- Last Updated: 1:06 AM, May 20, 2012
- Posted: 7:11 PM, May 19, 2012
When a master gets off to a slow start in a competitive event, he may offer a lame excuse like: “It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.”
But play in the US Championship last week shows why tournaments have become the 100-yard dashes of chess.
On the other hand, matches, like the one in Moscow between world champion Vishy Anand of India and challenger Boris Gelfand of Israel, can be a snoozefest.
The first five bloodless games were drawn. None exceeded 37 moves, and the fifth game lasted less than two hours.
In St. Louis, however, the US Championship turned into a stirring race between Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky. Nakamura, the early leader, worked harder than anyone in the event, averaging 54 moves in the first eight games, while Kamsky chased and eventually caught up with him in points.
The best explanation for the Moscow letdown is that the match is limited to 12 games and the cost of losing is prohibitively high. In contrast, back in the days of 24-game world championships, a player like Bobby Fischer could lose the first two games and go on to win.
But the US Championship is only 11 games, so the players should be just as cautious as Anand and Gelfand. They aren’t — thankfully.