Sunday 8 November 2020

Shooting Chess Players: No.1 - Caruana - Korchnoi, Gibraltar 2011

Here's a photo you might have seen before...

... of Fabiano Caruana playing Viktor Korchnoi in the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters in 2011. The age differential was an amazing 61 years (which is greater than that between, for example, Karpov and Alekhine). And, more amazing still - it was the older guy who won!

I'm proud of the fact that I took this photo. Only this morning, renowned chess photographer David Llada said of it, "That photo from Gib is a piece of chess history. I wouldn’t have minded to have taken it!" That makes me prouder still - a bit like being a rank and file player and having Kasparov or Carlsen telling you, "that was a good game you played there."

That said, David and I both know that, technically, it's actually a terrible photo! A professional photographer, judging it on a ten-point scale, might give it a generous 'one' on the grounds that at least the two heads of the players are in it and recognisable. Everything else sucks. The focus is sharpest on Korchnoi's water bottle. The composition isn't great; it looks like Korchnoi is about to reach out and play a move, though Fabi hasn't made his own first move yet. So definitely not what Cartier-Bresson would call the "decisive moment". To be fair to myself, the light coming through the window is challenging, as David Llada also pointed out, but I guess someone a bit more proficient with a camera than me could have coped better with that.

However, little of the above matters. We could have wished that David Llada, Ray Morris-Hill, Lennart Ootes, Niki Riga, Maria Emelianova or Sophie Triay had been there to take the shot as they would surely have nailed it. With my infinitely better camera and significantly improved photographic technique of now (I've learnt a lot from the aforementioned photographers in the last decade and digital camera technology has also moved on by leaps and bounds) I might have done a bit better job had it been 2020 and not 2011. But no point dwelling on that: it was just me and my Nikon D90 and my shaky technique to capture this remarkable meeting of the generations with its sensational result, and that outweighs any photographic aesthetics. Famously, Viktor went on to defeat Fabi in a stunning game - see it analysed by Agadmator on YouTube.

Technical note: Nikon D90, 50.0mm f/1.4 lens, ISO 250, f/4.5, 1/60sec. Shot as a JPG. I've tried improving it using Adobe Lightroom software but with only marginal success.