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    Saturday
    Apr202013

    Zug Grand Prix, Round 2: Champions' Day!

    Maybe their FIDE World Championship titles don't rank as high as those associated with the historical lineage through Kasparov, but Veselin Topalov, Ruslan Ponomariov and Rustam Kasimdzhanov are all great players capable of taking down any opponent on a given day. In round 2 of the Grand Prix in Zug, they and only they were successful in bringing home the full point - though not without some trouble.

    Topalov in particular was at times in serious trouble against Peter Leko, but the latter's time trouble errors on moves 39 and 40 brought Topalov from much worse to much better. Leko erred a final time, in the second time control, and that left Veselin victorious.

    Kasimdzhanov likewise had some anxious moments in his game before winning. Like Topalov, Kasimdzhanov had the white pieces but wound up outfoxed in the complications. I don't know if Kamsky ever had a serious advantage, but he was the one pressing through most of the middlegame. The imitation also carried over in the negative way too, though: like Leko, Kamsky went awry in time trouble, and Kasimdzhanov enjoyed a fairly easy technical task in the second time control.

    The third winner was Ponomariov, who showed Fabiano Caruana and all watching the considerable technical prowess that allowed him to become the FIDE World Champion back in 2002 as a mere 18-year-old.

    In other games, Hikaru Nakamura (lightly) pressed Anish Giri for a long time, but only because of the rule against draw offers. (As an editorial note: when a player as renowned for his ferocious fighting spirit as Hikaru Nakamura says that such a rule is dumb, as he did in the post-game press conference, it might at least incline one to suspect that it really is dumb, and that other critics of the rule aren't necessarily objecting because they pine for the days of the 30-move draw. In fact, in that same press conference Nakamura offered his general approval of the idea of not having draw offers before, say, move 40.)

    Finally, Alexander Morozevich and Teimour Radjabov both enjoyed some advantage on the white side of the Gruenfeld against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sergei Karjakin, respectively, but little slips let their opponents reach safety.

    Morozevich, Ponomariov and Topalov are the early leaders with 1.5/2; here are the round 3 pairings:

    • Mamedyarov - Kasimdzhanov
    • Caruana - Morozevich
    • Karjakin - Ponomariov
    • Giri - Radjabov
    • Leko - Nakamura
    • Kamsky - Topalov

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    Reader Comments (5)

    Sheesh. It'll be a great day when the FIDE knock-out WCs are no longer hyped and are relegated to the footnote status they deserve as failed attempts to create a meaningful title out of thin air. When Kasimdzhanov won, only two of the world top 10 players participated (Topalov at #5 and Adams at #8). Short-ish time controls, quasi-random knockout format. And Kasimdzhanov wins. Whooptidoo.

    Tata, Linares, Tal Memorial, Stavanger are much more impressive tournaments, and Kasimdzhanov would get destroyed if he ever played in an event like that...wait a second, he has! Just before winning his "WC", he finished 13th/14 in Wijk aan zee in 2002 (and hasn't been back since); and just after winning his "WC", he got dead last at Linares in 2005.

    He's a great player but really has done nothing to distinguish himself as "World Champion." Ponomariov and Topalov are a step above, but they have also fallen short.

    [DM: I don't put the FIDE titles at the same level as the historical lineage, but these guys aren't fish either. Kasimdzhanov has won and placed highly in other strong tournaments, and there was a period in the early 2000s when I thought he might have been the second or third best rapid player in the world (even before Tripoli), behind only Kaspy and Anand. I don't put Kasimdzhanov up with the all-time greats, but neither will I diminish a guy who won a world championship event beating Ivanchuk, Grischuk, Topalov and Adams along the way. I don't think that compares unfavorably with Euwe's winning the title in 1935 or the near-misses by Leko and Gelfand in the efforts for the real/"real" crown.

    One other quick question and remark: who is "hyping" them? I can't recall anyone in years putting the two titles on a par, and you'll notice that even your humble hypester always refers to them as "FIDE world champions" and not "world champions" per se, full stop.]

    April 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterUff Da

    I would refer to them (K and P) as "FIDE 'world champions.'" Fine fellows not doubt, but . . .

    "Hyped" wasn't quite the right word but Uff Da's sentiments are mine as well.

    Perhaps "so-called world champions."

    [DM: I think it's important to keep an assessment of their strength distinct from one's view about the legitimacy of their titles. Anand was a FIDE k.o. champion, and to this day includes that reign as part of his world championship history. The Topalov of San Luis 2005 was an absolute monster of the chess board as well. That wasn't a k.o., but it was part of the disputed, "second-class" FIDE lineage. In general, sometimes the best player is the world champion and sometimes not. Not too many people would claim that Khalifman, Ponomariov and Kasimdzhanov were the best players in the world when they won their FIDE World Championship titles, but to my mind that doesn't make for a reductio ad absurdum argument against the legitimacy of their champsionships. I rate the historical lineage more highly, but there's room in my universe to give the FIDE champs their props as well, rather than ignoring their successes as historically embarrassing accidents.]

    April 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhylen

    Dennis, the "hype" is two-fold...first is the huge capital letters announcing "Champions' Day"

    [DM: In case you hadn't noticed, every word in every post's title is in capital letters. That's just the format of the site. Frankly, I'm offended by the hype given to such pedestrian words as "a", "and" and "the", which would never normally be capitalized, except at the beginning of a sentence. But we all have our crosses to bear.]

    , and second is the hype that's inherent in the term "world champion." That title glorifies the FIDE knockout winner well beyond the magnitude of the accomplishment. Again, more substantial accomplishments would be winning Stavanger next month or Wijk aan Zee or Linares in any year, so it always sounds funny to hear "FIDE World Champion" because it is such terrifically grand language...whence my "hype." This is not to take anything away from the players. They are fantastically strong. But it is a jab at an inept, corrupt, and self-adulating FIDE.

    [DM: Well, we have to agree to disagree somewhat, which is just how life goes. I've already stated that I don't weigh the FIDE title as highly as the historical one during the period of dual champions, but I don't mind giving them their kudos every once in a while. And speaking frankly, I think what Kasimdzhanov did in Tripoli is considerably more impressive and statistically far less likely than someone's winning a tournament like Wijk aan Zee.]

    April 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterUff Da

    "...we have to agree to disagree somewhat, which is just how life goes." Certainly.

    "I think what Kasimdzhanov did in Tripoli is considerably more impressive and statistically far less likely than someone's winning a tournament like Wijk aan Zee"

    Interesting question--especially the "more impressive" part. I wonder...my sense is that it would be considerably easier for a 2650 to win the FIDE knockout than for a 2650 to win Corus (as it was called in 2004). I'll try to run the model (according to Elo, which is the simplest) and get back to you (assuming it doesn't take too long).

    April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterUff Da

    I don't put the FIDE titles at the same level as the historical lineage, but these guys aren't fish either.
    False dichotomy?


    and there was a period in the early 2000s when I thought he might have been the second or third best rapid player in the world
    So?


    I think it's important to keep an assessment of their strength distinct from one's view about the legitimacy of their titles.
    Hmmm. I think we disagree there.

    [DM: It's a free country. :) But unless you think that a world championship contest is only appropriate if the players have exactly the same rating, then you really do agree with me, or should, or need a good "sorites paradox" answer. Suppose Spassky had beaten Fischer in 1972, despite starting the match something like 90 points lower rated. Wouldn't it be bizarre to claim that his defeating his main rival in a head to head match proved that a such a match would be a poor way to determine the world championship?]

    Anand . . . Topalov . . . Fine. A bad process had a good result. But when a bad process has a bad result (K, P, and K), then it should be recognized as such.

    [DM: It's question-begging, or at the very least susceptible to a tu quoque argument. How about the process that resulted in Kramnik playing Kasparov? The process leading to Leko's challenge was better, but Anand didn't participate and Kasparov couldn't be coaxed into it either. And it's possible to complain about tons and tons of the earlier historical matches and non-matches: Rubinstein not getting a shot, Capablanca having to wait forever and not getting another crack at Alekhine, Keres not getting a crack after AVRO 1938, Botvinnik with his ties and rematches (and some controversy about 1948, though I myself don't buy the anti-Keres conspiracy theories), Bronstein's admission that Boleslavsky let Bronstein catch him in 1950, the allegations of thrown games in 1953, the 1962 Candidates collusion, the anti-Soviet rules that stole places in 1964 and elsewhen from Bronstein and especially Stein, the continual controversies around the three Ks in the 1970s and '80s, etc.]


    . . . rather than ignoring their successes as historically embarrassing accidents
    I don't say ignore, but "historically embarrassing accidents" does rather hit the nail on the head.


    That title glorifies the FIDE knockout winner well beyond the magnitude of the accomplishment.
    Well phrased. Reminds me of baseball where a player can be a "two-time all-star" (say) but only because his team required a representative or the selection process is/was deeply flawed. It's meaningless, or close to it, without context.

    [DM: Huh? We're not talking about achieving a world championship for five-year-old tic-tac-toe players. The field when Khalifman won in 1999 included Kramnik, Shirov, Kamsky, Adams, Ivanchuk, Svidler, Topalov, Short, Leko and Gelfand, just to name the top ten. 2004 was weaker, but Topalov, Morozevich, Adams, Grischuk and Ivanchuk were a great top five, and Kasimdzhanov had to beat four of them to win the title! Kasimdzhanov, who had been 2700 before the event and who has achieved it again since then, was not the one-eyed king in the land of the blind.]


    This is not to take anything away from the players. They are fantastically strong.
    Exactly. Although certainly not World Champion strong.

    [DM: See "question, begging the". :)]


    I think what Kasimdzhanov did in Tripoli is considerably more impressive and statistically far less likely than someone's winning a tournament like Wijk aan Zee.
    Hmmm. Statistically far less likely? I suppose. But considerably more impressive? Really?

    [DM: Well, both are impressive feats. But half the prestige of WAZ is getting in, being a member of the "club", so to speak. Of course the players are trying and prepare, and it's impressive. But there are more players in the FIDE K.O., more top players, and they are fully motivated and prepared to the gills. Topalov, for instance, was flying towards his peak then, for instance, and before running into Kasimdzhanov he had scored 9.5/10, just obliterating opponents! Plus these were mini-matches, so it wasn't enough to just have one lucky upset here or there - there were plenty of opportunities to regress to the mean and get pushed out.]

    April 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhylen

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