Trophy vs Trophy

9/23/2006 – It's FIDE champion versus the classical champion, a golden trophy versus a silver cup, Topalov's fire versus Kramnik's ice. We're sneaking in yet another preview before today's game one in Elista. The career score heavily favors Kramnik while Elo rating is on Topalov's side. But what does Kasparov think? The answer might surprise you.

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World Championship Unification

Today is the day the unification of the chess world championship begins in Elista, the capital of the Russian republic of Kalmykia. The chess world has been split since 1993, when Garry Kasparov and his challenger Nigel Short broke their title match away from FIDE to form a new organization. FIDE responded by holding its own title match later in the year. Since then, the question "who is the world chess champion?" has been a question quick to cause despair among sponsors, bafflement among outsiders, and fights in chess clubs and internet sites around the world.

By October 13 that will all be over, although sponsors may still still despair, outsiders may still be baffled, and there will always be fights in chess clubs. (The first rule of chess club is that everyone fights in chess clubs.) Vladimir Kramnik is putting the classical title he took from Garry Kasparov in 2000 on the line against FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov in a 12-game match. Game one is September 23, full schedule below.

Garry Kasparov: "If Topalov wins he's #15"

A few days ago we had a chat with the last unified world chess champion, Garry Kasparov. He's far from chess these days, well, apart from his books, regular column in New In Chess magazine, and, we must mention, his ChessBase DVDs. Kasparov wouldn't choose a favorite, but he did say Topalov isn't the favorite many assume him to be. "Kramnik has a more profound understanding of chess, while Topalov has energy and confidence on his side. I wouldn't pick Kramnik to win a San Luis-style round robin the way Topalov did, but in a match it's quite even." Kasparov made a conservative prediction for the number of decisive games, saying there would be no fewer than three.

When asked about the meaning of this unification match from a historical perspective, the author of the "My Great Predecessors" series on the champions chose his words carefully. "The legacy has been badly damaged, but if Topalov wins we have to say he's [world champion] number fifteen. We can applaud the unification, better late than never. Let's hope things stay clear after the match is over."

Tale of the Tape

Topalov of Bulgaria is 31, born on March 15, 1975. His current rating of 2813 is his career high and makes him the #1 player in the world by a wide margin. Russia's Vladimir Kramnik is also 31, born three months later on June 25, 1975. He is rated 2743, #4 in the world. We went through the MegaBase and came up with 39 games of classical chess between them from 1994-2005. (Not including rapid, blitz, or blindfold.) 15 of those were decisive: 10 wins for Kramnik and 5 for Topalov. Their last game was at Dortmund 2005, a win for Kramnik.


Veselin Topalov hoists his 2005 trophy in San Luis, Argentina.


Vladimir Kramnik with bigger hardware in London, 2000. (Photo: Mig Greengard)

Schedule of the World Chess Championship 2006
Day 1 Thurs.. 21 Sept 7:00 p.m. Opening ceremony
Day 2 Friday 22 Sept.   Rest day
Day 3 Sat. 23 Sept. 3:00 p.m. Game 1
Day 4 Sun. 24 Sept. 3:00 p.m. Game 2
Day 5 Mon. 25 Sept.   Rest day
Day 6 Tues. 26 Sept. 3:00 p.m. Game 3
Day 7 Wed. 27 Sept. 3:00 p.m. Game 4
Day 8 Thurs. 28 Sept.   Rest day
Day 9 Friday 29 Sept. 3:00 p.m. Game 5
Day 10 Sat. 30 Sept. 3:00 p.m. Game 6
Day 11 Sun. 1 Oct.   Rest day
Day 12 Mon. 2 Oct. 3:00 p.m. Game 7
Day 13 Tues. 3 Oct. 3:00 p.m. Game 8
Day 14 Wed. 4 Oct.   Rest day
Day 15 Thurs. 5 Oct. 3:00 p.m. Game 9
Day 16 Friday 6 Oct. 3:00 p.m. Game 10
Day 17 Sat. 7 Oct.   Rest day
Day 18 Sun. 8 Oct 3:00 p.m. Game 11
Day 19 Mon. 9 Oct   Rest day
Day 20 Tues. 10 Oct 3:00 p.m. Game 12
Day 21 Wed. 11 Oct   Rest day
Day 22 Thurs. 12 Oct 3:00 p.m. Tie breaks
Day 23 Friday 13 Oct 7:00 p.m. Closing ceremony

The starting time for the games is 15:00h local Elista time, which translates to 13:00h CEST, 12:00h London, 7 a.m. New York. You can find the starting time in your country here. The games will be broadcast on the FIDE web site and also on Playchess.com, the latter with live audio commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan.

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