The missing dollars

ARVIND AARON

HUNGARIAN chess star Peter Leko, known for his slow and steady play with classical positional approach, redefined his quickplay skills and was the surprise winner of FIDE's new rapid chess knock-out event, the UAE Grand Prix. The first of the five-leg FIDE Rapid chess Grand Prix was held in Dubai in April.

ARVIND AARON

A new interesting format was uncorked by FIDE for this rapid tournament which attracted most players in the World top 25 sans Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik and Michael Adams. After many announcements and considerable talking, FIDE finally got its Grand Prix going on April 2 with the drawing of lots. More than Leko's triumph, the event will be remembered for the world women's champion, Zhu Chen's sensational triumph over world champion Ruslan Ponomariov in round one.

The last minute change of venue to Dubai perhaps also reflected a few changes which arriving players did not know. Many protested to the reduced prize fund of $120,000 and most of the talking was done the night before the event started.

No one round had consistent results and it was an event with upsets. In the first round, both Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine and Alexander Morozevich packed their bags losing to Zhu Chen of China and Alexander Grischuk of Russia. In round two, Viswanathan Anand and Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine lost the right to play for the title, losing to Zurab Azmaiparashvili of Georgia and Etienne Bacrot of France. Round three had round one best performer Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and round two star Anatoly Karpov of Russia go out of title contention losing to Leko and Kiril Georgiev of Bulgaria. In round four, Alexei Shirov bowed to Grischuk while in the final round the higher ranked Leko won.

Leko, the 22-year old Hungarian won the tournament and $43,200 first prize. There are four more Grand Prix legs in Moscow in May, India (Bangalore or Mumbai) in July, Croatia in August and Rio de Janeiro in September. Thereafter, FIDE plans to stage the World Cup at Hyderabad in October and the Olympiad at Bled from October 27 to November 13 for a complete calendar this year.

Leko's exposure in the Amber Rapid Tournament perhaps helped his case as he won all five matches, two of them by coming from behind against Topalov and Georgiev and two of them against Georgiev and Grischuk in the sudden death control. On course to his first major triumph since winning Dortmund 1999, Leko beat Al-Modiahki (Qat) 2-0, Joel Lautier (Fra) 1.5-0.5, beat Topalov 2.5-1.5, bt. Georgiev 3-2, beat Grischuk 3-2.

World No. 1 junior, Grischuk had his share of upsets before losing to Leko in the finals. He beat Morozevich 2.5-2.5 (enough for black to draw the tie-break game) in round one, beat Radjabov 3-1, beat Bacrot 2-0, beat Shirov 2.5-1.5, and lost the sudden death game 2-3 before picking up $22,800, second prize purse.

Alexei Shirov played many risky games in his third placing which included a final win over Kiril Georgiev. After playing some nice games including a 2-0 sweep over Zhu Chen which gave men folks something to cheer about after Ponomariov's round one disaster, Karpov finished fifth.

Zhu Chen lost four matches and won just that one match over Ponomariov by 1.5-0.5. She dominated the first game too but could not win it. In the reverse game, Ponomariov played for a win by turning the aggressive notch even after losing a pawn and paid the price for losing to Zhu Chen.

In the history of sport, no reigning world champion in any sport has lost to his female counterpart and this historical result reopened the battle of the sexes. In the 1994 Linares Tournament World No.1 ranked Kasparov beat the female No.1 ranked Judit Polgar to prove man's superiority in this mind-sport.

The tournament was a 32-player knock-out format with each match played over two rapid games of 25 minutes a side plus an increment of ten seconds a move. In case of a 1-1 tie, they played two blitz games with five minutes each and a 10 second increment. If this too was tied, the winner was resolved by a sudden death tie-break game with black having four minutes and white five minutes. White was obliged to win. After the first round, half the players packed their bags while the rest of the 16 stayed back for fighting the remaining 16 places. Two winners advanced from eighth round while the other round eight losers played a knock-out for the 9-16th places.

From the Indian angle, there was only one story with Viswanathan Anand losing in round two and clawing back in the other games, but it only helped him gain a consolation ninth place. On course to the ninth place, Anand beat Taleb Moussa (UAE) 1.5-0.5, lost to Zurab Azmaiparashvili (Geo) 1.5-2.5, beat Nigel Short (Eng) 2-0, beat Teimour Radjabov (Aze) 3-1, beat Alexander Khalifman (Rus) 2-0.

Looking at Anand's overall performance, the round two result showed that it was a mere accident that he lost to Azmaiparashvili. After taking the lead with a black victory, Anand's technique to draw the white game to advance to round three was inadequate as he gave black far too many concessions.

To exchange queens he lost two tempi and the Georgian used them and the natural instinct to bounce back after a defeat to win with a nice game sacrificing a knight. Still, 1-1, Anand was unable to win with white in the tie-break game and with the fourth black pieces he did not have adequate compensation for a bishop sacrifice to lose the title race by 1.5-2.5. This was the biggest shock of the event as Anand's rapid skills and records are fairly well known.

In the remaining matches he excelled, beating Short and Khalifman 2-0 but it did not help him get any better than the ninth place. It was a disappointing result as the next two events are going to involve Kasparov, Kramnik and Adams at Prague and at Astana in Kazakhstan (former Soviet Republic) in the last week of May.

Twelve year old Sergey Kariakin who qualified from the Internet, lost the first round to Topalov but put up a brave fight. This is the next generation Ukrainian about whom we are certainly going to hear a lot. Among those who impressed was former world junior champion Kiril Georgiev of Bulgaria who finished ahead of many bigger names of the present day.

The show was organised by the Dubai Chess & Culture Club on behalf of FIDE Commerce International. Although FIDE's stamp was affixed on the event, the internet coverage was not without its usual share of errors, wrong result postings and the like.

Final Standings: 1. Peter Leko (Hun), 2. Alexander Grischuk (Rus), 3. Alexei Shirov (Esp), 4. Kiril Georgiev (Bul), 5. Anatoly Karpov (Rus), 6. Zurab Azmaiparashvili (Geo), 7. Veselin Topalov (Bul), 8. Etienne Bacrot (Fra), 9. Viswanathan Anand (Ind), 10. Alexander Khalifman (Rus), 11. Alexey Dreev (Rus), 12. Teimour Radjabov (Aze), 13. Joel Lautier (Fra), 14. Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr), 15. Nigel Short (Eng), 16. Zhu Chen (Chn).

Now for one game from the event:

GM Teimour Radjabov-GM V. Anand, round four, blitz tie-break, Queen's Indian defence, E12: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3 Bb7 5.Nc3 d5 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Qc2 Nxc3 8.bxc3 Nd7 9.e4 Be7 10.Bd3 c5 11.0-0 0-0 12.Bb2 Rc8 13.Qe2 c4 14.Bxc4 Bxe4 15.Ba6 Bxf3 16.Qxf3 Rc7 17.Rad1 Bd6 18.Bd3 b5 19.Rfe1 a6 20.a4 bxa4 21.c4 Qb8 22.Ba1 Rd8 23.Re4 Nf6 24.Rh4 Be7 25.Rh3 h6 26.Rb1 Rxc4 (Anand starts a long and fantastic combination which is sure to make it to the puzzle books on chess tactics.) 27.Rxb8 Rc1+ 28.Bf1 Rxb8 29.Bc3 Rbb1 30.Qd3 a3 31.Qxa6 a2 32.g4 Rxf1+ 33.Qxf1 Ne4 34.Ba1 Nd2 0-1.

"ALL the related information on the Grand Prix is in our website." all players were told by FIDE officials before the inaugural Grand Prix at Dubai. One such important piece of information was the prize money. Only a quarter of what was promised was to be paid to the players. Yet, all did not protest. Alexei Shirov, a former World championship challenger, suspects that some players may have had separate contracts to play that led to their not protesting about the reduction.

Here is the extract from the FIDE website on the prize fund.

Question: What is the prize fund and its distribution? How much shall the winners earn?

Answer: The guaranteed prize fund for each of the Grand Prix Series tournaments is $120,000. It is most likely that prize funds of each of the other tournaments shall be increased by sponsorships. For instance the Abu Dhabi Series' Prize Fund shall be multiplied by four.

This gives an exact prize fund as $480,000 minus the ten percent FIDE share. However on March 14, the venue was changed from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. Already something was brewing. But the event almost did not happen when the players realised that they would be playing for $120,000 and not $480,000. Alexei Shirov, Alexander Khalifman and Evgeny Bareev stood together and threatened to walk out. In his open post-tournament letter in the Internet, Shirov says, "In fact Leko was the only one who had a real contract that actually stated even a bigger prize fund - $500,000."

After the players meeting, the FIDE President Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov stepped in and increased the prize fund from $120,000 to $240,000 and promised not to deal with Octagon again in future. Mr. Ilyumzhinov is the single biggest chess sponsor ever having brought more than 30 million dollars into the game and bailed this Grand Prix from being a non-event. Commenting on the missing $240,000 in the Dubai Grand Prix in his April 14 letter, Shirov says, "The situation in the world elite professional chess has become more chaotic." Shirov said winner Peter Leko joined them verbally while his manager sent letters to FIDE.

Many of the prominent players, world champion Ruslan Ponomariov, Vassily Ivanchuk, former World champions Anatoly Karpov and Viswanathan Anand have not voiced their complaints and had that happened it would have been a bigger blow to FIDE's credibility.

FIDE needs to respond to the chess fraternity for the misleading numbers and apologise to the players concerned who did not get what was promised to them. Finally, a doubt has been cast as to what will be the prize fund for the next four Grand Prix events. It could be starting-trouble for FIDE over the brand new event.