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Worst Match Ever? Really?

User Rating: / 0
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 01 June 2012

Zhdanov Peter
Candidate master Peter Zhdanov's column at

Few chess players have been hated upon during the World Chess Championship matches as much as Anand and Gelfand. With a little help from Garry Kasparov we have discovered that their confrontation had nothing to do with determining the strongest player in the world. And there we go. The most boring match in the chess history; another dull draw, watching the grass grow in my garden is more exciting; a clash of the pensioners these are some of the epithets Anand and Gelfand have been awarded. But is everything so clear? Lets address a few delicate and widely quoted issues regarding the match.

They have low ratings; their tournament results suck; these players are not the best at all. The playing strength of a person depends on the motivation and the format. The struggle for the chess crown and for winning some tournament X are two different things. Gelfand has specifically mentioned that he is highly motivated and playing his best in the tournaments which are directly related to winning the supreme chess title.

A lot has been said about the financial side of the WCC. Lets note that the match is considerably more lucrative for the participants than any other events. The winner received about $1,500,000 + potential prize money from the next match + probable endorsement offers and awards from the government of his country. And how much does a winner of a super tournament make? $50k? Best case scenario - $100k? Its a different scale, do you agree? How can it be fixed? Ideally, by increasing the prize money and somehow integrating the tournaments into the candidate cycle. However, this is being done already, and deserves a separate article.

The legitimacy of the players is also unquestioned. It is obvious, like Gelfand has pointed out once, that the public is tired of watching 40+ year olds play. They want to see new faces. But who should be blamed for Magnus Carlsens unwillingness to participate in the cycle, no matter how many times FIDE has been trying to persuade him? Why have the top dogs according to the public vote Aronian, Kramnik and Topalov failed the expectations? Yes, hardly anyone was anticipating Boris to win, but he came on top in the World Cup and then in the Candidates Matches. Do we have the right to blame him? As to Anand, it is even more obvious. The Indian wizard has defended his title against such heavyweights as Kramnik and Topalov, so he is clearly a legend worthy of the chess crown.

The Aronian-Kramnik match was much more exciting and innovative than Anand-Gelfand . It came as a surprise for me, but many chess fans honestly dont understand the difference between an exhibition match and a World Chess Championship event. In a friendly game one can experiment, enjoy himself and entertain the public, take risks. With the stakes being as high as they were at the WCC, the outcome of the match is the primary factor to consider.

The player didnt take risks. Where is their fighting spirit?. In my opinion, Anands and Gelfands credentials speak for themselves. If anything, they are amazing match players. And I dont think that any of the amateurs has the right to patronizingly say that he knows best how and when they should be taking risks. Moreover, the short format (only 12 games) doesnt support risk-taking.

Sophia rules must be implemented! How dare they make short boring draws?. It seems to me that the problem is deeper than it looks on the surface. Most spectators prefer decisive games to drawn ones. Everyone wants to see a winner. Not to mention unqualified fans who can only keep asking So, who is winning, our guy or the other one?. After every draw tension and exasperation are building up. People start talking about players not doing their job. Some are claiming that only the Sophia rules can save the show and make the players fight till the end. Nonetheless, I dont think that many people would enjoy watching a dead drawn endgame being played out for another two hours just for the sake of reaching move 40. On the contrary, they would be even more displeased: I have been watching this stuff for 5 hours straight, and it was still drawn!. Silvio Danailov has mentioned on Twitter that Sophia rules are a must-have and referred to his son not understanding what was going on as supporting evidence. I would like to point out that strong IM Silvio should be one of the last people to complain about it: why not explain why the position is a draw to his child as opposed to telling him to consult the FIDE handbook?

 The quality of the games was low; no new ideas have been introduced. First of all, in classical chess there were hardly any blunders. Games #7 and #8 stand aside in this respect, but was there ever a WCC match without dramatic, inexplicable blunders? Secondly, I, an ordinary candidate master, was shocked by how consistently the players followed the notorious first line of the engines. Once again, I am falling back on my impressions, not statistical analysis, but it seems like there were not so many inaccuracies. I doubt there were many matches where the quality of the play was of a completely different, superior level.  Finally, I am not the one to evaluate the number of new openings ideas, but lets just say that experts opinions on this are different, from none to lots.

Who are we playing for?. A very instructive moment was when Evgeny Surov asked in a rather disturbed way why the players couldnt play out the game to entertain the spectators. Boris was clearly displeased with the journalists tone. He snapped back and made one of the worst comments by saying that they are purely result-oriented and not playing for the crowd. On the one hand, such a statement expresses disrespect for all the fans of the game, and the wellbeing of such professionals as Gelfand himself is absolutely dependent on the public perception. No fans no money. On the other hand, I can understand what the Challenger had in mind. He has dedicated all his life to chess, spent countless years climbing the Chess Olympus, demonstrated some incredible performancesonly to have amateurs teach him how he should be playing. I guess he should have just waved the question off or made a joke. For example, he could have said that if we all realize that the position is a draw, then isnt it better to save the viewers two hours to take a look at the Treatyakov gallery or just head home instead of making them waste the time by watching the endgame being played out? Nobody would have questioned this approach, and the chess community wouldnt have been offended.

Summarizing, I would like to remind you that the world is not black and white. There are other stages between the best and the worst match in the history of chess. As far as I am concerned, the match between Anand and Gelfand was tense, rich in content, excellent in terms of organization. At the same time, somewhat not flashy enough, not sexy. However, it was not as unpretentious as many journalists and forum kibitzers are trying to make it look. What can I say? Haters gonna hate.

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Comments (10)
1. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 18:31 01 2012 .
My life with chess
World Championship in chess. 
I feel that time has passed for these matches, because the past did not have so many talented chess player as today. We have seen good chess on top level of the player who has the courage to play chess. I think of player as Carlsen, Aronian and Radjabov and are all in the top five. My proposal for a world championship in chess is that the world champion, the four highest rated player and one who is qualified (as Gelfand) should play a four-fold Robin round. If anyone won such a tournament, he would be a worthy champion!
2. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 18:42 01 2012 .
Chess coach & tournament organizer
Peter Zhdanov's excellent column makes valid points. 
What has been bothering me lately is why are so many people gaga over Magnus Carlsen as being superior to Anand, Gelfand, and Aronian? For those of you who may not have seen my recent posts about this subject, here we go again! 
Vishy has been a great champion, yet now at age 42, it will be difficult to continue to battle young men such as Aronian, Caruana, Giri, Karjakin, Nepomniachtchi, Vachier-Lagrave, Quang Liem Le, & Carlsen. Even Gelfand played great chess against Vishy. Anand only won due to Boris squandering away his time. 
In my opinion, Magnus is too flaky in the opening. Levon Aronian is now only ten points behind Carlsen on the rating list and has been dominant lately, such as at Tata Steel in Wijk aan Zee. Magnus has not won Tata the last two years. Look at his game last year against Giri, & other recent faux pas. Wijk aan zee is a great indicator of who is the best. Anand has won it five times, Aronian three, Carlsen only twice. 
Magnus has repeatedly been very vulnerable in the opening, such as Khanty-Mansiysk 2007 & Wijk aan Zee the last two years. And now even Anand is afraid of the main lines of the Sicilian. Aronian does not dodge the sharp lines and know theory very well. How the top players handle the opening is very revealing.  
And then there is Carlsens Fischer-like reluctance to play in the FIDE World Championship cycle. You can only change the rules AFTER you have been man enough to play by the same ones as everyone else; just as most everyone believes Fischer ducked out due to fear of tarnishing his legendary image. Where I come from, we call that chicken! 
Aronian is 29, at the height of his powers, & only the sixth player to cross the 2800 rating mark, joining Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand, Topalov, & Carlsen.
3. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 18:43 01 2012 .
Chess coach & tournament organizer
What does this guy know?? He's a low rated player turned manager, who has a strong STRONG Influence over poor Nat P, and she listens to his every word as he's her manger and husband... 
I really don't like this man, and his wifes beautiful plus she can beat him at chess 9/10 lol.. That must annoy him? 
And back up what you say, don't delete my comment, iv'e never spoken to either of you before.. 
Just stop eating off your wifes fame, because if she'd met a man who hadn't been so overbearing first...... Who'd listen to what you say?? 
If im wrong, prove it and shut me up pal... I'l shut up,
4. Written by Peter on 19:09 01 2012 .
Chess coach & tournament organizer
Barry, I am not going to delete your comment. Everyone should have a chance to see how stupid and ignorant you are. :)  
And I am not going to be explaining myself or discussing my family affairs with a person whom I have never met and who is as foul-mouthed as you.
5. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 19:54 01 2012 .
Chess coach & tournament organizer
lol reply is priceless. An interesting article, but I have to agrre (for once) with Mr. Dainalov. The Sofia rules are the only way we have now to provide full excitement to otherwise boring 25-or-less moves draws. We've seen how even top GM's fail to understand the nuances of simple looking positions (for example in this very same match the Lucerna position that gelfand failed to see).
6. Written by supercano on 20:45 01 2012 .
Chess coach & tournament organizer
i still think this match was dead boring no matter what Peter Zhdanov think.
7. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 02:19 02 2012 .
Chess coach & tournament organizer
Nice interesting read
8. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 06:41 02 2012 .
Chess coach & tournament organizer
Very refreshing and original article Peter. Thank you.
9. Written by Fravia on 12:05 02 2012 .
Chess coach & tournament organizer
Nice analysis there Peter! I do not think anyone else apart from the two players themselves know what it is like to play for a world championship title! The rest have nothing lose by talking, but the two players have a lot at stake! The glory, the reputation, the feeling, (of course the money :) ) and with the amount of hard work involved, it would mean a great deal to finish on the winning side! And if that means playing a little safe, who are we to question that?! This isn\'t any circus to take risk and \'entertain\' people!  
And as far as Barry is concerned, please take a re-look at your life. That was so pathetic of you!
10. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 14:41 04 2012 .
Chess coach & tournament organizer
It was a great match. The fact that there were many draws does not invalidate it. 
Amateurs can't judge as they don't understand the moves made on the board. 
My respect to Gelfand as he showed that he is a great player indeed as he has delievered a hard fight and achieved a top result.

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