Masters and Experts: Opinions on the “Candidates Matches?”
For those who have been following my blogs about the “Candidates Matches” tournament, you know I haven’t hidden my feelings about the fact that I’ve found this event a disgrace, and following it—an absolute bore. I’m going to sum up my observations and opinions here, in the hopes of sparking intelligent, serious discussion. Along with the comments from interested members, let’s hear from the Masters and Experts whose opinions we value and would very much appreciate concerning the events transpiring in Kazan.
We have eight of the best players in the world “fighting” for a chance to face the World Champion next year and what do we get for the time we have invested (and wasted, in my opinion) as a chess community? We get a total of two wins in the classical part of the event (not counting the tie-breakers.) To me, there’s an element of disrespect for the integrity of chess, the organizers, the sponsors and the World Champion Vishy Anand.
In respect to this aspect of the match, one of the key targets has been Alexander Grischuk, the replacement for Magnus Carlsen. Grischuk has taken out both tournament favorites: Levon Aronian in Round 1 and Vladimir Kramnik in Round 2. And how did he take them out? With what methods? With draw after draw, sometimes offering draws before the 10th or 15th move of the game! Then, once the tie-breakers come, he wins and eliminates them. Games 1 and 3 of the first round were almost 7-hour games against Aronian with Grischuk as White. At least they were fighting draws in tense situations, but once he faced Kramnik and Gelfand, things changed.
Some people view this as his strategy while others feel this is an outrage—me included. Recently, his last few games ended at 14 moves, then 12, and then 8. Game 4 of the finals ended at 15 moves, after Gelfand (as White) offered a draw, so it’s not just Grischuk guilty of an “early” draw, but it is he who’s catching the flak. Why? Because here he is, in the final match to determine a challenger for Anand, and continues doing the same thing. Naturally, the question arises (and please post your comments): Is this Grischuk’s “strategy” or should he be faulted for it?
If you haven’t witnessed the games for yourself, below are a few PGNs of games Grischuk has “played” as White, most of which are the “short draw” offers:
Now, once again, I am not putting “blame,” if any, squarely on Grischuk as it takes two people to agree to a draw; the blame sits with everyone involved in this tournament who doesn’t seem to have the guts or moxie to play through a position to the end. The majority of us agree this appears as “cowardice” on some level—no willingness to take risks. Are we wrong in our interpretation? It’s not that we expect every game to be a nail-biter, but because these players are top-level professionals, and a few are former World Champions (like Kramnik and Topalov), naturally we expect—not demand—more from them.
Each day I take great joy in following tournaments and matches, then writing about them for anyone in our Chess.com community who’s interested. But as an aspiring chess journalist I am supposed to report with objectivity; it’s the thing I struggle with most. How—when one of the most looked-forward-to events turns out to be a snore-fest—can one report it objectively? It makes me wonder what can be done about it. Better yet, should FIDE do something about it? Which chess rules should be followed?
If anyone has an opinion, please comment! And let’s keep things civil, OK? I, and I hope you, are looking forward to hearing what has to be said in some intelligent discussion by all.