2009 Year In Review - Part 1

2009 Year In Review - Part 1

| 12 | Chess Event Coverage

2009.jpgSo 2009 is drawing to a close, and it has certainly been an eventful year in the chess world, with Veselin Topalov earning the right to challenge Vishy Anand for the world championship next year, but also losing his #1 ranking to Magnus Carlsen.

However, it all started back in January with the traditional Corus tournament in Wijk Aan Zee.  Poor Vassily Ivanchuk's form suffered during the event as FIDE deliberated on whether to ban him for not supplying a doping sample at the end of the 2008 Dresden Olympiad.

Common sense eventually prevailed when an expedient procedural compromise was reached to enable the popular Ukrainian to continue playing, but in a very closely fought tournament it was his countryman 19 year-old Sergey Karjakin who took the title.

karjakin_and_wife_Kateryna_Dolzhikova.jpgIt was a breakthrough win for Karjakin, but the other headlines he made in the year were off the board.  He married WGM Kateryna Dolzhikova (pictured, with Karjakin) and decided to become a Russian citizen.  The Ukrainian chess authorities were understandably not pleased by his defection.

Karjakin also hit the headlines when he was a passenger in a car crash while playing at a tournament in Greece.  He escaped with minor injuries, and the car driver was none other than British GM Nigel Short who commented that he had nearly "changed the course of chess history by allowing the future world champion to be killed while in my care".

There was more trouble for the FIDE Grand Prix in February, as rule changes, venue changes and player withdrawals led to organiser Bessel Kok resigning.  At the time, the continuation of the series looked in doubt, but it managed to limp onwards with revised rules now providing qualification into the next world championship cycle for the winner (Lev Aronian) and runner-up (currently Teimour Radjabov).

veselin_topalov.jpgFebruary was a busy month, with three major events - Linares, Aeroflot, and the Topalov v Kamsky match overlapping. Although Kamsky showed flashes of inspiration and fighting spirit, his habitual time-trouble was a serious handicap.  In the final analysis, Topalov (pictured) was a convincing match winner

Linares unusually found itself partly overshadowed by the goings-on in Bulgaria, but it was an exciting tournament with Alexander Grischuk just pipping Vassily Ivanchuk to the title by virtue of a superior tiebreak score, with Anand and Carlsen close behind.

Etienne Bacrot won the giant Aeroflot open and an invite to Dortmund in July, but the tournament was marred by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's accusations of computer-assisted cheating levelled at one of his opponents.  Despite having no real evidence to support his allegations, Mamedyarov withdrew from the tournament and repeated his claims, to universal condemnation.

Lev Aronian triumphed at the always entertaining Amber rapid and blindfold event in March, performing equally well at both disciplines to take the overall prize.  Aronian continued his good form into April when he won the Nalchik Grand Prix.

Alexei_Shirov3.jpgAt the US Championships in May, Hikaru Nakamura took the title, helping him to secure invites to future international events, notably Corus 2010.

Meanwhile at Mtel, Alexei Shirov (pictured) pipped Magnus Carlsen and stole Topalov's thunder in his own back yard with an impressive win.  The previous year's winner Vassily Ivanchuk had a very poor tournament, finishing last.  He bounced back to win a match with David Navara soon after, but disappointing results through the year would see Chucky's rating drop below 2700, before eventually recovering some ground.

Shirov himself went on to have a disastrous tournament at the Poikovsky tournament in Russia, losing his first four games.  Chess can be a cruel mistress.

Elsewhere, in the silicon-based world Rybka won the computer world championship title for the third successive year.  Is there no stopping the litttle fish?

Back to the humans, and in June the Leon rapid tournament saw a terrific clash between Carlsen and Ivanchuk in the final, with the young Norwegian just coming out on top.  Bigger and better things were to come in the second half of the year for Carlsen, who unbeknown to the world had starting training with a certain Mr.Garry Kasparov.

Part 2 here.

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