Super Ks conquered


RUSSIA is not as strong as the Soviet Union once was in the world of chess. This was proved through a Russia versus Rest of the World match which was surprisingly won by the latter by a 52-48 margin at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow on September 11.

Russia is a modern day powerhouse in chess and despite starting as favourite, it failed due to various reasons. Chief of which was the failure of the four super Ks - Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik and Khalifman. Altogether they pooled 16.5 points from 37 games, accounting for a minus four score. Had they scored 50 per cent the match score would have been tied and if they had scored plus one, the Russians would have actually won the contest.

The Rest of the World team had failed in two previous such matches both to the Soviet Union in 1970 at Belgrade and 1984 at London by close margins of 19.5-20.5 and 19-21. On the third attempt, it won clinching four rounds and losing two for an aggregate 52-48 score. In this match the format was 10-player a side like last time with two reserves.

It was not a four-round classical match but a 10-round Scheveningen on rapid chess. This format allowed each player in the Rest of the World team to face each Russian once in a 25-minutes plus 10-second increment a move game.

The schedule was two rounds on September 8, three rounds each on September 9 and 10 and the final day on September 11 had two rounds. The Russian team won the third and fourth rounds by narrow 5.5-4.5 margins but never took the lead. The Rest of the World took a 11.5-8.5 lead after day one and built on it for a final difference of four points.

The Rest of the World's campaign was led by a brilliant run by Alexei Shirov of Spain who top-scored with an impressive seven points from 10 games. The Ukrainians, world champion Ruslan Ponomariov and Vassily Ivanchuk, remained undefeated, contributing well to their team with six points from ten games. Boris Gelfand of Israel also scored six points from ten games after he recovered from a defeat to win three games.

The highest-rated player in the World team, Viswanathan Anand, started brilliantly with two wins and his team won both these rounds. On a final score of 5/9, Anand won two games, drew six and lost one game to Peter Svidler, his team-mate to be in next month's Bundesliga when they play for Baden OS. Also in the world team was Peter Leko of Hungary, the challenger for Kramnik's title next year. He scored 5.5 points from 10 games and scored above what his rating indicated, just like Anand did.

The Rest of the World team was sponsored by the FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and the Russian team was sponsored by Alfa Bank of Russia. Players were given appearance fees but what winning bonuses the Russians were given was not known. Two top players, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and Michael Adams of England, were not included in the rest of the world team due to problems relating to appearance fees.

This result was one of the biggest upsets in chess. The failure of both Kasparov and Kramnik in one event was a total surprise. Kasparov lost three games, won one and drew six for his 4/10. His defeat to Judit Polgar of Hungary made history as it was the first time in any sport that a No. 1 ranked male player had lost to the No. 1 ranked female player. While it was the day for Kasparov to forget in his life, it was Judit Polgar's only win in Moscow as the other Russians beat her. World classical champion, Kramnik was also a shadow of himself, losing to Smirin and was unable to push many of his opponents the way he does in other events. Kramnik played a full FIDE event and also faced the FIDE world champion Ponomariov in the final round which ended in a draw. Khalifman, the 1999 FIDE world champion, from St. Petersburg lost two games, drew seven and never won a single game in his 3.5/9 score. The 51-year-old veteran Anatoly Karpov started with an unbelievable 0/2 and Russia had to rest him for the next round. But he came back rather strongly to finish with 5/9 and get the best score among the Ks.

The first half of the series was more interesting than the second with 27 of the 50 games ending decisively. The second half produced mainly draws but not all were boring. In the last half, 15 games ended decisively. The most interesting round was the fifth with Kasparov and Anand losing to Judit Polgar and Svidler respectively. Karpov too shocked Peter Leko by turning the tables from secure defence with black to a nicely conceived triumph to chart a comeback. Eight games were decisive in that single round.

The Russians had good performers too with Morozevich and Bareev excelling with 60 per cent scores. Svidler and Grischuk made valuable contributions to their teams. Grischuk was in a winning position against Shirov in the penultimate round but became too cautious and lost, unable to keep an extra knight. Alexey Dreev missed day one but in his eight games scored more than 50 per cent, something which his more famous team members could not achieve. Of the two Russian reserves, Sergey Rublevsky scored 50 per cent while Zviaginsev was unable to make a substantial contribution. He drew one game and suffered three defeats in his four games. Youngster Motylev was a weak target and his 1/6 did not justify his place in the Russian team.

Teimour Radjabov, the teenaged star from Azerbaijan, played well winning some nice games against Karpov, Bareev and Zviaginsev for a 50 per cent score. Four players in the Rest of the World team underperformed and they were Judit Polgar, Akopian, Short and Smirin. Zurab Azmaiparashvili of Georgia had a nice time making draws each time he was fielded as a substitute. Although bumped to defeat in two games, the other reserve, Akopian had a memorable event beating Kasparov. He was given three tough games, having to play Morozevich, Kramnik and Kasparov and a 1/3 score was not bad for this Armenian.

Both Kasparov and Anand had predicted that this match could go either way. It did not swing back and forth but it stayed one way all the time. Also rapid chess added to the unpredictable nature. Being a team competition, the Rest of the World team was able to provide the enthusiasm from the positiveness seen from a few of the competitors and garner points for themselves.

If Viswanathan Anand drew first blood with his quick round one win against Motylev, it was Alexei Shirov who completed the job for the the Rest of the World team. The event was inaugurated on the Ivanchuk v Kasparov board in round one and the former made an upset right there. Kasparov never recovered and it was one of the key factors for Russia's defeat in the match. Many of the Rest of the World team members played more team competitions and they were able to perform as a unit better than the Russian side.

This event has proved that the Russians are beatable in chess. The Ks are ageing and are perhaps not yet fully prepared for such a competition. Most top players, with the absence of Ponomariov and Ivanchuk, had at least one bad round. It was very popular with the media as the series was repeated after 18 years and has produced 42 decisive games from the 100 played. The third match was historic in its own way with Judit Polgar achieving a milestone in an otherwise poor outing. The triumph for the Rest of the World has confirmed that chess is more popular outside Russia and the number of books in English, German and the information on the Internet and computer preparation have started to attack the mountain of chess research done by the Soviets in the past and the Russians in the present times.

Going by the interest this contest has generated, the fourth such contest may be held sooner than the third event was staged. The rapid controls were also popular and it may come to stay in future such tests too. By sponsoring this event, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov should be hoping to get re-elected as President of FIDE for another term when the elections come up at Bled in October.

The best performer Shirov won the best game prize on the third day for this victory:

GM Alexei Shirov-GM Alexander Motylev, round six, Petroff's defence, C42: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 7.Bf4 0-0 8.Qd2 Nd7 9.0-0-0 Nc5 10.Be3 Be6 11.Kb1 a6 12.Nd4 Bd7 13.f3 Re8 14.h4 Na4 15.Bg5 b5 16.Bd3 Nb6 17.Qf4 c5 18.Nf5 Bxf5 19.Bxf5 d5 20.Rhe1 g6 21.Bh3 Bxg5 22.hxg5 Re7 23.Bg4 Qe8 24.Rh1 Qf8 25.Qf6 Nd7 26.Bxd7 Rxd7 27.Rxh7 1-0.

Ivanchuk won the first day's best game prize for this win against Kasparov:

GM Vassily Ivanchuk-GM Garry Kasparov, round one, Sicilian defence, B90:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Rg1 g6 7.g4 Bg7 8.Be3 Nc6 9.f3 e5 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Qd2 Be6 12.0-0-0 Bf8 13.Na4 h5 14.h3 Nd7 15.Qc3 hxg4 16.hxg4 d5 17.Qxc6 d4 18.Bd2 Rc8 19.Qb7 Rb8 20.Qxa6 Ra8 21.Qb5 Bxa2 22.Bc4 Bxc4 23.Qxc4 Qf6 24.g5 Qd6 25.Kb1 Rh3 26.Rgf1 Be7 27.b3 Qa3 28.Bc1 Qb4 29.Qxb4 Bxb4 30.f4 Rh4 31.Rh1 Rxh1 32.Rxh1 Ke7 33.f5 Ra6 34.Rh7 Nc5 35.Bd2 Rxa4 36.fxg6 Bxd2 37.Rxf7+ Ke6 38.Rf6+ Ke7 39.bxa4 Nxe4 40.Rf5 1-0.

The No.1 ranked woman player in the world beat the No.1 ranked player in the world for a historic result:

GM Judit Polgar-GM Garry Kasparov, round five, Berlin defence C67:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.Nc3 h6 10.Rd1+ Ke8 11.h3 Be7 12.Ne2 Nh4 13.Nxh4 Bxh4 14.Be3 Bf5 15.Nd4 Bh7 16.g4 Be7 17.Kg2 h5 18.Nf5 Bf8 19.Kf3 Bg6 20.Rd2 hxg4+ 21.hxg4 Rh3+ 22.Kg2 Rh7 23.Kg3 f6 24.Bf4 Bxf5 25.gxf5 fxe5 26.Re1 Bd6 27.Bxe5 Kd7 28.c4 c5 29.Bxd6 cxd6 30.Re6 Rah8 31.Rexd6+ Kc8 32.R2d5 Rh3+ 33.Kg2 Rh2+ 34.Kf3 R2h3+ 35.Ke4 b6 36.Rc6+ Kb8 37.Rd7 Rh2 38.Ke3 Rf8 39.Rcc7 Rxf5 40.Rb7+ Kc8 41.Rdc7+ Kd8 42.Rxg7 Kc8 1-0.