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.
Chess has some benefits and among others it is believed that people who play chess have less risk to Alzheimer’s disease. We cannot prevent aging however and the eternal life is not yet discovered. Older people still continue to play chess. I had the opportunity to represent the US senior team in Dresden in July where the World Senior team Championship took place. Our team which took part on the 50 plus senior group consisted mostly from grandmasters from former Soviet Union.
Only true American in our team was Joel Benjamin. We were the big favorites and finally we won. There was one mishap when we lost in round four to the strong English team. I supposed to have a lot of experience in team championships. First I got a bonus in 1988 when I was a member of the Soviet team in the Thessaloniki Olympiad. I was the second reserve player together with Artur Yussupov and we did not influence our team’s success in any way. Our leaders Kasparov and Karpov showed excellent performance and there was never any doubt that the Soviet team is not winning the Olympiad.
In 1983 I was a member of students team of Soviet Union and we won the World under 26 team Championship in Chicago. I was again reserve player.
Question was, that back then the winning or losing was matter of life and death. Moscow was on your back and any failure was punished by the authorities. During the Chicago event our team won the competition without any big effort. Things however were not going so smoothly few years back. Like for the players who were involved during the World Student’s team Championship in Mexico city in 1978 where Soviet team got the second place. Several players got punished for different reasons. Most ironic was that one reserve player was accused of going to movies instead of staying in the playing hall during the crucial match. All this came to my mind when analyzing our match against England. Especially it was England who took the gold from SU in 1978.
It is true that the pairings might became light surprise as we did not expect to meet so early in the tournament. However all players expect me left to the city. Prior that in our team meeting it was decided that our reserve player Kudrin is going to play. At this moment we did not know that our opponent might be England. I did not go to the city because I was playing on the blitz tournament finishing third which was a big upset for me. Still nobody was worried about the match.
Next day our reserved player Kudrin barely played more than five minutes. Draw with black pieces is usually a good result, but it was not a good sign. Somehow Benjamin had some difficulties to put himself together and lost without a fight to Emms. Shabalov had his usual up and down game against Speelman which finally ended peacefully. I knew that I need to keep the pressure as long as possible and I managed to do it, but failed to convert my advantage.
It was only round four and nobody in our team took this defeat from England as the end of the World. We managed defeat other teams convincingly and in the final round the strong German team came to our help and stopped the mighty English team. On the closing ceremony their representative promised to improve their team for next year at least with John Nunn, but yes Nigel Short may play as well. The winning US team may return next year as well. As it appeared the first place was important for us, because we did a big favor to people who helped our team to participate in Dresden. Seniors at large is not for everybody and it was important that our team was successful and may have a chance to find sponsors for next year as well. In case of second place our maximum sentence for failure would not be as harsh as it was back in 1978 for Soviet boys who were second behind England and some of them got serious disqualifications. Now we have a chance to defend our title next year, in case of second place we most likely could not have second chance for the title.
When I could not convert my advantage against Plasket I had my moments in the next game.
The tournament took place in nice hall and the German organization was excellent. Only thing which haunted me was the players. Children’s tournament or even Olympiad makes you feel optimistic about the future. Here where a lot of seniors gathered together it does not look very optimistic. During the opening ceremony Sveshnikov took a floor and we remembered Alexander Vasjukov who recently passed away. We all do, but definitely this was the tournament of age group where you do not want to belong. Still it was interesting to meet some old comrades like Yuri Balashov and others. All players seemed happy to enjoy chess and at least they do not have Alzheimer.
There was a certain period approximately in the beginning of this century when the publishing business in my opinion was in very shaky situation. The new technologies using the electronic versions as information bearer looked much more advanced and cheaper than the old hard cover versions. The sales of Barnes & Noble bookstores took heavy decline. I had not very good experience with chess publishing houses in the past. My first book the “Leningrad Dutch” was published by Batsford publishing in 1994, but shortly afterwards the publishing house went into bankrupt. I was sure that the general situation is not improving in the beginning of first decade of 2000. However the old publishing survived and there is still market for chess books. The sales are still tricky business and only the few know how they really do it in the open market. The authors need to rely on the publishing houses, because they know how to distribute the books. The target is the same as it was decades ago, 2000 copies to the US market and the same amount to European market.
Simple math shows that it is not very lucrative business for the authors. Writing a book is very time consuming, if you are not just fulfilling simple order. The simple order is the opening books. Everybody likes to write opening books and when a year ago I was ready to take the job, I could not find suitable publisher who was ready to fulfill the order. This forced me to write a little bit more complicated book which is going to be out in May this year. The “Grandmaster opening preparation” took me for a while to complete. I was lucky that Jacob Aagard was ready to publish it. I did my job, but can I be sure that the book represents any value for the chess aficionado.
I did read few chess books during my long career around chess. I am not counting the theoretical opening books, but the books from which you may find some useful information. There were some good books. The good does not mean the same thing when comparing the chess books to the fiction books. Chess might be many things, but for sure it has something from everything, from art, from science and from sport. The good chess book in my opinion needs to explain things. Recently I see mostly books which describe things.
The historical chess books are fine to read, but the theoretical opening books are just collections of opening lines which only describe the state of affairs with a computer evaluation. The value of the book supposedly is the big name of the author of the book, which in my opinion is useless in this context. The top grandmaster could probably explain things, but using his name when describing things is just devaluing the author’s capacity. I do not read these kind of books. This does not mean that I am not going to write one myself again. My Batsford book was typical example of this kind of book. Now I like to do things differently, hoping to add some deep explanations to the opening lines.
The “Grandmaster opening preparation” does the explanation how to prepare the opening lines. After reading this book you do not need to buy opening books anymore, because you can do the evaluations yourself. Still it is more convenient for most of us to get collection of opening lines written by some authority of that line, but at the end you are not going to remember the lines anyway.
Who needs then the chess books? Children do. They cannot make their preparation yet themselves. They need a good description which enables them to make their own decisions and hopefully improve their decision making process. Meaning they need to learn how to think.
My book the “Chessgymnasium” was written for children who are going to make their very first steps on chess board. The aim was not to teach them how to play chess, but using the properties of chess to enhance their ability to think. The game of chess must be fun, this is the slogan of many chess scholars. Using the chess game and hope that it helps to develop some positive trends for the student might be a good idea. However there are a lot of other activities which do the same. The difference with chess is that the chess paradigm has specific set of rules which are not only arbitrary rules made by man, but one can easily find that these rules are universal.
In Ancient Greece the geometry was the paradigm which one should master before entering to Academia. Chess in other hand should be taught to every child during his or her preschool period. The “Chessgymnasium” tries to help teachers and parents to prepare the children for the compulsory education. It represents the paradigm where it is possible to training child’s brain.
I am very happy that with the initiative of Latvian chess federation my book was published in Latvian language. The presentation of the book took place on April 6 in Riga Sport School. The CEO of the Jumava publishing house Mr. Juris Visockis was present among other distinguished quests. Beside well known chess players and officials Latvian minister of finance Mrs. Dana Rieznice Ozola who still is one of the best female players in Latvia said few kind words about the book. Later simul with clocks took place. I faced eight opponents having 35 minutes to complete the game, my opponents had 25 minutes, but still I lost one game in time. I drew one and won the rest. In other end of the hall Rieznice and the other top female player Laura Rogele gave the tandem simul and they lost one game winning the rest.
I am very thankful to my Latvian colleagues for this wonderful event and I hope that the “Chessgymnasium” is going to be very soon available in other languages as well.
The Berlin Candidates tournament is about to finish. There were numerous online comments during the rounds and one I took a peek was the Shipov’s youtube channel. The other popular one is the Saint Louise chess club streaming. I missed this one, because it is focused mainly for the very average player and in my opinion one gets tired to see for years the same commentators. However I must admit that they are doing fine as a team. Both channels are politically motivated to support their favorites. Karjakin versus Caruana. The conflict cannot be more dramatic as the situation before the final round. The tournament had early leader Vladimir Kramnik who had very happy face and then unexpectedly went down. In recent rounds he recovered and was very close to beat the unbeaten Chinese representative.
What is the main character traits for success in chess and particular in Berlin? Why Aronian one of the tournament pre favorite is doing so badly?
My explanation is the following. Today’s chess there are numerous tournaments which have no qualification phase. Players are not under constant pressure. There are certain level of pressure needed to mobilize our resources to fight or flight. Some players cannot stand the heat and never could adopt it despite being very good at chess. To name a few we immediately picture Ivanchuk. The game of chess involves some luck as well, but this is what makes all the difference-if you are not trained to stand the heat of the battle you are most likely to fail.
There is a big difference from which background the player evolved as well. The players from so called wellbeing societies are less adopted to stand the stress. It is not about some curious Soviet chess school as some secret training method, but it was about the environment where success in chess was nearly the only option to succeed and make a career and it put enormous pressure to the players and the winning and losing was a matter of life and death. Personality like late Korchnoi was the most remarkable example of this school. This is why player like Nakamura has very little chance to succeed to become World number one. He is a big fighter and a good gambler, but I doubt he can successfully play when the life and death is at stake.
Why then Kramnik who probably had all this failed in Berlin. In my opinion he just over pressed it. There is a certain law in sport psychology. The optimum stress level and if you cannot keep it you play below your level. You do not need really a psychologist in every day’s chess, but Berlin was an exception. Kramnik was too happy after winning against Aronian and too stressed when he went down. How to handle the stress level and to keep your student in optimum requires very good specialist. In computer era the seconds or the chess helping team is not so important, but the person who can measure the player’s stress level and to change it is the must. Magnus is probably laughing when he is reading these sentences. It’s true, if you know your game-the opening moves are well analyzed and memorized, you have enough time on your clock, you dominate also psychologically your opponent, it looks easy. However in winning and losing paradigm there is always the next player who makes even Magnus to sweat and the great Norwegian is going down. This player definitely is not coming from Berlin.
Who is going to win today? Most of the aficionados hope that it is Caruana. I also hope that he can stand the heat today and then he has enough time to think and rethink his approach against himself. His lack of self confidence needs to be improved. He is much better player than anybody else in Berlin, but the soviets have something what he needs to improve.
The disaster is somebody’s win. Good luck to everybody!
The Pro chess league had the final round in the preliminary tournament this last Wednesday. In the Eastern division the long waited match between Estonia Horses and Norway Gnomes took place. World champion Magnus Carlsen was playing for Gnomes and only winning the match could help Gnomes to qualify. Estonia Horses needed only to draw the match to advance. Throughout the season Estonia Horses lost few matches when in the last moment the luck was on their opponent’s side. This time it seemed in the beginning that again everything is going wrong. In the second round Avital Boruchovsky trapped his opponent Borki Predojevic in the opening and got a winning position. Norwegian player also had barely any time left.
In the second round I was not able to defend against the World Champion. My first round game against Grandelius was very shaky and ended in a draw. Against World Champion I tried to keep the pace playing fast, but in several moments I could not use my chances.
Instead of 4-4 after two rounds it was 3-5. In the next round Horses managed to win back one point, but before the last round the score was 5,5-6,5. The last round did not go well in the beginning, Magnus quickly got winning advantage against Boruchovsky and also even against their weakest link Elham Abdrlauf our player Sander Kukk had lost position. This influenced my play and in position where I already outplayed my opponent Predojevic I started to make questionable decisions and managed to save the game only due to my opponent’s time scramble. Somehow Kukk managed to trick his not so experienced opponent and now it was all about the last game.
This was a big blow to Magnus’s fans. The commentators could not hide their disappointment.
We are obliged to qualify to the finals after this success.
Is the name of the team which is leading after three rounds in the Eastern division on the chess super league. Our team line up may found here. The league was created by US chess enthusiast Greg Shahade who himself is only IM in chess, but is a great organizer. Years ago he started the US chess league and now we have the Super chess league where the teams from every continent are present.
I created the Estonia team and when I was asked about the team name I proposed the horses. The pigs are probably better name for Estonia team, but there is one breed of horses which originated from Estonia. Our team has several agents playing for us. My good friend Alexander Onischuk is the head coach and manager of the Texas Tech University. He somehow did not play up to his expectations, but in general our team is doing great. After three rounds we are leading in our group. I was a big help for our team in the last match. I played a risky game in the first round and got rewarded.
I continued my winning streak grounding down the Mumbai team female player in a rook endgame.
However in the final round I took it too easy at the end and my opponent managed to save the game.
The match ended with 8-8 tie, but we are still sole leaders in our division. Some very interesting matches are ahead and one is against the Norwegian club where current World champion Magnus Carlsen is playing.
In Russia the chess in the museum project was started in 2012. In Estonia both the museums and chess are popular subjects. Chess at least in the past. In 2000, Keres was elected the Estonian Sportsman of the Century. In Tallinn the visitor can find a lot of museums, one of my favorites being the Estonian Maritime Museum.
The recent and the biggest museum is the Estonian National Museum. The museum is located in Tartu in the second biggest city in Estonia. I was very excited when I got the invitation to give a simul on the museum premises.
The simul is the simplest way to popularize chess. Usually the youngsters are very eager to participate. Still only handful simuls are held in overall. The initiative of the Estonian National Museum was most welcome and I hope that we can continoue this trend in the future. In Tartu 21 players took part in the simul. Most of them young boys, but also two girls were among participants. I tried not to win all the games and drew two of them winning the rest. Last boy standing had also very good drawing chances in slightly inferior rook endgame, but this time I won not giving a draw to my opponent. I just did not want to spoil the boy with a present. He has great future ahead if he continous to play chess.
The museum people treated me very well and the simul was well organized. Because of the late hour not many spectators were present though. The museum people and I agreed to make this chess day traditional event in the future.