It's five in a row for Anand

VISWANATHAN ANAND's skills in rapid chess were on display as he scored a well-controlled 5-3 victory over Alexei Shirov of Spain to claim the Chess Classic title for the seventh time in his career. It was also the fifth in a row at Mainz for Anand.

ARVIND AARON

VISWANATHAN ANAND's skills in rapid chess were on display as he scored a well-controlled 5-3 victory over Alexei Shirov of Spain to claim the Chess Classic title for the seventh time in his career. It was also the fifth in a row at Mainz for Anand.

In the best of eight games, Anand took the lead on day one and never looked back in what appeared to be an easy, yet fiercely fought contest. Anand won two games and drew six. Shirov had the spectators on the edge of their seats in game eight though he had lost the match already at 2.5-4.5. But he missed a chance of scoring a victory in that game and had to settle for a draw.

Lucky moments

Anand was better prepared for all the games and showed that his memory in the openings was impeccable. He played quicker and had Shirov in time trouble in the 25 minute + 10 second control. In game one and eight Anand also had some lucky moments when Shirov missed one obvious chance and another tough sequence.

In earlier matches in the previous years, Anand came from behind to defeat Kramnik, Ponomariov and Judit Polgar. This year, he seized the lead early and won with a game to spare. Game seven was the least interesting of all as Anand required a draw to win with white and he went straight for that and the tall Latvian could do nothing about it.

Anand's opening knowledge paid him dividends when he regrouped for a technical win in game two. In the sixth game, the Indian star exhibited how to exploit opening mistakes in his crisp 30-move win. Though the games were entertaining, Anand's superiority over Shirov was clear. The show was more a repeat of the Teheran World Championship match in 2000 where, too, Anand won, but by a bigger margin of 3.5-0.5. Again, these two players are pleasant ambassadors of this sport that FIDE chose to have them in the Sydney Exhibition match in 2000 alongside the Olympic Games with the hope of including it in the quadrangular event.

One significant factor in Shirov's defeat was that he was not the same player while he was playing in the second game of the day and looked more vulnerable. He either forgot theory or missed move orders. Anand latched on to the chances that he got in these two games. Only games two and six landed him in trouble, while he was playing with the black pieces. In games four and eight, which were also second games, Anand was safe as he had the advantage of making the first move.

At the closing ceremony, Anand was presented with a cover and the customary "Black Jacket" awarded to the winner of the Chess Classic. The appearance fees for Anand and Shirov were not disclosed. The 34-year old Indian, who spoke excellent German at the closing ceremony last year and even played two seasons for Baden Oos in the Bundesliga, said the last game against Shirov exhausted him too much and he would opt for English while addressing the audience.

On expected lines

Many had predicted an easy victory for Anand, as his pre-match score was heavy and close to being one-sided. Anand's former trainer Elizbar Ubilava of Georgia, who was present along with his wife as a chess player in the Open, predicted a 5-3 victory for Anand while speaking to The Sportstar before the match. Anand, however, does not believe in predictions and said it was a close and interesting match, which could have gone either way.

Super-model Carmen Kass and Viswanathan Anand played a five-minute blitz exhibition match during the Mainz Chess Classic, which Anand won. — Pic. AFP-

Rapid chess, music during the breaks and bonanza in chess shopping, all in a five-star ambience by the side of river Rhine added essence to this Chess Classic festival which has emerged as the biggest German summer chess festival. An Indian sardar Siddu who runs a restaurant here said there is rampant recession and business is not booming in Germany. He is very friendly and offers Indians (chess players and the Athens bound Indian hockey team which was training in the vicinity) Punjabi or South Indian (his wife is from Kerala) food. It seemed to have no effect on the chess scene though. "We surpassed all previous records in entry numbers, quality of players with FIDE rating and titles," boasted Hans-Walter Schmitt, the organiser of the show. The playing halls were more crowded than ever and more people watched the podium event: Anand v Shirov. Listening to the commentary from the Grandmasters on wireless headsets, and seeing Shirov's fighting qualities even after the match was decided, the spectators had their money's worth.

Sideshows

There were many sideshows as in the other years. The third FiNet Chess960 Open held on August 5-6 was won by Grandmaster Zoltan Almasi of Hungary. Chess 960 is a variant of chess where the start position of the pieces on the first and eighth ranks of the boards is randomly shuffled. Players get only five minutes to see the position they would be playing with and this is an idea of Bobby Fischer to eliminate home preparation and bring about creativity. Almasi won the event with a 9.5/11 score and would be challenging Peter Svidler of Russia for the World Chess960 Championship. India's ONGC star, Krishnan Sasikiran from Chennai started as the sixth seed and finished ninth with eight points.

Svidler's feat

This year's World Chess960 Championship was an interesting match with just one of the eight games drawn. Svidler came from behind to retain his title at 4.5-3.5 by clinching the crucial final game against Levon Aronian of Armenia. Last year, Svidler wrested the title from Peter Leko. Next year, Svidler's challenger will be Almasi. World New Chess Association was the organiser for this event.

In exhibition matches held on August 4, Shirov made a poor impression in Chess960 making 30.5/40 (+25, -4, =11) after playing for five hours and five minutes. Anand and world women's champion Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria made a sweep of their seven handicap blitz games. Anand offered a draw to super model Carmen Kass of Estonia, two moves before actually checkmating her!

Strong field

World elite member, Alexander Grischuk of Russia won the 11th Ordix Open for the second successive year playing high quality rapid chess. There was a strong field including Alexander Morozevich and Ruslan Ponomariov, the former FIDE World champion. Ponomariov was one of the many players, who wore the `Free Bobby Fischer' T-shirt and also signed the campaign to demand the release of the 1972-75 World champion in Tokyo.

The organisational team exhibited high standards in professionalism. Manning several locations for 542 players to play six rounds in one day was no mean achievement. One could not stop noticing arbiters running with the results to be fed into a computer and later coming back with new pairings for the 271 boards and using five large-scale projectors to display them on screens for players to locate their tables. Getting ready with the 271 clocks and rearranging the pieces all within a 30 minute round-to-round break was phenomenal exercise.