I just returned today from the Chicago Open. My play was a little shaky, but I managed +3 =2 -2 to end up in a big tie for the last prize for players rated under 2400. My two losses were to GMs (Anatoly Lein and Dimitry Gurevich) and my two draws were both against higher rated players. I was ranked 38th in the 88 player open section. 16 GMs and 4 IMs participated. I'm not sure how many played in all the sections since they were spread throughout the hotel.
Congratulations to GM Artashes Minasian of Armenia, who took clear first and $10,000 in the open section. This is another big win on US soil for Minasian who was also clear first in the 1998 New York Open. The key game was in round 6 with Minasian having black against the always dangerous GM Alexander Shabalov. They were the only players with 4.5 at the time. Minasian won from the Black side of the French Defense, then played a quick draw with GM Alexander Goldin in the final round to seal up first.
As usual, Bill Goichberg and his crew did an outstanding job running the tournament. I'll try to post some analysis and further comments after I get back into the swing of things here. One small anecdote to share now: In most of the Continental Chess Association tournaments they have multiple schedules which eventually merge into one tournament for the last few rounds. In the Chicago Open they have 4-day, 3-day, and 2-day options. In 1998, GM Joel Benjamin introduced the "1-day" schedule. He played the 2-day option, but took 1/2 point byes the two rounds of the final day. It was successful for him in 1998 when he scored 4.5/5 the day he played and watched as his 5.5/7 score was good enough to tie for first place. This year, his strategy backfired. He was upset in round 1 and withdrew facing a maximum score of 5/7 (which still would have netted around $300).
Topic 1 - Dutch Championship. Congratulations to Loek van Wely on winning the Dutch Championship. Of course, most of the attention was focused on the participation of the computer program, Fritz. Despite getting some free points from players who refused to play it, the beast could only manage a third place tie. Goes to show you that computer chess still has a long way to go before they can claim to be better than grandmasters. Deep Blue's victory over Kasparov was a fluke. I predict Junior 6 will finish last in the Dortmund tournament later this summer.
Topic 2 - Sarajevo 2000. The Sarajevo tournament is underway. Garry Kasparov is a big favorite (something like a 95% chance that he'll at least tie for first according to the KasparovChess statistician). It's easy to pick Garry these days, especially in a tournament like that, refreshingly, is missing alot of the other top 10 players. The Boss has been fairly dominating so far, with 3 wins and 3 draws. Alexi Shirov has kept the pace, though, and Alexander Morozevich and Evgeny Bareev are only a half point behind. Most of the games between the leaders are still to come. I'm going to go way out on the limb and say Alexi Shirov's time has come. He will score his first ever victory over Garry Kasparov in round 8 and go on to win the tournament.
I've added another game to the GM section. My second meeting with Gregory Kaidanov was not as one sided as the first (I'll get that disaster posted one of these days), but was still a wipeout. I was out of book on move 7, was able to find my way through the theoretical line through move 14 where I played a dubious novelty. Two moves later I sac a piece hoping to end up with 2 pawns for the exchange. I actually end up getting 3 pawns for my troubles, but by that time my wandering King is run over by his major pieces.
Probably the most interesting thing about this game is what happened 5 months later. In the final round of the World Open with all the chips on the line, Kaidanov played this same variation against Goldin, except Kaidanov had White. Unfortunately for Gregory, he lost that game moving the decimal point on his prize check a couple of places to the left.
Alot of controversy is being generated right now because of the participation of the computer program Fritz in the Dutch Championship. Some players have refused to play it and in the most recent round there was a a protest over draw offers. While I believe that human vs. computer matchups are still good for chess, I don't think computers should be allowed in national championships (especially when the company that makes the software isn't even from that country!). It is also obvious that the players were not a part of the decision to allow the computer to play. This is just plain wrong. Knowing FIDE, we'll probably see computers invited to the FIDE World Championship and Olympiad next.
We are seeing again lack of clear rules when it comes to man vs. machine contests. They're going to try again in Germany later this summer when the program Junior (which had so many technical difficulties in the Club Kasparov Grand Prix) will participate in the Dortmund tournament. I think here the players were informed of the invitation to the computer and agreed to play. Interestingly, in another upcoming German tournament, the Frankfurt Giants, Fritz was not invited to the A group despite winning last years B group. The reason for this is simple: Garry Kasparov. Kasparov won the A group last year and made it clear that he would not return if Fritz was invited. The organizers know who the drawing card is, so matches vs. computers will only be held as side exhibition events at the Dortmund festival.
I picked up the June 2000 issue of GAMES magazine recently and saw that they had some chess puzzles in their pencil section. There are six boards each with certain squares being numbered. The object is to place a white K,Q,R,B,N, and P on the board so that each numbered square is attacked by that number of pieces. Each piece must be on different square and no piece may be on a numbered square. The pawn cannot be on the first or last rank. The first puzzle is the easiest: b5=1, a4=0, e4=0, g4=2, e2=1, b1=5. I'll post the solution next month. If you can't wait, get the June 2000 issue of games for this and 5 other more difficult problems. If you're having trouble solving this one, email me for a hint.
In the May 2000 issue of Chess Life a reader asked Larry Evans the eternal question: Were Fischer's match conditions fair? This of course refers to the controversial proposal in 1975 that eventually led Bobby Fischer to forfeit the FIDE championship to Anatoly Karpov. Fischer proposed that only wins count and that the winner of the match would be the first to score 10 wins. However, the infamous clause that the champion retains his title in the event that each player scores 9 wins was the sticking point that was never resolved. Essentially this meant that the challenger had to win 10 games before the champion won 9.
Evans gave his stock answer to this question (it usually appears in his column at least once a year) that Karpov got more than Fischer ever asked for when he defended the title in 1978 against Victor Korchnoi. For that match the winner was the first to make 6 wins with draws not counting and no tie clause (indeed the match did reach a 5-5 tie after 30 games). Karpov was entitled to a rematch if he lost. The argument used by Evans and others goes something like Karpov could lose the first match 0-6 then win the return match 6-5 and be world champion by scoring only 6 wins to the challengers 11.
This is one of my pet peeves. Evans argument is complete bunk. The rematch has nothing to do with the fairness of the match conditions. If Korchnoi had beaten Karpov 6-0 or 6-5 or anything in between he would have been WORLD CHAMPION. Karpov could win the return match and regain the title, but that still wouldn't take away Korchnoi's accomplishment. Smyslov and Tal are certainly recognized in the lineage of World Champions despite that they both lost rematches to Botvinnik.
In my own opinion, the 9-9 tie clause was a bad idea. They don't stop world title fights after 11 rounds. The 7th game of the World Series or the Stanley Cup have produced some of the greatest moments in sport. There are enough draws in chess already, we don't need to go artificially creating more.
As a bit of housekeeping, I've finally archived April at the bottom of the page. Also, one of my counters seems to have reset 8-(.
Last week, I talked about what seems to me as a decline in interest in one-day tournaments. Another change I've noticed is smaller turnouts at the Knoxville Chess Club. In the last year or so, it seems that there has been a steady decline in attendance for tournaments as well as for other events. Is this an isolated case? I think it probably isn't. In my opinion, the Internet is probably to blame for what I see as a decline in over the board play. Why fight traffic, sleep in a hotel, etc. when you can log on and play grandmasters? While the Internet seems like it might finally be the grail chess has been looking for to attract sponsors, I hope it doesn't come at the cost of small clubs and tournaments. I think the Internet is clearly beneficial to chess, but lets not forget that what chess is really all about is two competitors face-to-face over the board matching wits. Support your local chess club!
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