Chess Oscar 2001 for Kasparov

ARVIND AARON

WINNING a match each day, World No. 1 ranked Garry Kasparov asserted his supremacy with ease to take the honours in the second FIDE Grand Prix rapid chess tournament in Moscow. Kasparov celebrated his return to the FIDE fold with this undefeated title triumph.

Kasparov exhibited better preparation and a greater will power to win the tournament.-ARVIND AARON

It was easy to predict the first place for Kasparov for the opposition did not consist of Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand. His main rivals, world champion Ruslan Ponomariov and Vassily Ivanchuk, both from Ukraine, failed to live upto their expectations.

Playing in Moscow for the first time in six months, Kasparov scored with effortless ease against Jaan Ehlvest of Estonia and Joel Lautier of France in the first two rounds, with 2-0 sweeps. Thereafter the margins were narrower but yet comfortable. The find of the New Delhi world championship in 2000, Alexander Grischuk of Russia, lost 0.5-1.5 to Kasparov in the quarter-finals. If Kasparov had to sweat it out it was in the match against former world champion Alexander Khalifman, the Russian from St. Petersburg. Winning in the tie-break 2.5-1.5, Kasparov moved to the finals.

Teimour Radjabov, the 15-year-old talent from Azerbaijan, who came through a tough pool of big names could not make his magic work against Kasparov. He got crushed in the black game and could not get anything better than a draw with the white. Kasparov had the finals in his grasp and won by 1.5-0.5.

In his unbeaten 9.5/12 score, the 39-year-old Kasparov drew five games and won seven demonstrating that he is still young in energy and tactics. This was his second tournament this year in three appearances. At Prague, he was knocked out in the sudden death game by Ivanchuk in the quarter-finals. His other success was at Linares in the traditional classical chess tournament. Here, Kasparov exhibited better preparation and a greater will power to win the tournament, though there weren't any suitable rivals to challenge him. As the scoreline indicates, the semifinal win over Khalifman was the toughest for Kasparov, among his five matches.

Kasparov played and won a FIDE banner tournament for the first time in 15 months. His last victory also involved a rapid chess tournament which he won in March 2001 at Cannes in the French Riviera. In the good books of FIDE, he can be expected to play a few of these Grand Prix events and also the Chess Olympiad at Bled in Slovenia this year.

The games were played identical to the previous event held at Dubai. Here, 32 players took part in a straight knock-out. From round two, even knocked-out players continued to play to decide who finished where and all players had prizes. Kasparov's share was $21,600 while Teimour Radjabov picked up $11,400.

The knock-out tournament was the best of two matches with each side starting with 25 minutes and having an increment for each move and the blitz tie-break decided all the ties. If further required the sudden death games were played with six minutes for white and five for black. White was required to win these Armageddon games.

Hailing from Kasparov's native town of Baku, Radjabov was the most impressive player who hit the headlines repeatedly with upset wins one after the other. Starting with a pawn-storming shocking win over Russian Peter Svidler, the boy from Baku sailed over world championship finalist Vladimir Akopian 2.5-1.5 to make it to the quarter-finals. In the last eight, Radjabov nailed favourite Ivanchuk by coming from a game down at 1-2 to win the next two games including the Armageddon tie-break for a semifinal entry with a 3-2 margin. In the semifinals he was able to keep the exciting Beliavsky of Slovenia quiet with four draws. In the sudden death game, he spotted a discovered attack to win a knight and dashed into the finals with an unexpected 3-2 win. Although Radjabov lost the finals, he picked up a career-best prize money cheque for a stimulative show.

For Ponomariov it was his second failing in a row. He was humbled by the women's world champion Zhu Chen at Dubai in the first round itself. Here, he was knocked out 0-2 by his former countryman Alexander Beliavsky (now Slovenia) in round two and lost the right of playing for the first place. India's wildcard competitor Krishnan Sasikiran bowed out in the first round itself but did not pack his bags without throwing up a good challenge and picking up $1440. If the experience of Bareev eliminated him, he made a good impression in a field involving Kasparov for the first time. Losing game one to a mating attack, Sasikiran bounced back to shock Bareev with the black pieces and level the scores at 1-1 after rapid chess. In the blitz tie-break, Sasikiran overlooked a tactical shot involving a backward moving knight sacrifice and lost the first one. In the second, Bareev stayed solid to draw with white and win by 2.5-1.5. Strangely, three wins by black featured this match.

Many players who participated in the inaugural Grand Prix at Dubai skipped this one as the prize fund was not as lucrative as the one won by Peter Leko. "They changed the dates too often," was the excuse given by Anand for keeping out, while for Shirov, Leko and Gelfand it must be the unattractive prize money. Losing these big names FIDE was compensated in a small manner with the participation of Kasparov. Two of the five Grand Prix events are over and the last three are scheduled for India, Croatia and Brazil. World's No.2 ranked Vladimir Kramnik, who holds a world chess title not recognised by FIDE, continues to keep away from all FIDE events like Kasparov did in the past till he held that title in 2000.

Final placings: 1. Garry Kasparov (Rus), 2. Teimour Radjabov (Aze), 3. Alexander Khalifman (Rus), 4. Alexander Beliavsky (Slo), 5. Alexander Grischuk (Rus), 6. Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr), 7. Ilya Smirin (Isr), 8. Evgeny Bareev (Rus), 9. Rustam Kasimdzhanov (Uzb), 10. Vladimir Akopian (Arm), 11. Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukr), 12. Judit Polgar (Hun), 13. Alexander Onischuk (Ukr), 14. Alexey Dreev (Rus), 15. Joel Lautier (Fra), 16. Emil Sutovsky (Isr).

POLITICALLY on the correct side with FIDE, Garry Kasparov is having a great time as hundreds of chess journalists from dozens of countries voted him to receive the Oscar for excellence in chess in the year 2001.

Regaining the title he won on most occasions, he polled about one thousand points more than the second best, Vladimir Kramnik, from whom he is wresting the most prestigious chess award presented each year by the Russian chess magazine "64".

Winning the Chess Oscar on non-world championship years holds great value and by taking it, Kasparov, the No. 1 ranked player, proved that he is fit to make a comeback and win the world chess title in 2003.

Favoured in the unification deal by FIDE, Kasparov, born on April 13, 1963, will get a shot at the FIDE Champion Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine early next year. The winner of that tie will face the winner of the Kramnik v Candidates (to be decided in July 2002 at Dortmund) Champion for the world's unified title. Suddenly, Kasparov who had been thought to have nothing else but the No.1 place on the rating list to fight for, is breathing life into his career thanks to the Prague Unification Deal.

Victory at Wijk aan Zee in 2001 ahead of the two new champions, Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, and two other successes at Linares in March 2001 and Kazakhstan in June 2001 won him the Chess Oscar ahead of the rest of the pack. By the end of the year 2001, he also scored over Kramnik in an assorted time-controlled Botvinnik Memorial match to win the decisive vote.

Kramnik who won the Dortmund tournament in July 2001 got fewer first choice votes than Ponomariov but still got the second position. Ponomariov who ran an impressive line-up of wins in the Moscow FIDE World Championship to become a finalist in 2001 also helped Ukraine to a World Team Title triumph at Yerevan in October 2001. Ponomariov and Ivanchuk who were the finalists in 2001 at Moscow got the third and fourth best vote. Ivanchuk's achievement was eliminating Anand from the world championship. Anand who won the Merida Tournament in Mexico in May 2001 and the Leon Advanced Chess Tournament in June 2001 and beat Kramnik in the battle of world champions at Mainz stood fifth.

This announcement was made by Alexander Roshal, editor of the Russian magazine 64 during the FIDE Grand Prix tournament. Each year, starting January to April, journalists from all over the chess world participate in this exercise by nominating their 10 best choices and announcements of the results are made in May and June.

The top 10 preferred players with the points they secured: 1. Garry Kasparov (Rus) 3943, 2. Vladimir Kramnik (Rus) 2970, 3. Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukr) 2959, 4. Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr) 1820, 5. Viswanathan Anand (Ind) 1720, 6. Veselin Topalov (Bul) 1106, 7. Michael Adams (Eng) 781, 8. Alexei Shirov (ESP) 631, 9. Alexander Morozevich (Rus) 480, 10. Evgeny Bareev (Rus) 401.