Postcards from Mainz

8/3/2005 – Next week the traditional Mainz Chess Classic will start in the German Rhine city. There is an Unzicker Gala (with Karpov, Korchnoi and Spassky), a rapid chess match between Anand and Grischuk, a Chess960 championship between Svidler and Almasi, and two opens. And some unusual postcards from artist Frank Stiefel. Press release.

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Press release

“No scalp is too big” for Lobron's belt

Chess Classic Mainz: Once again many world class players will play the FiNet Chess960 and Ordix Open. Chess movies and children’s club.

By Hartmut Metz
(Translation Eric van Reem)

Once again, the Open tournaments during the Chess Classic Mainz (9-14 August) will be the strongest worldwide in their categories. The FiNet Open in Chess960 (11-12 August), in which the starting positions of the pieces will be known only a few minutes before the start of the game, is the only one of this sort worldwide on this level. One day later the Ordix Open will start and once again many top players will play their games in the Rheingoldhalle. The first 32 grandmasters of the starting list have an average ELO of over 2600! Far more than 100 FIDE titleholders are expected to come to Mainz this year. Almost all grandmasters who will play the traditional Ordix Open will participate in the Chess960 Open tournament as well, with a few exceptions: Ulf Andersson (Sweden) and the German grandmasters Leonid Kritz and Raj Tischbierek. Two reasons can be found for the fact that so many top players like to play both Open tournaments: not only the price fund of 36.000 Euro, with many rating prices for all classes, is very attractive, but Chess960 has been accepted by most chess players nowadays.

Is there a player this year who can win both Open tournaments? The winner would receive no less than 8000 Euro and has the opportunity to challenge the winner of the Chess960 world championship match between Zoltan Almasi and Peter Svidler next year. There is a long list of favourites for both Opens. Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, the European Champion, thinks that the highest rated player Levon Aronian has excellent chances to win one of the tourneys this year: “He played very well in Warsaw during the European Championship and I was very impressed about his play in the play-off.” The Armenian, who is now living in the Eastern part of Germany, is climbing higher and higher on the rating list and has even entered the top 10 of the world! Aronian, who does not like to invest too much time in opening preparation, might therefore have an advantage in the Chess960 tournament and maybe he can repeat his victory of 2003. Last year he could not defend his title because he played his Chess960 world championship match against Peter Svidler, which he lost after some exciting games with the narrowest margin. Two more spectacular players are expected to play an important role in Mainz: Alexander Morozevich (Russia) and Alexei Shirov (Spain). Last year, the Russian star almost won the Ordix Open, while Shirov battled it out in a match against Indian superstar Vishy Anand.

Some more prominent starters are Alexei Dreev (19), who has played many times in the Chess Classic tournaments, Ivan Sokolov (20), who is now living in the Netherlands, Teimour Radjabov (22) and Nisipeanu (24). The European Champ will probably make a giant leap forward in the next rating list and Radjabov, the former prodigy from Azerbaijan who became grandmaster at age 14, is still regarded as a player who can be the number 1 of the world in the near future. In Warsaw, the number one of the junior rating list showed his enormous abilities and ended on second place behind Nisipeanu, but one place ahead of Aronian. So, the three medal winners from the European Championship will all be present in Mainz this year!

But there are some more grandmasters that are able to win one of the Open tournaments. Michael Krasenkow from Poland, a former top 10 player, is always playing well in Mainz, or the rapid chess specialist Vadim Zvjaginsev from Russia. Not to forget the next Indian star Pentala Harikrishna or the strong Armenian grandmasters Gabriel Sargissian and Rafael Vaganian. Artur Jussupow has another favourite, a man who has often played in the Rheingoldhalle: “I think Vadim Milov has good chances this year”, the always modest European champion in rapid chess says. Jussupow himself hopes to score +4, which means that he would score 7.5 points out of 11 rounds in both Open tournaments. With that score of 15 points he would have a fair chance to win the combined competition, which is his main goal this year. Jussupow will also be one of the live commentators during the evening matches between Vishy Anand and Alexander Grischuk and also between Peter Svidler and Zoltan Almasi, together with GM Eric Lobron. They will entertain the audience with their commentary: Jussupow, the modest and experienced former candidate for the world title and the optimistic German GM from Wiesbaden, who entertains his listeners with his comments. Lobron will also play in the Open tournaments: “There is no clear favourite in Mainz. In the past years you could see that it is possible for almost everybody to play at the top, particularly in rapid chess and Chess960. And I am looking forward to shock some of the higher rated top players, like I often did in the past: no scalp is too big for my belt”, the self confident ELO shocker Lobron says. Another German player who will have a good portion of self confidence must be Arkadij Naiditsch, who unexpectedly won the renowned chess tournament in Dortmund in July. Of course, the young German hope for the future will play both tournaments in Mainz.

In Chess960 the advantage for players who do a lot of homework on openings is reduced to a minimum. “Therefore I think that this variant has good chances to become a serious alternative in the long run”, Lobron explains. Therefore, it is not really necessary to train Chess960 before the tournament. However, Alexandra Kosteniuk has trained Chess960 positions and is looking forward to play the FiNet Open. She likes the chess variant and enjoys playing Chess960. And the prospect, not only for women but also for players in different age categories to play a Chess960 world championship match next year, will motivate all players in Mainz. Hans-Walter Schmitt, the chief organiser of the Chess Classic Mainz, plans more Chess960 world championship matches next year, to boost Chess960 even further.


Antoaneta Stefanova, as seen by artist Frank Stiefel

Kosteniuk will not be the only beautiful and talented female chess player in Mainz. World champion Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria), her Russian friend Natalia Zhukova, or the German number two, Ketino Kachiani-Gersinska are also hot candidates. And let's not forget Viktorija Cmilyte (Latvia). Last year, the wife of Alexei Shirov played two excellent tournaments in the Chess Classic. This year Maia Chiburdanidze from Georgia, once the youngest world champion ever, is expected to play an important role. She dominated women's chess in the eighties and early nineties.


Stiefel's view of Natalia Zhukova

The FiNet Chess960 Open and the Ordix Open are extremely attractive for players and audience alike. However, in the evening, after the Opens, more highlights are planned: the new number one of the rating list, Vishy Anand faces his challenger Alexander Grischuk from Russia, number 11 of the world. From August 11-14, every night at 18.30 and 20.00, they will play eight rapid chess games. The 21-year old Russian earned this match for the Grenke Leasing Championship after his impressive victories in the Ordix Open tournaments of 2003 and 2004, in which he did not lose a single game. Naturally, the players involved do not really want to make a prognosis and therefore we have to ask other players about their expectations. Peter Svidler thinks that Anand is the clear favourite - “but I am convinced that the two will play a highly interesting match”. European champion Nisipeanu thinks that blitz games will bring the decision played after the 4-4 in the regular match. Jussupow expects Anand to win 5-3, and the other commentator Eric Lobron thinks that Grischuk will have no chance at all: he expects a clear 6-2 victory for the Indian star.


Elisabeth Pähtz, as seen by Frank Stiefel

At the same time the FiNet Chess960 world championship match will be played between Zoltan Almasi and Peter Svidler and the Russian expects a tight match. “I have spoken to several players about Almasi's results in Chess960 last year and they were all impressed by his play. Therefore I take my opponent seriously and expect a difficult battle, in which it is impossible to say who has the best chances. Some of his grandmaster colleagues think that Svidler has good chances to defend his title: Lobron thinks that the 29 year old Russian will win the match 5-3. Jussupow thinks that the GM from St. Petersburg will win with a smaller margin: 4.5-3.5. However, Nisipeanu thinks that the 28 year old Hungarian is able to win the match 4.5-3.5.


Organiser Hans-Walter Schmitt

One of the highlights in Mainz this year is the Unzicker-Gala. Schmitt wanted to organise a party for the 80-year old German grandmaster from Munich and invited the illustrious guests Anatoly Karpov, Viktor Korchnoi and Boris Spassky. The four legends will play a double round robin on Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 and 10 August. Other heroes of the past will also be present at that time to celebrate, like Lajos Portisch, Wolfgang Uhlmann and Vlastimil Hort. Not to forget Lothar Schmid, who is not only known as a strong grandmaster, but came to fame as referee in various matches of Bobby Fischer, like the world championship in 1972 against Boris Spassky. Only recently Schmid was elected as the “chess referee of the century”!

There are some more events in Mainz that will attract chess players and audiences alike: Alexander Grischuk will play a simultaneous exhibition on 40 boards on 10 August at 15.30. It is still possible to get one of the boards for at least 50 Euro on www.chesstigers.de. World champion Antoaneta Stefanova will play blitz games and if you are interested, you can also go to the website to get more information. One of the most interesting computer chess events of the past 10 years will be played on 11 and 12 August. The Livingston Chess 960 computer chess world championship with the best computer chess program of the world, Shredder by Stefan Meyer-Kahlen, will set new standards. The organisers Mark Vogelgesang and the Dutch computer chess expert Eric van Reem expect that about 20 programs from all over the world will come to Mainz. The tournament is a breakthrough for computerized Chess960. The renowned Professor Ingo Althöfer from the University of Jena will act as tournament director.

Not only the chess events are important in Mainz, the organisers have also improved several service facilities for participants and audience alike. During the tournaments, parents can bring their children to the Chess Classic Children’s corner, in which trained experts will keep the kids busy. For sponsors, the “Gourmet Club” is a nice opportunity to follow the games in an exclusive atmosphere with business partners, and if people just want to relax a bit between the rounds, they can watch one of the chess movies or documentaries in the Chess Classic Cinema. However, watching the games of the Chess Classic Mainz 2005 “live” is definitely most exciting!


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