Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Anand vs. Topalov

Thursday, April 15, 2010
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By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño

THE biggest event this year is just around the corner. Viswanathan Anand of India will defend his title versus Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria from April 21 to May 12 in Sofia.

The format is best of 12 games and time control is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20, then 15 minutes to finish with 30-second increments.

If the score is tied 6-6 there will be rapid tiebreaks.

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Prize is $3 million.

Sofia Rules are in effect, meaning no draws are allowed unless approved by the arbiter.

There are some interesting conditions of the match. They are too numerous to mention but a major one is that there will be no visual contact between the players. A special curtain made in Germany will be installed. How it is designed is beyond me.

Anand won the Chess Oscar in 1997, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008. The Chess Oscar is awarded to the year’s best player, who is determined by a worldwide poll of leading chess critics, writers, and journalists—which, by the way, includes this writer. The poll is conducted by the Russian chess magazine 64.

I first became aware of Anand back in 1988 when he won the World Junior Championship in Manila. At that time, three were favored by the experts to win the title: Anand, Vassily Ivanchuk and Cebuano Enrico “Econg” Sevillano.

Much earlier than that, in the early 70s, Anand who was a 10-year-old, came to the Philippines with his father, who had accepted a job as a consultant in the Philippine National Railways. It was here in the Philippines that he became a chess fanatic and his mentor was the late NM Hector Cabido.

In an interview he says “My mother taught me how to play when I was six. We moved to the Philippines shortly afterward. And there they had a TV program that was on in the afternoon, when I was in school. She would write down all the games that they showed and the puzzles, and in the evening we solved them together. I won a lot of prizes especially chess books.”

He studied in Don Bosco while here.

I was also watching this TV show back then and also got some prizes including a kamagong chess set from the host, Florencio Campomanes, who became Fide president.

Topalov won the 2005 Chess Oscar. He was ranked No.1 in the world from April 2006 to January 2007, and had the second highest Elo rating of all time (2813). He regained the No. 1 ranking again in October 2008, and officially remained No. 1 until January 2010, when he fell behind Magnus Carlsen.

He defeated Gata Kamsky also in Sofia, Bulgaria in February 2009 to be the challenger for the World Chess Championship 2010.

Topalov is known as a strong tactical and streaky player, and likes unclear lines where he can out-think his opponent.

With the white pieces, Topalov likes to play the Sicilian, Ruy Lopez, French and Queen’s Indian. With black, his favorites are the Sicilian Najdorf, King’s Indian, Ruy Lopez, Queen’s Pawn and the Modern Benoni.

Anand is at home playing white with the Sicilian, Ruy Lopez Closed, French, Sicilian Najdorf and Caro-Khan. With black, he can hold his own against anybody with the Sicilian, Queen’s Indian ,Semi-Slav, Queen’s Gambit Accepted and Caro-Khan.

Kimkim Yap had a respectable 6/9 score in the just-concluded Kuala Lumpur Open to finish in a tie with 10 others from 10th to 19th. It was won by Girl Wonder Hou Yifan of China who had 7.5/9. Julius Joseph of the Philippines also got an IM norm.

I cannot recall any other recent major tournament where the solo winner was a woman. And this girl is only 15 years old!

Next stop for Kimkim is the Thailand Open which started yesterday. He is joined by fellow Cebuano Richard Bitoon. After that, it’s the Asian Continental in Subic.


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