The King downs the Czar

Published : Jul 14, 2001 00:00 IST


EVER since the day the chess world was divided in 1993, this was the match chess fans across the world had been waiting for. Frankfurt Chess Tigers, the organisers of the Mainz Chess Classic, made possible this historic fare through their large agenda on rapid chess from June 22 to July 1.

Viswanathan Anand, 31, the Chennai-born world chess champion, won this very closely fought 10-game rapid contest via the tie-break games, exhibiting one of the grandest blitz chess displays in history. Vladimir Kramnik, who turned 26 on June 25, did well in the rapid games, but missed several winning chances and bowed out in the blitz play-off.

Anand showed new levels in defence to win the "prestige" contest between the two world champions, 5-5, 1.5-0.5. The prize money was not disclosed and the players were given starting fees from the sponsorship provided by Landesbank Rheinland-Pfalz.

The idea behind the event was clear - to find one winner from the two world champions. Kramnik had become the champion defeating Garry Kasparov in London last November, while Anand won his title in the long knock-out competition held in New Delhi and Teheran. Although classical chess would have been the ideal control, the rapid control (25 minutes for each player per game, plus 10 seconds for making each move) for this event was in line with the festival.

Since the head-to-head score between the two players was very close, a battle royal was in store. The chess sites conducted opinion polls and Anand enjoyed a 51% to 49% advantage in his favour. The Indian, who had a plus two score in their 72 encounters which first started in 1989, was favourite not without reason. His match record, experience and rapid chess skills were his noted strengths.

Kramnik turned 26 on the day of the opening ceremony on June 25. The dinner was followed by 26 sets of fireworks for the occasion. Also, the Mayor, Jens Beutel, a chess player himself, arranged for fireworks over the Rhine river which could be seen from the restaurant of Hilton Mainz. Beutel has a unique chess record. He has not lost to a world champion yet! He drew against Kasparov last year and against Kramnik this year in simultaneous games.

Both Anand and Kramnik were under tremendous pressure all through their games. Anand said it was only a "topical rapid chess match," while Kramnik remarked that it was not a reunification match. Yet, there was much talk since this was the best a professional organisation had gotten out of any two champions.

In 1996, Kasparov and Karpov had agreed to a contest as two world champions outside the ambit of FIDE, but failed to find the required financial support, despite various attempts in Spain.

Anand was accompanied by his trainer, GM Elizbar Ubilava, while Kramnik had brought his Barcelona trainer, Miguel Illescas. Word spread that a player had always won when Illescas was his second. Examples being Deep Blue's victory against Kasparov in 1997 and Kramnik's win over Kasparov in London last year. However, this time, Anand's rapid chess skills produced high quality defensive tactics and his blitz chess could not have been played better. Illescas' record was sullied in the process.

There is something novel whenever a rapid chess event is staged. This time, to choose the colour, the players were given two piggy-banks made of ceramic. They were also given a hammer to come down heavily on the ceramic piggy. Kramnik got the white king. Parts of the broken ceramic hit the photographers who were standing close. The players displayed their colours by placing their pieces on the hammer.

After the "hammering" start, the first day's play produced two draws. There was something new about the colours with which the players started. It was not one player playing white or black in all odd numbered or even numbered games. They attached games to the days and not numbers. Kramnik had white in the first game on day one and Anand had white in game two. On the second day, Anand started with white in game three and Kramnik had white in game four. This cycle went on till the end.

Anand fought hard to equalise with the black pieces, and with the white he missed an opening move and allowed Kramnik a dynamic equality out of the opening. The manner in which Anand and Kramnik started their games gave the feeling that both were nervous.

Anand and his wife Aruna celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary before the start of game three, during the event. The cake with five little tiger models on them and flowers for the couple didn't bring luck for Anand. He blundered with the white pieces and lost by inverting a capture that led to a tactical collapse. Then, he went on to defend a tough game after accepting the queen's gambit. Kramnik had an extra pawn but time ran out and he took a draw to lead the match for the first time by 2.5-1.5.

Down in the match, Anand did not let himself get bogged down as he had a quiet evening on his wedding day with his wife and trainer at an Italian restaurant on the banks of the Rhine. He hates losing prior to the free day and it affected him more.

On June 29, Anand accepted a bishop sacrifice and played a very defensive game to keep the material and win with a mobile king. He found a novelty over the board on the 17th move and kept the material to level the scores. Anand, with the black, accepted the queen's gambit in all games while Kramnik jumped openings. This act of Kramnik surprised Anand since the former had stuck to one opening in the London match against Kasparov. Anand played a cool line with white to draw and keep the score at 3-3 after day three.

Day four was dominated by Kramnik's tactical skills which served him extra pawns in both the games. Defence was Anand's strength in the match and he was able to keep in check Kramnik's two pawn advantage in the seventh game and the one pawn advantage in the eighth. June 30, which was also Aruna's birthday, was certainly a lucky day for Anand.

The two games on the final day on July 1 were drawn quickly with neither player getting any advantage with the white pieces. The blitz time of five minutes plus five seconds a move was taken up. Over 400 spectators assembled to see the final day's games and they had their money's worth.

Once the rapid games were over, Anand was relieved. Now it was the blitz play-off and here reflexes and calculating power mattered the most. Kramnik changed his strategy to repeat the offbeat Sicilian variation he had tried earlier in the rapid games and paid for it. Anand knew it was his best chance and scored a brilliant attacking victory. The tall Russian started looking desperate. In the reverse game, with the white pieces, he was expected to rebound. But a vital error on move 14 allowed black to have an advanced pawn to stifle white's development. Anand embarked on an offensive with a splendid knight move to sacrifice a bishop and get a promising attack. From a position where he could have tried to win, Anand saw the possibility of a repetition of moves and took it to pocket the match and cross a personal milestone in the world of chess.

It was a historic triumph by Anand. In a sport which believes in two world champions, a match victory by one over the other will be talked about for a very long time. Although rapid chess control could take away some credit, it is an area both the players excel in. The event was so popular that more Indian journalists were present here than in any other chess event except when Anand made it to the World Championship finals in New York in 1995 and in Teheran in 2000.

Anand maintained a successful rapid track record in this Mainz Chess Classic (formerly Frankfurt Chess Classic), having won four of the last five titles. He is also a member of the Frankfurt West Chess Club and the tournament started with his participation, something similar to that of Karpov and Linares. When Anand wins, it is not only the Indians, but also the Germans who are happy.

This match was hit by low quality playing strength. Both Kramnik and Anand had played classical and Advanced chess tournaments prior to the event and had only a week of effective preparation time. But, as Kramnik agreed at the end, the news coverage put a pressure on both the players. He promised a very high quality play if it were a classical time controlled match. Are reunification match sponsors listening?

Prior to the event, the players gave a simultaneous display on 40 boards. Anand was impressive and quick. He won 36, drew two and lost two (37/40). Kramnik was slow but steady and did not lose a game. But he took time and went past midnight in a marathon display, winning 33 and drawing seven (36.5/40). Like last time, 50 per cent of the simultaneous seats were auctioned off on the Internet. Anand got 500 Marks as the highest and so did Kramnik. Overall, according to Hans-Walter Schmitt, the organiser, Anand obtained one and a half times more than his rival in auction revenues. This was not new since Kasparov's simultaneous display last year was also auctioned on the Internet.

The organisers are optimistic about next year and have plans to stage the event for at least the next six years at Mainz before thinking of any change.

The same event had a different venue last year at Frankfurt and it ran from 1994 to 2000 before the new sponsor took over. Then, if it happens, it will be innovative and evolve around the rapid time control. "Frankfurt-Mainz is for rapid chess and Dortmund is for classical chess," said Schmitt with a sign of authority.

The three decisive games:

GM V. Anand-GM V. Kramnik, match game three, Ruy Lopez, Berlin variation, 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.h3 Bd7 11.b3 Kc8 12.Bb2 b6 13.Rad1 Ne7 14.Rd2 c5 15.Rfd1 Be6 16.Ne2 g5 17.h4 g4 18.Nh2 h5 19.Rd8+ Kb7 20.Rxa8 Kxa8 21.Rd8+ Kb7 22.Nf4 Ng6 23.g3 c4 24.bxc4 Nxf4 25.gxf4 g3 26.Nf1 gxf2+ 27.Kh2 Bxc4 0-1. Time left: 7.07/07.52.

GM V. Kramnik-GM V. Anand, match game five, rapid chess, queen's gambit accepted, D27: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 e6 4.e3 Nf6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.Bb3 Nbd7 8.Qe2 b5 9.a4 Bb7 10.axb5 axb5 11.Rxa8 Qxa8 12.Nc3 b4 13.Nb5 Qb8 14.e4 cxd4 15.Nbxd4 Bd6 16.Bxe6 fxe6 17.Nxe6 h6 18.Nxg7+ Kf7 19.Nf5 Bxe4 20.Nxh6+ Kg7 21.h3 Rxh6 22.Bxh6+ Kxh6 23.Rd1 Bxf3 24.Qxf3 Be5 25.Qe3+ Kg7 26.Qg5+ Kf7 27.Qf5 Nf8 28.b3 Bc3 29.g3 Qe5 30.Qxe5 Bxe5 31.f4 Bc3 32.Kg2 Ne4 33.g4 Nd2 34.f5 Nxb3 35.g5 Nc5 36.Kf3 b3 37.h4 b2 38.h5 Bd2 39.Rb1 Bc1 40.Ke2 Ne4 41.Kd3 Nd2 42.Rxb2 Bxb2 43.Kxd2 Kg7 44.Kd3 Bc1 45.g6 Nd7 46.Ke4 Nf6+ 47.Ke5 Nxh5 48.Ke6 Bb2 0-1.

GM V. Anand-GM V. Kramnik, tie-break, five minute plus five seconds per move, game one, Sicilian defence, B33: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6 5.Nb3 Nf6 6.Nc3 e6 7.Qe2 Bb4 8.Bd2 0-0 9.a3 Be7 10.0-0-0 d6 11.g4 a6 12.g5 Nd7 13.h4 Qc7 14.f4 b5 15.Kb1 b4 16.axb4 Nxb4 17.f5 Rb8 18.Bf4 exf5 19.exf5 Ne5 20.Bh3 Re8 21.g6 hxg6 22.Bxe5 dxe5 23.fxg6 fxg6 24.h5 Bf5 25.hxg6 Bxh3 26.Rxh3 Bg5 27.Ne4 Bf4 28.Nbc5 1-0.

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