Graf's new role

Published : Jul 11, 2015 00:00 IST

It may be a decade and half since she retired, but Steffi Graf continues to be one of the most loved sportspersons of all time. Little wonder, the news about the tennis legend's appointment by the Kerala Government as the brand ambassador to promote Ayurveda was greeted with glee by her fans.

The German beauty, who reigned over courts and hearts like very few ever did, would appear in ad campaigns nationally and internationally, according to Government officials. She would also associate with Kerala Tourism at a tourism fair in Berlin.

Graf who dominated women's tennis for a decade was the World No. 1 for 377 weeks - more than anybody else, male or female - and won 22 Grand Slam singles titles. In 1988, she won the Olympic gold medal, besides clinching all the four Grand Slam singles titles.

Topalov’s day in Norway

The inaugural Grand Chess Tour, featuring big stars and big prize money, got off to a spectacular, though completely unexpected, start in Norway in June. The expectations were that local lad Magnus Carlsen, World champion and the strongest player of all time, would be difficult to beat. But, he had a horrendous tournament, finishing seventh in a field of 10.

It was one of his most forgettable performances in recent times, as he lost even to the wild-card entry, compatriot Jan Hudvig Hammer, rated 199 Elo points below.

For Veselin Topalov (below), the fifth seed from Bulgaria, it proved an unforgettable fortnight at Stavanger, the oil capital of Norway. The 40-year-old rather played like a well-oiled machine to win the Norway Chess 2015 title, pushing his higher rated and mostly younger rivals behind. He had only one setback, when he lost to Anish Giri of Holland in the penultimate round; but he had played so well till then and scored enough points that all he needed was a draw in the final round game against Viswanathan Anand, at 45 the oldest player in the competition.

For Anand, the five-time World champion from India, a win would have given him the title; he was playing with black pieces yes, but in a similar situation, in the final game of the World championship in Sofia in 2010, he had beaten the Bulgarian. There were no such fireworks this time around; the game ended in a tame draw after just 17 moves. It was hardly a surprise to see Topalov eager to get a draw in a Queen’s Gambit Declined variation, but Anand’s fans were disappointed when he too opted for the safer route. The draw gave Anand, the World No. 3 the runner-up spot, with six points.

Topalov scored 6.5 points out of the maximum nine.

Earlier, the Blitz tournament, a prelude to the main show, was won by Vachier-Lagrave, scoring 6.5 points.

The next stop for the Grand tour is the Sinquefield Cup at Saint Louis (United States) from August 21. The total prize-fund of the tour is more than a million dollars.

The standings: 1. Veselin Topalov (Bul) 6.5; 2. Viswanathan Anand (Ind) 6; 3. Hikaru Nakamura (U.S.) 6; 4. Anish Giri (Ned) 5.5; 5. Fabiano Caruana (Ita) 4; 6. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Fra) 4; 7. Magnus Carlsen (Nor) 3.5; 8. Alexander Grsichuk (Rus) 3.5; 9. Levon Aronian (Arm) 3; 10. Jan Ludvig-Hammer (Nor) 3.

P. K. Ajith Kumar

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