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.
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.