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Kavalek Comes Back

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Great news. The longtime chess columnist for the Washington Post, GM Lubomir Kavalek, whose column was disappeared, has found a new home as the chess correspondent for the Huffington Post. His first column, on Kamsky's win at the US championship, is available here. Enjoy Lubos' resurrection while you can, as true chess columns are a dying breed, especially great ones like his.

What makes a good column? A knowledgeable and strong player, bringing his lifetime of experience with the personalities, games, and history of chess to bear on an event and with concise analysis of a game or fragment. In other words, a chess column -- emphasis on the chess and also on the column format, which isn't a news story or an essay or a blog post. This sounds simple enough, but there are fewer all the time and very few good ones, at least in English. Papers are cutting back radically and don't see the point of paying an online columnist to compete (as they see it) in a content area that has so many specialized websites out there.

The idea that a good and serious chess column is a relevant cultural item to have in a newspaper doesn't enter the equation, just like so many other things the papers have cut. This continues the trend of removing everything that isn't "essential" until you find out that you don't have anything essential at all, and that the value was in the sum of the parts. Not even counting the loss of Kavalek, the WaPo has gone from being one of the best papers in the world to a mediocre rag with an over-specialized focus in an incredibly short span. And don't even get me started on the C-list bozos they've added to their once-respectable op-ed page.


I think he was just linking to the page that had the link to it. Thanks to you both.

I should have added my usual "write to your local paper and ask for a chess column" lament to the piece. It is nice to have chess in a place where you don't necessarily have to be looking for it to find it. That used to be one of the joys of reading a real newspaper. You browsed it. Now all we do is read exactly what we are looking for, which is handy but impoverishing at the same time.

The downside of being at HuffPo and in their sports section, which initially encouraged me, is seen in the headlines of the moment below Lubos' piece. One on breasts, another on sexy tennis attire, one on a basketball player perhaps sleeping with Lebron's mom, and finally, one on a picture of a baseball player's penis. Hmm, Lubos might have to start spicing things up pretty quickly!

Perhaps not a nitpick, as names deserve correct spelling: it's Lubomir (Czech), not Ljubomir (Serbian). For purists: Lubomír Kaválek.

I am glad you brought this up. Chess players come from all over the world, which gives us an opportunity to learn a thing or two about different cultures. Figuring out how names are correctly pronounced and spelled in the native tongue is a good place to start.

One correction which is long overdue is GM Hashimov's case. The standard western transliteration: Gashimov is not correct. As it happens, the russian language does not use the "H" sound and therefore "G" is used instead (mostly).

Ironically one of the reasons chess colums have a hard time today is blogs like this. ;)

@Guru: Isn't that the reason we use transliteration? If we have to learn how every letter is pronounced in Russian, we might as well learn the Russian alphabet and do away with transliteration completely. Now this may be doable for one language, but do you expect everybody to learn every language?

Local newspapers are crap. No international news, no chess,no analysis or commentary, nothing beyond the bulls**t news-cycle of the week...no wonder people look for news online...

Even so, I'd rather read der Spiegel than check out worthless sites such as CNN or Fox...sad days indeed.

Part of the problem is that quite a few chess columnists jobs are sinecures. The output is correspondingly weak. I'm thinking particularly of the Times of London.

@trm: Hashimov is Azeri, and his name could be transliterated correctly from his mother tongue to english, without passing through a russian transliteration first.

Off topic, there was a little flare up with Topalov giving an interview to the Times of India, and Aruna Anand reacting to some of his comments. Overview at chessdom: http://interviews.chessdom.com/topalov-world-championship-interview

I actually blame the Indian media for this. Over the past 10 years, they have almost all (with the exception of The Hindu) descended into tabloid journalism. ToI especially has turned into a toilet rag. They often have loose ethical standards for interviews, and will edit things to add their own spin and sensationalize them. If something is in quotation marks it doesn't mean the interviewee actually said it. I bet they provoked Aruna by giving her false Topalov quotes AND hyped up her response before printing it. (What 'allegations' is she referring to? I didn't see any in Topalov's interview. His comments were in bad taste, but wouldn't terribly surprise anyone.) Even when not trying to spin things, they are not very reliable -- remember the Carlsen-Nielsen mix up? Topalov's interview was by email, so ToI could not mangle it very much, but I think Aruna got taken for a ride. Anand's team should be very careful when dealing with the Indian media.

@Guru: transliteration is only an issue if the original alphabet is not Latin. In Kavalek's (and also Ftacnik's) case (Czech and Slovak) there should be no ambiguity - only original diacritics are usually dropped.

For purists again: Czech and Slovak Lubomirs are not the same:

Lubomír Kaválek (Czech - normal "hard" L)
Ľubomír Ftáčnik (Slovak - "soft" Ľ)

I'm sure the "Ljubomir" spelling was a mental "short circuit" caused by a certain Ljubomir Ljubojevic (Serbian).

Since Serbia reportedly uses both Cyrillic and adapted Latin, I don't know if he considers himself Љубомир Љубојевић or Ljubomir Ljubojević... ;)

The Huffington Post, for cryin' out loud?

Thanks! When on earth will Topalov and Danailov learn that the more extensive their answers the worse they look!? The Times actually did them a favour with their editing. It's the same as after Elista - they complained that Chessbase didn't publish their ridiculous "wires in the ceiling" photos but of course when Chessbase did it just helped to make Topalov into a laughing stock.

While I laude the HuffPost for adding a chess column, "news"-papers are a thing of the past. Everything has it's own electronic media outlet now. Heck, even single events (i.e., the recent World Chess Championship) spawn their own websites these days!

Thanks for bringing this up, Mig. Being an NPR, New York Times and BBC news user, my first impession on seeing the sports page was "what a load of sensationalist crap." I don't know much about the Huffington Post other than it's political orientation, but I wasn't expecting it to be a pop culture bottom-feeder (pun on Venus Williams intended)

Good find ptr!

I don't see anything out of the ordinary from Topalov. Yeah, he is being a punk about Elista...what else is new?

TOI: According to some reports, it seems Anand was helped by Kasparov, Kramnik and Carlsen for the match. Your comments.

Veselin Topalov: I do not think Anand should be very proud of this. Especially by the fact he accepted help from the first two. I have been among the chess elite for 15 years and perfectly remember how Kasparov treated Anand for years. And not long before the World Championship match in Bonn 2008, Anand had to stand the arrogant statements of his opponent in the press. I would never accept help from people who humiliated me for years even for free. But it seems Anand is different.


What a loser.

This is technically off-topic here, but I am not the original sinner :)

Polish Chess Federation's webpage has a very interesting interview (in Polish) with Radoslaw Wojtaszek about being Anand's second. http://www.pzszach.org.pl/index.php?idm2=173&idn=819 . I have no time this week to translate. I will try next week. Unless mishanp does it first :)

I like Kaválek, after having meeting him last year; but Arianna Huffington is a wacko.

Anand's secret appears to have been a dedication to regular partying.

"Mental Anand" after losing game 1 - nice :-)

I don't know, man! I'm a huge Anand fan, but I don't see any "allegations" in what Topalov is saying. To me, he just seems like a straight arrow, always speaking his mind, without trying diplomatic language. also, I don't see anything wrong with what he says. It's true Kasparov showed certain level of disdain for Anand during the 1995 match. Anand has forgotten/forgiven that aspect of Kapy but Topalov simply says he wouldn't have done so...

I also don't see anything wrong with Topalov's observation that Anand doesn't use his WC title to increase sponsorship for Chess which is true. He also sounded sincere when he complemented Anand as a "complete" player in all forms of Chess.

If you take Danailov out of the equation, I think Topalov is a pretty decent and frank person..

Yeah, it sounds funny. In Polish "partia" (i.e., "party") means "a game" in a sports context. (It also means "a political party", but not a partying kind of party.)

I used to be with you on this, saguni, but the ABC interview ended that benefit of the doubt for me. With plenty of time to reflect, Topalov (not Danailov) sat down to an interview with a major Spanish paper -- not a Bulgarian one where you might expect some idle speculation or angry words or an enhanced recounting by the journo. He explicitly accused his opponent in a recently completed world championship match of cheating. Not of shenanigans or of suspicious behavior, but of cheating.

Now, I suppose you can say that this too is simply speaking his mind, but making such allegations with no proof whatsoever isn't straight arrow behavior. He may just be over-forthcoming, but he's no innocent and he needed to understand the damage such statements could do, and did do, if mostly to himself.

Btw, to bravely get back on topic for a second, Lubos responds to say he won't have any trouble spicing things up. He says he'll just talk to Shabalov or Yermo! (He was kind enough not to point out I typoed his name, which I do know quite well.)

Mig, do you feel as strongly about the allegations that Topalov cheated?

Lately I had 6 weaks of psychotherapie and I feel better. Maybe it could be useful for world-championship loser too.

Computerized translations are often amusing!

I know it's less than six weeks since the match. But maybe Topalov DID go for psychotherapy, and the shrink's advice was: giving such interviews will make you feel better.

I forget the scenario; which GM(s) publicly announced that Topalov was cheating?


Actually, Mig did feel as strongly about these allegations, as he describes here. As he points out, nobody publicly accused Topalov, they were all cowards. So Kudos to Mig.


However my belief has long been that these allegations unhinged Topalov, being totally without proof. Doesn't excuse his obviously ridiculous accusations of Kramnik cheating, but helps to explain them perhaps.

"I forget the scenario; which GM(s) publicly announced that Topalov was cheating?"

I suppose you meant Short but in fact he didn't say anything like that although Cheparinov et consortes state otherwise. Short only said technically it was possible, a journalist twisted his words, Short issued a dementi but the Topalov team preferes to stir things up - their problem, no one likes them anymore.

Actually, it was Vladimir Barsky , trainer of Alexander Morozevich who first accused Topalov of cheating after San Luis in the Russian forums.

I don't think Barsky accused Topalov of cheating. If you say otherwise, please quote him.

One who did explicitly accuse him was Dolmatov, if I remember correctly.


Dude, how is the little one? I just watched the movie "Kick-Ass". If you raise your kid to kick some serious ass like that little girl in the movie, I will pay for his college tuition...that is a promise!

Now man, can you start another thread about Topalov's latest interview? ;)

Take care dude and go kick some ass!

I read the replies of Aruna on chessdom. Does not look like she was replying to any misquotes.

¨I used to be with you on this, saguni, but the ABC interview ended that benefit of the doubt for me.¨

Which doubt? That they would confirm their point of view to ABC ?

¨He may just be over-forthcoming, but he's no innocent and he needed to understand the damage such statements could do, and did do, if mostly to himself.¨

Wow , mafia_slang_detected, nice line for the Sopranos though.

To me, it sounds like Aruna and Vishy were replying to something quite different from Topalov's actual comments to ToI. What are the "allegations" they are referring to? Here is Anand's quote from the Chessbase article: "Topolov's allegations are baseless. It is a lame excuse, I took more of an emotional support from them." This does not make any sense if you read Topalov's interview. What excuse did Topalov make? Anand seems to think Topalov made an excuse for his loss, blaming it on the help Anand got from K-K-C. That is the only way I can read it. And Topalov didn't say anything like that.

The controversial part of what Topalov said was, basically, that Anand is a wuss for accepting help from people who had "humiliated" him in the past. (Topalov's word.) I think Anand wouldn't even reply to such a statement. Now, I had some brief (and bitter) experience of being interviewed by some Indian newspapers a long time back, so I think I know how Anand's interview went down. Reporter says that some people (maybe Topalov) have said that you only won because of the help from two former World Champions and the World No. 1. Your response? Anand says 'Well, if he really said that, that's a lame excuse. I got mostly an emotional help from them.' Reporter writes his story, omitting the qualifier, and any indication of what Anand was referring to.

I bet my comment won't be published. It's good to fight for Russian democracy while we exercise a little censorship in Brooklyn!

Waaaaah, the automated profanity filter blocked my post so I'm going to whine about censorship. Waaaaah. Also, I don't know what censorship means. Waaaah! Now I'm going to personally attack you and a bunch of other posters anonymously, finish with some trolling about Kasparov on topics I don't understand, and then hope I get some attention. Waaaah!

There, took care of that for you. Still curious?

Waaaaah , i´ll personally attack you instead of admitting you were right.
And why are you so curious about censorship when im the only one allowed to erase comments here?

Two quotes from one of my favorite books:

"A more particular aspect of chess fame is the enormous appeal it has for the insane. There are good grounds for the proposition that all chess players are lunatics, but inversely, it is obvious that certified lunatics envy chess players their "master brains". Most of those allowed on the loose in downtown Amsterdam are acquaintances of mine, and patiently--in the awareness of our kinship--I listen to their complaints, which usually have to do with the fact that they cannot accept the world as it is",

"When giving an interview, always bear in mind that what you get to read later is never what you have said but at best what you were understood to have said."

from The King by Hein Donner

Ok, you persuaded me - it's not often there's anything Polish to translate...:) I haven't covered everything, but here's Radosław Wojtaszek talking to Wojciech Przybylski about being one of Anand's seconds:

- How does preparing for a WC match differ from the way you normally work on chess?

RW: The main difference, I think, is the fact that with a match you prepare "for an opponent", looking for openings which will allow you to get an advantage with white or equalise with black. Everyone knows that Topalov prefers sharp but not always correct play, so from the outset the main task was to neutralise his team's preparation.
- Were there any behind-the-scenes affairs during the match? e.g. the power cut during one of the games?

RW: To be honest during the whole match we tried to avoid reading any news about it as we knew that would add to the stress. All the negotiations with the Bulgarian side were handled by Aruna (Vishy's wife and manager), our task was purely chess preparation. The affair with the power cut really was extraordinary, but it was something I only learnt about after the game (that was the only game during which I actually managed to fall asleep, despite the stress). In general the match went off without any serious incidents, which has to be considered quite a big surprise, given the previous matches Topalov took part in...

- This time as Anand's second did you manage to visit the playing hall, or was it like the match with Kramnik where you didn't have time?

RW: We continued the tradition from Bonn, where we didn't go to the playing hall until the end of the match. It was the same this time, and only when we saw the result of the game on the internet did we immediately drive to the playing hall to celebrate the victory we'd all be hoping for.

- How many hours a day did you work in Anand's team during the match?

RW: We didn't have any set working hours. It all depended on the number of opening problems we had before a game. During the free days we started at about 10 and usually finished at 4 am, but there were days when he finished later (e.g. before game 5 we didn't sleep at all).
- Did you manage to discover some weak points in Topalov's play?

RW: The whole preparation was devoted, among other things, to finding Topalov's weak points. It's clear that he feels less comfortable in classical positions, as the match showed. As I said before, our aim was to avoid complicated positions in which Topalov feels great, which he demonstrated by winning a number of games in that style in Linares before the match.
- Did Anand analyse along with his team of seconds during the match, or did he just receive ready, prepared material?

RW: During the match he set aside some time for analysis, but he mainly tried to absorb the ideas we'd prepared.
- Can you use the common analysis from the team of seconds in your own games?

RW: It depends on what we decide after the match. For now we haven't discussed it. After the Kramnik match we used our preparation in a few games, e.g. I got an advantage with black in a game with Grischuk in the Olympiad in Dresden playing a line which we'd prepared for the Kramnik match. In my opinion it's just as important that I had the chance to see what training looks like at the very highest level and what you should pay attention to - and I'm counting on that also helping me in future.

- How has cooperating with the World Champion affected your own personal career?

RW: To tell the truth, during the training sessions I didn't think about it - the most important thing was to defend Anand's title. No doubt the training, and simply spending time with Vishy and the other players from our team allows me to improve my own skills. After the match in Bonn I almost immediately gained 60 rating points, and I hope that now it'll be the same.

Thank you, mishanp! So refreshing to read about Anand-Topalov match without the usual spite, venom, glee, delusions, and recriminations.

Did you notice the story about Russian politics in International Herald Tribune?

Welcome back Kavalek, and thats a good paper. They have excellent all around coverage, although sad to see the Romainian tennis player got breast reduction surgery (she is very pretty), hope it helps her career.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 27, 2010 2:42 AM.

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