World championship — how much do you care?

by admin on December 17, 2007

As many of you probably know by now, Gata Kamsky of the U.S. won the World Cup this weekend by beating Alexei Shirov in a four-game match. He will thus get a chance to play Veselin Topalov in a world championship qualifier match next year. I’m excited for Kamsky, and I think it’s also good for world chess to have him apparently back at the strength he reached in the early 1990s or even better.

 I have to admit to being a little bit less excited than I would be if, say, Hikaru Nakamura or (looking way into the future) Roy Robson were to win at a similar level. The best analogy I can think of is when the Toronto Blue Jays won the baseball World Series in 1992. Baseball is not a very big sport in Canada; at the time there were only two major-league baseball teams in the country, and now they’re down to one. One comment, from someone who lived in Toronto, stuck in my mind: “So our Americans beat their Americans.” The Kamsky-Shirov match leaves me feeling a little bit the same way: “our Russian beat their Russian.”

Maybe when it comes to the chess world championship we should just put nationalities aside, and root for individuals. What do you think? Are you rooting for anyone in particular in the Anand-Kramnik match, or in the Topalov-Kamsky match? How much do you care about the chess world championship?

To get things started, I’ll submit my opinion. I care very much that chess should have a world championship, that it should be professionally organized and dependable and not subject to political whims. This is because I want chess to be on a par (or maybe even better) than other sports. I love the tradition of the world championship. But I’m not sure I care so much, on a personal level, who the winner is. I’d actually like to get away from some of the worship of world champions, which leads chess players to believe that the champions played the only games worth studying and had the only history worth recording.

Okay, your turn!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Dribbling December 18, 2007 at 12:42 am

I too, think there should be a properly organized World Championship, free from political interference and all that jazz, for the good of the game. But there’s also Blackburne, Morphy, Anderssen, Marshall, Spielmann and so on and so forth, whose games fortunately often are not perfect, because perfection is boring (I can almost see the Venus de Milo with arms).

I think that mistakes, not pawns, are the soul of chess. Playing over patzer games is a waste of time, but watching them “live” is great fun, games with mistakes, where one person blunders and the other one blunders right back at him/her, agony written all over their faces. The most exciting game I ever watched was when one of my team mates – with both flags barely still there and the fate of the match at stake – triumphantly announced checkmate, only to see the opponent move his King to an escape square, stop the clocks and claim a win from the arbiter. It almost ended in a free for all and later, over drinks, we couldn’t stop laughing. I mean, somebody ought to write the Patzer Manifesto, it is long overdue, beginning like: “Patzers of the world stand up and be counted…” 😉

For some obscure, incomprehensible reason, I will root for Kamsky.


Rob December 18, 2007 at 5:20 am

Frankly, I for one, find all the discussions about individual world championships rather boring, especially in chess.
I would be more interested in following the progress of a world league made up of teams, (especially one that included women and younger players) and culminating in some sort of world series, if you would.
And perhaps even an all-star game at the end of league play.
I find the idea of following a team much more appealing than just some individual.
Bur perhaps I would change my mind towards an individual world championship if chess had a Muhammad Ali in the mix.


Andy Hortillosa December 18, 2007 at 8:36 am

I like Dribbling’s idea of a book showcasing games played by amateurs (Under 2200). Some amateur games have great stories behind them. I had a game against one of GM Wolff’s rising students in 1993, David Koenig, now a master where we both managed to imprison both of our kings. It was comical and it fittingly ended in a draw. Instead of telling you how it went I attached the game here so you can see it for yourself.

Hortillosa-Koenig, World Open 1993
1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. c4 d6 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. Be3 e5 6. d5 Nce7 7. Bd3 f5 8. f3 Nf6
9. Nge2 O-O 10. O-O f4 11. Bf2 g5 12. b4 Rf7 13. c5 Bf8 14. Nc1 Rg7 15. Kh1 g4
16. Bg1 g3 17. Re1 gxh2 18. Bf2 Nh5 19. N3e2 Ng3+ 20. Nxg3 fxg3 21. Be3 Ng6 22.
Bf1 Nf4 23. Ne2 Qh4 24. Nxf4 exf4 25. Bd4 Re7 26. Qb3 Qh5 27. e5 Bg7 28. Re2
Bxe5 29. Rae1 Kg7 30. Qc3 Kf6 31. cxd6 cxd6 32. Re4 Qg5 33. Bxe5+ dxe5 34. d6
Re6 35. Qc7 (35. Bb5 ) 35… Qg7 36. Qd8+ Kg6 37. Bd3 Kh5 38. Bc4 Qf6 39.
Qg8 Rxd6 40. Qxh7+ Kg5 41. Bf7 Bg4 42. fxg4 (42. Rxe5+ Qxe5 43. Rxe5+ Kf6 44.
Re1 Bf5 45. Qh6+ Kxf7 46. Qxd6 +-) 42… Rh8 43. Rxe5+ Kxg4 44. Bh5+ Kh4 45.
Qf7 Qxf7 46. Bxf7 Rhd8 47. Bh5 Rd4 48. Bf3 Rh8 49. a3 (49. Rb5 +-) 49… b6
50. Re7 Kg5 51. Rxa7 Rc4 52. Rae7 Rhc8 53. b5 Rc1 54. a4 R8c4 55. R7e6 Rxe1+
56. Rxe1 Rxa4 57. Bc6 Rd4 58. Bf3 1/2-1/2

Dana, it looks like a good book project for you.


Dribbling December 18, 2007 at 5:32 pm

Hortillosa-Koenig was hand to hand fighting, a real life game. Mistakes? Probably, but plenty of good moves, too. Computer says you had him Andy, on move 50 you allowed his King out of jail. Take a look at 50 Rc1 intending Rc8 and Rg8. In the final position seems like black was probably better.


Carina December 19, 2007 at 7:31 am

This is a funny subject for me. When I played 10 years ago, I ignored better players and studying their level as much as I could. I thought it was an impossible task to put a face to all those russian names, all beginning with K. Also, I didn’t see why players at my level were fascinated with them. I figured if they were to study games, why not their own games?

I didn’t have internet back then, and I didn’t play because of my own motivation, but that has all changed now. Exploring the history of chess is a totally new and interesting world for me. It’s only within this half year that I actually realized who all these masters, that people have been yapping around me about forever, actually are.

It’s only now that that I’m able to form an opinion about everything for myself. This last World Championship was a fascinating thing, for once. I even logged onto some games to see a move made live a couple of times. I haven’t studied any of the games, apart from those presented at I was more concerned with studying the profiles of the players and looking at pictures from the event, hahah. Some part of me that’ll never progress, is still stubbornly refusing to study chess, because it’s “a chore”. But since I got busy turning chess into a hobby, the amount of hours spend studying it has sky-rocketed. For some reason hobbies mean a lot more to me than jobs and work and even school, which is something that can really be exploited, if understood – and respected. (Part of respecting this is actually to not play chess for money, which would be a dealbreaker in the eyes of my creative self. 😀 )

Anyways, about the current situation with Anand and Kramnik at the top, I think it’s nice that chess has some emotionally stable people representing it. Anand being Indian, he would be influenced by Buddhism, right? Which is an awesome thing to be influenced by. It seems like a peace time for chess. However, if you ask me what I’d subjectively prefer.. I have to admit that I prefer following the more opinionated, younger, more visibly driven players. I think people who are a liiittle bit odd/eccentric are just more fun. Fischer turned out to be a bit too odd, but I think it must have been exciting when he ruled the chess world. I wish Morozevich had won the championship, exactly because he seems a bit more interesting/unpredictable than the wise and older players.

But ofcourse that’s a superficial judgement, and only based on some observation here and there within the last few months. Ask me in a year or two and I’ll probably have formed a much more accurate opinion about what I believe is cool/uncool in chess, and who I’d like to see as champions. (although I don’t think I’ll ever get entirely rid of my preference for oddballs 🙂 )


Andy Hortillosa December 19, 2007 at 11:59 am

The game against Koenig was a lot of fun. I missed too many winning opportunities early. I remember seeing him walking in the hallway with GM Wolff looking elated over his escape.


Matt Hayes December 19, 2007 at 12:26 pm

I’ve pretty much ignored the so-called “World Championship” these last few years. It’s been a farce for a long time and the credibility of many (including, but not limited to, FIDE, Kasparov, Short, Topalov) has been stretched to breaking point.

However, I must admit I was in the audience for two of the Kasparov-Kramnik games in London in 2000. And I did find it electrifying, regardless of the legality championship-wise of the match. (For what it’s worth, IMHO the match was a valid WC match with Kasparov champion until 2000 and Kramnik since then.)

Regarding Kamsky, the US is meant to be about diversity and immigration (LEGAL immigration, anyway! but that’s a whole other topic) so somebody’s country of birth isn’t very relevant to me. Of course, me being British probably makes me somewhat biased there! I will be rooting for Kamsky and, even if Kamsky wasn’t American, I would still root for him because as much as I like Topalov’s play I find his behavior off the board to be distasteful (I am thinking in particular of the whole Kramnik Toiletgate saga).

Now, if a Brit was to play an American for the World Championship, that would be another matter and my loyalties would be much more divided!


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