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    Saturday
    Sep102011

    World Cup 2011: Round 5, Day 2: Svidler, Ponomariov Advance to the Semis

    We had another round like we're used to at the World Cup, with lots of fight and lots of wins. There were also plenty of mistakes - chess mistakes and mental errors too, which is to be expected near the end of such a long tournament.

    Vassily Ivanchuk was in the best shape of anyone after the first day of round 5, as he had defeated Teimour Radjabov while all the other games were drawn.  No more. Radjabov devised an enterprising piece sacrifice in a quiet-looking Symmetrical English, and it worked like gangbusters. Soon Radjabov regained the material (and then some) while enjoying strong attacking chances as well. Ivanchuk was crushed, and so they're off to tiebreaks tomorrow.

    Judit Polgar was also in good shape coming into the round, having drawn easily with Black on day one. She enjoyed a reasonably promising position in today's game after sacrificing a pawn to set up a strong position where her light-squared bishop was extremely strong while Svidler's dark-squared bishop was correspondingly passive. Maybe at one moment she could have enjoyed a small advantage (and likewise Svidler too may have missed some chances earlier), but most of the way equality was the most she could have hoped for, and that was certainly true on her 30th move. Polgar should have played 30.Qh5, inviting a repetition, but instead hoped for more. Unwarrantedly. Svidler was able to consolidate his extra pawn and take care of his king's problems, and when Polgar continued to play as if she was better, Svidler counterattacked, winning almost immediately.

    Simply put, Polgar lost her objectivity, and it cost her the game. Oddly, assuming Mark Crowther has transcribed her comments at the post-game press conference correctly, Polgar began by lamenting that "my luck was not with me today". That seems somewhat ungracious, slightly absurd after the colossal servings of luck she received in the Dominguez match, and odd considering her easy draw with Black yesterday despite mistakenly preparing to have White. (I think her point was that because she had an extra day of White preparation, Svidler decided to play 1...c5 rather than 1...e5 in their game, and in that way she was "unlucky". Svidler offered a different explanation in the press conference, but since Polgar got a very good position in the middlegame in any case, it's again hard to see what this "luck" business is all about.) Even aside from all of that, I can't see any way in which she was unlucky in the last game. She just got greedy, overpressed and lost. There wasn't some long combination she had seen that didn't work because of some ingenious resource Svidler hadn't seen but found at the last second. She just pushed where there was nothing to be had, and her opponent was able to use his trumps to win.

    Ruslan Ponomariov also won with Black to advance to the semis; he and Svidler will reprise their battle from the semi-finals of the 2002 FIDE World Championship. (Ponomariov won the title, and by implication their match as well.) He got there by grinding out a very long victory in a knight vs. bishop ending. There were a lot of errors, as is to be expected (tired opponents without a lot of time to think), but Ponomariov's win was the most logical result given the game's general trend.

    Finally, David Navara should have also qualified for the semi-finals today. He had done a great job of outplaying Alexander Grischuk from an equal opening, but at the last second, by his own admission, he got careless. 49.Nc3 would have won a second pawn and rendered the win trivial; instead, his 49.Ke5 allowed Grischuk to escape.

    Tomorrow, then, the Ivanchuk-Radjabov and Grischuk-Navara matches go to tiebreaks. No rest for the players, commentators or bloggers!

    Official website (with video coverage) here, today's games (with my comments) here.

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    Reader Comments (10)

    I don't see what's wrong with Polgar's wording. She didn't say she was un-lucky, she said she was not lucky. Indeed, if she had been lucky, her "pushing where there was nothing to be had" would have worked. If anything, I think she's being self-deprecating, implying "okay, I've been doing well in spite of mistakes so far, but now my luck has run out and the normal course of events has taken place."

    September 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian Petrescu

    What she said in the quoted passage is consistent with either interpretation, but given the things she goes on to say (e.g. about showing up to play the first game expecting to have White), it at least suggests that she's thinking of bad luck and not merely the absence of good luck. I don't think her intent was to make excuses or detract from Svidler's achievement, but it did strike me as a little peculiar. Hopefully your interpretation is the right one.

    September 11, 2011 | Registered CommenterDennis Monokroussos

    I think Polgar's wording was influenced by the interviews. Many of the interviews I've watched the Russian interviewer consistently uses the word luck to describe the game. This goes for live commentary during the game too. Reminds me of propaganda. It seems to me that the officials have encouraged a "positive" atmosphere. Instead of saying a player was in bad form they say that player was not lucky today. Or such player was very lucky to win such and such game. Also I think using this wording is a conscious attempt to not play play favorites or be seen as such. I think this atmosphere rubbed off on Judit.

    For example, when interviewing David Navara the interviewer put it to David that he has been very lucky in this tournament. Which is borderline insulting. And yet given the atmosphere I don't think this was intended to be insulting in the slightest. Anna Sharevich and Konstantin Landa - the live commentators - both have used the word lucky many, many times in the live broadcast. The whole atmosphere is "eager to please" to the spectators. To my eyes anyway.

    [DM: Interesting - I wonder where Navara was supposed to have been lucky! (In the sense of getting good luck, that is.) He certainly wasn't against Moiseenko or Grischuk, but maybe in some earlier round he got a break. About Sharevich, could she have been any more over-the-top in her support for Polgar? Rooting is one thing, but her rooting reached the point of obnoxiousness!]

    September 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlwh

    I think the use of the word luck is just the easiest way to explain the situation for her.

    September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

    Anyone can verify that Mark Crowther's "transcript" of the press conference (actually direct quotes from the players' statements) is accurate: the video is still up at http://video.ugrasport.com/ . The press conference starts at 17:06 - Polgar speaks English, Svidler as always translated part of his Russian comments into English. Interesting to watch also for Polgar's and Svidler's body language, including Svidler's non-verbal reaction to what Polgar said.

    September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    Good to clear that one, Dennis. I was going to ask you why do you hate women?

    [DM: Why do you hate logic? Was I a misanthrope or a Ukraine-hater when I suggested that Moiseenko might have acted improperly against Navara, or a French hater when critiquing Feller? Gimme a break. To criticize a person who has some characteristic does not mean that you're criticizing him or her because of that characteristic. Geeeeeeeez.]

    September 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterwomen lover

    To her defense, Judith Polgar was interviewed a few minutes after the game. With an hour time she might have chosen other excus..., em, words !
    Gashimov expression after 100.Kd3 was heartbreaking. Disappointment and despair. Chess is tough!

    [DM: You're right - chess is tough and sometimes extremely painful. About Gashimov's post-100.Kd3 reaction, it was a little reminiscent of Nakamura's prolonged mourning at the end of his game from last year's Tal Memorial. (A bit less dramatic and somewhat less merited by the game situation, though in another way more merited given what was at stake.)]

    September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDharmabum

    Don't sweat it DM - "women lover" just hates all philosophy teachers in Indiana. :)

    September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDerek Slater

    Actually, after Polgar was eliminated Sharevich was equally obnoxious rooting for Gashimov. "It's a pity, he deserved to be in the final four!" - this either means that Ponomariov doesn't deserve to play the semifinal (why?) or that five, maybe ten players deserved to get there which is somewhat inconsistent with the rules of the event ... .
    Maybe it's the (Belo)Russian way though I think it's rather her way - I wouldn't expect such comments from (former Belorussian) Gelfand!
    BTW, if the event had been held in, say, St. Louis with live commentary by US grandmasters I would have expected some support or bias for Kamsky and Nakamura - there also it would be a fine line between legitimate rooting and obnoxiousness.

    [DM: Yes, she was rooting surprisingly hard for Gashimov as well, though it didn't seem to me to reach the Polgar levels. Anyway, I didn't mind the initial bias, but it went on and on, and she nagged Landa into rooting for her too, repeatedly begged to look at other games when Polgar was in trouble, insisted that Polgar is "the best" (not merely "great" or the best female player, but the best, period) after she was eliminated, etc. Way too much, like some nut rooting for his favorite college football team, but incessantly and without the irony.]

    September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    Speaking of Gashimov's post-100.Kd3 reaction, it's interesting to see what Ponomariov said about this stage of the game:

    "At the end there was few time left and we used each 30 seconds. There was no time to calculate variations; I trusted the intuition in general. It was easy for my opponent to play, for he took the position of a draw and could continue the game as long as he wanted. I was lucky that he moved his King on d3. I don’t know if I could find a victory after 100…Kd3, I did not have enough time. Though I would be able to find it, I think" (http://chess.ugrasport.com/?p=3096).

    [DM: Ah, thanks; so he hadn't figured it out yet!]

    September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEyal

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