An unexamined life is not worth living.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Las Vegas - gambling vs. games (and Khalifman)

I just got back from a short trip to Las Vegas. Among other things I was impressed by how many people are actually glued to the slot machines. The atmosphere reminded me of chess tournaments (in a sense that people are stuck to their chairs for days), but obviously a lot more people are into slot machines than into French defense. In some ways, you'd think chess would be a lot more appealing to folks who want to kill time, but perhaps the amount of effort and dedication required is too much. Even if you win some cash in an open chess tournament, that happens only once per trip. Perhaps it is as simple as the fact that 99.99% of people care about money a lot more than about any pawn structure nuances. Below is the picture of Caesar's Palace hotel where Alexander Khalifman won his FIDE Champion title in 1999. Apparently at the time, nobody in town knew about the event going on, and if they did, they probably would not care.
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Khalifman, incidentally is an awesome chess player, often underestimated because he won his title without beating Kasparov, however as it often happens - lesser (compared to Kasparov) players can have a lot of very instructive games in their collection. I have a copy of Khalifman: Life and Games in Russian, and each game seems to contain a sacrifice that would win a beauty prize in a major tournament. His opening repertoir is sharp and extensive, so you'd find an instructive example from any major opening. It's too bad that his playing strength declined since the period of 1999-2000.

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