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Tal Memorial: The Classics

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How about those old guys, eh? The classic 90s generation is on top in Moscow with two rounds to play. The oldest players in the field are at the top of the crosstable at the Tal Memorial. Gelfand, the oldest in the field at 41, had a setback today when he lost to Ivanchuk, 40, which put the Ukrainian into a share of second place with Anand, who is 39 for a few more weeks. They all trail Kramnik, a relative youngster at 34. The heralded leaders of the new generation, Carlsen (18) and Aronian (26) are stuck on even scores.

Kramnik moved to +3 in round six with another deep and complicated battle. He played a very sharp and offbeat line against Ponomariov (8.dxc5), leaving his king in the center and forcing Pono to take on the former world champ and the former world champ's computer in the opening. (Yes, Kramnik! Time to call him Vlad 3.0?) Impressively, Ponomariov was up to the task, defending creatively and finally getting Kramnik out of his book with the nice 15..b5. It looked like Kramnik missed a few chances to end things earlier after Ponomariov's inferior 17..Qa3. (Such as 19.Qxh7+, or later, 27.Qd7) But as happened to Leko against Anand the day before, Ponomariov navigated the swirling waters for a long time only to slip and slide down the drain after a long defense. His last hope was the theoretical endgame position with R+p vs B+p with pawns on the h-file. It's tricky, and Kramnik had to work it out a bit before finding the right plan to lose a tempo and create the winning zugzwang. But find it he did. Unlike Kasparov, who had the exact same endgame against Jussupow at Linares in 1993 and gave up after 30 moves. (Though to be fair they didn't have increment back then -- I was afraid to ask Garry about it to see what the time situation was! And we're working on his big business speech for Kuala Lumpur this week, which is why I have no time to be writing this...) Timman-Velimirovic, 1979, is a more famous example of the stronger side winning, though the pawns were one square less advanced and I believe that makes the win a little easier since the bishop's range of motion is limited. Educational stuff.

Gelfand-Aronian was a sharp and well-known tactical line of the Semi-Slav. After 25 moves of theory Aronian started playing wobbly chess and was quickly down a clean pawn. Gelfand mopped up efficiently to break his drawing streak and move to +1. He was subtracted back to an even score today by Ivanchuk in a rook endgame almost identical to the one he won against Aronian. These two consummate technical players made some very strange moves heading into the endgame, according both to GM Har-Zvi on Chess.FM and to the computer. (The expected and apparently superior moves we expected were 22.Rxc5, 22..Rxc1, 27.Bxb6 going into what looks like a won position, and 27..Nd7 trying to set up a blockade.) I speculated that maybe it wasn't really Ivanchuk playing. After all, you can't tell since he again wore the surgical-style face-mask to avoid catching (or distributing?) something. Only Chucky. Now that he's won two in a row maybe the other players will start wearing masks, too. In round six he destroyed Morozevich on the black side of a Benoni, a really wild game GM Benjamin didn't have much time for because the Kramnik-Ponomariov game was such a thriller. Carlsen-Anand was mostly solid stuff until Carlsen had a chance to go for more with 26.f5!? He waited a move, however, and giving away the tempo meant it was only enough for a sharp draw. One cute line tossed out by Hikaru Nakamura kibitzing on the ICC: 26.f5 Qxg4 27.h3 Qg5 28.fxe6 fxe6 29.Qb4! Ra2?? 30.Rf8+ Kh7 31.Qb1+ winning the rook. That's a blunder of course, but 29..Ra8 30.Qd6 is good for White as well, nearly winning. So Black probably can't take the g-pawn. 26..Nd5 perhaps. Carlsen might have tried to play on by pushing his e-pawn, but it would have been very risky at best so he forced the repetition. Comps say White has nothing anyway after 34.e6 Qe5 35.Qg6 Re1!

A few days ago I hyped today's Aronian-Kramnik matchup both for caliber and for relevance in the standings. But then Aronian lost and today he got very little against Vlad's 5..Bb4 QGD. There were some fun swaps, and after an inferior continuation by Kramnik it looked like Aronian could have tortured him for an hour or two with 20.Nd6 and the endgame is much more pleasant for White. Maybe Aronian just didn't enjoy the prospect of a long day, or more likely he simply missed the obvious 20.a3?! c4! and it's a dead draw just like that. He played a3 almost instantly from what we could tell and it cost him a chance to play for a win in a critical game. Morozevich has played some bad chess in Moscow, but today he played a very high-class affair to fend off Anand. Svidler-Carlsen was one of our few 1.e4 games and fewer Sicilians. It got lively after White allowed Black to capture on f3, doubling his pawns. Carlsen played very precisely with his knights to ward off the bishop pair and reach equality. That's 7/7 draws for Carlsen. He started Corus this year drawing 9/9, so watch out... Ponomariov-Leko was tagged as a snoozer from the start and it lived up to the billing, drawn in 31 plodding moves.

Round 8: Kramnik-Leko, Carlsen-Ponomariov, Morozevich-Svidler, Gelfand-Anand, Aronian-Ivanchuk. No games between players with plus scores. But looking ahead to the final round on Saturday we get Ivanchuk-Kramnik. Ivanchuk has beaten Kramnik three times in the past year or two without a loss: one classical, one blindfold, one blitz. Anand finishes with white against Aronian.


"Timman-Velimirovic, 1979, is a more famous example of the stronger side winning, though the pawns were one square less advanced and I believe that makes the win a little easier since the bishop's range of motion is limited."

A game from the Interzonal in Rio, that kept the Dutch chess scene glued to the chess board for a week, because of Donner's almost daily coverage in the newspaper. (Those were the days).

Indeed, the pawns were on a2 and a3 with a black-squared bishop. However, this might make it more difficult, in fact, because the defending king needs to be cut off even futher if you want to take the pawn with the rook.

Interestingly, at the moment the ending was reached, and Timman and Velimirovic adjourned for the first time, White had a mate in 45 (which nobody knew back then). However, when it was adjourned for the third time, when White had managed to cut off the black king on the g-file, it was a win in 47!

The players were both using Chéron's endgame book, the only available serious analysis. Timman managed to win within 50 moves because he managed to improve upon Chéron's analyis, and Velimirovic didn't find the most stubborn defence.

I don't really understand why successes of the "old guys" are generally regarded as a surprise. It's true that nowadays the game demands a bit more energy than in the past, but isn't experience very valuable in chess? When Gelfand was asked in 2007 why the younger generation hadn't been very successful in the WC cycle, he replied: "I've played 15 games against Kasparov, 30 against Karpov, 20 with Korchnoi, 30 with Anand, 30 with Ivanchuk. I have analysed all these games, I have prepared for them, I have thought about them. This can't be replaced by anything."

Very interesting comment. But surely the younger generation, by playing against these strong players such as Gelfand (who derive part of their strength from players other strong players) have the same benefits?? I find the question of how this particular generation is still at the top very interesting.

I guess modern methods of preparation, both mental and physical help younger players climb a steep learning curve but also help motivated older players to stay at the top. Naturally people are more excited about the latest 15-year old GM than a 40+ staying at 2700.

Maybe the current older generation got "the best of both worlds"? Of course they know how to work with computers and databases, but they also have a classical chess education - didn't all of them (but Anand) go through the Botvinnik school? When Gelfand said "analyzing games against his predecessors and contemporaries", this also means "analyzing on his own" (without help from engines)!?
Anand may be a special case: an amazing talent rising to and staying at the top, without much help from his own country at the start of his career ... .

Would Carlsen have done better without special coaching? Should the collaboration be considered a success for Carlsen? Or is it something with only long-term benefits, that cannot be judged in one tournament?

Did Leko just find a cute drawing line? Of course, for all I know this has all been played before..

I strongly feel that the 90s is the most underrated of all. Never has chess world seen so many great/talented players with rich variety at the same time.

Because Kasparov and Karpov were well ahead of the competition, it is easy to see their greatness. But the era of KKA (Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand - all 3 almost equal) had a number of great players (Topalov, Ivanchuk, Shirov, Svidler, Leko, Gelfand, Moro, Karpov for some time etc.) closely following them and each winning big tournaments, matches and championships with a rich variety of styles.

I personally prefer to see a number of great players having great fights to one-sided domination by 1-2 players and feel fortunate to have lived in this era, the greatest, IMO. I do hope history will give these great players their due.


Yes, Chessvibes mentions Yusupov-Sax, Rotterdam 1989 (drawn after 26.-Bg4). Chessok mentions Barus Cerdas-Zarnicki Pablo, Yerevan 1996 drawn after two more moves Kramnik's 27.Rh7:+ seems to be a novelty ... leading to perpetual check?

Not much going on in Gelfand-Anand and Aronian-Ivanchuk either - only Carlsen-Pono can explode at any moment.

Konstantin Landa at Chesspro gave the whole line up to move 31 (including 17. Rh7 - "a straightforward novelty") in notes to move 16. http://chesspro.ru/chessonline/onlines/index_2626.html

Do you think the players knew the game? Each one played on, thinking the other might have an improvement? Here again is the question of whether it is incumbent on white to improve?

Yes, this has all been known for years. I guess Kramnik's happy to rely on keeping Ivanchuk out tomorrow and figures he'll win the tournament if he does.

At the very least, both players were familiar with the variation. Maybe Kramnik wasn't ready (yet) for the sharper, and currently fashionable 5.Qc2 c5 6.d5!? . He thought for a while on move 5, maybe pondering if he should still give it a try? Comments such as "Kramnik 1.0 is back, forcing a draw with white" (michael on the Chessvibes live chat) could make sense, he might already think about tomorrow's key game with black against Ivanchuk ... .

To answer your basic question: Here white has to find something new if he wants to play for a win, else (and this is what happened) it's a book draw.

Anand drew as well. Doesn't he have a disproportionately high number of Blacks, 5 to 3? He won 2 of his Ws so far, against Svidler and Leko. I get the impression almost every time I see him play, he has Black!

Kramnik played the 5.Qc2, 6.d5 gambit twice against Lékó last year. Gave him nothing. Now, just because you play 5.b3 it doesn't mean you're going for a draw. But he chose this particular line further down, risking nothing and with the slight possibility that Black goes wrong, doubtless with an eye on Anand's and Ivanchuk's games - neither of them seemed likely to win.

Oh my word, Carlsen sac'd ...

Why where Gelfand and Anand allowed to draw there?

Aronian is playing a lovely endgame. Revenge for all those times he was tortured in this tournament..

Don't know ... they couldn't claim to be low on time (0:44 vs. 1:02 for 12 remaining moves)

Aronian missed Moro in a REALLY lovely endgame. This is just a tribute to the spectators IMO, they just show how you have to play those very simple positions. Kudos for them, because Svidler would have made a draw some 20 moves earlier and then would go and make some witty comments in the press conference.

What I mean is he is torturing Chuky just for the fun of it :-)

It's a shame Ponomariov didn't take advantage of Carlsen's delay in playing g5 to get in 22...Bb7. After that black's pieces coordinate very well and it could have been a fascinating game.It's odd as he must have realised the move he played was hopeless, but I guess he'd already decided he was lost.

Thomas said: To answer your basic question: Here white has to find something new if he wants to play for a win, else (and this is what happened) it's a book draw.

Well, that is obvious, and no, I do mean something more than that.

At times, you and others have assigned blame, disapproval, shame or even opprobrium to the white-piece player, for playing out a known draw, with no improvements. That is what I am asking here. Is it different because this was "exciting" even though it was nothing new in the end?

Before I answer tjallen's question: Carlsen now presenting his game on the live video feed (in English ,:) ).

Looks to me like such a game was child's play to Carlsen. What was Pono thinking with d5??

Carlsen just said Black is already in huge trouble before ..d5 anyway. What would you suggest otherwise? There are dangerous sacrifices everywhere.. And fact is, as it went, 22.Bb3 apparently gave Ponomariov a chance to get into the game again with 22..Bb7, even if I'd still definitely bet on White..

Can you imagine a column like this:

The audience applauded as the two players shook hands in a draw. It was not just the polite applause for a well-played game; no, the audience approved loudly, it had been exciting, they had been on the edge of their seats for the whole game.

But back in the press room, the cognoscenti withheld their applause, and a few murmured disapproval, or even whistled and booed. The whole game, exciting as it was for the spectators, was a known draw, played first in the 1960s, and several times since. Neither player here today offered any improvement, but seemed to be giving their stamp of approval to an old game. Nothing to applaud there.

In fact, to delight the spectators, some players might begin playing out old Paul Morphy games, leaving the spectators squealing, but unawares. For just a few rating points, and if you expect to lose anyway, why not sacrifice yourself as the victim in some well-known game from the romantic past? The spectators will pay more for a sham game than for modern, boring computer chess, and might even shower the board in Krugerrands.

What _I_ didn't understand was the whole ..Qc7-b6-c5 business; I do admit that super-GM's know a bit more about chess than I do, but I thought it was often a good idea to develop your pieces rather than moving your queen around while helping your opponent's pieces to better squares in the process.

I think Ponomarov make what is called here by some but not me a bonehead move and Carlsen just win so easy.

The earlier part of Carlsen's game presentation (it starts around 16:20 in the video feed) is interesting: He
- didn't know 10.-Ne5
- wasn't sure about his OTB novelty 11.Qe1 (played after a long thought)
- suggested 13-d5 (the right moment!!?) or 15.-Be7 for black, and
- literally said "I wouldn't recommend playing the way I did in the opening".

One super-GM seems to agree with you, his name is Magnus Carlsen ,:) [see my previous comment]

Ok thanks, I missed the earlier part. So much for people assuming that it was "Kasparov's prep"..

It was still daring from Pono to enter the realm of _possible_ Kasparov prep. Carlsen mentioned that Pono usually plays 6.-e5 rather than 6.-e6 - if he "switched" to avoid prep it wasn't a good idea because apparently he didn't understand the resulting position ... . So he lost the game out of the opening, but not due to the opponent's preparation.

BTW, against which opponent at the Tal Memorial would it make sense to prepare the white side of the Najdorf? Besides Ponomariov, I can only think of Morozevich (and maybe Ivanchuk who "plays everything") - and Carlsen chose 1.d4 against Moro.

"It was still daring from Pono to enter the realm of _possible_ Kasparov prep. Carlsen mentioned that Pono usually plays 6.-e5 rather than 6.-e6 - if he "switched" to avoid prep it wasn't a good idea because apparently he didn't understand the resulting position ... . So he lost the game out of the opening, but not due to the opponent's preparation"
Am I missing something or do you blatantly contradict yurself here?

I admit that it may sound illogical and contradictory. The point is:
With 6.-e5 Pono might have run into _specific_ preparation (for this very game).
With 6.-e6 he could still run into _general_ preparation, and face a novelty made up for another player.
The latter risk could be avoided or minimized by avoiding the Najdorf altogether. The Najdorf is more 'vulnerable' to strong novelties than even most other Sicilian lines, and Kasparov has lots of past experience with it ... .

No questions asked regarding the draw in Moro-Svidler. On chessok, Rybka analyzes the K vs. K ending but utterly fails to find an advantage for either side ... ,:) .

In the given (tournament) situation, only tomorrow we will know if Kramnik made the right decision. If he wins against Ivanchuk, no questions asked. If he draws and Anand doesn't beat Aronian, no questions asked. Even in other situations the question remains if, and how he could have avoided the seemingly spectacular, but essentially "pre-existing" draw.

Before the round, some people speculated that Kramnik would or should go all out to beat Leko who was (considered) vulnerable in this tournament. But how vulnerable was he? He lost two games in the Anti-Moscow gambit, which he didn't play today ... . In the other games, I think Leko was never in danger of losing - nor was he "in danger of winning".

Kramnik winning in Moscow would seem to make an interesting arguement for a "triangle" at the top in chess right now. Anand beat Kramnik 2008, Kramnik beat Topalov 2006; will Topalov beat Anand 2010? All three players winning strong tournaments in last five years.

Perhaps Carlsen will be able to break through in the next year or two and rise above "the pack"... Aronian not to be forgotten as a factor also, although I think he's solid #5.

What is the URL for the video feed? Thanks.

Ivanchuk will, of course, play for a win tomorrow. It's an interesting psychological problem for Kramnik as Black in tomorrow's game. Whereas Ivanchuk's plan is very straightforward, Kramnik's is not. Kramnik not want to lose his final game in a tournament he has so far played very well. However, psychologically, playing not wanting to lose is more difficult than playing to win. My prediction for tomorrow is that the Ivanchuk-Kramnik game will be a very hard fought one but that Kramnik will ultimately find a way to equalize and draw. Anand will press Aronian and, owing to Aronian's below par form performance in this tournament, I expect Anand to win. The rest of the games will be gentlemanly draws.

If Anand persists with 1.d4, as I expect he will, I would think its unlikely he will pose much problems for Aronian as that prep, leftover from Bonn would have lost much of its bite by now.

I think rather than a dominant triumvirate at the top, there are probably 10 or so players of roughly equal strength- Anand,Topalov,Carlsen, Kramnik, Aronian,Ivanchuk, Morozevich, Leko,Gelfand, Svidler and Radjabov- plus or minus Svidler and Shirov. And with another dozen or so snapping at their heels,an extended era of the World Champion being merely,to paraphrase Botvinnik, 'primus inter pares'has truly arrived. It should make for a very interesting couple of decades.
Mark my words, I don't think a period of sole Carlsen dominance is going to happen at all.


As far as I understand, the links on the right refer to the respective days, e.g. 13 ноября is today's video (13 November).

How about when Carlsen is 30-40?

¨Mark my words, I don't think a period of sole Carlsen dominance is going to happen at all. ¨
I agree with that , but not with the previous list.
IMO Topa, Anand , Kramnik and Carlsen are a league of their own .I don´t include Chucky because he seems to not care at all about ratings , wchampionships and stuff.

Not very logical, since T, A and K are so much older, in your scene there should be at least some kind of C dominance coming after they retire or slow down, but I doubt it will be anything like Fischer's. The computer assisted preparation is actually increasing the weight of preparation and experience, so I don't expect the C to get ahead of the old guys very rapidly - assuming they are willing to work, but he may increase his lead agaist his own age group while playing against the very best of the previous generation.

What about a triangular match between Kramnik, Anand and Topalov? ,:)
Day 1 Kramnik-Anand
Day 2 Anand-Topalov
Day 3 Topalov-Kramnik
(same with colors reversed etc. etc. etc.)

But I agree that Carlsen is about to attack the "triumvirate", he has _already_ risen above the pack. And I wouldn't put Aronian far behind.
For the rest, Ivanchuk (and maybe Moro) are capable of winning supertournaments once in a while, but too inconsistent to be serious WCh candidates. Others are maybe coming: it has become a bit silent around Karjakin, but if his collaboration with Dokhoian is a long-term project it may bear fruits within one or two years?

@regondi: 10 or 20 years from now there will be one or two new generations of teenagers around at the world top, far too early to give any names ,:) . Maybe - from a Dutch perspective - Anish Giri (*1994) within the next five years already?

I do like that comment by Ivanchuk very much. These days young players sift through games at blinding speed looking for lines and variations. I was in a room with a young GM watching him rifle through a bunch of games of a player he was preparing for. I didn't disturb him... I just watched. I also remember a couple of (now 2700) young GMs saying that the old way of analyzing is a waste of time. There is a reason that Korchnoi is still playing at a good level. I'm sure he uses a balance.

I wouldn't put Carlsen in the league with the "Big Three" yet. He has to build his resume before we can starting talking in those terms.

¨ Not very logical, since T, A and K are so much older, in your scene there should be at least some kind of C dominance coming after they retire or slow down, but I doubt it will be anything like Fischer's¨
Is just that i think that when that happens (T,A and K slowing down) there will be others from the young generation fighting in (more or less) equal terms with Magnus.

Topa, Anand, and Kramnik are on a league of their own above the others. Then Carlsen, Ivanchuk and Aronian. Then the rest of 2750 GMs.

Daaim, I guess you mean Gelfand's comment (quoted by Mattovsky early in this thread)? And you deliberately don't give names of young GMs, I speculate that one of them might enjoy bullet chess a lot and wrote a book about it ,:) .

Anyway - now I am off to a blitz tournament, with Timman and Korchnoi participating (I will probably end up in one of the lower finals and see but not play them ...). Pity that I will miss live coverage of the last round in Moscow.

A pity for you or us???



Just catching up on yesterday's action (I was curious enough to have a quick look when I came back yesterday evening rather tired myself): Of course there were enough people to contribute to the live discussion here - usual suspects and j nielsen as a relative newcomer - so noone was missing Thomas? ,:) As some people pointed out here, it doesn't hurt to play rather than discuss chess once in a while ... .

In any case, I was right saying that Anand wouldn't automatically win against Aronian ... .

Would you please entertain us with your results?


If you really want to know (or do you know already?); it's off-topic, but no secret ,:) : I played (too) well in the morning and qualified for the B final, where half of the field was 200-500 points higher rated (including one IM and three FMs) - then 3.5/15 isn't such a bad result [someone has to finish last and it wasn't even me!]. In some other years, I had won money in lower groups, but actually I prefer facing stronger players I rarely ever meet over the board.

While I am brabbling around, other highlights included
- kibitzing during the break when Timman and Afek discussed endgame studies
- watching Korchnoi: he is getting old (no surprise at his age), but still enjoys chess a lot yet he still hates losing. Apparently he played a great attacking game against overall winner Sokolov, unfortunately the electronic board where he played didn't function.

BTW - I first hesitated to mention this (as I thought it may still be a secret, but it was already on Chessdom): Korchnoi and Spassky will play a match in Elista in December. Korchnoi accepted the invitation because Elista is one of the few places he never visited in his whole career!? [one of his Dutch teammates told me, Korchnoi is playing for the organizing club - board 1 in the third Dutch league]

That's great Thomas, congrats on making the B final.

''....then 3.5/15 isn't such a bad result [someone has to finish last and it wasn't even me!''

Thomas, 3.5/15 is a very bad result.
Those titled players are only human.
Come on, show more ambition.
Take off your watch and show them you mean some business- some Kasparovian determination or Carlsenic grit or, as Vince McMahon might say, some testicular fortitude.
I'll be rooting for you during your next match.
Here comes FM Thomas......................

Thanks for your support ... but I am just an amateur and - due to lack of time and opportunities in the area where I live - I play just one such event each year. And maybe I am not quite as talented as Kasparov and Carlsen ,:) .

It still haunts me a bit that, believe it or not, I could have scored 1.5/3 rather than 0/3 against the three FMs I played. In one case, maybe too much ambition (declining a move repetition). In the other case, missing a beautiful mate in three right after sacrificing (or, to be honest, blundering) an exchange. Maybe the gap isn't quite as wide as the ELO difference suggests, at least in blitz ... .

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on November 12, 2009 10:40 PM.

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