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Year-end Action

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Bits and bobs as I've been a bit swamped with family, snow, and work lately. And apparently there are some kind of holidays this month. What's on your chess wish-list, material or otherwise?

The Russian championship just got underway in Moscow. Defending champion Svidler is the top seed. Grischuk and Jakovenko are the other big names, and as always it's a very strong field. In the first round Grischuk and Khismatullin notched wins. Kramnik and Morozevich aren't there this year.

Malakhov, the recent World Cup semifinalist, isn't there either. But he confirmed his impressive run of form in a less lofty venue by winning the 9th Amplico Life rapid tournament in Warsaw over the weekend. He scored an amazing 11.5/13 to finish a half-point ahead of Ivanchuk. Shirov and Gashimov were also in the field, finishing with 10 and 9.5. Malakhov, who started with eight straight wins, beat all three. Fantastic result. Don't see a game file anywhere yet but I'm looking forward to it.

A mostly filler and poorly translated/written interview with Anand in the Times of India did make me think about one thing. (Other than the similarity between the verbs "improve" and "improvise.") Anand pointed out this has been a mediocre year for him, and that's certainly true. He played in two classical tournaments, making an even score in Linares and a +1 at the Tal Memorial. Even "his" event, the Mainz rapid championship, escaped him, and in the semis at that. Even a world champion can't win them all, and he didn't play all that much, but it does highlight the era of parity we've been in for the past few years.

That might well be ending as the age of Carlsen seems to be dawning even earlier than most expected. Speaking of, we had a chance to toast the world #1 with a former holder of that spot, Garry Kasparov, here in NY the other evening. (He had his Kasparov Chess Foundation master classes with top US kids this weekend.) It sounds like success at the board has attracted successes in business, and sponsors may be making Carlsen quite a big brand soon enough. I'm not sure about his being the next Tiger Woods, but that doesn't mean what it used to mean anyway. New era or no, few would bet that Carlsen, who is achieving his #1 ranking two years younger than Kasparov did, is going to hold that spot for the 20 years Garry had it. But if Carlsen can learn to work as hard as Kasparov learned to do much younger by having Botvinnik and his mother in his life, why not? Are computers too great an equalizer?

Time to go dig through the "when will Carlsen reach #1?" informal poll we had in the comments a few years ago (?). The "never" folks are in trouble. I wonder if anyone nailed January 2011? And will this lead to a real chess boom in Norway and perhaps regionally? My Norwegian Friend (by transplant) GM Jon Tisdall refers to Carlsen's burgeoning fame as his retirement plan. Chess coaches might soon be in high demand.

Just tried eggnog with coconut rum in it. Recommended.


Long may Carlsen reign...but won't be easy. Other than that, looking forward to some interesting chess from the Russian Championship.

The Norwegian government will spend USD 12 million on chess.

17.12.2009 Government Decision: 70 Million NOK to 2014 Chess Olympiad

This should be the thread in question, posted May 2008: http://www.chessninja.com/dailydirt/2008/05/underdogs-bite-in-baku.htm

Most were too "optimistic" or too "pessimistic" -- Russianbear got it right.

"...nailed January 2011?"

So he won't make it next month?

[Event "Match"]
[White "Boris Spassky"]
[Black "Viktor Korchnoi"]
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e5 Nfd7 6. Bxe7 Qxe7 7. f4 Nb6 8.
Nf3 Bd7 9. Qd2 a6 10. a4 a5 11. Qe3 Qb4 12. b3 Nc8 *

Viktor creative as ever! Now where is Spassky's tennis visor? Foul!

Carlsen's no 1 is a great achievement especially considering his age. However there is no chance at all of his maintaining this position for 20 years. At the moment there is no significant rating gap between him and several others. Just a few losses and down you slip and thats quite possible. His London win was good but he had shaky moments and let at least 1 game slip away after many opportunities to put the ball in the net and he almost blundered against Short in the final game! Even 3 months is a long time in chess he has to win the WCC and that is no foregone conclusion - even getting the WCC match is going to be hard 1 loss in a short match and thats it! Aronian, Kramnik, Topalov Anand and yes Gelfand it would be easy to lose to any of this tough talented experienced elite group. They all have at least 5 years at this level and in Aronian's case more. However Carlsens amazing ability to win from balanced positions and his endgame prowes are big non preperation factors. But still computers and prep are huge factors

Well done Russian Bear. Clinical!

I've been very impressed with Carlsen's route to the top. I couldn't take my eyes off him at the London Classic, as at times he looked distracted or bored during a 20 minute 'think', only to have come up with the winning moves.

I still believe he may be a very different type of beast to Garry though. Should he win the WCh in 2011, I wouldn't be surprised if he moves on with his life and jacks it all in, whilst he's still young enough to try something else.

Mig: Eggnog with coconut rum? Ah, yummm, yessss...Very nice. Happy Holidays to you and yours. Great work this year, thank you. See you in 165 at Corus.

Sorry but it's impossible for Carlsen to have the number one spot for 20 years.

Just ask the Mayas.

I wouldn't be so categoric to say "there is no chance at all of his maintaining this position for 20 years."

Who are Carlsen's long-term competitors? Aronian? Radjabov? Karjakin? Gashimov? Nakamura? Caruana? So? Ray Robson?

Of course, all of them are great players, but none has shown Carlsen's consistency.

As for Topalov, Anand, Kramnik, Gelfand and Leko - how long will they keep pace with the younger guys?

IMHO Carlsen does have a chance to stay at the top for an extended period, once he consolidades the #1 position. This may still take him a year or two though.

Życie Warszawy has an interview with Malakhov which somewhat reverses the image of Malakhov as a professional physicist and chess amateur: http://www.poloniachess.pl/amplico2009/files/21-12-ZW-3-E-015-KO.pdf

"Is chess your profession, or do you also earn money on the side?

Malakhov: I graduated in nuclear physics from Moscow University (MGU). I live in Dubno, which houses the famous Institute of Nuclear Physics. I work with them, but only a little. I support my family (my wife and 5-year-old daughter) primarily by playing chess.

How many tournaments do you have to play a year to make a living?

From six to eight, though on occasion I've played in as many as ten. However I don't just play for money, but mainly because chess is a magical sport".

The other reports in Polish mention that in the first round Shirov drew with Luiza Tomaszewska, a 14-year-old girl with a rating of 1887... but add that Shirov skidded while driving from Riga to Warsaw and had to turn into a ditch to avoid a head-on collision. The car was a write-off but Shirov was unhurt and got to the tournament by taxi (napping for an hour before the first round).

Great to see Ivanchuk back doing well!

Who are Carlsen's long-term competitors? Aronian? Radjabov? Karjakin? Gashimov? Nakamura? Caruana? So? Ray Robson?

Kind of off topic, but this list omits the second-highest rated player under 21 years old (on the current live list), who still seems not to get the attention and notice that his recent results might warrant.

I expect Carlsen to be the no 1 player for about 4-5 years.
I expect an even younger player to overtake him at that point. The main reason: Improved training methods, primarily with computer programs such as Rybka, which are increasing their ELO still significantly over the last few years.
When Kasparov was training and raising up the ranks (age 13-16) - basically there were no computers.
When Carlsen (age 12-17) was training and raising, say 2-4 years ago - computer ELO was perhaps 2700-2800 range
The next WC contender who is now 10-12 years old will have a computer program with ELO 3000 to ttrain with
I think by the age of 30 Carlsen will have to retire as he will not be top 3 player.

Difference when Kasparov burst into the scene in the early 80s was that he really was the Chosen One, all his competitors were significantly older than him. I don't think he had a peer group at all - until the mid 90s when you had the burgeoning Anands, Kramniks, Ivanchuks. Kasparov's greatest feat was to stay ahead of even these guys.
Carlsen while very strong doesen't (yet) have that much ahead of his near rivals. And he is already "old" by today's standars, what with all these 12 year boy wonders.

"I think by the age of 30 Carlsen will have to retire as he will not be top 3 player."

Following in the footsteps of Korchnoi, Tal and Bronstein, to mention a few.


I agree that Vachier-Lagrave as well as a handful of other young and talented players can be included.

My point was: Carlsen shows consistency in his results that others don't, therefore, he may have a chance to defend his #1 position for an extended period once he consolidates it. One shouldn't rule out that possibility.


Improved software and training is (will be) available to all, including Carlsen. As long as he maintains his consistent play he can stay on top.

But before that, he must consolidate the #1 position. Right now, he just reached there. He is in the same league as Topalov, Anand, Kramnik, Ivanchuk and perhaps Aronian, but is not clearly superior to them.

ROFL, no sooner does the kid reach the top than the talk turns to how he can't last forever. I love the consumer-driven economy. Clapped out at 19...hell we had a car older than that before...personally I think the WC title should be handed over to Korchnoi, think of all the great publicity and entertaining drama.
Btw, Alexei Shirov sometimes reads this blog, hope you're OK!!

Is there evidence that computers produce stronger players or merely hasten the development of players such that they reach their potential quicker? If Carlsen is the product of training with strong computers at a pivotal age why isn't Karjakin in the top 5, or Vachier-Lagrave? Could it be that Carlsen is simply a more gifted player? Ok, so we may have 11 year-old grandmasters soon. Do any of them have the innate ability of a Carlsen?

Guys, guys, guys, guys!
Hold on a second!
Instead of speculating on the competitors' age and the pure sporting results, why we should not actually take into account THE CONTRIBUTION BROUGHT TO THE GAME DEVELOPMENT made by all these champions and players? We will find that Kasparov, before computer era (or otherwise said, when Anand-worshipper Frederic Friedel was a nobody), made the Najdorf Sicilian something where nobody knew what to do against; he dared to introduce at the highest level what is nowadays called 'a dubious' gambit in the Sicilian, but which eventually paid off against none other than the mighty Karpov in his prime; etc. In a word, chess was never the same after Kasparov bursted in. This is his greatest merit, and even if you are not his fan (I'm not), you still have to acknowledge it.
The guys like Aronian, Carlsen and Caruana, to name a few, still have to come forward with significant contributions to the way the game is developing. Sorry, I don't find any breath-taking novelties in the games of the young generation's reps. For example, look at the 'contest' held by Informator, and you will find creative lines coming from players less heralded, but not less talented. I know, one might say that the computer programs, thanks to Frederic Friedel and co., took out all the suspense, but I don't believe in Capablanca's assertion that chess is an exausted game. The strongest players have this obligation towards chess, and towards us, to explore further the possibilities of this art. That's why we pay them big bucks.

Thank you, mishanp, for the accurate translation from Zycie Warszawy! Your facility with languages is so impressive. The Amplico Rapid tournament, aka European Rapid Championship, is an extension (continuation) of Stanislaw Gawlikowski Memorial. I once played Gawlikowski in early Sixties. Time flies...

Not be lost amongst all the trolling are two things for which I'm thankful:

1) 2009 was one of the most active for great chess in many years (if not decades). It certainly has to ranks as one of the best years in which a World Championship did not take place.

2) Shameless sucking-up here, but I'm also thankful that despite a busy year with a new wife, baby and new digs that Mig kept crankin' the best chess blog on the planet.

Cheers! Here's hoping that 2010 will be even better : )

Amen to that!

And amen to all of you crazy people that make this blog worthwhile reading. You are all more or less insane, but no less entertaining.


I don't know if this is a typo or a fact: Anand in his following interview has said that Magnus will be one of his seconds. Here is the link:


That raises interesting questions/comments:

- Is this just a ploy to fool Topalov and send him on a wild goose chess (pun intended)?

- Don't Anand and Carlsen think of each other as serious competitors? This seems like Kasparov - Kramnik association against Anand. Anand perhaps does not mind losing to Carlesn after 2-3 years as long as he beats Topalov (the other great player of his era)?

- Carlsen seems to be pulling some major stunts by working with Kasparov and Anand at the same time. How did he manage that?



"But if Carlsen can learn to work as hard as Kasparov learned to do much younger by having Botvinnik and his mother in his life, why not?"

There's a very long question and answer session with Alexander Nikitin, Kasparov's trainer, here (all in Russian): part 1 - http://www.crestbook.com/?q=node/1099 part 2 - http://www.crestbook.com/?q=node/1102

Among many other things he talks about Kasparov's mother, and computers in chess, and Carlsen. He rates Carlsen as being perhaps the equal or even having greater prospects than Kasparov as a chess player, but mentions that by the age of 19 Kasparov had an encyclopaedic knowledge of other subjects like history (he mentions that the young Kasparov didn't read line by line like "normal mortals", but page by page, remembering everything).

There's also a new interview with Gelfand here: http://chesspro.ru/_events/2009/fide3.html

Again on computers:

"How do you [40-year-old chess players] not only stay afloat, but actually keep winning?"

- We play strongly (he laughs)! I'd say. There are distinct chess qualities in which it's very likely that we have an edge. Youth has its advantages. But we love chess! And if we keep our motivation, energy and continue to work hard then we have, at worst, no fewer advantages.

I learnt to think with my head. My trainer, Albert Zinovievich Kapengut, always taught me to seek out unusual strategic ideas in positions, while young chess players have learnt to check the first line of Fritz or Rybka."

On openings he says the Sicilian nowadays is difficult to play because it just turns into a question of remembering analysis and playing against computers. Of the Petrov:

"This is where you find one of the advantages of the Petrov. There you can pose your opponent a lot of problems, or at least far more than players pose at the moment. But to do that you have to look deeply into the position, analyse it at the board. And many are used to asking the computer and checking the first couple of lines. In this opening you won't pose any problems by simply clicking on buttons".

And in relation to Kramnik (& Kasparov):

"It seems to me that Kasparov lost to Kramnik in large part because at that period he began to believe in computers far more than he should have done. And then he came up against the Berlin and couldn't adapt. What can the computer come up with in the Berlin endgame? Excessive faith in computers almost led Kramnik to lose to Leko in 2004. Everyone remembers the loss with white in the 8th game with the Marshall attack. Of course it's my own subjective opinion, which I expressed in Bareev and Levitov's "Notes of a Second".

It's very important to keep a balance. In our time it's difficult to get along without a computer. You can miss something very basic, and computers now come up with very interesting ideas. But on the other hand, if you're being led by a computer and not the other way around, then it's also not going to work out. There's a very fine line which everyone's trying to find. Judging by his play at the moment Kramnik's successfully solved the problem of finding a balance."

There's also one of the most eloquent and damning condemnation's of FIDE I've read in a long time. It's well worth reading in full, but maybe just one or two snippets:

"FIDE has a Committee for running the World Championship, consisting of officials who are often interested in creating chaos in order to preserve the possibility for intrigue, to change rules, to lobby for their own or someone else's interests... Other than seeking benefits for themselves they have little interest in chess."

"What struck we more than anything else then was that the fees for the members of the Appeals Committee and various other official figures were unchanged and even in excess of the prizes for participants."

"When Makropoulos, having practically brought an end to the qualifying matches, arrived in Elista as the Chairman of the Appeals Committee every night he created an uproar and didn't allow Sergey Rublevsky, his neighbour, to sleep. When he was asked to calm down he explained that he didn't care about chess players at all [lit. he spits on chess players], and if Sergey didn't like it then he could leave and go somewhere else. Which Sergey had to do".

For "brain-buffs", I was sad to see that Kim Peek passed away (a.k.a. the inspiration for the movie "Rain Man". Imagine if he could have applied his incredible memory to chess! He'd have been impossible to beat!

1) http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,580862,00.html?test=faces

2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZBucCevSeE

In London we have seen that magnus is very young and has much to learn. And he has learned a lot in his London-games. The opening against Ni Hua, Qf6 against Short, his game against Howell. But he has won the tournament even so.
Very strong.

Least. informed. comment. of all time!

"Carlsen's no 1 is a great achievement especially considering his age. However there is no chance at all of his maintaining this position for 20 years. At the moment there is no significant rating gap between him and several others. Just a few losses and down you slip and thats quite possible."

just struck me that news about Kasparov coaching Carlsen also has the implication that Gary really is not going to return to pro chess anymore... till that news came i think out a lot of people were still hoping that maybe one day he might decide that one Linares a year isn't too bad after all.

I think Topalov is such good player that he win no matter who becomes the helper of Anand even if Kasparov him self is the helper or behind the seen using Carlsen to be the helper. I think Topalov win any way with no reason to count how mny times Anand must pee. Of corse Anand is very good player who will win some game here and some where but not enoug to beat Topalov.

It strikes me that if Carlsen really is going to be Anand's second (is that confirmed by Carlsen? And has anyone asked Topalov/Danailov what their reaction is to the news?!), it's not only a coup for Anand (& a counter to whatever home-court advantages Topalov might have) but for Carlsen as well: he not only garners the valuable match experience (without the risk of losing) but learns - from the inside! - Anand's strengths & weaknesses, tendencies, reactions, etc., which could help Carlsen in a future match vs. Anand; and by helping him (hopefully) to win the match against Topalov, insures that he'll still be champion when Carlsen's ready to be the challenger. Very shrewd (& perhaps thought up by Garry?! What say you, Mig?); it's really doing homework in a big way as vital prep for one's own aspirations, in addition to whatever other benefits (experience, money, prestige, etc.) he might gain as well.

Season's greetings to you all. Here's to some fine chess in 2010! Prost! (and no, it's not eggnog-one of humanity's greatest crimes, but pure, heavenly Irish whisky.)

I think there is a good possibility that Carlsen will pull farther and farther away from the crowd and solidify/retain his #1 position for a very long time -- if he doesn't slide down in the short term, given he isn't ahead by much right now.

The only other scenario when he might show a decline is if he falls for a girl so madly that chess takes second place ;)

I'm very much a skeptic. Carlsen's results are excellent, but his chess is not on a par with Anand's or Kramnik's yet. He won't hold the top spot for long at this time.

The counter argument:
Carlsen may or may not already be stronger than A & K but he sure fights harder for a win than either of them. Lesser players are likely to crumble under his relentless pressure. He will hold the top spot for a long time.

I recommend Akevitt with Mack`s Juleøl! That is what Magnus is hiding in his yellow bottle!

Merry christmas (or whatever)!

I must laugh so hard I spillt my tea. So good night.

Wow, I still keep reading the comments of so many Carlsen ney-sayers. People can talk all they want about the "level" he plays at, but at the end of the day, the results speak for themselves. This talk about playing at certain "levels" is so the Kramniks of the world can save face after silly pre-tournament interview comments. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Why must some look to tarnish the incredible accomplishments of a 19 year old phenom, I feel fortunate to have lived through watching Garry and now Magnus expand the shrinking chess horizons.
And BTW, happy FESTIVUS for the rest of us :)

Chessbase has clarified that Carlsen is not going to be Anand's 2nd. It was a misunderstanding, probably caused by Anand saying Neilsen and the Telegraph guy hearing it as Carlsen, according to CB speculation. It goes on to say Carlsen's father confirmed that Carlsen's schdeule is full and doesn't include assisting Anand in Sofia.


sorry sir very sorry but our good friend Anand
must use his own brain for playing chess now why should he take help from carlsen who is still a kid and was not even born when anand became world class player

2 reasons (there are many more) :

1) As the perfect sparring, if you live computers aside Magnus has the talent, stamina and freshness to perform that kind of task better than any other top player.
2) Not only Magnus has a plus score against Veselin , but some of his wins against Topalov were exemplary , IMO he is one of the few who could "hurt" Topa at the board , not just defeat him in a game .

It's Irish Whiskey with an 'E' and Scotch Whisky.

I always mix that up. The spelling, not the whiskey, of course...

Yeah there a some good Scotch single malts but it's got to be Irish :-) "Slightly" off topic......

I can drink much alkcohol of all kind but not much of whisky. I think all players must drink alkcohol to be good champions. Like Tal and Alekhine. Other champions drunk alckhol in secret. Maybe Anand is one who is in secret.

I M Stoopid you are a genius.

No I not I wish mabey I was genius but it has not happned yet. You must be much smarter than me I think. But thank you any way.

Chess hero worship is a little sad but surprisingly common 20 years retention of the no 1 slot this suggests he will never have a bad run and loose his no 1 rating spot until`he is almost 40 I suppose its like extreme religious faith - there is no discussion possible

Chess hero worship is essential to a balanced life.

That is why we revel in the Daily Dirt.

Happy holidays to chessniks everywhere.

I believe at some point in the future that Garry Kimovich will decide to try his hand at one more tournament (maybe even more than one) just for "old times sake" or else just for his personal enjoyment, but it won't be an actual "comeback".

But how close was Kasparov as a 19-year-old to Carlsen as a 19-year-old? Hé was a long way away from competing with Karpov. There is really no reason to suppose Carlsen's dominance wont be at the same level, provided he wants it as much as Garry did. Thanks to Carlsen, these are great times to live in for chess fans - Aronian doesn't get me nearly as excited, thats for sure.

"Thanks to Carlsen, these are great times to live in for chess fans"

Yeah, but even if he would be #1 for 40 years some people would say that there's nothing really impressive with it at unless he has better results in his 60s than Lasker had.

When Carlsen won the Corus group C, I said to a friend at my chess club:

"This Carlsen is the real deal. It's one thing to beat a 2700 player when your thirteen, many young players can do that. Or even to become a GM at a very early age. But it's another thing entirely to win tournaments."

This is in my opinion still what separates Carlsen from other young players. He wins a lot of tournaments. I.e. he is psychologically stronger than almost every other chess player in the World.

His main weakness is that he gets tired towards the end of a tournament, but I think he can improve in this regard. But no one wants to play Carlsen early in the competition. He almost always win the first game.

I M Stoopid, pliz do not leave this massage bored becuz peepul lick me are big fan of U. U are my Crismas gift.

lmike, i respect your chess knowledge. but as for Carlsen not being in the top three by age thirty, hard to say. you might be right, maybe not.
but one thing is for sure, if we take the examples of the maturation of experience of chess players in their thirties, such as fischer, karpov, kasparov, then among contemporary top players besides Carlsen--the triumphate of Ananad, Topalov, Kramnik, if we take all that, it seems that players are actually at their best then.
its true Magnus has the edge now, on youth, speed, freshness, ability to calculate long lines. but there is something wily about what becomes of chess players in maturity. most readers here know high level chess better than me. forgive me if i conceive wrongly.
the main thing, i think, is not so much that Carlsen has so much to loose in ten or twelve years, but more that he has such an advanced start.
bar or locker room humor aside, i would say Carlsen is more at risk NOT to hold the top from love, marriage, deciding to start a business in systems integration. i dont know what business his father is in, but he is no fool, or as is it is said in the south, "He aint dumb", or "he's a high brain dude". his father guide Magnus to be sensible and usually if not always modest.
if the recent Time Magazine article is any clue, especially the last paragraph, Magnus while possessed of great preternatural talent is NOT obsessed with chess [1], making his ascent all the more startling. as is said, if he learns hard work in the Kasparov sense or Fischerian sense, how far could or can he go... but from the Time article, i could easily see Magnus becoming world chess champion and simply saying i retire, taking his money, buying a nice country home in norway, and taking up organic gardening, cheese making, or competitive cross country skiing; or artificial intelligence, or learning chinese. i am not joking. his values are not the average ones, and it is his balance and reasonableness which is his strength.
happy holidays, love to all beings, dk

sorry my omission: [1] as Morphy, Steinitz, Alekhein, Fischer or Kasparov were obssesed.
Perhaps we could put Lasker, Capablanca, Botvinnik, Ananad in the well rounded, more urbane, or balanced camp as in cultivating other arenas, even if as amateurs.

I am happy I got the "when will Carlsen be #1" thing right. It is too bad that just about my only correct chess-related prediction in the last few years.

"the maturation of experience of chess players in their thirties, such as fischer"


What's your problem?

In his thirties Fischer played no tournament chess at all. Sounds pretty mature to me.

Then my preferences have changed to immature players. I'll stick with mature cheese, posters, and whiskey.

Es mi deseo conocer sus comentarios sobre las partidas de ajedrez del mach entre Anannan y su retador Topalov,esto lo hago debido a que aca en nuestro país COLOMBIA las noticias sobre este deporte son muy fragmentarias y los diarios no le dan el realce que se merecen;les agradezco de antemano con lo que me puedan colaborar.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on December 21, 2009 2:24 AM.

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