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Incredibly Shrinking Linares 2010

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The global economic downturn is hitting the chess world, at least in the Iberian peninsula. First the Bilbao Grand Slam was shrunk to four players. Now our traditional flagship super-event, Linares, though always on the precipice of municipal sponsorship in Andalusia, has been reduced to a six-player round-robin. It still packs a punch, and it's better than nothing at all, which is what we almost got according to Spanish news interviews with the organizers. Reports have been rife with comments about possibly canceling this year's event and how they're going to cover expenses. The co-hosting plan with Dubai fell through, but might still be in the cards for next year.

The players: Topalov, Aronian, Grischuk, Gashimov, Gelfand, Vallejo. Russia's new champion Grischuk comes back as the defending champion. Most eyes will be on Topalov, who hasn't played much, or particularly well, lately. He spectated Carlsen's big Pearl Spring win from the second position back in October and other than that has only a trio of games from the Euro Team Ch to show for the last six months. Will the loss of his #1 ranking rankle or will he keep things close to the vest in anticipation of his title match with Anand, still two months away?

Grischuk just had his best year ever and turned in a solid showing for Russia at the World Team Ch. There he beat Gashimov, another Linares participant. The Azerbaijani, one of three who seem to be taking turns in the top ten, is getting his first turn at a traditional supertournament. It's hard to call him a newbie though, since he's been a frontrunner in the FIDE Grand Prix series, all very strong all-play-alls. Aronian and Gelfand also had good years in 2009, Aronian beating the Israeli a few weeks ago at the World Teams. Local hero Vallejo is back again and will try to add to his "next to last instead of last" Linares list, which I think is 2/5. He hasn't been here since 2006, when he finished last but took out Topalov with black in a fantastic game.

Place your bets and make your picks. Hard to go against the winner in the head-to-head between Topalov and Aronian. Round one is Saturday the 13th, off days are the 17th and 22nd. Start time is 1600 local, 10am eastern. I'll be doing some ICC Chess.FM, except for weekends.


They seem to have a very cool poster yet again as every year, I found a picture of it here http://www.chessdom.com/news-2010/linares-chess-tournament . This year I am not going to Linares, but if someone finds good quality, I want to print it out, please, post it here.

IMHO Topa is likely to hide the prep, so don't think he's going to play for the first. I think Aronian has the best chance to take the first, but Grischuk and Gelfand come close. Gashimov's play recently was a disaster and I like his style the least compared to Radjabov and Mamedyarov.

Pardon my ignorance, but is there some sort of "agreement" that Carlsen, Anand, Kramnik doesn't play, so Topalov can safely come out in the open? Why aren't those guys playing?

They all played (Carsen,Anand & Kramnik) at Corus and Tal Memorial. Kramnik and Carlsen played London in the in-between and Anand has the WC match coming up. It seems they just need some down time. The better question seems to be, "why hasn't Topa played in any of these?"
@Linares Perhaps the somewhat narrow opening repertoire of Gelfand and Aronian as black and Gashimov as white could help Topalov (?). If he gets Gelfand of Gashimov as black he doesn't have to worry about blowing any Petroff prep for Anand. Like playjunior, I think Aronian's got to have the edge for this one.

Topalov and Anand seem to avoid each other for a while already: both were invited to Nanjing, then both pictures disappeared from the tournament homepage, then Topalov reappeared - it seems that currently organizers can get one of them, but not both.

Regarding Linares: I remember reading here (was it from frogbert?) that Carlsen was invited but declined because his schedule would become too busy. At some stage, Kramnik also said that he "might" play Linares - maybe negotiations failed, some relationship to the global economic downturn?

But Aronian, Gelfand, Grischuk and Gashimov aren't that bad either - Gashimov had ONE bad event at the World Team Championship when he was reportedly sick.

Well, at least now its official, Corus is now by far supertournament nr. 1. Only 6 players? If you dont have the dough for a respectable number of players why not organize a match, this way the tournament will be over by the time the players have warmed up.

Well, at least now its official, Corus is now by far supertournament nr. 1. Only 6 players? If you dont have the dough for a respectable number of players why not organize a match, this way the tournament will be over by the time the players have warmed up.

IMO, 6 players is not the issue here. It could still be a great event if, say, Anand, Kramnik and Carlsen played instead of Vallejo, Gashimov and Gelfand. But the way it is, it does seem a little underwhelming, especially compared to some past Linares line-ups. Still, it should be a great event.

"To God, there is no zero..."

To me Corus has always been much more interesting than Linares. No contest. Corus is the only thing that resembles those antic long bloodbaths when 21 players gathered at some a hall full of sigar smoke and played the King's gambit. The rural location, the presence of some weaker players and the unprecedented coverage add a distinct flavour. Last,not the least, the post-game analysis by players themselves is one of the greatest chess-related ideas ever. I have watched Kramnik's explanation of his win over Anand in that Catalan maybe 10 times.

I agree. Corus is creme de la creme with no contest. Linares has been a stink bomb for several years (a result of split location, now small field and even now with poor pickings on who is in the field!).

Yup, lame Linares (relatively speaking) without 2 of 3 Kramnik, Carlsen, Anand added to listed roster.

Chess fans become somewhat spoiled by Corus. However, I certainly look forward to see Topalov up against Aronian, Grischuk and the others!

Its still a super strong event, just isn't the same feeling back when we were spoiled with all three Ks, Topalov, etc. Those were just incredible tournaments. But at least it has not gone the way of Lone Pine..yet

Six players is very sad. Linares used to be by far the biggest tourney in the world. Corus was a distant second. Check out this list of all time great performances. Corus didn't even make the list.

Anatoly Karpov
11/13 (85%)
2729 2899 Linares, 1994

Garry Kasparov
12/14 (86%)
2692 2881 Tilburg, 1989

Emanuel Lasker
18/22 (82%)
2667 2878 London, 1899

Garry Kasparov
10.5/14 (75%)
2758 2877 Linares, 1999

Mikhail Tal
20/28 (71%)
2716 2869 Bled/Zagreb/Belgrade (Cand.), 1959

Alexander Alekhine
13/14 (93%)
2626 2865 San Remo, 1930

Garry Kasparov
10/13 (77%)
2737 2863 Linares, 1993

Alexander Alekhine
19.5/24 (81%)
2644 2859 Bled, 1931

Garry Kasparov
11.5/15 (77%)
2715 2856 Belfort (World Cup), 1988

Garry Kasparov
10/13 (77%)
2728 2855 Linares, 1992

Emanuel Lasker
11.5/16 (72%)
2738 2853 St. Petersburg, 1914

Garry Kasparov
9/12 (75%)
2744 2851 Amsterdam (Optiebeurs), 1988

Garry Kasparov
9.5/11 (86%)
2682 2850 Belgrade (Investbank), 1989

Bobby Fischer
18.5/23 (80%)
2643 2850 Palma de Mallorca (Interzonal), 1970

Mikhail Botvinnik
14/20 (70%)
2729 2850 The Hague/Moscow (WCh), 1948

Magnus Carlsen
8/10 (80%)
2733 2850 Nanjing, 2009

Siegbert Tarrasch
29/39 (74%)
2650 2846 Vienna, 1898

Garry Kasparov
8.5/11 (77%)
2733 2845 Linares, 1997

Johannes Zukertort
22.5/29 (78%)
2641 2844 London, 1883

Garry Kasparov
11/14 (79%)
2691 2840 Niksic, 1983

Vassily Ivanchuk
9.5/13 (73%)
2732 2837 Linares, 1991


"[Topalov] has only a trio of games from the Euro Team Ch to show for the last six months."

Topalov in fact played 4 games in the ETCC, but game records are only available from 3 of the 4 games. Database searches aren't always exact...

But yeah, he has hardly played lately.

Six players is very sad. Linares used to be by far the biggest tourney in the world. Corus was a distant second. Check out this list of all time great performances. Corus didn't even make the list....
I'm afraid the logic of this post escapes me. Not being the scene of a great performance could argue that Corus was so strong no single player could break away. In any case, sic transit gloria mundi. Corus is now the stronger tournament.

"Corus is now the stronger tournament."
It depends on how you define "strong": Linares has the higher rating average - which is easier with a smaller field, and unlike the Netherlands at the moment, Spain even has a local player rated above 2700.
Corus is the only remaining private supertournament with 14 players and single round-robin: same format as the FIDE GP events, Tal Memorial is somewhere in between with 10 players. Linares changed from a larger field to a smaller double round robin (way) back in 1998.
Maybe the reduction from eight to six players is sad, but they merely followed the example of MTel, Nanjing, Dortmund, Bazna and Biel.
In conclusion: yes, Corus is special - not only the larger field in the A group, but also many rising stars in the B and C groups (and, less widely known, many amateurs playing at the same venue). But this is old news, not something that suddenly happens in 2010!

Corus would be the strongest tournament if organizers had only one spot for a local player and gave the other two to stronger players ,IMO.

That is accurate , your best post in the year ;)

Thanks, but there are still almost eleven months to go ,:) . At Chessvibes, I said that comparing Corus and Linares is like comparing tapas (small bites that can be delicious) and pea soup (hearty and many calories).

Actually, three local wildcards at Corus (22% of the field) isn't that excessive compared to one at Linares (17%), and the average rating also went down because they invited Caruana (2675), Short (2696) and even Nakamura (officially 2708) - but having rising stars (what to say about Short?) is part of the Corus success story.
From a Dutch perspective, the [currently hypothetical] solution would be to have three local world top players: all of Timman, Piket and van Wely were >2700 at some stage - Timman got old, Piket quit and van Wely declined.

There may be another reason why Linares is no longer quite as strong as in the 1990's, many people seem to remember that period!? Back then there weren't as many strong events: from my list, only Dortmund existed already (and Biel? but it wasn't quite a supertournament). There were others, e.g. another Dutch one in Tilburg, but overall I think nowadays top players can
- choose their invitations, and afford to decline once in a while, and/or
- raise their demands regarding appearance fees.

I enjoyed this pat yourself on the back quote from Thomas at Chess Vibes: "I wrote more than the six previous posters together". ;)

Unless Topalov has been playing some strong opposition is secret, his chances of doing well at Linares seem unlikely. Not only must he hide his preparation vs. Anand, but Topalov must also confront the very real difficulty of playing very serious chess after a long break. I do hope we see a strong a aggressive Topalov, my hunch is that his play at Linares won't be that special. Aronian will most likely place 1st at Linares.
Chess Auditor's criticism of Sonas is just plain stupid. If he can come up with something better and as accurate as many of Sonas' prognostications have been, he should start showing us by predicting the ultimate places for each of the players at Linares...
I have very much enjoyed Sonas' efforts with Chessmetrics, which has obviously been a work of his love for chess, and do hope he again starts updating the site.

"Chess Auditor's criticism of Sonas is just plain stupid."

Jim, if anything, it's a defence, not criticism. But Sonas really doesn't play any major role in CA's posts.

The criticism is taken out of context, was originally delivered by me, and later I admitted that the wording was too harsh, but my I stand by the point I was making. Don't waste your time on reading the entire thread where it originated, though.

Auf Wiedersehen ...

I may be the only one here, but I'm interested in the strongest Open in the world, the Aeroflot. "This year's tournament is led by two players rated over 2700, both from France: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Etienne Bacrot. There's also a strong American contingent, including Kamsky, Alexander Shabalov, Jaan Ehlvest and other notable players like Alexander Motylev and Arkadij Naiditsch."

honestly I think the most shameful thing is not inviting Ivanchuk who also finished tied with Grischuk last year. Grischuk is only "defending champ' based on tie breaks.

May I ask for myself what I also requested for other people (e.g. Kramnik's press conferences at Corus): Please don't quote out of context. The full quote was "I wrote more than the six previous posters together, but it takes more space to understand and explain than to criticize."
It was not patting myself on the back, but a reaction to all those one, two or threeliners: "Linares, just six players, booo. No Kramnik, Carlsen or Ivanchuk - booo. Gashimov and Vallejo - booooo."
As a huge exception I just did a little bit of what you do all the time recently: using exactly the same words here and at Chessvibes - #caleague (CALDaniel on Chessvibes) just followed your example.

Regarding Aeroflot, I agree with you - after two rounds it may be too early to write anything substantial though there were certainly some interesting games, along with many short GM draws. Only two players are still at 100%: Le Quang Liem (who beat Bacrot) and Bu Xiangzhi - hard enough to write those names, glad I don't have to pronounce them ,:)

"Topalov must also confront the very real difficulty of playing very serious chess after a long break."
Nanjing - where Topalov played in the shadow of Carlsen - seems ages ago, though it was "yesterday" for some Carlsen fans. Maybe Topalov could ask for tips from Kramnik on how to return to the scene after a break of a few months and play well - but I guess he doesn't have his phone number.
Obviously hiding match preparation is an issue. Regarding Sonas' efforts, my opinion is somewhere in between: interesting stuff, certainly love for chess, but not to be taken all-that-seriously.

Aruna Anand in Sofia , some of the conditions for the match .

--Little bird told me that Simmillion writes just like koster.;)--


I wouldn't worry about Topalov being in shape. He played 30 games last year - which is not a lot, but is definitely enough to keep him in shape. He played only 23 in 2002, and only 13 in 2003, and yet after those years of inactivity he came back as strong as ever in 2004, when he (with several others) outperformed Kasparov for the year, and then, of course, he had his best year ever the year after that. If anything, his relative inactivity is bad news for his opponents - if not in this tournament, then down the line.

All the time? lol this is the first time i've done it. You are very bad with facts Thomas. This is a rather irrelevant one anyways since c/p the same comment to threads is perfectly acceptable. I would also note anyone who knows what CAL is could have figured out I was the same person with .0001 seconds.

"All the time" referred to British fan (didn't count how often it happened already) not to you. Posting the same comment at various places may well be acceptable [who defines such (unwritten) rules?], it's just a tiny bit boring for people like me who follow both forums.

On the topic of your post: Ivanchuk certainly cannot complain about lack of invitations, maybe the organizers decided to "give him a break" (which may actually be in his own best interest?), maybe he was invited and - for once - declined? One thing I don't get (not aimed at you!) is that several people - Mig included as far as I remember - consider one invitation for Gashimov one too many ... .

BTW, I have no idea what CAL is standing for - to my knowledge California would be abbreviated CA (but this is also used in ongoing off-topic debates ...).

Ah, my apologies then.

And I don't understand why its bad to see Gashimov invited (except that his spot precludes someone else from being invited). It is nice to see some new faces.

I guess my new maxim in life will be "Never argue with a macho man" ("macho" like in "machismo"). I am sort of new to the blog (thank you so very much, Mig), and try to be positive about everything, but some things (and people) are so hard to be positive about.

There was a time when I considered Linares to be a more exciting tournament - mainly because it was a higher category and top players usually played there. These days it is not the same, but still it is a great tournament. I think even this year Linares is still higher category than Wijk. It has 4 out of the top 7 players in the world - if we go by rating (Wijk only had 3, but those 3 probably generate more interest). Then there is Grischuk, who has been playing really well, is the reigning Linares champ and who has recently played one of the best games you will ever see (black against Gashimov in the team championship). And finally, the local "weakie" is still a 2700+ player. Wijk probably still is the more interesting tournament this year, but with 2 of the very elite (in Topalov and Aronian), two more people who are 2760 (Gelfand and Gashimov) and Grischuk coming off what was probably the best year of his career - this Linares tourney will be a lot of fun. I predict Aronian will win. I think Topalov will hide his prep, but he is very versatile when it comes to openings, so it won't be that big a deal to him; I do think he will lose a game or two, but he will probably win more. I think Gashimov is likely to flop, and Grischuk is a good bet to overperform.

I am almost totally with Russianbear on Linares. I am guessing Aronian or Александр Грищук will win, Topalov coming third, then Gelfand, Gashimov, and Vallejo, with Gelfand being capable of a major surprise.

Off topic. I honestly haven't read this story yet, but has this genius ever heard of Olympic drug testing? Duh. Vonn says she took 'a bunch' of painkillers (AP) - 1 hour ago
AP - Lindsey Vonn says she "took a bunch" of painkillers and used "some creams" to numb her bruised and swollen right shin before an Olympic downhill training run.

And this chess thing...

I also look forward to Linares. The 8-man drr is preferrable, of course, but 6 players and a drr can produce the toughest challenge I'd say there currently is for any player who wants to prove his elite status, at least theoretically.



and a 6th fellow to play a drr. How many and who of the current 2700s would've been able to defend his rating relative to these 5 players? I think some would, but most wouldn't - which ought to give a perspective on what it means (or should mean) to be elite.

And instead of lengthy special qualification processes to find a challenger to the World Champion, I think that we would be more certain to have the demonstrably best player as World Champion if simply the above 5 players + a 6th one would play a QUADRUPLE round robin - 20 rounds - to decide the world championship.

In such a quadruple rr, which player(s) could theoretically have won, except one of the 5?

Of the currently active ones, I can only think of Ivanchuk, if every little substance on planet Chuky would happen to have the correct configuration at the time of the event.

I can't imagine any other player having even remote chances of winning ahead of the five currently top-rated players.

Oh no. Did frogbert just suggest we have a tournament to decide the world champion? Seems that way to me. I, for one, would never recognize such a champion, but I would sure enjoy it if, say, Ivanchuk - as only he could do- had the best four games of his life against Carlsen, and then fell apart in all his games against, say, Anand. I would so love to watch frogbert tie himself into knots if Carlsen missed out on the "title" even if he beat Anand head-to-head. I would so enjoy quoting the "demonstrably best player" bit...

The top five, as listed by frogbert, are indeed in a special category. There are GMs, there are super GMs and there are elite super GMs. (FWIW, I would put Kramnik a tiny bit ahead of the other four, but I am a very weak chess player, so what do I know...) I agree that Ivanchuk might be the only one who could compete against these five. I would hope Grischuk could too (as I like his style), but let him prove it in Linares. Of course, I would love to include Alexander Morozevich in the list of elite super GMs (who wouldn't?) but somehow it does not work. (And Peter Svidler, with his crazy cricket thing...)

Note that I wouldn't disagree with this:

"drr can produce the toughest challenge I'd say there currently is for any player who wants to prove his elite status, at least theoretically."

But to suggest deciding the title in a tournament is a very bad idea, IMO. DRRs are a great way to show one's elite status, but playing the WC in a long(er) match is an even tougher deal and that should be the format for deciding the world title.

"How many and who of the current 2700s would've been able to defend his rating relative to these 5 players? "

Well, the thing about such tournament is that you can have a bad result and still gain points, simply because the expected score is relatively low. So, some would definitely gain points. It is not about elite players being inherently unlikely to lose points, but it is more about the fact that most players are not used to deal with such quality opposition on the day in, day out basis. Hell, even the elite players themselves are not used to such opposition - when was the last time a tourney like that happened?

"when was the last time a tourney like that happened?"
Tal Memorial came quite close, only missing Topalov (and the rest of the field weren't exactly "tourists" either). But OK, it was just a single round-robin.

Of course, one wouldn't even have to be a 2700 to gain points on the elite guys. Even much weaker folks could do that, I think. The winner of "Play like Topalov" contest (who was an expert) managed to hold Topalov to a draw in an exhibition game prior to the Sofia tournament - I think it was last year. Topalov played blindfolded, though. But still, I imagine something like that could happen in a real game - I think a strong untitled player could perhaps gain points from the elite guys - and he would only need to score like 1 draw in 12 games. A theory-minded expert with decent technique could be a tough deal for superGMs, if their mission is to go 12/12 against him. Somewhere down the line the expert is likely to get lucky and get an opening he knows well and play a strong game, etc.

"Of course, one wouldn't even have to be a 2700 to gain points on the elite guys."

I was indeed talking about the 2700+ guys for a reason.

The thing is that the 2700s are quite close to the top 5 in rating, and hence is expected to score against them. -2 in 10 rounds won't cut it for most of them. In fact, I think most of the (rather many) players in the 2700-2720 area would lose rating by playing such a hypothetical event. And quite many of those ranked 6 to 20 too.

"It is not about elite players being inherently unlikely to lose points, but it is more about the fact that most players are not used to deal with such quality opposition on the day in, day out basis."

Of course anyone can lose rating points, and does. The important thing is the second part of your sentence, I think.

"you can have a bad result and still gain points, simply because the expected score is relatively low."

Not really. If you defend your rating, I don't think you have a "bad result" - that's the usefulness of thinking in terms of ratings (which real chess players don't care about, btw :o)

But the main thing is that the expected score isn't really that low. Let's consider rank #15 with a current rating of ca. 2735 (Leko, Eljanov, Nakamura - your choice) and use the expected March ratings of the top 5:

Carlsen 2813
Topalov 2805
Kramnik 2790
Anand 2787
Aronian 2782

The top 5 as a group has never been higher rated ever, and that might indicate that they, again as a group, is more likely to drop a little than to keep gaining in the next 6 months. (I.e. they might be a little "boosted" at the moment.)

Scoring 4/10 would make the 2735 player lose 1,4 points, 4,5/10 and he would gain 3,6 points.

Going "only -1" against those 5 players over 10 games isn't such an easy task - someone is going to barely do -1 in the forthcoming Linares, and someone will (probably) go even -2 (or worse) there.

Agreed. But like I mentioned, it was probably more due to the fact that people are not used to playing such quality opposition on day in/day out basis. I think if most people are given a chance to play the elite guys over several events, they would eventually get used to it and overcome this initial difficulty. But usually most people outside the top 10 (or whatever) don't play against the elite on regular basis, and when they finally get a chance, it is a whole new experience to them. But experienced supertournament players like Gelfand or Leko or Radjabov are just as likely to gain as to lose points, IMO.

"Let's consider rank #15 with a current rating of ca. 2735 (Leko, Eljanov, Nakamura - your choice) "

Well, I think who you choose matters quite a bit here. -1 or better would be very possible for Leko. He even won comparable events in the past (Linares 2003 comes to mind, where he was first ahead of Kramnik, Kasparov and Anand), though he seems to be past his prime now. Eljanov and Nakamura are another story. They don't have much experience against the elite at all, so chances are they would lose points.

By the way, when I mentioned Gelfand, I mean when he is closer to his "normal" rating. He seems to be on somewhat of an upswing now, and I think chances are he has about hit his "ceiling" at 2760. So, no, I don't think he would hold his 2760 against them, but he would gave good chances to hold his more "normal" rating or say, 2730.

Gelfand is indeed currently at his ELO maximum (at least with respect to the last 10 years), but maybe it is not just an accident: He reached 2755 on the July 2009 list, since then he has played 69 games to gain another 6 points. This includes defending his rating at the Tal Memorial (with a 50% score) and being "best of the rest" at the World Cup - where the top5 didn't participate.

Earlier at the 2007 Mexico WCh (starting with his "usual" ELO2733) he was shared second with Kramnik. His combined recent score against the top5 (based on statistics on the FIDE ELO pages) is +5=19-6, this should correspond to a 2760 performance!?

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 8, 2010 11:57 PM.

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