25 January 2016

Finding Nemo

The Wijk-aan-Zee festival in the review of grandmaster Vladimir Dobrov.

This is absolutely amazing and close to unbelievable that this year I have finally made it to one of the strongest tournaments of the Old World – the Tata Steel Chess. If I need to reveal the mystery of how it came about, I will have to confess that it happened through a pure "fault" of my students!
Let me begin with introducing them first - they are Sir X, whose name I might disclose towards the end of the tournament if he performs reasonably well (besides the main “A” and “B” tournaments in Wijk aan Zee they also run various mass round robins) and Sir Y (nicknamed "Sir Novelty"). These fellas exerted an enormous amount of pressure on their exhausted coach almost immediately after the chimes struck midnight.

Preparations for a serious competition in Moscow were underway at full swing and there I go again with my big mouth for showing a few entertaining video clips about super tournaments to one of the young talents.

Here we are, getting down to discussing the nearest event already... The immediate questions from the "restless" started pouring nonstop: Where? When? Is Mamedyarov participating?! What about Carlsen?! Unfortunately, both the former and the latter did, in fact, intend to have their share of the event and, therefore, there was nowhere for me to retreat once it all became known.

In some inscrutable ways our brilliant plans about getting ourselves prepared for the upcoming February frosts started their slow travel down the drain. Raising issues of potential "school absenteeism" would even give birth to cries of excitement, sending the young warrior, already tanked up on alcohol, into a state close to madness. "We absolutely need to go there and meet them in person!" the fellow uttered with a sly smile cracking his face. His eyes began sparkling...

At that moment my recollections of the famous "Kremlin Stars ‘96", when I could virtually feel the smell of chess, would suddenly spring up in my mind. I recalled being fully immersed into an enchanting atmosphere of the competition, which in my memory has up to this very day remained as one of the most significant events of my life. Indeed, such vivid impressions will etch into your memory with a fantastic speed, literally turning your inner world of emotions upside down and supplying you with renewed strength for further achievements, let alone your world of dreams - those sincere and carefree childhood dreams...

Volumes can be written about yet another pupil of mine – but this is a topic of a separate story, which should be rather offered to anyone but faint-hearted individuals! There is nothing more to add to this other than his meeting the idea of school absenteeism with a professorial squint!

So, here we are, boarding the Moscow-Amsterdam flight to go to the nearest post weekend round. In the course of the flight I made up my mind to test their memories and awareness of the twists and turns of the initial four rounds:

- Who is in the lead? 
- Caruana! 
- You do remember his first name, don’t you?! 
X: - Fabi! 
Y: - Don Fabio! 
- What’s so special about Caruana’s menu to give him this such strength? 
Y: - Spaghetti!! 

Well, this how we went on with our dialogs about the most important things in life... Sir Novelty started his resignation to sleep around the Adams - Wei Yi game discussion, while the other warrior, despite his young age, continued posing questions about Mamedyarov’s style of play and persisted in believing in the latter’s inevitable "comeback"! Then I narrated him a lengthy story about Shakhriyar’s making his name in chess and showing him from memory one of the brightest games of Shakhriyar’s, played by him in 2012 in London.

When the final touch was made, the youngster took courage:

“Wow! I think he will by all means show them who the boss is! That's what I want for me in future also!”

“Me too!” cried the author of these lines with a certain degree of irony in his voice, provoking the other two into an immediate excitement - one breaking out into a rolling laughter, while the other one muttering:

- Don’t keep me from sleeping!

I do hope that these young children’s faith will contribute to renewing strength and confidence of one of the most outstanding players of our time. As a matter of fact, the task of chess professionals is not confined to a game of chess alone, but is broader and encompasses transferring knowledge, personal images and "best players’ environment" over to the younger generation, which also helps mold the players or just good people for that matter. I want to believe that one day they will become capable of appreciating and communicating its value over to others, hopefully...

The day off was to be succeeded by round five of the chess competition. According to the tournament regulations the players were to relocate for a single day to Amsterdam into the premises of one of the most unique centers of modern science and technology development.

NEMO Science Center. The huge center admits anyone who feels like visiting it from elderly persons to children - everyone will find something to his/her liking at the cost of only 15 euros. Children can learn more about lightings or how sliding bridges operate, go about watching various demos and films as well as becoming direct participants of experiments by agreeing, for example, to subjecting their bodies for rainbow rays to pass through. In fact, "seeing the world with new eyes" is what the basic philosophy of the center is all about.

To say that I was surprised is to say nothing at all. The unique hyper-modern architectural structure has the form of a ship that was designed to be made of green copper by the Italian maestro Renzo Piano (even though not a chess player himself, much to our grief), who, incidentally, must be known to many owing to his work on the Centre Pompidou project in Paris. Renzo’s idea has embodied itself into fantastic reality - the building is constructed so as if it had just been pulled out of water. This is particularly well observed from the Amsterdam Square.

It was on this ship that the issue of who to become today’s "fisherman" was to be decided.  The questions were who and using what bait those who were going to catch their fish?! How far would they throw out the bait and would they be capable of coming up with good fish striking technique?! Here we cannot but mention the famous saying of many fishing pros, "Big fish, little fish, come on, come on!" There is no difference in weight at this tournament because everyone is getting paid in equal measures, and in euro at that.

So, round 5 is out there with yet another share of exciting games in store for us:

Van Wely - Carlsen 

During the day off a football match took place, in which the paparazzi succeeded in snapping the picture of the Dutchman and Magnus into one frame. After looking through the database for a number of games played between them, it may be noted that virtually every black game (the number of which is now over 10) has seen different opening lines. Therefore I do not rule out the possibility of Magnus making a "joke" and resorting to the Dutch Defence! (?) He made it once already back in 2012. It was here, on the Dutch soil, against Luc in round 13... We can only underline the fact that Van Wely has no fear of Magnus whatsoever and already proved his worth in the past, even though it used to be as many as 10 years ago. I'm sure that Luc’s two memorable victories in 2006 and 2007 will be remembered by Magnus lifelong! In recent times it is the champion who comes out successful out of lengthy struggles. Judging by the number of moves played in each game between Luke and Magnus (it’s above 40 on the average), we are in for a gorgeous show.


Tomashevsky - Eljanov 

Despite well-known grandmasters being at opposite poles in the tournament standings now, we can safely say that the game will witness a balanced sort of fight. I will not touch upon the topic of luck. Everyone playing in the tournament needs it. Just let’s bring certain facts to our memories – during the day off Evgeny went to play football and chopped as many as 7 goals, becoming the top scorer... Will he be equally capable of interrupting his winless run of games in the tournament?! This question is will be answered by Tomashevsky himself, or, perhaps, it will be done by Eljanov...

Ding Liren - Karjakin 

In my mind’s eye there stands a picture of the most recent China - Russia match, in which a robust Chinese fellow Ding Liren, while in a tough battle in a superior position, still ended up being defeated by the China nemesis Karjakin. Sergey, performing for Russia as if he were an epic hero Dobrynya Nikitich or maybe Nikita the Tanner, could for that matter come up with a display of his true chess strength for all residents of the nearby Chinatown to remember!

However, today he is up against a more serious task.

Having sailed quite easily into the winning harbor in his game against Evgeny Tomashevsky and being in high spirits, Sergey left for his day off with all the consequences that come along with it...

Ding, just as all other Chinese people, is also a very ambitious person, surely keeping in mind the previously inflicted wounds. Let's see if Sergey will succeed in getting away with his trademark trick that features the use of "hammer and sickle!" (and maybe even taking some assistance from his new sponsor "Morton!?"). Even though Lenin is no longer junior and no longer young, while the Great October is slightly behind, let's hope that all this will play into the hands of the Mother Russia.

We might safely say this most interesting game of the round is out there waiting for us.

Navara - So 

David Navara, the positive human qualities of whom can be confirmed by any chess player, has been somewhat carried away by additional revolutions that he had gained after his game against Anish. Wesley has also found his way about the tournament and I think his intention is to play second fiddle, adopting the strategy of adjusting to his opponent. David is known to be a noble knight and will fight till the end, usually trying to do so in a spectacular manner. The main question: can David cope with managing of his Czech "Skoda" and adjust the clutch accordingly?!

Caruana - Hou Yifan

The first player is a leader of the tournament and, judging by the fact that Fabiano failed to improve on his tournament standings by winning a seemingly elementary rook ending while being up a pawn, I have a feeling that Yifan is not the one to be envied. A viscous struggle in the Ruy Lopez is to be anticipated...

Wei Yi – Giri 

Until I see Wei with my own eyes to realize that he is a real person like me, I will not judge his mode of actions. I can only share my thoughts about the Chinese chess in general, but will do it later. Therefore, let’s just wish Anish to find his game, because, quite regrettably so, we have yet to see the ease and stability that are so integral to his rational and balanced actions over the board. I am sure the day off rendered him a good service in terms of introducing necessary adjustments into his play.

Mamedyarov - Adams 

Since long ago, since the days of my work for "The Week in Chess" magazine, I remember us often adding the adjective "excellent" to the name of Michael (Spiderman, Iron Mike, or just Mickey)! And despite the fact that more than 12 years have elapsed since those memorable times, Adams has by no means squandered his skills. Well, he may feature less stamina nowadays, but his trademark style has not shrunk. However, I put the energy aspect to the forefront in this game. We are in for a fascinating intrigue (this is especially true now that the additional support unit has arrived)!
Speaking about the “B” tournament, I do hope to see Misha Antipov, who has a hard time passing through the starting segment, as well as our well-known grandmaster Aleksey Dreev. We wish them success!

The middle of the tournament is getting closer every day and further developments promise to be anything but boring. Tomorrow everyone moves back to Wijk. In just a few hours’ time today we are going to learn the names of those whom the ship is going to fetch success, allowing them sailing on, as well as those who will go on catching fish in the troubled waters.

P. S. I do hope not to see any more of the Berlin. However, it so often happens that when you relish prospects of enjoying show, it turns out otherwise. Let's see whether Amsterdam will give us the gift of a miracle?!

To be continued… 

Pictures by Alina L’Ami, from the Jeroen van den Berg’s Twitter page and the selfway.org website