Andor Lilienthal has beaten them all

10/26/2003 – The man in our picture has chalked up wins against the likes of Tartakova, Marshall, Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine. At 92 he is still going strong and attending the World Rapid Chess Championship in Cap d'Agde as guest of honour. The players there include 11 of the top 12 on the rating list. Here's our illustrated report on the first two days.

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World Rapid Chess Championship
Cap d'Agde

October 24 – October 30, 2003

Cap d'Agde, a five-hour train ride from Paris, is located on the Mediterranean coast of France, in the lush Languegoc region, close to Nimes, Montpellier and Arles. To the north are picturesque villages and numerous historic sites, and the port city of Sete, where you can find some of the world's best seafood. The medieval fortified city of Carcassonne is to the west. The city of Cap d'Agde is also famous as the "world capital of nudity" (Google it yourself for full details).

This year the city is host to the Cap d'Agde World Rapid Chess Championship, a tournament organised by the Caisse Centrale d'Activités Sociales des Electriciens et Gaziers de France (CCAS) – the Electricians and Gas workers social activity centre, would you believe it.

The organisers write: "The 6th edition of the Trophée CCAS., Les Rencontres Nationales et Internationales d’Echecs is an official FIDE 'World Championship'. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the creation of their tournament the organizers Pascal Lazarre and Bob Textoris invited twelve of the best chess players on the planet, plus the legendary Karpov, the European champion Azmaiparashvili and the two 'Frenchies' Bacrot and Lautier to participate. Despite the absence of Kasparov, this tournament can be considered as the strongest tournament ever organized since the end of the classical era of “Soviet chess”. It includes four world champions: Ponomariov, who appears very relaxed and Kramnik, who is according Lilienthal is the new Capablanca. The public can also appreciate the rapidity of Anand; the fighting spirit of Shirov and the elegancy of Judit Polgar. Let us not forget Gelfand, the winner of the 2002 tournament, the young Grischuk and the FIDE Vice president and European Champion Azmaiparashvili."

The speed of play in this tournament is 25 minutes + 10 seconds per played per move. The participants are divided into two all-play-all groups. The top four in each group qualify for the knock-out stage which begins on October 27. The chess festival also includes three Opens with 750 competitors. The tournament is being played in the quiet holiday centre of CCAS, and as usual the sun is shining and the food is great, as it should be in France!

The first two days of play brought a lot of excitement, as well as some shocks and upsets. Vladimir Kramnik drew his first game against Topalov, and looked set to win the second with black against European champion Zurab Azmaiparashvili. On move 49 the position was reduced to a rook and knight vs rook ending, which Fritz tells us is a theoretical draw.


Kramnik discussing the frustrating endgame with Azmaiparashvili

Kramnik pushed for 22 more moves, but "Asmai" did not buckel. Kramnik went on to win the next two games, including a splendid win against Topalov, to take the lead in group A. Topalov himself is playing exciting, uncompromising chess, and his games are a treat to watch. Young French star Etienne Bacrot is looking good for a place in the knock-out finals.


Joel Lautier, France, on his way to lose to the unstoppable Judit Polgar

In group B we have two "uberflieger" in the lead: Peter Svidler, who as someone said recently seems to have forgotten how to lose a game; and Judit Polgar, who is playing better chess than ever before. Judit lost to Svidler but won all her other games, including a fourth-round encounter with a cruising Vishy Anand. Alexei Shirov, Peter Leko and Anatoly Karpov are down in the dumps (as is surprisingly Michael Adams in group A). Look at what happened to Leko in round three:

Leko,P (2722) - Anand,V (2766) [C89]
GpB Cap D'Agde FRA (3), 25.10.2003

Vishy Anand has just played 36.Qh3-g4+, to which Peter Leko replied 37.Kh1?? (instead of the safer 37.Kf2). The result: 37...Ng3+ 38.hxg3 Qh3+ 39.Kg1 Qxg3+ 40.Kh1 Rh4+ 41.Nxh4 Qxe3 42.Ng2 Qe2 43.Rf5 Qxb2 44.Rc5 Qxa2 45.Rxc6 a5 0-1.

Here are the standings after the first two days of play:

Group A

Group B

Picture gallery


Group photo (with one lady) at the start of the event


The two top seeds: Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik


Evgeny Bareev together with his wife


The "Vlad squad": Peter Svidler, Vladimir Kramnik, Michael Adams and Joel Lautier


Serious stuff: Alexander Grischuk vs Viswanathan Anand


The mega-chick


Super-Mariov


Between games: Ruslan Ponomariov, Anatoly Karpov, Zurab Azmaiparashvili

Special guests

There are three very special guests at Cap d'Agde: Andor Lilienthal, the Hungarian GM who was born in 1911, David Bronstein, 79, one of the strongest players not to win the world championship title, and Mark Taimanov, 77, pianist and world championship candidate. Ex-world champion Vassily Smyslov, 82, was expected to come but had to cancel due to the illness of his wife.


Andor Lilienthal, Viatcheslav Beresnev (vice-president of Russian Chess Federation), David Bronstein (79), Anatoly Karpov (ex-world champion) and Alexander Bakh (arbiter).


The incredible 92-year-old Andor Lilienthal, who, believe it or not, has chalked up wins against Marshall, Tartakower, Lasker, Capablanca and Alakhine. You don't believe us? Here are some games...


Age difference 72 years: Lilienthal with FIDE champ Ruslan Ponomariov


Mark Taimanov with his wife

© For all photographs: Jean-Michel Péchiné, Europe Echecs.

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