Short on blunders – part two already

by ChessBase
8/11/2004 – Some time ago we spoke to Nigel Short about the FIDE world championship in Tripoli, which he disparagingly called a "blunderfest". Well, guess who committed the biggest flub-up of them all? We probe the mechanisms of Nigel's incredible blunder in Libya, all the way to the bone, in part two of our interview.

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Interview with Nigel Short – Part two

Part one of our interview with Nigel Short, which was conducted just before the end of the FIDE world championship in Tripoli, dealt with the event itself and with the surprise winner, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, who is a good friend of Nigel's. In the interview the English GM complained about the degradation of chess and the world championship title in this "one-month blunderfest". But Nigel himself was one of the players on the wrong end of the blunderfest: after winning the first round fairly convincingly he made a terrible mistake in round two against Krasenkow. We forced him to discuss the critical position at some length, and explain to us how a one-move blunder is possible at the Super-GM level. We promised our readers a transcript of this eye-opening second part of our discussion some time in the future.

More than two weeks have gone by and people were becoming nervous. "I want you to know that we are desperately waiting the second part of the ND Short interview," wrote Cuneyt Guren of Izmir, Turkey. "Your site is magnificent; it's our only bond with the chess world. So this is quite important." P. Stokes of LA, USA wrote "It's been quite some time since you published the (excellent) first part. So? When are we getting part two?" And from Moscow, Russia, Dmitry wrote: "When's part two of Nigel interview??? I can't wait to read it!!!"

We got dozens more in the same vein. What galvanized us into action, however, was the fact that the top players in Dortmund and Mainz were all clamouring for it as well. As Vishy Anand put it so succinctly: "Fred, I don't want to keep going to every morning just to check whether part two is up. So publish it already!"

Okay, here goes. For the record: the interview was conducted by telephone from Nigel's house in Greece. The transcription sticks very close to the original recording, giving us a flavour of a chat with the always interesting Super-Grandmaster and onetime world championship finalist.

Short on blunders

Frederic Friedel: You played in the championship in Libya. What was it like, give us your impressions.

Nigel Short: Well, my time there was very brief. I won fairly convincingly in the first round against my Yemeni opponent, then I went out in the second round against Krasenkow. Actually I had the better of both games, but my ticket home was booked by one move.

Frederic: Everyone is talking about this one move. Can you tell us exactly how something like that could happen? To a GM of your calibre? Or for that matter to anyone?

Nigel: Well, first of all there are some problems with the FIDE time control, which is not at all conducive to serious chess, even though they improved it this time by giving the players an extra fifteen minutes. But it would be absurd to think of these beautifully played endgames, which one remembers from history, being played under this time control. You simply have no opportunity for great depth of thought. When you play an extremely long game, like I did, it is very unpleasant indeed.

But Nigel, you dropped a piece in one move!

Yes, I'll come to that, but first there are some other issues that have to be addressed. One point occurred to me during this particular game. It is actually a fundamental flaw in the FIDE rules. It is concerned with the writing down of the moves. There is a very strong argument that there is no point whatsoever in writing down the moves for games that are recorded electronically, especially when you have arbiters present who are also recording them manually. One can take the view that, okay, this is the rule, you have to write down the moves. But it seems to me that when you play with an increment, you should be required always to be no more than half a move behind on your scoresheet.

I didn't get that.

Well, when your opponent moves, you should be forced to write that move down before you reply. What happened in my first game against Krasenkow was that on many moves, maybe 20 during this game, the guy replied instantly, without writing down my move – which by the way he is entitled to do under the rules. But it meant that I was obliged to write down both moves in my time. This may sound like nitpicking, like something very minor and insignificant, but when you play with very fast time controls an extra minute or two on one person’s clock does make a significant difference.

Couldn’t you have done the same to him, write down your moves after you played them?

The problem in the position in question was that I had to make a plan. Krasenkow was very often reduced to just moving his king backwards and forwards, whereas I had to try and break his blockade. The point is that with this increment you have at least 30 seconds on your clock, which means that you are never in danger of losing on time when your opponent makes the move. So you should be compelled to write down your opponent’s move before you make your own move. You should not be allowed to respond without doing so, because essentially this is passing the buck on to your opponent. You are stealing time from him. This is a fundamental problem with the FIDE rules, which were essentially designed for the old time controls. There sometimes people would get into severe time trouble and would have to stop writing down the moves all together or simply start ticking them off on the scoresheet. It is not really designed for games with increments. So this is a serious issue that must be addressed. It is not the reason that I blundered, I’m just pointing it out.

Okay, back to the blunder itself. Tell us exactly what happened, even if it is quite painful for you to do so. I know it happened on move 121. Were you feeling exhausted or dizzy or anything?

Well one of the problems was that a little bit earlier I was thirsty, a bit dehydrated actually. But I had no time to get up and get a drink. I tried to go a couple of times, but then he would make a move. Remember you are playing 30 second chess for a huge amount of time. Even going to the bathroom is a severe problem. From a certain point in the game you can simply forget about going to the toilet. You go to the bathroom after move 40, then you get the extra 15 minutes, and once that has gone you can forget about the bathroom for the rest of the game.

So how exactly were you feeling at move 121?

Short,N (2712) - Krasenkow,M (2609) [B33]
FIDE WCh KO Tripoli LBA (2.1), 21.06.2004

In this position Nigel played 121.Re6??,
simply dropping the rook. White had to resign a move later.

Actually by move 121 I have become a bit confused. During the game I had seen the plan of putting my bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal, and then putting my rook on g8 and on g6, and then transferring my bishop back to the b1-h7 diagonal. Now if I managed to accomplish this the game is over. And in fact it is rather difficult for him to stop it. I mentioned in my newspaper column [free registration required] that I couldn’t find any defence to this. But I had seen this idea during the game, and then I had forgotten about it, because I started getting carried away with another plan. And then, right at the end, I suddenly came back to it. But I wanted to do it with my rook on the e-file, because that reduces his options. I just completely forgot about the knight. I mean the knight had not moved for ages, essentially he was moving his king for some immense amount of time. I guess I had just forgotten that the knight could move.

Has anything like this happened to you before?

Unfortunately yes. Actually these kinds of things happen after a lot of time, when people get tired. I had a very famous blunder against Beliavsky in Linares some years ago, where I allowed mate in one.

Short,N (2685) - Beliavsky,A (2620) [C48]
Linares Linares (2), 1992

“Helpmate in two” – there is only one way for White to play
and allow Black to mate in two moves.

Actually during this game I created my first chess problem, a helpmate in two, with a unique solution. Really, my first ever chess problem. I played 57.Nd5 (only move leading to mate in two!) 57…f6+ 58.Ke6?? Bc8 mate.

People ask how could you do that. Well, you can do that when you’ve been playing, in that case, for almost six hours. My flag was rising, I had a few moves to make, the endgame was winning for me, and I just had to make a decision on what to do. It wasn’t totally clear to me, so I pushed my king up to e6. Unfortunately that allowed mate in one. I know it is funny – I can hear you laughing about it, and I’m sure your visitors will enjoy it. But these things can happen after six hours, when you are simply tired, physically tired. Then suddenly your heart rate goes up again, because you have to make a decision, you are pressed for time. It is in moments like this that blunders come.

Which is exactly what happened in Libya...

Actually there the situation was even worse. I had been playing something like seventy moves at thirty seconds per move – after already playing a game of fifty moves at normal time controls! It’s fatigue, pure and simple.

Sorry to keep dwelling on this painful episode, but one last question: what was the reaction when it happened, yours and his? Did you look at him in dismay, did you notice first or did he see it?

I played the move, and he just whipped my rook off immediately. Actually I didn’t even see his move being played, because it happened so quickly. I think it was one of the very few times that I said “f***” out aloud. I was really, genuinely shocked. It was disbelief. You know, when I lose games I can get pretty angry with myself, but on this occasion I wasn’t angry, I was quite calm, because it was just too bizarre.

And later you drowned your frustration with a glass of beer?

You are joking, aren’t you? They have no beers in Libya, just the Beck’s alcohol-free variety, for people who are desperate and want something that at least looks like a beer bottle. You can’t get a drop of alcohol in the country, it is considered a weapon of mass destruction there. That is the term they use for it.


Short on Tripoli: a one-month blunderfest
19.07.2004 Nigel Short, one of Britain's top GMs, was one of the 128 contestants of the FIDE world championship in Libya. After his return we spoke to him about the new world champion, the FIDE knockout format, his incredible blunder against Krasenkow and what must be done to reform the chess world. Here is part one of this interview.

FIDE WCC R2-1: A Grecian tragedy
22.06.2004 Imagine what this must feel like: in round two of the FIDE knockout world championship Super-GM Nigel Short outplayed his opponent on the white side of a Sicilian, then spent 79 moves nursing an exchange advantage towards victory. Finally, on move 121, fate struck a devastating blow... We have found a possible explanation...

Nigel Short takes Tai Yuan
27.07.2004 After a bad spell the English Super-GM with a sometimes rating of 2700 has struck again, winning the GM tournament in Tai Yuan a full point ahead of the field. We called Nigel to ask him about this splendid victory, and also discuss some of the other events that are enthralling chess fans at the current time. Here's a transcript of the conversation.

Short on draws
18.03.2004 "I know that with perfect play, God versus God, Fritz versus Fritz, chess is a draw," writes Nigel Short, who describes a deadly disease called Severe Acute Drawitis. "Those afflicted with SAD display an uncontrollable urge to offer or accept premature peace proposals." Read about it in Nigel's highly entertaining Sunday Telegraph column.

Nigel Short: 'Economically I am right wing'
06.02.2004 After winning the Commonwealth Championship Nigel Short has now taken the strong Gibraltar Open. In an interview with the winner we spoke less about chess and more about the historical and political background of British colony – and the conservative Nigel Short.

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