Saturday, May 7, 2005

Leko and Ivanchuk; scrabble updates

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

I HAVE been showcasing players who will inherit the crown from Garry Kasparov, who announced his retirement from competitive chess. Previously featured were Viswanathan Anand of India, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and Michael Adams of England. This time it is Peter Leko of Hungary and Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine.

Peter Leko, 26, became a grandmaster at 14, the youngest GM at that time. He has an Elo rating of 2763, which makes him the No.3 player now behind Anand and Topalov. While in his teens, he predicted that he would eventually become world champion.

He has scored a chess grandslam by winning all the three “majors:” Dortmund in 2002, Linares in 2003 and Wijk Aan Zee this year.

Under the terms of the Prague Agreement, which was intended to unify the world championship, Leko emerged as the challenger to classical world champion Vladimir Kramnik by winning Dortmund 2002. The winner of the Kramnik-Leko match will then meet the Fide champion (1st Ruslan Ponomariov and then later Rustam Kasimdzhanov) vs. Garry Kasparov match to determine the undisputed world champion.

After being postponed several times, the Kramnik-Leko match finally took place in Switzerland on Sept. 25 to Oct. 18. Leko almost became world champion by leading the match by one point going to the last game. But Kramnik won the last game, thereby retaining his crown with a 7-7 draw.

He has been chosen by Fide to be one of the participants for the world championship scheduled later this year.

IVANCHUK. Vassily was a child prodigy and was expected by his peers then to seriously challenge Kasparov in the 1990s. He has an Elo rating of 2739, making him No.5 in the world behind Anand, Topalov, Leko and Kramnik.

His major tournament wins include Corus (Wijk Aan Zee) in 1996 and three times in Linares: 1989, 1991 and 1995.

When he won Linares in 1991, I thought that he would eventually become world champion. He came very close to being one much later but lost in the finals to Ruslan Ponomariov in 2002.

Ivanchuk has been in the top 10 for the past 12 years or so and even going up to No.3 but he has played poorly in one on one matches due to lack of endurance and bad nerves. He easily gets nervous and blunders in critical positions. However, in the Calvia Olympiad and several big tournaments after that, he has apparently overcome this flaw in his game and has risen to where he is now. His style of play is unpredictable, which is why he is always a serious threat to any player.

On the personal side, his fellow chess players describe him as the most eccentric of all. Anand says of “Big Chucky,”, “He is very intelligent…but you never know what mood he is in. Some days he will treat you like a long-lost brother, the next day he ignores you completely.

“Some players have a word for him. He lives in planet Ivanchuk. I have seen him totally drunk singing Ukrainian poetry and the next day give an impressive talk. For a while, he was trying to learn Turkish. Don’t ask me why, everyday is a surprise with him.”

SCRABBLE. Reynante de la Cerna is a good friend in our bingo games in the casino and over the mahjong table, and is also one of the Philippines’ top scrabble players. He truly loves the game and has even played abroad representing our country. As it is also a mind game, this column will from time to time feature scrabble news updates. I also know very well their tournament director Roger Abella, who is also a national master in chess.

I have personally observed a scrabble tournament as we sponsored one in Handuraw Café several months ago, and the intensity is the same as in a chess tournament. They know of words that I don’t even know existed.

Reynante has sent me an e-mail outlining the World Scrabble Championship in London, sponsored by Mattel Inc. and Mattel (UK) this coming Nov. 17-20.

Format is a 24-round modified Swiss system and the top two players will contest a five-game final. The official dictionary will be Scrabble Words International, while Webster’s 10th and Chambers 1998 are to be used for adjudication of words over nine letters.

Guaranteed prize money is $30,000 with $15,000 going to the winner. The Philippines is allotted three entries out of 104 available from 43 countries.

Only one was able to solve the knights/knaves puzzle the other week. His name is Christian Riconalla.

No comments: