30 May 2012

Anand: 'This match could have gone either way.'

Congratulations to Viswanathan Anand on retaining his title as World Chess Champion. Congratulations to Boris Gelfand on believing that, despite what the pundits might say, winners and losers are never predetermined. Congratulations to the match organizers, to the sponsors, and to FIDE on showing to the world how a top-level chess match can and should be organized. Congratulations to Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam and his team of commentators on providing a constant stream of first class entertainment. It was a great show.

23 May 2012

Anand - Gelfand, Petrosian - Botvinnik

Just as I did for the previous games, I spent my chess time today watching World Championship Chess on TV. During the commercial breaks, which tend to be much too long for my taste, I switch the sound off and work on something else related to chess. Regarding the current match taking place in Moscow, I've spotted a number of comparisons with the 1963 Petrosian - Botvinnik match.

One comparison involves the combined age of the two opponents: Are Anand and Gelfand the oldest players to have contested a World Championship? One analysis concluded Anand vs. Gelfand world chess championship 2012 oldest pair of contenders since 1886. If I were doing this, I would calculate age in terms of years, months, and days at the start of the match, but since I'm not going to do this, it's a moot point.

Another comparison involves the dullness of the match. This was a common complaint during the first six games, which were all draws. It disappeared after the seventh and eighth games, which were both decisive. The same sort of complaints were heard regarding the 2011 Candidates Event at Kazan, Russia. I'm afraid it's just a characteristic of top-level chess in the early 21st century and is not going to change unless some sort of a major change to the rules is allowed. Most of the complainers seem to think it's the fault of the players, a point of view I don't agree with.

The comparisons between the 1963 and 2012 matches prompted me to open a couple of books on the earlier match. This is always a speculative act, because it invariably gets me started on researching aspects which have nothing to do with the original question. A real gold mine was 'Botvinnik - Petrosian : The 1963 World Chess Championship Match', published in 2010 by New in Chess. Although the author is listed as Mikhail Botvinnik, the book is in fact compiled from various sources related to the match. For example, the book has a section titles 'Petrosian's view of the match'. It starts, 'I never thought that I would play a match for the world championship' and then crams all sorts of informed opinion into its ten pages. Following are two excerpts. The first is about the infamous rematch clause.

A convincing victory over Botvinnik in their second match in 1957 made Smyslov the seventh World Champion. The balance of forces in the world chess elite seemed to leave no doubt that chess had a new leader, who was capable of remaining at the top for a long time to come. But there was one obstacle, namely the ex-champions right to a return match. Admittedly, the logic or appropriateness of the return match is highly debatable, since it is really just a further barrier in the path of the challenger.

Judge for yourself -- he has to be successful in events of various calibre, win the formal right to a match with the World Champion, by winning the Candidates' tournament, beat the champion, and then... within a year, he has to meet the ex-champion again. Isn't it all a bit much? It is hard to accept Botvinnik's argument that this lengthy, multi-stage system of qualifying events, followed by a World Championship match itself, could result in the chess world ending up with a 'fluke' champion. If that is so, then the entire system of determining the challenger is at fault. (p.92)

The second is about Botvinnik's intention to play the 1963 match.

It was well known that when he emerged from the Polytechnic Museum, after beating Tal in the return match, Botvinnik had said something to the effect that, if a Soviet player won the Candidates' event, he might decide not to defend his title. Under the rules of the International Chess Federation, the conditions for the World Championship match must be ratified by the FIDE President, not less than four months before the start of the match. Given that matches in Moscow usually begin around the middle of March, Botvinnik still had quite a long time in which to consider whether to defend his title.

There were some outward signs that the chess federation of the USSR was preparing for the possibility of Botvinnik refusing to play the match. This explained the hastily arranged match between grandmasters Keres and Geller, who had shared 2nd-3rd places in the Candidates' tournament. The match was needed to determine outright 2nd place, the player concerned thereby gaining the right to play the next Candidates' tournament, but also, what is more important, the right to participate in a match for the World Championship itself, if Botvinnik did not play. (p.93)

Although it doesn't say so explicitly, that second is likely related to the first. Botvinnik hesitated to play because his right to a return match had been taken away by FIDE. It's a fact that he never won a match in defense of his title.


A couple of resources worth visiting and revisiting are:-

I haven't spent nearly as much time with these as I would like to.

16 May 2012

World Championship Chess on TV

I'm old enough to remember the 1972 Fischer - Spassky match, when I saw chess on television for the first time. I don't remember how many times I caught the Shelby Lyman PBS show, but I vividly remember watching Spassky - Fischer, game 19, an Alekhine's Defense where Spassky sacrificed a Knight for a Kingside attack, which Fischer countered by miraculously forcing the exchange of Queens. I had already been playing for a few years, was rated around 1800 at the time, and the moves of both players seemed supernatural.

Eighteen years passed before I next saw World Championship chess on TV. It was during the second half of the 1990 Kasparov - Karpov match, played in Lyon, France. According to my page on the event, 'The match was televised by the main French station TF1, which broadcast 14 programs of 45 minutes.' Although I didn't note where I got that information, I never invent details like that so it must be right. The shows must have been aired late in the evening or I would have had competition for the remote control and would most likely not have seen any of them.

A few years later, I caught several TV broadcasts of the 1993 Kasparov - Short match. It must have been on BBC1 or BBC2, because we didn't receive any other BBC stations at the time. The recaps were up to BBC's usual high standards, but I wasn't able to find out ahead of time when the shows would be aired and missed most of them.

These memories all came back while I watched the first four games of the 2012 Anand - Gelfand match, broadcast live on the web from Moscow. For various reasons, live chess doesn't suit network television. While there are also some annoying aspects of the Moscow broadcasts, they are far outweighed by the sheer pleasure of seeing the most important chess event of the year in real time. Kudos to everyone responsible for the web production.

09 May 2012

Wikipedia's World Championship

A few days ago I posted a piece on my main blog titled A Chess Popularity Contest, which looked at Wikipedia's WikiProject Chess/Popular pages. Since more than 50 of those 1500 pages deal with the World Chess Championship, I list the ten most popular below.

The first column shows the relative position of the topic out of 1500, while 'V', 'A', and 'I' stand for 'Views per Day', 'Assessment', and 'Importance', respectively. For example, the main World Championship topic ranks 29th in popularity over all Wikipedia chess pages, received 550 views per day (in March 2012), is assessed to be of quality 'B' (whatever that means), and has top importance (ditto).

Pos Topic V A I
29 World Championship 550 B Top
43 World Championship 2012 415 Start High
113 World Championship 1972 159 B Top
220 World Championship 2010 68 B Top
246 World Computer Championship 60 Start Mid
247 Women's World Championship 60 Start High
332 World Junior Championship 44 Start Mid
378 List of world championship matches 38 List Mid
387 World Youth Championship 37 Start Mid
435 World Championship 2006 31 C High
444 World Championship 2013 31 Start Low

See the original WikiProject page for links to specific topics and explanations of the values in the columns. Not surprisingly, the 1972 Fischer - Spassky match is the only 20th century match to make the top-10 cut. Very surprisingly, four restricted events -- Computer, Women, Junior, & Youth -- also make the cut.

02 May 2012

Gunsberg - Chigorin - Tarrasch

I added a crosstable and PGN for the 1890 Chigorin - Gunsberg match to 1890 Steinitz - Gunsberg : Background. For my previous post on this match, see 1890 Chigorin - Gunsberg ['Next step: 1890 Chigorin - Gunsberg (Anatomy).']

I also added a crosstable and PGN for the 1893 Chigorin - Tarrasch match to 1894 Lasker - Steinitz : Background. For a previous series including this match, see Chigorin Wrapup.