World Chess Championship Tournament 2007. Mexico City - Preview by Mark Crowther
The World Chess Championship Tournament takes place in Mexico City 13th-30th September 2007.
Official site: http://www.chessmexico.com
Schedule: Opening ceremony 12th Sept 2007. Rounds 1-4 13th-16th Sept 2007: Rounds 5-8 18th-21st Sept 2007: Rounds 9-11 23rd-25th Sept 2007: Rounds 12-14 27th-29th Sept 2007. Tiebreak games if required 30th Sept 2007, along with the closing ceremony. Play starts at 14:00 local time (there is a 6 hour time difference with England making it 8pm over here) tiebreaks a couple of hours earler at 12:00. Prize fund: US$1.3 million.
Time control: 40 moves in 2 hours, followed by 20 moves in one hour, followed by 15 minutes plus 30 seconds for all the remaining moves (40/2h, 20/1h, 15m+30sec/all).
According to the FIDE regulations: Tie breaks for the World Chess Championship Tournament: When the top two or more players score the same number of points, the title of the World Champion will be decided by the following criteria, in order of priority: a) The results of the games between the players involved in the tie. If they are still tied: b) The total number of wins in the tournament of every player involved in the tie. If they are still tied: c) Sonneborn - Berger System. If there is no clear winner with the above 3 criteria, there will be a special competition between the players who still remain tied after using the 3rd criteria (Sonneborn - Berger). If still tied each player will play two games with the other opponents (one or more) with a time control of 25 minutes and an increment of 10 seconds per move from move one for each player. There can also be Blitz and sudden death games.
The event will be Category XXI (average 2751.75) ahead of the last world title tournament in San Luis (ave 2738 cat 20) and the original match tournament held in The Hague and Moscow in 1948 which had a recalculated average of 2698.2.
In an admittedly unscientific trawl through events in my database I find that the strongest tournaments of all time were the Frankfurt rapids The strongest of these was the 1998 Frankfurt Chess Classic Giants (ave 2781, Kramnik, Anand, Kasparov and Ivanchuk) The following two events in 1999 (ave 2763) and 2000 (2767) were also really out there). Then comes what I believe to be the strongest classical event Las Palmas 1996 (cat 21 2756 Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik, Topalov, Karpov and Ivanchuk) followed by Dortmund 2001 (cat 21 ave 2755), Linares 1998 (cat 21 ave 2752). I'm open to correction but with ratings inflation Las Palmas 1996 looks a hard one to beat.
If you don't quite believe the ELO numbers because of rating inflation then you could follow Jeff Sonas' method where he prefers to look at how much of the top-ten participate in the tournament. He made up a formula several years ago where you get 4 points if the #1 player plays, 4 points for the #2 player, and 3 points each for #3 and #4, 2 points each for #5 and #6, and 1 point each for #7 through #10. He believes it gives you roughly the same numbers as "category" and the results feel right.
Jeff Sonas says "by this measure, the two strongest tournaments of all time were Vienna 1882 and Linares 1993, which each had 9 of the top ten, missing only the #9 player (that's Rosenthal at Vienna 1882 and Short at Linares 1993). World champion Steinitz was also at Vienna 1882 but was not on my rating list due to inactivity, so I probably give the overall nod to that tournament. There were also four tournaments that had #1 through #8 but not #9 or #10 (AVRO 1938, Nottingham 1936, Linares 1992 and Corus 2001). I think the fact that it's missing Ivanchuk and Topalov has to move Mexico down a notch but clearly it's the strongest tournament in a while."
If you want to look there is a detailed list on his ChessMetrics site here.
The eight players in Mexico City are all in the top 14 in the world.
July 2007 Rating List No. Ap Name t NAT YroB ju07 Gms 1 1 Anand, Viswanathan........ g IND 1969 2792 4 2 2 Topalov, Veselin.......... g BUL 1975 2769 10 * 3 3 Kramnik, Vladimir......... g RUS 1975 2769 1 4 12 Ivanchuk, Vassily......... g UKR 1969 2762 22 * 5 4 Morozevich, Alexander..... g RUS 1977 2758 18 6 6 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyaz.... g AZE 1985 2757 14 * 7 8 Leko, Peter............... g HUN 1979 2751 9 8 5 Aronian, Levon............ g ARM 1982 2750 15 9 7 Radjabov, Teimour......... g AZE 1987 2746 7 * 10 18 Jakovenko, Dmitry......... g RUS 1983 2735 29 * 11 20 Shirov, Alexei............ g ESP 1972 2735 28 * 12 9 Svidler, Peter............ g RUS 1976 2735 6 13 11 Gelfand, Boris............ g ISR 1968 2733 21 14 16 Grischuk, Alexander....... g RUS 1983 2726 18 * missing from Mexico City Starting Tournament Table -------------------------------------- WCh Mexico City MEX (MEX), 13-29 ix 2007 cat. XXI (2752) -------------------------------------- 1. Anand, Viswanathan g IND 2792 2. Aronian, Levon g ARM 2750 3. Gelfand, Boris g ISR 2733 4. Grischuk, Alexander g RUS 2726 5. Kramnik, Vladimir g RUS 2769 6. Leko, Peter g HUN 2751 7. Morozevich, Alexander g RUS 2758 8. Svidler, Peter g RUS 2735 --------------------------------------
One of the things I found sad about the FIDE KO Championships is that many players didn't seem to me to prepare seriously for them, instead they seemed to just carry on playing as normal almost up to the start of the tournament. Given the random nature of that format it was perhaps understandable. Looking at the players schedules they seem to have cleared their calendars for serious preparation (something to put the Petroff under serious pressure would be top of my wish list) so we could see some pretty special new ideas.
Looking at the players we see that Alexander Morozevich last played in the Spanish Team Championships mid-June, Levon Aronian Classical Candidates Finals against Shirov in mid-June (last rapid mid-August Chess Classic Mainz), Peter Svidler last played in the Aerosvit tournament in Foros at the end of June. Then we see a number of players whose last classical event was Dortmund which ended on July 1st, these are Viswanathan Anand (did play the Chess Classic Mainz rapid mid-August), Vladimir Kramnik, Boris Gelfand (Pivdenny Bank Cup rapid start of July straight after the finish of Dortmund) and Peter Leko. Finally Alexander Grischuk had a reasonably active August playing his last classical event, Biel at the start of August, rapid Mainz mid-August and then a blitz on the 26th Aug.
I produced a games collection of all the games between the players 2005-7 - PGN Games Collection between the players 2005-7 which gives all the classical games followed by all the additional rapid and blitz games.
I then compiled a record of all the players amongst each other in classical chess over that period.
Classical Record 1 Kramnik,V 2754 (+32) 13.5/24 56.2% 2 Anand,V 2786 (- 7) 19.5/35 55.7% 3 Svidler,P 2735 (+36) 26.5/49 54% 4 Aronian,L 2724 (+16) 18.0/36 50% 5 Grischuk,A 2710 (+22) 11.5/23 50% 6 Leko,P 2749 (-38) 19.0/42 45.2% 7 Morozevich,A 2741 (-33) 14.0/31 45.1% 8 Gelfand,B 2717 (-21) 16.0/36 44.4% [Total of 138 games. Rating changes from these games given in ()]
Personally this table feels about right for the chances of the players.
The photos below are by my favourite chess photographer Fred Lucas.
Vladimir Kramnik. Photo © Fred Lucas http://www.fredlucas.eu
Vladimir Kramnik is the defending champion. He is not keen on the match tournament format but has a very decent record in Dortmund and in Linares with fields similar to this. Kramnik was always nominated by Kasparov as his likely successor and this came to pass in 2000 when he beat Kasparov 8.5/6.5 in their match in London. He then defended the title he won from Kasparov in 2004 in Brissago, Switzerland against Peter Leko by virtue of a win in the final game to tie the match up at 7 each. Then followed almost immediately a period of ill health due an arthritic type illness where his form and rating plummeted. He took a few months away from chess between the Russian Championship Superfinal in December 2005 where he was in clear pain and only scored 50% and a return in May 2006 in the Olympiad where he scored 6.5/9. This indicated a return to form and he followed it with joint first at Dortmund with 4.5/7. Then he won an extremely bitter match against Veselin Topalov in Elista to reunify the FIDE and "Kasparov" titles after winning a rapid playoff. He also finished 4th in Wijk aan Zee in January only half a point from the joint winners. In his last event he won Dortmund with 5/7. I think we can expect a well prepared and hopefully healthy Kramnik defend his title very strongly.
Viswanathan Anand. Photo © Fred Lucas http://www.fredlucas.eu
Viswanathan Anand is the world number one player according to the FIDE rating list. Anand was also a World Champion winning the FIDE KO in New Delhi and the final against Alexei Shirov in Tehran. A win in Mexico City would cement his position as one of the all time great players. I think we can expect him to be as well prepared and fit as anyone and indeed in a recent interview Garry Kasparov marked him out as the favourite for the upcoming tournament. There is little doubt that if he manages to get his scoring going early he could run away with the tournament in the same way that Topalov did in San Luis. There have sometimes been questions about Anand's temperament but I feel Kasparov's retirement may have been the cure to that.
Peter Svidler. Photo © Fred Lucas http://www.fredlucas.eu
In terms of rating just at this moment Peter Svidler would not be one of the favourites but at his best his classy play is enough to overpower anyone. Unlike Anand and Kramnik he doesn't have a real big win in one of the super tournaments to his name and perhaps that may mitigate against him winning the event but certainly wouldn't prevent him from matching his 2nd= in San Luis last time. A good start is probably essential.
Levon Aronian. Photo © Fred Lucas http://www.fredlucas.eu
If you wanted to bet on a slight outsider then Levon Aronian is your man, the second youngest (at 25) in the field he emerged from an extremely severe test in the Candidates matches from Magnus Carlsen and Alexei Shirov to qualify for this event with his reputation enhanced. He is the one player I believe can come to this tournament and show us a completely different level to that which he's performed at before, in other words step up and take the title. I expect him at the very least to be in the mix.
Alexander Grischuk. Photo © Fred Lucas http://www.fredlucas.eu
The youngest player is 24 year old Alexander Grischuk. It came as a bit of a surprise to me that he also has a 50% record against this field and I have seen him tipped as an unlikely winner. He certainly hasn't been favoured with the invitations some of his contemporaries have and this is bourne out by the fact he's only played 23 games against the other players in the last couple of years (Kramnik's figure of 24 is completely explained by ill-health). The water-cooler talk is that he has found on-line poker more lucrative than his chess career but this is certainly a chance to change that situation. A complete wild card, I don't think I expect him to challenge for the title but would not be particularly shocked if he did.
Peter Leko. Photo © Fred Lucas http://www.fredlucas.eu
Peter Leko was within an ace of defeating Vladimir Kramnik for his title in 2004 and things looked good for him to kick on from there. However his form since then has been patchy and its said that he too has had some health problems recently. Leko has big wins to his name at Dortmund, Wijk aan Zee and Linares and at his best he certainly has the game to win. His hacking up of Bareev in the Candidates finals followed by 2nd= at Dortmund suggest he may have turned the corner from his last place in Linares earlier in the year. You could certainly see him scoring +2 or +3 in this field, it depends whether that would actually be enough.
Alexander Morozevich. Photo © Fred Lucas http://www.fredlucas.eu
Alexander Morozevich should be 3rd favourite for this event if you look at the ELO list however his record against the elite players is not so good. His wild, uncompromising, but also unsound, style seems to play into the hands of the very best and his 45% score in the last couple of years against the rest of the field bears this out. Even his fourth place at San Luis which qualified him again saw him lose 3/4 against the top two that time. He's had a break and clearly wants to do well, if he could get a little sounder and bring his a-game with him he could do well, but I don't really expect it I'm afraid.
Boris Gelfand. Photo © Fred Lucas http://www.fredlucas.eu
It came as quite a surprise to me that Boris Gelfand had the bottom percentage score against the rest of the field. He is the oldest player by a year from Anand and perhaps is not at the height of his career but there are few better professionals. He will no doubt be extremely well prepared and whilst I don't expect him to win, I don't believe he'll be last either. Probably +1 is the best I would expect from him if on form.
Having tried to put the best foot forward for the players at least two or three players, are in the nature of things, going to struggle and I feel sorry for them because this is going to be one tough event, especially if you get identified as the man to play for a win against.
I'm really looking forward to the tournament and think it could be an all time classic. We will have on the spot reports and photos and will follow it up with coverage from home.
Finally with the tournament not having started it seems a bit churlish to start talking about what happens afterwards but I was asked earlier in the day and I got it wrong. So here goes, the winner of the event will be undisputed world champion. However in the future the World Championship will again be settled by matches.
In 2008 Vladimir Kramnik will play the winner of Mexico City unless he wins the event himself. Veselin Topalov as the loser of the last match in Elista will play the winner of the World Cup in Khanty Mansiysk which takes place at the end of the year. The winners of those matches will play for the title in 2009. However if Kramnik wins the WCCh tournament in Mexico City 2007, a match between Kramnik and Topalov, the current and the previous world champions, will take place in 2008. In that case, the winner of the Kramnik- Topalov match will play against the winner of the 2007 World Cup.
After that qualification for a world title shot will come from one of two methods. Firstly there will be another World Cup in Khanty Mansiysk in 2009. The winner of that will play the winner of a newly established Grand Prix three events per year (different continents) taking place over the years 2008-9. The winners of the Grand Prix and the World Cup will meet in a match and the winner of that will challenge the world champion in 2010 and on it goes with another match in 2012.
FIDE have a map and explanation at: http://www.fide.com/news/download/NewWorldChampCycle.pdf