In April the Word Senior’s team competition took place in Rhodos island in Greece.
It was my second time to participate in this kind of event. Last year it was held in Dresden and our US team was somehow the lucky winner. We needed some luck in the last round. This time the US team did not give other teams any chance and we took the gold winning eight matches and only drawing against Iceland.
There was two age groups, over 50 and over 65. Our team members were nearly the same as a year ago. Only Kudrin was replaced with Novikov. Only true American again was Joel Benjamin. Our international team had a good team spirit and wonderful leader Alexander Shabalov who like a year ago took individual gold on the first board.
My performance was not so bright, but I had also some moments. In our match against Iceland my victory helped to draw the match. Actually I won rather quickly and we never were in any danger to lose the match. At the very end Novikov lost to Hjartarson and this helped Vikings to level the match. I lost few half points in the matches with Italy and Armenia when I agreed a draw in the winning positions to secure the overall victory in the matches. My rating performance gave me the bronze medal on my board.
Shabalov played on the first board, Benjamin on the second, Novikov on the third and I on the fourth board. Yermolinsky was our reserve player. He like Shabalov took the individual gold as well.
The Rhodos is famous tourist destination. In April as our taxi driver explained it is still winter. The winter temperature was around plus 18 and it was sunny. However the official tourist season started when we were leaving on April 16. Still we could play some tennis and Shabalov with his special equipment managed to swim on the open sea as well. There was only problem the food. We stayed in the luxurious Olympic Palace hotel and the food was excellent and also unlimited, so for some players it was difficult not to gain some weight.
The tournament saw much stronger competition compared to the last year. Icelandic team was very strong. They however missed the place in the podium losing the last match to Israel. Petursson lost in few moves in equal position when the draw was enough to take the bronze for the team.
Armenia had also a strong team having Rafael Vaganian on the first board. They also had very bad performance in the last round where they lost to the Italian team. The Italian team was the big underdog who took the second place. Third place went to Israel who took down the Iceland team in the last round with some luck. Final standings.
The Margeir’s tragedy.
My game against Emms was not really a tragedy, but just unpleasant accident.
I had my chance against Iceland to make me also valuable player for the team.
Against Armenia it was Shabalov who clinched the important win.
In the match against Armenia our winning margin was minimal, but some positions we just did not finish.
In overall I am very pleased to be the two times World Champion. I actually was a team member of the Soviet team winning the 1989 World team Championship in Luzern.
I like to thank here all my team members for a good team spirit and cooperation.
Chess is different today compared decades ago. The players however are not much stronger. In one hand they have perfect opening preparation due the help of computer programs, but in other hand this also makes the players more vulnerable. They rely too much on ready solutions and the ability to solve practical problems during the actual game is getting worse and worse.
The seconds and coaches are not helping the players to get better in chess improving their understanding of chess. Instead they are downgraded to do the robotic work just supervise the computer analyses. Even here they are not up to the task. In the last fall during and after the World Championship match seconds of Caruana denied their miscalculations during their preparation for the match when asked if the Sveshnikov line used by Magnus Carlsen was kind of missed opening in their preparation.
Definitely it was and Fabio Caruana lost his battle in the opening phase, which was crucial in the match. He however behaved as nothing happened and did not fire his seconds during the match and also after the match. One can admire his patience, but in chess like in soccer the coach usually takes the responsibility of the failure. Years ago during the matches between Karpov and Kasparov being a coach was a risky business.
The most famous scandal was the Kasparov’s accusations to one of his seconds that he was stealing and selling their opening preparations to Karpov. Nowadays we live in friendly atmosphere. Everybody is doing high five and criticism is not tolerated. The coach must quarantine that children have fun with chess and the luggage of the superstar is safe. Yes, there are cases when the second must deal with the luggage instead of teaching the student good manners.
In ongoing US Championship few games got my eye. In the following game Gareev missed some interesting ideas and lost without a battle.
Nakamura had some unexpected rare move in his sleeve and he got serious opening advantage against Caruana, but then suddenly made mistake after mistake. In the past the coaches forced the students analyze the position at least one week before they could make some conclusive argument about it. Now the computers help with the evaluation, but still one should work a lot himself as well.
I first met Kramnik during the Moscow Open in 1992. He was a young star with a big future and I was despite the fact that I was only 30 years old the star from the past. Years to come we played a lot of games, but we never actually crossed in the fight for the big honors. I was ahead of him in several super tournaments, but I never seriously considered myself as a contender for the World championship cycle. He however somehow got to play the match with Kasparov and won it convincingly. How he qualified to play with Kasparov is well forgotten.
Looking back to his chess career one may wonder that he had very easy life. I cannot remember him having any big obstacle during his route to the top. His favorite opening line was the one with 1.Nf3 which usually lead to the game with two results. Nobody can win forever, even the best.
The new computer era of chess when players just need to remember the correct lines changed a lot. The 1. Nf3 was not good enough anymore. Kramnik switched to 1.e4. When I saw this my first reaction was, that he was just bored and wanted to spice up the game. I was mistaken. He seriously thought that this is the right thing to do and he may still beat the very best. Now something strange happened. Huge fluctuations in his games and results occurred. He lost his cool. The new approach to his game did not shake his opponents, but backfired.
He could not win the most important tournaments and he could not stop either. I do not have any slightest idea who is or was his second or coach. Knowing the top players and their attitude I am very sure that all these decisions concerning his game and preparations he made himself. Now after catastrophic performance in Wijk he decided to quit after all.
The question remains why his game descended in recent years and why. You cannot have everything. It is not possible to be a family man and a successful player. You need to sacrifice a lot. Most importantly you need to work constantly and add something new. Nobody is the number one by default, you need to prove it every day again and again. Kramnik did not need to do it. He always got the invitations and never had to prove himself to qualify. Yes, he was a former World Champion, but so what. Playing in the inner cycle makes you soft and you may lose the objectivity.
When Kramnik did play the last Russian championship? Why the Russian Olympic team failed to win the Olympiad in last decade or so? Somebody complained, I think it was Karpov, that Kramnik is missing the qualities of being a leader. The answer might be more simple, objectively the Russian team composition was not just good enough to win.
Objectively Kramnik could be easily on the top 20 for next 10 years, if he can return to his 1.Nf3 and dismiss the winning attitude which backfired in recent years. He himself admitted that he cannot. He wants only to win and if this is not possible any more he calls it off. Kasparov had the same exact reasoning. Kasparov however found that computers are leveling the field and this did not suite him.
Botvinnik was famous with his methodology approach to chess. He always pointed out, that one should never repeat his mistakes. I like to share my game with Kramnik back in 1995 when Kramnik lost his objectivity. Very rare occasion back then.
The Pavlodar Akim cup was my first real tournament for years. I did play this year in Dresden where the senior team World Champioship took place, but I was avoiding the individual tournaments only trying to play rapid and blitz. It was the fourth Akim cup in Pavlodar. The Pavlodar Chess Federation was created 20 years ago and the same man Aleksander Babenko is still the president. He is also Akim (leader) one of the Pavlodar regions.
On my way to Pavlodar I also visited Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan. I did envy Astana. They do not have the old city like Tallinn has, because the Astana is a new city. I was invited to Astana by my former student Darmen Sadvakasov and I gave simultaneous exhibition and I had a master class as well for his students from his Chess Academy.
After Astana Pavlodar looked like some disappointment, but only for few days. When I got used to the new surroundings I started to enjoy it as well. The local food was excellent. I like lamb, but I tried the local delicatessens like horse meat as well. I found it still little bit strange to eat, so I preferred lamb.
The industrial city lies next to the Irtysh river. Which gives the electricity to the region and you may find fish especially the zander in local kitchen. There is a wide selection of fur products in local market. Mink coats are on sale and most of the women are wearing them on streets. The local temperature was around minus 20 Celsius and I was not dressed up to it, but the local transport functioned well enough. The taxi ride from our hotel to the tournament hall cost around one EUR. In general everything was cheaper not in %, but in times if you compare them with EU prices. The quality of products and services however was excellent. Pavlodar is considered to be peripheral part of Kazakhstan and this probably is visible in infrastructure. Still I am sure they have a great future.
The chess is on the boom in Pavlodar. They have modest, but very functional Chess House where our tournament took place and they have very good chess in schools community. I had the chance to visit one of the schools and I was really surprised what I saw. They have special chess classroom with chess equipment and students who are fond of chess.
Usually I avoided the long walking trips due to the harsh weather and took the taxi. One day however I tried to walk with my friend arbiter Bolat Asanov to our hotel from the playing hall, but very soon I changed my mind and we were forced to use the tram instead. Then first time in my life I saw the tram conductor.
The Pavlodar market made great expression on me. On the first floor there were numerous counters with culinary staff. The horse meat was on sale everywhere. Still as I already mentioned it looks little bit odd to me. On the second floor they had nearly everything. They had even a sex shop.
The tournament itself was a difficult affair for me. The time difference with Tallinn was only four hours, but it still killed my normal sleeping habits. Some nights I could get proper sleep only from 5.am. I drew first two games, but then I lost two in a row. The second loss was especially painful. I blundered in the winning position. After that I put myself together and won three games in a row. Especially pleasant was the next game. I prepared a novelty and then outplayed my opponent.
In the next game I took some risk, but it was worth of it.
In the penultimate round I faced the local player the managing director of the chess federation. He lost his first six games, but I did not underestimate him. Somehow I tried too hard to win, later if you look the final results, the draw could give me the third place. I was disappointed after the game, but the friendly atmosphere and the relaxed blitz tournament in the last day cooled me down.
The blitz tournament was affair of only four players. The tournament winner Igor Lysyj, Evgeni Egorov, Dimitri Mahknev who made GM norm in the tournament and myself. We played the Kazakhstan gambit with both colors and total four rounds making it 12 games. Mahknev was the winner and I was second.
I like to thank here the Palvodar Chess Federation officials inviting me to Plavlodar and wish all the best in their chess development in the region.
The 19th Pühajärve handicap tournament was held on the last weekend in friendly atmosphere. The winner was the rating favorite Nikita Meskovs from Riga who secured the first place one round to go.
Total 36 players took part of the festival. Final results were little bit strange, because the older generation did very well. The format was as usual, but this year the weaker players did not shine at all. Being honest I am little bit tired of this handicap format, because playing with the weakest group who have 18 minutes against your two minutes requires full concentration and it is not fun at all. The other problem is that too many players are the same. Some qualification could be a good idea.
This year beat the weaker opposition with confidence, but losing again to Marti Medar. The professional runner was one moment leading the tournament, but could keep the pace to the end.
The history of the festival has some sad taste as well, too many players who took part are gone. The organizer Urmas Randma asked the others to remember the deceased with one minute silence. Latest casualty was Lithuanian grandmaster Aloyzas Kveynis who died recently in this summer being only 55 years old.
Haapsalu is a small seaside town in Estonia. Ottomar Ladva a young GM is from Haapsalu and still lives there. Other notable sportsman from Haapsalu is the tennis player Kaia Kanepi. I played my first chess tournament in Haapsalu back in 1979. This summer there was a chess festival in Haapsalu during the famous White Lady event. Shortly after the chess festival the city council people approached to me with the idea to open some kind of chess academy in Haapsalu. I was taken aback with this offer, today the chess in Estonia is not very popular any more. Still it was not just one time emotional burst and finally last Wednesday the opening event took place in the local Sport center.
The city mayor Urmas Sukles himself was present and also the initiator of the plan the head of city council Jaanus Karilaid. I gave to the chess aficionados short introductory lecture about chess and its benefits to children. After that we had friendly chess games. I managed to beat Mr. Karilaid, but some youngsters had the chance to play with each other. The academy is going to have chess gathering once a week. Every month I am going to visit the Academy to give consulting to the children and to the educators as well. Very nice initiative from the Haapsalu city and I hope we are going to open more Chess Academies in Estonia in the future.
Mikhail Tal was a controversial World Champion. I had very good personal relations with him and I was really surprised when in 1985 in Tallinn when we first met on chess board he did not press me much as White and the draw was agreed very quickly. I had feeling back then that he just did not want to beat the rising Estonian star and just gave me a draw. Tal was avid blitz player and he won the World blitz Championship in Canada in 1988. Tal’s nickname was the “magician from Riga”, so it was not big surprise that Latvian Chess Federation president Aris Ozolins organized the event on 10. of November in Riga in honor of Tal’s birthday which was on 9th of November. Many top players were missing, because of the short notice of the event. Still Latvian leader Kovalenko, Latvian German blitz specialist Daniel Fridman who was the Liepaja festival this summer and yours truly Jaan Ehlvest were present. Total 134 players took part of the event. The time control was three minutes plus two second increment. I started with three wins, but then I slowed down making few draws where my game was up and down mode. In round 9 I faced one of the leaders pre – tournament favorite Igor Kovalenko. This game I managed to keep under control from the start to the finish.
During the blitz tournament the most important thing is to keep the balance. Immediately after this game I lost to local blitz specialist Verners Putka. I had excellent position after the opening, but I started to play to deep and finally I lost.
After this disaster I managed to win the last three games and shared the second place with Putka. Third place on tiebreak. Overall very nice event and good place to check your form.
In Estonia there are a lot of museums, one of the biggest number per capita in the World. The Tartu Sport museum is one of the biggest in Baltic states. The idea to make some chess event in the museum was a good plan and the predecessor event took place in January in the ERM. This time the main organizer was Peep Pedmanson. He’s two sons both play chess and he tries to promote chess wherever possible. The event took place at the end of October.
The simultaneous exhibition started early at 3.pm and because of that most of the participants were children. Still we had nearly 20 chess enthusiasts. Before the simul I made a small introduction. Stating the benefits of chess for children and I appreciated the effort of Mr. Pedmanson and the museum staff. I had the opportunity to sign on the museum wall where other prominent Estonian former sport stars already had their signature.
The simul went smoothly. I had a bad position against Estonian Olympic team member Hendrik Haavamäe, but when he made an illegal move I forced him to accept my draw offer. The regulations are not clear in this case. Most of the time it is automatic loss for the player, but of course the friendly simul is not about winning or losing. In other games I did not have any problems and at the end I made one more draw with Sarabella Normano who was a member of Finnish Olympic team in the recent Chess Olympiad in Batumi. She actually lives in Tartu and she already played against me in January simul as well.
I hope that the idea to promote chess via museums is a vital idea and we expect to continue this tradition.
I was a member of the Soviet team in Thessaloniky Olympiad in 1988. At that time there were much fewer teams and most importantly there were only handful of teams competing for the medals. In Batumi I was surprised to see how many good players and teams we have today. Russia and China may have a lot of different line ups and each may win the Olympiad. Other teams still have some top grandmasters at least on the first board. I was captain and coach of Estonian team. We had 55th place according to our ratings among 185 teams. Estonia had great successes in chess Olympiads back in 1939 in Argentina when we finished third. Later when we got back our independence our best result was in Moscow Olympiad in 1994 where I was a player. To beat the Moscow’s 16th place looked too optimistic, but with some luck I still was hoping to finish top 25. However our team did not have enough fully devoted professionals. The Chess Olympiad supposed to be more like a chess festivities and not the competition for hard working professionals. Now it seems that everything is changed. The winning is most important part of the Olympiad. The chess politics also put some shadow on the Olympiad. In my opinion it was putting the chess officials ahead of players. The new FIDE president elections took place in Batumi and this time the outcome was not clear till very end. Which made the officials and representatives of different countries – the delegates most sought persons. This time a lot of chess players were among chess politicians. Notably Granda Zuniga from Peru. I won against him an important game back in 1987 in Zagreb where I qualified to candidates.
Batumi and Georgia
I was in Batumi in 2002 and I could not find anything familiar any more. The city has a lot of new hotels like Hilton, Sheraton and others. Back then there was only one hotel the usual Inturist hotel which was the trademarks of Soviet Union where the Inturist supposed to be the best hotel. The seaside city made very nice expression. Even more shocking was the price standard. I cannot remember when last time I saw this kind of prices. The weather was also excellent allowing us to swim in the Black sea despite the fact that the tourist season was over. It was pity that we supposed to focus on chess instead. The scenery was excellent, but there were some mishaps in local organization. The logistic was horrible in the beginning, but it improved later. The president of European Chess Union is Georgian Zurab Azmaiparashvili, but he seemed to put all his energy to help Georgios Makropoulos to win the FIDE elections against Russian Arkady Dvorkovich. He did not hide his hate against Russia because of the Russian Georgian war in 2008. Somehow local people understand Russian and less the English. In forums which I read before my trip it was recommended to speak Russian instead of English to avoid the usual tourist rip off. Usually the taxi drivers are the best friends and enemies of the lost tourist, but in Batumi they were really friendly and in few occasions when we need to take a taxi we did not have any problems. I felt even sorry for their taxi fare. The Batumi has two faces. Luxurious hotels with casinos and rich guests from Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia. In other hand there is nothing else, the economy relies heavily on buying selling which is visible in local markets. There is no yet any proper tax system and some goods which are heavily taxed in Europe are over there on sale. Difficult to compare Georgia with some of the European countries. Estonia was in this kind of state some 30 years ago.
The Chinese took both titles. This is not a sensation. Chinese are smart and they outnumber everybody else in the planet. I was a coach of Estonian team and therefore I was only concentrating on the middle of the field. In some moment we had hopes to make it to top 30, but these hopes were vanished because of terrible pairings we had in last rounds. It was my second time being a captain and coach in the chess Olympiad. First time I was coach of Latvian ladies in Istanbul in 2014. I cannot say that this job is killing me, in other hand I like to work with professionals. Seeing happy faces is fine, but fighting for places in the middle of the pack is little bit boring. It was actually much more interesting to help girls not the boys. They follow your instructions blindly and without any doubt. Boys still have their own opinion and are much more difficult to prepare for the game. I do not want to analyze other teams here, because as I mentioned I did not follow and actually did not have time to follow the whole Olympiad. One thing I am still certain. The Russian team failed again and this is nothing to do with chess. They still have the soviet mentality how to run sport and I think this attitude is not good any more. I am for strict discipline and order, but somehow it did not work for Russians. Chinese have the same system more or less, but they were successful. Russian chess leaders need to rethink their attitude. Probably the new FIDE president is doing the job. Next time I try to pick up some interesting chess moments form the Olympiad.