The first day of the Chess Classic Mainz 2005 started off with a press conference with the participants in the Unzicker-80 Gala. Even organiser Hans-Walter Schmitt did not know what to say with all these chess legends who were sitting next to him. “This is my masterpiece”, Schmitt said with a shaky voice, “bringing all these legends of chess to Mainz is fantastic. We had many great Chess Classic tournaments in Frankfurt and Mainz, but this event tops it all. I am really honoured that these great men are sitting next to me”. I hope that they will play good and interesting games”, Schmitt said and smiled: “and no short draws please!”
Wolfgang Unzicker (1925) was the strongest West German player from 1945 to about 1970. From 1950 to 1978 he competed in twelve Olympiads. As presiding judge of an administrative court Unzicker had little time for international tournament play. Some of his finest performances are: Sochi 1965, first place, equal with Spassky and Santa Monica 1966, equal with Portisch, after Spassky, Fischer, and Larsen, ahead of Petrosian, then world champion. Unzicker's good manners, his sportsmanship and sense of fair play, made him popular at home and abroad. And he is still popular, since his rivals Anatoly Karpov, Boris Spassky and Viktor Kortchnoi came to Mainz to play this wonderful tournament with the 80-year old. “I am moved that my friends came here to play “my” tournament. Some of them had to travel a long way. I would like to thank Hans-Walter Schmitt and his Chess Tigers and I am looking forward to this event.”
Boris Vasiliyevich Spassky (1937) did not know exactly when he met Unzicker for the first time: “I thought I met him in 1962”, Spassky started, but immediately Unzicker corrected him: “No, my friend, I met you a few years earlier, in Gothenburg 1955”. Then the two grandmasters started talking about legendary tournaments i the sixties like Santa Monica 1966. “I am very proud to have such a good relationship with Wolfgang and his family, Spassky concluded. “I wish you good luck in this tourney, Wolfgang, and I wish myself luck as well, because there are two more crocodiles in this tournament who will be not play so peacefully”.
One of the other “crocodiles” is Viktor Lvovich Kortchnoi (1931). In St. Petersburg, his native city, he learned the game at the age of six. He suffered hardship during the siege of Leningrad (1941-1943) and, advised that he was too frail for the rigours of a chess career, took to eat porridge daily, which, he believes, strengthened his constitution. Certainly, he became on of the toughest and most tenacious players of his time. In the press conference Kortchnoi said that Unzicker has certainly had an enormous influence on chess life in Germany. “We are four different players, with different political opinions and ideologies, but today we are here in Mainz to play a beautiful tournament to honour our friend Wolfgang Unzicker”.
Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov (1951) is the youngest player in this Unzicker gala, but despite his youth, compared to the other players, he is the player with the most tournament victories: Karpov has won more than 160 tournaments in his career. Born in Zlatoust, a small town in the Urals, he was taught the moves of chess when he was 4, and became a competent player by the age of 13 without having read any chess books. “I like to be in this beautiful city and I like this idea to organise a tournament for Wolfgang. I hope these kinds of tournaments and I hope that more of these events will be organised in the future. There are so many great masters of chess who would deserve it.” I like to play in Germany”, Karpov concluded, “my Karpov academy in Baden-Baden is doing well and recently I started other projects in Hockenhein and Berlin”.
Finally, let's not forget the referee: Lothar Maximilian Lorenz Schmid (1928), the chess referee of the century, who will act as a referee in Mainz during the Unzicker Gala. The International Grandmaster and Karl May publisher met Unzicker in 1947. “I like to thank Hans-Walter Schmitt for bringing these players to Germany. This is most certainly one of the best tournaments ever played on German soil. I am proud to be here, as a friend of the players.”
And the mayor of Mainz, Jens Beutel, who will play in the Chess Classic FiNet and ORDIX Open once again, is of course delighted to have such famous players in his city. “ If you want to have some touristic information, just let me know. As you might have noticed, we are rebuilding the Rheingoldhalle, so we can even get more chessplayers to Mainz next year!”
No love lost between the two: Anatoly Karpov vs Viktor Kortchnoi
After the opening press conference the Chess Classic Tournament 2005 finally started! In the first round of the Unzicker Gala, Karpov met his old rival Viktor Kortchnoi. In this game, Karpov won after an impressive performance with the black pieces. He showed that he is eager to win his 160+ tourney here in Mainz!
Protection (as usual) from his nemesis Karpov: Viktor Kortchnoi
In the other game Spassky and Unzicker choose a calm opening and decided to start their tournament with a quiet draw. In the second round, Kortchnoi won a good game against Spassky, whereas Unzicker managed a draw in his game against Karpov. Although the Russian was a pawn up, the 80-year old fought for a draw and eventually got his deserved half point in the rook ending. In the last round of the day, Karpov and Spassky decided to end the day with a draw, but in the other game, Viktor Kortchnoi once again showed his fighting spirit and after Unzicker missed some good opportunities, the Swiss vice-world champion won the game.
In the press conference after the last round, Unzicker said that he had a very good position in his last game against Kortchnoi “Maybe I had a strategically winning position, but it is difficult in rapid chess to actually win such a position. Tactical positions are easier in rapid chess. In my second game against Karpov I played well, although I had a difficult position”. Karpov agreed:” Yes, Wolfgang defended very well and deserved the draw. In the game against Kortchnoi I could not get a clear advantage after the opening, but I think the position in the middle game was easier to play with the black pieces, and that resulted in my first win of the tournament”. Kortchnoi started playing with dark sunglasses in this game, but Karpov was not irritated. “Well, for a moment I thought about Baguio 1978, but I did not really care”. Spassky admitted that he was playing for a draw against Unzicker in the first round, and in his second game of the day against Kortchnoi he had a good position. “But I could not find the correct plan and I have to say that Viktor played really well.” Kortchnoi was also supposed to at the press conference but after his win in the last round he was suddenly gone. Well, hopefully he'll be back on time for the rest of the tourney!
“Of course I will be back to celebrate Wolfgang's 90th birthday and than we'll play again!” Boris Spassky was delighted about the idea and it will be a good opportunity for the two crocodiles Karpov and Kortchnoi to add another victory to their already impressive list. This year the old rivals were the joint winners of the Unzicker Gala80.
“First off all I have to congratulate Wolfgang for his good play in this tournament. He showed some very good games here in Mainz”, joint winner Anatoly Karpov said in the press conference after the last round of the Unzicker Gala80. “This was a real tournament, a real competition and I am happy that I could win this event”. Boris Spassky was not at all surprised that the two K's won the event.” Those two players are the only active masters, Wolfgang does not play too often anymore and I have played my last serious chess game two years ago! But I am happy with my games and I did not regret that I played in this wonderful tourney. Wolfgang showed some fighting spirit and I was really surpised about that. Well, I hope that it will not be the last tourney in my life, and I hope to be back in 10 years again!” Viktor Kortchnoi appreciated the organisation of the tournament and the fact that a lot of people came to the Rheingoldhalle to see the old masters. The grandmasters had to sign many chessbooks and pictures which the chessfans brought to Mainz.
Finally Wolfgang Unzicker said a few words about his jubilee and the players: “I liked the precision and the fine play of Anatoly Karpov in this event. Viktor once again showed his fighting spirit. There are only a few chess players in the history of chess who have played every game with full power: Pillsbury, Morphy and Lasker. Viktor Kortchnoi definitely belongs to this fine group of players.” In the evening, during the Champions Dinner, Unzicker once again expressed his gratitude to Hans-Walter Schmitt, who organised this jubilee and spectacular start of the Chess Classic Mainz 2005. A pity that this great tourney is over: when will we ever see these great masters in one tournament again?
World premiere in Mainz! For the first time a computer program managed to win a Chess960 game against a strong grandmaster. Last year, The Baron played two games against Levon Aronian and both games ended in a draw. This year two man-against-computer exhibitions were played on the big stage of the Rheingoldhalle. The best PC program in the world, Shredder, learned the Chess960 rules just a few months ago and its programmer Stefan Meyer-Kahlen from Düsseldorf, Germany obviously is a good teacher: his brainchild Shredder won the minimatch against Zoltan Almasi 2-0. Chess960 world champion Peter Svidler easily won his match against the Dutch program The Baron from Richard Pijl 1.5-0.5.
The first Shredder game was really exciting, but also showed some well-known typical computer chess. Shredder was a piece up, but failed to develop his pieces on the queenside. His rook on a8 never left its original square. “Typical stupid computer play”, Richard Pijl said after the game: “Why doesn't Shredder castle? It would be an easy win for black then”. After the game Stefan Meyer-Kahlen said that his program wanted to castle, but only as the next-best move. “I was a bit afraid that my program did not know how to castle”, Meyer-Kahlen smiled. As the game developed, Shredder's screen showed a plus 5 score, but Almasi did not resign. He was right not to do so, because something strange happened: Shredder blundered with Be5 and his nice +5 score suddenly dropped. However, Almasi did not have enough time on the clock and did not find the winning move Qxd5! A few moves later, the Hungarian had to resign and shook his head when his opponent showed the winning move.
In the second game between Shredder and Almasi a “normal” chess position arose after about 12 moves. In this game Almasi blundered with Rxa4. After Nxg7 the game was over. Meyer-Kahlen was very satisfied after the match and hopes to keep his 100% score in the Chess960 world chess championship that will start on Thursday!
The Baron-Svidler 0.5-1.5
“I think that the match will end 1-1. Svidler does not want to take any risk and he will certainly try to keep the position closed”, Richard Pijl said before the minimatch. In the first game the computer program opened the position and seemed to have a slightly better position. However, the Chess960 world champion defended well and easily scored a draw. In the second game, a quite position arose, but The Baron made a mistake, which cost him a piece. Svidler easily won the second game, winning the minimatch 1.5-0.5. “Strange, I have to check my log files to see what went wrong”, a disappointed Richard Pijl told us after the game.
On Thursday and Friday we will see both programs again in the first Chess960 Computer Chess World Championship.
Today the FiNet Open Chess960 (with shuffled initial position) starts at 12:30. In the evening, at 18:30 CEST, the first two games of an eight-game Rapid Chess match between Anand and Grischuk begins. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday the rest of the games will be played, always with the first game starting at 18:30h. On Thursday and Friday, starting at 11 a.m., there is a Chess960 World Championship for Computers. And late in the evening there is a Chess960 match between last year's winner Peter Svidler and this year's Challenger Zoltan Almasi. Full details of these and other Chess Classic events are to be found at the