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Judit Polgar challenges Anand

Chess Classic Mainz: First Chess960 World Championship Match between Leko and Swidler

by FM Hartmut Metz, April 2003

more English chess articles by Hartmut Metz


   The cornerstones of Chess Classic Mainz 2003 have been laid: defending champion Viswanathan Anand will be challenged by Judit Polgar from 14 to 17 August. The 'mecca of rapid chess' will host an enticing duel of the sexes, after world champions Vladimir Kramnik and Ruslan Ponomariov both lost by narrow margins in the last two years. The world's best rapid chess player from India on one side, and the outstanding Hungarian lady player on the other side, will - hopefully - provide a great deal of action, not only for organiser Hans-Walter Schmitt who is looking forward to seeing these two in an eight games match: "Hardly any other contest would offer such excitement. The only woman who is able to compete with the world elite of the royal game and plays attractive chess will face the world's undisputed best blitz player," the Bad Soden resident rejoices.


   Both players express mutual respect before they are due to play two games per day (from 6.30 P.M.) in the Rheingoldhalle. Recently Anand notched up one tournament victory after another before the triumphant run of this highly successful Bundesliga player from Baden-Oos came to an end in Linares. At the top tournament in Wijk aan Zee (Netherlands) the 33 year old remained unbeaten, as did Judit Polgar who achieved second place with half a point less. Before she collected her biggest success in the world-class field, this 26 year old had already proven her abilities with an outstanding result in the chess Olympiad. In consequence, she has returned to the top ten in the world rating list. Anand is singing the praises of the best women player of all times: "She is a very strong grandmaster. Her recent results are brilliant! Judit plays extremely tactical chess and at the board she adopts a very practical style." In 1991, Judit Polgar became the youngest grandmaster according to the male qualification system at the age of 15 years and four months, when she broke Bobby Fischer's legendary record. She is equally full of praise for the former world champion: "Without any doubt Anand is one of the world's best rapid chess players. I remember his style in 1991, when he used to finish normal tournament games at rapid chess speed. Nowadays he is of course more mature and reflects for longer, and this is of benefit for his enormous playing strength. Vishy is a true professional and moves in a very firm way at the board."


Viswanathan Anand


Judit Polgar


   The burden of being the favourite rests on the shoulders of the player who has won the Chess Classic tournament for the last three years in a row. Nevertheless, the defending champion stresses that he will have to "be ready and firing on all cylinders" in order to beat the youngest of the three legendary Polgar sisters. The number one in the women's world rating list - who always strictly refuses to participate in women-only tournaments - also regards Anand as favourite, but promises to "put up a big fight." She mentions that she "recently had good results against Vishy. I like to recall my wonderful games against him in Wijk aan Zee in 2001 and Dos Hermanas in 1999." The Indian undoubtedly respects this "brightest star of women's chess". Although Alexandra Kosteniuk and Humpy Koneru, a talented fellow player from the Indian sub-continent, do figure, Anand makes clear: "Judit only takes her measure from her own achievements, not from performances of other women players. She is one of the outstanding talents in the current chess scene."

   On 13 August 2003, the Chess Classic will officially be opened by Jens Beutel, Mayor of Mainz. The chief of the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate state will surely once again participate in one of the simuls that start at 4.30 P.M. The next day the favourite brain child of Hans-Walter Schmitt starts: the Chess960 Open (in which the initial position is determined by drawing lots) is slated to attract more than last year's 131 players. The 51 year old has proclaimed this competition to be the "official world championship qualification". Peter Svidler won the first tournament of this kind gaining 9:2 points. Simultaneously with the duel between Anand and Polgar, he will play against Peter Leko. The world championship candidate in classical chess, who will meet Kramnik in their world championship final in May or June, in 2001 already proved his talents in Chess960. In a dramatic match, Leko beat the number four in the world rating list, Michael Adams, with 4.5:3.5. Between 14 and 17 August he will meet a challenge from the winner of last year's strong open tournament which was dominated by 30 grandmasters amongst the first 32 places. Schmitt intends to take advantage of the favourable situation and join forces with the world chess elite in order to set up a world Chess960 association.

   The traditional Ordix Open will offer the best available playing conditions on Saturday and Sunday (16 and 17 August). 500 players are expected to make the pilgrimage to the tenth staging of this competition. Dozens of grandmasters and international masters are expected to participate in the rapid chess open which has the largest prize fund of all. Last year, winners earned approximately 30,000 euros in the Ordix and the Chess960 Open. This year's supporting programme, with duels between Viswanathan Anand and Judit Polgar, and between Peter Leko and Peter Svidler, certainly offers a platform for rising stars of tomorrow. Outstanding talents such as Sergey Karjakin, who became the youngest grandmaster at the age of twelve, and his Ukrainian fellow countryman Andrey Volokitin will receive invitations for the Open.

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