Playing against a world champion

3/16/2006 – "It was like a wonderful dream," says Sarah Saggiante, who got a chance to play in a simultaneous exhibition given by FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov in Mexico City. "I thought I was really playing a great game. However, little by little I saw that I was lost. I hoped for a miracle, but it didn’t come." Sarah, who is ten, tells us how it felt in this charming article.

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Playing against a world champion

By Sarah Saggiante Roldán

The 10th of February was a very exciting day: Veselin Topalov, the World Champion of Chess, came to Mexico City to play some simultaneous games. The exhibition took place in the Casa del Lago, in the middle of the Bosque de Chapultepec which is situated in this enormous city with very many inhabitants. Only 40 players could play against the Champion. Among them were artists, senior citizens and children.


The Bosque de Chapultepec is Mexico City's largest park and the site of numerous historical and cultural attractions.

It was a very special day for us. From very early I was thinkingt about what to play and how to play. I wanted to play really well. My sister Sofía, who is 7, was thinking if she won against the world champion she would be the new world champion – typical of little girls! At school we were practicing chess all the time. In the afternoon, after lunch. Then we finally went to play to the Casa del Lago. It was a fine day. The sun was shining, it felt warm, although in Mexico it is winter.


The Casa del Lago is in the middle of the park, near the great lake.

The exhibition began at six – in the afternoon! There was a big crowd. Only players were allowed to enter and those who had booked tickets in time. There were really many fans. We never thought there were that many people interested in chess in Mexico. There were rows of seats and a television transmission with commentaries of the most interesting games.


Veselin Topalov playing a simultaneous exhibition in the Casa del Lago

The exhibition lasted a little over 4.5 hours. Only four players could manage a draw with the champion. In the beginning I thought I was really playing a great game. However, little by little, poco a poco, I saw that it was lost. I hoped for a miracle, but it didn’t come.


Just a minute, ladies, I believe that Ra7+ wins...

At one moment he came to where my sister Sofía and I were. He lifted his hand, pointed with his finger, and zas! ruined my position. It was terrible. In that moment I knew that it was lost.


The moment of truth for Sarah and Sofia

Step by step he was winning them all. Only four could manage a draw. The most important thing was that we all enjoyed ourselves a lot. The champion was very amiable. We never imagined that he could be so friendly and nice.

Everything was so exciting that in the end I fell asleep and when I woke up thought I had been dreaming. It was only when my father showed me the pictures that I knew it was not only a wonderful dream. For me and my sister the result was not what had mattered.


Sarah and Sofia Saggiante with the sons of Susan Polgar on the Bahamas

Sarah Saggiante is ten years old and a great chess fan. Her father Jorge was a major sponsor of the Morelia/Linares Super-GM tournament.



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