They Bad

In an interview with Albert Silver appearing on Chessbase, former World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov said, “…the quality of the players has worsened. In the autumn, Carlsen and Anand were playing, and I came to the final. The FIDE Vice President Georgios Makropoulos came to me and said: “Judging by today’s games, even an out-of-shape Karpov would beat either of them…”

It is natural for older people to consider things having been better “back in the day.” This is common in all walks of life. For example, many years ago I worked for a company owned by a former Delta Airlines employee. The company transported vehicles to nine different Southern states, and many of the drivers were former Delta employees who had retired. To a man they all agreed Delta was a better company “back in the day.” Upon hearing this for the umptheenth time, I said, “Maybe it was just a different company back then.” This was met with glares and stares, and I was shunned. A short time later I mentioned one of my girlfriends had been a stewardess for Delta in the early ’70’s, and another had worked for only Delta, and had done so for decades, adding, “Seems like it was a better company back then.” Everyone smiled, clapped me on the back, and things were right with the world of James Auto Transport!

That said, I must agree with Mr. Karpov. The matches for the World Chess Championship this decade have left much to be desired. Back in the day we looked forward to the upcoming WC match with much anticipation. This is no longer the case. I am having trouble recalling the last interesting match for the World Chess Championship.

I must also agree with the former WCC about the quality of the play of the current top players. I am not exactly certain, but it could be the influence of the computer chess programs in that they have humbled the Grandmasters, or, shall we say, taken them down a peg, or two. My friend the Discman said something, published on this blog, some time ago, “GM’s used to be thought of as Gods.” Now the Gods of chess come with names like Komodo, and Stockfish.

As an example of what I mean let me refer you to the coverage on Chessbase of the most recent “elite” tournament, the Grenke Chess Classic in Baden-Baden. The players were having much trouble converting winning endgames. I watched as GM Etienne Bacrot, who had been winning for quite sometime, came completely unglued trying to push home his advantage versus GM Michael Adams. (http://en.chessbase.com/post/grenke-rd5-carlsen-back-in-the-lead) This was one of many butchered endgames in this particular tournament. Unfortunately, it is not the only recent tournament about which the same can be said.

What makes it worse is that the players make statements like, “We are so much better than the players of the last century that even when they were on top of their game the best players of today would wipe the floor with them, and we have got the numbers to prove it.” OK, I am paraphrasing here, but you get the idea. Their ratings are higher and the best players of today do seem to strut around like Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in the movie Silver Streak, saying, “That’s right, we bad, WE BAD!” Then they go out and draw another winnable endgame. For example, “…while Adams could not convert his advantage against Aronian.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/grenke-rd6-anand-only-win)

Sometimes it is even worse than the above. Consider what was written after the headline, “GRENKE Rd4: Two Blunders, Two Black wins.”
“What a round! Two major blunders defined the two victories, games that were on the verge of being wildly interesting and dissipated into a win for Black as in both cases the White side simply missed Black’s resources or overestimated his own attacking chances. Carlsen bounced back with a win over Anand in a stonewall, while Baramidze basically gave Naiditsch the tournament lead.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/grenke-rd4-two-blunders-two-black-wins-2)

What a round, indeed. Baramidze failed to answer a question every chess player should ask himself before making a move, “Am I leaving anything en prise?” He actually put a Knight en prise, giving Naiditsch a piece for nothing. Amazing….Granted, GM Baramidze is clearly not a Super GM, but still…

Not to be outdone, former World Human Chess Champion Vishy Anand gave his opponent that day, World Human Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, a full ROOK! I kid you not. The game is annotated by GM Alejandro Ramirez at the Chessbase website. (http://en.chessbase.com/post/grenke-rd4-two-blunders-two-black-wins-2) Anand should give some serious consideration to retiring. If he continues to play he will only continue to embarrass himself, and tarnish his reputation.

That’s right, they bad, THEY BAD!

Speaking of GM Alejandro Ramirez…Annotating the game between Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Magnus Carlsen from round three of the Tata Steel tournament, after 1.d4 d6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 f5 4.b4 Bg7 5.Bb2 a5 6.b5 a4!?, Alejandro writes, “This brave pawn will be weak, but it does restrict White a little. Carlsen has to be very careful not to lose it though.”

Come on! I know Magnus is the World Human Chess Champion, but I do not need a 3300 rated program to tell me this move is bad, REAL BAD! And this is not an isolated example. Everyone in the chess world, except maybe the VP of the GCA, is aware of the “howler,” Kd2, Magnus played against Viswanathan Anand in their most recent WCC match. Magnus was saved because Vishy sat there for one minute without asking himself the first question every chess player, other than the VP of the GCA, asks himself after his opponent makes a move, which is, “Why did my opponent make that move?” But what about the move Carlsen played as White against Fabiano Caruana in a Bishop’s Opening last year at the Sinquefield Cup?

Carlsen vs Caruana

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 Bb4+ 6. c3 Bd6 7. Bg5 dxe4 8. dxe4 h6 9. Bh4 Qe7 10. Nbd2 Nbd7 11. Bg3 Bc7 12. O-O Nh5 13. h3?

Once again, I do not need a computer program to tell me how bad is this move. This move stinks. It is the kind of move that may be played by the VP of the GCA, a triple digit player. I give the rest of the game for the record, and as proof as to what kind of chess is being passed off a being better than that played “back in the day.” 13…Nxg3 14. fxg3 Nc5 15. Bxf7+ Kxf7 16. Nxe5+ Kg8 17. Ng6 Qg5 18. Rf8+ Kh7 19. Nxh8 Bg4 20. Qf1 Nd3 21. Qxd3 Rxf8 22. hxg4 Qxg4 23. Nf3 Qxg3 24. e5+ Kxh8 25. e6 Bb6+ 26. Kh1 Qg4 27. Qd6 Rd8 28. Qe5 Rd5 29. Qb8+ Kh7 30. e7 Qh5+ 31. Nh2 Rd1+ 32. Rxd1 Qxd1+ 33. Nf1 Qxf1+ 34. Kh2 Qg1+ 0-1

Keep in mind the current human WCC backed into the match in which he became Chess Champ of the World. In the biggest game of his career, a game he had to win, Magnus Carlsen LOST. He was saved when GM Vladmir Kramnik also lost, giving the right to Carlsen to play a match with an old, tired, and obviously worn out toothless Tiger. I can still picture the young Magnus sitting on his knees in his chair like a little boy at a weekend swiss as his time dwindled. This man could never stand toe to toe with the Giants of the past. They would wipe the floor with him, and then eat him alive.

Armageddon Chess

The headline on Chessbase shows “GRENKE Final: Carlsen wins in Armageddon!” The article by Alejandro Ramirez is dated 2/10/2015 and even with the exclamation mark I am nonplussed. Carlsen did not win the tournament in my universe because he scored the same number of points as GM Arkadij Naiditsch. According to the multiverse theory whatever possibility exists can be found in one of those other universes. In one universe, let us call it nocaBverse, the two players who scored the same number of points tied for first. In another universe, let us call it Ironmanverse, tiebreaks were used and the first tiebreak was, as it is in every other game and sport on the universe in which the tournament we are discussing was played, the head to head matchup. In the Ironmanverse Arkadij Naiditsch was declared the winner. Other universes use things like most wins, or performance rating, or even most wins with Black, to decide a winner. Only in our universe are the best human chess players made to run a sprint after running a marathon in order to decide a “winner.” In one of the other universes a system is used whereby more points are awarded for a win or a draw for Black. A win with Black scores 3 points, while a win with White only scores 2 points. A draw with Black scores 1 1/2 points, while a draw with White only scores one point. In this multipointverse Arkadij Naiditsch outscored Magnus Carlsen by one half point, 11 1/2 to 11, and was declared the winner.

Magnus Carlsen know this. He is considered the World Human Chess Champion and commands the authority to take a page out of former first lady Nancy Raygun’s book and “just say no” to any organizer. Instead, like a trained seal, he jumps through whatever hoop is placed in front of him in order to be thrown another piece of meat. Hopefully, one day chess will have a worthy Champion who will say, “This is silly. I have just played a long tournament of normal chess and to contest some souped-up, heebee-jeeb games to determine anything is stupid.” I should live so long…

I have absolutely no interest in these quick-play games and do not pay any attention to them. The top players in the world these days make enough “howlers” in what passes for “classical” chess without my having to watch a blunder-fest. These games devolve into a kind of train wreck. It is absurd.

The once Royal game has devolved into “Armageddon Chess.” The definition of Armageddon is, “The final battle at the end of the world between the forces of good and evil.”

Where does the game of chess go after this? What comes after Armageddon?

The Greatest Chess Tournament of All-Time

The last day of the 2011 Major League Baseball season has often been called “The Greatest Day Of Baseball Ever.” Eric Simon @AmazinAvenue used the aforementioned headline (http://www.amazinavenue.com/2011/9/29/2457299/red-sox-rays-braves-wild-card-jose-reyes-mlb-playoffs).

MLB.com continues the trend with headlines such as, “One year later, recalling baseball’s Best Night Ever” (http://m.mlb.com/news/article/39125938/)

Do a search and a film by MLB.com heads the line-up, “Regular season’s wild end” (http://m.mlb.com/video/v19789807/the-2011-regular-season-ends-with-a-flourish).

The sad thing is that all this “greatness” transpired long after most fans had gone to sleep. Little League baseball players cannot stay up until after midnight to watch, no matter how “great” the event. Most who have to rise early to get to work cannot stay awake because the games drag on and on, with an endless series of commercials between innings and endless pitching changes. Most fans have been bored stiff long before something “great” happens.

Every generation has its “greatest.” The sixth game of the 1975 World Series between the Reds and Red Sox, which featured a home run that barely stayed fair by Carlton Fisk, was the “greatest game of all-time.” To the fans in Pittsburgh the home run hit by Bill Mazeroski to beat the damn Yankees in the bottom of the ninth inning off of Ralph Terry in the 1960 World Series will always be the “greatest game of all-time” no matter what happens in the future.

The recently concluded second Sinquefield Cup is being called the latest, greatest, chess tournament of all-time. Except for the runaway winner, Fabiano Caruana, who kept his head while those around him were losing theirs, the standard of play was abysmally low. It is possible the player who finished, the sinister Vesilin Topalov, played the worse chess. Fortunately for him some of his opponents played their worst chess against him. For example, Hikaru Nakamura should have blown Topalov off of the board in the third round, leaving him three losses and having to face World Champion Magnus Carlsen while sitting behind the black army. Nakamura would have only a half point behind Fab Car and it would have been a completely different tournament. I will be kind and say that other than Fab Car the players did not bring their “A” game. It was certainly not the most interesting chess tournament of all-time.

GM Alejandro Ramirez wrote an article on 9/7/2014 for Chessbase, “Sinquefield 10: Draws end magnificent event,” which included this: “This super-GM double round robin tournament is being played from August 27th to September 7th. It is billed as the strongest tournament in the history of chess.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/sinquefield-10-draws-end-magnificent-event)

A few days later, 9/10/2014, Alisa Melekhina wrote an article, “Behind the Scenes of the Sinquefield Cup,” which included this: “This super-GM double round robin tournament is being played from August 27th to September 7th. It is billed as the strongest tournament in the history of chess.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/behind-the-scenes-of-the-sinquefield-cup)

“Strongest Chess Tournament Ever Begins in Saint Louis”
By Brian Jerauld
August 27, 2014
SAINT LOUIS, MO (August 26, 2014) — It‘s time to ring the bell on the strongest chess tournament in history.
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12780/772/

Saturday, August 16, 2014
Sinquefield Cup 2014 – Strongest Chess Tournament in History
http://susanpolgar.blogspot.com/2014/08/sinquefield-cup-2014-strongest-chess.html

Jason Rosenhouse, writing on something called the “Evolution Blog: Science, Religion, Math, Politics and Chess” has this headline: “The Greatest Chess Tournament in the History of Chess Tournaments”
Posted by jrosenhouse on August 28, 2014
http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2014/08/28/the-greatest-chess-tournament-in-the-history-of-chess-tournaments/

But wait, there’s MORE!

“Fabiano Caruana Is Doing The Impossible At Chess’s Most Competitive Tournament”
10:21 AMSep 5 By Oliver Roeder
http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/fabiano-caruana-is-doing-the-impossible-at-chesss-most-competitive-tournament/

Leave it to Tim Krabbé to put an end to the hyperbole:

“Could this nonsense about ´the strongest chess tournament in history´ please stop? You have the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 9 of the most recent ranking. The 1938 AVRO tournament had the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Of your six players, four are in the top-six – a density of 4/6, or .67. The AVRO Tournament had eight of the top eight – a density of 8/8 or 1. Both tournaments are double round robins, with of 30 and 56 games respectively. Multiplying these numbers, we get an index of 4/6*30=20 for Sinquefield, and 1*56=56 for AVRO.

AVRO, therefore, was almost 3 times as strong.

Should anyone see these calculations as meaningless, they should consider that they share that quality with Sinquefield´s average rating of 2802. Ratings do not reflect playing strength – they reflect relative playing strength and therefore, inflation more than anything else. I could go out right now and buy the most expensive pingpong ball in the history of humankind.

With many thanks for the wonderful tournament,

Tim Krabbé”
http://timkr.home.xs4all.nl/chess2/diary.htm

Many thanks for putting the latest, greatest, chess tournament of all-time into perspective, Tim.

MUHAMMAD ALI: THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME

Damir Studen Earns IM Norm at US Masters

GM Rauf Mamedov sat down to play GM Bartlomiej Macieja on board one in the last round of the US Masters trailing by half a point. To win the tournament Rauf would have to win the game, which is exactly what happened. Three other players had a chance to finish with seven points. GM’s Alejandro Ramirez and Yuniesky Quesada Perez drew their game, thus finishing with 6 ½, while GM Alojzije Jankovic, with a chance to finish first, took a HALF POINT BYE in the last round, the second half point bye he had taken in the tournament. Jankovic lost to Macieja in the penultimate round.
The official website tried to broadcast three games, but usually there were only two, or one, game live, because of “tech issues.” I followed the last game, which could have been drawn with better play from the loser. One game never made it to the web. The game in which I had the most interest, the board three game between GM Georg Meier and NM Daniel Gurevich, of Atlanta, was being broadcast until it, too, had “tech issues.” After losing two of his first three games, NM Gurevich won in the fourth round, followed by a draw with IM John Cox. Daniel then ripped off three wins in a row, including GM Alex Fishbein in round seven and GM Alex Shabalov in the penultimate round. Reeling with the feeling and playing Black versus GM Meier, Gurevich played like a wild man swinging wildly by pushing his g-pawn and thereby weakening his position. It was the kind of impetuous move a chess teacher would advise a student against playing. A few moves later the game disappeared and I regretted not copying the moves that had been displayed.
The big news locally is that LM Damir Studen, who literally grew up at the House of Pain, earned an IM norm with his 5 ½ points with his last round draw with the aforementioned IM John Cox. His tournament included three wins, five draws, and only one loss, that a round five loss to LSM Denys Shmelov. He drew with GM’s Alex Fishbein and Georg Meier, and defeated GM John Federowicz. Damir and Daniel finished in the fourth score group, tying for twelfth place with many others. Years ago when both of these young men were up and comers I showed there was still life left in this old dog by defeating both of them in a nightly quick-play event at the Atlanta Chess Center. I mention this because I have read many times that one should “get them on the way up,” and have always wanted to put it into print. The game with Damir was particularly exciting because I had to play many moves with only one second left on my clock. Fortunately there was a five second delay. Both would, no doubt, eat me alive now. I congratulate both of these players for their outstanding result. Damir gained 48 rating points to move close to Senior Master level at 2384. Daniel increased his rating 51 points to move to 2344.
When the tournament first began there were updates often, and the pictures were like being onsite. I have not seen many of the players, like GM Michael Rohde, in years, so the pictures on the website were nice to see. Someone was taking a picture of the results page every “15-20 minutes.” That stopped, unfortunately. Combine that with the myriad technical problems and general lack of games, and I quickly lost interest. The internet was down most of the final day and I did not seem to mind because the results were not forthcoming, often for far too long. To a chess fan the coverage showed much promise initially, but sputtered and ground to a halt. In chess terms it would be like a player winning his first round and then losing all of his next games.
Since there have been so few games from the US Masters I would like to present a game given by Olimpiu Urcan & Other Epistolarians from, Chess: A Singapore Column of September 1, 2013. (http://sgchess.net/2013/09/01/871-a-scandinavian-crash/). This one is for you, future IM Studen!
A Scandinavian Crash
Along with his brief annotations and comments, Napoleon Recososa submits the interesting game below, played in the fourth round of the Inaugural Teck Ghee CSC Community Chess Championship (August 25, 2013):
Napoleon Recososa – Kanagenthiran Premnath [B01]
Inaugural Teck Ghee CSC Community Chess, Round 4, 25 August 2013
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Bc4 c6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.h3 Bh5 8.Be3 e6 9.g4 Bg6 10.Ne5 Nbd7 11.Nxg6 hxg6 12.Qe2 b5 13.Bd3 Qb4?! A waste of time since White, with his next move, castles queenside anyway. Perhaps 13…Be7 was better. 14.0–0–0 a5? Premature activity. He failed to consider the king’s safety. Maybe he underestimated the lurking dangers in the center as his c6 and e6-pawns controlled the d5 square and, furthermore, White’s bishop on e3 covered the e-file. 15.g5 Nh5 [see diagram] If 15…Nd5 White planned 16.Nxd5 exd5 17.Bf4+ Qe7 (17…Be7 18.c3; 17…Kd8 18.Rhe1) 18.Qf3 and now if 18…0–0–0 then 19.Bxb5! cxb5 20.Qxd5 looks strong. 16.d5! Nf4 After 16…cxd5 17.Nxd5 Qd6 (17…exd5 allows 18.Bc5+) 18.Nb6 (18.Bxb5 was interesting too but I had doubts about 18…exd5 19.Bc5+ Qe6) 18…Nf4 19.Qf3 White’s just winning. 17.Bxf4 Qxf4+ 18.Kb1 Nc5 If 18…Ne5 then White had a pleasant choice between 19.dxe6 fxe6 20.Bxg6+ or the more crude 19.dxc6 b4 20.Nb5. 19.Bxb5 Rc8 19…cxb5 loses to 20.Qxb5+ Kd8 (20…Ke7 21.d6+ Kd8 22.Qxc5) 21.dxe6+ Kc8 (21…Kc7 is met by the simple 22.Nd5+ or 22.Rd7+) 22.Qc6+. 20.Bxc6+ Rxc6 21.dxc6 Qc7 21…Qxg5 fails because of 22.c7! 22.Qg4? Better was 22.Qb5 followed by 23.Na4. I was distracted by my opponent’s time trouble. 22…Qxc6 23.f3 Be7 24.h4 a4 25.Ne4 a3 26.Nxc5 Bxc5 27.h5 Qb5 28.b3 gxh5 29.Qe4! Call it a sense of danger or pure luck but I noticed that after 29.Rxh5 Rxh5 30.Qxh5 there is the sneaky 30…Qe2! 31.Qh8+ Bf8 32.Qh1 Qe5. 29…Ke7 29…0–0 30.Rxh5 is losing too. 30.g6 f6 30…f5 leads to a forced mate after 31.Qh4+. 31.Rhe1 Qb6 3. Qd5 and with just six seconds left, my opponent resigned in this hopeless position. 1–0