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On the eve of disaster

On the eve of disaster


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!

Jaan Ehlvest