Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five in a row

After his victory in Gibraltar the charming Mr Nakamura was in the news again alleging that another grandmaster (Rauf Mamedov) had deliberately lost five online blitz games in a row to Alexander Grischuk, thereby allowing the latter to overtake Nakamura's record as the player holding the highest ICC rating, a much-coveted distinction if only in the wall-pissing stakes.

It may be that Mr Nakamura finds it difficult to comprehend the very idea of losing five games in a row and as Ulf Andersson once apparently remarked that he couldn't really understand how it was possible to lose at all at correspondence chess, perhaps he has a point. Most of us, however, only find it hard to imagine winning five games in a row. The other way round is all too easy for us to grasp. In correspondence, blindfold, blitz or just the ordinary form of chess. I've done it. I've probably done it more than five times, come to that. And certainly I've done it against the same opponent in a series of blitz games: I wrote about it a couple of years ago.
I once played a chess tournament in Stroud with a clubmate of mine, Jesse Kraai, who was from New Mexico but was in England to study. During a break between rounds he made me a bet that he could beat me in five consecutive blitz games, a pound per game: and although he was a better player than I, he would even the odds by taking time off his clock every time he won a game. The first game would be played at five minutes apiece, but if he won it (as he did) he would play the second with four minutes, the third with only three and so on.

So he played the second game with four minutes, the third with three and the fourth with only two, and each time he knocked me over. The final game he played with what seemed to me an impossible one minute on the clock: how many moves can you play with only one minute to make them all and your opponent simply needing to avoid checkmate before your flag falls?

But Jesse had had his upbringing in American chess, where blitz play (and, for that matter, blitz for money) was far more common than it was here, and he knew how to stretch his sixty seconds by using my my time as effectively as he used his. A crowd had gathered as the sequence of games progressed and by the time that Jesse delivered mate and I handed him his fiver, there was shouting and cheering all around the board. If they had been any more excited, they would have picked him up and carried him on their shoulders out of the playing hall and into the streets.


Chris Morgan said...

I'm currently reading John Nunn's 'Secrets of Practical Chess' where Nunn says he once played 100 games against Mike Cook (graded about 2300), when Nunn had 5 minutes and Cook 10 minutes. Nunn won 88-12 which I thought was pretty good going even for a player of his strength. It's also just occurred to me that if it was the score there wouldn't have been any draws.

Anonymous said...

Why? It's not like test cricket. A draw is half a point, hence 100 draws is 50-50 no?


Chris Morgan said...

'A draw is half a point, hence 100 draws is 50-50 no?'

Oh yeah.

Tom Chivers said...

I drew my game tonight, thus bringing to a close for me a run of eight victories in a row (at slow-play OTB chess I mean.) It is also the first draw I've had in 2008.