Nigel Short takes on the Playchess crowd

by ChessBase
4/23/2004 – It started with an innocuous remark: "What's your current ranking on the Playchess list?" we asked Nigel Short. "What list?" he replied. We explained, and life stopped for the Mega-GM. During the next days he went after the players on that list with the determination of the obsessed.

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Nigel Short is a recently revitalised Mega-GM. This, by the way, is a new term we are introducing to describe players who are above the obscene 2700 Elo barrier on the FIDE rating list. Players between 2600 and 2700 we will refer to as Super-GMs, while the rest are lowly "Grandmasters".

In the early 90s Nigel was a world-class player, most famously beating Karpov and Timman in the Candidates matches and going on to challenge world champion Garry Kasparov in 1993. He didn't quite make it, and in the years that followed slowly lost contact with the very top of the world rankings. Naturally the chess public were quick to count him out. But in recent months he has staged a remarkable "comeback", winning one tournament after the other. For the first time in his career (at 38!) Nigel has overstepped the magical 2700 mark to become an accredited Mega-GM.

Nigel Short, Commonwealth Champion (with Konoru Humpy)

On the server Nigel was, until recently, leading a relatively sedate life, playing against colleagues, chatting with friends, occasionally commenting on live games. Until the conversation quoted above. It continued as follows:

Us: The top ratings list, Nigel.

Him: Where? Show me

Us: Click "View – Top Ratings – Top List Blitz..."

Him: (long silence, then) Who are the people on this list? Who is "Klokklok"?

Us: GM Levon Aronian, who won the blitz tournament in Reykjavik, ahead of Kasparov and yourself.

Him: Okay, I know. And who is "Emilios2"?

Us: Emil Sutovsky, who recently...

Him: Adams is clear, Hawkeye is GM Roland Schmalz, Petrovich is...?

Us: GM Petr Kriakov from Russia. You can click the names and then the "Picture" button, Nigel, to get full details.

Him: Okay, I understand, I'm going to get them all. Give me a couple of days.

During the next three days visitors on the Playchess server were treated to a singular spectacle – an obsessed Mega-Grandmaster, equipped with a simple dial-up connection, working himself up the top rating list in a feeding frenzy.

It was not all smooth going, and there were occasional setbacks. But around game 380 Nigel at last got the hang of it. Most importantly he understood some of the important principles of server play, applicable to people who desperately need to move forward:

  1. Never play when you are tired. Do not even think of it before you have had your shower, breakfast and coffee. Make sure your brain is fully booted before you log on the server.

  2. Avoid playing against high-rated opponents who only have a "pawn" ranking. Some of them might be cheating with computers. And although they will be caught and punished by the server in the end, you stand to lose some unnecessary rating points against them.

  3. If you lose a game to an obviously inferior player, do not immediately rechallenge him. Do not be led by a determination to punish him, teach him a lesson he will never forget, kill the patzer, rip off appendages, or anything along those lines. Take a deep breath, chat with someone for a while, resume play when you are absolutely sure you have calmed down.

  4. Never play after you have drunk more than two glasses of red wine. Some people can do it, assume you are not one of them. You don't want to lost rating points with a silly grin on your face.

Once he had understood these principles there was no stopping Nigel. After three days of intense labour yesterday night, at around 10 p.m., he had reached the top of the list, with one of the highest blitz ratings ever seen on the Playchess server. Incidentally he crossed the 3000 mark in a game against world women's youth champion "Lizzy Paehtz".

Nigel Short tops the list on 23.04.2004 with a record 3033 rating

Nigel's toughest opponent is Mega-GM Michael Adams, number eight (at 2731) in the FIDE rankings. "Mickey" has been at it for longer than Nigel on the Playchess server, with 815 blitz games to his credit. This was his progress for the last 100 or so:

The last surge came when Mickey noticed what Nigel was up to. He, too, went to work, hoisting his rating to cross the 3000 line. But as we write Nigel is still well ahead. And of course there is always Klokklok ready to pounce in the background. Not to mention Hawkeye, who has won all the Internet blitz and bullet championships there are to win.

Well, what should we say? Some people may be obsessed, they may spend their lives chasing ephemeral goals like top rankings in Internet blitz. We, the spectators on are treated to the excitement and magic of top-level chess.

Frederic Friedel

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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