'There are worse things in life than losing a game of chess'

11/29/2007 – Nigel Short, former world championship challenger, was eliminated in the first round of the FIDE World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. It happened in the tie-breaks, when he lost the first game to 19-year-old GM David Baramidze. The latter turned up 24 minutes late for the game, and thus had less than one minute on his clock. Nigel talks about the incident and Garry Kasparov's plight.

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Short vs Baramidze – waiting for Godot

"The shock," we wrote in our Round one Tiebreaks report, "was that Nigel Short, a former world championship challenger, was eliminated by 19-year-old German GM David Baramidze – although if you look closer you will see that there are just eighty points between the two. Still a bitter disappointment for Short, who has not had a good year."

On Wednesday we received the following email from Nigel, who was in transit in Moscow (and no, he was not able to visit Garry Kimovitch in jail). Nigel wrote:

"ChessBase missed out one important detail in my departure to Baramidze: in the decisive (25 minute) rapid game, my opponent showed up more than 24 minutes late!

While my opponent was perfectly entitled to do so under current regulations, there is an interesting philosophical question as to if this practice should be allowed. If we are to pretend that chess is a proper sport, why, indeed, are players permitted to arrive late at all? If you would try to do that in tennis or football, or just about any serious sport, you would be forfeited immediately.

Even if you take the view (as I do) that a certain amount of leeway should be given, one hour for a 25 minute game does not make any sense whatsoever. Furthermore I would argue that one hour is a ridiculous amount of time to have to wait to claim a victory even in classical chess. If your opponent cannot be bothered to show up within 15 minutes of the proper starting time, "tough luck" I would say. For rapid chess the time for forfeiture time could come after, say, five minutes.

Now doubt people will write in to say that it is my own stupidity for failing to win with such a massive advantage. I agree. In mitigation I would say that psychologically it is difficult to play under such circumstances. Had Baramidze merely been late, rather than absurdly late, I do not believe I would have been any way disturbed. However at some point it became clear that unless he entered the room more or less instantly, the game was over. It was at precisely that moment he actually arrived.

I hope that focusing on my personal failings in this particular case will not obscure the important issue that I have raised. I propose an immediate change in the FIDE rules."


Nigel Short waiting for his opponent in the first tiebreak game

42 Baramidze, David GER 2569
½
½
1
½
-
-
-
2.5
Short, Nigel D ENG 2649
½
½
0
½
-
-
-
1.5

We contacted David Baramidze, who is a 19-year-old German GM, and asked him about his late arrival at the tiebreak. "I was asleep in my room and missed the start. Jet lag was the problem, as I am only able to fall asleep very late in the night (or early in the morning). I was able to play the game with the time increment. After the position was simplified the disadvantage on the clock did not make a big difference and I was able to play quite normally."

It turns out that David was awakened when room service knocked to check his mini-bar!

“There are worse things in life than losing a game of chess”

In a press conference conducted in Khanty-Mansiysk, Nigel Short spoke about the fateful game and about his elimination from the event. Before the first tiebreak game he was seen to be walking around, talking to players, watching other games. "Was it the reason you lost your concentration?" the interviewer asked. Short:

"I was expecting my opponent, I knew he was on his way. But it's difficult to sit down and maintain this feeling of tension for such a long time. And there was also a case in history when Fischer showed up to play with Reshevsky after 58 minutes and absolutely crushed him. Obviously, I didn't play Bobby Fisher today. Actually at some moment I just blundered and there were a couple of things I missed.

What can I say? I'm really disappointed, but, you know, it's been really a long time that I've been able to play well in the tournaments of this nature, almost ten years. And I personally don't like the mixing of disciplines. You have classical chess, which is like running 10,000 meters, and you have blitz, which is like running 100 meters, and there's also rapid chess, which is something in between. People looking from the outside may say it's all the same, it's all chess. That's like saying: “It's all running”. But to go from one kind of chess to the other rapidly is very difficult, so it's a question of being able to withstand the tension in games like this. I don't have a problem with rapid chess, which is an important and valuable addition to classical chess. My problem is with mixing. During the World Cup Championship in Mexico the games were played with one time control. Here you can actually end up with playing three time controls. And this is what I don't like.

Actually, I didn't come here with great expectations, my ambition was to get to the next round, but unfortunately I didn't succeed. Such a system creates massive tension, probably this kind of dramatic effect is intended for the spectators, but it makes the tournament like a casino in a way, because things aren't decided in a move here or a move there. Besides, you're facing elimination at almost every moment.

Actually, I'm not a bad player and if I were to play with my opponent ten games of classical chess my chances would be higher. But we're only playing two games. And when you play these quick time controls, you have to respond very quickly and don't have a luxury of slowly working your way into the game; you have to be good immediately.

On Kasparov

Actually I've been thinking other thoughts. You know, a week ago I had a dinner with Gary Kasparov in Antwerp, and one week later he's in prison – and I was sent to Siberia [laughing]. So I've been reflecting on life. When I went for my visa, I said I didn't know the guy; otherwise I wouldn't have been able to get here [laughing]! Gary is a courageous and brilliant man, not just a brilliant player. He's chosen a particular road of campaigning for reforms in Russia, and he'll be having difficult time. And of course I'm very upset that I've lost, but I understand there are worse things in life than losing a game of chess."

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