King of the rapid game

The king of the knock-out game, Viswanathan Anand, won the World Rapid chess championship, held from October 23-30 at Cap d'Agde in France.

ARVIND AARON

Viswanathan Anand with the World Rapid Chess Trophy. — Pic. ARVIND AARON-

The king of the knock-out game, Viswanathan Anand, won the World Rapid chess championship, held from October 23-30 at Cap d'Agde in France.

Anand, who is on a winning vein this year, was slow off the block in the round robin phase of the competition, but did exceptionally well once the knock-out stage was reached. It was his best triumph this year and one of his all-time best showings in rapid event.

This was the strongest ever 16-player world championship. Eleven of the top 12 were there. Garry Kasparov declined the invitation since he had the match against Fritz from November 11 and wanted to prepare for that. "The first prize of 35,000 Euros was not high for this level of play," said Silvio Danailov, manager of Ruslan Ponomariov and trainer of Veselin Topalov.

Anand beating Kramnik is not an upset result. They have played in more than 100 games and Anand tops in their head to head rankings. The final was a perfect one with two top stars contesting. Anand played the opening game with the black pieces and drew after 19 moves.

Anand and Kramnik are matching wits in the final. In the end the Indian prevailed 1.5-0.5. — Pic. ARVIND AARON-

In the reverse game, Anand had the advantage of playing white and he sacrificed a pawn to win brilliantly in a superb game. His 18th move was a novelty, after which black slipped into an inferior position. The Indian, who sacrificed two rooks for the black queen, misled Kramnik, who looked invincible with the Sicilian Sveshnikov variation. Anand's technique came in for praise. His queen and bishop sliced through the black kingside and before Kramnik could grapple a counter offensive, Anand used his king and pawn to drive in the last nail.

Anand had beaten Kramnik in a rapid match at Mainz in 2001 and lost a match to him in Advanced Chess at Leon in 2002. Now this victory places him in front. Both the players looked very nervous during the match with Kramnik showing more signs of it. Kramnik was very disappointed after losing the match.

The 33-year-old Anand played 15 games in all at Cap d'Agde, winning five, drawing nine and losing one. His wins were against Leko, Karpov, Ponomariov, Svidler and Kramnik. He missed winning chances in two games, one against Ponomariov and another against Svidler. The half point he saved against Shirov and the half point he won against Svidler were praiseworthy.

Kramnik who finished second had easy ride against Polgar and Grischuk. Anand has now taken over the world rapid title from Kasparov who won it in 2001. Kramnik has the world classical chess title and Ponomariov the FIDE world chess title. Kasparov is now world No.1 ranked player. Anand will defend this title in October 2005.

It was a different FIDE event without many officials from the world chess federation. One player, Zurab Azmaiparashvili of Georgia is a vice-president of FIDE. However, the presence of legends such as Idor Lillenthal, the 92-year-old grandmaster, David Bronstein, who tied for the world title with Botvinnik, Mark Taimanov, noted grandmaster from the Soviet times kept the audience in good cheer.

One of the highlights of playing in Cap d'Agde was the enthusiastic spectators. They carried the placards of their favourite stars. In the second semifinal match, fans of Anand and Svidler tried to outshout each other. The venue was a small theatre with a capacity of around 200 seats. There was commentary on wireless headsets. The loudest thunderous applause came when Anand won the title. But the noise stopped when the games were in progress and the arbiters did not have to appeal for silence. It was unusual for chess players to play before an active and noisy audience. Besides the playing hall, the cafe had more than 100 spectators and further the games were telecast live on the official tournament website and relayed simultaneously to other sites.

The semifinals saw contrasting wins by the higher seeded players. Kramnik had a sweeping 2-0 win against Grischuk when he outplayed the 19-year-old (Grischuk turned 20 on October 31) in an ending in the first game and a crushing middlegame in the second. Anand needed tiebreaks to get past the in form Svidler.

In the opening match, Anand lost his white strike easily and had to give up a draw. Svidler threw a theoretical novelty in the second game and nearly knocked out Anand. But the Indian came up with a stunning defence to save a valuable half point and move into the semi-rapid tiebreak. Here, Anand missed his chance with black in a rook ending. The Indian obviously changed his opening strategy when playing black the second time. However, in the fourth game he outplayed Svidler knocking him out of the tournament. Anand and Svidler are teammates in the German league and play for rival clubs in the French league.

The knock out stage went on expected lines with the higher rated player proving stronger. Anand is only eleven Elo behind Kramnik. In the first quarterfinals, Kramnik beat Polgar easily in the first and offered a draw in a winning position in the second game to advance with a 1.5-0.5 margin.

Anand vanquished FIDE world champion Ponomariov. In the first game, Anand missed winning chances and drew. Then he had to rework a victory plan with the black. "The problem is in these situations, once you let them off after reaching a winning position, the trend will be against you," Anand said about the situation under which he won the second game.

In another quarterfinals, Topalov missed an attacking chance in the second white game to lose an ending to Svidler. Since the first game had ended in a draw, Topalov was exited by 0.5-1.5 points.

Grischuk was lucky to save the first game against Bacrot when the latter missed his chance in an opposite colour bishop ending. With the trend against him, Grischuk managed a draw with the white game as well and went to the semi-rapid tiebreak where he blanked Bacrot 2-0.

Peter Svidler makes a move even as Anand watches. The ultimate champion needed a tiebreak to get past Svidler in the semifinal. -- Pic. ARVIND AARON-

In the group phase, there were two clear big performances. One is from the clear winner of the Group `B,' Svidler and the other is the French youngster Bacrot who tied for first place in Group `A'. Bacrot, the Frenchman who became the youngest Grandmaster in history in 1997 remained unconquered in the league phase and played a career-best tournament. He clocked a rating performance of 2831, playing at 167 Elo points above his start rating. Svidler who had a great run this year including winning the Chess960 title at Mainz in August, top-scored in Group `B', playing at 2881 rating performance. That was 158 Elo higher than his start rating.

In Group `A,' the players finished in three-split field with one point separating them. To identify the fourth qualifier in that group there was a play off and Topalov prevailed despite the huge fan support for Gelfand. Gelfand had won the tournament twice and had played in three finals. He was the most popular among the fans here.

Kramnik performed better than his rating but missed a possible victory against Azmaiparashvili. Ponomariov also faltered. Bacrot tricked Adams for a nice endgame victory. His triumph over Bareev was also from the ending but with bishops on board. Overall, both groups were well balanced and making the top four in each group was not an easy task for the 16 players. The league phase promoted the top four from the group upwards. But regulation contracts made all the players stay back until the closing ceremony. Azmaiparashvili played well against the two world champions after getting into worse situations to pull back and draw. Adams and Bareev had a poor tournament. Adams appeared to be spent force here while rapid chess was tough for Bareev to take on.

Group `B,' had an exciting field such as V. Anand, Judit Polgar of Hungary the woman No.1 in the world, Alexander Grischuk of Russia, the Junior No.1 in the world, Anatoly Karpov, the legendary veteran besides other title aspiring stars. This group had 15 decisive games against just 13 in the other pool.

Top two seeds, Kramnik and Anand were put in different groups and the fields were split on ratings. Anand was given two whites to start with and it looked like a big advantage. But double whites to start with and against strong opposition is useful for players in form. The Indian could not find his rhythm. He drew with Grischuk after the youngster walked a tightrope. Later he made another draw with a great level of difficulty against Shirov.

In the other semfinal Vladmir Kramnik, making a move, won with ease against Alexander Grischuk. -- Pic. ARVIND AARON-

In the third round, he won a scintillating game with the black pieces against Leko by sacrificing his rook in style after using the sharp Marshall attack. In the same evening, Anand went down to Judit Polgar for the fourth time in two events allowing a bishop sacrifice to lose a poorly played game. "I got it all wrong," said Anand.

Having to make atleast plus one (2/3) in the final day of the league phase from three games, he made two draws against Lautier.

But a draw with white against Svidler in 16 moves looked costly as he was left with playing Karpov in the final round with the black pieces and in a must win situation. But Svidler welcomed it as it ensured his qualification with a round to spare.

Even in the Karpov game, Anand offered to exchange queens and played true to the demands of the position. But once in the ending, he took his chances. From what was either a level rook ending or one that was slightly worse, he blitzed out Karpov in a marathon queen against rook ending in 98 moves. It was a brilliant display, for a defeat meant he was out of the tournament and a draw would have left him in a play off with Leko and Shirov for the lone fourth spot.

Grischuk took a quick draw against Judit Polgar to qualify. Anand's tiebreak score was better than Polgar's and he finished third in group and it averted an early quarterfinal clash between Anand and Kramnik. Anand's course in the group games were adventurous. Svidler deservedly topped the group playing high quality chess. Grischuk was lucky that the Linares champion Leko overlooked a simple tactic and lost in a game and Shirov could not convert an advantage.

Etienne Bacrot... the real sensation of the meet. -- Pic. ARAVIND AARON-

Judit Polgar had one shining Saturday when she took two former world champions on a single day. Her victims were Karpov and Anand. On the final day, she lost an all-Hungarian battle to Leko, he made it taking the last qualifying place from the group.

Shirov and Leko were quite unlucky and had one of them advanced into the knock out stage, Kramnik would have had a tougher time in the quarterfinals according to Leko. Lautier, France's highest rated player had a below par performance and is playing post separation. The 52-year-old Karpov played some exciting chess but took the second last place in groupings. This has happened to him for the second time in a row in October.

The event was organised by the CCAS, an abbreviation for the French Gas and Electricity Workers Association. Plenty of other chess activities like an open tournament (winner: Igor Miladinovic), simultaneous displays were also held. This is the sixth time that the festival is being staged. The next one will happen in 2005 and FIDE has given them the right to stage the next World Rapid chess championship in that festival.

The moves:

GM V. Anand-GM V. Kramnik, finals, second game, rapid chess, Sicilian Sveshnikov, B33: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Nd5 f5 11.Bd3 Be6 12.c3 Bg7 13.Qh5 0-0 14.0-0 f4 15.Rfd1 Rb8 16.Nc2 Qd7 17.h3 a5 18.Na3 b4 19.Nb5 bxc3 20.bxc3 Ne7 21.Ndc7 Rbc8 22.Nxe6 fxe6 23.a4 Kh8 24.Bc2 Rc6 25.Rd2 Nc8 26.Rad1 Qe7 27.Bb3 Rf6 28.c4 Rh6 29.Qf3 Bf8 30.c5! Rxc5 31.Nxd6 Nxd6 32.Rxd6 Qxd6 33.Rxd6 Bxd6 34.Qd3 Rc6 35.Qb5 Rc1+ 36.Kh2 Rf6 37.Qe8+ Bf8 38.Bxe6 f3 39.g4 Rf1 40.Kg3 Rg1+ 41.Kh4 Kg7 42.g5 Rf4+ 43.Kh5 Rg2 44.Bf5 Rxf5 45.exf5 Rxf2 46.Qxe5+ 1-0.

The results: Group A

1. Vladimir Kramnik Rus 2777 X = = 1 1 = = = 4.5 2815

2. Ruslan Ponomariov Ukr 2718 = X = 1 = = = 1 4.5 2823

3. Etienne Bacrot Fra 2664 = = X = = = 1 1 4.5 2831

4. Boris Gelfand Isr 2703 0 0 = X 1 1 = = 3.5 2722

5. Veselin Topalov Bul 2735 0 = = 0 X 1 1 = 3.5 2717

6. Zurab Azmaiparashvili Geo 2693 = = = 0 0 X 0 1 2.5 2619

7. Michael Adams Eng 2725 = = 0 = 0 1 X 0 2.5 2614

8. Evgeny Bareev Rus 2739 = 0 0 = = 0 1 X 2.5 2612

Group B

1. Peter Svidler Rus 2723 X = = 1 = 1 = 1 5.0 2881

2. Alexander Grischuk Rus 2732 = X = = = 1 1 = 4.5 2822

3. V. Anand Ind 2766 = = X 0 = 1 = 1 4.0 2765

4. Judit Polgar Hun 2722 0 = 1 X = 0 1 1 4.0 2771

5. Alexi Shirov Esp 2737 = = = = X 0 1 = 3.5 2718

6. Peter Leko Hun 2722 0 0 0 1 1 X 1 = 3.5 2720

7. Joel Lautier Fra 2666 = 0 = 0 0 0 X 1 2.0 2567

8. Anatoly Karpov Rus 2693 0 = 0 0 = = 0 X 1.5 2498

The quarterfinals: Vladimir Kramnik (Rus) bt. Judit Polgar (Hun) 1.5-0.5, Etienne Bacrot (Fra) lost to Alexander Grischuk (Rus) 1-1, 0-2, Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukr) lost to Viswanathan Anand (Ind) 0.5-1.5, Peter Svidler (Rus) bt. Veselin Topalov (Bul) 1.5-0.5.

The semifinals: Alexander Grischuk (Rus) lost to Vladimir Kramnik (Rus) 0-2, Viswanathan Anand (Ind) bt. Peter Svidler (Rus) 1-1, 1.5-0.5.

The finals: Vladimir Kramnik (Rus) lost to Viswanathan Anand (Ind) 0.5-1.5.