Looking back and forward to Baku

by ChessBase
5/13/2008 – The FIDE Grand Prix in Baku ended a week ago. Now another big event starts in the capital of Azerbaijan: the Third President's Cup. Two rounds have already been played. Before we receive and publish first reports from this tournament we take a look back at the Grand Prix, with a round-up report by Zahir Ahmadov and some spectacular photography by Farid Khayrulin. A visual feast.

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First FIDE Grand Prix in Baku

Summary report by Zahir Ahmadov

The Baku Grand Prix had everything in it – surprise winners, exciting games, well-fought draws etc. Was the new address of big chess events ready for this tournament? I asked this to Special Assistant to FIDE President Berik Balgabayev. He said that apart from minor technical problems, everything was fine. “What do we need for a good chess tournament? It is a good playing hall, good food and good conditions for players. I think all this has been guaranteed by our colleagues in Baku,” Balgabayev said.

The start of the First FIDE Grand Prix in Baku – round one under way

Time to start the round: chief arbiter Faik Gasanov

A game from the first round

Round two, with Gata Kamsky strolling between the tables

Before the start of the round four game Vugar Gashimov vs Ernesto Inarkiev

Attentive young chess fans follow the games, even taking notes

Chess bridges the gap over multiple generations

Colleagues: Magnus Carlsen kibitzes David Navara's game

David in turn kibitzes in the game of Vugar Gashimov

Restless: Teimour Radjabov (and Shakh Mamedyarov) strolling

That, dear friends, is how tired you can get: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Focussed: British GM Michael Adams

Startling and stark: a portrait of Teimour Radjabov

The tournament had very good media coverage. One could meet reporters and chess commentators like Ali Nihat Yazici, Ilya Odesskiy, Sergey Shipov, Yuriy Vasilyev, Evgeny Surov. However, one young lady among reporters with a familiar appearance attracted my attention. Later I learned that she was none other than Oxana Kosteniuk, Alexandra’s younger sister. It was a good opportunity to chat with her and ask lots of questions about her sister. We even talked about Alexandra’s cat, which she unfortunately lost some time ago. Still it was something important to know because you usually do not read about prominent chess players’ pets on the media.

Oxana Kosteniuk and her camera man produce TV reports

Ali Nihat Yazici, FIDE Vice President, in charge of press activities

One of the impressions I had at the tournament was that every successful player has his father behind him. Boris Radjabov, Henrik Carlsen, Alexandr Karjakin, Hashim Gashimov and Hamid Mamedyarov could always be seen among fans and reporters, each of them reacting to their sons’ wins and losses in their own way.

Shakh Mamedyarov with his father Hamid

Prodigy Sergey Karjakin with his father Alexander Ivanovich

Zahir Ahmadov with Henrik Carlsen, the father of Magnus

As was expected local guys drew their games with each other in the tournament. However, they all denied any prearranged game. “I would definitely beat Teimour if he did not play so well in the middlegame,” Vugar said. In a press conference, Teimour said the three players knew each other’s games well and that it was natural that many of their games were drawn. “However, you will witness a lot of decisive games between us with exciting sacrifices and attacks in the future,” Teimour said.

This tournament was also very interesting as it produced two surprise winners – Wang Yue and Vugar Gashimov, who always were in leading positions during the tournament. “What happened?” a reporter asked Vugar at a press conference. “Nothing, I just started to be invited to high-level tournaments like this,” Vugar said. When I asked a similar question about his rating and excellent performance, Vugar said he believed he was underrated. “I usually play at open tournaments where it is too difficult to gain rating points, while this kind of tournaments help me perform well and gain the deserved number of rating points,” he said. Wang Yue said rating points did not matter much and he believed he had full strength to win the tournament. “I am tired but I wish to win the tournament, which I will hopefully do,” Yue said before a couple of rounds left to the end of the tournament.

Chief arbiter and technical director: Faik Gasanov and Zurab Azmaiparashvili

All of the above photos are by Farid Khayrulin of "FGF Digital STUDIO", who has published a large number of excellent images from the President's Cup during the past years. We hope to see more of his work in this year's edition, and get an impression of the atmosphere at this event in Baku.

About the author

Zahir Ahmadov lives in Baku and occasionally writes articles and interviews for chessbase.com. He is a big chess fan and likes to spend time on chess forums and to play online correspondence chess.

Zahir graduated from the Oriental Sciences Faculty of Baku State University in 1997 and besides his native language he speaks fluent Russian, English and Farsi. You can send your comments on his materials at zahirruh (at) hotmail.com.

The Baku round of FIDE Grand Prix was the biggest chess event that has ever been held in Baku. Therefore, the organizers in Baku did not miss this opportunity to devote it to the memory of the former president of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev, the father of incumbent president Ilham Aliyev.

With some intervals in his political career, Heydar Aliyev ruled Azerbaijan for 30 years, both during the former Soviet Union and after it became independent in 1991. It is believed that H. Aliyev strongly supported the development of chess in Azerbaijan when he became the first secretary of the Azerbaijan Communist Party in 1969. V. Bagirov, Garry Kasparov, E. Maharramov and A. Huseynov won different titles and tournaments both in the Soviet Union and the world in the 1970s. His meeting with Teimour Radjabov, Gadir Huseynov, Vugar Gashimov and Rauf Mamedov and his decree on the development of chess in Azerbaijan in 1998 was a milestone in the development of chess in this country.

It is no coincidence that a traditional open tournament, the President’s Cup, is held every year to honour his birthday in May. Baku prepares to receive another group of GMs for this tournament in May, following the GMs participating at the FIDE Grand Prix. So, May is a month one can expect lots of chess tournaments in this country.

The Third President's Cup is taking place from May 11th to 21st 2008 in Baku, Azerbaijan. The prize fund is US $85,000. The tournament has started, two rounds have been played. A link to the official site is given below. We will return to this event as soon as first reports and pictures arrive from Baku.


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