Kasparov pockets his fifth Oscar

THE announcement of his successful nomination for the Chess Oscar award for the best player of 2002 came more like a belated birthday gift for the undisputed numero uno Garry Kasparov.

ARVIND AARON

THE announcement of his successful nomination for the Chess Oscar award for the best player of 2002 came more like a belated birthday gift for the undisputed numero uno Garry Kasparov. To win five such awards in a space of eight years is no mean effort. Having dominated the chess world since taking the No. 1 place in the rating list since 1984, Kasparov's latest award symbolises a vision realised.

Garry Kasparov has won his fifth Chess Oscar in eight years. Five out of eight is sheer dominance, leaving his main rivals Anand and Kramnik way behind in this prestigious race. This award will be some kind of a relief to the man who is determined to make a comeback as far as the world title is concerned. -- Pics. ARVIND AARON-

Placing his performance in 2002 under the lens, it was a see-saw period by his own standards but the voters saw the high spots reached and dropped the lesser performances. That way Kasparov was even a little lucky. Winning the Linares 2002 event with a crushing victory against the young world champion Ruslan Ponomariov, Kasparov started the year on a big note.

Then, he was engulfed in chess politics for a while. He was a signatory to the Re-Unification plan of the divided chess world at Prague in May 2002 and his game suffered. He was knocked out by Vassily Ivanchuk in the quarter-finals at Prague. The winner of the Eurotel Trophy was Viswanathan Anand, who beat the evergreen veteran Anatoly Karpov in the finals.

Later, in June 2002, Kasparov won the FIDE Grand Prix in Moscow beating Teimour Radjabov in the finals. He participated to save FIDE's image after many of his professional rivals withdrew from the tour after the announced prize money was withdrawn in the previous leg of the Grand Prix held at Dubai in April 2002. Kasparov and Leko thus won one Grand Prix event apiece and the overall winner could not be decided as the last three legs did not take place — at Mumbai, Croatia and Brazil in 2002 — as announced by FIDE. The Moscow triumph compensated for his Prague performance and also went to prove that his relationship with FIDE had taken a turn for the good of both.

If Kasparov played his best chess in 1999 he played the worst of his career in September 2002 when he went minus two (4/10) in the Russia versus Rest of the World match in Moscow. His poor form and that of the other three K's, Karpov, Khalifman and Kramnik meant that the World Team won their first battle in three decades against Russia's chess might. The Russian journalists were harsh in their comments. "Spent force", "he is finished", "he is buried", were some of the words used to depict one of his three defeats to woman No. 1 Judit Polgar in that series.

Kasparov played Chess Olympiads when his relationship with FIDE was good. He came to Bled in October 2002 with one mission in mind and erased his Moscow debacle with a stunning 2933 rating performance, which also gave him the "Best player of the Olympiad" award. "I needed this win because of the disastrous performance in the Russia versus The Rest of the World. So it was important for me to personally play well and get this in my chess career," Kasparov said.

At 40, Kasparov has a few more ambitions too. He was a member of the gold medal winning Soviet Union team for four years (1980, 1982, 1986 and 1988) and also a gold medal winning Russian team for another four years (1992, 1994, 1996, 2002). "Counting my own gold medals, I just now worked and found out that I was one short of Petrosian's record of nine medals. So, two more Olympiads to go," said Kasparov at Bled last year.

Later, in December, Kasparov received a shock rapid chess defeat when his old arch-rival Karpov beat him in a match at New York. Overall, in the year he had mixed performances — three poor and three excellent showings. The voters who comprise of journalists from various countries and mainly from Russia have see the bright side by giving him the top vote to receive the Chess Oscar.

Peter Leko of Hungary and Viswanathan Anand were next in line in votes. His rivals say, voters, who are journalists from all over the world have given greater weightage for classical chess and events like Linares and the Bled Olympiad.

One year since the Prague agreement, nothing tangible had occurred. But in June 2003, Kasparov is scheduled to play Ponomariov for one leg of the reunification match, which will be for the FIDE world title, while Kramnik should play Leko for the other leg of the reunification match, which will be for the Einstein world chess title. The winners should meet in November 2003 for the combined finals, which will decide the unified world champion. So, Kasparov is waiting to recover lost glory in the form of wearing the crown once again.

Clearly, Kasparov's significance makes one to think that chess dominance is seen in two ways, "Kasparov year and a non-Kasparov year." Five out of eight is sheer dominance, leaving his main rivals Anand and Kramnik way behind in this prestigious race. This award will be some kind of a relief to the man who is determined to make a comeback as far as the world title is concerned.