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The Opening ceremony for the Corus Category XVIII (2697) tournament took place on January 14th. The players (in rating order are: Kasparov, Gary g RUS 2851 ; Anand, Viswanathan g IND 2769 Kramnik, Vladimir g RUS 2758 ; Morozevich, Alexander g RUS 2748 ; Leko, Peter g HUN 2725 ; Adams, Michael g ENG 2715 ; Short, Nigel D g ENG 2683 ; Korchnoi, Viktor g SUI 2659 ; Nikolic, Predrag g BIH 2659 ; Polgar, Judit g HUN 2658 ; Timman, Jan H g NED 2655 ; Van Wely, Loek g NED 2646 ; Piket, Jeroen g NED 2633 ; Lputian, Smbat G g ARM 2605 ; ). The opening ceremony was held at Dudok (name of a famous Dutch architect) House Conference Centre, HQ of Corus, the new company name after the merging between British Steel and Koninklijke Hoogovens, which took place earlier last year.
The John Henderson Report. Opening Ceremony January 14th 2000.
SAME GAME, NEW NAME
And with that slogan for the tournament, Mr Fokko van Duyne, the joint-chairman of Corus - the new steel company born out of the merger last year between British Steel and Koninkjke Hoogovens - got the opening ceremony of the Corus Chess Tournament underway at the Conference Centre of their headquarters, Dudok House, in the nearby industrial centre of Ijmuiden, some 10 minutes from the Dutch seaside resort of Wijk aan Zee.
Van Duyne explained to a large audience that included players, journalists, politicians, officials and dignitaries that the change from the familiar name of Hoogovens (which first started in 1938 as an internal tournament for employees of the local steel company) to Corus has come about because of this strategically important merger of the two companies involved. Therefore in the coming years - at least until 2002 - it will be known as the Corus Chess Tournament.
One good thing had come out of the merger, he revealed: the joint invitation of the English nos 1 and 2, Michael Adams and Nigel Short, was directly intended to curry favour with the senior partners in the merger, British Steel! "Will this year, as New In Chess suggested," pondered Mr van Duyne, "be another case of Kasparov aan Zee, or will these players provide even more formidable opposition?" Who knows?
Formalities aside, it was then left to the new tournament director, Jeroen van den Berg, the highly-influential former Press Officer for the old Hoogovens tournament, to get down to the all-important task of introducing the players and organising the drawing of lots. In rating order, they were all called-up to the stage to join International Arbiter Thomas van Beekum, where they would be invited to select a special made souvenir, underneath of which would be their tournament number.
First up was, of course, last years winner - and hot favourite to regain his title - Garry Kasparov, the world no.1. There was no hesitating. Kasparov headed straight for the wooden Rubik Cube-like affair and his fate was sealed: lot number 8. Next up was world no.2, Vishy Anand; hotfoot from Warsaw where hed just won the PLUS GSM World Blitz Cup ahead of a star-studded field. Unlucky for some, but he still kept his trademark smile, it was number 13 for Anand. I suppose a crunch opening round encounter between Kasparov and Anand was too much to ask for. Wed now have to wait until round 7.
The rest of the field soon followed: Kramnik, no.5; Morozevich, no.11; Leko, no.4 (and with that, a crunch opening round tie between two of the hottest young talents in the game: Leko vs Morozevich); Adams, no.10 (another big opening round meeting: Kramnik vs Adams. Would Kramnik be smarting for victory after his defeat to Adams in the quarterfinals of the FIDE shindig in Las Vegas?); Short, no.12.
Next up was the grand old man of chess himself - none other than Viktor Korchnoi who, at 68, is the only player of his generation that can still mix it with the worlds elite. Here he was, a former three-time winner of Hoogovens, who had his first victory in 1968 - when more than half of the players in this tournament were still in their nappies!
No.7 the venerable Viktor drew ....the buzz around the Conference Centre became electric: Korchnoi vs.Kasparov in the opening round! There was a wry smile of respect on Kasparovs face. Who could forget their memorable first meeting over the chessboard at the Luzern Olympiad of 1982? Fireworks personified.....
Korchnoi,V - Kasparov,G
The rest became a bit of a damp squib: Nikolic, no.3; Polgar, no.6; Timman, no.2; van Wely, no.9; Piket, no.14; Lputian, no.1. Leaving us with an opening round draw of: Lputian vs Piket; Timman vs Anand; Nikolic vs Short; Leko vs Morozevich; Kramnik vs Adams; Polgar vs van Wely; Korchnoi vs Kasparov.
Moving to a different room, next up were two Press Conferences - one following the other - from Kasparov and Anand. Flanked by Dolf Vos, President of the Tournament Committee, and Jeroen van den Berg, Garry and Vishy held court with a veritable Whos Who of chess journalism: Yasser Seirawan, Hans Ree, Leonxto Garcia, Gert Ligterink, DirkJan ten Geuzendam; Jules Welling; Arvimd Aaron, Hans Bohm, Rob Hartosch.
The first question, from Yasser Seirawan, was predictable as pea soup at Wijk aan Zee: "Will you be playing Anand in a title match?" Kasparovs reply was an emphatic "Yes". Indicating that a match against the world number 2 was most definitely in the schedule for 2000. "The second half of the year had been deliberately left open for such an encounter". Yes Garry, but has anyone told the sponsors? Next up was Hans Bohm to ask if Garry thought hed do as well in the tournament as last year? "2000 is more difficult for me than 1999. How can I top last year? Im not going to push in this tournament. Im going to enjoy playing chess here. I feel this is when Im at my best: when Im enjoying the game. The length of the tournament suits me; I can take my time to grow into it. With two opening round Blacks, I wont feel a need to play for wins immediately - it takes a bit of pressure off me. In many respects, WAZ 2000 is more of a balanced field than 1999 was. Morozevich and Leko, though younger and less experienced, are more than a handful."
Gert Ligterink asked Garry if hes had any contact with FIDE, perhaps to play in their next world championship, or perhaps the Olympiad? A most definite "No" was the reply, though he did say that he felt that playing in the Olympiad was more about representing his country than legitimizing the antics of FIDE - therefore more important! "I really dont know if Ill play in the Olympiad - thats in the future; six months or so away. If you were to ask me to decide now, Id say no."
Touching a raw nerve, Jules Welllings asked Kasparov how he reacted to coming second in an Internet poll behind Bobby Fischer as the Greatest Player of the Millennium? "And exactly how many people took part in this poll," retorted Kasparov. "Besides, I think youll find that 75% that voted were American. In any case, I thought the wording read Favourite Player of the Millennium and not Greatest?" Touché Garry!
Leonxto Garcia asked Garry about Feng-hsiung Hsus Deep Blue challenge, and would he be playing in Frankfurt if, as expected, Fritz 6 is one of the competitors? The world no.1 explained that his agent, Owen Williams, had made a very detailed response to this challenge. "It has to be remembered, Feng-hsiung Hsu is a free agent now. He doesnt have the backing of IBM. Now, if IBM were to issue the challenge, Im interested." He then addressed the question of playing Fritz 6 in the Frankfurt Giants. "Ive informed the organisers that I wont take part if Fritz 6 plays. I well remember the trouble that Genius gave me at London Intel tournament, 1994. I feel that computers playing in these conditions would be very unfair for humans."
Next up, Vishy Anand, with many of the same questions as to Garry. "Yes, I hope to play Garry this year - hopefully around about September time." Did he feel disappointed that the match didnt take place last year, and did it upset him that hed missed out on Las Vegas? "Like everyone else, I wanted the match with Garry to take place last year. But we were let down. It wasnt to be. Although it wasnt called off until September, I realised this was going to happen when there was no announcement [During the Shirov vs Polgar EuroTel Match] in Prague". Did he regret not playing in Las Vegas when the Kasparov match fell through? "No! Due to being contracted to playing a title match against Garry, Id mentally attuned myself to not being in Vegas." Does he feel, after Kasparovs glorious 1999, that hed now been put in the shade? "Kasparov had a good 1999 - perhaps even his best year ever - but now he has to out to prove everything all over again. Therefore the pressure his back on him."
Anand, once famed for being the worlds quickest player, had a reputation some 10 years ago for taking as little as 15-20 minutes to finish a whole game while his opponents were in deep time-trouble, was asked why he doesnt play at this speed anymore? "Well, it didnt always work to my favour", he replied. "Im more measured in my old age - Ive even lost one game on time! I dont like getting into time-trouble; I always like to have a 15-20 minute margin over my opponents. Im a better player than I was ten years ago."
Due to the postponed title match and missing out in Las Vegas, resulting in his last serious tournament being the 1999 Frankfurt Giants, thus making this his longest-ever ever lay-off from chess, worry him? "Yes, it was my longest lay-off but, no, it doesnt unduly worry me. Ive put the time to good use. Much the same as Garry when he came back in 1999 after a lengthy lay-off, Ive used the time to prepare my openings more thoroughly. If anything, it may have helped my game. However, the main reason that I took part in the PLUS GSM World Blitz Cup recently in Warsaw [an event he won last weekend, with 17.5/22 - a half point ahead of Boris Gelfand] was so that I could get the feel of serious competition at the board before this tournament."
Press Conferences over, it was back onto the bus for the journey back to the impressive playing venue for the tournament, the De Moriaan Community Centre, where by now all the amateurs had started to arrive for the Weekend tournament, and it was back to the hotel for the players in order to prepare for round one. Game On!
Photos: John Henderson.
Pairings: Round 1 (January 15, 2000) Korchnoi, Viktor - Kasparov, Gary Kramnik, Vladimir - Adams, Michael Leko, Peter - Morozevich, Alexander Lputian, Smbat G - Piket, Jeroen Nikolic, Predrag - Short, Nigel D Timman, Jan H - Anand, Viswanathan Polgar, Judit - Van Wely, Loek Round 2 (January 16, 2000) Adams, Michael - Polgar, Judit Anand, Viswanathan - Nikolic, Predrag Lputian, Smbat G - Timman, Jan H Morozevich, Alexander - Kramnik, Vladimir Short, Nigel D - Leko, Peter Van Wely, Loek - Korchnoi, Viktor Piket, Jeroen - Kasparov, Gary Round 3 (January 18, 2000) Kasparov, Gary - Van Wely, Loek Korchnoi, Viktor - Adams, Michael Kramnik, Vladimir - Short, Nigel D Leko, Peter - Anand, Viswanathan Nikolic, Predrag - Lputian, Smbat G Timman, Jan H - Piket, Jeroen Polgar, Judit - Morozevich, Alexander Round 4 (January 19, 2000) Adams, Michael - Kasparov, Gary Anand, Viswanathan - Kramnik, Vladimir Lputian, Smbat G - Leko, Peter Morozevich, Alexander - Korchnoi, Viktor Short, Nigel D - Polgar, Judit Timman, Jan H - Nikolic, Predrag Piket, Jeroen - Van Wely, Loek Round 5 (January 20, 2000) Kasparov, Gary - Morozevich, Alexander Korchnoi, Viktor - Short, Nigel D Kramnik, Vladimir - Lputian, Smbat G Leko, Peter - Timman, Jan H Nikolic, Predrag - Piket, Jeroen Van Wely, Loek - Adams, Michael Polgar, Judit - Anand, Viswanathan Round 6 (January 22, 2000) Anand, Viswanathan - Korchnoi, Viktor Lputian, Smbat G - Polgar, Judit Morozevich, Alexander - Van Wely, Loek Nikolic, Predrag - Leko, Peter Short, Nigel D - Kasparov, Gary Timman, Jan H - Kramnik, Vladimir Piket, Jeroen - Adams, Michael Round 7 (January 23, 2000) Adams, Michael - Morozevich, Alexander Kasparov, Gary - Anand, Viswanathan Korchnoi, Viktor - Lputian, Smbat G Kramnik, Vladimir - Nikolic, Predrag Leko, Peter - Piket, Jeroen Van Wely, Loek - Short, Nigel D Polgar, Judit - Timman, Jan H Round 8 (January 24, 2000) Anand, Viswanathan - Van Wely, Loek Leko, Peter - Kramnik, Vladimir Lputian, Smbat G - Kasparov, Gary Nikolic, Predrag - Polgar, Judit Short, Nigel D - Adams, Michael Timman, Jan H - Korchnoi, Viktor Piket, Jeroen - Morozevich, Alexander Round 9 (January 25, 2000) Adams, Michael - Anand, Viswanathan Kasparov, Gary - Timman, Jan H Korchnoi, Viktor - Nikolic, Predrag Kramnik, Vladimir - Piket, Jeroen Morozevich, Alexander - Short, Nigel D Van Wely, Loek - Lputian, Smbat G Polgar, Judit - Leko, Peter Round 10 (January 27, 2000) Anand, Viswanathan - Morozevich, Alexander Kramnik, Vladimir - Polgar, Judit Leko, Peter - Korchnoi, Viktor Lputian, Smbat G - Adams, Michael Nikolic, Predrag - Kasparov, Gary Timman, Jan H - Van Wely, Loek Piket, Jeroen - Short, Nigel D Round 11 (January 28, 2000) Adams, Michael - Timman, Jan H Kasparov, Gary - Leko, Peter Korchnoi, Viktor - Kramnik, Vladimir Morozevich, Alexander - Lputian, Smbat G Short, Nigel D - Anand, Viswanathan Van Wely, Loek - Nikolic, Predrag Polgar, Judit - Piket, Jeroen Round 12 (January 29, 2000) Kramnik, Vladimir - Kasparov, Gary Leko, Peter - Van Wely, Loek Lputian, Smbat G - Short, Nigel D Nikolic, Predrag - Adams, Michael Timman, Jan H - Morozevich, Alexander Piket, Jeroen - Anand, Viswanathan Polgar, Judit - Korchnoi, Viktor Round 13 (January 30, 2000) Adams, Michael - Leko, Peter Anand, Viswanathan - Lputian, Smbat G Kasparov, Gary - Polgar, Judit Korchnoi, Viktor - Piket, Jeroen Morozevich, Alexander - Nikolic, Predrag Short, Nigel D - Timman, Jan H Van Wely, Loek - Kramnik, Vladimir