friend,

"Don't do that again, son. Then I won't have to hurt you."

After that the scrums went much more straightforwardly.

My friend was in pretty much the situation people are frequently in when grandmasters explain to them that it would be convenient if the game finished early that day. You can play, of course, but probably you'll regret it.

No, Luke, you had to say 'if' because you're a silly little twit who can't bear to be proved wrong. Look the game up. Phillips and Drew, London 1982 or 4. You reckon it just happened like that? Then look up Speelman's Best Games book. You'll find his comments on JS-Kovacevic instructive also (the game which actually made him a GM).

Other famous pre-arranged draws by hugely respected players off the top of my head; I give you Miles-Christiansen (5...Bf5) and Hubner-Rogoff in the Student Olympiad (1 f3 e5 2 g4 1/2-1/2, I think, but I can't vouch for the exact sequence, but of course there are many others and if you knew anything you could provide these.

I don't know why Mig's coming all over precious about it above either. He knows well enough that star player plus one short draw is sometimes better for organisers, even organisers of national championships, than no star player and some punter battling it out every round.

"My friend was in pretty much the situation people are frequently in when grandmasters explain to them that it would be convenient if the game finished early that day. You can play, of course, but probably you'll regret it."

A notable example being Akopian, who by some accounts reneged on a draw agreement with a very sick Tal, who was to draw his last breath a couple of weeks later. Tal was furious and summoned up his last reserves of energy, and thrashed Akopian showcasing his incredible talent, and also incidentally providing the lie to the belief that modern grand masters are stronger than the old champions based on their inflated ratings, meaningless for comparisons across generations. Some sentimental kibitzers appreciative of Tal's unique ability comment thus on the final move 38. Ke1 in that game, which was Tal's last: "The king returns home".

Why are you so nasty? You should try being polite. People may take you more seriously if you are polite.

You remind me of course, dtal, that Tal explains in his LIfe and Games of MT that at one time he and Petrosian agreed that their next two games would be drawn, and that the two games lasted 'a total of five minutes, not more.'.

I guess if it's good enough for those two it should be good enough for Tiviakov and Ernst.

Politeness is not so simple. Most folks around here would rather be called a "jackass" than be accused of being "not the most reliable source of information."

And how is it possible that you haven't noticed that folks take him far more seriously than they take you? It's probably fair to say that many or most folks in here find it hard to take you seriously at all. I think your occasional notes of wry wit are worth putting up with all the rest of it (It's a close call)... but I'm probably in the minority.

"..Tal explains in his LIfe and Games of MT that at one time he and Petrosian agreed that their next two games would be drawn.."

You wouldn't remember the page or chapter number?

Very good book. I wish I still had it. I gave it away.

The context (see comment by alexmagnus on chessgames.com) may be worthwhile mentioning: During the penultimate round, Tal offered Akopian a draw for their last-round game. At that moment, Akopian had a better ending against Korchnoi and accepted Tal's offer. But later he failed to win that game and approached Tal saying "there will be no draw, he needs a win" to compete for tournament victory.

There was a somewhat, but only somewhat similar incident at the 2001 European Championship. GMs Aseev and Ponomariov (then 17 years old) agreed on a prearranged draw for their game the evening before the last round. The day after, Ponomariov came to his opponent 1 1/2 hour before the game saying the deal was off ... and proceeded to win the game; Aseev couldn't really motivate himself under the circumstances. The (Australian!?) source where I found this back ( http://www.auschess.org.au/columns/ct/ct170601.htm ) speculates that "apparently Ponomariov's sponsor demanded that their charge play for a win". I originally remember a different version from print media (maybe just a newspaper chess column): Aseev had a nice evening, maybe alcohol was involved or maybe not, while Ponomariov stayed in his hotel room 'secretly' preparing for the game.

In any case, many fellow GMs strongly condemned Ponomariov's behavior - the most sarcastic comment I remember was "the guy has all it takes to become world champion".

On Huebner-Rogoff: Actually there were three "games". I partly copy a comment by Lars Grahn @ http://www.gmturnier-berlin.de/?p=551 :

"On the same theme, a story from the World Student Team Championship in Graz 1972. Robert Hübner-Ken Rogoff: 1.c4 remis. The arbiter Jaroslav Sajtar wasn’t amused and ordered a new game. Second game: 1.c4 Sf6 2.Sf3 g6 3.Sg1 Lg7 4.Da4 0-0 5.Dxd7 Dxd7 6.g4 Dxd2+ 7.Kxd2 Sxg4 8.b4 a5 9.a4 Lxa1 10.Lb2 Sc6 11.Lh8 Lg7 12.h4 axb4 remis. Sajtar still wasn´t satisfied and ordered a third game. Hübner didn’t turn up for that one so Rogoff won on w.o."

The web discussion was about another prearranged draw between Elisabeth Paehtz and Raj Tischbierek, see diagram on top of that page. The corresponding moves were 1.d4 d6 2.Dd2 e5 3.a4 e4 4.h3 f5 5.Df4 Le7 6.Dh2 Le6 7.Ta3 c5 8.Tg3 Da5+ 9.Sd2 Lb3 10.d5 Lh4 11.c4 e3 12.f3 f4 stalemate.
BTW, GM Tischbierek is editor-in-chief of the German magazine "Schach" and recurrently condemned short or prearranged draws between GMs ... .

This only confirms that Rogoff was never a serious player, and probably not Huebner either. They both had other interests and only fiddled around with chess. Only the real players count, people like Alekhine and Tal.

"and probably not Huebner"


Robert Huebner was a World Championship candidate once or twice. That seems pretty serious to me.

The apparent hypocrisy of Tischbierek is most amusing. The kettle calling the pot black, eh?

The pot calling the kettle black, I mean.

It's generally pointless to reply to that kind of "Luke comments", but still a few lines on Huebner: Maybe he wasn't that serious in 1972 - for most of his career at the world top he was known as "Dr. (or Doc) Huebner", hence no longer eligible to play in student competitions.

On his later career: Yes, he had other interests besides chess. Maybe he was the last world top player who wasn't a full-time professional - Carlsen might be comparable until very recently, but this seems to change. Anyway, this makes it more remarkable that he got rather close to becoming world champion, actually three or four times:
- 1971 quarter final against Petrosian [actually this predates 1972, so we may even forget about my first paragraph]
- 1980 candidates final against Korchnoi
- 1983 quarter final against Smyslov
- 1991 last 16 against Timman

And when it comes to game analyses, I think at least at the time noone was as serious, thorough and (self-)critical as Huebner. Only later, others (e.g. Kasparov in his books) had similarly high ambitions and standards - but unlike Huebner, they had help from engines.

Mr. Huebner also had serious health problems that seemed to intensify the closer he got to the WC. I always wondered if it truly wa a health problem, or rather his nerves that were the real culprit. Of course, I have no factual data, but it's jsut the feeling I got watching his progress at the time.


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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 12, 2009 10:38 PM.

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