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Akopian and the Revenge of the Tourists

4/22/2009 – In Nalchik there is a player coming up from behind. Vladimir Akopian started badly, but won his last two games to move up the table. People forget that the Armenian was runner-up in the FIDE knockout world championship in 1999, and has a plus score against Garry Kasparov. Dennis Monokroussos, our Playchess lecturer, shows us a stunning Akopian win against the greatest player ever.

Dennis Monokroussos writes:

During the knockout event that was the 1999 FIDE World Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada, there were upsets a-plenty. Nisipeanu knocked out Ivanchuk and Shirov; Fedorov defeated Timman (after Timman had beaten a very young Aronian); Movsesian beat Leko; Georgiev beat Svidler; Adams beat Kramnik; Akopian beat Adams; Khalifman beat Kamsky, Gelfand and Polgar – and on and on it went. Around the time of the semi-finals, when only Adams, Akopian, Nisipeanu and Khalifman were left, Garry Kasparov – then still in possession of the other world championship title – infamously and dismissively dubbed most of the participants in the FIDE event "tourists".

Needless to say, few of the participants were amused by this remark, which was supposed to mean that (with few exceptions) the players were hoping to get lucky but weren't really contenders – just there to see the sights. Both of the finalists, Alexander Khalifman (who won) and Vladimir Akopian, reacted in their own way. Khalifman criticized Kasparov and the super-tournament system, arguing that it served to protect participants' ratings while excluding a large group of players who could also compete successfully at that level, given the chance. As for Akopian, his response came over the board.

Akopian (born in December of 1971) didn't win that FIDE K.O. event, but he won the world u-16 and u-18 championships (and early, too, when he was 14 and 16, respectively), has enjoyed a 2700+ rating on many occasions, and has to his credit wins over many of the world's elite, including Kramnik (when the latter was world champion) and Kasparov himself.

The year was 2002, and the event was a Russia vs. the Rest of the World team event in Moscow. This was their first tournament meeting in several years, and Akopian undoubtedly came to the board with something to prove. And prove something, he did, demolishing the world's #1 and probably greatest-ever player in just 25 moves. They played again some time later that year, in the Olympiad, and Kasparov didn't beat him that time either; in fact, Kasparov's career score against Akopian in tournament games was a dim +0 -1 =3 (he did beat him 5-0 in some Internet blitz games in 1998, and in a clock simul in 1986 when Kasparov was world champ and Akopian probably 14.)

We'll discuss the game, and the purely chess lessons to be drawn from it, tonight at 9 p.m. ET (Thursday 3 a.m. CET). To watch, log on, enter the Broadcasts room and then either look for Kasparov-Akopian under the games tab or double-click on my handle (Initiative). It's simple and it's free. As for the psychological lessons, at least one should be obvious: don't insult your future opponents!

Hope to see you there tonight.

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST, which translates to 02:00h GMT, 03:00 Paris/Berlin, 13:00h Sydney (on Thursday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.

You can find the exact times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures. The lectures, which can go for an hour or more, will cost you between one and two ducats. That is the equivalent of 10-20 Euro cents (14-28 US cents).

Monokroussos in Mexico: World Championship 2007

Dennis Monokroussos is 41, lives in South Bend, IN, where he teaches chess and occasionally works as an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University-South Bend.

At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S. and has reached a peak rating of 2434 USCF, but several long breaks from tournament play have made him rusty. He is now resuming tournament chess in earnest, hoping to reach new heights.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for ten years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.

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