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Big Bad Vlad Takes Bilbao

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For a man who used to seem to score +2 at will, rarely more and rarely less, a six-round sprint was custom-made. Then Kramnik, a player with a huge disparity in winning percentage with white and black and a (waning) reputation for tiring toward the end of events, drew #1 in the lots and started with two whites. All Kramnik had to do then to win the strongest tournament in history (add as many asterisks as you like, we can go into that later) was go out and beat world champion Anand, world #1 Carlsen, and Alexei Shirov, who had beaten him while scoring a convincing victory in the Bilbao qualifier in Shanghai a few weeks ago.

Kramnik made it look almost easy, playing with the devastating combination of subtlety and power that he showed in his comeback year of 2009 after losing the world championship to Anand. Kramnik beat Carlsen in the first round, Shirov in the second, and drew the final four to hit his +2 and take clear first place undefeated. Great stuff from Kramnik, it's only a pity they didn't play another six games. Anand, who seems to treat tournaments as warm-ups for his endless chain of matches, scored a nice win over the unrecognizable Carlsen in the second round and drew his way home for second place. An honorable result, but his tournament win drought will hit three years in February. To be fair, that's only five classical events so far, and going five consecutive tournaments without a taste of first place is sweetened considerably by winning two world championship matches during that period. It would be interesting to know the last time a reigning world champ went five classical events without a share of first. Probably Kramnik himself in 04-05.

Red flags were waving all over the place for Magnus Carlsen well before he landed in Bilbao. He lost three games at the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk and was looking not at all like the superhero who had run up the second-highest rating of all time over the previous year. The rumors started quickly, the search for a succubus Delilah sapping the strength of the Norwegian Samson. These have become a staple at least since Bobby Fischer's famous collapse at Buenos Aires, 1960. I can never remember if GM Evans confirms, denies, or tactfully no comments the stories about Fischer losing his virginity there with a girl Evans set him up with, but this is an article of faith among porteƱo veterans who were involved in the event. The stories get more colorful all the time. I suppose you can even take this back to the tales of Pillsbury getting the syphilis that eventually killed him from a hooker in St. Petersburg. (He did die of syphilis, according to the death certificate, but unless I missed something its provenance is likely to remain a mystery.) So instead of wondering whether or not Carlsen has trouble with his black repertoire we keep hearing about whether he's having trouble with a blonde or brunette.

Apart from the predictable element of misogyny, I guess that's more fun -- and I suppose the two things aren't mutually exclusive. Time spent canoodling is time not spent grinding away on the Queen's Indian. (Hmm, that sort of sounds dirty itself.) Carlsen was a move away from a miracle save in his loss against Anand and continued to play ambitiously despite his poor form. 33.d5! looks like it holds, the epic swindle reaching fruition after 33..Bc8 34.g4! Nd4 35.Nd6 and suddenly Black has to find the problem-like move 35..Bb7! 36.Nxb7 and both 36..Nc8 and 36..Nxb3 end in a draw, though there are still tricks. Carlsen then went 174 moves against Shirov trying to win with three minor pieces against a queen. He was back on the defensive with white against Kramnik in the next round, but he managed to hold a rook and pawn endgame a pawn down. He finally notched a win in the fifth round, beating Shirov in an exciting game. The adventures continued in the final round against Anand, where he was getting into trouble at the time control before finding a cute piece sac to force the draw. (Anand needed to find the cool deflection 44.Qxd6 Rxf3 45.h4! to keep winning chances, but he would also keep losing chances.) Again, it's lamentable they couldn't go another few rounds.

Shirov kept things interesting as always, but disappointed his fans hoping for a repeat of the form he showed in Shanghai. Overall, despite Carlsen's poor showing, the tournament lived up to the hype over the board with plenty of great games. Carlsen has lost so many points he's actually dropped from the #1 spot on the live list, falling behind Anand by a couple of points. He'll have a chance to get them back without further delay since the Nanjing event, the site of his most remarkable result ever last year, begins today. It's Anand, Carlsen, Topalov, Gashimov, Wang Yue, and Bacrot. If that's not enough, practically the rest of the top 40 are playing in the massive Euro Club Cup in Plovdiv. Chess on!


"[Anand's] tournament win drought will hit three years in February."
Shouldn't this be 'might hit three years ...'? After all, until then he will play Nanjing, Tal Memorial, London and Tata(formerly Corus) - and maybe Linares to make it precisely three years.

As for "a pity they didn't play another six games" - I agree, but six rounds is all they could squeeze in between Olympiad and Nanjing plus European Club Cup.

Oops, too fast again - wrong about Tal Memorial, but still three or four events to go.

lol; "Shoot from the Lip" Thomas strikes again...

Some dirt, little grist, and a November blackout warning. Ohhh.

Kramnik won 2004 Linares. Lost Dortmund (2nd). Lost Corus 2005 (+1). Last in MTel (-2). Lost Dortmund (=). Lost Super final (=). Won Dortmund 2006.

Najing first round: Anand is white against Wang Yue (according to his twitter). I dont see other pairings on the official site. oh and is there going to be new thread for Nanjing?

Regarding the live list - it's a pity Frogbert hasn't updated it after the last round from Bilbao.

Can people refrain from posting using handles associated with tasty fast food, I just ruined my keyboard with drool

Prof...I can respect that request.

You will note that I said "tasty" and therefore you have fulfilled my request admirably. It is not well known but the Big Mac was invented by a prescient Al Queada forefather, to destroy America. A brilliant man.


...Not over the board, but over the microphone. Did anyone else notice that, in the postgame interviews, Magnus was more comfortable and showed more personality than I for one can ever remember (notwithstanding his sub-par OTB performance)? Granted, these interviews can never be easy. They are done immediately after getting up from hours of playing and are meant to address the conduct of a game that, given the level of play, 99.9% of chess players cannot fully grasp. Nevertheless, some players are real pros at this aspect of the game: Aronian, Shirov and Kramnik, if he is performing well, can offer an entertaining dash of personality along with fitting commentary that makes them shine at these press events. Magnus has never received high marks for this in the past, but he did a terrific job this time. Perhaps the G-Star experience is making him more self-aware and confident in these situations.

Popular culture has never recognized more than one or two chess stars at a time. Besides his fantastic chess ability, this marked development of Magnus's public persona suggests, like many other recent signals, that Magnus will be the one so recognized.

Will Carlsen wear his red pajamas again?

I have a new nickname for Wang Yue to add to the previous nicks:

"The Cooler" by Mig
"Sleepy Panda" by Mig
"The Lawnmower" by me

Wang "The Sleeper Hold" Yue

Maybe so, but the real reason the organizers didn't plump for a longer tournament is because the costs (=appearance fees) would have been that much greater.

Why spend more $$ than necessary, to achieve the mantle of World's Strongest Tournament?

Besides, it would not have been nice to Shirov, to have him play 4 games each against Kramnik, Anand, and Carlsen.

There's a chance that with a field comprised of Anand, Carlsen, Topalov and Aronian, that we might (in the near future) finally see a Category 23 event (Average Rating: 2801+).

Let's save the Quadruple Round Robin format for a real Jubilee event.

Of course, putting the chase for Cat. 23 aside, I'd prefer to see a tried and true Double RR event, expanded to 6 players by adding Kramnik and Ivanchuk.

"As for "a pity they didn't play another six games" - I agree, but six rounds is all they could squeeze in between Olympiad and Nanjing plus European Club Cup."

Its a blonde, Maggi's not into brunettes, I hear.

What ever happened to not letting truth stand in the way of a good story?

Chessbase says about Nanjing "This is the last event before the next rating list, and there is absolutely no doubt he will want to set things right, and staunch the Elo bleeding."

But I think it wont be rated for the November as it only finishes on the 30th of October. Usually FIDE wants the events to have finished much before. We will see. If thisholds, then Anand is no: 1 per FIDE november list. The live rating although has sort of become more official than fide amongst chess fans.

will be nice if the players wear that traditional outfit that was popular last year in Nanjing.

"If this holds [Nanjing won't be rated for the Nov 2010 list], then Anand is no: 1 per FIDE november list."
Not necessarily - Aronian is currently playing at the European Club Cup which finishes 24th October and, if I'm not mistaken, as an official FIDE event is exempt from rating deadlines. He is just 9.6 points behind Vishy which is doable with wins against, for example, Ivanchuk (whom he plays today) and Gelfand or Mamedyarov. If Aronian and Anand end up exactly tied by rating, Aronian would be officially ahead based on number of games played (Olympiad + ECC vs. Bilbao).
Just saying - for some reason Aronian is rather overlooked in this sort of debates.

Aronian-Ivanchuk 1-0 (quite amazing as he was down to less than a minute - plus increments - around move 20). Together with his win against Huzman yesterday he gained 7.3 points which should put him at 2801.1 once the live list is updated again - 0.4 points behind Carlsen, 2.7 points behind Anand. Welcome in the 2800 club!

Of course this just indicates that whoever is on top of the list may be #2 or #3 tomorrow.

This niggling points thing is what I was talking about. Now you're putting poor Harish Srinivasan under pressure. ;)

"for some reason Aronian is rather overlooked in this sort of debates"
Very true. Everyone's eyes on Carlsen, Anand, Kramnik. Although some time ago Aronian was much-touted. Since then he has been making quiet progress with some setbacks. But maybe now he'll boot down the door to the debating-hall! Yes, a real force to be reckoned with.

You're right. Like Ivanchuk (leave out the world champs for now), he's capable of beating anyone at any time, but he's much more consistent than Ivanchuk.

"Historically", there was also Topalov - who might also get close to the very top again if he does well in Nanjing. Anand, Kramnik and Topalov all are/were world champions, Carlsen has/had a former world champion as his coach, by comparison Aronian is "bleak". BTW, who is helping Aronian (other than his Armenian teammates)?

Over the next days, the #1 live spot could actually change twice daily: in the morning (European time) when Anand and Carlsen play in Nanjing, again in the afternoon/evening when Aronian plays at the ECC. Lots of work for frogbert! ,:)

Is a Mao suit considered to be "traditional" now? I guess if throw on enough ornamentation it looks more ancient.

The live ratings are a two-edged sword if they are updating only sometimes. Controlling such an asset can be a chore.

Aronian doesn't win too many tournaments. He has really snuck up on it. +1 in Linares, and even in Shanghai.

"Aronian doesn't win too many tournaments."

Apparently three ain't many, or is 2008/2009 too long ago? Sochi and Nalchik FIDE Grand Prix, Bilbao.

Thing are getting interesting at the top (in the liverating version). 3 players above 2800 and within 3 points from each other.

Aronian might have a chance to be temporarily no. 1, at least in the liverating version. A very rare distinction.

It's interesting to see both Ivanchuk and Kramnik also taking ratings seriously: http://www.chessintranslation.com/2010/10/ivanchuk-people-look-at-some-of-us-as-eccentrics/ &

http://www.chessintranslation.com/2010/10/kramnik-for-now-magnus-is-my-client/ (Kramnik joins Kasparov in giving Magnus some advice!)

Awesome mishanp, Thanks a million

Kramnik has really made a big impression on me in the last year or so. No drama, no bulls**t, no excuses, no vilifying opponents. He is consistently clear-thinking in his evaluation of himself and his opponents and gracious where he could be gloating. Best of all he's played some damn good chess.

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    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on October 18, 2010 3:55 AM.

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