Kvibergspelen, Gothenburg

The Swedish Grand Prix tour 2022-2023 involves 6 weekend tournaments that are played between September 2022 and May 2023. I participated in the first of the six, Kvibergspelen, during the last weekend of September. It is played in a sport arena in a suburb of Gothenburg, and this year it attracted more participants than ever. The playing are was crowded with people, and you could hear chess being spoken of wherever you went. As with all GP-tournaments, it started out with four rapid games on the Friday evening and through an absolute miracle i managed to score 4/4, even though I was last at some stage in every game I played. In the first round I played White against Hrund Hauksdottir, who have close to 800 elo-points less than me, but she was better off at various stages of the game, and I had to do my utmost to win the game. The three next games were no better, but on the Saturday I played all right and won two games against Jonny Hector and the promising Norwegian junior Elham Abdrlauf. So, with two rounds to go I had won all my games, and I felt I had a good chance to win the tournament. Then in round 7 I was paired with Simen Agdestein, and due to the result of our earlier encounters (not good for me), I had a defensive mindset and we agreed on a draw after less than 20 moves. So, 6,5/7, and only one game to go. In the last game I got the Black pieces against Kaan Kucuksari, a Swedish Junior who have won good games against me before, but in situations where I was trying hard to win myself, perhaps too hard. I knew he had gotten much better (and increased his ELO with more than a 100 points), but I did not know exactly how much better:

I was quite disappointed with the way the game went, of course, but my disappontment would be misguided if I used the narrative “I won my first six games and then I messed it up”. Rather, “I did not play as well as I expect of myself, and I was lucky to get soo far”, is a better verdict. Also, it is always nice to see someone you have coached turn into such a strong player. We will see more of Kaan, and the next time we meet over the board, I hope I will make him have to play his best.

Keeping two thoughts in your head at the same time

I have tried to not be involved in the conflict that arose in the chess world due to Magnus Carlsen’s decision to pull out of the Sinquefield Cup this year. With Magnus giving so little explanation for his behaviour, I feel the shadow fell squarely into his corner. Hans Niemann was accused of cheating without a shred of credible evidence. And the way the accusation was put forth, made things even worse. Whatever the hidden facts Magnus implies being part to, this is not the right way to act. It is, however, the wrong way. He makes a terrible example for all his young fans. I am appalled by this.

That is one side. The other is that Hans Niemann has cheated in the past, and that his attitude towards winning suggests that he finds the possible punishment for cheating the main reason for not doing it. Short version: he does not come across as very sympathetic, and I would have understood if Carlsen had said that he did not want to play in a tournament against him. Because, cheating is a real threat to competitive chess, and professional players fight every day against the notion that this is something normal; something that happens on a regular basis. They fight it not only in public, but also in their minds. It is an easy road to take, to become suspicious of your opponents, and when you open that door, there are a thousand things that trigger your suspicion. There have been times when I left the breakfast table I shared with other grandmasters, due to the uncritical circulation of unfounded rumours of cheating. Although such idle talk is not as bad as cheating itself, I believe it paves the way for more cheaters. We risk ending up in a situation similar to the one the competitive cycling world found themselves in a few years back; where cheating became normal at the top, since many of the elite cyclists considered it to be normal and thought they would be unable to win unless they cheated too. (I am aware that this is a somewhat simplified version of the facts.) It is very hard to prove that someone cheats in chess (if they do not get too greedy), and banning those that do cheat is one of the few things we can do to discourage potential cheaters from not doing it. Still, there are also disadvantages to hard punishments, especially for youngsters who might be derailed for life almost before it began. I do not want that.

So, I too have my doubts about Hans Niemann, though my doubts have not become more serious after what Magnus said. That would be wrong. Niemann admitted to cheating as a teenager. Compared to me he is a kid, and there must be a place for change, growth and redemption for young people. I believe what he did was serious; perhaps more serious than he himself believes. I think it is wrong though refuse him a second chance based on a hunch, even if the hunch comes from a World Champion. (He insinuates that he knows something more, but his arguments are clearly hunches). New evidence could change the way we look at things, but it will not change my opinion of how Carlsen dealt with it.

Being true to my idol, Egon Friedell, who advocated being paradoxical, I will end with a game by the GOAT himself. At this moment in history, I clearly prefer his games over his statements.

Don’t try this out at home

Öbro International started the day after Smuk GM ended. From where I live in Malmö, it is just about a 75 minute train trip to the part of Copenhagen where Öbro skakforening is situated, so I had decided to travel back and forth every day (and do some of my preparations on the train). The first round started quite late in the day, and I got a well deserved half-day off, spending the time, mostly, reading at my favourite café Söderberg & Sara. I felt like almost a new person when I arrived for the game.

Entrance to Öbro Skakforening

The first three rounds went better than I expected, with two wins with White (which I had not managed to do in more than ten games!), and in the fourth round I was paired with the lowest rated player in the tournemant, Mogens Thuesen. At some stage in the beginning of the game I did have a sizeable advantage, but Mogens consistently pushed to make things complicated, and managed to scare me enough, that I played it badly, and it was a miracle that I survived it all with a draw. I was not happy with my game, but perhaps, at that stage, I should have been more happy with the draw than I was unhappy with my play.

H.C. Andersen used to take a break under the sycamore outside the club.

The next day we played two games, and in the early round I played GM Eduardas Rozentalis, from Lithuania. It was not a bad game, if you look at it from the sidelines; it seems like I know what I am doing, and that I just loose track of the right way to continue around move 35. The reality of things were more that I did not make a single informed decision during the game, that every good move I played was played from pure luck, and that my positional intuition failed all the way. So, I lost that game. Now I faced one of the winners of Smuk GM, Kassa Korley, a player I know to be systematic and consistent. I knew that my only hope in this game was to press the chaos button, fast, and hope that my chaos-intuition would carry me through the game:

After scoring such a lucky win on top of my lucky draw in round 4, I was able to get myself together and finish with 7/9, which was enough to share the first prize with Eduardas Rozentalis.

The bar

Smuk GM, part 2

The tournament was, for most of the part, a race between Yuri Solodovnichenko, Sergei Ovesejevitsch, and Kassa Korely. I stayed at the same place as Kassa, and I know he was less than happy with his play in the beginning, but in the end he collected a few good wins. In the 6:th round he won a game against the Indian youngster Aarav Dengla in such a simple fashion that I just had to go through the game to understand what happened: