For all the press-conference talk (and, admittedly, my own hyping) of the grudge chess game in Montreal between Nigel Short and Gata Kamsky, the hoped-for confrontation was an uneventful draw, which was interesting only initially because Short trotted out a rare opening, the Ponziani, that has barely been played in high-level chess since the Late Cretaceous. Maybe he kept the gloves on because he was trying to recover his equilibrium from an otherwise terrible tournament.
As John Saunders, the editor of British Chess Magazine, blogged today:
“Which brings me to the main talking point of the Montreal event: the dismal showing of Nigel Short. He got off to an absolutely dreadful start, 0/4, which became ½/6 (thereby equalling his… start at the 1980 Phillips and Drew tournament when he was 14 years 10 months old). It is reported that he was suffering from dental problems, which is indeed unfortunate, though I’m also told that Alekhine had similar problems in the early stages of his world championship match against Capablanca, had six teeth pulled out and went on to become world champion.”
Saunders’ whole blog entry is worth reading. He has the following to say about the game that wasn’t:
“One cannot help wondering whether the dental problem was the only reason for Short’s debacle or whether yet another airing of his ancient grudge against Kamsky after round two may have been a contributory factor. The English grandmaster has an elephantine memory for slights and disputes from the past and his inability to keep a statesmanlike silence could perhaps be his Achilles heel in a tournament context. It was noticeable how he occasionally liked to dust off and rehash some old vendetta in one of his newspaper columns whenever there was a slow news week in chess. Sometimes entertaining, sometimes offensive, but he no longer has this conduit for his pent-up aggression. Whatever the rights and wrongs of what happened between the Kamskys and Short all those years ago, he should surely have channelled all the remaining aggro into their individual game in Montreal and let the pieces do the talking. And, if I might be permitted to patronise the former world championship finalist further on his selection of opening (just this one time – I promise it will never happen again): the Ponziani is not a good choice if you want to play for a win with White. Believe me, I’ve tried and it’s not up to the job.”