Some of best performances in history, from some of the best players, did not take first place. Worldchess’s columnist looks at some examples.
Last week’s column looked at the 1999 edition of the annual super-tournament in Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands, and recounted the great triumph of Garry Kasparov of Russia, who was World Champion at the time.
It was noted that Viswanathan Anand of India also had a great tournament, finishing just half a point behind Kasparov. Anand was undefeated and scored plus 6 over the 13 rounds. Moreover, he played really well, as Kasparov wrote in 2014, “He played very creatively in the tournament and posted virtually the best result of his career.”
That may be a bit much – Anand’s performance rating in the 2014 Candidates tournament was around 165 points higher, according to Ken Regan, an international master and computer science professor at the University of Buffalo who has developed software and algorithms for measuring performance – but it was certainly one of the best tournament performances in Anand’s great career. In his autobiography, Anand wrote about his wins over the Dutch grandmasters Dimitri Reinderman and Jeroen Piket from Rounds 1 and 2, but doesn’t offer what was, in my opinion (and also in the “opinion” of the computer), his best game of all from that tournament, his victory over Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan:
So leaving aside the 2014 Candidates’, it’s at least arguable that the greatest tournament performance of Anand’s career was one in which he finished in second-place. Considering that Anand is one of the all-time greats (he was World Champion for six years, from 2007 to 2013, and eight if the period from 2000 to 2002, when he held the FIDE title, is included), this is surprising. But people tend to overlook and undervalue runners-up. As the American football coach Vince Lombardi famously proclaimed, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
This year, and this month, marks the centenary of the birth of Paul Keres of Estonia, a player who, unlike Anand, has a bit of an undeserved reputation for a having a career as a runner-up. Why? The reason is that while he had a career that was enviable in every other respect, he never became World Champion.
1991 stamp of Keres
Year after year, decade after decade, he was in the hunt. In the 1930s he was already an elite player, and in 1948 he took part in the tournament to select a new World Champion following the death of Alexander Alekhine. (He finished in a tie for third.)
In the 1950s and 1960s, Keres came close to becoming the challenger for the crown in one Candidates’ tournament after another, finishing second in four straight events (in 1953, 1956, 1959, and 1962). Keres would often falter at or near the end of these tournaments, most famously (and painfully) in 1962, when he lost to Pal Benko of the United States in the penultimate round and finished half a point behind the tournament’s winner, Tigran Petrosian of Armenia, which was then part of the Soviet Union. (Petrosian went on to defeat Mikhail Botvinnik of Russia in 1963 to become the new World Champion.) Keres had beaten Benko in seven consecutive games prior to his loss in the Candidates, and he beat him the next two times they played.
Despite never making it to the absolute top, Keres was clearly among the greatest players of the 20th century, he was a brilliant analyst and a fine writer on the game, and he was liked and respected by all his colleagues. And when he was in form, as in the following game against Benko in an earlier part of the 1962 Candidates tournament, no one could stand up to him
Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
In the Third Round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca games between the four leaders, Vachier-Lagrave-Aronian and Rajabov-Giri, finished in a draw. Peter Svidler joined the group of leaders by beating Jon-Ludvig Hammer in the third round.
The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players