SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The Istanbul Olympiad is now history. Most of the players have already returned to their homes and to their jobs or to their next tournaments. No doubt many fine memories will stay with the participants all of their lives. The next Olympiad will be in Norway in 2014.
The gold-medal winning Armenian Team parading in the streets in Erevan after their return home. Armenia’s hair-thin victory over Russia in the tiebreaks is a thing for the history books: the small nation has won 3 times in the past 4 olympiads! All of the members are now heroes in Armenia.
Russia wanted to win, it had not won the gold medal for 10 years now! Russian Chess Federation (RCF) member Ilya Levitov (above) felt for certain that this year was Russia’s turn. He was close, but the tiebreak gave them the silver. The Russian womens team won their section, but that is hardly the same thing. While womens chess has made great strides forward, even today only a handful of women can compete with the top 100 men , and even then not on fully equal terms. No, the RCF really wanted the gold for its mens team. Everything seemed to be in their favour up to the time they lost unexpectedly to the USA: they had played their closest oppostion and had a dominant lead of one round over the field. But fate was to be unkind to them… In an interview published here Levitov does not hide either his pride in its players or his frustrations:
”It’s hard to understand what has happenned to our men afterwards…. I have nothing to reproach them for – I am ready to kill everyone who dares to say something bad about that team. They did everything they could and it seems to me that they had a very friendly atmosphere – they helped each other and were eager to win. Grischuk played all the 11 games. I knew he wanted to win the golden medal for Russia. It’s a pity the guys couldn’t do it though.”
Already , just one day after the Olympiad is over, Russia is reflecting on what went wrong, what went right, and how to bring the gold medal back to Russia in 2014. I recommend the readers to take a look at the entire interview. Levitov gives some interesting insight into his views on the chess world. He is not yet overly impressed with China–something that differs from my own personal views (I think China will be the dominant force in the chess world in just a couple more years)
And his general impression that the Olympiad is becoming tougher…perhaps it is already the toughest chess tournament in the world! No where else do you get some many of the top grandmasters in the world under one roof.
Towards the end of the interview,the suggestion that Russia should have sent a doctor with the team is discussed. (No doubt in 2014 there will be a doctor!) ”There was no (Russian) doctor at the tournament, while the Armenian team took one with them. That’s why up to round 7-8 they are fresh and we are a bit tired. I am sure that if our team would be fresh before the match with US – there wouldn’t be any problems.”
“It’s not enough to pick up four or five good guys and send them to play for a team. You need someone to care about the health, somebody in place, on the Olympic Venue. You are under high tension and you need to care about that. Someone might need a psychologist or a specialist of that field. You need to create a complex team.”
How much will things change before 2014? Levitov makes it clear that the head coach is not one of them:
“Yuri Dokhoian is a professional of a very high class. The guys told me that the team atmosphere is great and that they like working with him. He is quite a strict person but he can only fight for the first place – it is his principle. I came up to him during one of the rounds to tell something funny and when he looked at me I just wanted to run away. he only knows one result – it is a victory. I am sure we will be winners. It’s not coming quickly but I am sure he will make a team that will dominate the chess world for many years. I am glad we have such a coach”.
Some countries take their chess more seriously than others. Russia takes chess VERY serious! It is the national sport and a big part of its history. No doubt we will likely see an even more hi-powered Russian delegation in 2014.
One thing that is NOT discussed in this interview with Levitov is the increasingly negative role of the fast time control: and how it has destroyed endings. FIDE was using at the Olympiad the time-control of 90 minutes for the first 40 moves and then 30 minutes to finish (plus 30 seconds per move starting from move 1).
The new time controls have created many victims. The game is one of them!
I believe that modern chess has lowered the bar with Kirsan’s faster time controls. Once you get past the first time control and arrive in an ending, it is virtually impossible to play with any degree of accuracy with 30 second increments.
Two decisive matches (for the gold) were decided precisely because of this factor. One could legitimately argue that the gold medal might have been to a team other than Armenia using a slower time control. One hundred years from now, people will look back on this time and when they see such poor play in the ending they will make comments similar to what we make when we see Morphy’s opponents from the 19th century!
The decisive loss by Russia against the USA was precisely in a theoretically drawn ending (Rook and Bishop vs Rook). While this ending is hardly trivial, no grandmaster should ever lose it! But at 30-second increments, it does happen and all too often!
Perhaps this was the EXACT reason Russia lost the gold medal that was up to then in their pocket!
EVEN WORSE was the loss of the USA against China! Below we have a totally dead drawn Rook and 3 vs Rook and 2 (all on the same side). Had I not seen with my own eyes, I would have thought it IMPOSSIBLE for even a 2000 player to lose this ending against Kasparov!
HOW CAN BLACK LOSE THIS ENDING?