17 July 2015

There Are Things to Learn From Veterans!

The conclusion of a friendly match between Anatoly Karpov and Evgeny Sveshnikov in the final review of Vladimir Barsky from Riga.

In the final game day Anatoly Karpov continued his winning streak by gaining the upper hand in the fifth game also. The opponents went on debating in the line 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.e3 c5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bb5+ Nc6. By the way, in the after game analysis Evgeny Sveshnikov argued that there was nothing in this position for White, whereas the ex-World Champion answered back:

“This is the Nimzo-Indian Defence with the colors reversed. I did play such positions for a win even with black pieces, even more so being up a tempo!”

It appears that Evgeny Ellinovich failed to call to mind his home preparation and soon ended up in a pretty grim ending.

Karpov – Sveshnikov
Game Five

Here Black needed to trade his bishop for a knight, with likely chances of bailing out in the resulting rook ending. Instead, there followed an "exchange of courtesies":

32...Rd2? 33.Nc5?

33.Rd8+ Kh7 34.Rd8 was winning on spot as Black cannot avoid losing the pinned piece. However, even after the move in the game Karpov reeled in his advantage: 

33...Bb5 34.Ra8+ Kh7 35.Ne4 Rb2 36.Ng5+ Kg6 37.Nh3 Kf6 38.Nf4 g5 39.Nxh5+ Ke7 40.hxg5 Bd3 41.Ra4 Bb1 42.Rxb4 Bxa2 43.Re4+ Kf8 44.b4 Bd5 45.Rf4 Ke7 46.Kg3 Kd6 47.Nf6 Be6 48.Ng4 Black resigns. 

Thus, the 12th World Champion secured his ahead-of-time victory in the match. However, in accordance with the match regulations the final game was still to be conducted: although Sveshnikov did desire to score another "consolation goal", Karpov didn’t fail to neutralize the minor pressure exerted by his opponent. When Karpov overtook the initiative, he declined the repetition of moves more than one time, raking up for the slightest chance to break through. While the banquet noises started to be heard and the musicians were busy tuning their instruments on the ground floor of the "Tal Residence”, Karpov, who had already won the match, went fighting on and on, and agreed to a draw only upon having exhausted all available resources. Well, Anatoly Yevgenyevich is fond of playing chess!

I asked the strongest grandmaster of Latvia Alexei Shirov to sum up the overall results of the match:

“The games played on the first and third days, when I was commenting, turned out to be nice, while the games of the second day were a disappointment. No surprises happened as Eugene Ellinovich proved himself a player of some unique amplitude of force at different periods of the time. Here, in Latvia, it was more than once that he lost his games to the first category players. However, at a tournament that took place in Jurmala in March, for example, he defeated Tomashevsky with black pieces shortly after the latter won the FIDE Grand Prix. The process went along similar lines here as well. Five games have been played on a normal level of fight, when the overall outcome of 3-2 in Karpov's favor is probably quite logical. Why it was that Sveshnikov did play so poorly in game four is hard to say.”

“If we compare these two players in the prime of their careers, then, perhaps, the overall score 4-2 would be a fair result. After all, Karpov has been a stronger player even when Sveshnikov was a very strong defender.”

“Was it interesting for you as a performing grandmaster to follow the course of the match?”
“Sure! It was especially interesting to observe Karpov overcoming the lack of practical performance, to see him adapting to an unpleasant for himself situation as it became immediately clear on the very first day that he was out of shape. I hope that I managed to come to useful conclusions for myself as a player how to regain shape by watching Karpov do it. Veterans have succeeded in demonstrating that they have always something in store for others to learn from!”

“To what degree has the Karpov’s black opening repertoire proved to be surprising?”
“It proved to be completely unexpected! The method that he used is still practiced among active players, (I have been resorting to it myself): the game "follows smb’s tracks", i.e. the choice of openings falls in favor of those ones that are regularly employed by the opponent himself and where he seems to know almost everything there is to know. You go for it when you are completely confident in your preparation. Of course, I have never expected Karpov to resort to the openings that Sveshnikov has been playing all his life as Black. And he did repeat the Sicilian in the fourth game, when Evgeny Ellinovich allowed himself to be outplayed in the opening in a way that he himself used to outsmart what counts to be no less than a couple of hundreds of fans! It's a pity that we failed to see the true opening dispute in this game.”

“The fourth game spoilt the course of the match to a certain extent. But apart from that everything else was on a proper level. However, if you consider the last game, then 6.Qe2+, in my opinion is not the most principled continuation and better is 6.Bxd7+. I believe that Sveshnikov is aware of it. When you follow the game of veterans (and I, too, should regard myself as one already!), you start to realize that they have reached a point when it has become increasingly difficult to display utmost accuracy. Sometimes, when striving for this very accuracy, you are simply missing rather simple continuations. However, the main thing is that both players have demonstrated themselves as players to be reckoned with, that's for sure!”

“In my opinion, Karpov’s performance in games 3 and 5 was on a very high level, starting right from the opening. On the second and third day Karpov proved himself to be the real Karpov! As for Sveshnikov, his white colour in games 4 and 6 was not felt. Maybe Eugene Ellinovich does not really feel comfortable in the match environment. On the other hand, the tournaments saw the same thing happening to him as one day he can play on a very strong level, while the next day he fails to do so.”

“Has this match aroused much interest in Riga, in Latvia?”
“The problem is that the match has been postponed for several times. Initially it was scheduled to run in April, and at some point many have ceased to believe that it was ever going to take place. I had to convince people that, after all, everything was all right and agreed upon. Maybe, some chess fans have not had enough time to tune to this event. Although it might turn out that the match timing happened to be perfect as Eugene Ellinovich was in a good shape, although he still lacked something in the final run.”

“What can I say about the interest in the match? I have some feedback on my Facebook account, although I was not trying to advertise the match on purpose. I should note a lucky coincidence about the complex "Tal Residence" having been launched into operation and having begun its life with a chess event, i.e. the match between the two renowned chess figures. This is definitely a positive moment. Had chess managed to preserve at least a small amount of its former prestige, which it possessed some 30 years ago, it would be just great! The way it goes one could not help thinking that when the battles are over and the smoke has cleared the next time the chess will remember about is perhaps... well, during the Vladimir Petrov Memorial in Jurmala, in the best case.”

“But your festival in Limbazi is scheduled to take place soon?”
“It's still a local event that has not matured to the point of becoming full-fledged yet. The fact that all our strongest grandmasters are willing to participate there is already a great thing!”