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Friday, August 23, 2013

Kasparov on World Cup Last Eight

No chess event worth its value is complete without a comment from the legendary 13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov. The World Cup is down to the last eight and here are Kasparov's comments (official FB Page):

"The chess World Cup knock-out tournament in Tromso, Norway, is down to the final eight players. As has become something of a tradition, this is a good time for me to take stock now that the field is a manageable size. Several of the big rating favorites were eliminated in round four, including America's Nakamura, former world championship challenger Gelfand, and my compatriot Karjakin. 


"They both lost to much lower-rated opponents and there is almost no chance to recover in this format. One loss usually guarantees elimination no matter how well you played in your other games. Nakamura is surely a better player than Korobov, but the American played poorly in their match and was punished.

"Morozevich suffered a similar fate against Tomashevsky today in a marathon tiebreak session. Tomashevsky played without pressure and this nothing-to-lose mindset often helps the underdog in these events. But I cannot call any of this final eight "tourists"; they all deserve their spots and should provide tough matches for their more famous opponents.

"Good nerves are critically important to success in the KO format. The tension is very high at every moment and the most talented player can suffer a breakdown and be unable to concentrate. This is especially true in the rapid and blitz tiebreak games. So it's no surprise to see veterans like Kamsky, Svidler, and Kramnik move on to the round of eight. Of course, they are all also very strong players. 

"Nerves are important, but moves still matter! Even in this "lottery" format, good chess is required by the winner. Svidler and Kamsky have both won this event before. Svidler has played the most interesting chess so far, while Kramnik has been very solid.

"So despite Grischuk and Karjakin's elimination, Russia is well-represented. Karjakin made some big statements before the event about his ambitions on the highest title, but his play in Tromso failed to back up those statements. (The two finalists in Tromso will automatically qualify for the next stage of the world championship cycle.)

"Svidler and Kramnik are big favorites in their matches against Andreikin and Korobov, respectively. This is partly due to the level of chess shown so far in Tromso and partly out of respect for the rating system and what we might call regression to the mean for the underdogs. It is cumulatively less and less likely lower-rated players will continue to play above level, even in a single event and even in a relatively random one like a knock-out tournament. (An exception is very young stars, who are often underrated.) But surprises are really no surprise in this format, even with only four matches!

"Kamsky is a slight favorite versus giant-killer Tomashevsky (before beating Morozevich he eliminated world #2 Aronian). The match closest to being a toss-up is Italy's Caruana versus Vachier-Lagrave of France. Caruana is higher rated and capable of the better chess, but he has not been convincing in Tromso. And fate may yet demand compensation for the huge gift Caruana received in his match with Malakhov! 

"A certain loss with white in their first tiebreak game in round two turned into a win for Caruana. While there is no luck in chess, I do believe in good fortune and the goddess Caissa often demands payment sooner or later. We will see that was "winner's luck" for Caruana or if the bill will come due against Vachier-Lagrave.

My congratulations to every member of the final eight and I wish them all good chess and good nerves!"

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