Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Russia Takes World Teams

| Permalink | 61 comments

Russia is always the top seed in every team event they play in, but in the past decade they've regularly played second (or third, or sixth) fiddle to smaller neighbors like Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. This time, despite playing without big guns Kramnik and Svidler, they got the job done at the 2009 World Team Championship in Bursa, Turkey. They made their move in the final two rounds, beating Egypt and then taking out the strong Israeli squad 3-1 in the final round to seal the deal and finish ahead of the USA and India. Russia's match score of +7 =1 -1 was complemented by 24 board points, which also led all teams. I prefer board points over match points for the first and have whined about the change in the Olympiad to match point scoring. Match points do emphasize the team aspect, but I always enjoyed the swings and drama created by board point scoring.

Upstarts USA and India finished ahead of powerhouses Armenia and Azerbaijan, a remarkable achievement in both cases, especially since the Americans were without Kamsky and India without world champion Anand. The US was in the lead with two rounds to play, but they had yet to face Armenia and Azerbaijan, a gauntlet they were unable to pass unscathed. US champion Hikaru Nakamura's great 5.5/6 run was brought to an end in a fantastic battle with world #5 Aronian. Former King's Indian aficionado Garry Kasparov called their decisive encounter a great game, full of creativity. The US drew all four games with Azerbaijan today in what seemed like an oddly perfunctory match. The Azerbaijanis would have taken silver with a match win, but they rested Radjabov and Gashimov, though the latter has been in terrible form. As I understand the slightly stilted rules, the draw guaranteed silver for the USA since they held the head-to-head tiebreak over India. So even had the Indians beaten Brazil 4-0 instead of the 3.5-0.5 pasting they delivered today, they would still have taken bronze.

Mamedyarov was the real hotshot performer of the event. It's quite a luxury to have an occasional top-ten player on board four, especially since that gave them the flexibility to give him seven whites in nine games. His 8/9 score was good for a performance rating around 2950. Onischuk was an ironman for the US on board two, going 6.5/9 undefeated for an individual gold. Despite the loss to Aronian, Nakamura's 6/8 on board one was still very impressive, especially with his spectacular win over Gelfand as icing on the cake. His 2850 TPR was the second-highest among those who played at least seven games and it was also enough for the gold medal on board one. (All medal winners here.) Vitiugov was the well-balanced Russian team's secret weapon, scoring 5.5/6 on board six. With reserves like that, Russia had the chance to rest players in an event without any off days. They could also sit Morozevich in the final rounds, since he was far from his best and finished with a -2 score.

Greece was a surprise despite finishing +4 =0 -5. Upset wins over Russia and Armenia made this a successful event for them. Every member of the Israeli team underperformed significantly except for Sutovsky. America's teen reserves, Hess and Robson, both scored 50% playing just two games each. I'm a little surprised they didn't see more action after Shulman started with 0.5/3, but you don't argue with a silver medal! Congrats to all the winners and to the US team in particular.


Cheers from Norway and thanks for a great blog!

"I prefer board points over match points for the first and have whined about the change in the Olympiad to match point scoring."

I have to diagree on this one. This is a team event, and I really like the team tactics and everything (" ooooh, we are winning on board one, I can force a draw" - and of course there is no draw ...). Match points is the real deal.

Thanks for the information! Way to go Russia.

Agree with FT, Team chess isn't the same as individual event, the strategy is different also.

Side note on the Kasparov/Carlsen simul in Morroco: Kasparov's final combo in the Trompowsky game looks like pure sorcery! Love the game after Nd5!


Match points is a nice parallel to games like football or baseball--a team win is a team win and counts one point, regardless of whether it is by one point or 40 points or whether Albert Pujols hits three HRs or gets 5 Ks.

"Vitiugov was the well-balanced Russian team's secret weapon, scoring 5.5/6 on board six"

Surely you mean sixth player (alternate) as there is no board 6... 4 boards only.

It is a common way of referring to a team's lineup, saying "he is our 5th board".

Yes, it is probably a typo. There is no board 6 for this event )) Or maybe he is a secret weapon...

I think Mig was just being consistent with the organizers terminology (see link to tournament web page), but it is also true that alternate's are oft times referenced as "board five, six, etc." when there are more than one alternate.

Must have been a slow day for finding something to pick on for such "trollishness..."

It is not "trollishness." It is common place to cite such errors in the comments. Mig usually corrects these errors pretty quickly once someone has pointed them out to him.

from chessninja.com

"The US drew all four games with Azerbaijan today in what seemed like an oddly perfunctory match."

from chessbase.com

"USA vs Azerbaijan: Onischuk and Akobian agreed quick draws with black. This left Nakamura and Shulman trying to convert a small edge in drawish positions, which in the end both drew, which was a bit surprising as they both had a small edge and it took some pressure off the Russians. But in pure chess terms it was fair enough."

from chessvibes.com

"A 2-2 against Israel would probably have been enough for Russia, since the USA, 1 match point and 1.5 board points behind, would never score a 4-0 against Azerbaijan. Well… perhaps it was theoretically possible in the end, since the Azeri’s showed up without Gashimov and Radjabov. But Guseinov, Mamedyarov and the two Mamedovs held the Americans to 2-2 thanks to excellent opening preparation."

from GM Susan Polgar's blog

"But the $64,000 question many people have asked and will continue to ask is why on earth would Azerbaijan sit Radjabov, a superstar, who is performing over 2800 in this WTC, and one of the best players in the world, as well as Gashimov, a top 10 player in the world, in the final round when Azerbaijan MUST win to get the Silver medal?

Both Mamedov are strong players but they are no where near the level of Radjabov or Gashimov. In addition, the four games were drawn before other teams even have results. Why take 4 draws so quickly when a silver medal is on the line?

I played in 4 Olympiads and unless I am in the hospital, nothing would keep me away from a game which could bring my country a medal. In fact, I played in all 56 consecutive games and I never sat out even once. When you represent your country, you must give 150% of yourself to bring home a medal. Maybe I am old school but this is very puzzling to me."

My take on Mamedyarov playing on board #4 is that it is a tactical mistake. Certainly you get the points on a lower board, but you may have gotten more points on the boards if you have Mamedyarov on #1 or #2. I believe they had him on a lower board in the Euro Cup so they may have wanted to repeat the formula. No one would have predicted such a meltdown in the board #1 position. I'm not sure why they didn't make adjustments.

The lineup by the Azeris in the last round was strange, but I expected them to sit Gashimov. He was in poor form and may have gotten mauled by Nakamura who is in top form... and they may have lost. I do believe Radjabov should have been on #1. However, in this case the match is still a draw.

It appears that each of those in the Azerbaijan's lineup was vying for individual medals and of course match up very well on the bottom boards. Even though the games lacked fight and were decided just outside of the 30-move requirement, I don't believe the outcome would have been any different.

I don't think the Azeris were interested in medals other than gold, and with that team, it's understandable.

Check out the interview with Gashimov in NiC 2009.8

Gold or nothing. Therefore, in a spontaneous and unilateral manner, they decided not to fight for Silver in their match with the USA. Very generous indeed.

No suspicion of result fixing and fake match, whatsoever.

I don't agree. The Azeris obviously feel that out of their top 3 - who are pretty close rating- and strength- wise, Mamedyarov is the one who do the best against the lower rated people. So it makes sense to make the other two guys play on boards 1 and 2. And board 4 actually makes more sense for Mamedyarov than board 3, because they clearly wanted to have him play white as much as possible - Mig mentioned the flexibility to give him seven whites in nine games. Has he been on board 3, bumping him up to a game with white when board 3 has black would mean resting Radjabov. With Mame on board 4, they could rest their board 3 guy, and they can afford to lose him.

And BTW, like Mig, I prefer board points to match points. With match point scoring, it is possible for the strongest team to have a bad day and lose a match and then to not be able to catch up even if they keep destroying everyone 4-0. I think match points are more likely to produce random results, which is probably not a good idea. Also, with match points, once one team got 2.5 points, the 4th game doesn't matter, which also makes for a less interesting tournament, IMO. With board points, every game counts.

"Upstarts USA and India finished ahead of powerhouses Armenia and Azerbaijan, a remarkable achievement in both cases, especially since the Americans were without Kamsky and India without world champion Anand."

Clubbing both USA and India in one sentence and equating Kamsky with Anand is naughty at the very least, but probably closer to chess blasphemy!

Kamsky's many victories over Anand means his soul cannot be saved then, presumably. I'll include him in my chessic prayers.

His gold medal on board 1 certainly must be Naka's greatest chess acheivement thus far.

I hope he still has plenty left in the tank for Corus.

I cannot quite follow your arguments about match points vs. board points, at least not in the given context (round robin) - if the strongest team has a bad day, they can still catch up by subsequently beating their competitors, that's what actually happened:
Round 2 Russia-Greece 1.5-2.5
Round 3 Russia-USA 3-1
Only if you have a bad day against your direct competitor, well that's tough luck ... .

To me it seems that the board point system puts more emphasis on efficiently beating weaker teams, the match point system rewards winning the key matches (and avoiding upsets against nominally weaker teams). There are arguments for both!?

And it is not that board points don't matter: If USA-India had ended 2.5-1.5 rather than 3-1 (with everything else remaining the same), India would have gotten silver.

Final point: With board points rather than match points, the final standings would have been almost the same, except at the (sub)top:
1. Russia 24
2. Azerbaijan 22
3. USA 21.5
4. India 21
Maybe that's the solution to the Azerbaijan riddle: they were perfectly happy with "Mig's (and Russianbear's) silver medal!" ,:)
But in this case, the match USA-Azerbaijan might have gone differently - continuing far beyond move 30 at least on some boards. This also pertains to the USA/India comment above.

Where is pictures of such important medals like silver. Each player get a medal I guess so they are happy and can spend it some day if they run out from money. Silver may worth lot of money like platnum and rubys. I do not know so who can say.

"the match point system rewards winning the key matches (and avoiding upsets against nominally weaker teams)"

- that sounds good on paper, but consider this: let's say team A and team B are the strongest in a team event. Team A loses to team B in the first round by losing 1 game and drawing the rest. Then team A proceeds to beat everyone else 4-0, while team B draws third best team of the tournament, and proceeds to squeak by in all of their matches by a 2.5 to 1.5 score, after losing 1 games each in all remaining rounds. Which team deserves to be the winner of the event? With match point system, team B would win, but I don't think team A should be punished so badly simply because one of their players had a bad day during one of the rounds - even if it was during a key match.

AZE team used the same tactics on Euro Champ and it worked. The difference this time was Gashimov on 1st board (but out of form) and Radjabov on 2nd (in a good form). Radjabov took most of the heat for the team - he played 5 out of 7 games with black, whereas Gashimov 5 out 7 with white and Mamedyarov - 7 out of 9.
I don't believe that AZE team didn't care for silver. But the last round circumstances changed it. Gashimov asked to leave him out due to illness and Radjabov who already played most of the games with black apparently didn't want to play then either (even in a friendly team can be some rivalry and rating concerns). Having two top board out they realized it will be hard to push for win and somehow (hmm:) US team understood it and took he easy way. Interesting that on pictures from closing ceremony Gashimov was not at the team table. Anyway, I wish AZE team more luck at the next competition and congrats again to US team.

This also sounds good, but two teams being far better than the rest is a rather hypothetical scenario - at least in European and World championships. It actually is the case in Asian (China and India) and probably American (USA and Cuba?) championships.

Anyway, your team A would have some consolation because their players have far better rating performances. After all, chess is an individual sport with a team competition only every now and then ... .

BTW, while I cannot comment on all countries/federations worldwide, all (amateur) team competitions I ever played in use the match point system. There is one difference: all were played on eight boards, making it easier to catch up on a loss _within_ a given match.

I wonder whether there was some internal tension on the Azeri team re the organizer's spot (and potentially the final WC spot) in the Candidates.

Mamedyarov & Gashimov essentially swapped spots on the FIDE top list.

Yep, the World Team Championship had ten teams, seven qualified, three were nominated by the organizing country. Azerbaijan might want the same for the candidates event (replace "teams" with "players")?

I agree with your point about Mamedyarov doing well on the lower boards, but of course the logic was a strategic failure. I don't subscribe to "stacking boards" and loading up on lower boards with top players. Azerbaijan is already strong enough on #4 to get high scores. Russia tried that in Dresden with Morozevich on #4, the result... no medal.

If you are after team medals and not individual medals, then you look at the best combination and not only at dominating one board and the color combinations. I believe Mamedyarov matches up better against the top guns (Grischuk, Nakamura, Aronian, Sasikiran, etc.) than Gashimov. Radjabov's style is too risky for board #1 and he hasn't been in form, so I like Mamedyarov on #1 in 2010 Olympiad.

IMHO, if they go to the Olympiad with Mamedyarov on #4, they'll get the same result... no medal.

No boards points please! Match point is fine.

But I can suggest something. You can call it Goliath Variation System. ;)

Top board - 4 points at stake
2nd board - 3 points
3rd board - 2 points
4th board - 1 point

Should Russia get that much credit for beating Indian bottom board??

I mean if you wanted to use board points.

I think goliath sound too scairey and peoples with small childs mabey not want to scair them because goliath sound very bad and monster.

:) What would kids think of Armageddon then? May be they won't know what is.

Also bad very bad.

Not sure what you meant by that. But I'm not introducing it. Its already in there!

I mean only bad very bad. Mabey it go away some day. Who can say. My tea is all gone and nwo I sleep.

Board points vs Match points is a topic where I blv there is a case for both.

The most important case for board points is - it doesn't matter how your teammate's game is going, just get the best result in your own game. So, the overall quality of the competition shd naturally be higher.

However, in olympiads the opposition is different for different teams, and heavier results against weaker teams tilting the balance is a realistic scenario. So, match points where all wins count the same (with board points as a first tie-breaker) seems fair and reasonable.

In closed competitions such as the WTCC where all teams face each other, I can't see a good case against board points.

As they say "the proof is in the pudding" - hopefully with more results from the MatchPoint system, a reasonable comparison of both systems may be made and some valid conclusions drawn.

Final point: With board points rather than match points, the final standings would have been almost the same, except at the (sub)top:
1. Russia 24
2. Azerbaijan 22
3. USA 21.5
4. India 21

Occam's Razor suggests that perhaps someone on the Azeri team misunderstood the board pts vs. match pts scenario and thought 2-2 was good enough -- maybe they goofed?

I like match points instead of board points. It gives more emphasis to the big matches. I don't really care if Russia beats Ireland 3-1 or 4-0. I do care if Russia beats Armenia or Armenia beats Russia.

I think in general the standings will be very similar with either formula, but in case of divergence, I would rather have the big matches decide the winner instead of who was better at beating up on the smaller nations.

I like match points. If you want to have team competitions, it makes sense to use match points. It gives some edge to team strategy. Board points is just a single tournament with added-up scores.

> With match point system, team B would win, but I
> don't think team A should be punished so badly
> simply because one of their players had a bad day
> during one of the rounds

If one player has a bad day, in a good team the other players won't make draws but try to go extra lengths to make up for him. In a bad team they will make draws and put the blame on him.

Why not have a composite score of match points+ board points?

Yes, you could equalize the two in computing the final score. Just multiply match points times four and add the product to the board points for an overall score. This gives precisely equal weight to both systems of scoring.

Using the November 2009 rating list (last one available before they had to decide the board order?), strictly by rating Mamedyarov was #3 behind Gashimov and Radjabov. As others pointed out, putting him on fourth board was a tactical decision or trick to maximize his white games (he played on 4 only once in the entire event!).

Earlier you wrote "No one would have predicted such a meltdown in the board #1 position. I'm not sure why they didn't make adjustments." Agreed on the first sentence, not sure what you mean with "adjustments"? They could leave him out, but this still weakens the entire team - there is a clear gap between the upper and lower half rating-wise. Only Russia had such an option, given the rather negligible difference between Grischuk (2736) and Vitiugov (2692). They were not allowed to change their mind and put Gashimov on board 3 or 4!

I am also not sure if Mamedyarov would really do better on board 1 - he also has a risky attacking style including a preference for dubious/unclear/speculative pawn sacrifices. He didn't play many top events, and when he did (FIDE GP) he was usually behind both Gashimov and Radjabov. Though - somewhat to my surprise - according to FIDE rating statistics he has a recent even score against Aronian (+1=4-1) and a plus against Grischuk (+1=3-0).

Overall, the Azeri team lineup could have been different only if they had hired Migstradamus beforehand, and he or his crystal ball had correctly predicted not only Mamedyarov's ongoing good form, but also Gashimovs's _sudden_ bad form. This may be too much to ask even from our esteemed blogmaster, and another question is whether he would even want to help Azerbaijan!? ,:)

I agree with Bartleby, what is the point of teams if the results are all individual?

I can see the point made about board points, but in a round robin it is moot, and in a swiss it will be quite random which of the weaker teams you play (4-0 against Egypt is not better than 3-0 against Norway...)

"Russia tried that in Dresden with Morozevich on #4, the result... no medal."
Yes, but looking at the matches Russia didn't win, it was because Moro either didn't play at all, or played badly even on board 4:

Germany-Russia 2-2 [I will leave this one out from the analysis - the home team had been on a run in the first half of the event, also drawing Ukraine in the previous round]

Armenia-Russia 2.5-1.5 [Moro didn't play, Grischuk was match loser against Sargissian]

Russia-Ukraine 1.5-2.5 [Moro was match loser against Efimenko]

Russia-Spain 2-2 [Moro didn't play - maybe a wise decision to leave him out in the final round where nerves are even more important? But his teammates also weren't up to the task]

Much argues over things al done and gone all what if and why if. Mabey soon there will be a tornament to play so all argue pickers can become quiet one more.

"Much argues over things al done and gone all what if and why if."

-In other words, just another normal day at ChessNinja...

The Corus pairings are up: http://www.coruschess.com/schedule.php?year=2010&group=1

Carlsen - Kramnik again, but only in round 9 this time! No great showdowns in the first round.

Ha ha ha ha ha I think you must of course be right. All talk ha ha ha who win silver who gold ha ha ha I laugh so hard. Only small amounts of peoples care but they care so much for some reason important who can say.

I agree. What I'm saying about improvements is there has to be more consideration of "matchup issues" not just whether a player has white or black. Mamedyarov seems to match up better. Even if Gashimov played the "sweeper" role, I don't believe there would be much difference.

In 2008, I picked Azerbaijan to win a medal in the Olympiad. I only got Armenia right, but if Azerbaijan can solve this board order issue, this has got to be the key to getting a medal in Siberia. I just don't believe Mamedyarov on #4 will work again.

It appears that team events generally rely on strong performances on the lower boards (#3 and #4). What the U.S. did is unusual with Nakamura and Onischuk... far too much pressure at the top. They literally carried the team to silver. Armenia had Sargissian on their two golden team demolishing opposition on lower boards. The Ukraine had Karjakin crushing in 2004. Russia had reserves racking up high scores in the WTC. It takes so much pressure off the top boards where games are so intense.

I would like to see them give each board a weight with board #1 getting the most points. That way this business of putting Guseinov (2600) ahead of Mamedyrov (2700) wouldn't make sense.

You see what I mean.

This is going to be a great tournament , there is a player for every taste and some locals too.:)

Horeray for Mr. Manu who now make all sense.

"Horeray" 4 u and your weird need to comment every single post on this threads ...

I'm sorry to post about this here , but the situation in Haiti is really sad , any donation or help from your 1rst world countries will be very welcomed there , thx.

"No great showdowns in the first round [at Corus]"

Maybe (if only the top three count), but still some interesting pairings:
"Rising Stars vs. Experience":
"Rising Star vs. Rising Star"

In all three games, the (ELO) underdog has white.

At Corus, it appears 5 out of 7 top seeds have an extra black. The 2 from the top half of the table to have an extra white are Karjakin and Leko - and Naka and Short from the lower half have an extra black.

Also, I did a quick calculation based on Estragon's idea (MP*4 + BP).. i.e. MP*4 for 1 - 0.5 - 0 system; or MP*2 for 2-1-0.

Here is what it looks like for the top half of WTCC:

Team MP BP Composite SB
RUS 15 24 54 127.75
USA 13 21.5 47.5 103
IND 13 21 47 103.25
AZB 12 22 46 93.75
ARM 12 20.5 44.5 97

In this result, the composite exactly follows what was followed at WTCC (MP; BP as tie-breaker).
However, in case AZB had scored a couple of 4-0s instead of 3-1s ending with 12/24, they would've overtaken both USA/IND in the composite even with 1 MP less.

So, a simple BP advantage (22 vs 21.5/21) doesn't place them ahead but a bigger BP adv would override the MP deficit.

Also, the SB is quite revealing, making it clear that AZB performed 5th best against top finishers - making some arguments such as "I don't care how well you beat up lower rated opposition" look more relevant. So, may be a single score (composite+SB) can give better results at determining the winner (than the current MP first strategy)?! The risk is obviously that you no longer have full control - and it lot complicated than a simple leaderboard, and you don't get the picture until the event is (almost) over.

Anyways, applying this retrospectively doesn't make a lot of sense since teams would have planned their strategies in this event based on MP priority. Interesting, nevertheless.

In retrospect, the composite is not such a good idea. For a 2.5-1.5 result, the composite would be 6.5-1.5, just simply glorifies the difference which essentially happened in 1 board.

I have already give much money to Red Cross Haiti. I feel so bad.

Where did the factor of four come from? Why not just add up MP+BP ? I think for a four-board match a single match point would suffice, while for 8-board matches, two points. This has been tried in our local (Copenhagen) team tournament.

I'm sure you meant the American Red Cross , Would you care to share the number of the receipt?

Yes, the American Red Cross. What do the receitp want for you.

>> Where did the factor of four come from?

from Estragon, which doesn't look like a good idea. MP+BP with MP=1 for a win does little to offset the BP effect, but if it has worked well in small tournaments may be it is not such a bad method.

oh well.. with only abt 12 hrs to go for Corus, I guess we have better things to look forward to now!!

I could understand if you were making fun of me , but mocking a tragedy that costed 140000 persons is a little to much , even 4 some1 like u.

Do any one know Manu in person. I contribute $100 to Red Cross to help Haiti and he attack me for that saying I mocking a tragedy. If some one see Mr. Manu tell him. Some thing must be all wrong with him which is to bad. I give more money for Haiti if I cuold I wish I had more to help.

In this moment I buy custom essays and buy research papers opting for essay writing services but frequently they buy an essay about this good post. It’s very hot topic, thank you for it!

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on January 13, 2010 3:38 PM.

    Advanced Chess In the Wild? was the previous entry in this blog.

    Corus 2010: Past, Present, Future is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.