Annual Survey 2009

0 | Chess Event Coverage
Annual Survey 20092009 was a tough year, also for the chess world. Sponsors left, prize funds were lowered and in one (quite important) event the list of participants counted just four players. But it was also an interesting year, with successes for rising stars as well as experienced grandmasters. Let's look back at the chess year that's behind us, in our traditional annual survey.

Like we did on December 31 last year, the year before and the year before that, here's our annual survey of 2009.

One of the first strong round-robins finishing in the new year is always Reggio Emilia. In 2009 the Chinese rising start Ni Hua clinched the title in the small Italian town convincingly. He ended 1.5 points ahead of number 2 Zoltan Almasi! In a very strong period Ni Hua collected enough rating points to pass the 2700 barrier, which got him an invitation for the London Chess Classic at the end of the year.

Another early winner was Peter Svidler, who won the Aker Chess Challenge in Gjovik, Norway. In the final he defeated Magnus Carlsen, who at that point had no idea yet that 2009 would go down into history as the year he would rise to the absolute top. Vassily Ivanchuk is known for his many ups and downs, but he started his chess year well with a 3.5-2.5 rapid victory against Peter Leko. Our next two items in January both provoked many comments. In the column 'The new founding fathers in chess?' we compared remarks by Henrik Carlsen (representing his son Magnus) and Vladimir Kramnik on the world championship cycle and their ideas for a future set-up. It was interesting to see that Kramnik’s opinion seemed diametrically opposed to Carlsen’s. The next day we reported about a 14-year-old chess player from Australia who had been caught cheating with a Playstation Portable, but instead of just bringing the news, we asked our readers the question whether cheating is always newsworthy.

CorusThe year 2009 made clear once more that successful chess players are getting younger and younger. Just before Corus the big news was that a 9-year-old player in India had beaten a GM. We'll probably hear more about Hetul Shah soon. But of course the Corus Chess Tournament itself confirmed this trend much better: the headline of our final report, 'Youth triumphs at Corus 2009', said enough. It had been a wonderful success for Sergei Karjakin, Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So.

Also for the ChessVibes team 2009 was quite an interesting year. We tried some new things, and the first was launched just before Corus. We're still quite proud of our very first product, ChessVibes Openings, which reached it's 52nd issue this week! I'm not an objective person here, but when I try to forget that I'm the publisher and pretend I'm only a chess player, I must say IMs Merijn van Delft and Robert Ris have done an awesome job in keeping track of the opening developments, every week, without taking a single week off. Great stuff guys!

Topalov-Kamsky Game 1February was the month of Linares (as always) and the month of Kamsky-Topalov. To start with the latter: it was a controversial match for several reasons. The history of how the match finally got there is a story in itself, and how it was organized in Sofia was another matter. For the journalists who had travelled to the Bulgarian capital it was a disappointing event (they were well quarantined off from the players, taking a back seat to local television) and for several online spectators as well. They became victim of what seems like a war between the Bulgarians and Chessbase, who were threatened with legal actions if they would continue broadcasting the match at Playchess. This situation would repeat during the MTel Masters in May. Our column about copyright and chess moves provoked 127 comments. We'd almost forget that Topalov won the match after volatile play from both players. The Bulgarian thus qualified for next year's World Championship match against the reigning champ, Viswanathan Anand.

Linares R14Linares saw a slightly surprising, but no less deserved winner in Alexander Grischuk. The Russian grandmaster won on tiebreak after finishing shared first with Vassily Ivanchuk, and after Sergei Karjakin he was the second qualifier for the Bilbao Grand Slam Final in September. However, arguably the biggest news story of February was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov accusing Igor Kurnosov of cheating, just after their game in round 6 of the Aeroflot Open. As far as we know thus far Mamedyarov hasn't apologized to Kurnosov, despite the fact that almost anybody in the chess world agrees on the simple rule that, despite feeling pretty sure about it, one should never express such accusations without proof (and comparing moves with Rybka's choices can never be called proof).

Every year in March the crème de la crème of elite chess gathers for 11 rapid and 11 blindfold games: the Amber tournament. This year the tournament was held in Nice for the second time, and again Macauley Peterson and I made daily videos. Levon Aronian successfully defended his title. Vladimir Kramnik won the blindfold section on tiebreak, finishing shared first with 7/11 together with Carlsen and Aronian. The rapid section also ended in a tie, between Anand, Kamsky (!) and Aronian.

In 2009 I visited less tournaments and so I created less videos than the year before. However, one I quite like was created close to home, early April: about Amsterdam chess cafe the Laurierboom. If you've missed it you can still watch it here. In the same month a sad incident involved one of our editors, IM Robert Ris. He was one of the victims of tournament organizer Gabor Pali, who damaged both the hotel and the participants of a closed round-robin financially. The Barcza Memorial was cancelled after one round when it became clear that Pali never paid anyone and wasn't planning to.

r13Later in April, the 4th FIDE Grand Prix started in Nalchik, the capital of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, and I was there to do videos. It was quite a nice event, but also tough and long. After 13 rounds, Levon Aronian won his second tournament in two months. He had been leading together with Peter Leko with one round to go, in which they were paired against each other. The Armenian beat the Hungarian nicely. One of the participants was Sergei Karjakin and during the tournament he announced that he and his family would move to Russia and become Russian citizens. “I need to train with good coaches” was his explanation, and in fact his coach in Nalchik was former second of Garry Kasparov: Yuri Dokhoian.

Alexei ShirovApril-May was also the period of the lengthy debate on the K-factor. At the President's Cup, a rapid event held in Baku, Azerbaijan was crushed by the 'FIDE World' team led by Anand and Kramnik. Pavel Eljanov had a very good year, and among his successes was his victory at the Bosna tournament. We had an exclusive interview with the Ukrainian. In a crucial last-round encounter, Alexei Shirov defeated Magnus Carlsen to win this year's MTel Masters. Also with him we had an exclusive interview, this time on video. Together with Gelfand's victory at the ACP World Rapid Cup it was a good month for the older generation.

Vassily Ivanchuk, who had scored badly in Nalchik and Sofia, used a medicine that only works for him: play more chess! He defeated David Navara 5.5-2.5 in a rapid match in Prague (and a month later he would win in Bazna). In a similar (rapid) format, Viswanathan Anand defeated Peter Leko 5-3 and in yet another rapid event which I visited in Leon, Spain it was Magnus Carlsen who finally grabbed a first prize.

To China's growing number of strong grandmasters, another name was added this year. 16-year-old Ding Liren won the Chinese Championship after a surreal finish which involved an incident related to the zero-tolerance rule. Russian rising star Alexander Motylev ended first at the Poikovsky tournament. In a year with mixed results, Ivan Cheparinov had one big success: his first place at the Ruy Lopez tournament in Zafra, Spain.

On the day that Michael Jackson passed away, the rapid match in Paris between Armenia and France ended in a 19.5-12.5. On July 1st, 2009 the new FIDE Laws of Chess were introduced (and to our surprise this received little attention in other media). In a very Drawful Dortmund Vladimir Kramnik clinched his 9th (!) title.

Nakamura wins in San SebastianAfter winning the US Championship earlier in the year, Hikaru Nakamura collected even more rating points in San Sebastian. The American grandmaster won the tournament using his speciality: blitz chess. He beat Ruslan Ponomariov 2-0 in the tiebreak (here on video).

After an earlier, partly successful attempt with a Silverlight game viewer, we introduced ChessTempo's game viewer in Javascript and we're still quite happy with it. It's Javacript and so it works like a charm in almost any browser, including the special version of Safari running on iPhones. (And that was how the voluntary guard at the London Chess Classic was following the games: on his phone, via the live page of ChessVibes!)

A great result for the new generation was scored by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who won Biel at the end of July. His game against Morozevich was one of the gems of 2009. Nakamura continued his fanastic year so far by winning the Chess960 section of the Rapid World Championships in Mainz. Success and failure were closely connected in Mainz: on the second day of the unofficial Rapid World Championship, eleven times winner Viswanathan Anand failed to qualify for the final. An era came to an end. This one was won by Levon Aronian; Mamedyarov took the Ordix Open title.

Aronian wins in MainzA much more important result for Aronian, however, was his second place at the Grand Prix in Jermuk (where Ivanchuk emerged as the winner). With this result, Armenia's number one player secured overall victory in the FIDE Grand Prix Series with one tournament still to be played. Also in August, ten world famous chess champions gathered in Zurich, where Kramnik won the rapid tournament. By now traditionally, the month ended with the Rising Stars vs Experience tournament in Amsterdam. Again Macauley and I made daily videos at the event, where the Experience team won and Jan Smeets qualified for Amber 2010.

September started with chess reaching main stream media, but as so often it wasn't a story that improved the reputation of the royal game. At the Kolkata Open in India, French top GM Vladislav Tkachiev showed up drunk at the venue and fell asleep several times during a game. Eventually he had to be carried off. Later Tkachiev would apologize.

Kasparov & CarlsenThen, on September 7th, a long period started in which Magnus Carlsen would make the headlines. On that day his cooperation with Garry Kasparov was made public. "The goal is to make the Norwegian, who currently ranks as the fourth-best chess player in the world, the world’s best during the course of the coming year. (...)" was written in the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang. Who would have guessed that just four months later this goal would be reached? No doubt "the world's best" needs to be read as "World Champion" by now! In any case, we had an exclusive interview with Carlsen about the matter and later we published Kasparov's side of the story.

Bilbao r6Levon Aronian scored yet another success in Bilbao, where he won the second Grand Slam final. Winning four games in a row, he eventually finished five points ahead of Grischuk (one and a half according to the classical system). With our Dutch roots it wasn't too difficult to have the scoop on the 'Tiviakov story': the already seriously weakened Dutch Championship lost its top seed after the third round. Tivi had prearranged a draw for his last-round game on Sunday and had told the organizers that he couldn’t attend the closing ceremony and possible tiebreaks. This was not accepted, after which Tiviakov decided to withdraw immediately. ChessVibes spoke with all people involved.

Also in September, I had the opportunity to get one player before the camera (and even ask a few questions) whom I had never seen playing before. No-one less than Garry Kasparov himself played chess again! His opponent was his old nemesis Anatoly Karpov, and the two played a rapid and blitz match in Valencia, Spain. Unfortunately Karpov wasn't up to the challenge; Kasparov won easily (9-3).

Nanjing r10Soon it was Carlsen, Carlsen, Carlsen again. For a while it was the only name to be heard in the chess world, but it was fully deserved. By winning the Pearl Spring Grand Slam tournament with a devastating 8 out 10 and an unbelievable 3002 performance rating, dropping just four half points with the black pieces in ten games against the world’s best, Magnus took home € 80,000 and a total of 28.8 rating points. In doing so he broke the magical 2800 barrier.

It was also a period chuck full of strong chess tournaments, that lasted until the rest of the year. There was the European Club Cup, the European Team Championship, Hoogeveen (with videos!), the Anand-Karpov rapid match, the World Youth (another victory for Vachier-Lagrave).

Tal Memorial: Live CommentaryThe next big event was the biggest event of 2009: the Tal Memorial. For a tournament with Anand, Aronian Carlsen, Kramnik, Leko, Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Morozevich, Svidler and Ponomariov we couldn't resist the temptation - we just had to bring live coverage. It was quite successful, and we repeated the service during the semi-final and final of the World Cup, and the London Chess Classic. Unfortunately we couldn't welcome enough subscribers to continue it as a paid service in 2010, but we will do our best to find other ways to fund it. Because it's just too much fun not to have it. Before I forget, Vladimir Kramnik won this super-tournament in Moscow, and Magnus Carlsen took the (world) blitz title. (Not long afterwards, Carlsen unofficially 'lost' that title to Hikaru Nakamura at the BNBank tournament.)

For the chess fan who still had some appetite left for top chess, there was the World Cup, which lasted no less than 23 days. Few of you will hear something new when I mention the semi-finalists: Karjakin, Malakhov, Gelfand and Ponomariov. The latter two played the final and 41-year-old top seed Boris Gelfand eventually took home the first prize of US $120,000. In London Magnus Carlsen finished a fantastic second half of 2009 by winning the Chess Classic with three wins and four draws, in a wonderfully organized event where it was a joy to work and create a few more videos.

At the end of month and the year, Korchnoi and Spassky played a match in Elista that ended in 4-4 and Alexander Grischuk won the Russian superfinal.

Before I end this survey I'd like to mention the many thought-provoking columns by Arne, his book reviews, the 'Beauty in chess' series by Michael, the weekly endgame studies by Yochanan and the reports written by Merijn and Robert. Enough material for a second look, on a free New Year's Day perhaps!?

With this we come to an end of this annual survey, and of the chess year 2009. The ChessVibes team thanks you for your support and your comments, and we wish everyone a healthy 2009 2010 :-), with happy chess and good vibes!
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