Another feather in Anand's cap

ARVIND AARON

THE chess world's most important tournament involving the big three for the first time in 15 months was won by the No. 3-ranked Viswanathan Anand at Prague. Anand made a smart comeback in this combined rapid and classical chess event to lift the coveted Eurotel World Chess Trophy after winning five straight knock-out matches.

An amazing line-up of 32 of the best players from 20 countries gathered for this much-awaited event. It was the biggest event outside the World championships in a long time with a prize money of 500,000 Euros (Rs. 2.15 crores). Many of the players had been paid quite some time ago to compete, some at least a year back, and the event had to be moved from the Netherlands to the Czech Republic. One notable absentee was the world champion Ruslan Ponomariov.

Viswanathan Anand is congratulated by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the FIDE President, as runner-up Anatoly Karpov looks on.-AP

Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik and Anand had not played in the same event since Wijk aan Zee 2001 and thus Eurotel was a historic meet. Kasparov had last played only classical chess at Linares, Kramnik had played rapid chess but had a poor run at Monte Carlo and Anand came relatively more prepared in having played both rapid chess and the knock-out format in Dubai. This seemed to have helped as Anand registered one of his most convincing tournament wins since Frankfurt 2000.

In the 32-player knock-out event, each match had two games of 25 minutes plus five seconds increment for a move per player. If it was tied 1-1, they played two blitz games of 5 minutes with two seconds increment per move. If the tie persisted, they had the sudden death play-off with white given five minutes and black four minutes. But white had to win to advance. If it was a draw, black would advance. This format was followed from round one till the semi-finals. The finals was a classical chess affair to be decided on the basis of the best of two games, the session being for seven hours. The draws were so made that Kasparov and Anand would play one semi-final and Kramnik would emerge from the lower half of the draw to the finals if the best rated player kept winning.

Anand did not have to play the two rated players above him as they had failed in the earlier rounds. But he beat both their conquerors, Ivanchuk in the semis and Karpov in the finals. Anand started very well, winning both games in his first two rounds to make it to the last eight. His victims were the former world championship challenger Jan Timman in the first round and former world champion Alexander Khalifman in the second. In the quarter-finals, first Anand showed the art of defending games after losing pawns against Sokolov. In the reverse game with the white pieces he proved that when the pawns are at a distance, all opposite colour bishop end games need not always be drawn.

In the semi-finals, Anand met Ivanchuk, the player to whom he had lost his world title six months ago in Moscow. Importantly, the Ukrainian had eclipsed Kasparov in the sudden death tie-break of the quarter-finals. After a difficult draw with the white pieces and a comfortable one with black, Anand took the match into the tie-break. The tie-break itself improved Anand's winning probability for his speed is always useful in blitz. Here, he drew the black game and then took the Ukrainian apart in a rook and opposite colour bishop ending exhibiting penetrative play to queen a pawn.

The finals came after a free day, for Anand and Karpov had to adjust to the seven-hour classical time frame. With a brilliant tactical stroke Anand won a pawn and demonstrated excellent end game strategy to take the lead. With the black pieces he needed only a draw to win the title. He achieved this mission, but was playing so well that he could have won that game too had he continued and not accepted the offer of draw from Karpov.

The record read seven wins, five draws and no losses for Anand as the 32-year old Chennai-born ace scripted one of his best performances. He cracked open opponents with speed, skill and crafty play and determination. His enormous defensive capability also came to his rescue in two games - against Sokolov in the quarter-finals and against Ivanchuk in the semi-finals. It was one of his most authoritative wins and this form should leave him in the hunt for more rapid titles till the start of winter.

Anand's 9.5/12 score speaks for itself and he pounced on opportunities like he did at Frankfurt 2000 when he won the Siemens Giants Rapid and was solid like he was when he won the Linares 1998 event. Anand's success against Karpov was not a surprise as he had beaten the former world champion on so many occasions. He made it a personal 22-11 after the Prague triumph in head-to-head decisive games. No other player enjoys such a win ratio against Karpov.

Karpov, too, played very well to make the finals. By the time this piece is read, he would have completed 51 years on May 23. Without doubt he was the oldest competitor. The other 1951-born player, Jan Timman, was born seven months after Karpov. Karpov emerged from the lower half of the draw beating Nigel Short in round one and then each of his wins were upsets by current standards. The biggest surprise was in round two when, playing white, Karpov sent Kramnik crashing. Then he taught fellow-Russian Morozevich a hard endgame lesson in a queen ending. The third big one was over Shirov and here all he had to do was grab the wrongly sacrificed knight and defend to win in tie-break. Although his successful streak was stopped by his nemesis, Anand, in the finals, Karpov's show was his best in many years in elite company. It was a well-deserved second place.

The big two - Kasparov, who seemed invincible only a month back at Linares and Kramnik, who seemed to have lost touch with the game at the Amber Rapid tournament - were shock failures.

Kasparov was a bit unlucky as he adopted the same wrong approach that Anand did against Ivanchuk in Moscow in the world championship. He waited for Ivanchuk to make a mistake and did not try to force the issue in rapid games. Kasparov tried to make amends late in the sudden death game, where a win with white was necessary for him to stay in the event. He opened up a bit too much and the Ukrainian waited and grabbed the chance to post a big quarter-final upset. Kasparov lost 2-3 after two rapid games and the two tie-break blitz games ended in draws. Earlier, Kasparov had eliminated Gilberto Milos of Brazil and Judit Polgar of Hungary without any difficulty.

Kramnik had the big responsibility of proving that he was indeed a champion, but he failed once again. In round one he had a 2-0 sweep over Hracek, but he failed in round two. Starved of success, Kramnik goes to Anand's den in Leon for an Advanced Match from June 20-24.

The tournament had a lion's share of upsets. Peter Leko of Hungary, the winner of the UAE Grand Prix earlier in April, was shown the door in round one. Ivan Sokolov, the Bosnian living in the Netherlands, knocked him out 2.5-1.5 after a tiring tie-break. Bareev losing to Yusupov was also an upset given the current ratings of the players.

Round two had high-profile victims, Kramnik and Adams. Kramnik fell to the evergreen Karpov and Adams to his former team-mate Ivan Sokolov. The upsets in the quarter-finals were Kasparov's defeat and Karpov's victory! Ivanchuk sent Kasparov to the discussion table for his patch-up with FIDE and Morozevich's endgame skills were stretched as he bowed to Karpov with white and never got a change to come back with the black pieces. The second semi-finals saw Karpov spring yet another upset win over Shirov to reach the finals.

In the finals, however, there was no upset and Anand won with the white pieces and defended well to draw the black game. At the fag end, Karpov made a blunder and offered a draw, but Anand accepted it without realising the impact of white's mistake.

Artur Yusupov, one of the senior trainers in the game and now living near Munich in Germany, was in action after a long absence, but bowed out in round two. He upstaged Evgeny Bareev, the Russian who had won the year's first super category tournament at Wijk aan Zee. The youngest competitor, Radjabov, 15, from Azerbaijan, impressed, holding Adams to a 1-1 draw in the rapid session of round one but he was knocked out in the blitz tie-break. The lone lady competitor of super category chess, Judit Polgar, was too good for the Chinese Grandmaster Ye Jiangchuan, but was crushed by Kasparov in round two.

The organiser is from the Netherlands, but all the nation's three players - Van Wely, Timman and Picket - lost in round one itself. The same was the story of the Czech Republic players, Sergey Movsesian and Hracek, who were also eliminated in round one.

If there was one important player missing from the lot, it was the world champion Ponomariov from Ukraine. The players were signed up a long time ago and the rest for Ponomariov, who recently lost to the world women's champion Zhu Chen in Dubai, should do him a world of good.

Just 35 of the 82 complete games played in the tournament ended in draws, speaking volumes of the competitors' fighting spirit. All three types of chess were played, but the main course was rapid chess with a blitz supplement to break ties. Classical chess also was used to find the winner in the finals. The high quotient of decisive games (47/82, or 57.32%) is one of the many reasons why sponsors preferring chess events go for elite rapid tournaments such as these. The organisers such as Bessel Kok and Serge Grimaux have been doing limited chess events involving Kasparov in the past four years. Kok is credited with finding sponsorships for chess events in the past and was the backbone of the once active Grandmaster Association which hosted events like the World Cup more than a decade ago.

These are the same organisers who in 1999 reportedly paid Anand $200,000 to play a match against Kasparov and kept him out of the FIDE World Championship at Las Vegas. That match did not materialise. So, with money not a problem, this Eurotel tournament was just waiting to happen. After KPN, a Dutch telecom giant, did not pick up the event, the venue was moved from Rotterdam or Amsterdam to Prague. It was very well staged in Zofin Palace, in the heart of the city.

The complete results:

Round one: Garry Kasparov (Rus) bt. Gilberto Milos (Bra) 2-0, Judit Polgar (Hun) bt. Ye Jiangchuan (Chn) 2.5-1.5, Boris Gelfand (Isr) bt. Yasser Seirawan (USA) 1.5-0.5, Loek Van Wely (Ned) lost to Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr) 0.5-1.5, Jan Timman (Ned) lost to Viswanathan Anand (Ind) 0-2, Alexander Khalifman (Rus) bt. Viktor Bologan (Mda) 1.5-0.5, Ivan Sokolov (Bih) bt. Peter Leko (Hun) 2.5-1.5, Michael Adams (Eng) bt. Teimour Radjabov (Aze) 2.5-1.5, Anatoly Karpov (Rus) bt. Nigel Short (Eng) 1.5-0.5, Zbynek Hracek (Cze) lost to Vladimir Kramnik (Rus) 0-2, Vladislav Tkachiev (Fra) lost to Alexander Grischuk (Rus) 2-3, Alexander Morozevich (Rus) bt. Sergey Movsesian (Cze) 1.5-0.5, Veselin Topalov (Bul) bt. Vadim Milov (Swz) 2.5-1.5, Peter Svidler (Rus) bt. Jeroen Piket (Ned) 2-0, Alexei Shirov (Esp) bt. Mikhail Gurevich (Bel) 3-1, Artur Yusupov (Ger) bt. Evgeny Bareev (Rus) 1.5-0.5.

Round two: Judit Polgar (Hun) lost to Garry Kasparov (Rus) 0-2, Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr) bt. Boris Gelfand (Isr) 1.5-0.5, Viswanathan Anand (Ind) bt. Alexander Khalifman (Rus) 2-0, Ivan Sokolov (Bih) bt. Michael Adams (Eng) 1.5-0.5, Vladimir Kramnik (Rus) lost to Anatoly Karpov (Rus) 0.5-1.5, Alexander Grischuk (Rus) lost to Alexander Morozevich (Rus) 0-2, Peter Svidler (Rus) lost to Veselin Topalov (Bul) 0.5-1.5, Artur Yusupov (Ger) lost to Alexei Shirov (Esp) 0-2.

Quarter-finals: Garry Kasparov (Rus) lost to Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr) 2-3, Ivan Sokolov (Bih) lost to Viswanathan Anand (Ind) 0.5-1.5, Alexander Morozevich (Rus) lost to Anatoly Karpov (Rus) 0.5-1.5, Alexei Shirov (Esp) bt. Veselin Topalov (Bul) 1.5-0.5.

Semi-finals: Viswanathan Anand (Ind) bt. Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr) 2.5-1.5, Anatoly Karpov (Rus) bt. Alexei Shirov (Esp) 3-1.

Finals (classical chess): Viswanathan Anand (Ind) bt. Anatoly Karpov (Rus) 1.5-0.5.

The three most important games from the competition:

GM Anatoly Karpov-GM Vladimir Kramnik, round two, game two, Queen's Indian defence, E15: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.b3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Be7 7.Bg2 c6 8.Bc3 d5 9.Nbd2 Nbd7 10.0-0 0-0 11.Re1 c5 12.e4 dxe4 13.Nxe4 Bb7 14.Nfg5 cxd4 15.Bxd4 Nxe4 16.Nxe4 Qc7 17.Nc3 Rad8 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.cxd5 e5 20.Rc1 Qb8 21.Bb2 Bc5 22.a3 a5 23.Rc4 f5 24.b4 axb4 25.axb4 Bd6 26.Qd2 e4 27.Rc6 Rde8 28.Bd4 Ne5 29.Rxb6 Qd8 30.Rxd6 Qxd6 31.Bc5 Qd7 32.Bxf8 Rxf8 33.Qd4 Qd6 34.b5 Rb8 35.Rb1 Rb6 36.h3 h6 37.g4 fxg4 38.Qxe4 gxh3 39.Bxh3 Rb8 40.Be6+ Kh8 41.b6 Nd7 42.Bxd7 Qxd7 43.Qe6 Qb7 44.Rc1 Qa6 45.Rc6 Rf8 46.Qe7 Rg8 47.b7 Qb5 48.Rc8 Qb1+ 49.Kh2 Qb2 50.Kg2 Qb4 51.Qxb4 1-0.

GM Garry Kasparov-GM Vassily Ivanchuk, quarter-finals, sudden death, Ruy Lopez, C90: (This was a 5 minutes to white and 4 minutes to black sudden death blitz game). 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a4 Bg4 9.c3 0-0 10.h3 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Na5 12.Bc2 b4 13.d4 c5 14.dxe5 dxe5 15.Nd2 Nd7 16.Bd3 Nb6 17.Bf1 c4 18.Qg3 Qc7 19.Nf3 Rfe8 20.Bh6 Bf8 21.cxb4 Nb3 22.Ra3 a5 23.bxa5 Rxa5 24.Ra2 Rxa4 25.Rxa4 Nxa4 26.Nh4 g6 27.Bxf8 Rxf8 28.Nf5 Nxb2 29.Rb1 Na4 30.Bxc4 Qxc4 31.Rxb3 Qxe4 32.Rf3 Nc5 33.Qg5 f6 34.Ne7+ Kg7 35.Qc1 Ne6 36.Ra3 Nf4 0-1.

GM Viswanathan Anand-GM Anatoly Karpov, finals, game one, Petroff's defence, C42: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.c4 Nb4 9.Be2 0-0 10.Nc3 Bf5 11.a3 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Nc6 13.Re1 Re8 14.Bf4 dxc4 15.Bxc4 Bd6 16.Rxe8+ Qxe8 17.Ng5 Bg6 18.Bxd6 cxd6 19.h4 Qe7 20.Qg4 h6 21.Nh3 Qf6 22.Re1 Bf5 23.Qf3 Kf8 24.Nf4 Bd7 25.g3 Re8 26.Rxe8+ Bxe8 27.Qe4 g5 28.hxg5 Qxg5 29.Bd5 Bd7 30.Qh7 Qf6 31.Bxf7 Ne7 32.Bb3 Bf5 33.Nh5 Bxh7 34.Nxf6 Bg6 35.Ng4 Kg7 36.Ne3 Be4 37.g4 Kf6 38.Kh2 b6 39.Kg3 Kg5 40.Bf7 Kf6 41.Bc4 Kg5 42.Bb3 Kf6 43.f3 Bg6 44.f4 Be4 45.Bc4 Bc6 46.Bd3 Bb7 47.Kh4 Bf3 48.Nc4 Nd5 49.Kg3 Bd1 50.Nxd6 Nxc3 51.Nf5 Kg6 52.d5 Ba4 53.d6 Bd7 54.Kh4 a5 55.Ne3+ Kf7 56.Kh5 b5 57.Kxh6 Ke6 58.g5 Kxd6 59.g6 1-0.