Ponomariov World Champion in 2005?
The reigning FIDE World Champion will play Chess960 in Mainz; Duel of Fischer's successors: will Carlsen join Karjakin in Mainz?
by FM Hartmut Metz, July 2004
Many chess fans are already counting the days until the Chess Classic in Mainz (CCM) will start, where they can play during the day and watch the champions play in the evening. This interesting combination will attract more than a thousand people from August 4 to 8 to the Rheingoldhalle. This time, the supporting events turn out to be no less attractive than the main events. In the first main event, Viswanathan Anand and Alexei Shirov will play two rapid games of chess each evening starting on August 5. The "Tiger from Madras" is the uncrowned king of the Chess Classic. The world number 1 in rapid chess already won the CCM six times. And world champion Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), who narrowly lost to Anand in Mainz, recognizes the Indian as currently the strongest player worldwide. The modest Anand, winner of the most recent "Chess Oscar", speaks openly: "yes, I am currently the most successful tournament player in the world. Garry Kasparov does not play much anymore and benefits from the fact that the rating system adjusts only slowly."
The 34 year old Anand, however, does not see himself as a clear favourite in this match. His opponent, who is his team mate in Baden-Oos (Germany) and in Cannes (France), has had a few ups and downs lately. What the former World-vice-champion, who lost a match for the world championship to Anand four years ago is capable of was demonstrated impressively in Sarajevo. In the world-class tournament which was held there recently, Shirov demolished the competition with the incredible score of 7.5:1.5. Shirov will need to play just as strongly in Mainz, if he wants to stop Anand from winning in Mainz for the fifth consecutive time.
The organizer Hans-Walter Schmitt was able to attract another well-known sponsor: Gerling-Lebensversicherung AG. This live insurance company found the idea behind the Chess Classic as attractive as the tournament's organizer from Bad Soden. "Chess for people between 30 and 60 with very little time" is how Hans-Walter Schmitt calls this variant of chess where the starting position of the pieces is determined by coincidence. This idea was advanced by the legendary player Bobby Fischer, who hoped to do away with all opening theory. Since there are 960 different starting positions in Chess960, there is no opening theory. In the Gerling Chess960 World Championship Match, Levon Aronian challenges Peter Svidler. Svidler is currently ranked number 9 in the world, while his challenger, the former world junior champion is ranked number 32.The challenger, who now lives in Berlin also leads the German rating list. In the European Championship in Turkey, the 21 year old played for his native Armenia, winning the Bronze Medal for his team. Aronian, who will play for Kreuzberg in the German Chess Bundesliga next season, won the right to challenge the reigning World Champion in rapid Chess960 by winning last year's FiNet Chess960 Open.
Someone who would like to follow in his footsteps is nobody less than the current World Champion. Ruslan Ponomariov (20), the reigning World Champion of FIDE will play in this year's FiNet Chess960 Open on August 5 and 6. The participation of the Ukrainian will be viewed by many as a protest against FIDE, who recently confronted him with a deadline. Ponomariov, who at the age of 18 was the youngest world champion of all times, did not bow to the demands of FIDE and also refused to play in Tripoli, where FIDE and Libyan strongman Moammar Al Ghaddafi join forces to organize the next world championship. For Ponomariov, Chess960 is at the same time a challenge and a welcome break form all the recent turmoil. Due to his exceptional talent, the all-round player who lost to Anand in the CCM main event in 2002 after an all-out fight has to be considered the favourite to win the event. At the age of 14 years and 17 days, this world champion became the youngest Grandmaster ever. Today, his fellow Ukrainian Sergey Karjakin holds this record. Ponomariov asked Karjakin to join his team of advisors when he was playing for the FIDE world championship. It may sound incredible, but Karjakin played with Grandmaster strength at the age of 12 years and 7 months. Both will now play in the Chess960 Open, whose winner will have the right to challenge the Chess960 World Champion in 2005. In light of the fact that more than 40 grandmasters have already decided to play the 11 rounds of the Open, world class Chess960 is virtually guaranteed. Hans-Walter Schmitt is convinced that the participation of Ponomariov will put his ideas on the map for good.
The Ordix-Open, which will be played in the "Rheingoldhalle" in Mainz on August 7 and 8 according to the rules of "traditional" chess, will pay out the remainder of the total price fund of EURO 35,000. While Ponomariov has decided not to start in this event, the now 14 year old Karjakin will try to secure the lion share of the price fund for himself. But he may be up to an even younger boy: the 13 year old Magnus Carlsen from Norway will also be invited to the CCM. As Schmitt points out, however, Carlsen's participation in the event is not yet confirmed. But even if Carlsen decides not to play his first tournament in Germany, more than 100 titled players will come to the city of the of Jens Beutel, the mayor of Mainz and himself a chess enthusiast. More than 500 players are expected in the Ordix Open, making it the largest rapid tournament in the world. Prior registration is therefore advisable.
Joining the impressive list of participants - in addition to the commentators of the evening games Artur Jussupow and Eric Lobron - are two true legends of chess in Germany: Wolfgang Uhlmann, the strongest player of all times from former East-Germany, who crossed swords with the legendary Bobby Fischer many times and was even able to win. In addition, Wolfgang Unzicker will play. Unzicker's former team mate from the German national team, Lothar Schmid, will not play, but does not want to miss the CCM and will follow the event as a spectator. Lothar Schmid, who is also the publisher of the novels of Karl May, performed the role of arbiter at the legendary world championship match of Bobby Fischer.
The opening day of the event, however, is not all about admiring the superstars of chess. Some of them are ready to play against amateurs. A number of spots for the Simul on 40 boards by Shirov and the Chess960 Simul on 20 boards by Svidler can be bought through the internet. On the chesstigers website, all chessfans will also be able to bid for four blitz games against Viswanathan Anand: Anand will have two minutes plus one second per move, while the opponent will have five minutes plus two seconds per move. Nevertheless, even with this advantage in time, it will be nearly impossible to beat the Indian. Another highlight of the event will start two hours earlier, at 16:30: Levon Aronian will play two games of Chess960 against The Baron, one of the strongest Chess960 programs in the world right now.
For five days in August, chessfans can enjoy chess in its purest form. And knowing Chief Organizer Schmitt, one can expect a few more surprises before the event starts. Up to date information will be available at the website www.chesstigers.de.
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