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Radjabov’s big dream comes true

The rising star challenges perennial winner Anand / Elisabeth Pähtz intends to take Chess960 revenge against Kosteniuk

text and photos by FM Hartmut Metz, (translation by Mark Vogelgesang), June 2006

more English chess texts by Hartmut Metz


Teimour Radjabov

Teimour Radjabov


   Every year, the Chess Classic Mainz (CCM) is among the very best chess tournaments in the world. This year, however, the event, which will run from August 15 to 20, will feature an even more impressive cast of players. Three of the world’s top four Grandmasters will play in the Rheingoldhalle in Mainz: Viswanathan Anand (India), Levon Aronian (Armenia) and Peter Svidler (Russia). “But that is not all!” stresses Hans-Walter Schmitt, chief organizer of the event: “The two strongest players in the world under the age of 20 will be there: Teimour Radjabov and Pentala Harikrishna”. On top of this Schmitt can also confirm that Alexandra Kosteniuk from Russia, currently number three in the world among women, and Germany’s strongest player Arkadij Naiditsch (Bindlach) are participating as well as Elisabeth Pähtz from Erfurt.


Viswanathan Anand

Viswanathan Anand


  The players for the important matches in Mainz were selected out of this elite group. The center of the attention will once more be the GrenkeLeasing Rapid Chess World Championship with Anand. Slowly but surely, the “Tiger from Madras” is running out of opponents. The 36-year old player was able to win the Chess Classic for eight times, the last six events went to the man from India without a single exception. Who is to challenge the World Champion in Rapid Chess? Even Veselin Topalov, who was able to prevail at the slow time control used in the FIDE World Championship, seems to be the underdog in the domain of Anand, who also plays for the German Team Champion OSC Baden-Baden.

   „It has always been difficult to find a worthy opponent, able to challenge Vishy” stresses Schmitt, who has chosen Radjabov for this years match. “This kid is more than keen to play the match” explains the chief organizer and recalls last year’s Ordix Open. “Right after winning the tournament in convincing style, he came up to me and pressed me to let him play next year’s match against Anand - and even offered to play without any appearance fee!” But in spite of that, the 19-year old will not be on the stage in Gutenberg’s hometown for small change. The courage and the determination of the youngster, who just climbed to the number 13 spot in the world rating list, impressed Schmitt in such a way that he decided to let Radjabov’s big dream come true. “Giving last year’s match to Alexander Grischuk, the winner of the Ordix Open in 2004, worked well. Grischuk’s duel with Anand created many interesting games” believes Schmitt.

    In order to give even more weight to the number one spot in the strongest rapid chess open in the world, the winner of the Ordix Open will from now on be the favourite to become the next challenger for Anand. But the 54-year old organizer Schmitt insists on exceptions and gives examples: “Should Vishy lose the match at some point in the future, then he will be given the opportunity to play a rematch.” The second exception sounds very exciting indeed: “In case Gary Kasparov wants to celebrate his comeback, he can have the spot any time he wishes!” But in the meantime, the “monster from Baku” devotes himself not to chess, but to Russian politics and his successor in his birthplace, Radjabov, will try his luck against the perennial winner of the Chess Classic. But Anand will not make the mistake of underestimating his opponent, who is the world’s strongest player under the age of 20. After all, the “little monster from Baku” was able to beat the “big monster” before the big one retired from chess!

   Chess960 was made popular by the tournaments held in Mainz. In Chess960, the starting position is determined by chance among the 960 possible starting positions before the game starts. As a result, it is not the player with the greatest knowledge of opening theory who wins the game, but the player with the best strategy. This innovation has caught the attention of two companies, FiNet and Clerical Medical. FiNet already sponsored last year’s Chess960 tournament, and will sponsor this year’s edition, which will happen on August 17 and 18.

   Falko König, manager of Clerical Medical, is as much interested in Chess960 as the growing community of fans, who are participating in the increasing number of Chess960 tournaments. Clerical Medical, a British insurance company determined to make it big in the German market, will be the name sponsor for four separate World Championship events. A match at the highest level is guaranteed when Peter Svidler defends his title as Chess960 World Champion against Levon Aronian. Aronian narrowly lost the title match against Svidler two years ago.

   Aronian, winner of the FiNet Open in 2005, will be a slight favourite in this year’s world title match, which will feature eight games with 25 minutes time plus ten seconds for each move, the same time control that is used for the Anand vs Radjabov match. Through his victories in the World Cup and in the prestigious tournament in Linares, Aronian propelled himself to the number three spot in the world rankings, behind Topalov and Anand, who are together leading by a wide margin. The player who was moved from the number three spot to number four is no other than Peter Svidler. But the Russian from St. Petersburg will be keen to demonstrate that at least in Chess960, he is the stronger player.

   This year, three more world titles are up for grasp in the categories women, seniors and juniors (U20). Time control for these events is 20 minutes plus five seconds per move, identical to the time control in the FiNet Open. In the world championship of the fair sex, spectators will see another rematch - just as in the case of Svidler vs Aronian. In a widely followed “encounter of the beauties” in 2002, Alexandra Kosteniuk from Russia narrowly defeated Elisabeth Pähtz. After this encounter, both grandmasters were able to prove that they belong to the most promising talents in the chess world. The German number one went on to become U18 and U20 World Champion. Alexandra Kosteniuk received much attention as well, and not only as a glamour girl, most recently in the American edition of Penthouse. The “Anna Kurnikova” of chess is also quite successful in her chosen sport and moved up to the number three spot in the world ranking list for women with 2540 ELO points. Elisabeth Pähtz is currently number 26 in the world with an ELO rating of 2438.

   The race for the U20 title might be even tighter. Arkadij Naiditsch from Dortmund is able to beat almost any grandmaster. The strongest German player is currently number 41 in the world with an ELO of 2664, not too far behind Harikrishna, who is number 25 in the world with an ELO of 2680. Vlastimil Hort (Oberhausen, Germany) and Lajos Portisch (Hungary) will offer a stark contrast to these youngsters. These former top-grandmasters will play eight games on August 15 and 16, starting at 15:00 hours, to determine the first Chess960 World Champion for Seniors. By participating in the FiNet Open, each and every amateur has the opportunity to qualify for a World Championship match in Chess960. Moreover, in the eleven rounds played on August 17 and 18 and in the Ordix Open, a total price fund of EUR 40,000 is up for grasp. More than a hundred titled players are expected to come to Mainz and compete for the sizable price fund. Last year, the Ordix Open was bigger than ever before, featuring 546 players.

   As usual, there will be additional events for fans and spectators at the Chess Classic: before the Livingston Chess960 Computer World Championship on August 17 and 18, there will be a man versus machine match between World Champion Peter Svidler and the Chess960 program Spike. Volker Böhm and Ralf Schäfer, two amateur chess programmers from Mainz and Wiesbaden were able to create a big surprise last year when they captured the world title ahead of well established competitors. A second man versus machine encounter also promises some excitement: Teimour Radjabov will play the multiple computer World Champion Shredder, developed by Stefan Meyer-Kahlen from Düsseldorf. Friends of simultaneous displays can challenge A&A: on August 15 (15:30 hours), it will be Anand’s turn to continue the tradition and walk 40 boards. The opportunity for a duel with the likeable Indian can be purchased from the Chess Tigers ( In addition, 15 seats will be auctioned off at ebay. In the case of the Aronian Chess960 simul, 7 seats will be auctioned off at ebay, while the remaining 13 boards will be awarded by the Chess Tigers upon request.

   Detailed information (e.g. on special rates at the Hilton Hotel) and up-to-date news about the Chess Classic Mainz can be found at


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more English chess texts by Hartmut Metz