I Stand With Anton – Reflections on the Disaster in Tbilisi

For anyone who hasn’t heard, yesterday in Tbilisi Canadian GM Anton Kovalyov quit the World Cup in protest.

So what happened?  Well, ostensibly GM Kovalyov showed up at the playing hall and an arbiter informed him that he would not be allowed to wear shorts as it was against the dress code.

There are two main problems that I have with this.  The first is that Anton says that he checked at the last World Cup to make sure that shorts were OK and was told that they are.

The second is that he wore the same shorts to the first two rounds and there were no issues at that time.  And it’s not like he flew unnoticed under the radar here…this is the guy who took out five time World Champion Vishy Anand in round two.

I say “ostensibly the issue” since the real issue appears to run much deeper.  I’ll let Anton tell that story in the statement which he released a few hours after the incident.

“I wanted to wait a little till I calm down, but I’m tired of seeing lies everywhere. So here’s what happened:

The issue were not the shorts but how I was treated. I came to the game and was approached by the arbiter asking me to change (first time). I told him that I don’t have pants with me, and then I noticed that I was playing black instead of white, which came as a surprise for me and asked him to check that. He and the other arbiters checked and confirmed to me that I’m playing with black, we talked a little and everything was fine. Then came Zurab, he was very agressive, yelling at me and using the racial slur “gypsy” to insult me, apart from mentioning several times that I will be punished by FIDE. I told him that I had asked before at the previous world cup if what I was wearing was OK and I was told by somebody from the organization that yes. Zurab, in a prepotent way, said he doesn’t care, he’s the organizer now. At this point I was really angry but tried not to do anything stupid, and asked him why he was so rude to me, and he said because I’m a gypsy.

So imagine this, the round is about to start, I’m being bullied by the organizer of the tournament, being assured that I will be punished by FIDE, yelled at and racially insulted. What would you do in my situation? I think many people would have punched this person in the face or at least insulted him. I decided to leave.

Worth pointing out, I didn’t take any pants with me because I gained some weight and they were to tight. If the organization of the tournament would have warned me sooner I would have taken a cab to the mall and bought pants, without any problems whatsoever, but instead I was treated like garbage. I was too stressed out by the way I was treated and the threats of being punished by FIDE no matter what I do, so I choose to leave before I do anything stupid.

Another point worth pointing out, Zurab never asked me to go and change, the conversation consisted of threats, insults, and agressive behavior from Zurab. He was clearly provoking me.

I will not appeal anything. I am disgusted by this type of people. I don’t want the money. I’m coming back home.”

This paints a much darker picture than the initial speculation.

Of course, when you are dealing with someone like Azmai in the chess world you shouldn’t be surprised at that.

Here are two reactions regarding that angle.  The first was WGM Tatev Abrahamyan’s reaction on Twitter.

Later, when Azmai “clarified” that he wasn’t being racist by calling Anton a gypsy, but rather that he meant tramp as in “dressed like a tramp” Tatev had this to say.

Another pundit who was rightfully critical of Azmai’s behavior is IM Greg Shahade, who sent this tweet linking to his blog post where he spared no criticism.

So what should the average chess fan make of all this?  My thoughts run as follows…

First, I think that dress codes at top events make perfect sense.  After all, we all talk/dream/hope for the day when chess attracts numerous big dollar sponsors.  There’s a reason why athletes have dress codes for how they need to show up looking when they get to the venue.  With so much money on the line the league insists on projecting a certain image so as not to chase off sponsors and potential sponsors.

It may not make the most sense in the world to talk about having a dress code at your average weekender, but this is an official event which is part of the world championship cycle, so come on guys, let’s look the part.

However, if you are going to have a dress code then it needs to be enforced evenly and consistently.  It’s improper to allow a player to wear shorts in the first two rounds, then suddenly take issue on day seven of the event.

If the decision is made that something needs to be said, then it should not be said at the beginning of a round (possibly with the exception of the beginning of the first day) but rather should be addressed after the offending player’s game has concluded.

Also, I don’t think that any valid excuse can be given to not having said something to Kovalyov on either of his two rest days.  Why not inform him then so that he can do something in a way that won’t interfere with his play at all?

Although I have not met him personally, from everything I have heard about him he’s a stand up guy.  I don’t think that he would find the request unreasonable if it were made in a sensible way.

That brings us to Azmai.  There’s nothing I can say that Greg didn’t say better in his blog post, but I would like to point out that a discussion I often take place in is the discussion of how to attract sponsors to chess.

The sorts of ideas that always seem to be kicked around have to do with formats and time controls.

Fine, but isn’t any discussion of time controls, etc. rendered moot automatically when an official like Azmai is involved?  Again, as mentioned above, sports leagues require certain images to be projected so as to not drive off sponsors.  Yet with chess the league is FIDE, and Azmai is a high ranking FIDE official.

What self-respecting Fortune 500 level company is going to put themselves in a position to deal with a guy like that?

So with all of this in mind, my conclusion here is that I stand with Anton.  I think that he made the correct decision to not play after the way he was treated, and I hope others see it that was as well.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

 

 

Shocker in Tbilisi

Today World Champion Magnus Carlsen found himself on the wrong end of a stunning upset in the first game of the third round of the 2017 World Cup.

Facing Chinese Super GM Bu Xiangzhi Magnus played an unambitious line with White that transposed into a Two Knights.  As has often been the case with the Norwegian he was clearly looking to just get a level middlegame position from which to outplay his opponent.

After White’s 15th move this position appeared on the board:

Here Bu found the excellent shot 15…Bxh3, which soon led to a sharp position.

From there he capitalized on a few inaccuracies from the World Champion and built up an overwhelming attack.

Magnus did himself no favors by winding up in very deep time trouble, and was not able to fend off Bu.

Here is the game:

As a result of this game, Magnus will find himself in a must win situation tomorrow with the Black pieces.

While winning on demand is tough enough, doing so with the Black pieces is a mush more Sisyphean task.  And yet…if there is anyone who can perform such a Herculean task it’s the World Champ.

Bu has long been my favorite of the Chinese GM’s, but he’s never cracked into the truly elite levels of 2750+, so while Magnus has his work cut out for him it’s certainly not impossible for him to pull this off.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Artemiev to the Third Round!

Yesterday in Tbilisi, long time favorite of this blog, Vladislav Artemiev, took out Teimur Radjabov in the rapid playoff for round two to advance in the World Cup.

In the first rapid game he put on a clinic in demonstrating how to play with a space advantage.

In the second game, Artemiev was easily winning when he agreed a draw.  A decision which makes perfect sense as it allowed him to advance.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Stayin Alive

This morning Naka sent this tweet.

Clearly he was in good spirits as he prepared to battle Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista in the round two playoff in the FIDE World Cup, currently taking place in Tbilisi, Georgia.

In the first game Hikaru got a nice enduring edge which he converted nicely although he did miss a shot in this position:

Here 21.Bxh6 is crushing.

In the second game the Cuban returned the favor by missing a shot of his own.

33.a5 creates threats which force concessions from Black due to the threat of cxb5 which would create a passed pawn.  There is a lot to be learned by analyzing this position in depth.

However, after 33.Rf3 the game was level and Hikaru was able to hold rather easily.

This draw secured entry into the third round and a matchup with Russian Super GM Fedoseev.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Room for Improvement

My last two tournaments have not been great.  I’ve managed to lose three games to improving juniors.

This has had the effect of dropping my rating around 40 points.  While I’m not that upset about the rating since ratings fluctuate, I am incredibly annoyed with the way I have played as I have thrown away promising positions quite often during this streak.

Yesterday I played a game which I hope is the start of a turnaround, although I still missed a huge opportunity and was lucky to get a second chance.

Here is the game.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Artemiev Joins the 2700 Club!

On the strength of his wins yesterday and today against Benjamin Bok in the Tbilisi World Cup, young Russian GM Vladislav Artemiev has finally cracked the ranks of the 2700 Club.

If you’ve been following my blogs for any length of time you know that I’m a big fan of his.  I’ve been following his career pretty closely for the last few years, so it’s nice to see him finally hit the magic number.

Here are the games:

Here is a good interview with Artemiev from last year documenting some of his struggles and triumphs.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

 

 

The Theme of the Next Five Days

Starting tomorrow I will play seven games over a five day period.  First, tomorrow I will have my regular Thursday night game.  Then, this weekend, I will play in the WI State Championship for the first time ever.

I’ve decided to use a technique that I have read about many times, which is the concept of focusing on one thing for a tournament and making that the central theme of the event.

My plan is to focus on targets.  I know that this is a weakness of mine.  I can recall GM Grivas telling me after beating me in a clock simul that the issue was that he had targets whereas I did not.

So each time I sit down at the board I am going to remind myself to look for targets, both for myself and for my opponent, on pretty much every move.

When I find a target for myself I am going to work out how to best isolate and attack it.  When I find a target for my opponent I am going to work out how to best defend it.

The idea with this singular focus tournament is that if you get to the point where you have begun to engage in whatever behavior you are looking to, then you are one step closer to becoming a stronger player.

I’ve been too focused on rating.  I need to let go of the rating aspect of things and just focus on my playing strength.  If I work on my strength then the rating will come.  I just have to trust in my abilities and have some faith in myself.

The truth is that my training has been going well lately.  I have been getting in some solid study time every day, and that should hopefully start paying off at some point.

So now I’m going to start working on my issues one by one.  Tournament by tournament.

I expect this approach to pay dividends in the very near term.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Me and Petrosian

One of the books that I have been reading lately is Python Strategy by the ninth world champion “Iron” Tigran Petrosian.

Quality Chess published an English language edition a year or two ago and in my opinion this book is solid gold.

There are a couple of reasons for that opinion.  The first is that generally I think that anything written by a world champion is worthy of attention.  The second is the fact that this book is simply amazing.

One thing that comes through loud and clear is that Petrosian wrote this book with the very clear purpose of it being instructional.  This book was meant to inspire the future generations of Soviet Bloc players who would inevitably replace him at the top of the mountain.

Contrast this with something like Kasparov’s My Great Predecessors which is useful to strong players, but not to average players looking to understand the game better in order to improve.

Thus, annotations in Python Strategy are variational where needed to whatever depth it takes to properly detail the position, and verbose where prosaic explanations serve to better illustrate a general point about the topic at hand.

Petrosian has long been one of my favorite players.  He has been unfairly saddled with the monikor of being “boring” or “drawish” but the reality is that he was such as solid defender that he saved a ton of poor positions and therefore just didn’t lose often.  He also, much like Karpov, refused to enter needless complications in order to create winning chances.

If he gained an advantage he would nurse it until he converted it.  If he was in a level position he would simply make sure that first and foremost he was playing in as risk free a manner as possible.

In my opinion those who say that Petrosian’s was simply a draw master and pretty much the same as those who say the same about Anish Giri today.

If Petrosian were simply a draw master he never would have become world champion, the same as Giri would never have made it over 2800.

Another reason that Petrosian inspires me is that on many levels I try to model my play on his own.  I enjoy positional, maneuvering games when they arise, but I also work on my tactics and attacking abilities so that when presented with a chance I can take it.

Here is a game of Petrosian’s in which the young Armenian demolishes  the legendary Paul Keres with a piece sacrifice.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

A Fascinating Position

Here is a position from my game Thursday night.  I am White and it’s my move.

So here I see this tactical idea and I calculate 10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.Nxd5 cxd5 12.Qxd5 and now the rook on c8 is lost unless Black gives up the knight with 12…Nc6.  I now realize that after 13.Qxc6 my queen and Black’s queen are both on the sixth rank and – oh no – 13…Bb4+ unleashes a discovered attack on my queen would cost me the game.

So I make a different move then I realize that I missed a key aspect of the position, which is that my thirteenth move is not 13.Qxc6, but 13.Qxc6+

Since this would also pick off the rook this tells me at the time that clearly this was the way to play and that I missed something major.

So I spend the next few moves of the game annoyed for missing something “obvious” in the position.  Fast forward to today.  I start looking at the position again and something just doesn’t look quite right.

I start moving pieces around and something just isn’t adding up, but I can’t quite find it.  As I had just read a piece by Jacob Aagaard explaining that if you’re going to use an engine you need to use it in such a manner as to let yourself discover the reason certain moves are good or bad rather than just the fact that they are good or bad I turn on the engine after Black’s ninth move …b6, which gives us the position we first looked at:

The engine is insisting that this position is equal.  “Well, OK” I think…”10…Qxf6 isn’t forced.  After all, Black can play 10…gxf6.”

Nope, that position the engine shows as much better for White.  So I follow the line closely until we get to this position:

Here Black has an amazing trap in the position.  First he plays 12…0-0, then after 13.Qxa8 Nc6 14.Qb7 Rb8 the engine is screaming that 15.Qxc6 is the least bad of the options although Black will pick up the Queen after 15…Bb4+ 16.Qc3 Bxc3+ 17.bxc3:

Here White is up the equivalent of a pawn, but Black’s position is so much better than the computer shows the position to be about -1.2 in Black’s favor.

“Yeah, but why is 15.Qxc6 considered best?” I ask myself.  After all, White can save the queen with 15.Qa6.  Now we reach the most critical part of the position, this:

Black now slams shut the jaws of their trap with 15…Nb4.  Not only does this threaten the queen on a6, but at the same time it also threatens the fork 16…Nc2+

So all in all an amazing position which teaches the analyst to always keep looking for resources.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

The Dog and Pony Show

Typically that’s how I think of opening/closing ceremonies, and to some extent press conferences in the world of chess.

Generally you assume that nothing too exciting is going to happen, so why bother even trying to score an invite.  You can plan on hearing the same accolades and the same platitudes so what’s the point?

However, for the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz my feelings are pretty much the polar opposite of that.  Why?  A few reasons.  First, the CCSCSL typically puts on a pretty good event with these.  Who can forget Caruana’s answer to what he was going to do with his prize money in 2015 when he replied “Yeah, I think I’d buy a goat. I think I could afford it with the money I earned, and this goat I think could see tactics better than me.”

Second, Maurice Ashley is a pretty good MC for these types of events.  He has a wicked sense of humor and is able to hold his own in the quip department.  He also has a sense of passion and enthusiasm for chess which easily comes across when he speaks.

Lastly, and let’s face it, far more important that anything else that could be mentioned, the return of Garry Kasparov was the main driving force for my desire to attend this event.

So I applied for media credentials and was initially told that the event was completely invite only.  I then was told by one of the players not to worry, that I would be going with him, so I figured I was in.  Then the club re-contacted me to clarify that they were allowing all media members who wanted in to attend so they would put me on the list.

So I went and I have to say that it did not disappoint.

First of all before the event began I was able to chat with Czech GM David Navara.  I told him that I visited Prague last year when I played on the Chess Train and that I can’t wait to go back some day and see the city again, hopefully with more time to enjoy the sights.

He said it was his first time in the US and that he hopes that it’s not his last.  He seemed quite excited to be in the States for this event.

I was also able to talk with recently retired NFL player John Urschel who is visiting with his friend GM Robert Hess.  John seems like a genuinely nice guy.  I had a chance to talk with him a bit at the chess house on Friday night and his love of the game and desire to play more shines through when he speaks.

All of this while enjoying a nice glass of red wine and some hors d’oeuvres that were being circulated by the friendly wait staff.

Then it was time for the ceremony itself to begin.  You can watch it here.  Skip ahead to the 27:35 mark for the actual beginning of the event.  Some highlights included Hikaru getting in a little trash talk on Garry (who responded in kind!) and Rex and Maurice digging at each other a bit.

So far this trip has been amazing.  Tomorrow is my final day, and I’m expecting it to be exciting as I will get to see Nakamura – Kasparov in round two!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott