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2011 World Cup r2

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The FIDE World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk has lightened its field to 64. 62 unlucky losers went all the way to Siberia for a few hours of chess and are now headed home. Except for a few of the local wildcards, who are already home. (Not 64, since Akopian and Wang Hao never made the trip.) The top favorites went through without much drama. The biggest upset on the Elo chart was young American Sam Shankland taking out Peter Leko, who had fallen far from his decade in or near the top 10 before taking a lot of time off. After two bad results at Dortmund and the Olympiad the former world championship challenger hadn't played in nearly a year before he popped up for Hungary at the World Teams last month, where he turned in a creditable +2 result. He predictably dominated his game with white against Shankland, who was as surprised as anyone that his tough defense turned into a win when Leko's nerves fell apart. It happens, but Leko has only himself to blame for playing the Benoni to try to win the second game. There's no good way to play for a win with black against a strong opponent, but playing an opening that's so much against his style was too desperate by half. Black was practically busted by move 22 and Shankland was happy to cede the draw a few moves later instead of playing on for the full point.

Most of the top seeds went through without too much fanfare. Kamsky had his hands full with the unheralded Brazilian IM di Berardino, who came second in his national championship. Kamsky crushed him with ease in the first game with white, but the Brazilian showed considerable moxie to come back and beat his 260-point superior to force tiebreaks. Kamsky got nothing with white but went to work on di Berardino's IQP in the second game and then won with a little tactic. With Fier taking out Wang Yue, it was and admirable performance from the new Brazilian generation. While we're in the region, Felgaer of Argentina flirted with infamy for a moment in tiebreaks against 2009 World Cup surprise Malakhov. The Argentine had rook, knight, and an a-pawn versus Black's rook and the only danger in the position was stalemate. Which, after tangoing by several mates in six and seven in increment time, is exactly what Felgaer managed to do. But fate took pity on him and in the second game Malakhov, already under pressure, dropped his queen in just 25 moves.

It was a near wipeout for the Chinese, who came in with nine players, more than anyone other than Russia, and are already down to two. (Unless, as the Ugra live games page has it today, Bu Xiangzhi is now playing for Russia.) Sebastian "Finger" Feller is still with us, unfortunately, after beating Iordachescu in the tiebreaks. No word on whether or not his cheating co-conspirators are also in Khanty-Mansiysk. Or maybe FIDE has hired them.

Things heat up now, with no match a sure thing. We are guaranteed a few underdogs in the third rounds since a a few upset winners are meeting. Gupta beat Mamedov and now meets Shankland. The Ukrainian teenager Zherebukh beat his countryman Eljanov in tiebreaks and faces Felgaer. But attention will be on the top boards, where some tasty matchups like Karjakin-So and Alekseev-Ivanchuk are just about to bet underway. Two former KO winners, Kasimdzhanov and Kamsky meet.


What time is it in NYC?

The tournament homepage - http://chess.ugrasport.com/?p=1454 - has a picture of Gashimov joining the postmortem between Leko and Shankland; he "suggested various ways to lead Peter’s attack". Of course Gashimov has more experience with the Benoni ... .

They also mention that "Peter agreed to face the journalists at the press conference, was answering their questions, joking and smiling. ... If there was a Rating List of the most polite Grandmasters, Leko would surely be included into it."
Food for thought for Leko haters!? Apparently he will soon play another tournament in Saratov, Russia (no info on other participants).

Wow, stop the press, leading GM doesn't spear babies!

Think he was never the same after letting Big Vlad slip through the net .......

Why do you think so? The Brissago match was in September/October 2004. Then in January 2005 Leko won Corus (8.5/13, ahead of Anand, Topalov, Kramnik and others) to reach his highest-ever rating of 2763. Then his Elo went down a bit to stabilize around 2740. Then he reached another peak (2762) in September 2009, only thereafter he took a plunge to drop out of the top10 after mannny years ... .

I hadnt checked/realised he'd won Corus after Brissago. Hard to argue with your other evidence as well :-) Your facts trump my impressions!

Maybe I also get corrected by statistics, but to me, Leko makes so many boring draws, I have come to believe he thinks the objective of the game is to earn 0.5 points every time you play. I remember tournaments (again, I am only talking from memory here), where he got his dream come true: a draw in every game played!

You have a very good memory (or, more likely, you treasure widely quoted prejudices): the last tournament where Leko drew all of his games - and apparently the only one in this millennium - was Linares 2005 [last rated event of a certain Garry Kasparov, it's been a while ago]. Even then not all of his draws were boring, though many were short (less than 30 moves) and/or premature.

For context:
- This was right after Leko's +4 score in Wijk aan Zee
- Linares has most wins as tiebreaker. In 2003, Kramnik "predictably" finished in second place with +2=10, behind 'drawmaster' Leko scoring +4=6-2.

Another story is that Leko had a few _winless_ events since September 2009 - you can only win games when you're in form ... .

I don't think anyone "hates" Leko for being arrogant but I don't find him an exciting player compared to some other top players, it's the same thing with for example Gelfand. We all have our favourites and I don't pick mine because they are nice persons, in that case Svidler and Leko would be my favourites.

A long and extremely interesting interview with Vladimir Kramnik. There's much too much to summarise, but for instance he gives his own view on his style of play and how it changed before and after the Kasparov match, while also going into much more detail about Anand (fans of scandals will also want to read the "Topalov" section!):


On the topic of Peter Leko, I have been recently running some analysis about draws, and you should know that although he does draw a lot, he actually has very few short draws. If you look at all games played among top-twenty players, from 2006 to 2011, we see 62% of all such games being draws, including 6% being short draws "drawn before Move 20". Out of the 25 most frequent players, Leko has one of the LOWEST rates of short draws:
V.Topalov 0.5%
V.Gashimov 1.9%
G.Kamsky 2.8%
A.Morozevich 3.0%
E.Bacrot 3.0%
P.Leko 3.1%

Now admittedly Leko did draw 69% of his games during that time, behind only D.Jakovenko (71%), Wang Yue (71%), and M.Adams (72%), but you can't really blame someone for being a good defender and avoiding losing, can you?

@mishanp: That's an unusual and insightful interview. Vlad T. has found a thing besides blitz where he can excel. Vlad K. is candid as ever. Put the right questions to him, and he tells you what he thinks. My head still spins from the different things he explained a little deeper than I heard them explained before.

@Jeff Sonas/Leko: When I counted short draws from the chessgames database, I found the same thing. Leko draws a lot, but he isn't in for short draws. His typical style is a solid positional setup, and then he uses patience and accuracy to slowly build up pressure and small advantages. Which, in the end, gets him a half point in most cases, and a full point occasionally. I find this style very interesting to watch, especially when someone is explaining me the subtle, quiet struggles that go on on the board.

I think you really hit the nail on the head there with your post. Leko's style is so subtle and nuanced that for the commoner to appreciate it... it needs to be explained by some stronger. While everyone can understand and appreciate the simplicity of swashbuckling tactics.

"everyone can understand and appreciate the simplicity of swashbuckling tactics."


: )

@Bartleby: I should also point out that it is also interesting to break it down by piece color. With Black, Leko draws more than any other top player (again we are only considering games where both players are in the top-20), but he is still in the middle of the list with regard to short draws.

With the white pieces, Leko is in the middle of the pack, draw-wise, and in fact there is really nobody who has fewer short draws with White than Leko - he only had 1 out of 114 such games (among top-20 players) from 2006 through 2011. Topalov had 1 out of 100, Shirov 1 out of 78, Morozevich 1 out of 53, Kamsky 1 out of 52, and Adams 0 out of 31.

With Leko only looking at the period 2006-11 when he fell from the top and was much more unstable gives a slightly less drawish impression than the previous years when he built his reputation for drawishness. Looking at 2000-04 instead his draw percentage is higher. Not by much, but together with Kramnik still the highest of all players in the top 90 (and this was before Leko's all draws Linares at the start of 2005):


Adams 0 out of 31? Doesn't state much, does it?

Of course you're free to like some players more than others! I just think that all players should be treated fairly, and get the recognition they deserve for their achievements.

My impression is that some people (not just you) stick to preconceived impressions, particularly if they're supported by other bloggers and even some journalists. Some examples which involve Leko:
- At the World Team Championship, he had a rather nice victory with black against Ivanchuk. Somehow I think that game would have gotten more attention and praise if Chucky had won, for two reasons: people like to see Ivanchuk win (fair enough), and people like to see Leko lose (why???).
- Carlsen and Leko both like to grind out victories from even or just slightly better endgames. If Carlsen does so, it's praiseworthy - in Leko's case it's boring?! If Carlsen wins, he's brilliant - if Leko wins the game was still boring (no tactical fireworks). If Carlsen "has to resign himself to a draw" - no problem, (as one of my clubmates likes to say) "can't win them all". If Leko draws, it's another boring draw.
[Another story is that Carlsen may have a higher scoring/winning percentage because he's by now the better player].
- Variant on this: Shankland managed to win against Leko from an inferior position (or Leko lost a favorable position). Of course people can be happy for Shankland, but I wonder if some Shankland fans would still have slightly mixed feelings if he had eliminated shirov, Morozevich or Ivanchuk.

I'm going to go out on a limb and pick Abhijeet Gupta as the biggest chess talent from India after Vishy Anand. He just took out Sh'land today in a nice endgame. He faces Xiangzhi/VL and I wouldn't rule out another upset..

@Anand : I hope Abhijeet's win over Sam is not considered an upset(although the Leko win made it seem like he is higher rated than Abhijeet). Nevertheless, he joins the likes of Judith and Kamsky in being the lone survivors from their country and I'll be rooting hard for him.

Interestingly, three endgames with Knight + pawns vs Knight + pawns and all three games were decided.

He was actually the rating favorite against Sam. His first round win against Mamedov was an upset though.

Really happy Judit won

Some great tie-breaks tomorrow in the world cup overlapping with the start of the promising botvinnik memorial -- just two hours after the world cup starts.

Strange scheduling, isn't it? Though I suppose given the World Cup's only got a single rest day there wasn't much they could do.

Another curiosity is that the third-placed match will take place at the same time as the World Cup final - and it'll actually be the match with the most at stake...

I don't see that much of a problem: if chess fans can follow 13 World Cup tiebreak matches, two more rapid games at the same time in Moscow shouldn't be a big difference? Besides, (if the rapid matches are decisive) the World Cup tiebreaks should be almost over by the time the Botvinnik Memorial starts.
As far as the finals are concerned: If they weren't simultaneous but one game in the morning, the other one in the afternoon, then chess fans might 'have to' (?) watch for about ten hours nonstop, same for live commentators.

It's a pity the Botvinnik Memorial is just a rapid exhibition (with a break in the middle of the games for the players to comment on the position). It wouldn't excite me half as much as the Grand Slam final at the end of the month even if Carlsen won every game.

Well, let's have your predictions for the final rankings in the Botvinnik, everyone! At the end we will reread the predictions and gasp in awe at your prescience.

Yeah, that is strange...really the quarterfinals and the 3rd place match are the most important matches.

They should do seeding in the 2014 cycle by performance at the World Cup, so that the championship game actually means something. For instance, the seeding should be:

1 = Loser of World championship 2012 match (this actually is the case)
2 = World cup winner
3 = World cup runner-up
4 = 3rd place world cup
5 = Highest player qualified by rating
6 = #2 player qualified by rating
7 = #3 player qualified by rating
8 = Wildcard

This way, anyone who skips the World Cup is guaranteed to be no greater than the #5 seed, no matter how high their rating.

Another remedy to the current situation would be to make each match a best three out of five, with the better seed getting White if the match goes to a decisive 5th game. That would place even more importance on the seedings, as compared to now, when being a better seed means nothing.

I also like the idea suggested a few months ago of playing the tiebreakers first -- this on top of the best 3 out of 5 format would ensure fighting chess in the classical games.

Pioneer, Why on earth should they seed the winner at this second rate tourney higher than any of the top rated players in the world?

To call this a 'World Cup' without Anand, Carlsen, Aronian, or Kramnik is absurd. It should be called a 'Consolation Cup', where 3 lucky losers qualify to play with the top dogs in the next championship cycle.

Not the other way around.

Seconded, and welcome to the world at large, where discernment is precious and quiet, and opinion is cheap and loud.


Anand, Carlsen, Aronian and Kramnik were not excluded from the World Cup, they made the decision not to participate (why they didn't is a story for another day).

However, seeding by ranking seems by far the best method of seeding. But it is a shame that a few people can qualify by virtue of ranking alone.

Winning the world cup deserves some credit. It may be that the top 4 are not playing but still its not a piece of cake to win the cup. Although the world cup can be structured better it gives atleast a lot of players an opportunity to qualify for the cycle.

So what World Cup match-ups are we most looking forward too in Round 3? Hard to go past Polgar vs Karjakin/So, but I'd love to see Moro and Grischuk go head to head if Grischuk can get past the French "finger".

Nice win for Vishy Anand over Aronian!! :)

Its not a second-rate tourney...it puts everyone on equal footing, which is why for years several of the top players have been scared to play in it -- most notably Kasparov and then on down the line. Of course, for Anand, Gelfand, Carlsen, and Aronian, those 4 have nothing to gain by playing in the World Cup. Every other top player should be there, though.

Kamsky v. Nepo could be an upset; I'm pulling for the kid.

Off-topic but related to the Leko discussion: In October there will be a "semi-strong" tournament in Saratov, Russia to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the local chess club. Leko faces the Saratov team (apparently Eljanov, Tomashevsky, Alekseev, Andreikin, Moiseenko, Ni Hua and Roiz - that was their winning lineup at the 2010 European Club Cup), either Nepomniachtchi or Morozevich, Ponomariov, Shirov and Vitiugov. (Info from an interview with Tomashevsky at the World Cup homepage)

Sort of a (one-time) replacement for Poikovsky which apparently doesn't happen this year? And an opportunity for, in particular, Tomashevsky and Vitiugov who otherwise don't get invitations that correspond to their 2700+ ratings ... .

There are now 48 players with ratings of 2700 or above. Who's "super" these days?

The 13 players rated 2750 or higher?

Yes. Once upon a time, these would have been the only Grandmasters in the world.

Nepo v. Kamsky: Fire v. Ice

Go Gata Go!! Go Gata Go!! Boo ctrl+v

There are lots of countries with "lone survivors". Only Russia, the Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Cuba have more than one.

All of them...because the level of play today is stronger than ever before.

Yeah, and once upon a time blacks and women didn't have the right to vote in the United States. Its a different era, get over it.

Cuba? Cool.

It depends on what you consider "super", IMO it's a bit more than just "strong". Some years ago, Elo 2700+ meant regular invitations to strong events, hence average chess fans would know the names of the players.

And nowadays? How much attention would a round robin with, say, Jobava, Almasi, Tomashevsky, Naiditsch, Andreikin and Laznicka get? Daily reports on major chess sites?? (Right or wrong,) I doubt it .... .

Did I say I preferred the former era? Get over it.

True, but just look at the strength of the players in the mid 40s in world rankings now compared with the "glory days" of the mid 1980s, when someone like Yusupov was #3 in the world behind Kasparov and Karpov...nowadays his playing strength wouldn't even crack the top 75 in the world.

That's the way it should be, b/c it shows that the players of the past have made the game stronger today.

Great post I hope to see more, keep up the good work.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 31, 2011 4:38 AM.

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