19.08.2006 - Today the world’s biggest rapid chess tournament started in Mainz, Germany. In the eleven round Swiss Ordix Open with 632 players, among them 58 GMs, 10 WGMs and 177 title holders, fight for a prize-fund of 40.000 Euro (together with FiNet Chess960 Open). While the chance to win a lot of money may attract the grandmasters, the amateurs may look forward to play a grandmaster, or if they are lucky, even chess legends such as Alexei Shirov or Alexander Morozevich. But the tournament is also a social event. Chess friends, who have known each other for a long time, but see each other rarely have an opportunity to spend the weekend playing chess and socialising with each other.
While the Ordix Open shows the competitive and social side of chess, the matches in the evening reveal other fascinating aspects of chess. Saturday evening Vishy Anand and Tejmour Radjabov will play games five and six of the GrenkeLeasing Rapid Chess World Championship while Peter Svidler and Levon Aronian will play for the Clerical Medical Chess 960 World Chess Championship. It is in the concentrated silence of these tense and exciting matches that the beauty of chess unfolds.
Day one of ORDIX open 2006 - breaking another participant record
The playing hall, which during the open is brightly lit, is dimmed to darkness leaving only the players on stage in the limelight. The hall falls silent while the players take their seats, the spectators put on earphones to follow the live commentary of grandmasters such as Vlastimil Hort, Eric Lobron, Arthur Jussupow, Fabian Döttling, Rustem Dautov or Elisabeth Pähtz.
Then the games begin. While Anand and Radjabov usually play their opening moves quickly Svidler and Aronian take more time to ponder where to put their pieces in the unknown position they are confronted with in Chess960. The first four games of the Anand – Radjabov match illustrated the dominant role of opening preparation in top-class chess. While Radjabov could twice easily equalise with Black by opting for a well-analysed Sveshnikov-Sicilian Anand won the third game right out of the opening by employing a fine exchange sacrifice prepared at home.
Svidler and Aronian, however, have to improvise from the start. And although Chess960 is still a relatively young variant of chess, one cannot help but feel that here the two best players in this discipline compete. Aronian, who in a lengthy interview published in the February issue 2006 of the German magazine “Schach” declared that he wants to have “fun” in chess and preferred variants such as bughouse or Chess960 to the classical 7-hour mode of playing, is famous for his unorthodox style and his repeated emphasis on shying away from boring theoretical studies and so Chess960 should just suit him. He indeed won the FiNet Open in 2003 and 2005, both times ahead of a large group of strong grandmasters. Svidler on the other hand won the Chess Classic FiNet Open in 2002 as well as the subsequent Chess960 matches against Peter Leko 2003, Levon Aronian 2004 and Zoltan Almasi in 2005 and thus can justly claim the title of Chess960 World Champion.
But no matter whether it’s Chess960 or classical rapid chess, it is fascinating to watch these top players play. Gradually, well-thought out strategies become apparent and hidden tricks and resources of the position are revealed. Of course, given the limited time of 25 minutes for the whole game plus a 10 second increment per move, inaccuracies and even blunders occasionally creep in – which, however, give their games a human touch, while the limited time definitely adds to the excitement. Again it’s fascinating to watch how the grandmasters calmly try to find resources in the position when they have only minutes or seconds left on the clock.
Half-way through the matches the score in both is equal, promising exciting chess on Saturday and Sunday. And if you have no chance to follow the games live in Mainz, you can still watch them live on the internet.
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