Thursday, November 29, 2007

Staying Power

After my recent post on Short’s … Qb6 against Gurevich during the last round of the 1990 Manila Interzonal, it occurred to me I should look the game up in Dominic Lawson’s “The Inner Game”, an interesting, if often flawed, account of Nosher’s journey to his World Championship match with Kasparov in 1993.

I tracked down the relevant passage on pages 32 and 33,

In the last round Nigel was paired against Mikhail Gurevich of the Soviet Union, then ranked the fourth strongest player in the world. Gurevich had the advantage of the White pieces. He needed only a draw to qualify. Nigel needed to win.

The night before the game I spoke to Nigel on the telephone. He seemed strangely tranquil … Gurevich, however, according to one of his co-nationals, arrived at the board ‘with a deep sense of foreboding’.

The comes the interesting bit ...

After four and a half hours’ play, Gurevich extended his hand and offered his congratulations. ‘He behaved like a gent,’ Nigel said immediately afterwards, ‘because it must have hurt like hell.’ Just how much became obvious only later. Since that single game threw him out of the world championship cycle, Gurevich has not won a major tournament, and his world chess ranking over the succeeding three years dropped precipitately. ‘It’s strange’, Nigel mused later as we discussed the fate of Mikhail Gurevich, ‘how one game can destroy a man’s career.’

It seems reports of Guervich's death turned out to be exaggerated. The former Soviet's rating on the current list is not much below Short's (2627 as opposed to 2649). It's true that puts him at equal 100th against Nigel's 59th equal but he made it one round further in the World Cup in Russia this week. Nor was it Nosher playing in the Candidates matches in Elista over the summer. Mind you, Gurevich did end up with a bit of a spank from Leko so whether he appreciated his achievement is another question.


ejh said...

Something similar happened to Short for a while after losing to Speelman - and to Miles after losing to Kasparov. It can't be unusual for top chessplayers, who to a sizeable degree must surely rely on their judgement and nerve - to suffer some sort of crisis of confidence if those qualities are found lacking at the higest level.

Didn't Zukertort never recover from being beaten by Steinitz, because (among other reasons) he couldn't work out why he'd lost?

Anonymous said...

Yes I think you're right.

If memory serves Short had been rated as high as 3rd in the world around the time he lost to Speelman but by the time of Manila 90 he was about 18th