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‎2011 is Loading ██████ 99.99%

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Well, here we are. I'm back home to the piles of snow and slush at last. My latest family health crisis seems to have had a happy ending (father, cancer, not a good year) with surgery last week and I'm feeling somewhat revitalized. Now to finish this damn book and get back to enjoying life.

What were the biggest and best stories of 2010? The most overhyped? The most overlooked? Best and/or most memorable game nominees? I've been so spotty at blogging this year that looking back over the Dirt archives isn't a useful way to peruse the highlights and lowlights. Hoping to do better in 2011, if that can count as a weak resolution.

Meanwhile, there are always these two running, or flying, around to keep me cheered up, exhausted, and on my toes.


The picture especially the first one is awesome. Kids are so much fun.. especially when you look at their innocence. Hope this year keeps you in good health and brings joy to your family.

For me the best would be Anand bouncing back against Topalov after the first round loss.

Regards, Vishaal

My 1972 Topps card would've labelled the first pic 'IA' short for In Action.

Happy new year all! The WC match was my highlight of 2010

The greatest hollow achievement: Hou Yifan wins the women's championship.

- no Judit, no legitimacy
- knockout format - illegimate format
- no rating gain in 2 years (a most important indicator of a prodigy-junior's progress)

P.S. - My perennial nag:
Mig: can't you talk Judit into playing for the women's championship? FIDE would immediately revert to match format were she to enter.

A simple persuasion would do the chess world the historic favor of ending the 20-year running joke of WWC.

Moreover, I'd imagine they do Judit, Humpy, and the Kosinteva sisters as the 4 candidates by rating, two elimination rounds. Starting matchup:

T. Kosinteva v. Judit
N. Kosinteva v. Humpy

Humpy v. Judit would be close enough in strength to be very viewable.

The probable finale of Hou Yifan - Judit Polgar in 2011 or 2012 is better match; Turkish Federation glad to host.

my personal top 5 stories of the year:

1. Anand retains title
2. Carlsen reveals feet of clay; withdraws from WC
3. Kirsan remains captain of the starship Enterprise
4. Nakamura enters top 10
5. Topalov becomes chess world Osama Bin Laden

Wonderful photos Mig! Its great that you have such a beautiful family--and warmest hopes for your father's continued and speedy recovery. I lost my dad to cancer two years ago, and people can never be replaced...

It is also fantastically appreciated that you provide and endlessly support this Blog/chess cognisenti commenting meeting place... What you do is most appreciated. And who among us does not delight in reading the last interchange, wry humor, most generous and useful Mishanp translations? Thank you all.

Its hard to say what the biggest story is, but one tiny vote--not so much story--as an emergence, and that is of Magnus Carlsen's coming into his own, or close to that.

With that, what maybe really matters is that we have such a large hegemony at the top, with--what is the saying in economics?--all that Schumpeterian' "creative destruction" going on. How much standing room is at the top of a gigantic pyramid, supported by an enormous base? So here--all this rubbing and grinding makes for a lot of powerful vitality and intrique.

Its probably not too fruitful--not anymore, anyway--as others may have discussed (and I don't necessarily disagree) as to whether Anand/Kramnik/Topolov (still or can continue to) 'own him'. It is more that he is becoming who he is. Character takes time, and each man or woman starts to assume their own hue. Its like corking a good wine--lay it on its side, and let it rest, see what you get... This is most unpredictable.

And a few short side notes: First, whether you like Nakamura or not, one has to admit,that he is a fascinating character, who against much doubt or disapproval comments from long ago and recently, has worked very, very hard to steadily and unflinchingly attained super GM status. Congratulations Hikaur. Second, I don't recall exactly when or how, but it is so very nice to see Ivanchuk still playing interesting chess. Thirdly, while it is unclear if Morozevich can still be at the level he once was, and regain form, its a relief to see him in chess again. Blessings and peace and thank you.

[Edit, sorry. Had of course added Aronian to list, but got lost here. My apologies. dk]

I disagree. Polgar had an opportunity to play and she chose not to. This would be like saying the current cycle has no legitimacy because Carlsen isn't playing. I believe Polgar is the strongest women in history, but we cannot denigrate someone who makes a choice to play and win a championship. Eventually Hou Yifan will gain on Polgar's rating and we may see a match.

That first picture must be Photoshopped. No way can a kid fly like that!


A very fitting first photo! It's the new year and everything it symbolizes coming right at ya...
Wishing health and prosperity to all.

Happy New Year! Love those smiles!

Most Memorable Game: London rd 2: Kramnik-Nakamura. Brave risk taking by big Vlad and no crying after the loss.

Glad to see: Hou Yifan and Viswanathan Anand W/C's, Ivanchuck still playing his style of chess, Carlsen is human and can lose, Nakamura a super GM in top 10, McShane back on form, the play of Neponiachtchi, Spassky recovering from stroke, the great commentary on ICC.

Sad to see: Kirsan still the boss, the loss of so many in the chess family in one year (especially Larsen and Evans), Carlsen vs. The World (Raw indeed), no more NH Rising stars-Experience tournys, Carlsen dropping out.

Over hyped: Fischer DNA stories.

Would like to see: Morozevich back in the top 10, Kamsky do well against Topalov, an endgame book by Yermolinsky, fewer trolls.

Happy New Year to everybody, particularly Mig (my father also had cancer, dying at the age of 68 after 7 years of ups and downs).

Apparently mishanp now hesitates to make publicity for his site, so I will mention the interview "Vladimir Kramnik on 2010". Among other things, he mentions/clarifies that his piece sacrifice against Nakamura was a deliberate decision motivated by the Bilbao scoring system - maybe the only, or one of few games in London where Bilbao rules made a difference?

Maybe it makes me a Naka hater, but IMO Aronian crossing 2800 and Karjakin entering the top5 are as newsworthy as Hikaru entering the top10. For game of the year, there must be many candidates. I could even nominate Karjakin-Kramnik from Tal Memorial, a speculative piece sacrifice that worked out fine.

Anand wins
Karpov loses
Carlsen drops out

I should probably post the link to the Kramnik interview :) (been thrown a bit off track by a burst pipe flooding the flat below at almost exactly midnight New Year's Eve...) http://www.chessintranslation.com/2010/12/vladimir-kramnik-on-2010/

I was surprised Kramnik mentioned he'd played differently because of the 3-point system as well! It's a shame he didn't go into detail about the Carlsen game.

Karjakin - Kramnik won the Chesspro November game-of-the-month competition by an absolute landslide. Only 2 of the 9 judges gave it less than maximum points: http://chesspro.ru/_events/2010/best_november2.html

After that there was: 2) Shirov-Mamedyarov, 3) Aronian-Gelfand 4) Kramnik-Shirov (all from the Tal Memorial)

Happy New Year all!

Great photos, and OMG, your children fly?? How cool is that!
I think the vagaries of Carlsen's career, his ups and downs, has been one of the most interesting stories to follow - it's keeping me guessing.
Also Little Satan's attempt to overthrow Big Satan as President of FIDE was really interesting. I'm actually starting to think better of Karpov these days so I guess I shouldn't say things like that.
I was very saddened by Smyslov's passing - and frightened for Spassky. I have admired both of them.
All year I've been wondering about the true power of Anand - whether he is playing conservatively to husband his strength, or whether he really doesn't have the gas in the tank he used to have. I don't intend to criticize or imply at all that Anand (all kneel) isn't the strongest in the world - I just wonder if his powers are starting to diminish much.
I loved the Internet coverage of the USA championships - I thought Shahade and Maurice Ashley from New York were really great at commentary. I know some people don't care for Jennifer so much but I thought she was just about a perfect match with Ashley. I'd really like to see other tournament commentary modeled on their presentation at St. Louis.
Looking ahead I would love to see Topalov shake off his setbacks and get back in the hunt. He's an exciting, explosive player.
I would like to see a lot of the childish political shenanigans disappear from chess, but (some) chessplayers being what they are I suppose THAT'S not going to happen - this year.
I hope Mig blogs more, but I completely understand his other priorities (and good health to his father). This site is a gift. I'm not a strong player but I love the game deeply, and I really like this site. Thanks to everyone who posts - esp. strong players who take a moment from time to time to clarify what may be obvious to them but isn't to us patzers.
Peace for the New Year.

Why is there a "women's championship" at all? And if the women are segregated from the men, should we at least expect they'll will be putting out a calendar?

Thank you very much for the interesting posts. They greatly increase the value of Mig's site.

phx: "I would like to see a lot of the childish political shenanigans disappear from chess, but (some) chessplayers being what they are I suppose THAT'S not going to happen - this year."

I've been around this sport since the 60's, and I'm sure the same sentiment has been expressed even long before me. It all changes, but it's never different. I would go so far as to remove your last 2-word qualifier. It ain't gonna happen.


Useful information , great post . Thanks for sharing !!

"5. Topalov becomes chess world Osama Bin Laden"

I thought that happened prior to 2010. :)

More seriously, happy new year, Miggy. Welcome back.

Bleh....you never write anything original....are never up to date...I mean...what's the deal? why are you even trying? Just go away. Your submissions are always months late and you always sound like you drink too much..bleh..You're boring. Do something else.

At the risk of feeding a troll, there are a good many of us still waiting around for the alien comet (er, not me, of course). It may come before Mig gets back on track.


Wow, where did Short pull that garbage opening out of? You can't improvise at the board against 2700's.

- Happy with Ivanchuk in 2010 albeit his ups and downs. Continue playing interestingly in 2011.
- Morozevich back in action (which actually started end 2010 in Italy).
- More younger generation cracking the top besides Carlsen, Karjakin, and Nakamura.

Mig, no chess set in the 2nd picture?

Somewhat in this vein... There is a long article in, of all places , ESPN the Magazine for 1/10 about a young Ugandan girl who played in the Olympiad. Very sad, but both interesting, and encouraging to see chess covered in a big way in sporting publication.

Morozevich wasn't (completely) out of action for that long: He played the World Team Championship almost exactly one year ago, and a round robin in Pamplona in July 2010. In these events, he lost 17 and 15 rating points, respectively. The end of 2009 also wasn't good for him: last place in Tal Memorial and early elimination at the World Cup.

Reggio Emilia also doesn't go well for him: yesterday he managed to lose a favorable position against Onischuk right before and right after the time control. Short's result now also reflects the quality of his play - objective quality as opposed to entertainment value. The new headline might be: Vallejo surging. Before the event, the 7th seed might have been happy with a 50% score, which he already assured with three rounds to go!

It's a little unclear who had the cancer scare - it seems to be your father but I'm not certain. Either way, I hope and pray that the surgery was a complete success and that your 2011 is free from any further worries on that score.

I say the same as Dennis M. My prayer is also for peace and clarity both about what you have half-raised and in the medical information itself. All the best to your family. It is clear that you have given more to family, life, and vocation, while still providing a valuable meeting place, so you may ignore what some above say. Happy New Year.

Now that Hou has achieved the women's world championship, hopefully it will mean a substantial curtailing of playing in women's-only events for her. She simply has nothing left to prove in women's chess now and hopefully now she can get on with her chess development by playing in stronger events with men.

Best wishes to you and all yours, Mig.

Agreed, and the same applies to Humpy Koneru. There's no point in beating up on 2400's when she's 2600--it doesn't do her development any good.

Unfortunately, Morozevich was in less action than I would've liked (which makes we wonder what has he been up to last year?).

And alas, he's not doing well in Reggio Emilia.

I just read that ESPN article today. ESPN Next is supposed to profile up and coming star athletes. For example, LeBron James was on the cover when he was in high school.

The story is a nice feel good piece, but at the same time I found it annoyingly out of touch. That girl isn't winning any international tournaments anytime soon. Her FIDE record consists of a grand total of 1 win, 1 draw and 5 loses. The author didn't even pick someone who is genuinely up and coming like Caruana or Giri or So... it doesn't look like he even thought of interviewing one of the FIDE top 5 juniors.

He could have gone after Hou Yifan if he insists on a female. Although I'd prefer someone inside the top 200 players before I call them "up and coming", at least it's somewhat grounded in reality.

Morozevich mentioned that he has many other interests besides chess - to my knowledge, he didn't say which ones, let alone if he can earn money from whichever other activities. Bad results may have affected his motivation, he had dropped out (or declined to participate) at least at two occasions: Amber and the Olympiad. Ivanchuk (now also on a minus score in Reggio) went through a similar phase or phases and had retired for a few days about a year ago ... also after unsatisfactory results at Tal Memorial, World blitz championship and World Cup.

To the surprise of many, Morozevich was the second of Qatari GM Zhu Chen at the Women's World Championship - did he enjoy it, or did he simply need the money?

In my previous post, I basically wanted to point out that Moro's return to the tournament scene isn't such big news IMO - unlike (distant or recent past) Kamsky and McShane.

"Moro's return to the tournament scene isn't such big news IMO"

Maybe it's bigger news to people that like him.

The implicit assumption or insinuation that I don't like or dislike Morozevich is wrong. Rather, a six months break is unusual but not unheard of, though two things are puzzling:
- it happened twice in a row, and
- the exact reason(s) are still unclear.

For example, Kramnik also took a half year break in the first half of 2009, differences were:
- he said so beforehand, and
- he had rather obvious reasons: recharge his batteries after his WCh match against Anand, and he became a father in that period.

No question the writer did not understand chess, at least not serious chess. However, the thrust of the article was about her journey as the ultimate underdog, and I thought as such it was quite powerful. I didn't think it was so much feel good as heartbreaking. That she cannot read, and had never been on an elevator, and has to walk two miles a day through the slums to fetch drinking water, and her time is mostly spent finding food--well to be able to play chess with any competence at all is amazing, and speaks to the hold the game can get on one.

Some people miss wonderful stories because they are focusing on the wrong issue.

There was an article in JAL (Japan Airlines) in-flight magazine about Hikaru Nakamura. Nothing special, but it's still a pity I forgot to pick-up my "complimentary" copy of the magazine when I left the plane. Anybody has it?

actually interview

Um I just came accross this ....haha...wasn't THIS Mike Magnans Comment..haha.Someone must be having fun with you folks.

Part Two of Peter Svidler's answers to reader questions - in English - has just been published: http://www.crestbook.com/en/node/1390

I wrote a short introduction to it here: http://bit.ly/gRrWdK but be sure to read the full version above. I think it's great stuff, even if I am slightly biased :)

Thanks mishanp.
This is a great interview and does enormous credit to all concerned- Peter Svidler,the editors of crestbook etc.

Peter Svidler is proof that a high all-round intelligence, wit, normal personality and good social skills can co-exist with high-grade chess skills. The notion that chess genius is a sine qua non with idiot savant, misanthopic behaviour is comprehensively debunked. GM Svidler is a good advert for chess and ought to be employed more in reaching out to the general public/sponsors/mass media etc.

"Some people miss wonderful stories because they are focusing on the wrong issue."

That's true enough. Although your comment was directed at me, more relevant is that the staff writer for ESPN missed a wonderful story by focusing on the wrong issue.

I actually liked the article; great story. Tugs at the heartstrings. The author actually knows how to turn a phrase too. My point was that I would have liked it better in a different publication where it might have bordered on relevant to the topic explored by the magazine, i.e. the actual up and coming talent in chess. Chess doesn't get much coverage in national media outlets, so it's preferable to have them count for something when they do. I'd love to see that same article published on Chessbase or the like, and a different article in its place; one which meets the objectives of the piece its published in by accurately portraying the "rising stars" in the chess world. There's enough good stories out there which meet the criteria, enough excellent talent from humble beginnings if you want to incorporate that into the story, so why not actually cover the news in the chess world for once?

The article was a cop out.

And the same goes for Kramnik, Anand, etc.--both smart, down-to-earth, non-egonmaniacal people.

In fact, of the top 20, only Ivanchuk strikes me as a true eccentric (although admittedly I don't know much about the newcomers--Gashimov, Wang Hao, etc.).

Sorry to interrupt but i need to know why is that year after year after year Chessbase continues to promote the Vaile gaffe ...
At first i thought it was only about her having sex with somebody on CB, but the thing had become so annoying and persistent that there must be something more , something else.
That old lady goes into the woods every year and returns with ugly music , worst compositions and a face of satisfaction that can only be explained by the pair of male horses she goes with .
On the other hand im sure her music can make some people think that chess is not that boring after all.

Didn't know she was having sex with someone at CB. Please tell us more.

There are plenty of articles written about the subjects you are asking for. Unfortunately some are in foreign languages we do not read. As for the English sources, ESPN wanted to run a unique story. They succeeded. This story has captured my own thoughts when I go to an Olympiad and wonder how all these players from far-flung places have arrived at this location with a common interest. There are so many stories missed because chess media focuses on the top countries and players. However, there are countless stories like Phinoa's. I've written a few of them. I would imagine that Hou's story is forthcoming.

Still another week till Wijk aan Zee? Got im himmel.

or...God in de hemel, in Dutch

kind of makes one believe in purgatory...a place where only the music of Vaile plays, Silvio Danailov is your only companion and your only allowed to play the Petroff

Quite perplexed that this would be a point of contention or necessitate a follow up, but ok.

I'm not talking about articles in other magazines or this specific article's uniqueness, but its appropriateness for the topic and content of the publication. I addressed the inherent value of the piece, and even praised it; concede or refute my point if you wish.

You talk about chess media as if ESPN has much to do with it. ESPN, and English-speaking sports media in general, doesn't have a problem with missing tiny stories in chess. They have a problem with missing big stories in chess.

NOT to say you are wrong, of course you are entitled to your opinion. However, I think your opinion might be partly affected by your perception of 'up and coming.' The issue is the annual NEXT issue, and 'next' in modern patois does not necessarily mean up and coming.

Even more significant, the article is indexed as 'underdog' as opposed to the other categories which are mostly sports of course--the next swimmer, bballer, etc.

Just sayin...

Eh, I'm not feeling the "next" clarification, patois or no. The NEXT award is intended to identify rising stars, and the "up and coming" connotation is certainly what they intend both with the award and the theme of the issue. So even with the label "Underdog", it still doesn't belong there.

I think it's not easy to be egomaniacal for any length of time in bigtime Chess. There are just too many opportunities for other goal-oriented characters to take you down at least once in a while even if you are Anand or Kramnik or whoever.
If those pretenders can't tag you now, perhaps it will be later. So you might as well show a humble face - and I believe this is more true of chess than many other sports, because of the relative longevity of many top players.
You can brag like a braggart in American football for an average of just four years before you're history. It's longer in Baseball and Soccer, but not by a lot. Eight years, ten years?
Sociability is another dimension.
Engaging chaps like Pete Svidler and Jan Gustafsson would be standouts anywhere.

Sure, but the point, per the original post, was that there really aren't that many idiot savants in chess... in fact, there are hardly any nowadays. So Svidler "refutes" the notion that all excellent players are Fischer-like, but so does nearly other player from the top 100, more or less.

If you don't like a certain article, just ignore it ... there is plenty available to suit everyone's taste. This applies to both the ESPN piece and to Vaile on Chessbase.

Actually it could even apply to the Svidler interview: some people (not me!) may think he isn't worth all the attention, but have to admit that others care about him (if only based on the sheer number of questions he got from the chess community).

Not the issue, Thomas. Story was liked... mission accomplished by author. But to get there he had to dodge his real task, which was to write an article that engages a national audience and simultaneously profiles the next top performers of chess.

It's just sad that the only way to get anything beyond complete dismissal of an article in a national media outlet related to quality chess is to couch it in a tug-at-the-heartstrings story that is essentially irrelevant to the topic of the publication.

The source of my (now prolonged, but not originally intended to be so) grousing boils down to the fact that Americans are perceived to find chess completely unpalatable. I say, give chess a chance.

Rorschach Test: VAILE

sour milk, nachos, cottage cheese, Madonna, aging gracelessly, hard living, Friedrich Friedel mistress,...

Rorschach test: apsyrtos

dog bone...

nom nom.

@quely: ha ha, nice. keep it civil.

@apsyrtos: you're right, didn't belong in that issue, but there will always be a handful of people here that don't get your point. quely, thomas, daaim shabazz, and dondo may or may not be among them. the rest of us get it. it's better to just drop it.


OK I think I get your point - it was the right article in the wrong place, or at least it shouldn't be the only chess coverage by ESPN. If that's their only chessic article for the foreseeable future, it might be a wasted opportunity - or it could still be argued that "something is better than nothing at all".

BTW if the story had been about an African distance runner he/she might be a future NYC Marathon winner even if there are no spectacular results yet ... . But chess probably isn't the right sport to escape from poverty.

You have many things in common with Vaile's music Thomas .


Haha good point. Noted.

And which music fits our friend from Argentina?

Quality music.

Radjabov gave an interesting interview to Extratime.az: http://www.chessintranslation.com/2011/01/radjabov-decides-not-to-tilt-at-fide-windmills/

The main point is that he's willing to play in the Candidates and isn't going to demand to go straight to the second round (after his initial opponent, Carlsen, withdrew). He also gives his backing for Carlsen's decision, though I'm not sure Magnus would agree/admit that he's not playing in order to protect his image as World no. 1!

To compare Thomas to music strikes me as odd.

Anyway (and to be on the safe side), I declined Chessbases invitation to invest in in Vailes music.

The story of Phinoa Mutesi is a human interest story that happened to be about chess. It could have been about any sport and the main purpose would still hold. Every four years we can find a multitude of articles like this during the Olympics.

This story belonged because it captured the dreams that many athletes in sports have experienced. Many professional athletes come from humble beginnings, struggle through challenges and dysfunction and ultimately make it to the big stage.

Perhaps there could be other stories about chess, but what chess stories would have an appeal of the readership? You're suggesting up-and-coming chess players? The truth is, we don't even see those in chess magazines!

Yea we do. Many such articles, Daaim. Chess Life routinely has 'em. Last month's issue had a pic of Ray Robson on the cover. Ray is not an established grandmaster. He just got the title.

Fascinating interview. Thanks for the post.

Everyone has probably noticed it, but just to put on record: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/opinion/09kristof.html

Did not mean to be mean, and it looks like apsyrtos took it nicely enough.

My point was simply that both sides had some points. done.

Not every idea exchange is a fight to the death. The joke could just as well have been made about Daaim...

Kasparov, predictably (despite what some have said), expressing his strong disapproval of Carlsen's withdraw from the World Championship cycle: http://www.chessintranslation.com/2011/01/kasparovs-verdict-on-carlsens-withdrawal/

Including: "So what are Carlsen’s real motives?

He doesn’t seem to be comfortable taking on such a serious challenge."

OK... if you're counting federation magazines? Robson has been the face of his own national chess magazine many times... since scholastics. Of course national federation magazines covering their own rising players. I don't believe that is what we're talking about.

The article written about Hou Yifan in the NY Times may be a better example although although the writer is a bit naive in some of his comments. He states,"It will be many, many decades before China can challenge the United States as the overall “No. 1” in the world, for we have a huge lead and China still must show that it can transition to a more open and democratic society."

He should have kept his comments on chess.

I guess im in a minority of one but I found a lot of the Svidler interview frankly boring it reminded me of those fanzine sections where a star would have to answer a bunch of dumb questions whats your favorite food, colour, film etc One thing caught my eye was his casual reference to needing a 2nd terabyte hard drive to satisfy his gargantuan film piracy needs!! Californication etc I guess for a poor guy like him it saves money on buying the cd disc set or sat tv subscription. Everyone is cool with this I suppose?? Great example for us all. Im just off to watch the the last episode of the Dexter season 5 which aired a few weeks ago :)Of course Im sure Peter didnt use bit torrent to download his chess software library im sure he paid for all that - yeah right!!

I also could have mentioned the blemished Time Magazine article we all read about Magnus, but that aside, the only good articles on Chess are written by chess-playing journalists.
The San Francisco Chronicle writer who covered the first book signing by Daniel Naroditsky at the venerable Mechanic's Institute has a tournament-playing background, so his coverage of the event last year was very good.

Enjoy, and crack a beer (or a Valium) while you're at it. I'll shield the kids here from Pete Svidler.

Valium?? Wow which decade is that your in? I think the kids are safe from Pete the Pirate. Last episode of Dexter was a bit crap btw - but I guess like Pete once you get in to this downloading lark its addictive and you just start needing those terabyte hard drives- why pay for what you can get for free. Chess books of course take up hardly any space. And its great you can download all the latest books! Yep not to mention chess base DVD's am sure Pete's got all of those too. Victimless crime whose counting.

I'd say it's about time we started talking about Wijk aan Zee ["Tata" now rather than Corus] starting at the end of the week, no?! Mig?!?
Personally, I'm really especially looking forward to seeing how Nepo {"ctrl-V"} does, espec. against the "big boys," as it's pretty much his entry on this level and he's been beating up everyone else in Russia. I think the kid (20, same as Carlsen) has the potential to be a world-beater.
OK, time for predictions...anyone?

@Daaim Shabazz, Re: ESPN piece.

It's funny to watch how rabidly you defend the value of a story which no one is disputing. Is "topical" such a difficult concept to grasp?

The value of the story is not the issue. The issue is whether it "belonged" in the ESPN. I believe it belongs. Others believe it is misplaced and should be in another type of magazine. It is a typical sports story. In fact, an Ethiopian friend of mine just told me that all you need to do is replace "Phinoa" with "Ruth" and you'd have the same story in Ethiopia about a school girl who went to the same Olympiad.

A little perspective: Ian Nepomniachtchi, Maxime Vachier-lagrave, Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin --- all 20 years old.

Sergey is unfortunately not in Tata Steel 2011, but Happy 21st Birthday to him Wednesday.

#15, 31, 5 and 1 on the current rating list (Vachier-Lagrave has fallen a bit behind but was already top20 one year ago).

About Nepomniachtchi: He already played one supertournament - Dortmund 2008 where he qualified as Aeroflot winner - with a very respectable 4/7 score (win against van Wely, draws against Mamedyarov, Ivanchuk, Leko, Kramnik, Naiditsch and Gustafsson).

And this is what Gusti wrote on his blog: "He had a very successful year (2010). Nepo won the European championship, had an impressive +4 score at the Olympiad on board 1, now this victory (Russian Championship). I noticed that he scored many points in quiet technical games, it seems that he developed from a tricky tactical to a more complete player."
An Olympiad example would be his win against van Wely:

Gustafsson will be in Wijk - not as a player in the B group, but as Smeets' second - and might report on his blog. For those who can read German, or I might translate bits and pieces.

I went to Gustafsson's site a few weeks ago, and holy smokes, that dude should have been an integral part of the G-star dealeo with Magnus.

Haha, clearly Manfred should have listened to his own advice: "just drop it". ;)

And now I too shall try my hand at the gentle art of stating the obvious: Either Daaim doesn't understand what ESPN NEXT is, or the concept of topicality's relevance in sports writing is somehow beyond the doctorate level. Perhaps both.

@apsyrtos: touche! a gentle art indeed, and well spoken, sir.

Gashimov gave a very interesting interview after victory at the Reggio Emilia tournament. Some quotes:

"...my father took a liking to the cup which they gave for first place, and I promised him that the next time I’d definitely win that cup."

On his novelty against Ivanchuk: "The strong point of the 17. Rb3 novelty was that it’s purely human."

On beating Vallejo: "I think the decisive role there was played by the very first move – g6".

On his must-win game against Navara: "I think that against Navara my success was based on courage and a will to win."

On Sofia Rules: "It seems to me that when there’s a ban on draws it puts pressure on you, and you start to play more limited chess."

In full: http://www.chessintranslation.com/2011/01/gashimov-ive-got-a-will-to-win/

This new program Houdini 1.5 (new to me, at least), comes free and in a miniscule 1.5 megabyte file. Its rated strength exceeds 3000 elo. Comments, anyone? I can hardly believe a file so tiny contains more than the brains of Kasparov, Anand, Carlsen, et al. I'm extremely humbled.

Program size does not have much in common with how smart it is. In the late Seventies I used to program on PDP 11/04, where the programs could not exceed about 28 k (yes, 28,000 bytes). I dare to believe the programs I wrote were somewhat advanced. Not in the Houdini category, of course :)

Their bark is clearly worse than its byte.

If the world's strongest chess program fits on a mere 1.5 M, and downloads free... what does that imply the complexity of chess? - less complex than generally thought.

The 1.5 MB size doesn't necessarily imply anything about the complexity of chess. Chess-playing software is in the category of purely algorithmic software ("search the move tree, plus various heuristics to trim the tree"). Such software is intrinsically pretty small. Even if chess were much more complex (for instance, additional pieces, larger board, etc.) the program wouldn't be much larger.

I hear you per complexity

But the heuristics aren't so many then, correct?

All the heuristics in a 1.5 meg file a 10 year could memorize, yes?

Anyone who can access the source code and somehow data dump the list of (very finite) rules/heuristics? Would make interesting reading.

Presumably any chess rule a GM may have learnt, may be easily (and has been) encoded in these programs.

The point (and forgive me if I state the obvious) is that humans and computers play chess very differently.

Humans rely on a massive "database" of patterns, as well as a large number of explicitly articulated rules (e.g., "Aim to play in the center"), memories of specific games, advice from trainers, etc. If you were to store those, it would take (I imagine) much more than 1.5 MB.

Computers, on the other hand, typically use a "search" strategy, wherein they search the tree for the best move. This is fundamentally a very simple algorithm, and could be expressed in a 6-KB program. The reason it works is because of the tremendous computational power of computers. In addition, there is an "evaluation function" that allows computers to roughly evaluate the position at any given point. This is much simpler than the "evaluation function" used by humans, but because of their search capabilities, it doesn't have to be particularly good. If they're not sure about a position, they can just search ahead 15 plies.

In addition, you have heuristics. There are different kinds of heuristics, but many of them are simply used for trimming the tree--e.g., "don't continue searching a tree branch whose evaluation is much worse than others." This saves unnecessary calculations of uninteresting positions. Other heuristics may be about identifying transpositions, etc.

The key point is that these are _very_ different heuristics from the ones used by humans. Software heuristics are largely about optimizing the search process (*). And many of them would be exactly the same regardless of the complexity of chess. If you added 10 new pieces to the gameboard, most of those heuristics wouldn't change much. That's because the nature of the problem (be it 32-piece chess, or 38-piece chess, or 50-piece chess) doesn't really matter much. A search function is still a search function.

So, those heuristics are powerful, but at the same time uninteresting, since humans don't play chess through massive tree searches. Rather, they play through knowledge-based heuristics (e.g., "a QGD-exchange-like position invites a minority attack").

That's why the number of heuristics by computers isn't particularly revealing, nor does it say much about the complexity of chess. The strength of computers is almost purely a function of their computational power.

I forgot the footnote:

(*) I am oversimplifying quite a bit, but the basics of what I'm saying are true.

Thanks Macuga interesting summary.

"There are different kinds of heuristics, but many of them are simply used for trimming the tree--e.g., "don't continue searching a tree branch whose evaluation is much worse than others." This saves unnecessary calculations of uninteresting positions."

I've read this before but one question occurs to me. If the algorithm does the above is there a danger it would miss e.g. a forced sequence sac'ing the queen and a number of moves later delivers mate because in the intervening moves it's evaluation would be negative? Am I missing something?


I am not into chess programming, but I guess engines will continue searching if there's reason to suspect "something beyond the horizon", which might be the case when various evaluation criteria yield divergent results: In the given case, material (obviously) favors black, but king safety favors white. So an engine may continue analyzing a possibly promising queen sacrifice, while it will quickly abandon a "knight sacrifice" (AKA blunder) that doesn't provide anything in return. Another case might be a position with a passed pawn that may or may not be dangerous.

On the other hand, your example may belong into the realm of computer-assisted human analysis (or human-assisted computer analysis? ,:) ): If a human being thinks/believes/insists that the queen sacrifice is promising, he/she will force the engine to continue looking at that particular line - and the combination of human intuition and brute force calculation will reveal the truth.

Hey, Mig, only 2 days till Tata [Wijk aan Zee] starts; how about posting a new thread for it?!

Predictions, anyone? I'll go hog-wild and say Nepomniachtchi (but I want big odds if anyone wants to bet!).

The whole field is great, of course (all 3 groups, in fact), but to my mind he's the possible new superstar to watch.

It'll also be interesting to see how Aronian does, especially vs. Anand & Carlsen. And will Kramnik be gunning for revenge against Nakamura?!
And of course Shirov's always a ton of fun; and Grischuk might be looking to make a statement, now that he's a candidate...and how will Giri do?

Thanks, Mig. Much appreciated if you can do it.

Thomas is correct.

One common way of overcoming the horizon problem is through the use of "quiescence" searching. If the computer detects that the position is unstable, e.g. has lots of piece activity, unsafe kings, etc., it will search that branch of the tree much more deeply than usual.

About Tata. I think Carlsen has the advantage of not being in the Candidate matches -- he can go all out and not having to hide his opening prep.

Interesting no see that the top four players were born in four different decades.

Has mishanp been outed by Chessbase?


You threw a lot out there. Right off the top, Nepo will not beat Vachier-Lagrave, who will only be defeated by either Big Vlad, the Champ, Carlsen, or Levon, but not by all four. I'll wager my hard-bound edition of Michael Stean's Simple Chess.

Kramnik will defeat Nakamura. I think Aronian, Carlsen, and Anand are the equal favorites - I don't care much about who has to hide their hand for the candidates matches. Grischuk is the wild card, good for upsets and a good finish if he's healthy. And if I'm pushed, I'll go with Levon for top honors because this is an odd year (ask Magnus about that ;)). Heh. Should be stellar.


Well, if you want to wager that someone other than those top 4 players can beat V-L, you're on (or were you only willing to wager that all 4 won't beat him, which I'd agree with you on?). I've only seen a few of his games and though I respect his play, I didn't (for some reason) see anything that "wowed" me, unlike Nepo. I could, of course, be wrong, & of course he's a great player and, I believe, also 20 years old; so mea culpa for my not mentioning him. But part of the fun of such a big tournament is that there are so many possibilities! Can't wait...

...or, of course, we could have a simple "gentleman's bet" on who does better, Nepo or Vachier-Lagrave...should be a great coming-out party, for either or both!

Morozevich - Vachier-Lagrave, Biel 2009 was certainly a "wow" game ... of course he was somewhat lucky that he first survived, then won:
Last year, VL's Olympiad (home preparation) win against Gelfand and his Hoogeveen win with black against Shirov weren't bad either.

But I don't expect any of the newcomers (in rating order Nepomniachtchi, Wang Hao, Vachier-Lagrave, Giri [and l'Ami ,:)] ) to win the event. Maybe this year it's Kramnik's turn, he last won in 1998(!) but was just 0.5 points short of (shared) first in 2007 and 2010. This may be a bit of wishful thinking, "objectively" my money - if pushed - would rather be on Aronian.

And I will wait for the drawing of lots (tomorrow!?) before predicting results of individual games.

Mig needs to start a new topic on the following news item - Deep Blue's Grandkid takes on human Jeopardy Champs :-)


I guess all good things must end eventually - like this blog. This used to be the best chess blog around but now for a long time it has been pretty much dead. R.I.P.

Sad, isn't it?, Let's hope it is a temporary incapacitation rather than total demise.
ChessMind, Chessvibes and the Streatham& Brixton Club are good too. And there are many others.

I'm not on facebook. I don't twitter. My phone doesn't have internet. Technology and such is passing me by.

I still visit this blog.



I'm on facebook. I twitter. My phone doesn't have Internet. Technology and such is grabbing me by the scruff o' the neck.

I still visit this blog.

It's all good. Bring on Tata Steel.


Pairings are out, and Vachier-Lagrave's survival chances against the top 4 seem intact: he has white against all but Kramnik. I will probably visit next Tuesday (need to recover from a cold first) when Grischuk-Kramnik, Aronian-Nepo, Shirov-VL and Giri-Nakamura could all be interesting. With such a field, of course every day has its highlights: tomorrow Carlsen-Aronian, Nakamura-Grischuk and Nepo-Kramnik. And kenh-rcfchess (I mean VL-Nepo) happens only in the penultimate round.

I'm going to switch to translating Shipov's live commentary from tomorrow, but finally finished this article on Smyslov: http://www.chessintranslation.com/2011/01/remembering-smyslov/

The high(or low)light is possibly Ilyumzhinov claiming that Smyslov also encountered chess-playing aliens... though there's a lot of other material by or about Smyslov (I got a bit carried away!).

Thomas (& Kenh) ~

Yep, all the games look to be interesting. And I have a feeling we'll have more of a fighting tournament here, not a lot of draws. (Hope that doesn't curse it the opposite way...!) Looking forward to all 3 sections of the great tournament, and hope you feel better.


Never underestimate Pono ...

Thomas: "...Vachier-Lagrave's survival chances against the top 4 seem intact: he has white against all but Kramnik."

The flip side of having white against the bigs is that he has to black more against the lower half. It is easier to draw against the top with black than to win against the bottom with black. Statistically, playing black against the top and white against the bottom scores better than white against top and black against bottom (confirming Garry's perception).

I underestimate Pono and it has made me money!

Good point. I've thought all along, though, that we'd see a lot of draws from Vachier-Lagrave. He tends in that direction, esp. at the outset, and then notches a win here and there to finish well. His overall competition there in Wijk aan Zee is brutal. It's hard to imagine how it could be tougher, but he's handled the big guys in blitz fairly well lately, not to mention previous classic wins against Ivanchuk, Gelfand, and Shirov. Same could be said for Nepo.

Yep (maybe) but I followed up on kenh's comment on how VL will do against the very top. Actually I wonder whether the statistics you mention also apply to midfield players for whom a draw with black against the top is "less guaranteed or easy" - Kasparov had said so with respect to Carlsen's chances.
Yes (@kenh), Vachier-Lagrave seems to be a rather 'drawish' player - at least by result, I don't think his style and opening repertoire is "overly solid". Take his Olympiad result of +1=8-2 (win against Gelfand, losses against Ivanchuk and Aronian in the final rounds, draws against players rated 2550-2750). As far as I remember, most of his games were still interesting.

More on color imbalances, now focusing on the favorites: Let's divide the field in three groups - somewhat arbitrarily, but what else than Elo could I use?
Group 1: Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Kramnik, Grischuk
Group 2: Nakamura, Pono, Nepo, Wang Hao, Shirov
Group 3: VL, Giri, Smeets, l'Ami
Color (im)balances for the top4 are as follows:
Aronian -4 (black against all of group 1) +5 -2
Carlsen 0 +1 0
Anand +2 -1 +2
Kramnik 0 -3 +2

In the other thread, it has been suggested that the draw favors Carlsen - I would actually think that (despite an extra black) Aronian has the most favorable draw. He may beat tailenders l'Ami and Giri also with black [as of today, for Giri the event may still be a learning experience - I am not talking about his chances in 2012-2015!], and he probably doesn't mind black against Anand.

Conversely, Kramnik will have to make maximum use of his whites against Carlsen and Aronian (2/2 is possible but by no means certain ...), and Anand's whites against Aronian and Kramnik may be "wasted" (0.5/2 wouldn't be a big surprise).

BTW, Vachier-Lagrave's color distribution is a fairly even +1 -1 +1 - only within group 1 he has white against those rated 2800+ and black against the "weakies" Kramnik and Grischuk. But maybe 4 whites against fellow newcomers Nepo, Wang Hao, Giri and l'Ami are good news for him?

Where is the wings of the angel?!!

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on January 1, 2011 1:29 AM.

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