NH Tournament: Experience Grandmasters lead 6.0-4.0

by ChessBase
8/22/2009 – This Dutch event pits five talented young players against five older and experienced colleagues. In the past the latter kept getting whupped, so the organisers decided that the Experience team needed a little less experience and a little more youthful energy. The strategy seems to be succeeding, as the younger older players are in the lead after two rounds. Steve Giddins on GMs and GOMs.

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The 4th NH Chess Tournament runs from Thursday, August 20, and runs through August 31 in the five-star NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky smack in the centre of Amsterdam. It is a double round robin team event, with five Rising Stars facing five Experienced players. Here are the individual players:

Experienced GMs

Peter Svidler, 33, Russia, 2739

Rising Stars

Hikaru Nakamura, 21, USA, 2710

Peter Heine Nielsen, 36, Denmark, 2680

Fabiano Caruana, 17, Italy, 2670

Alexander Beliavsky, 55, Slovenia, 2662

Jan Smeets, 24, Netherlands, 2632

Loek van Wely, 36, Netherlands, 2665

Daniel Stellwagen, 21, Netherlands, 2630

Ljubomir Ljubojevic, 58, Serbia, 2553

Hou Yifan, 15, China, 2584

A GOM's identity crisis

By Steve Giddins

It always used to be said that one knows one is getting old, when the policemen start looking younger. But now it would appear that the chess world has developed a new test. Chess is bad enough as it is, with the annual emergence of ever-younger chess talents. In my day, it was a sensation when Nigel Short qualified for the British Championships at the age of 12, but at the time, he was not even an IM, let alone a GM. Nowadays, 12-year old GMs are becoming almost commonplace. I myself never became a GM, but I still have good chances of becoming a GOM – a Grumpy Old Man. Like every such chessplayer, I hate playing against juniors. The grisly sight of a small head, clad in a baseball cap, peering between its own pieces, guzzling Coke, stuffing crisps and breathing through its mouth all at the same time, whilst simultaneously rattling out 25 moves of Najdorf theory – such a sight has always made me sympathize with W. C. Fields, who when asked how he liked children, replied "Boiled or fried!"

But now an even more alarming thing has happened in the chess world, one which strikes at the very foundations of one's self-confidence. It is all the fault of that great chess maecenas, Joop van Oosterom. For some years now, he has been generously sponsoring an annual Scheveningen-style match in Amsterdam, between a team of youngsters, and a team of veterans. Naturally, he was not so insensitive as to call them veterans; instead, they were the "Experience" team. In reality, though, they were elderly, usually over 50, and sometimes older still. It was a great idea – the best young GMs in the world (Carlsen, Kariakin, Caruana, etc), against such legends of chess as Korchnoi, Nunn, Andersson, Yusupov, Ljubojevic, etc. The trouble is, the old boys kept on getting whupped, and the sporting interest in the contest itself was almost non-existent. Something had to be done.

So, something has been done. The organisers have decided that the Experience team needs a little less experience and a little more youthful energy. So, out have gone most of the over-45s, and in have come such "veterans" as Loek van Wely (aged 36), Peter Heine Nielsen (aged 36) and Peter Svidler (aged 33). Veterans? Peter Svidler, a veteran?? This is a man who reads Terry Pratchett books and never goes anywhere without his MP3 player. For the latter crime alone, he would be blackballed, were he to apply for membership of the GOM club. Peter Heine Nielsen a veteran? The same Peter who was Denmark's most promising young teenage talent, when I played him at Gausdal a few years ago? These people are now officially veterans??

My world is crumbling around me. I no longer know whether I am still middle-aged, or whether I have now progressed to being positively ancient. Bob Hope once said that "Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle", and on that basis, I have been middle-aged for some years. Maybe I have now passed on into old age. On the other hand, according to George Burns, "old age is the age at which flowers scare you", and I am not yet that far gone. No, I feel sure that there is life in this old dog yet. But I have to say, Mr van Oosterom has me worried.

As far as the chess itself is concerned, the changes to the line-up look as though they will achieve the desired effect, and introduce a much-needed degree of serious competition into the match itself. After two rounds, the Experience team leads by 6-4, having won both rounds by the odd point. In round one, Svidler beat Hou Yifan in what he described as "an old man's game" – nothing from the opening, but a display of filigree endgame technique:

Svidler,P - Hou Yifan [C11]
NH Amsterdam (1), 20.08.2009
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Be7 8.Qd2 0–0 9.Be2 a6 10.0–0 b5 11.a3 Qb6 12.Nd1 a5 13.c3 Bb7 14.Bf2 f6 15.exf6 Nxf6 16.dxc5 Bxc5 17.Bxc5 Qxc5+ 18.Qe3 Qxe3+ 19.Nxe3 b4 20.axb4 axb4 21.cxb4 Nxb4 22.Nd4 Kf7 23.Ng4 Rxa1 24.Rxa1 Ra8 25.Rxa8 Bxa8 26.Ne5+ Ke7 27.Kf2 Bb7 28.Ke3 Ba6 29.Bf3 Bc8 30.Kd2 Na6 31.Kc3 Nc5 32.b4 Nce4+ 33.Kd3 g5 34.g3 gxf4 35.gxf4 Kd6 36.Nb5+ Ke7 37.Nd4 Kd6 38.Nb5+ Ke7 39.Kd4 Bb7 40.Nc3 Nxc3 41.Kxc3 Kd6

42.Be2 Nd7 43.Nf7+ Ke7 44.Ng5 h6 45.Nf3 Kf6 46.Kd4 Kf5 47.Ne5 Bc8 48.Bb5 Nf6 49.Ke3 Ng4+ 50.Nxg4 Kxg4 51.Bc6 d4+ 52.Ke4 d3 53.Ke3 d2 54.Bf3+ Kh3 55.b5 Bb7 56.Bd1 Kxh2 57.Kxd2 Kg3 58.Ke3 Kh4 59.Bf3 Bc8 60.b6 Kg3 61.b7 Bxb7 62.Bxb7 Kg4 63.Ke4 Kh5 64.Ke5 1-0.

One can just picture the scene at the post-mortem: a tearful Hou Yifan, wondering how she could lose such a position, whilst old Peter, peering over his spectacles, clicking his false teeth, defiantly wags his finger and declares, in a croaking voice, "Ah, 'tis not so simple, young lady. I remember once losing a similar ending against Philidor, at Karlsbad 1793..."

In the same round, Nielsen won in short order against Stellwagen's King's Indian, and only a mistake by Belyavsky in a superior position against Smeets allowed the youngsters to score their first win. In round two, there was further disappointment for Hou Yifan, as she went down with the white pieces against Ljubojevic, who at 58 is a veritable Methusalah alongside some of his teammates. With the other four games drawn, the Experience team extended their lead to two points. It is early days, but it looks as though the youngsters will have to earn their corn in Amsterdam this year.

Finally, if this piece has left you wondering if you too are getting old, let me leave you with another definition, courtesy of the English writer Denis Norden: "Middle age is that time of life when you bend down to pick up a dollar bill which you've dropped, and it occurs to you that either you're getting old, or they're building floors a lot lower than they used to!"

Round one – Aug. 20  
Svidler - Hou Yifan
Nielsen - Stellwagen
Beliavsky - Smeets
van Wely - Caruana
Ljubojevic - Nakamura
Round two – Aug. 21  
Stellwagen - Svidler
Smeets - Nielsen
Caruana - Beliavsky
Nakamura - van Wely
Hou Yifan - Ljubojevic
Experience individual score
Ljubojevic 1½
Nielsen 1½
Svidler 1½
Van Wely 1
Beliavsky ½
  Rising Stars individual score
Smeets     1½
Caruana 1
Nakamura 1
Stellwagen ½
Hou Yifan 0

Score: Experience 6.0 – Rising stars 4.0

Playing schedule

Round 1 August 20 (Thursday) 13.30 hrs
Round 2 August 21 (Friday) 13.30 hrs
Round 3 August 22 (Saturday) 13.30 hrs
Round 4 August 23 (Sunday) 13.30 hrs
Round 5 August 24 (Monday) 13.30 hrs
Free Day August 25 (Tuesday)  
Round 6 August 26 (Wednesday) 13.30 hrs
Free Day August 27 (Thursday)  
Round 7 August 28 (Friday) 13.30 hrs
Round 8 August 29 (Saturday) 13.30 hrs
Round 9 August 30 (Sunday) 13.30 hrs
Round 10 August 31 (Monday) 12.00 hrs


GMs Viktor Korchnoi and Vlastimil Hort on losing


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