Let's Go to the Movies!

3/26/2003 – Pop your popcorn and grab your date, it's time for the real awards show. Mig wraps up all the recent news and views in Academy Awards style and you won't have to see any more pictures of Catherine Zeta-Jones, we promise. Who will win Best Performance, Best Music, Foreign Drama? Find out in Mig on Chess #188

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Mig on Chess #188:

Let's Go to the Movies!

The Melody Amber blindfold-rapid party, I mean tournament, is keeping our attention right now, and news continues to be what we haven't heard about the Kramnik-Leko world championship match. The fallout from Linares and the closing ceremony has hit the ground and I talked to Kasparov about it. The Oscars came and went quietly, although I'm borrowing them for this week's theme anyway. I'm intentionally ignoring the biggest news of the past week, but I imagine you've had enough of it.

Let's roll out the red carpet on the recent news. What to call these marvelous gold-plated statuettes? The Chessies? The Miggies? The envelopes please...

Best Performance in a Leading Role: Peter Leko in "The Hungarian Patient"

The last bandages have been peeled away from Peter Leko's game to reveal a player with little resemblance to the one we knew a few years ago. His new trainer/father-in-law Arshak Petrosian as the beautiful young nurse seems a little unlikely, but hey, it's a movie. In Linares Leko tied with Kramnik for first with +2, but was the star of the show. He rose and fell like the sand dunes of the Sahara and took the title with his first win over Anand in a finish that was pure Hollywood.

Left: Peter Leko accepting his award. His acceptance speech was too long to include here.

Best Music: Kramnik, Leko, Hensel, Timmins in "The Silence of the Clams"

There has been some singing and some dancing, but the plot so far is weak. Time is very tight for organizing the Kramnik-Leko classical world championship match if we are to retain any hope of unification this year. Kramnik and Leko are both playing in Dortmund in July-August. Are they giving any consideration to playing in a unification match that is tentatively scheduled for October-November? It's starting to look like we are down to two possibilities: 1) Einstein can't get satisfactory match sponsorship or 2) they are happy to go their own way and blow off unification. (Or both.)

You might hope that having Leko and Kramnik tie for first in Linares would help, but major sponsors rarely pay attention to such things. Leko has had solid sponsorship in Germany for most of his career, the question is whether or not they can put together enough money to satisfy Kramnik and cover expenses. The silence has not been reassuring. Not only is unification at risk, but fans would miss out on a great match if this collapses. We can only hope that the current pianissimo is building up to something fortissimo, and prontissimo. Cross your fingers and hope this is just a plot twist. Maybe it will be like "Memento" and they'll play the match and then get the sponsorship and venue.

Best Visual Effects: Vladimir Kramnik in "Scent of a Checkmate"

He couldn't see the pieces but they danced a tango that Al Pacino would envy. In the second round of the Melody Amber tournament in Monaco, still underway, Kramnik played a spectacular combination against Topalov in their blindfold game. The game ended this picturesque scene. Black's pieces are on their initial squares and White's rook and king form a mating net.

The Lionel Kieseritziky Supporting Actor Lifetime Achievement Award: Veselin Topalov

The Bulgarian has won many great games, but 100 years from now Topalov might be remembered as our Kieseritzky, known more for the spectacular games he has lost. Just off the top of my head there was his loss in Kasparov greatest game in Wijk aan Zee in 1999 and the year before that he was on the wrong end of Shirov's famous ..Bh3!! in Linares. His loss to Kramnik last week earns him this dubious honor, but we thank him for his eternal fighting spirit.


No Evgeny, the blindfold is over!

Worst Animated Performance: Garry Kasparov in "Azerbaijani Beauty"

Kevin Spacey could not have done it better. Kasparov's eruption over the Linares 2003 'Most Beautiful Game' prize going to his loss to Radjabov stole the scene and the show. Leading actors Leko and Kramnik, who only won the tournament, were thoroughly upstaged.

When I talked with Kasparov last week about his performance he was repentant about his behavior but more convinced than ever about being in the right on the matter. "I'm ashamed of my behavior during those 10 minutes, it was over the top. I was tired and upset and I can apologize. But [Ian] Rogers and Leontxo [Garcia] should also be ashamed. What they did was a blow to classical chess. Is Makropoulos right? Is chess all about blunders now? Linares is supposed to be about classical chess. If that game can be given a beauty prize then classical chess is dead."

"If it had been a prize for most memorable game then I would have handed it to Radjabov myself! It was the first time I lost to someone born after I won my title! I didn't say anything when the prize went to my losses to Ivanchuk in 1991 and 1997. My loss to Kramnik in 1994 also got the prize, but all right, that was a spectacular game."

Kasparov also wanted to clear the air about the stories regarding his manners at the end of the Radjabov game. Starting with the Spanish reports and moving on to TWIC, he was criticized for not shaking Radjabov's hand at the end of the game. TWIC also added that Kasparov had "deliberately lost on time," a bizarre thing to say about someone in a lost position with very little time left on his clock and one move from the time control. Adding up the time stamps of the moves broadcast on the internet confirms that Kasparov couldn't have had more than a minute or two left.

As for the handshake, Kasparov said he was angry and got up from the board in a huff, but that he spoke with Radjabov and his father after the game and shook Radjabov's hand. He pointed out that he has known Radjabov's parents since the 70's and has always been on good terms with the Baku family. I think it's safe to say that Kasparov's behavior was bad enough without fabricating ways in which it could have been worse.

Radjabov says that he was too wrapped up in thinking about what Kasparov might play to notice. It didn't dawn on him until later that he had created the story of the year!

With internet speed, the stories around the closing ceremony incident soon became more of a story than the incident itself. Kasparov has burned so many bridges that he is far from able to get the benefit of the doubt. This mutually antagonistic relationship with much of the chess press has become self-perpetuating. Shouting at journalists isn't going to help, although Leontxo Garcia writes in to say that he did a TV show with Kasparov a day later in Madrid and they even had dinner together.

As for the end of his streak of ten supertournament wins, Kasparov said he wished he could do a better job distributing his points tournament to tournament. "Maybe plus three or four all the time is better than a few great plus sixes and sevens mixed in with a plus one like this year and in 1998." But only Kramnik seems able to regulate his score at will. His perpetual +2 has netted him two shared firsts in Linares.

Best Foreign Drama: Leontxo Garcia and Miguel Illescas in "Maestros al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios" (Spain)

Speaking of Spain, some of the vitriol around the incident was apparently regional. One of the first-person accounts was by GM Miguel Illescas, who quoted Kasparov's closing ceremony exchange with Garcia as containing criticism of Garcia's on-site game commentary. Garcia has vigorously refuted this allegation, saying that Kasparov said nothing about his commentary and that Illescas was bitter because he had wanted the commentary job himself. (Indeed the two other eyewitnesses I spoke to said they didn't recall any mention of Leontxo's commentary from Kasparov. And one of my witnesses is Kasparov...) Between the players, the politicians, and the journalists, you wonder who's in center ring in this Almodovarian circus.

Best Short Film (Live Action): Ruslan Ponomariov in "Gangs of Andorra"

I bet you didn't even know Andorra was a country, let alone a nation in possession of two International Masters. The chess fans in this tiny Catalan-speaking nation (population ~65,000) between Spain and France have made a tradition of inviting a Linares participant to stop by and thrash their local players in a blitz event. This time it was FIDE champ Ponomariov versus Oscar de la Riva Aguado in a six-game blitz match. Ponomariov took out his Linares frustrations by stomping the 2528 Aguado 5-1. The Andorran did get a consolation win in the fifth game , but his was a purely supporting role.

Best Computer Effects: The Dos Hermanas Internet Tournament players in "Catch Me If You Can"

I recently wrote a brief eulogy for 'advanced chess' (here, item #68) in which GMs play while using computers. The tournament of its birth, Leon, has decided on a regular rapid event this year with Topalov, Ponomariov, Karjakin, and Vallejo. But after examining the games of the Dos Hermanas Internet event at the ICC this week it's clear that the rumors of advanced chess's death have been greatly exaggerated.

Fritz 8 has a handy feature for annotating games. It will go through an entire database of games making suggestions for better moves. In a normal GM rapid tournament you'll find that Fritz agrees with the Grandmasters' moves around 40% of the time. Not that the computer's moves are always better, but it's rare to see a game with over 60% Fritz agreement. When you run this analysis on the games from Dos Hermanas you get over 60% on the average and many games are over 80%. Long live advanced chess! This also happened in the FIDE internet qualifier two years ago, when a few of the participants were honest enough to admit that their play was computer assisted. Their defense of "everybody is doing it" is hard to refute after looking at these games, although there were a few comforting blunders here and there.


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