An unexamined life is not worth living.

Monday, February 20, 2012

10 Things I learned from Watching the Chess World Cup

A few months ago, I watched probably almost 50 hours of Sergei Shipov analysing live (in Russian) the games of the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. Was this the best use of my chess study time? Probably not, but I was so fascinated by the drama of the tournament, and Shipov’s skill and dedication as a commentator, that I could not stop watching. Guest commentators included Valery Yoshan, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Alexander Khalifman and this allowed to also compare how different strong players approach the game. A chess amateur like myself would not be able to tell the difference in strength between all these players, but if you watch them analyse together for few hours, it becomes obvious who is in a better shape, and who has more experience in a variety of middlegame positions.


To reap at least some benefit from it, I made a series of blog posts, but also here is my general observations and notes on interesting things that commentators have said:

  1. Grandmasters seem to remember an enormous amount of opening theory, but they can surprise each other in every game – in fact they do!
  2. Khalifman seems to also know every opening in the world (indeed as a player he had a very wide opening repertoire)
  3. Khalifman seems a bit more careful at evaluating positions than Shipov. Shipov would say “the endgame is winning”, Khalifman says “good winning chances”.
  4. As you get older, your decisions to take risks on the board are less influenced by the position and more by how you feel today
  5. Ivanchuk is really tricky when playing against opponent’s time trouble
  6. Judit Polgar is great at attacking, but is not as good at defending and being careful
  7. Grandmasters seem to be understanding positions better than IM’s, formulating their assessment of each position much quicker
  8. In each position, there are a lot of very interesting moves, and one has to have a really good decision process to identify candidate moves, and pick the best ones
  9. Grandmasters sometimes make moves that are hard to understand, but there is nearly always some idea behind that move
  10. Ivanchuk’s moves are particularly hard to guess or explain

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