Coaches Get Off Couches For Death Match 28

Coaches Get Off Couches For Death Match 28

MikeKlein
FM MikeKlein
Sep 30, 2014, 12:00 AM |
21 | Chess Players

Two of the world's most accomplished chess coaches will put down their red pens and fire up their laptops for Death Match 28.

GM Giorgi Kacheishvili, coach of this year's U.S. Women's Champion and U.S. Championship finalist, and GM Simen Agdestein, former coach of the highest-rated player who ever breathed, will forget their students for three hours of relentless chess.

The "Battle of the Coaches" will be live on Chess.com/TV on Friday, October 3 at 12 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. CEST (GMT +2).

To pigeonhole them as mere coaches sells them way short, of course. Agdestein reached as high was world #16 in the late 1980s, and Kacheishvili has won the World Open and represented his native Georgia on many occasions.

Calculating Agdestein's number of national appearances isn't easy. Sure, he participated in 10 Olympiads, but he also appeared eight times for the Norway National Football (Soccer) Team, and many times for the juniors squad.

After a knee injury in the 1990s, Agdestein redoubled his focus on chess and had enjoyed a recent renaissance.

"Scoring in football feels much better actually," Agdestein said. "I still dream of goals I scored in football, but I can't really think of any particular great game I've won in chess."

His best feeling on the pitch came when he scored against Czechoslovakia. He's almost certainly the first GM to score a goal for his national team!

Here's another clip you don't see every day: A famous chess interviewer discusses a grandmaster who is playing a header game in dress clothes on a tennis court! It's mostly in Norwegian with Dutch subtitles, but the pictures do enough to show Agdestein's multiple talents.

Most of the recent Death Matches have come down to the final minutes. Kacheishvili's students, GMs Irina Krush and Alex Lenderman, have won the last two matches based on superior blitz play. Kacheishvili said he plans to practice bullet with Lenderman in the lead up to Friday.

"I like mental sports, like Candy Crush and sudoku," he said. "If the match is tied, I propose to use Candy Crush as a tiebreaker."

The Death Match 27 winner, GM Alex Lenderman (left), flips the script while in Charleston, SC. He will give his coach, GM Giorgi Kacheishvili, advice and bullet training.

Both players have a connection to the world champion. Kacheishvili played (and beat!) him once, and Agdestein coached Carlsen for 10 years.

When asked jokingly if he was afraid Carlsen may whisper in Agdestein's ear during the match, Kacheishvili said, "No, I would love to play Magnus again. He's my favorite player."

The two teachers have played before, but Agdestein's been around the block for so long, he didn't recall the meeting: "Have I? I hope he won't get insulted, but I don't remember."

For everyone's benefit, we've uncovered the lost game. It comes from all the way back in 2010. Perhaps Agdestein blocked it from his memory since he turned down about five or six chances for a repetition!

Since this ill-fated game, Agedestein's been on a roll, especially in the last 18 months. He had an incredible run starting in mid-summer, winning in Barcelona with 8.5/9. A month later he won eight and drew two to finish second in France, then he won an event in Oslo with 7/9.

Tally up those three events and a respectable +3-0=3 at the European Club Cup, and you have a three-month stretch of 25 wins, 5 draws and a lone loss (we'll leave out his 0-2 exit to GM Etienne Bacrot at the World Cup). That's not exactly Fischer-esque in perfection, but it's also not too far off in terms of length.

The magical season propelled him to his peak rating earlier in 2014, and that at the age of 47.

"Relatively speaking I was of course much stronger 25 years ago," Agdestein said about his former placement as world number 16. "But chess has developed enormously so perhaps I actually play better now. I don't know. But my head has certainly declined."

He had a theory for his resurgence.

"Preparation before the Tromso Olympiad certainly played a role," he said. "I know what rust is and thought I needed a couple of years of warming up. Then everything I played was viewed as preparation for the Olympiad, and that a good angle, I think. Then the focus is on playing more interesting chess and experimenting with openings and so on, and then it also becomes more fun to play. When the focus in on result you easily get hampered."

Here he is during that streak having some fun with his bishop at the expense of White's rooks.

Kacheishvili has a streak of his own on his side, and one that's currently active. New Yorkers have won the last three Death Matches, with IM Yaacov Norowitz starting in June, Krush winning in July and Lenderman in September.

"Fast-paced lifestyle prepares you for fast games," Kachieshvili surmised.

Even though his students have been tearing up the Death Match and over-the-board world lately, he said he still leads their training sessions. "I am the coach, right?"

Kachieshvili (center) will take Death Match pointers from star students Lenderman and Krush.

Sprinkled in to those lessons are "non-chess" themes.

"Apart from chess variations, there also exists psychology," Kacheishvili said. "For example, if you are playing a tactician, it's better to avoid crazy variations even if they're mathematically good for you. Inner peace is an important thing in order to avoid one mistake leading to another."

He said he learned a lot about coaching from three coaches growing up, including the famous Georgian trainer IM Khvicha Supatashvili. Chess.com members can learn a lot about the Benoni from this game, an opening he sometimes employs in open tournaments:

Other open tournament successes include the Continental Open in Los Angeles, the North American Open three times and the Chicago Open twice.

Both coaches have more prodigies in the works. Kachieshvili said to look out for Nico Chasin, Robert Shibata, Sean Cushman, Anish Saxena and Akira Nakada.

Agdestein said after being "fed up of it all" a few years ago, he partnered with Ukrainian WGM Olga Dolzhikova in his teaching business, allowing him to focus on 5-15 elite students per year. He spends 2-3 hours with them daily at the chess department of the sport school Norges Toppidrettsgymnas, which was Carlsen's first chess "base camp."

You can learn more about Agdestein's chess programs here and here and Kacheishvili's Grandmaster Academy at the Marshall Chess Club here.

Speaking of Carlsen, Agdestein is thrilled that his personal mantle of best Norwegian ever was taken over.

"I'm very proud of Magnus. Following him has been much bigger than my own career...I was very happy to hear Magnus saying, after he became world champion, that he still has a lot to learn. He's still far from mastering the game to perfection. It's an endless goal in fact, and hopefully Magnus will continue aiming for it.

"It's really incredible, but chess has become a big TV sport now. All Magnus' games these days are show on TV and the programs are huge successes. The breakthrough came during the Carlen-Anand match. Norway stood still. Big banks has to close their internet connection because everyone was following Magnus. I am looking around for a new car these days and the salesman there took a week during the match just to follow it...Magnus is probably the biggest celebrity and sport star in Norway these days."

Kacheishvili in Washington Square Park in New York City, where many blitz players have honed their skills.

Agdestein also admitted that due to his bad knee, Carlsen can also beat him in soccer these days. He has actually set the groundwork for both of his passions in Norway. While his star chess student has galvanized Norway by reaching the top echelon of all-time greats, a distant relative, Torborn Agdestein, is a fledgling soccer player.

"There is a place on the island of Stord on the west coast called Agdestein. There's a big stone there -- 'stein' in Norwegian means 'stone'. That's where all the Agdesteins come from."

The two players are split on which time control they'll prefer. Kachieshvili is looking forward to the opening segment: "As an old man, five minute [is best]. I don't know what to expect with bullet. Hopefully I can move my mouse quickly enough."

The Norwegian said the opposite: "The shorter time, the better. Then I don't need to think so much, and I don't get so tired."

Log on to watch the "Battle of the Coaches" live on Chess.com/TV on Friday, October 3 at 12 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. CEST (GMT +2)!




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