There’s a match going on!

by admin on April 28, 2010

Although it might not be going on much longer. I’m referring, of course, to the Anand-Topalov world championship match, which started last weekend in Sofia. As most of the chess-speaking world knows, the challenger, Topalov, started out with a stunning win in game 1. But Anand coolly evened the score with a victory as White in the second game. In round three, Anand steadfastly declined all of Topalov’s attempts to complicate the game and pulled out a draw. Today, in round four, Anand played perhaps the game of the match so far, sacrificing two pieces to unleash a mating attack on the kingside. The question now is whether Topalov, after seeing his early lead vanish so rapidly, can prove himself to be as strong psychologically as Anand did in game two.

I doubt it.

So far I haven’t commented on the world championship match in my blog, because what can I, as a lowly national master, contribute to the discussion? Better to leave it to the GMs and the computer engines. However, I do want to direct your attention to the two columns by GM Ian Rogers on the USCF website, called “A Couch Potato’s Guide to the World Championship (Parts I and II).” Rogers lists all the best places on the Internet to find coverage of the world championship. My blog is, of course, not on the list, so what are you doing here?

Aha! I just figured out something I can offer you. Rogers offers very high praise for GM Sergei Shipov’s coverage, on the website I just checked out today’s game to see what the fuss was all about, and Rogers is right. Shipov has a wonderful sense of humor, and a way with words, and insight into the game. But there is one small catch … it’s all written in Russian. So let me slip into my translator’s robes here …

ergh … ugh … little bit tight in that spot … rrrippp (oops) … whew!

Okay! Here are some of the highlights of Shipov’s commentary today. First, I’ve got to translate his whole opening for you:

“Happy time of the day, dear friends! Grandmaster Sergei Shipov wishes good night to residents of the Far East, a pleasant viewing of the game to denizens of the European region, and a rapid wake-up call to representatives of the New World. Meanwhile, in Sofia at the moment no one is interested in sleep. The fourth game of the match for the world championship is on deck. Anand at the moment reminds me of Theseus, who got lost in the labyrinth of the Minotaur. After his first failure, he was able to adjust to the unusual situation, and returned to a fighting frame of mind and, most importantly, found his game. Now he holds the thread of Ariadne in his hands: with White he exerts positional pressure in the Catalan Opening, while as Black he confidently holds the fortress in a Slav Defense. At the first opportunity he trades queens, nullifying the strengths of his opponent. Although, of course, it would be more correct to call this thread by the name of Kramnik — after all, the events so far clearly recall the match in Elista in 2006. [Editor’s note: Here Shipov refers to the infamous Kramnik-Topalov “toilet-gate” match. — DM] It’s important only to note that the scandalous events of that match have not repeated themselves … But let us not dwell on the sad past. I will note another difference between the matches: Anand is not Kramnik! Vishy, perhaps, does not penetrate quite as deeply into the nuances, as Vladimir, but on the other hand he is more flexible in his playing plan. Suppose that today he takes one tactic. In his later games he can change his style. For example, he can play 1. e4 as White and play a decisive Sicilian battle. Or he can go out and play the Meran as Black and stir up an unbelievable carousel of combinations. Just try to guess! But at the moment, the main question is still this: is Topalov willing to change to a different record in the opening? Will he again enter into his Catalan suffering, or will he reveal something different? We’ll see …

“Now let me say a pair of words about the end of yesterday’s game. [Editor’s note: Topalov has said that he will never speak to Anand in person during the game to offer a draw, so in the third game he was in the awkward position of playing on in a dead-drawn position far past its “expiration date,” until finally the game was decided by threefold repetition. — DM] To insist every time on such a nerve-jangling policy in completely drawn positions is, in my opinion, pointless. One of the players must, in the final analysis, summon up his courage and say to his opponent directly, “I offer, you understand, a draw!” [Here is another challenge for the translator! Shipov puts the words “I offer a draw” in English rather than Russian, underscoring the ridiculousness of making this more complicated than it really is. — DM] Shake hands, sign the scoresheets, and then everyone can calmly go to dinner! Separately, of course … But in past times, believe it or not, the participants in matches for the world championship not only calmly proposed draws to one another, but they even discussed the interesting moments in the game afterwards, right there at the playing table. That is, they behaved like normal chess players. Only with a good upbringing and a respectful relationship to one another. It even happened sometimes that the adversaries in the chess battles lived next to one another and ate at the same restaurant. And they calmly said hello to one another when they met in the playing hall. Believe me, this really happened. And some participants in that former way of life are still alive and able to talk about it. I think that today’s seekers of the title have something to learn from their predecessors …”

I challenge you to find any other commentators on the match who are comparing Anand to Theseus hunting the Minotaur, and who can remember the bygone days when world championship candidates actually talked to each other!

There are so many other gems in Shipov’s commentary. Let me just show you two or three more:

After Anand’s 10. Na3: “We have gotten used to the fact that the ‘official theory’ in the games of the best chess players in the world is not a commandment. Each one of them has his own personal theory of the openings.” [Editor’s note: Hear, hear! This is exactly what I recommend also for lower-level players. Use the “official theory” as a guide, but do your own homework and come up with your own ideas.]

After 11. Ne5: “Black has to figure out a way to get the snake out of its hole, in order not to die in the near future. I have in mind the poor rook on a8. Because that’s what it is — a snake.”

After 15. d5!: “The bishop on g2 is knocking with a shovel, trying to get at the rook on a8.”

After 19. … Bxc6: “Notice how the [Black] pawn on a4 defends its friend on a5. And it in turn is held by the [Black] bishop on c6. So White must first direct his attention to that bishop. It’s the same principle as a woodcutter: if you want to chop down the tree, cut off the roots.”

After 21. … Qa7: “Have you sensed how irresistibly my thoughts are drawn toward the Black king? Here let me draw your attention to the fact that most of Black’s pieces are concentrated on the queenside. So, perhaps, White should let them rest in peace? And find a way to get at the kingside?”

After 22. Ng4: “I was thinking all along, how can I formulate my hooliganish desire to return the knight to g4 with the obvious plan of smacking him down on the square h6 — and then Vishy just up and played that move! Apparently my ‘launching-an-attack-from-the-center’ and ‘lusting-after-the-king’ vibes had an effect on him.” [Editor’s note: Again, a rather free translation here. — DM]

After 25. e5! “Vishy is on his horse. The fourth rank is now like a superhighway, ready for White to transport his heavy weapons to the kingside.”

After 30. f7+: “This is also possible. In order to compute fewer variations! That is, Anand is true to his credo. Which, you might note, has not prevented him from playing actively, brilliantly, and combinatively. (Even harsher would have been 30. Qg5+.)”

After the game: “A wonderful, brilliant victory by the world champion! It’s as if [Anand] deliberately proved that he can play in any style. This time he did not aspire to simplification, but in the style of the old masters sacrificed a pawn, achieved total domination in the center, and then developed an annihilating mating attack. The game was played so well that it’s hard even to show a moment when the challenger made a mistake. One can find a few inaccuracies, but on the whole Topalov did not play badly. Anand simply played better — and deservedly won.”

I hope you enjoyed reading Shipov’s inimitable style as much as I enjoyed translating it!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

jaideepblue April 28, 2010 at 11:22 am

Thanks for the translation. Shipov is worth it!


shams April 28, 2010 at 11:51 am

Very well done and thanks much.


max April 28, 2010 at 11:56 am

Thanks. Great translation!

I use Google’s translation on Shipov’s commentary and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. But it makes just enough sense to be thoroughly enjoyable.

Would you mind looking at Google translate too. I believe every time someone corrects it, the translation is improved thereafter. For example, it uses “Peace” instead of “World” and “Boat” instead of “Rook” and “Party” instead of “Game.”


Mohan April 28, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Dana, Thanks for the translation! Shipov’s analysis is wittier than the Brit – Nigel… and without those cocky adamant ‘no one knows better than me” assertions on the merits of certain moves like the Brit


Brian Wall April 29, 2010 at 12:50 am

Thanks – I have heard of Shipov’s site but rarely actually had a chance to read it.


henry April 29, 2010 at 9:49 am

please make this an ongoing thing. The comments from Shipov are great.


senthil April 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm

this presentation of GM Shipov’s analysis made a wonderful read. Please keep up the nice work.


Kushal July 22, 2012 at 1:28 am

Dana, I just stumbled upon your blog and I think its wonderful. Please keep up the good work. Without solid people like you at the foundation , the chess pyramid will not survive.


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