Tromso Olympiad 2014 – A Couple of Provocations

This is about two types of provocations I noticed in the last two days.

The first one is the legal, over-the-board provocation as a result of a daring opening choice. In Round 2, as I was walking about I noticed the following position in the game Shirov-Sulskis

5…Nd5 against Shirov???

Shirov sank into deep thought here. It was obvious that black had done his homework and was daring him to enter the wild stuff after 6 Nf7. Shirov thought for more than 30 minutes and eventually went for it – his nerves and self-confidence still serve him well! It appeared that he didn’t know the theory of this line, but quite surprisingly, this actually worked in his favour! On move 9 the following position appeared:

White to move

During the game I actually remembered that there were some analyses on this line published in some of the recent Yearbooks (after checking now, it’s in YB 110), but I only remembered that the conclusion was ‘unclear’ after best play. The article suggests 9 0-0 here, while Shirov’s move, 9 a3 is supposedly a mistake that leads to a win for black. After the forced sequence 9…Nc2 10 Kd1 Na1 11 Nd5 the critical position arises:


This is the moment when Shirov’s choice of a bad line served him well – Sulskis probably concentrated all his efforts on the main move, 9 0-0, and couldn’t recall the refutation here, in spite of spending a lot of time! He went 11…Kd6 here, which is a mistake. After 12 d4 it was only Shirov who was enjoying himself until the end of the game on move 28. All in all, an interesting psychological choice by Sulskis that backfired, primarily because the wild position that arose was more to Shirov’s taste.

Another provocation that I’d like to talk about happened in our match against the Russians. I’m not even sure whether I should call what happened a ‘provocation’ as I don’t know whether it was done on purpose. But it certainly was annoying!

It concerns none other than Vladimir Kramnik! Before the game began he started taking out stuff out of a bag that he kept under the table – a few bars of chocolate, a box of hazelnuts, a package of raisins. He placed these on the table next to the bottle of water that is already on the table for every player. The problems started when he started to eat all those things, making cracking noises when breaking the chocolate, a ruffling noise when separating the chocolate from the paper, a plastic-popping noise when opening the box of almonds, and squeaking noises when opening the thermos he kept under the table. He must have enjoyed this picnic as he munched all this food with appetite. Normally I don’t pay attention to these things, but this time it was pretty difficult to ignore as he was playing next to me! Several times I tried to catch his eye, but he avoided eye contact. This behaviour lasted throughout the game. I regret that I didn’t say anything as my team-mates were also annoyed and our captain even protested with the arbiter. Nothing came out of it.

I am a big admirer of Kramnik’s chess and I respect him very much, but what I witnessed showed another picture of the man. I still cannot say whether he was aware he was annoying us (I hope not), but piling up food on a chess board reminds me of an obscure amateur open tournament played after work and something not becoming the status of a former World Champion. Botvinnik would have shuddered, even though he probably would have approved of the thermos! Jokes aside, in any case it was an unpleasant situation and I hope somebody draws his attention to the discomfort he causes with this behaviour.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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  • Aug 8,2014 at 5:54 pm

    It's curious that when Kramnik played Topalov, he only had a big box of blueberries on the table! Probably because eating blueberries makes less noise… Manners or not, these guys are taking the meaning of the verb "relaxed" to the extreme.

  • Anonymous
    Aug 8,2014 at 12:08 am

    Totally agree with your observation and view of Kramnik. Simply bad manners. I noticed also Carlsen was eating nuts in round 3 in a way unknown to me so far. At least it was him to move at that point of time.
    I would expect anyone to stand up and have their lunch in sufficient distance away from the board.No matter it is Kramnik/Carlsen or John Doe.

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