zondag, september 26, 2004

World Chess Championship Commentary

We have arrived at yet another World Chess Championship match where there is no unification, just a labyrinth of World Chess Champions. In the beginning, consider thatt Morpy and Staunton never played each other, but both layed claim to the title of World Chess Champion. Then along came the bloodline of chess championships that started in 1886 with Wilhelm Steinitz as the first World Chess Champion (WCC). Everything was fine for almost 100 years, but since Bobby Fischer, things have not been the same. Bobby was arbitrarily stripped of his title FIDE who decided that they, and not the sitting WCC, should decide the rules for qualification and who plays for the title. Bobby Fischer was never defeated by another chess player in a WCC match. When he allowed the re-match with Boris Spassky to be played, the USA, under who's flag he played when he was crowned the WC Champion, declared that the playing site in Belgrade, was not allowed and denounced him. The USA has even gone so far as to revoke his U.S. Passport before it's expiration date, while he was out of the country.

Now we see that the big meeting in May of 2002 at Prague, which was to unify the chess playing community under a single organization has not yet achieved it's goal.
Today, controversy still abounds with all the different claims to the title. There is this match between the recognized World Chess (WC) Champion (Kramnik) and a challenger (Peter Leko) which will result in a Classical WCC title being bestowed on the match winner. Then there is the FIDE match scheduled for next year, when the former WC Champion (Kasparov) will meet another WC Champion named Rustam Kasimdzhanov, who was crowned earlier this year by virtue of winning an obscure tournament in Tripoli, without benefit of having been matched against any other super GMs. (Kasparov, Kramnik, Leko, Svindler, Karpov, Morozevich and Judit Polger were not in attendance). [Shame on Garry Kasparov for even considering a match against the likes of Rustam Kasimdzhanov whose only claim to fame is that his last name starts with a K.] There is also the World Correspondence Chess Championship (WCCC) sponsored by the ICCF, another chess organization. After that we take a step down where there is a World Women's Chess Championship, (Note that the highest rated woman chess player (Judit Polger) is not even in the competition) and the RAPID or Blitz WCC. So who is to say who the real WC Champion is. Mr. Morozevich says that "right now such entity as the "world Chess Champion" does not exist. I believe that if he can win the Super Russian Championship (including Kasparov, Kramnik, Karpov, Grischuk, Svindler, Bareev, etc.) in November, he will claim the WC Champion title. And you have to ask yourself, where is Vishy Anand, the no. 2 rated player in the world, in figuring who the real WC Champion is, and why is Kramnik not allowing Kasparov a re-match as the previous title holder. While we are at it, how about a World Chess Babe Championship match?

Today's match is sponsored by the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) and, as mentioned earlier, is recognised as the bloodline of chess championships. As previous WCC matches go, this match has several different aspects to it; (1) There are no postponments allowed (2) there are no adjournments allowed and (3)the winner will be the first player to gain more than 7 points in the match. Then, there is the security angle (given today's environment, why not?) where each player must submit to a personal search prior to the start of each game. Kramnik, the recognized present titleholder, and Peter Leko, himself a pretty good contender, but probably not the most likely candidate, are a study in contrasting personalities. Peter declares that he will be WC Champion, but he doesn't state when he expects the title to be bestowed. He has a pretty even record against Kramnik in tournament play, but we'll see how he fares in match play. Today's WCC game between Leko and Kramnik, was expected to be a ho-hum draw. Given the opening chosen by the players, the Russian Defence (a.k.a. Petroff's Defense), and the apparent attitude of Kramnik in the early stages of the game, there was no reason to doubt that we would experience anything other than the normal opening draw to start the match on its way. Leko, obviously felt differently as he was playing for a win right out of the chute.

Leko, playing the White pieces, played very aggressively in pressing for the win rather than the traditional opening game draw. That is the most likely reason he lost the game, but I have to admire his attitude. Why play at all, if not to play for the win. Leko chose to force the game into an unbalaced position where he would have a queen for Kramnik's rook, bishop and pawn. A very unclear position, to be sure. As a correspondence player myself, I applaude Leko's examining of an unclear position. If nothing else, it brings some clarity to the idea of playing a Russian Defence end game with an unbalanced position and what is arguably, a material advantage. Many of the commentators of the game felt that Leko's 44.Qf4 was the fatal error. However, when you really axamine the position, there is nothing better. One thing is for sure though, today's game was very enlightening and very hard fought. An excellent game!

Tomorrow.... Game two and a little comentary on the FIDE president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

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