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Gibraltar 2011, Rock On

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I'm not going to pretend to have time to cover anything, but at least I can put up some more thread for the faithful. Ivanchuk in action in Gibraltar and now in clear first place after beating Nigel Short the other day. Chucky won again today and leads the 10-round event with 7/8. This event keeps getting stronger and though it can't match the big Moscow events for depth, it's an impressive cast. Nice reports on the website, but the central frame look is obnoxious and very 1997. Plus, we need something to look at until Melody Amber in mid-March since Linares is apparently not happening till May this year, and MTel apparently not at all. Aeroflot starts on the 8th.


Linares in May? Colliding with the candidates event? Well, Carlsen reportedly confirmed his participation (in Linares) ... .

How did US giant killer Paul Szuper do today.

Now that Linares is not going to be held in February and is not going to clash with Aeroflot, it would be nice to see some of the big sharks- Topalov, Carlsen or Aronian play at Aeroflot and see how they perform and whether they are able to win it when they are taken out of their home prep. I doubt if Anand, Kramnik or Leko would be able to win Aeroflot because they take too many draws.

I doubt that you'll see any of them playing for just $10,000 unless there are some monster appearance fees. But, it's basically a losing proposition for elite players. Nakamura would be best suited to do Aeroflot, because he cut his teeth on the rigorous US Big$$ Swisses.

Linares in May? Sounds more like a Carlsen exhibition...Well, Nakamura could play. And Ivanchuk, Giri, Nepomniatchi, Karjakin....Anand, too

Szuper lost. Still has 2400 TPR

Korchnoi having a fine event
As is Short

Bacrot did win Aeroflot once - and he's also a solid, positional, "drawish" player. As Doug pointed out, Aeroflot may not be attractive enough for world-top (>2750) players, they certainly don't care about qualifying for Dortmund either. And I would actually argue that they shouldn't even participate to ruin chances of subtop players (e.g. Bacrot or, longer ago, Bologan) or rising stars (Le Quang Liem last year).

Mig, what's your source about Linares in May? At the Tata final press conference, tournament director Jeroen van den Berg said the following (video at Chessvibes): "The situation with Linares is unclear due to the elections in May. I don't have inside information but it's not yet clear when and where it's going to be held well in Linares but maybe in another part. You should find other sources."
To me this sounds like a decision will be made in May or June (first they need to form a new government). Then they have to pick a (new?) venue and a date. They have to invite players whom they cannot oblige to respond within 24 hours, maybe they need to negotiate conditions. Altogether, it's almost hard to imagine that Linares will take place before Bilbao in September!?
van den Berg also confirmed that "Sofia" will not be held this year (also not with a new sponsor and new name).

With 9 / 10 Ivanchuk not only wins Gibraltar, but also moves to #5 in live list. His rating should be around 2778.

5 people on the list -- Nakamura, Mamedyarov, Topalov, Karjakin and Ivanchuk all within 6 pts of each other.

Regardless of the closeness in rating, in that group, I rate Nakamura and Mamedyarov roughly equal, and Topolov, Karjakin, and Ivanchuk all decisively superior to the first two, and I would put good money behind matches to prove it. Anyone want to mess with that?

I tend to agree with you, but not about "decisively". Regarding Ivanchuk, he can win a match against anyone (when in form), but he can also lose against many (when not): granted it was a mini-match, but at the World Cup he lost against Wesley So ... . And for Topalov, (too early to tell but) one possibility is that he'll go Leko's way in the coming years.

Also it's all just a snapshot: One month ago (Jan 2011 FIDE list, before Tata and Gibraltar) that sub-list included Grischuk, and didn't include Nakamura and Ivanchuk. For newcomer Nakamura, I am 80% confident that he'll stay there (his fans are 250% confident). Ivanchuk reached that level for about the 17th time in his career (I exaggerate a little bit as I didn't count ...).

And, if Ivanchuck had beaten Pono, he would be recognised as a World Champion, without all the hoohaha surrounding Pono (who proved he was the best in that format, at that time, and under title auspices).


Nowadays it's all what have you done lately, and Topalov hasn't done anything lately (at least anything good). In the Olympiad he had I think a perf around 2600, he underperformed at Pearl Spring, he was close but obviously lost to Vishy last spring. I don't think we have heard the last of him, but it has been quite a while since we have seen the Topalov who was once the terror of the chess world, with any kind of consistency. Without any more data, you have to consider Nakamura stronger at this moment.

thomas -
(his fans are 250% confident) <--- das ist blödsinn. 100% ist maximum.

Not really. Do you think that Nakamura would hold the Vishy Anand as close in a match as Topalov did? Be realistic. Hikaru has done very well lately, and winning that tournament was terrific, but we need to see more of same. I hope we do. Maybe we won't. As I said earlier, Vachier-Lagrave is not at all convinced that Hikaru is the better player, regardless of the present rating difference, and he will back that up in due time. Karjakin isn't either.
When you do as well as Nakamura did in Wijk aan Zee, people take you a bit more seriously. A few will choke in doing so, but others will rise to the occasion with better preparation for the 'upstart.'

Yes, that's a (minor) point I wanted to make: some Nakamura fans tend to be overly enthusiastic, then they talk "blödsinn" (nonsense).

Not everything I write is meant literally ... . With regard to Ivanchuk, he didn't reach such a high level for the 17th time. If we take Elo 2750 as a threshold, he crossed it six times since January 2005 - which also means that he dove below five times. He was >2750 on 13 lists (including the forthcoming March 2011 list), and <2750 on 16 lists (both including borderline cases when his official rating was 2748, 2749, 2750, 2751 and 2752). But to make the point I wanted to make, you don't need to come up with such numerical evidence - you only have to follow his career and results.

Do agree about the enthusiasm of the Naka fans. This is a great result for him and there is no doubt about that. But I like to see the longevity. Even if Leko is already done with he still has had a longer good career than Nakamura at this point. So there is no way to compare him against Anand, Kramnik Topalov Ivanchuk who have been among the top for 20 yrs (leave Topalov out for 20 yrs). But he can be compared reasonably with Karjakin and probably higher than Mamedyarov as he has no such result to show for.

I considered Mamedyarov mostly as a player who efficiently beats rather weak opposition (cf. his results in team events). But he did finish shared first in Tal Memorial, ahead of Nakamura - and even if Naka had beaten Grischuk in the final round they would just be tied.
So Mamedyarov may be a bit underestimated, he certainly is less popular than Nakamura at least on western chess forums (for different reasons).

I just translated an interview Ivanchuk recently gave to a Ukrainian site. I might be biased... but I think it's absolutely fascinating! As well as lots of wonderful incidental details (e.g. how he became addicted to bad TV and on-line checkers) he also really confronts the fundamental question of why he's struggled in World Championship events. Enjoy!


Thanks, misha, fascinating read. Ivanchuk is an enigma. Bit sad to read that he doesn't have a single friend in the chess world. I wonder about his relationship with the ladies? Has he been single ever since he divorced from Galliamova about a decade ago? And does he have any children?

Those changing obsessions Ivanchuk mentions (like playing hours upon hours on end checkers on the internet day after day) might suggest asperger, which is very common among reclusive, highly intelligent eccentrics. Not saying this in any negative way, it's just what comes to mind to many people I'm sure when reading that.

Ivanchuk's passion for chess seems undying, so I guess he will keep playing till his 60's and will remain 2700+ for the next 20 years, but I don't think he can ever fulfill that dream and become World Champion.

I've often wondered about the comparison of Ivanchuk to Akiba Rubinstein. To the historians among us, are there any similarities?

Actually Ivanchuk just said that he doesn't have friends among _top_ chess players ("There has to be a certain distance between competitors"). This doesn't rule out that, for example, his (occasional?) second Manuel Leon Hoyos (Elo 2565) is also his friend.

Unless I missed news about another divorce, Ivanchuk is currently married to "Oksana", apparently not a (strong) chess player.

I agree it's a shame Ivanchuk doesn't have friends among his main rivals, but Thomas is probably right to stress it's just that it's easier for him to play chess that way - e.g. Grischuk when asked something similar replied: http://crestbook.com/en/node/1322

"No doubt for me it’s best when I don’t know my opponent at all, but if I had to choose between sympathy and antipathy – I’d definitely choose antipathy."

Ivanchuk's clearly eccentric and so on, but he comes across very well in that TV program I included below the interview - in fact it seems he can be absolutely charming in person, so I really doubt he's reclusive away from chess.

Thank you very much for the translation, Mishanp. It was interesting and I think it shows him to be a likeable fellow.

The data is very good.Thanks for the post and I’ll bookmark your site to read again.

I just came home from the rock. It was a great tournament, very well organized. A lot was going on, the apes came down right to my window, Short was on a roll, Ivanchuk was unbelievably strong, and all those girls, too. I'm seriously impressed.

This may be the best place to post something off-topic on the strongest event currently going on: Aeroflot is now underway (second round today), with the usual strong field:
- 2700ers Kamsky, Vachier-Lagrave, Movsesian, Jakovenko and Vitiugov (if the first two get a result comparable to Ivanchuk in Gibraltar, they may become top10 on the live and forthcoming March 2011 list)
- rising stars Hess, So, Vocaturo, Le Quang Liem, Hammer, Sjugirov (and as a German, I have to mention GM-elect Huschenbeth who just made it into the field with Elo 2450 ... ,:) )
- if you want a world champion, you also have to scroll down the seeding list to find Khalifman and Kosteniuk (or stick to the top as Vachier-Lagrave is/was world junior champion).

Already the first round had many semi-upsets - nothing like the usual 1-0 0-1 1-0 0-1 1-0 0-1 etc., many draws and Petrosian-Vitiugov 1-0 on board 5.

Funny detail about the Aeroflot tournament - the tournament director was asked why it was being held in Moscow in February and not later in the year. It turns out it's because Aeroflot provide free tickets for the participants and want it to be during the off-season when the planes would have been half-empty anyway.

Maybe funny, but understandable and not that unusual: Wijk aan Zee changed names twice, but was always held in January - when the weather can be horrible, hence hotels in the Dutch seaside village would otherwise be near-empty.

Currently (for some years already) it also makes sense to have Aeroflot in February as a qualifier for Dortmund in July: whoever wins may not have other commitments yet, and the organizers could even invite two Aeroflot winners in case of a tie for first place - in line with Corus/Tata habits.

Talking about Dortmund:
- maybe it has to take place in summer because the venue (stage of a theater) is available only when other performances have summer break.
- according to Nakamura's blog, participants so far are Nakamura, Kramnik (regular) and Ponomariov (defending champion). I guess Naiditsch will also be re-invited: still German #1 and local guy from Dortmund (but Naka may not boast about playing in a tournament with him ,:) ). Leko's traditional spot seems vacant as he's taking a sabbatical - if the organizers stick with Peter, it has to be Svidler (Nakamura might have mixed feelings about this ...).

Yep, I'm certainly not criticising it. They've also deliberately organised it so players can choose to play in the other Moscow events before Aeroflot - and Aeroflot allow players for their event to arrive earlier on free flights. The tournament director Bakh said he wasn't sure if the tournament would happen next year (Aeroflot have new management), but Dvorkovich tweeted that he thinks it will...

Is Leko's sabbatical official? I don't remember reading about it - though I remember Shipov recommending that course of action during last year's Dortmund!

About Leko's sabbatical: someone here (or maybe at Chessvibes) mentioned a Hungarian source saying so.

After a smaching tournmant at Wijk aan Zee, Right. Vocaturo took it on the chin in the first round of Aeroflot. I cannot see his second-round game. Anyone?

Glad to see local guy Hess hanging in there with two draws so far - the first one against an opponent at least 100 ELO higher.

Le Quang Liem is trying to repeat his win of 2010. He's already two for two.

Vachier-Lagrave is getting off to a slow start with two draws against lower-rated opponents. If you want to something wild, check out today's final position against promising Chinese player Yanyi Yu. Before you cringe and want to throw open a door somewhere (to stave off the claustrophobia), you should know that Max, by all accounts, has a growing advantage!

Besides Le Quang Liem, only Slovenian GM Luka Lenic (seeded 43rd with Elo 2613) still has a clean 2/2 score - 7 draws on the top boards today.

Yep, Stockfish gives -1.73 (advantage for VL playing black) in the final position and he was also ahead on the clock, why did he offer a draw?

And Vocaturo ... he played on the lowest board (only 36 out of 43 games are transmitted live) and drew against Jordanian IM Khader, Elo 2450 - not his tournament so far, maybe he used all his luck in Wijk aan Zee? He was lucky in a few games there ... .

There's a nice interview with Vocaturo at Alina L'Ami's site: http://www.alinalami.com/2011/02/interview-with-winner-of-c-group.html

"In a few days I'm going to play the strong tournament Aeroflot, where I only hope to save my skin and that the momentary euphoria will not conditionate [sic] in a negative way my games!"

After a disastrous start (-2) at Wijk aan Zee
Le Quang Liem slowly regained his form and ended at 4th place in group B. Looks like the
momentum is carrying over to Aeroflot.

Vachier-Lagrave didn't think his position was better at the time he offered. He learned more postmortem, and was himself surprised. It wasn't obvious, after all.

Thanks for the Vocaturo link, Mishanp.

As this isn't the first time you make such statements about Vachier-Lagrave, which almost sound like you know him personally: What are your sources? Or DO you know him personally? (smiley may or may not be appropriate).

I am just curious, and I couldn't find much at EuropeEchecs - the most obvious source for events with French players, and so far the only one providing at least some Aeroflot coverage.

P.S.: My fault that this has become an Aeroflot thread, maybe Mig will still provide a proper dedicated one as the event unfolds. But two years ago cheating accusations were required for the event to get significant (western) media attention.

Spotty direct communication, but lately at least an impression after each event round. We're just acquaitances.

Well I wouldn't have expected a Jan Ludwig Hammer defeat at the hands of Robert Hess. Good on Hess. Another big rating difference there.

Maybe it just indicates that a difference of up to 100 points isn't THAT "big"? Whatever your own level is, do you "always" beat someone who's 100 points lower-rated? Do you always lose against someone 100 points higher-rated, or at least never win??

Moreover, Hammer's and Hess's ratings are a bit volatile: If we arbitrarily disregard Hess's result in Barcelona last November (2/9, Elo -26) but include Hammer's performance at Tata B (4/13, Elo -23) the pairing becomes Hammer(2624)-Hess(2598), and the upset a minor one and only because the American had black.

In any case, such results are fairly common at the Aeroflot Open: Today had GM Cheparinov(2665)-IM Fedoseev(2505) 0-1. And my favorite German player in the event (well, the only one) IM Huschenbeth, Elo 2450, had his third consecutive draw against 2600ers.

P.S.: Do I really have to write "Hess's", or what would be correct?

Hess' is the correct version, and my sincere apologies for a few quick and silly typos of my own here: namely sh/b acquaintances (left out the n); smashing (although smaching is interesting), and tournament (royally butchered that one) or 'tornament', as New Yorkers pronounce it. I don't and won't use spell check!

Oh, and I will take your Hammer-Hess explan under consideration, as we say in the trade. No, actually that works. Hammer did have a horrible time at Wijk aan Zee. And no let up so far!

Aeroflot. Le is 3 for 3. He is determined to repeat
last year performance.

Best he could do so far, no questions asked ,:) . But the tournament is just starting, there is a bunch of 'Soviets' chasing him with 2.5/3 - for the sake of convenience I include Kamsky here whom he'll play tomorrow.

Some of the biggest underperfomers so far are Wesley So (1/3) and Vocaturo (0.5/3).

A collision course ahead, I believe, for Kamsky, Liem, Vachier-Lagrave, Movsesian, Jakovenko, Mamedov, and Kazimdzhanov. That's where the cheese gets more binding.

yep. tomorrow, against Kamsky, is his first real test.
The last three have been against "weaker" opponents.

wow !! Le 1-0 Kamsky in a mere 27-move game.
Le is now 4/4 at Aeroflot.

Yes, it was a sharp game as well. Good for Le. I believe he will face Tomashevsky tomorrow. I'll be he wins that one, too. He's stronger.

I am not sure if I would call it a "sharp game": it started with a rather 'innocent' opening, but then Le Quang Liem grabbed a tactical opportunity.

Tomashevsky may be relatively unknown in the west, but he certainly isn't weak: in Biel last summer he drew against Giri, Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave and So (all but maybe the last one at least comparable to Le Quang Liem). Actually I would be deceived, but not very surprised about a quick draw tomorrow - both players may have their reasons: Le to consolidate, Tomashevsky as he had some long games in the rounds so far. And Aeroflot doesn't have an official rest day ... .

Maybe most remarkable are the two players leading the 3/4 score group: IM Fedoseev and FM Bukavshin, both born in 1995 - would be rather funny if one of them ends up in Dortmund ... . I wonder if Kasimdzhanov had already heard of his opponents (Fedoseev today, Bukavshin tomorrow).

Russia is a big (chess) country!? As Jan Gustafsson wrote on his blog: "I never played Aeroflot, don't know exactly why. I guess it's the primeval fear that every Russian janitor plays better chess than I do."

So, hokay, maybe laughing is not enough to keep dis thread rollink. So I vill ask big question: how is defined, sharp?
Maybe my understanding is not so much goot.

My chess understanding may be better, equal to or worse than yours - it doesn't really matter, it's rather an opinion or definition. For me, a sharp game is
1) one with an unbalanced position where both sides exchange blows and the outcome is or seems unclear for quite a while. An Aeroflot example would be Yu Yangyi - Vachier-Lagrave which you mentioned earlier. That one was a sharp Sicilian, but a Queen's Pawn Game or English opening can also "suddenly explode".
2) a game where one player goes for a bold, maybe speculative attack where he cannot possibly calculate the outcome in advance (unless it's all home preparation).

Then, Le-Kamsky wasn't sharp according to my opinion or definition. It looks like a one-sided affair, the first tactical blow was immediately decisive - no risk involved, Le hurt the opponent without any chance of hurting himself.

P.S.: I actually wonder whether I'm replying to the regular poster kenh, or to someone stealing his handle. If it's the same kenh: were you drunk or stoned when you wrote this? ,:)

I can work myself into a goofy state sometimes, and then you never know what you'll see. And I guess because I have a musical/linguistic type of ear, I derive some enjoyment out of reproducing it in writing. Go figure.

Anyway, thanks for your explanation above. We're mostly on the same page. I just percieved the opening sortie of Le-Kamsky as a "sharp" way to play to obtain an extra pawn. I gather you saw it as tactically 'clear.' I'll defer there. Do you think that was prepared?

I worked with a recently immigrated Russian couple a long time ago, and it was a kick to hear and try to reproduce their strong accents (in English). That was the first time I heard "K ji B." I love that. The G is barely grazed.

To keep it topical: bishop ji two.

Otherwise, Aeroflot? Hess holding Cheparinov is excellent for Robert, Le drawing Tomashevsky was predicted above, Vachier-Lagrave drew again, and won't be contesting Dortmund if he doesn't start registering decisions soon, and Hua Ni (or vice versa) held Kamsky. Good on her. The young Russian boys mentioned by Thomas met their matches today. Well, you knew that Bukavshin wasn't going to get by Kasimdzhanov.

It can hardly be specific home preparation, because then Le Quang Liem had to anticipate several of Kamsky's "creative" moves: a7-a5-a4, Nb6, Bc8-g4-h5. In hindsight, it's easy to say that black should have first thought about castling.

At most, Le Quang Liem (but not Kamsky) had seen a similar motive in a similar position before. For what it's worth, I haven't, at least not at GM level.

Ni Hua is a "he" - the ladies (Ju Wenjun, Pogonina, Kosteniuk and Paikidze) are actually all at the bottom of the table, on the few boards that aren't transmitted live.

Yep, all winning (or drawing) streaks by underdogs have to come to an end one day, German Niclas Huschenbeth also didn't manage a fifth consecutive draw against 2600ers. I don't know who will stop Robert Hess, but it would be a major (and still unlikely) achievement if he remains unbeaten throughout the event.

Oh, Ni Hua is a male. My bad. The Chinese names are throwing me.

I can think of several Americans who share the same "If I don't win this game, then I completely suck" philosophy: Hess and Nakamura are two of them. A third, Sam Shankland, was going to quit the game until he got his last GM norm in Berkeley a few weeks ago. Maybe Irina Krush, as well.

Whom will you root for tomorrow? Hess - Vachier-Lagrave is on the menu ... . Le Quang Liem faces Kasimdzhanov, Kamsky gets another Chinese (Ding Liren, have I heard that name before?).

Sorry for the delayed reply. I'll get behind Maxime and Le and Gata. If it got down to those three (not likely), I'd have a problem!

By the way, I was in no way implying above that Mr. Tomashevsky isn't a strong GM. Only that in a match - which is how I think about all player comparisons - I think Liem is more dangerous. It's curious what happened at Wijk aan Zee for him. He was a member of the Grischuk/Shirov club there for a number of rounds. Underperforming.

Actually, if Hess holds Vachier-Lagrave to a draw, I'll be very surprised. That's a mismatch.

Agree that if Hess holds it will be a big surprise/upset. Le - Tomashevsky, I think Le had a good chance to win that endgame if he had not played 40... Kxg5. Le needs to improve his endgame play.

Le is on a roll now, so I'd not be surprised if he will win again, but chances are it will be another draw against Kasimdzhanov.

Or loss to Kasimdzanov, who has the better technique, speaking of endgames.

True. So anything could happen :-).

Yep, Le may be the more dangerous (tactical) player. I know rather little about Tomashevsky, but he seems more a solid, positional, strategic player - that's how he actually won his Aeroflot games, lenghty grinds.

As to Le's bad start at Tata B: As I wrote during the event, he may suddenly feel pressure and he may have been jetlagged. His losses (against underdog Spoelman, after pressing too hard for a win and against Li Chao) occurred in endgames, supporting roamingwind's impression.
Mig just wrote (in a new thread where we can discuss forthcoming rounds of Aeroflot) that he was surprised about Le's loss of rating points after Dortmund last year. I am not as much - there's no such thing as "the only way is up" for rising stars. Since Le's bad or underperforming results in the second half of 2010 were mostly in Asian events, they went relatively unnoticed - and did more damage to his Elo than to his reputation in the western world.

Everyone who is rising has ups and downs...anyone who saw Le at Dortmund last year knows that he is for real, regardless of his rating...just as anyone who saw Naka at the Tal Memorial should have known he belonged in the super-elite.

Interesting comments from FIDE about the WCC 2014 cycle coutesy of Mishanp -- looks like the Candidates tournament will have the top 3 from the Chess World Cup 2011, the loser of the 2012 title match, the next three highest-rated players in the world, and a nominee from the organizing committee.

I agree with you about Le (no surprise, as it's consistent with my previous post) even if a good Dortmund result doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot: earlier editions were won by Bologan and Naiditsch, and they didn't quite become world-top players.

I also won't argue about Nakamura - but why do you bring up his name? He played neither Gibraltar nor Aeroflot! ,:)

Pioneer is obsessed with Nakamura.

Because Naka just got invited to Dortmund...the same tournament that the winner of Aeroflot gets invited to. That's why. And no, kenh, I'm not "obsessed" with him. Stooping to personal attacks is low, even for you.

If you were able to compile the number of times here (or elsewhere) that your name was associated with the syllable, Naka, you would be convinced.

Give us something else to chew on, mate.

Looking forward to Dortmund. Kramnik should be the favorite given his performance history at that tournament...I'd put Ponomariov as 2nd favorite and Naka/Le as #3 choice.

Yes, I totally agree man. But it was totally a very interesting game to watch.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 1, 2011 3:28 PM.

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