Nigel Short, new Hungarian champion?

by ChessBase
4/21/2003 – The Hunguest Hotels "Talent and Courage" event was intended to be a showcase for a powerful crop of homegrown chess talent. One of the strongest tournaments to be held in Budapest in 75 years was won by an Englishman ahead of the five Hungarians. But that's okay, Budapest 1928 was won by a Cuban ahead of the five Hungarians. Report and games

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Nigel Short reigns on Hungary's parade

In 1928 Capablanca dominated the Budapest tournament with a +5, 7/9 score. This could not have been much of a surprise. Marshall was a full point behind and the top Hungarians, E.Steiner and Vajda, could only manage 4.5. There is a history here. Despite producing a steady supply of world-class players, Budapest supertournaments have almost always gone to visitors.

The 1950 Candidates tournament was won by Bronstein and Boleslavsky with locals Laszlo Szabo and Andor Lilienthal far behind. In 1952 Keres was the winner and Szabo was two points behind in a respectable sixth place. Szabo finally broke through in 1965, tying for first with Polugaevsky and Taimanov ahead of a relatively weak field. In 1970 it was Keres again with Szabo a point back in second place. (Thanks to Balazs Nadasi for the Budapest chess history.)

But this time the organizers were sure things would be different.

The young Hungarian team won the silver medal in the 2002 Olympiad and all the local stars showed up in Budapest. They had Peter Leko, fresh from victory in Linares and on his way to challenge Vladimir Kramnik for the classical world championship title. Then came Judit Polgar, now rated 2715 and playing the best chess of her life. Add world junior champ Acs, solid pro Almasi, and new junior Berkes and how could they go wrong?

They were also cautious about not inviting a big heavyweight foreigner. The only top 15 players were Leko and Polgar. Gelfand and Short were top 20, but Gelfand hadn't done much lately and Short always got killed by Polgar. It was in the bag!

Unfortunately someone forgot to tell Nigel Short, who filled in admirably for Capablanca. He scored 3.5/5 against the locals, added wins against Gelfand and Lutz, and finished undefeated in clear first by a full point, just like Capa. Short wrapped up the tournament with a nine-move non-game against Almasi, who was just as eager to get to the bar, if for a different reason.

This was the first big tourney win by Short since Pamplona, 1999. That was a slightly weaker field that didn't include obvious favorites like Leko and Polgar. Notable is that in that event as in Budapest Short defeated his main competitor for first place (in Pamplona it was Gelfand). Short's eighth-round victory over Polgar clinched the tournament and put another nail in the coffin of her long-time dominance in their personal duels. 13-3 isn't exactly respectable, but it's a lot better than the 11-0 she used to have. Our congratulations to Nigel Short for his well deserved victory.

Final standings

Official siteGame replay and download page, round 9

This was Judit Polgar's second clear second place of the year. Her undefeated finish behind Anand at Corus Wijk aan Zee in January was her best-ever result and after she won her first three games in Budapest it looked like it was going to be a coronation ceremony for the chess queen. Then came a painful loss with white to Leko. She bounced back with a spectacular win over Berkes, but it looked like she was too eager to play for a draw against Short in the decisive game of the event. She got most of the pieces off the board only to end up in a very bad endgame. Still, she added even more rating points to her career peak and finished ahead of Leko as a bonus.

Peter Leko salvaged clear third place, a plus score, and a few rating points by beating Movsesian in the final round. Leko's +1 isn't going to give him much joy. His loss to Acs was a particularly ugly one and definitely wasn't the message he wanted to send to Kramnik! He continued his Linares pattern of aggressive play with both colors; there just weren't many wins to be had in this field.

Acs, Gelfand, and Lutz took different roads to 4.5 and their even scores are fitting for different reasons. Acs got a big win against Leko and confirmed his 2700 potential. Gelfand's play typified the event. Lots of excitement on the board, lots of draws on the crosstable.

Lutz was having a miserable event until he switched into nothing-to-lose mode in the final two rounds. He stomped Movsesian and Berkes in Sicilian miniatures and finished on a positive note. His novelty 10.c4 against Berkes in the final round will definitely catch the eye of the many who play this popular line. He varied from his Bundesliga game against Anand from just a few weeks ago.

Viktor Korchnoi's tournament was news only for its silence. He lost in round one to Polgar and then drew eight games in a row. As with Gelfand, most of the games were full of interest and fight but the decisive results didn't come. The Armenian/Czech/Slovakian Sergei Movsesian died by the sword on the final two days, losing sharp Sicilians in both and dropping from a nice +1 to a disappointing -1 in 48 hours. Whatever karma caused this seemed to have gone over to Lutz.

Young Ferenc Berkes turned in a respectable score, but lost horribly when he did lose. All three of his defeats were of the cover-the-eyes-of-the-children variety. Almasi will try to forget this debacle as soon as possible. He was in terrible shape and even his good positions went sour.

This was a theoretically important event for the Sicilian Defense. The e4-f3-g4 structure is as popular as ever and both sides are finding aggressive new continuations. Movsesian-Lutz and Leko-Movsesian are warning flags for white and black, respectively.

The day before it started the ChessNinja message boards ran a quick poll to pick the winner of the Hunguest tournament. Of the 30 voters, 67% picked Leko to win, 20% picked Polgar, and one prescient soul picked Nigel Short! Kudos to Rimfaxe of Denmark!

Mig Greengard

Photo of Nigel Short by John Henderson, all rights reserved

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