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Unzicker Gala celebrating his 80th Birthday includes Kortchnoi and Spassky

Chess Classic Mainz from August 9 to 14; who will challenge Anand?

text and photos by FM Hartmut Metz, (translation by Mark Vogelgesang), March 2005

more English chess texts by Hartmut Metz


Wolfgang Unzicker

Wolfgang Unzicker. Photo Metz


   The dates of the Chess Classic Mainz have now been fixed. The most spectacular rapid chess event in the world will start early in 2005, on August 9, and - for the first time - will last six days. The extension of the event is a tribute to Wolfgang Unzicker. The Grandmaster from Munich will turn 80 on June 26 and will be honoured with a Gala Tournament from August 9 to 10. From August 11 to 14, two additional events will be at the center of attention in the Rheingoldhalle: the Gerling Match for the world championship in Chess960 and especially the GrenkeLeasing Match, in which Viswanathan Anand will defend his title as the best rapid chess player in the world. The big unknown in the plans of organizer Hans-Walter Schmitt is the name of the challenger. Again, the entire elite of the chess world has applied for this match. One candidate, however, is now definitely out: Garry Kasparov. "It is a pity, we would have liked to hire him at the latest in 2006" says Schmitt, regretting the retirement of the world number one.


Chess Classic: Viswanathan Anand, Aruna Anand, Hans-Walter Schmitt

Viswanathan Anand, his wife Aruna and Hans-Walter Schmitt. Photo Metz


   After being regarded the most successful Grandmaster for the last two years, the Indian will now advance to the number one spot in the worldwide chess ranking list. It was undisputed that in the field of rapid chess, the "Tiger from Madras" is in a class to himself. That is proven by his seven victories in Mainz. At the Chess Classic, the 35 year old Indian beat every top player. In 2004, Alexander Grischuk recommended himself as the next opponent. For the second time in a row, the Russian won the Ordix Open, the strongest open tournament for rapid chess in the world.


Alexander Morozevich

Alexander Morozevich. Photo Metz


   World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, who narrowly lost to Anand in 2001, will probably not get a chance for a rematch. Vice-World Champion Peter Leko also seems out of the race. At this point in time, Schmitt does not want to give away "a specific name for the opponent of Anand". The man from Bad Soden does not exclude the possibility that the opportunity will not go to Grischuk or Morozevich, but to Veselin Topalov instead. The Bulgarian was part of the Chess Classic 2000, when for the only time in the history of chess, the entire top ten competed in one location. The 30 year old has excellent credentials as the challenger of Anand. Topalov was the last person to defeat Kasparov and in March shared overall victory with the Russian in Linares in Spain. In addition, it seems likely that Topalov will be number two behind Anand in the next chess rating list. The number one player in the world against number two - that carries a very special appeal, which Schmitt understands well. Nevertheless, the CCM organizer does not give away any specifics about the GrenkeLeasing Match. "We are still negotiating. Negotiations should be finished early in April. But in any case, I can guarantee a spectacular duel" promises the 53-year old.


Zoltan Almasi

Zoltan Almasi. Photo Metz


   Planning for the Gerling Match is at a more advanced stage: Peter Svidler defends his world title in Chess960 against Zoltan Almasi. The Hungarian won last year’s FiNet Open, where the starting position is selected by chance out of 960 possibilities. Almasi takes the place of the Armenian Levon Aronian, who lost against Svidler. The Chess960 World Champion from Russia enters the fight against Almasi as the favourite. Before the matches in the evening - after 18:30, there will be two games on each of the four evenings - chess fans can test themselves in open tournaments. Record participations are expected at the FiNet Open in Chess 960 and at the traditional Ordix Open, for which more than 500 players, including 100 title holders, are expected. Registration for the FiNet Open and the Ordix Open closes at 12:15, and both competitions include 11 rounds. The Chess960 Open will be played on Thursday and Friday (August 11 and 12), the traditional Open will be played over the following weekend (August 13 and 14).


Jens Beutel gegen Antoaneta Stefanowa bei den Chess Classic

Jens Beutel, Antoaneta Stefanowa. Photo Metz


   Whoever gives the simul at 40 boards at the start of the Chess Classic is normally an indication about who will sit on the stage later on. But Schmitt does not give anything away. "World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova will give one of the two simuls. And our chairman, the mayor Jens Beutel, will participate in it" is all the organiser gives away. During her participation in last year’s open, the pretty and witty Bulgarian impressed not only Schmitt. Beauty will also be provided once more by Carmen Kass. The top model, who is at the same time president of the Estonian Chess Federation, dominated the headlines of the 2004 Chess Classic. Her partner, Grandmaster Eric Lobron, is part of the "inventory" of the Chess Classic. The man from Wiesbaden will not only be participating in the open tournaments, he will also comment on games during the evening, together with the European rapid chess champion Artur Yusupov.


Medien-Liebling Topmodel Carmen Kass

Top model Carmen Kass. Photo Metz


Eric Lobron

Eric Lobron. Photo Metz


Victor Korchnoi

Victor Korchnoi. Photo Metz


   At the "Unzicker Gala 80" on August 9 and 10 (starting 15:30 on both days), legendary players will get together. In addition to Wolfgang Unzicker, who was probably the world’s strongest amateur player in the fifties, Victor Korchnoi and Boris Spassky will participate. The first one is - at 74 - still tireless and torturing young players. The other one is a Russian bear, who tired early after his world title in 1969, but who can still bite back should his draw offer be rejected. The fourth participant of the double rounded Gala has not yet been determined. "Either Wolfgang Unzicker will invite his favourite player from the young generation - or we will find another old war horse", remarks Schmitt. And indicates tongue-in-cheek who would be his personal favourite: "he was a good buddy of Spassky and has already played a match against him. I believe it was in 1972", jokes the man from Bad Soden and adds: "now he would love to return to Island!" There can be no doubt, the joker refers to the inventor of Chess960, Bobby Fischer, for whose release from a Japanese prison cell he collected signatures last year.

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