PEARL OF THE DAY №15: BEING POLITICS FREAKS…
As we all know, when a new hero comes, an old hero is desecrated. And we all are demiurges a bit: while outstanding grandmasters move the pieces on board all year long, aiming by the way to improve their position in the rating list, chess fans make the lists of the surnames, build their own hierarchies and play patience.
Ilya Odessky’s words about the absence of public mind in chess world sound convincing – at least for me, as I understand nothing in sociology and other similar things. However, the existence of such frivolous matter as «state of minds» would hardly be denied by anybody. To see the assortment of opinions concerning the present situation in chess world, one just has to visit the broadcast of any important tournament on ICC or any other popular playing zone. Looking through the fans’ talks, in a few hours you will get exhaustive information about basic sympathies and antipathies in our mixed community. The reasoning there often looks like «Lakers forever, Celtics suck», but it is hard to expect more when a person has only a few seconds to speak. More thorough judgments can be met in popular guestbooks; newspapers and sites contain expert assessments of grandmasters and journalists.
So, what is going on now, when new sovereign came, and old ones are not finally desecrated? According to my observations, Topalov’s victory has been accepted unconditionally. Well, actually, some careful warnings concerning the necessity of confirming the title in future, began to appear by the end of the second half, after Veselin's long draw streak. People miss heroes; everyone is anxious whether the grandmaster from the best chess country will manage to hold on the level. However, it is future, and right now Topalov enjoys the deserved fame. And not only his Argentinean solo is taken into account, but also a series of preceding successes.
After Veselin has shared the first place in Linares in the beginning of this year, Silvio Danailov wrote an article in the 64, and I laughed genially editing it: it is quite understandable that a person is glad for his friend, but the constructions richly decorated with peacock plumes lacked solid basis. Silvio claimed that before the start of the tournament it was clear that Topalov would win, and that everyone condescendingly agreed to Kasparov’s ownership of the trophy on made-up tie-break: let the old gentleman get happy, as he has decided to finish it all (of course, it was said in other words, but the meaning was like that). There were many similarly strong statements, and I thought what of all that would have hold if Kasparov had not had one-minute aberration and had not chosen this pawn ending, and would have got the clear first place, one point ahead of Topalov… But time consolidated the basis. I am ready to believe «our man in San Luis» that when Garry resigned in his presumably last tournament game, he also transmitted to Veselin his strength and fame, accumulated during decades.
A single tournament rarely changes radically the world Table of Ranks, though chess fans usually are impatient to remake all and everything in one moment. I remember how I tried to bring my young noisy colleagues to reason working on KasparovChess. I told them, «Why should you hoot when the person loses only one game, and exalt his opponent? They will play another game tomorrow with opposite result, and how will you look into the eyes of readers to whom you today explained, that this player is good for nothing and that one is as perfect as God?» And they replied, «You understand nothing, it is exactly what public likes, you should see the way tennis is observed». I left them in peace, but I thought that royal game representatives should better head for less plebeian examples. However, this is a hard philosophic question, so let us turn back to the topic.
And it is quite another matter when somebody makes a series of successes. Such things do not pass unnoticed, and not only on the most elite level. In our case the Tripoli-Wijk aan Zee-Linares-Sofia-San Luis chain does not leave doubts that Topalov deserves the crown. Two other Argentinean favorites Anand and Leko are inevitably fading into the background now. I think Peter will need time to comprehend his results of the last two years. In long-term outlook, he has good chances to struggle for the title again, because he has a unique skill of self-programming.
From my point of view, Anand’s perspectives are vaguer. Vishy is already in the category that trainers usually call «aged». He has so many victories in his resume that in any proper exchanger he would be given two or three crowns for them, and he also has the FIDE world champion title. Moreover, the practice showed once more that it is easier for Anand to play when he does not have the burden of responsibility. I made one more statistical investigation, I do not know what value it has, but I will share the results with you. My database (I admit it is not the biggest and not the most updated one) has around two thousand and something Anand’s games and about 1400 Topalov’s games (Leko is not far from this number too). And the number of encounters that lasted for more than 60 moves is the same for them all. Anand has a bit more, but as you can understand, Anand is not long-playing at all in comparison with his competitors. Can it be observed as a scientific evidence for the fact that Topalov and Leko are more stubborn and persistent? Or the brilliant Indian can easier and quicker deal with opponents? Here I am not sure at all, because Vishy is the representative of different culture. It may seem to us that Vishy has problems with motivation, but what can we really know about Indian purposefulness?
The reasons of Kramnik’s buddhistic idleness were astrologically explained by Ilya Odessky. What are the fruits of champion’s disregard to the public mind? During the years after his match with Kasparov, Volodya managed to acquire the army of ill-wishers. And really, the statement about artistic attitude to chess does not go well with 20-move draws. It is theoretically understandable: piano is not tuned, brushes are worn out, illumination is insufficient, and stage costume is tight so one does not create. But Topalov, Morozevich, Ivanchuk, Shirov, Polgar and others manage to put it all aside! At the same time I would like to support Kramnik in his attitude to the participation in the world championship. After Prague and Brissago it would have been a concession to play in San Luis – concession to those people who deserve it in no case. During these years, every time the FIDE made a slightest progress in organizing the matches that finally did not take place, and there were delays in parallel cycles, the International chess federation officials acted disgustingly gloatingly. This is an emotional argument, and there is a huge number of more essential and understandable reasons.
Nevertheless, if the state of minds were public mind, Kramnik most probably would have no chance for a match with Topalov. And it is rumored that the negotiations are already taking place. Vladimir missed several opportunities to restore his reputation with the help of a few successes, so now he has extra obstacles. It is not easy to wear king's karma! Let us assume that Kramnik wins the Superfinal of Russia, where many participants will arrive directly from Khanty-Mansijsk. First of all, everyone would say that he is fresh, and others are too tired because of the busy schedule, and secondly he has to get not less points than Kasparov got last year, otherwise there would be a great deal of unfavourable comparisons. And there is still a possibility that he does not win… Let us assume that there would be a match with Topalov. Veselin wins – and the world champion-2000 is aside from the chess process. The innate pride would not allow him to ask to wait for him. And if they invite him, then they will do it only on the common basis. If Vladimir wins, there will the same attitude as to Karpov’s victory over Anand in the first Ilyumdzhinov’s championship. Of course, one can smash the opponent with slashing score and make critics bit their tongues, but nowadays such a result looks improbable.
To organize the Topalov-Kramnik match, the FIDE seems to be ready to change the recently proposed and thoroughly thought-out (although a bulky) system. So, it is ready to begin the blank page with striking and crossing out etc. It cannot be helped, we cannot escape from karmic laws here. (I put the opinion of some grandmasters that the next cycle of the world championship will be timed to the next FIDE President elections in parenthesis in horror). And still, with all reservations, the Topalov-Kramnik match could have become a conclusion of the unification process that began in Prague. However, I do not know whether there is a way to explain that to Ponomariov and Kasimdzhanov.
In the end of the reasoning about current situation on the chess stage I will say a few words about an actor that temporarily (?) left it and went outside. We all want Garry to come back, even those who know the fortune of the Terminator from the movie. So I will sketch a couple of possibilities: 1) Kramnik is the world champion after the victory over Topalov. Kasparov tried to organize the return match already, so it is not clear whether the players want to enter these muddy waters once more. 2) Topalov is the world champion after the victory over Kramnik. As it was fairly noted, Veselin’s manager has an experience in negotiations concerning the match with Kasparov…
Not to tire the reader further with branchy calculation tree, I will give only one more possibility: a match between Kasparov and the world champion takes place (the names may differ depending on the time G.K. chooses to come back) finally. Kasparov wins and leaves chess, this time forever. So what is left to us? Maybe, these are exactly the situations Kirsan Nikolaevich took into account when he said that he esteemed Garry Kimovich’s decision and wished him success in new walk of life?
So, this is the futurology. Let me consider my modest contribution to it finished now.