"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!”