ChessBase Player of the Year award

3/15/2002 – And the winner is... well, frankly a big surprise. We assumed that our Player of the Year poll would elect Kramnik or Ponomariov, or maybe even Garry Kasparov for the ChessBase title. Boy were we ever wrong! Before you click on to more information try to guess who took the nomination. Maybe you have a better feel for what was cool in chess in 2001. The final results are to be found here.

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ChessBase Player of the Year award

On the first of February we started our Player of the Year poll, whom the visitors of our site were asked to select. We defined "Year" as the period between October 8 2000, when the BGN match in London started and including the FIDE world championships in December 2000 up to January 22, 2002, when the latest FIDE championship ended.

We asked you to nominate up to five players – male, female, electronic – for the award and to include brief comments on the top nominations. Only one entry per person was allowed. We promised you a special prize which would be given to one participant in the poll, selected by chance from all entries received by us. The poll closed on February 28, 2002.

In the 28 days we received a large number of entries – close to 2000, after we had removed the invalid messages, the virus attacks and the spam. Most had five nominations, as requested, and we awarded points according to the place of each nominee on the list: the first got five points, the second four, etc.

So who won the award? After Kramnik ended the 15-year reign of Garry Kasparov on the chess throne, and after 18-year-old Ruslan Ponomariov won the FIDE title, we expected one of these two to be elected. But right from the start it was the perennial Garry Kasparov who went into the lead, getting almost twice as many votes as his nearest rivals.

With one exception. In hot pursuit was someone nobody had reckoned with, a female player at that. No, not the freshly crowned Chinese world champion Zhu Chen, nor the strongest woman player in chess history Judit Polgar. No, it was Alexandra Kosteniuk, whose performance at the FIDE championship in Moscow and whose glamour gallery had obviously impressed people more deeply than we could have imagined.

In the coming weeks we watched in fascination as the two led the field. Kasparov 3000 points, Kosteniuk 2300. Kasparov 3500, Kosteniuk 2800. Would she catch up with the strongest (and apparently still most popular) player on the planet?

Garry stayed fairly comfortably in the lead, until around February 20, when suddenly there was a sharp increase in the votes for Sasha Kosteniuk. Message after message came in with her in first place. Many had identical wording: "I vote for Alexandra Kosteniuk. Her brilliant perfomance at the world chess championship became the sensation of the year 2001. Her plays are perfect and spectacular. Besides she is just a charming girl."

A quick search brought the solution: a Kosteniuk fan page had started mobilising people to vote for their heroine. We contacted the Russian playing site. They explained that Alexandra had a lot of fans there, but unfortunately many of them did not speak English. They had expressed a strong desire to vote for her and the web admin had decided to help them take down the language barrier. He assured us that the letters came from different people, a fact we were able to corroborate. Many in fact came from outside Russia, and almost all had full names, addresses and emails.

With the help of these additional votes Kosteniuk started to catch up, and around February 25 she was just a few hundred points shy of Kasparov's score. Then CNN jumped in. A beautiful film portrait of Alexandra Kosteniuk (which you can still catch on the CNN web site here) was broadcast world wide, and that gave her the final boost. In the last three days of polling Kosteniuk was able to overtake Kaspaov and secure the nomination of ChessBase Player of the Year – by a margin of 860 points.

And this is how they finished:

Surprising the very strong showing of 70-year-old Viktor Korchnoi, who finished in fifth place. Five computer programs are also to be found in the top 30, with Fritz 7 clearly in the lead.

Player
Points
 
1
Alexandra Kosteniuk
5927
Player
Points
2
Garry Kasparov
5065
16
Kirsan Illumzhinov
162
3
Ruslan Ponomariov
2456
17
Rudy Giuliani
158
4
Vladimir Kramnik
1792
18
Alexander Grischuk
123
5
Viktor Korchnoi
1691
19
Evgeny Bareev
98
6
Vishy Anand
948
20
Alex. Morozevich
96
7
Fritz 7
714
21
Veselin Topalov
94
8
Vassily Ivanchuk
673
22
Jannick Pelletier
73
9
Judit Polgar
588
23
Taimour Radjabov
67
10
Robert Fischer
274
24
Tony Miles
63
11
Anatoly Karpov
253
25
Shredder 6
52
12
Alexei Shirov
208
26
ChessBase team
51
13
Pocket Fritz
194
27
Deep Junior
34
14
Zhu Chen
183
28
Joel Lautier
35
15
Chess Tiger
174
29
Mark Crowther
12
30
Lennox Lewis
11

The average vote for Garry Kasparov, amongst all who voted for him, was 4.2 points (i.e. he was ranked between one and two). Ponomariov got an average of 3.5 points, Kramnik 3.38, Korchnoi 2.9, Anand 3.0. Fritz 7 got an average vote of 2.7. You will find some of the most interesting reasons given for the votes on a special page here.

We have changed the prize for taking part in our poll from a copy of Fritz 7 to Alexandra Kosteniuk's book "How I became a grandmaster at age 14". This will be personally dedicated and sent to the winner by Alexandra. The lucky, lucky winner will be announced soon.

We congratulate Sasha Kosteniuk for her convincing win over Garry Kasparov.


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