Izvestia “improves” Sutovsky’s article, Süddeutsche Zeitung refers to fabrication

Preface: I did cover the Carlsen-Karjakin match in German, so did many other sources in many languages – no need to translate my articles on the match itself. This post-match piece appeared in German yesterday (5th December), here I translate it as published and mention recent developments at the end. I did consider the world championship match to be ‘over’, also from a journalistic point of view, and I do separate chess from politics as much as possible. But this article “has to be written”.

To first mention media and persons involved: For Izvestia in Russian at least two persons – upon invitation Israeli grandmaster (with roots in Azerbaidjan) and ACP president Emil Sutovsky and, not requested by Sutovsky, at least one unnamed member of Izvestia’s staff. Izvestia can currently be considered a government-friendly tabloid. Sutovsky wrote about it on Facebook, these are certainly 100% his own words. Later, after the original (or second) version had already been quoted internationally, Izvestia changed and thereby somewhat ‘softened’ the article.

For Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frank Nienhuysen translated and quoted Sutovsky or rather (he couldn’t know) Izvestia’s final editor. I can’t blame him for this, but maybe for the fact that he called Sutovsky ‘Russian’ [situation on 5th December, see below for later correction]. Süddeutsche Zeitung is an independent German quality newspaper; Nienhuysen is (according to the profile accompanying the article) an experienced staff member (since 1994) and expert for Eastern European politics – certainly not relying on Google Translate for Russian sources.

From my personal point of view: When I write about chess (or my other hobby running), I am currently always amateur or at most incidental freelancer, certainly not a professional.

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(After) Russian Higher League and Superfinal


This webpage is updated only sporadically, for two reasons: 1) lack of time and 2) I basically include only topics that are a) (hopefully) interesting for an international audience but b) hardly covered by other English-language sites. This doesn’t happen every day or month … .

“Russian chess news and interviews in English” used to be covered by Chessintranslation – but this site, while still worthwhile visiting, is “dead” since August 2013. For a reason: Owner and content provider Colin McGourty was hired by chess24; elements of his former own site now appear there every now and then, among much more. “Chess in Google Translation” is also one of my ‘hobbies’ (if needed, with help from people fluent in Russian), but this time I took a different approach: contact a player directly via his chess24 profile, questions and answers in English.

This post includes excerpts from two articles previously published in German – one after he won the semifinal (Higher League) of the Russian championship, the second one after he scored a respectable 50% in the Superfinal that included several 2700+ players. Title photo from the Superfinal coverage of the Russian Chess Federation. Grigoriy Oparin may still be relatively unknown outside of Russia, and even within Russia somewhat in the shadow of other young players. Back in December 2014 Colin McGourty wrote about him on the occasion of the “Christmas Nutcracker” event (Russian version of ‘Rising Stars vs. Experience’): “The least known player in the tournament …” – not only compared to the ‘old ones’ Shirov, Morozevich, Leko and Dreev, also compared to the other teenagers (at the time, two had their 20th birthday after then and before now) Artemiev, Fedoseev and Dubov. This may have changed a bit over the last almost two years – because of Oparin’s successes and because Dubov somewhat stagnates.

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Chess player (extended world top), coach, book author, person

Draw discussion Wijk aan Zee 2016

“Schachticker” has a section “Kalenderblätter” about anniversaries in the chess scene; one name mentioned in the preview 2016 (published 23 December 2015) was particularly appealing to me – I can do research and write something. The reason is for example the title photo (Alina l’Ami, Wijk aan Zee backstage 2016): Vladimir (according to some sources Wolodymir) Tukmakov is in the center, but – like two other persons, to his right Gert Ligterink and at the very left barely visible yours truly Thomas Richter – was mainly listening: Loek Van Wely and Anish Giri discuss, whether it was OK to agree a draw after 20 moves (as Loek, not Anish, had done against Karjakin).

I “know” Tukmakov primarily as coach of (currently) Anish Giri, this was his role 2015 und 2016 in Wijk aan Zee, a bit “indirectly” as book author, hardly as active player (but Wikipedia and other sources can help), and most recently in an interview I got to know him a bit as a person. The article starts with another anecdote, then it becomes historical with photo documentation, and at the end I will introduce and present the already mentioned interview.

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Who voted for whom, and why?

[Edited and updated translation of a German version] Early January 2016 is the time to look back on 2015, also regarding chess. I will focus on “best player” and skip the rest: best game, best endgame, highlights and lowlights, … . Many people, experts and others (titled and untitled chess players) seem to agree who should and will get the Chess Oscar, once again. Only one person seems to disagree, saying – in English more clearly than in German – “I want to make a certain point”. From #2 onwards people disagree – players are mentioned or not, and ranked quite differently.

Chronologically: (For me) Emil Sutovsky was the first one to publish his “vision of the Chess Oscar 2015” on Facebook. Chess24 ‘recycled’ his list, which provoked discussions and eventually six more lists. More or less concurrently two other experts published their lists: Stefan Löffler – in German here, in English  here, and Sergey Shipov – Russian version here, English translation also at chess24. This piece is inspired by the discussion at chess24, including my own contributions – but there each comment is limited to 2000 characters, here I can mention everything and more in one article. My own opinion is one of many, and turned out to be surprisingly “average” or “mainstream”.

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(Also) a comparison Ashdod-London

IvanchukIn my tournament preview (available only in German) I wrote that Ivanchuk previously had rapid chess successes mainly in Latvia – but he certainly didn’t regret his trip to Ashdod, Israel. To briefly summarize his tournament: Group phase convincing, semifinal against Nepomniachtchi somewhat lucky (but this may have been the early final, and what happened was nothing compared with the other semifinal Bacrot-Gelfand), final against Bacrot very convincing. Title photo from Yochanan Afek via Facebook.

I will also mention the other participants, and document some important (or not as important for the continuation of the tournament) moments with diagrams. As Emil Sutovsky commented on the other tournament in London, I will compare both events – even if it might not make sense to compare different time controls. Chaos in rapid and possibly blitz/Armaggedon games can still happen in London, this would be round 10 of 9 (tiebreaks). In Ashdod the winner played ten games – (at least) eleven were scheduled, but the final had an early finish.

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Venue of play: 5-Star Fairmont HotelThe FIDE World Chess Cup, an integral part of the World Championship Cycle 2014-2016, is starting in no more than a day.

The long waited event will take place from September 10 – October 5, 2015, at the Grand Ballroom of Fairmont Baku Hotel*****, in Azerbaijani capital Baku.

There shall be six (6) rounds of matches comprising two (2) games per round, with the winners progressing to the next round, plus the final seventh (7th) round comprising of four (4) games.

World #3 Veselin Topalov (2816) heads the strong field of 128 players, including #4 Hikaru Nakamura (2814), #5Fabiano Caruana (2808), #6 Anish Giri (2793), Liren Ding (2782), Vladimir Kramnik (2777), Wesley So (2773), Alexander Grischuk (2771), Levon Aronian (2765), Sergey Karjakin (2762).

You can see Round 1 pairings and tournament scheme below… More

The Bilbao Chess Final Masters 2015 will take place 26 October until 1 November in Bilbao, Spain. The Dutchman of Russian origin, Anish Giri (21 years old and  Bilbaio-Chess-2015ranked sixth internationally), the Chinese man Liren Ding (22 years old and ranked seventh) and the American of Philippine origin, Wesley So (21 years old and tenth in the classification) are the new blood of the world chess elite. Opposite them on the other side of the chess board and providing an exciting intergenerational clash, the veteran five times world champion and defending tournament champion, Viswanathan Anand, 45, from India. These four players comprise the attractive line up for the latest and eighth edition of the Bilbao Grand Slam Masters Final presented today in the capital of Biscay.

The tournament, one of the main events on the international calendar, will take place in the Campos Elíseos Theatre from 26 October until 1 November, coinciding partially with the VI Individual Ibero-American Championship. The latter event will last another two days until 3 November and will involve up to 200 players. This double sporting event, referred to as Bilbao Chess 2015, will once again convert the capital of Biscay into the capital of world chess.
Viswanathan Anand, the five times world champion and defending champion, was the winner of the last edition of the Masters Final which, under the title Bilbao Chess 2014, took place at the same time as the chess European Club Cup.

Replay Bilbao Chess 2014 games

This year’s edition of the Grand Slam Final will be held in its headquarters in Bilbao and will be played with all players facing each other over two rounds. In accordance with revolutionary rules which differentiate the Bilbao tournament from other international tournaments, a spectacle will be guaranteed in every game: the so-called “Sofia Rule” will again be applied, establishing that only the referee will have the power to determine whether a game is drawn or not, thus avoiding pacts between players. On top of this, a scoring system similar to football will also return, awarding three points for a win, one for a draw and no points for a defeat. This system was used for the first time in an elite tournament in the 2008 Bilbao Masters Final and is known as the “Bilbao Rule”… More

Really a new era in chess?

This article (or rather column/opinion piece) was published in German on April 25th, the translated version is modified here and there as additional information became available. A press conference in St. Louis had been introduced as “biggest announcement in professional international chess since 1988”. “New era in chess” is from chess24 [the English version has been extensively updated and the title was apparently changed – but the hyperlink reflects the initial title]. They added a question mark, so do I. What is it all about? The new, well not really new concept is that some existing tournaments work together under the name “Chess Tour”. Earlier the name ‘Golden League’ circulated. What else is new? They agreed that players like Gelfand, Svidler and Naiditsch (this name was for a German audience, fill in other names as you wish) will NOT be invited – only the very best (plus one wildcard) are welcome. They have lots of money and spend it – on players that are already rich or at least affluent. Last but not least: Kasparov (in a secondary role also Short) play a chess political role. Disclaimer at the start: not everything that follows is absolutely seriously meant, sometimes I tend to be ironic or sarcastic.

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One Swiss open representative for many?

Preface: This article was initially published in German almost a year ago before the 2014 edition of this event in Maastricht – southeastern corner of the Netherlands, very close to Germany, Belgium and also northern France. But the story is rather timeless. The current version is edited and updated here and there – also a little bit on the tournament in 2014 and a preview on 2015. The idea, discussed with one of the organizers, is also to motivate people to play in Maastricht during the Whit Sunday weekend. When is the right moment to (re-)publish this story? Maybe now, with about two months to go and the top of the field probably largely defined. Most participants come from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, but anyone is welcome (titled players would need to contact the organizers on whether conditions are still available). And now … I copied the German text into the editor and will start to translate, change, delete, add, ….. .

It might be inappropriate or “at the limit” to put one open tournament into the spotlights – hence a disclaimer at the very start: this article is representative for many more or less comparable tournaments in many places. The idea developed in an unusual way:

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Ivanchuk ahead of all, Fridman ahead of Naiditsch


IvanchukPreface: This article was initially published in German aimed at a German audience. It might be worthwhile translating it (even with a delay of about one week) because this tournament got relatively limited international English-language media attention, despite the participation of several (former) world-top players. I left the bits and pieces (including the second part of the subtitle) primarily relevant for German readers.

During the decisive phase of this tournament, I mostly watched the last round of the European championship; later I reconstructed what had happened in Jurmala. In rapid chess, particularly in rapid chess, it might be questionable to apply engine standards to all moves – but that’s the only way to “make sense” of many games with limited time (and limited own chess understanding).

It might not be the case for every single game, but generally Ivanchuk and Mamedyarov played creative-complicated chess, while Gelfand and Karjakin had a more dry-positional approach to their games. Among the German-Latvian GMs, Naiditsch is more adventurous like those first named, and Fridman more of a quiet and solid player. How would they fare in the tournament as a whole, and particularly against the mentioned world-top players? I cannot answer these question(s) completely. First the final standings:  Ivanchuk 9/11, Karjakin, Gelfand and Rapport 8.5, Mamedyarov, Sakaev, Fridman 8, Shirov, Tomashevsky, Khalifman, Fedorov, Krasenkow, Popov, van Wely 8. Some names are missing, e.g. Naiditsch (7/11) and Morozevich (5.5/10 – then he left the tournament and forfeited his game against German IM Olaf Heinzel).

Regarding photos: There are two tournament sites – apologies for not remembering where I found which photos, both didn’t mention the photographer(s) by name.


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The decisive phase of the tournament


MVL (all photos by Alina l’Ami)

This post will be about the second half of the event, when the final standings gradually took shape. First place might have been half-decided already before the final round, last place was rather clear relatively early. Shared second place (or rather who and how many would share second place) became clear only in the very last of 13 rounds. Only that much about the results of the A group – I assume that most readers are already familiar with the purely chessic part of Tata Steel 2015.

This second article will be a bit longer – because I could obtain some longer interviews and because I could ask for final comments only after the last round. Today’s title photo goes to a player with whom I had one of the longest interviews, and (as explained below) probably the most formal one. I use the short version of his name – it seems that he himself doesn’t mind – but of course his full name is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave AKA “the Frenchman with two names”. The picture [click to enlarge as for all other photos] also reveals a few more things: the overall atmosphere on the stage shortly after the round has started, whom he played (someone from Norway), which opening appeared (Grunfeld, what else if white plays 1.d4 against MVL?) and which supplies the players brought to the round – there might be an invisble banana next to MVL’s bottles.

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Verbal highlights from six days at the venue


Baadur Jobava (all photos by Alina l’Ami)

This might be a bit inspired by “Chess in Tweets” – with one difference: While Eric Reem’s effort to collect-compile-select material from the Twittersphere is certainly appreciated, this article has mostly quotes that – to my knowledge – aren’t available anywhere else on the Internet. At least in English, many already appeared in my German reports on Tata Steel 2015, collectively available here. Some are from press conferences, I use only the answers to my own questions. In some other cases, it was a matter of being at the right spot at the right moment, often with no other reporters nearby – sometimes it was pure luck, sometimes I pushed my luck a little bit. One interview was partly held in the bus from Wijk aan Zee to Beverwijk and the train from Beverwijk to Uitgeest. At one occasion, a casual chat (initially not meant to be published) resulted in an interesting and possibly exclusive quote.

It was my seventeenth year in Wijk aan Zee as a spectator, and the second time as a reporter with access behind the scenes. It might be relatively unknown to an international audience that Wijk aan Zee isn’t just one or two (formerly three) GM tournaments but a chess festival also for hundreds of amateurs. I always also paid some attention to these amateur events, be it only because I know a number of participants (at various levels from top group to the lowest group 9) personally. I will also have one (actually two) amateur quote(s), and some interviews with grandmasters that were hardly mentioned in other reports. For those only interested in a Carlsen quote: there will be one at the very end, but not an exclusive one – throughout the event, he was hard to catch and largely monopolized by Norwegian TV. The title photo shows a player who – to put it mildly – didn’t join the fight for first place in the A group. But in my opinion Baadur Jobava was the most entertaining player during, after and even before his games. And now in rough chronological order – Day 1-6 corresponds to rounds 1, 2, 6, 8, 11 and 13:

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Under construction


Analysis in Wijk aan Zee 2015 (Photo by Alina l’Ami)


This is a new chess site – or rather an offspring of the existing German Schachticker. Content will gradually appear – primarily edited/abridged translations of selected articles previously published in German. The reader shouldn’t expect very frequent updates: for the time being, there is only one author – an amateur with a regular paid job who does this in his spare time next to other chess writing! The first article, to appear soonish, will be “Wijk aan Zee in quotes”, one outcome of six days in Wijk aan Zee with access to the press area.

The title photo shows the author (jeans, black jackett and red shirt) “at work”, together with some other people he brings down the Elo average in the analysis room. Readers may find out on their own how many people they recognize on the photo. Just two hints: the grey-haired person at the very left is not Jan Timman who was still playing when the photo was taken. The hidden person at the very right is IM Robert Ris – briefly more clearly visible in one of the tournament videos on round 11. For today, just a few words on the author:


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