By Eugeny Atarov
Aeroflot Open Moscow 2003
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 important!!!”.
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 the result.
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")