Young vs Old

Just before the Tashkent GP starts, I wanted to take a look at the recently finished matches of Giri (aged 20) vs Shirov (42) and Jobava (30) vs Timman (62). The identical score of 4.5-1.5 clearly showed the triumph of youth and the inevitable passing of time.

They say that with age the main thing that does the most damage is the loss of energy. And everything else starts from there: no motivation, no desire to put in the hours of work necessary not only to progress, but also to keep your current level. All weak play and bad results in chess come from one single reason – lack of appropriate work.

Here’s an example of what I mean. The following is the second game in the match and Shirov, trailing 0-1, went for a line in which he made a forced draw against Wagner in April this year in a Bundesliga match. Since the position he went for is entirely in his style, Shirov must have been confident, but the young are not only confident, they also put in the hours and have powerful computers, so it wasn’t very difficult for Giri to refute Shirov’s opening. My take at this is that Shirov trusted his old analysis and liked the character of the position, so he didn’t check the critical position more thoroughly, while Giri trusted his work ethic and memory with the computer moves well remembered and produced on the chess board. Need I say who won?

It is curious to note that before playing this match, it was Shirov who represented youth in yet another match, this time against Evgeny Sveshnikov, aged 64. And Shirov was struggling in the openings against the veteran, but this time he won convincingly by 5.5-0.5. The reason was simple – Shirov was the stronger player. Once the games exited the opening phase, he consistently outplayed Sveshnikov. And another important thing was that Sveshnikov’s opening preparation, even though superior, didn’t bring the type of forced, computer-like positions where you can win the game by simple memorisation, like the game Giri-Shirov above. By playing 2 b3 and 2 c3 against the Sicilian, you cannot hope to win the game from the opening and once independent play started, Shirov was clearly superior. Here we have an example of an older player willing to put in the work and prepare thoroughly, but he didn’t really take into account the ensuing play – after all, the opening is just the beginning and you have to play well afterwards too. And in that play Shirov was simply better. This is the same reason for Fischer’s 6-0 results against Taimanov and Larsen – if you are better at playing chess, you can win (almost) every game.

And speaking of being better at chess, I can’t wait to see tomorrow’s start in Tashkent – will Caruana continue his winning ways without playing at his best?

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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