The creme de la creme
By Quah Seng Sun
WHAT is your idea of a dream chess tournament? I think for most chess enthusiasts, it is to see the cream of the world's strongest players take part in a round-robin event of, say, 10 to 16 players.
But would it be possible to get all the top 10 to 16 players together at the same time? I think not. Unless it is such a reputable tournament with no less than perfect playing conditions, you will have to be an optimist if you think you can cramp 10 to 16 big egos into a single playing room.
Among all the big chess events in the world, the annual Wijk aan Zee tournament in the Netherlands comes close to being a dream tournament.
This event, already in its 63rd year, is steeped in tradition. Hospitality is reputedly excellent, beyond comparison. And besides, this is a Category 19 event.
The top nine players in the world were there in the last tournament. Gary Kasparov was playing, along with world champion Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Michael Adams (England), Peter Leko (Hungary), Alexander Morozevich (Russia), Alexei Shirov (Spain), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) and Vassili Ivanchuk (Ukraine).
The host country was represented by four of its strongest warriors: Loek Van Wely, Jeroen Piket, Jan Timman and Russian-import Sergei Tiviakov.
However, a big puzzle was the inclusion of the Belarus grandmaster, Alexei Fedorov, who is way outside the world's top 100 players. If Fedorov had been replaced by the likes of Boris Gelfand, Evgeny Bareev, Peter Svidler or Alexander Khalifman, it would have qualified as the greatest tournament ever organised.
Kasparov, who had won this tournament in 1999 and last year, was strongly favoured to become the first person to win the event three times in a row, but to everyone's surprise, the first half of the tournament belonged to Shirov.
Playing with much verve and imagination, and a devil-may-care attitude, Shirov scored 6.5 points from eight games. But these were points scored against the lower-profiled players in the tournament: Topalov, Leko, Fedorov, Piket, Timman, van Wely, Adams and Tiviakov.
Shirov's biggest challenges would turn up in the second half of the event where he was scheduled to meet, in this order, Kasparov, Anand, Ivanchuk, Kramnik and Morozevich.
Against this opposition, Shirov could score only one more point. In the end, a very deflated Shirov had to share the fifth to seventh positions with Adams and Morozevich in the tournament standings.
Kasparov had a good start, beating Tiviakov and Fedorov, but then came a series of draws with Anand, Ivanchuk, Kramnik and Morozevich. After he beat Topalov and drew with Leko, the stage was set for the eagerly-awaited clash between Kasparov and Shirov. This game proved to be the turning point for both players. While Shirov's fortune dived, Kasparov was well on his way to winning the event.
Anand was never in the race to challenge Kasparov for the first prize. In the first 10 rounds, he scored only one win against Tiviakov, and all his other nine games were drawn. However, he found inspiration in his final three games where he played against three struggling Dutch contenders. His victories against Piket, Timman and van Wely propelled him to second place.
The final standings: Kasparov 9 points; Anand 8.5 points; Kramnik and Ivanchuk 8 points; Adams, Morozevich and Shirov 7.5 points; Leko 6.5 points; Topalov 5.5 points; Deforov and van Wely 5 points; Piket and Tiviakov 4.5 points; and Timman 4 points.
The Chess Association of Selangor (CAS) will be organising the Selangor closed tournament over two weekends on Feb 24 and 25 and March 3 and 4.
This event will be used to select the state's representatives to the national closed championship which the Malaysian Chess Federation is expected to hold in May.
The Selangor tournament will be played over seven rounds at Sunway College in Petaling Jaya, and the time control will be two hours per player for each game.
Registration will open at 9am on Feb 24 and thereafter, the first two rounds are scheduled for 10am and 2.30pm. The third round is at 10am on Feb 25, followed by the fourth and fifth rounds at 9.30am and 2.30pm respectively on March 4. On March 5, the final two rounds are at 9.30am and 2.30pm.
Entry fees are RM10 for under-12 players and CAS members, and RM15 for other players.
The top three prizes are RM200, RM150 and RM100. Hampers await the fourth- and fifth-placed players as well as the best under-12 and under-16 players. For the two age groups, the best three players will win trophies.
According to CAS, a series of chess tournaments have been lined up for the year. The emphasis is on longer time controls to create more quality games among players, especially the juniors.
The decision was taken by the CAS council after it received feedback from parents who had sent their children to the Asean junior chess tournament in Vietnam last December.
For more details on the Selangor closed tournament, contact Mrs Jackie Wong (03-703 8237) or Lim Tse Pin (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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