By Eugeny Atarov
Moscow says goodbye to Aeroflot Open. We’ll meet again in one year, in
February 2004. At the closing ceremony the big bosses made it perfectly clear
to everybody that: the tournament will keep it’s place in the calendar,
moreover, it can improve with every year. One hundred and fifty GMs? That’s
not enough! Let’s make it three hundred next year! May be not just as many
but… Let’s wait till next February. Actually, Aeroflot created a new
type of tournaments – the GM Swiss tournament.
Magnificent venue: the Hotel Rossia (in the background)
There was a very special thing about this tournament: there are no (or almost
no) weak participants here. Even at the Interzonal tournaments there were more
outsiders. The Moscow super-Swiss tournament already get imitated and the competitors
are starting to appear. E.g. the ambitious organizer from Dominican Republic
are announcing their plans for the similar tournament, as well as people from
the US open or Capella.
It’s great that life goes on in chess and the obsolete Groningen and
Linares get replaced by the new more dynamic competitions. And Aeroflot is the
best representative of such tournaments! The last round miraculously reflected
all the glory and misery of modern chess – when the winner was separated
from the runners up only by some tenths of a point and the cost of every move
got as high as several thousands dollars.
P1. The very beginning of the 10th day. It’s 10 a.m. Alexei Fedorov peering
from behind the wide shoulder of Alexei Alexandrov. That was quite curious:
two Byelorussia’s at the first table in the last round! Who could have
predicted it before the beginning of the tournament? The public expected the
tough battle but the faces of the opponents showed that there’ll be no
battle at all. Fedorov who had just won four games in a row, explained: “We
were fighting with other opponents, and between us we have nothing to contest”.
And after eight moves the draw was signed, the players got up and were about
to leave when suddenly…
P2. …the TV journalist Marina Makarycheva ran up to the table out of breath.
The TV people didn’t expect the game to be so short so they failed to record
the historical moment. The players were asked to get back to the table and to
pose for the operator. They shrugged but obeyed: they sat down, looked around
themselves a little – while the pieces were still at the initial position,
then finally they shook hands!
P3. Right after two Byelorussia’s finished their game, Fedorov retired
to his room. He hates giving interviews and talking to the press, and besides
he fell ill with a flu like almost a half of the participants. So Alexandrov
had to perform for both of them. Everybody was already congratulating him on
his victory in the tournament but he kept repeating what sounded like an incantation:
“Let’s wait till Bologan finishes his game!”
And the congratulations were indeed premature… When about an hour later
Alexandrov returned to the plying hall he didn’t look happy at all: his
main and only competitor was winning. Granda Zuniga with his every move was
taking his dream away from him, the dream to win Aeroflot and to get a place
in Dortmund. He was walking back and forth in the hall, coming to the press
room, giving occasional comments to the Peruvian’s moves and finally he
waived his hand in despair: “So be it, I’ll be second, big deal”.
But he was of course very upset, on the next day he looked very ill and exhausted,
and he made a quite departure to his native Minsk.
P4. The Peruvian GM Julio Granda Zuniga hasn’t played chess in years.
They say in his native country he retired to the ranch and was peacefully growing
tomatoes there… And now he unexpectedly decided to come back to chess!
The ninth round found him at the fourth table with Bologan for an opponent playing
a decisive game of the tournament… In the background you can see Svidler
and the winner of the last Aeroflot Kaidanov fighting bitterly in the game that
surprisingly wasn’t decisive at all!
P5. A minute ago everything was finished: Bologan won his game living Alexandrov
on the second place… He was happily making his way to the bar, shaking
many hands – and at the bar his beloved wife Rita was waiting for him.
That’s where I caught them! After a cup of tea Viorel started his endless
interview that lasted for the whole night and was occasionally interrupted by
congratulations and warm wishes from friends…
P6. Viorel is giving his interview in the background, all the other important
games are about to finish and these two are playing to their hearts’ content…
“Big deal, Aeroflot! And we are playing blitz! And that’s what’s
P7. Peter Svidler usually is a very popular figure with TV people and journalists.
As soon as he finishes his game and “get released” – they are
here to attack him with their questions. This time the night after the last
game was surprisingly quiet: probably none of the journalists noticed that after
six hours of a tough game Peter scored +5 and took the fourth place! Before
this round he talked to Geurt Gijssen. The chief arbiter could not believe that
having scored 50% in the first three rounds it was possible to play on the second
table: “You could have dodged your opponent like this!”. Peter didn’t
object: nothing is impossible for the true masters…
P8. Sasha Galkin put a great achievement on his record. In the chess world
he has a reputation as a player who always agrees to a draw. In Moscow he tried
to change this – and won four games in a row. And what games! (Galkin promised
to share with us his brilliant endgame ideas and strategies). However, most
of the times he wins with black: as the saying goes, your own weapon will be
turned against you…
P9. The best result of such tournaments belong to the Moscow vice-champion
Naer (+4). Eugeny once again proved that he is a real fighter that never agrees
to compromises… His bright final victory over Smirin is a due reward for
his will and perseverance!
P10. Another “come back” of Smirnov. It seems that Pavel already
proved it long ago to everyone’s content that he is a very strong player.
He is a vice champion of Russia, he won a Cup, but Big Chess doesn’t let
anybody to take even a short break – so the GM from Mezhdurechensk keeps
working hard. If only the Good Fortune was a little kinder to him – and
then it will be very hard to fight with him…
P11. Everyone is used to the image of Sakaev as a very confident and calm player.
Seems like nothing can interfere with his peace of mind. This way Kostya stayed
at Aeroflot open: concentrating on his games, sitting still at his table or
moving slowly to his table with a small cup of coffee... Probably he could have
scored more points but his extreme carefulness and objectiveness influenced
P12. Filippenko (right) and Dreev: the coach and the student. They are together
for almost twenty years and they understand each other almost without words.
Alexei: “So, how did I play in the Aeroflot?” Judging by his coach’s
hesitating gesture, he expected more from his student: if only Alexei scored
just a half-point more, just one more win instead of a draw – and he could
be at the very top…
P13. The last moments of Aeroflot-open: the game Gaggunashvili – Grischuk.
In the second round the young Georgian GM defeated Morozevich, in the ninth
round he won against a 2700-rated player! Impressive beginning, considering
that he is only 18… After the game Grischuk sincerely congratulated his
opponent with a great play and the public was ready to applaud. One more bright
star appeared on the chess horizon.
P14. Sasha Morozevitch didn’t do particularly well at the Aeroflot, however
with a powerful finishing spurt he managed to occupy one of the first tables.
He is as popular as ever with the girls. Matveeva: “Him, let’s see
what he will write in the magazine for the girls?”
P15. Aeroflot open is the worst tournament in Grischuk’s career since
Biel 2001. He was quite ill, besides he didn’t get enough time to rest
after Wijk een Zee. But Sasha doesn’t let small things upset him, and he
was smiling a lot at the closing ceremony… Nataf – to Grischuk: “To
hell with all problems, Life is wonderful, isn’t it Sanya?!”
P16. “Here’s your crown: don’t let it drop!” – Viorel
Bologan is surrounded by the honorary guests of the tournament: deputy director
of Aeroflot Alexander Zurabov, Anatoly Karpov and Barbara Sholl – the Tillburg
organizer. Viorel already won in a big round tournament once before – in
Novgorod seven years ago, and then he promised the following year to play in
the main round tournament – but he didn’t. What it will be like with
Dortmund this time?
P17. A glass of champagne for the victory. Bologan: “Right to the last
moment I thought that Alexandrov will be the winner, and that he will be the
one to go to Dortmund. Besides, I had a high temperature and my thoughts were
quite far from chess. But when I saw the pairings for the last round where my
opponent was Granda Zuniga who didn’t play chess for four years I realized
I had a good chance!”
Text and photos: Eugeny Atarov ("64")