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Candidates 2014: what will it bring?

by Govindaseshan Srikanth
3/13/2014 – In 1948, two years after the untimely demise of the then world champion Alexander Alekhine, the chess world staged a five-player tournament to determine the new World Champion. There were great games played in The Hague and Moscow, but also a series of "imperfections", caused by the interference of the human mind. Will it be the same in Khanty-Mansiysk, Govindaseshan Srikanth asks.
 

FIDE Candidates – historical review

It all started in 1948; after a hiatus of two years, created by the sudden and untimely demise of the then world champion Alexander Alekhine in 1946. Like a kingdom in search of a worthy ruler a committee was formed under the leadership of the only surviving former world champion, Max Euwe, which after much deliberations and designs and the passage of two years, finally decided on a match to be played in The Hague and Moscow between three Russians, one American and one Dutch – arguably the best players notwithstanding the process of selection which came under scrutiny and questions at the time on certain omissions.

World Championship 1948 with Euwe, Smyslov, Keres, Botvinnik and Reshevsky

Final standings of the World Championship tournament 1948

Thus FIDE emerged as an organisation with full power and formed a system of finding a challenger for the reigning world champion and thus our chess travelled a further 66 years, undergoing certain inevitable changes in consonance with the changing times and thinking!

The game has changed: the time controls have changed. The way a particular opening was assessed has undergone a change, the way a particular strategic motif is designed has changed, the way the players prepare has changed. But...

One thing that has not undergone any change is that one most intriguing aspect: actual play! After all, whether it is 2014 or 1948, chess (or for that matter any human endeavour) is played in that fuzzy area called “the mind”, which gets impacted by various factors that are at work in its backyard.

We have seen how a genius of the class of Vishy Anand could succumb to the mind’s wily ways, in the recently concluded world championship. It did not allow Vishy to be Vishy during that match! Things will have changed for him now, with the offloading of the title, which may have weighed heavily - especially as the match was played in the home land. The foreign soil and facing different faces instead of the same demon every day, will also contribute to betterment. Above all, the passage of few months will have sunk in him the thought that after all it is just a game, after all he has reached and survived the test of time at its zenith, after all he has nothing else to lose!

Every other player will also be subjected to similar thought processes in relation to their journey in chess, which would make for the fascination of the contests in the offing! This field too, as in 1948, has some of the finest chess minds in the list, and some missing.

Neuroscientist Jean Pierre Changeux said “the simple fact that we can communicate our experience with others through narratives, poems, and works of art indicates, I believe, that despite individual variability our brains give us access as human beings to experiences that are in agreement with – if not always very similar to – our own. Moreover, despite obvious errors to which we are all liable, the capacity to attribute our own mental states to others indicates that another person has 'personal experience' that is close to 'mine'."

Whatever this intricate observation means to you, I pick that aspect that connects the minds, notwithstanding its variants in terms of who we are, what we are, etc. The art has unifying tendencies – it reduces the distance between minds, transcending geographical, historical and cultural differences. The mind which creates the art would find how close or how different their ways are!

The contests will be fierce, there will be lots of nerves, there will be mistakes and imperfections in the games that will be played, but tell me which creative endeavour does not have these. Is it not the imperfections that beautifies the creation, is not the darkness of night made beautiful by the absence of light – the imperfect moon and her penumbra?

As a curtain raiser to what beholds us in the next fortnight, I wish to draw a brief historical perspective to the "imperfections" created in that glorious past of 1948! I shall start with the most poetic one!

[Event "World Championship 18th"] [Site "The Hague/Moscow"] [Date "1948.04.19"] [Round "13"] [White "Reshevsky, Samuel Herman"] [Black "Keres, Paul"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D45"] [Annotator "Srikanth,G"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r7/1p6/1Pp2k2/2Pp4/3P1P2/PQ2P3/2KB4/q7 w - - 0 55"] [PlyCount "18"] [EventDate "1948.03.02"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "25"] [EventCountry "URS"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] {Reshevsky played here the natural looking} 55. Bc1 $2 ({He missed out on the poetic possibility, suggested by Euwe:} 55. Qb2 Qxa3 56. Qxa3 Rxa3 {and now the pawn avalanche} 57. e4 dxe4 $2 ({Only with the advent of computers we have found that} 57... Ra2+ {was still better for Black.}) 58. d5 $1 cxd5 59. c6 $1 Ra6 60. Ba5 $3 {ensures white a draw after} Ra8 61. Bc3+ Ke6 62. Be5 Rc8 63. Bc7 bxc6 64. b7 Rg8 65. b8=Q Rxb8 66. Bxb8 d4 $11) {After} 55... Rh8 $19 {he had to resign in eight more moves:} 56. e4 Rh1 57. e5+ Ke7 58. Qe3 Qa2+ 59. Kc3 Rh2 60. Qd3 Qa1+ 61. Kb3 Qxc1 62. f5 Qb2+ 63. Ka4 Rh8 0-1

[Event "World Championship 18th"] [Site "The Hague/Moscow"] [Date "1948.03.25"] [Round "10"] [White "Botvinnik, Mikhail"] [Black "Keres, Paul"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E28"] [Annotator "Srikanth,G"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "1948.03.02"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "25"] [EventCountry "URS"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Re8 7. Ne2 e5 8. Ng3 d6 9. Be2 Nbd7 10. O-O c5 11. f3 cxd4 12. cxd4 Nb6 13. Bb2 {In this position, the great attacking instincts of Keres failed to caution him with the prognosis of drifting towards the wrong end, eventually leading him to play weakly and surrender meekly in a 23 move miniature after} exd4 $2 ({He ought to have played} 13... Be6 {provoking the d5 push by White.}) 14. e4 $1 ({ and not} 14. exd4 $2 d5 $1 {etc.}) 14... Be6 15. Rc1 Re7 16. Qxd4 Qc7 $2 17. c5 dxc5 18. Rxc5 Qf4 19. Bc1 Qb8 20. Rg5 Nbd7 21. Rxg7+ $1 Kxg7 22. Nh5+ Kg6 23. Qe3 {and Keres resigned.} 1-0

[Event "World Championship 18th"] [Site "The Hague/Moscow"] [Date "1948.03.09"] [Round "4"] [White "Euwe, Max"] [Black "Smyslov, Vassily"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C98"] [Annotator "Srikanth,G"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3b2n1/1q3p1k/6pp/np2N3/2bBPN2/1pP4P/4QPP1/1B4K1 w - - 0 33"] [PlyCount "20"] [EventDate "1948.03.02"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "25"] [EventCountry "URS"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] {Euwe sacrificed a knight on g6 with} 33. Nexg6 $5 fxg6 {"Mr. Mind" lured even this rational professor to commit suicide with the "spectacular"} 34. Nxg6 $4 ( {Euwe could have easily won with} 34. Qg4 $18 {posing innumerable threats.}) 34... Kxg6 {It must have baffled even Smyslov to have been offered this improbable gift and the game in seven more moves!} ({the idea: if Black grabs the white queen with} 34... Bxe2 $2 35. Nf8#) 35. e5+ Kf7 36. Qh5+ Kf8 37. f4 Bb6 38. Qf5+ Ke7 39. Qh7+ Kd8 40. Bxb6+ Qxb6+ 41. Kh2 Qe3 42. Qf5 Nc6 0-1

I have shown you a glimpse of only the brutal and brief ones, brushing aside the many subtler examples. But that is how a game of chess can be won; at least one player ought to make a mistake and more often than not, the winner is the one who make the last but one mistake or inaccuracy!

Now we shall await the clash of minds, eight to be precise and watch them unfurl and let ourselves to partake in their flits and flights in the coming days!

Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.
Govindaseshan Srikanth is a native of Chennai, with Tamil as his mother tongue and English as his favourite language of expression. He was a contemporary of Vishy Anand during their teens and early 20s days at the Tal Chess Club at the Soviet Cultural Centre, Chennai – a landmark formative period for Vishy, as any chess enthusiast would know.
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