8 responses to “Radjabov decides not to tilt at FIDE windmills”

  1. Radjabov’s statement (“I sacrificed Elo for the best of my country”) sounds good for a home crowd but doesn’t really stand scrutiny: Over the last three years, in team events he had 20 whites and 31 blacks, and lost in total 3.2 Elo points. Excess blacks are due to three events in 2010 where he actually gained 3 Elo points – the Azerbaijani strategy to give Mamedyarov as many whites as possible is fairly recent.

    He fell out of the top10 primarily due to bad results (minus scores) in Linares and Nanjing 2009.

  2. In September 2009 Radjabov was top 8 for the seventh list in a row, but in 2010 he was never better than 10th, and he did have 15 team games with black but only 6 with white last year.

    Counting from the last rounds of the European Team Championship 2009 Radjabov has 17 blacks and 6 whites in his 23 latest team games, so in this period (but not earlier) it has more or less been a 3 to 1 ratio.

    With a Karjakin schedule instead (12 white games and 4 black in his two latest team events) he may have had a few points more on the rating list, but he hasn’t played as well as expected in some events. After being rather stable around 2750 the last four years he needs to show that he can close in on 2800 and not get stuck just outside the top 10. Even if stable 2750 is quite good too.

  3. Such numbers can always be tuned to one’s need: if you also make it three team events and 23 games for Karjakin, you end up with 14 whites and 9 blacks (he had excess black games at the Russian Club Cup Premier League in April 2010).

    There is another reason why Radjabov’s implicit claim (“I’d have picked up rating points if only I had more whites in team events”) has little substance: According to statistics on the FIDE rating pages, he scored 58% with white (+26=92-7) vs. 55% with black (+33=86-19) – roughly extrapolating this to his 23 games in 2010 team events, he might have scored 14/23 rather than 13.5/23 with a more even color distribution, a difference of maybe 2 or 3 rating points!? And while he may not remember earlier team events, he should have a general idea about his overall results with either color … .

    Compare this to a few other players: Mamedyarov W65%, B55%, Karjakin W66%, B52%, Kramnik W68%, B47%. A quick scan suggests that Nakamura may be the only other world top player who scores equally well with both colors, but his impressive results (W71%, B69%) include comparatively many games against weaker opposition – statistics include games since October 2007 when he still played many Swiss opens.

    About Karjakin: As I said before (elsewhere), his rating gain doesn’t just come from the Olympiad, but also from finishing shared first in three consecutive round robin events (Poikovsky, Tal Memorial, Russian Championship) … .

  4. Thanks for the interview. Is the phrase “alone on a battlefield you’re not a soldier” a Russian proverb? I rather like it.

  5. @Thomas, pb

    Ehm, it’s a little pathetic to give the black/white ratio as only reason for his stagnation, but the numbers you have dug up seem to confirm what he said (Of course not what you said that he said.)

    “more intense preparation and a reduction in the chance of winning.”

    He claims that this is especially difficult with his enterprising style of opening. He implicitly claims he did quite an impressive job of scoring with Black with risky play against top opposition. That’s true.

    If he spends the same amount of time and energy to develop a Winning-with-White repertoire, he could end up with a higher rating. That’s speculation, of course, but plausible.

    And if he spends more time on “calm equalising systems” with Black, he might get even further. That’s my opinion.

  6. @Bartleby: Fair enough, I agree with you – also that this is quite speculative. It almost sounds like “if only I was Kramnik, I would have a higher rating”!? I picked Kramnik not just because he does have a higher rating and I like him as a player, but because he might be the other extreme: monster with white, often just equalizer/neutralizer with black.

    Fact is that Radjabov plays sharp risky lines with black with good results. Fact is also that his white repertoire is rather tame, take his score on the white side of the Scotch: +1=22 including five draws in less than 20 moves (not the Scotch is tame, but the lines he chooses which often include an early queen swap).

    So I have two suggestions:
    – Radjabov has to go for sharp openings with black because he lacks effective weapons with white
    – His excess blacks in team events are consequence rather than cause of this pattern. Maybe not even because he scores slightly better with black than others, but because he is less efficient with white?
    The first, but not the second point may be a chicken and egg issue!?

    Maybe his Elo would improve if he changes his attitude to opening preparation, his repertoire and/or his style. But that’s easier said than done, and color imbalance in team events certainly isn’t the main reason.

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