Baku Photos (Thanks to Susan Polgar)

by admin on September 14, 2015

A couple days ago I asked, “What happened to Lawrence Trent and Susan Polgar?” For me, their witty and exciting commentary was one of the most enjoyable things about the 2013 World Cup. I missed that sparkle and that sense of excitement in this year’s commentators, Emil Sutovsky and Evgenij Miroschnichenko.

I wasn’t expecting an answer to my question, but it came today! Quoth Susan:

I am in Baku. So is Lawrence. We were not asked to do it :) I am here as Coach of 3 players, and Lawrence is here as Manager of Fabiano.

First, let me just express how pleased I am to get a comment from Susan. I consider her chess blog to be the best on the Internet, and I’m a little bit surprised that she even noticed mine. We write two very different kinds of blogs. Hers is all about the world chess scene, while I tend to focus on my own games and the local chess scene, with a little bit of chess instruction thrown in. But every now and then I do try to acknowledge that the rest of the world exists.

Susan also invited me to take a look at her photo gallery from the Baku tournament and copy any of the photographs that I want. Although it feels a little bit odd to put up somebody else’s pictures when I’m half a world away, I’m glad to accept the offer! Here is a very small selection from her gallery. If you want to see the whole gallery of more than 400 photos, go back to my post World Cup Day 2 Recap and scroll down to the comments to find the URL.

shankland nakamuraA historic moment: The first (?) game between two Americans at the FIDE World Cup. Also, note the Red Bull can strategically placed at Hikaru’s side. Since 2014 he has been sponsored by Red Bull. This is one step towards the mainstreaming of chess in American culture. Professional athletes in other sports (golf, tennis, auto racing) have sponsors — sometimes many of them — and I’m delighted to see at least one chess player has landed a sponsor.

If anybody who works for or has connections with a large corporation is reading this, why don’t you consider sponsoring a professional chess player? It’s a great way for your brand to be identified with youth, intelligence, and sophistication. Plus, there are so many great American players to sponsor. Fabiano Caruana (#3 seed in the World Cup), Wesley So (#5 in the World Cup), even Sam Shankland (see this photo!)

Baku WC round 2 gm 1 391Without a doubt the best-dressed player at the World Cup is China’s Hou Yifan. But the days are long past since we judged women by their appearance. Now we judge them by results — and Hou has been doing great so far! Her victory against Rafael Leitao in round one was a study in poise.

By the way, she’s also women’s world champion. (Correction: former women’s world champion. Thanks to Kevin Gong for pointing this out.) If she won the open world championship, would they retire the title of women’s world champion?

Baku WC rd playoff 061At left in the red shirt is the player I’m rooting for: China’s Lu Shanglei, 20 years old, world junior champion. He’s also (according to Wikipedia) the highest-rated blitz player in China and the only player to win a game from Magnus Carlsen at last year’s World Blitz Championship. His skill at speed chess could be an important ingredient for him in this tournament. He upset Alexander Moiseenko in round one and got off to a good start in round two by beating his countryman, Hao Wang. He could go really deep in this tournament except for one problem: next up, if he beats Wang, will be the #1 seed Veselin Topalov.

Don’t count Lu out against Topalov! Still, it would be the biggest sensation of the World Cup, maybe the biggest sensation ever in any World Cup, if Lu could beat him.

miro sutovskyThe English-language commentators, Miroshnichenko and Sutovsky. By the way, I don’t want to sound too critical of them. But I wish they could show this kind of animation more often! I wonder, what kind of awful blunder caused Miroshnichenko (correction posted 9/15: Sutovsky) to react this way?

And finally, to thank Susan for sharing these photos, here is one of her, with a gentleman you may not recognize.

Baku WC round 2 gm 1 037His badge says “Chief Arbiter,” and with that clue I was able to figure out who he is. His name is Faik Gasanov (or Hasanov), and he is basically the George Koltanowski of Azerbaijan chess.

Some younger people may not even know who the George Koltanowski of American chess was. He was perhaps the most prolific U.S. chess writer ever, because he wrote a chess column for the San Francisco Chronicle that lasted 52 years, until his death in 2000. He also had a chess TV show briefly in the late 1960s, called Koltanowski on Chess. Although it didn’t last very long, my father and I watched it avidly, and it was through this program that I first learned that chess clocks existed. Koltanowski was going over some game from a world championship match and explaining what it meant to be in time trouble. I didn’t understand it… Somehow if you play faster, you give your opponent less time? Whaaaat?

Anyway, take Koltanowski’s long-lived newspaper column and his short-lived TV show and combine them, and you get Faik Gasanov. He has hosted a chess TV show on Azeri television for thirty-seven years, making it the longest-running TV show of any kind in Azerbaijan!

Of course he’s had a huge effect on chess culture in his country. Garry Kasparov calls him “my discoverer,” because he wrote the first news article about Kasparov when little Garik won a tournament in Baku at age 9.

So this is a guy who deserves to be famous and is famous, in his own country. Being the Chief Arbiter at the World Cup must be one of the highlights of his long chess career.

P.S. Yes, I enjoyed writing “little Garik.”

P.P.S. In today’s action, probably the biggest surprise was Alexander Onischuk’s victory over Sergei Karjakin. Also Victor Laznicka over Michael Adams was a shocker.

I was also amazed by Vladimir Kramnik’s win over Lazaro Bruzon Batista. On move 75, they got to a R+B versus R endgame, where Bruzon Batista had the lone rook. Watching the first few moves, I was sure that Bruzon Batista would draw, because he was playing his moves quickly and with confidence and he headed straight for one of the known drawing positions, the “second rank defense.” But Kramnik kept on playing, rearranged the pieces a bit, tried again… and again… and then suddenly, on move 113 Bruzon Batista made a mistake! He got his rook and king backwards, and Kramnik pounced to set up a mating net. It’s possible that Bruzon could still have saved himself by the 50-move rule with computer-perfect play, but he didn’t and he resigned on move 117.

How could this happen? How could it keep on happening? Even grandmasters who have studied the R+B versus R endgame over and over mess it up.

Chess. It’s a hard game.

Till tomorrow!


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin Gong September 14, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Hou Yifan is a former women’s world champion, but not the current one. The current women’s world champion is Mariya Muzychuk.


Dan Schmidt September 15, 2015 at 4:16 am

I personally prefer the “Two GMs arguing with each other” style of online commentary to the “Put on an entertaining show” style, as I find it the most instructive, but I would not be surprised to be in the minority in that respect.

I wonder if Trent will stop commentating now that he manages Caruana. Certainly he would seem to have a conflict of interest for Caruana’s tournaments, though I guess that doesn’t stop sportscasters.


Robin September 15, 2015 at 7:26 am

Hi Dana,

I want to say that I really enjoy Sutovsky and Miroshnichenko and their commentary. It is a bit more monotone than Lawrence Trent, but it is very enjoyable to see Miroschnichenko try to keep up with Sutovsky’s strong bent for tactically surprising lines.

I think from the point of view of Americans and British viewers, it will be very hard for anyone to outperform Lawrence Trent in chess commentary. He is a super talent.

One last note in the picture of the commentators, I think it is Sutovsky that has the funnier expression.

I enjoy your blog as always.



admin September 15, 2015 at 8:33 am

Yes, I got them reversed.


Roman Parparov September 15, 2015 at 7:38 pm

I would think that it’s just a bit more taxing for a native speaker to hear the commentary with the accent as in case of Sutovsky and Miroshnichenko, because at least Emil (I am just no acquainted with Evgeny) is a brilliant commentator and an erudite to go with it.

GM Genna Sosonko is an incredible commentator, not the least because of his endless chest of stories and anecdotes.


Hal Bogner September 15, 2015 at 5:57 pm

Dana – I thought of you as I played over Kramnik’s prosecution of the endgame – you should post the link to your article on it. (I think you called it “What every IM doesn’t know”, and described it as one of the endgames “of the apocolypse.) On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy thinking of Ms. Polgar any more than Wesley So must nowadays, and for similar reasons. You ought to familiarize yourself with her longstanding pattern of behavior towards those who stand anywhere near anything she may wish to possess for her own. It cost USCF some half million in cash to completely defuse her bogus lawsuit against most of the organization’s leadership and many of us who stood near them. It still amazes me that she is able to sport a US affiliation in her FIDE roles, as she and her husband were the first people to be permanently expelled from USCF since Norman Whitaker half a century or longer ago, as far as I am aware.


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