Friday, July 28, 2006

The new Kasparov

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Every chess player nowadays is wondering who Garry Kasparov’s heir apparent will be.

Veselin Topalov is the choice of many. He is the current No. 1, way ahead of his nemesis Vishy Anand. Another up and coming chess prodigy is Levon Aronian who, at only 230-years-old, is now No. 3 in the latest Fide ratings.

Considered by many as the world’s greatest chess player, with apologies to Bobby Fischer and his fans, Gary Kasparov holds an astounding record. His highest rating was 2851 in the July 1999 Fide list, the highest so far in the history of chess. He was ranked first in the world 21 times, which in itself is a world record, from 1985 to 2006, and was the last undisputed champion from 1985 to 1993. He also won the Chess Oscar 7 times.

Veselin Topalov, 31, has a current Fide rating of 2813, making him second to Kasparov. And he is continuously improving his game. He is the current World Champion. He won in San Luis, Argentina, in 2005 over a tough field that included Anand, Polgar, Svidler, Adams, Kasimdzhanov, Mozorevich and Leko, all belonging to the world top 10 at that time. His performance rating in that tournament was an incredible 2890.

He also won the M-Tel Masters in 2005 and 2006 and is the 2005 Chess Oscar winner. He will be playing a unification match against Vladimir Kramnik in September this year for $1,000,000. He is from Bulgaria but now lives in Spain.

Levon Aronian of Armenia is only 23-years-old, but his Fide rating is already at 2761. In December 2005 he beat Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine in the final round to win the World Cup in Khaty Mansiysk, Russia. In March 2006 he won Linares, half a point ahead of Topalov and Teimour Radjabov.

Anand is currently rated 2nd to Topalov, with a rating of 2779, and is only one of four players in history to break the 2800 barrier. He has been among the top three players since 1994 in classical time control and the No. 1 rapid player over much of that period.

So, who do you think is Kasparov’s successor? Is it the brilliant Bulgarian, Topalov, or the classical Indian genius, Vishy Anand? Or is it the young prodigy Aronian?

My answer is neither of these players. Good as they are they will never attain the heights reached by Kasparov. So, who will replace him? My answer is Sergey Karjakin.

Sergey of Ukraine became a grandmaster at an incredible age of 12, the youngest ever in the history of the game. He is now 16 yrs old and rated 26th in the world with an Elo rating of 2679.

His latest accomplishment was the 10th Petr Izmailov Memorial in Russia where he won the category-18 tournament 1.5 points ahead of the field that included Sergei Rublevsky, Ruslan Ponomariov, Alexander Morozevich, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Viorel Bologan. His performance rating was 2834.

Sergey’s strongest opponent in the coming years is another “boy wonder”, Magnus Carlsen. His accomplishments are also extraordinary and he is only 15 yrs old. He earned an Elo rating of 2675 in the latest Fide list, making him the World’s Junior No. 4 and 31st in the world. He won the C group of the Corus Chess tourney in 2004 at the age of 13 and the B group a year later.

My guess is that Sergey will become world champion before his 20th birthday.

Cepca July champion This month’s winner is Miguel Banebane. He scored an undefeated 4.5 points in a tournament made unique by a rule requiring the white player to play a fixed set of moves from rounds 1-5. Called a” thematic tournament” it is currently popular in the world and in most chess clubs.

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