"Ponomariov has very strong nerves"
The favourite Anand has great respect for the young FIDE world champion
/ Hort is enthusiastic about Chess960
By Hartmut Metz
"Ponomariov hasn't got a chance" say a lot of insiders in assessing
who will win this duel. Their top-notch player Viswanathan Anand has just
been dethroned by the 18 year old Ukrainian. However, as opposed to the
FIDE World Championship in Moscow, the Chess Classic Mainz (from 14th
to 18th August) will be played in rapid chess. And this is still Anand's
domain. The 'Tiger from Madras' has won the last two competitions in the
world's best rapid chess events. He is not going to under-estimate the
world number six, Ponomariov, three places below himself in the rating
list: "He will be a hard nut to crack. At the World Championship in Moscow
I noticed that he has very strong nerves. He demonstrated this in the
rapid chess tie-breaks against Evgeny Bareev and Sergy Tiviakov. Very
good nerves are a crucial factor if you want to play successful rapid
chess. I will not treat him casually. Although he is young he is not a
man of the future but a player who is already showing his enormous strength.
The duel is a perfect challenge and I will prepare with great care." Does
Anand regard himself as the unofficial rapid chess world champion? The
Indian avoids a clear answer by saying that "Kasparov, Kramnik, Ivanchuk
have to be mentioned." But he roguishly adds: "All right, with respect
to the Chess Classic I'm the most successful player."
The prestigious eight game match, which has also been in Ponomariov's
diary for weeks, starts in the Rheingoldhalle daily at 6.30 P.M. On the
16th and 17th August they will play three games and on Sunday, 18th August,
there are two encounters and a tie-break if required. The same playing
time will apply to the other match on stage, the combat between Alexandra
Kosteniuk and Elisabeth Paehtz. The young ladies do not intend to stay
in the shadow of the two distinguished male experts! So far "The Duel
of Graces" has attracted even more publicity! Erfurt-based Elisabeth Paehtz
who reached the last sixteen in the recent world championships went on
the offensive with some cheeky statements: "With a lot of make up any
woman can be pretty." She also announced that she will prepare in a special
way as she will go to the hairdresser's before she sits down to play the
match. The 17 year old German woman grandmaster has no intention of looking
less pretty, both on and off the board, than the vice-world champion.
Kosteniuk will also give a simul at 25 boards on 14th August at 5 P.M.
Ruslan Ponomariov will start his simul at 40 boards one hour earlier.
"I like this thrilling Mainz potpourri of events in mid-August", is Eckhard
Freise's comment on the variety of competitions which will be offered
to the chess enthusiasts at the Congress Center Mainz. This professor,
first winner of the German version of the TV show "Who wants to be a millionaire"
will also participate. The Wuppertal-based professor of medieval history
will face the world no. 14, Peter Svidler from Russia (Elo 2690), in a
handicap match in which the professor will be assisted by Junior 7, a
chess programme on a notebook computer with 733 MHz and 128 RAM. The programme
was developed in Israel by Amir Ban and Shay Bischinski, and like Fritz
it is a product of the Hamburg-based ChessBase company. In July this year,
the programme, which is well-known for its spectacular playing style,
won the overall computer world championship in Maastricht for the tenth
time. A striking characteristic of Junior is its aggressive and sometimes
speculative approach to the game.
Advanced Chess will be the other format on 15th August (6.30 P.M.) when
Anand and Jens Beutel will sit opposite one another. The Mayor of Mainz
(German rating 2075) will have a personal computer with 2220 MHz and 512
MB RAM, whereas his opponent will use a notebook with 733 MHz and 128
RAM. Both players will have access to the world-famous Fritz 7, the no.
1 on the Swedish computer world rating list. Both matches will be played
with 25 minutes plus 10 seconds increment.
Prior to these highlights, all chess fans will have an opportunity to
test their own abilities on the 64 squares. On 15th (registration up to
12 noon) and on 16th August, the first rapid chess open in Chess960 (Fischer
Random Chess) will be played. On the next two days (registration also
up to 12 noon on 17th August) the regular rapid chess open will take place
with 25 minutes per side per game. A total of 30,000 euros in cash and
non-cash prizes will be at stake. So far 32 men and women grandmasters
have already registered for the Ordix Open, the world's biggest rapid
chess tournament. The premiere of Chess960 will attract at least 25 grandmasters
- among them are top players such as Svidler, Alexei Dreev (Russia/2676)
and Rafael Vaganjan from Armenia (2678). The total sum of up to 7,000
euros first prize is also the target for junior players such as Krishnan
Sasikiran from India (2650) and 15 year old Andrei Volokitin, the Ukrainian
newcomer from Ponomariov's camp. The 20 best players have a rating average
of more than 2600 Elo.
Veterans Lajos Portisch - a world championship candidate for decades -
and Vlastimil Hort (during his career peak in the mid-1970s the no. 4
in the world rating list) have already played a lot of games with Bobby
Fischer. After the former world champion disappeared from the chess scene
they met him in secrecy in Budapest and practised his 'type' of new chess,
in which the initial position is determined by drawing lots. Hort is highly
enthusiastic about Chess960 which means that opening theory no longer
applies. "At Kasparov's home the computer runs the whole day. 25 years
ago we did not have this problem. However, we would have done the same
if those opportunities had been open to us. But honestly, without opening
preparation like this, chess provides a lot more fun! Nowadays people
do not play the game but memorise chess. However, human beings should
sit at the chess board without needing to be afraid that they will be
trapped by some theoretical novelty!"