Friday, June 1, 2012

The World Championship effect

Congratulations to Anand for his match victory against Boris Gelfand therefore retaining his World Championship crown. To be honest, it was not much of a spectacle, which even the players admitted to when Gelfand said "We are playing a match, not entertaining the
spectators! We don't have to play out the moves; commentators can explain that." Well of course, they were playing a match and under the rules of the event they both played very professionally. However, is this what the chess world wants, and more to the point, is this what will attract more players and sponsors into chess? Where was the wow factor or that extra something that brings this match to the attention of the whole World?

From a purely chess point of view, I'm sure the match will have an influence on some players. As a young player, I remember seeing greats such as Kasparov and Nunn fighting all the way with Sicilians and King's Indians and the crazy positions they sometimes reached inspired me. Actually, I found my play more attuned to classical types like Alexander Beliavsky who fast became my favourite player. It was a huge boost to see my idol in real life when I was playing in one of the lower sections of a tournament in Amsterdam. Funnily enough, a young Anand was playing in the B tournament that year, and the year before Gelfand played in the same B tournament!

Round 5 of the City of Melbourne Open was played last Monday. I was sat on board 2 in the back room which houses 6 of the boards. I was horrified to see that in 5 of those games white had started with almost exactly the same positional structure and I couldn't help wondering whether the World Championship Match had influenced the white players into positional chess. I was looking at my game where my opponent, David Beaumont, had played an English as white with a king side fianchetto. During my opponent's time, I glanced to my left to see Malcolm Pyke also using his favoured king side fianchetto in a Queen's Indian type position against John Dowling. I then turned left and noticed Rad Chmiel had exactly the same pawn structure as Malcolm, albeit with pieces on different squares. I checked again...pawns on a2, b2, c3, d4, f2, g3, h2. I then looked back at my board seeing a similar white pawn structure of a2, b2, c4, d3, e4, f2, g3, h2. Probably my fault for differing from the black perspective! Oh well, amusing I thought, I'll go for a quick stroll. Hang on!! Richard Voon also has the white king side does Paul God, it's a damn conspiracy. What about board 1? Phew, thankfully Ari dale is too young to be involved in this conspiracy and has thrown his queen side pawns up the board instead!

Indeed, 5 of the 6 top boards saw white playing a king side finachetto in either an English or Catalan style opening. I've never really been too much of a fan of these opening systems, but I am no doubt batting for the wrong side as white scored 4/5 in these games, and I was one of the losers! My game against David Beaumont was a really interesting affair (I seem to get more interest out of my losses than my wins these days...perhaps I need to lose more to keep up the interest in the game!) which saw David intent on a king side attack, launching his f and g pawns. I thought I defended pretty well up to a while, and then I just blundered a piece, missing a blocking tactic. I have to say, that the post mortem showed that David is tactically pretty sharp at the moment, probably a result of the amount of decent chess he is playing. Besides the Monday night event he is also playing in the Victorian Reserves tournament on Thursdays. I have to admit that I am pretty disappointed that I missed this tactic, that I'd been aware of on previous moves! I've been working hard tactically and have been pretty sharp so far this year. Oh well, back to the tactics grindstone for me and a chase to catch the leaders of the tournament as I've now dropped to equal 5th a point behind Ari Dale, and half a point behind David Beaumont, Justin Penrose and Rad Chmiel (who is having a good start to this event). However, it is all still really close and with 4 rounds still to go, probably half the field still have a realistic possibility of finishing in the top 3 places.

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