Annual Survey 2008: a year in videos

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Annual Survey 20082008 was not just another year. It was the year in which Bobby Fischer passed away, it was the end of the Kramnik era, and we saw the birth of both the Grand Prix and the Grand Slam. Like we did on December 31 last year and the year before, here's our (by now traditional) annual survey, with our best videos of 2008.

A chess year always starts with the end of those typical seasonal events like Hastings (a three-way tie last year between Mamedov, Malakhatko and Neverov) and the Rilton Cup (won by Wojtaszek on tiebreak), but the world's top players also competed in early January 2008: Teimour Radjabov won the 2nd ACP Rapid World Cup by first defeating Dmitry Jakovenko 2-0 in the semis and then beating Alexander Grischuk in the final 2.5-1.5.

And then, soon after ChessVibes introduced a new web design, it was time for Corus again. We continued bringing press conferences (here Carlsen's round 1) and needless to say, it was a big success. Here's the playlist with all videos we did during Corus (click the arrows down right to navigate through the player):


Aronian and Carlsen won Grandmastergroup A with 8/13, Movsesian won B with 9.5 points ahead of Bacrot and Short, while Caruana promoted to B with a fantastic 10/13 sore. Ljubojevic won the Honorary Four, ahead of Kortchnoi, Portisch and Timman.

But Corus 2008 will also be remembered because of that sad morning, on Saturday, January 18th, when the chess world was informed that former world champion Bobby Fischer had passed away at the age of 64. (By the way don't miss this piece in the New York Times.)

Fischer died of kidney failure on Friday, January 17, in his home in Reykjavik. It was a huge shock that still resonates. The Saturday round started with one minute silence:


In our post of that tragic day you can watch reactions by Ljubojevic, Short, Timman, Adams, Radjabov, Topalov, and Anand. Here's Timman's reaction:


But we still cannot leave Corus 2008, since a few days later the news was all about "Handshake-gate". Ivan Cheparinov had refused to shake hands before his game against Nigel Short, and Short had then convinced the arbiter that this was breaking the official Laws of Chess, and so Cheparinov was forfeited. However, as it turned out, Short had been referring to something that was not more than a proposal for a rule, but not an official rule yet. The appeals committee declared that "GM Cheparinov must make a public excuse to GM Short in a written form before 11.00 hours January 21st 2008 for his refusal to shake hands", and that the game between Cheparinov and Short had to be replayed on Monday January 21st 2008 at 13.30 hours. "Both players must shake hands at the start of the game" and "any player failing to comply with the present decision forfeits the game".

And so on the rest day the players appeared on an empty stage, they shook hands and then Short won a nice game.


Monday, early morning, right after Corus, I flew to Gibraltar to cover the 6t GibTelecom Chess Festival, which was eventually won by Hikaru Nakamura. Here's a video with impressions of that very friendly tournament:


In Gibraltar I did a long interview with Simen Agdestein:


After launching our tournament calendar on February 6, soon the next super tournament started: Morelia/Linares. The Mexican part was a bit far away this time, but thanks to Macauley Peterson we could show this video from the first part of the tournament:

Between the Morelia and the Linares part, Vugar Gashimov warned the chess world for the first time that he's a very strong GM, by winning the Cappelle la Grande open tournament. A few days later, for the first time I travelled to Linares where I made lots of videos myself. Here's the most dramatic one, with a poor Shirov blundering terribly against Magnus Carlsen, in round 9:


In the end it was Viswanathan Anand who won Morelia/Linares with 8.5/14, ahead of Corus winners Carlsen (8.0) and Aronian (7.5). Here's his press conference:


Also in Linares was Geoffrey Borg, CEO of Global Chess, who spoke proudly about the upcoming first Grand Prix Series. In the same article we published all six tournaments and its participants. Unfortunately that information is quite out of date by now...


The next big tournament on the calendar was Amber, which wasn't held in Monaco this time, but for the first time Nice, France. From March 15 to 27 it was one big fiesta of blindfold (a 4-way tie between Kramnik, Aronian, Morozevich and Topalov who scored 6.5/11) and rapid (Aronian clear first with 8/11) chess. One round before the end Levon Aronian had already secured tournament victory.

This year both Macauley Peterson and I worked for the official tournament website, where we published these videos:

The month of April we started with an exclusive interview with Aleksandar Matanovic, editor-in-chief of the famous Chess Informant series, which had reached its 100th issue. On the same day the new FIDE ratings were published: World champion Viswanathan Anand was topping the list alone, with a rating of 2803, and Magnus Carlsen couldn't be called a super talent anymore, as the 5th best player in the world.

Later that month one of the biggest stories of 2008 began to take shape: that of the match between Veselin Topalov and Gata Kamsky. Topalov had arranged himself a semifinal match, against the winner of the 2007 World Cup, to qualify for a world championship match against the winner of Anand-Kramnik, which would be played in September 2008.

Earlier in 2008, Kamsky had arranged several extensions of the bidding deadline and his then manager Oleg Chernenko was said to have "confirmed" everything: the match would take place in Lviv, Ukraine in November 2008. However, FIDE never received the money.

In absence of Van Wely, Sokolov and Tiviakov, the Dutch Championship was still quite exciting. In the end it was Jan Smeets who won his first national seniors title:

In the last week of April, two major events started: the European Championship in Plovdiv and the 1st FIDE Grand Prix in Baku. Dutchman Sergei Tiviakov won in Bulgaria while another Dutchman was covering the event in Azerbaijan: yours truly was the webmaster of I still quite like a few of the photos I shot there. We also did a few press conferences in Corus style:

Round 3 Press Conference GM Vugar Gashimov, who beat GM Peter Svidler

Round 4 Press Conference GM Peter Svidler & GM Teimour Radjabov together

Eventually there was a 3-way tie between Carlsen (the GP's original first seed), Gashimov and Wang Yue. But before that, at the end of April we noticed a video on YouTube with Topalov starring in a commercial:


Just two days after the Grand Prix in Baku, the MTel Masters started in Sofia. This year Veselin Topalov, Ivan Cheparinov, Teimour Radjabov, Levon Aronian, Vassily Ivanchuk and Bu Xiangzhi played. It was the first tournament in history that was played in a glass cube, which was put inside the Central Military Club in Sofia. However, you'll probably remember much more vividly the one-man show that was given by Ivanchuk. The Ukrainian defeated all of his opponents in the first half of the tournament!

After creating the following video on the Limburg Open, I flew to Sofia to cover the second half of the Mtel Masters.

In Sofia I did several videos and here's the one with a thrilling timetrouble phase between Ivanchuk and Topalov:

With an amazing 8.0/10 score Ivanchuk won the MTel Masters, performing at 2977 level and qualifying for the first Grand Slam Final later this year. Here's the video with his last-round game against Cheparinov, followed by the final press conference:

After the M-Tel Masters I didn’t fly back to Amsterdam, but via Rome to Sardinia. ChessVibes was invited by the organizers of the 2nd Festival Internazionale Capo d'Orso, where Jonathan Rowson won with 7.5/9 ahead of Korneev, Bruno and seven others at 6.5.

Rowson also gave a very interesting lecture about Beauty in chess which can be enjoyed here (part I) and here (part II).

Meanwhile, a Kasparov speech had been interrupted by a sex toy, our columnist Arne joined the "Short draws debate" and Karpov and Kortchnoi faced each other behind the chess board again.

On June 9 we published another top player in a commercial. This time it was no-one less than world champion Anand, promoting AMD processors:


The day before two top events had started. In Foros (Ukraine) it was time for the annual Aerosvit tournament, won by this year, and in Yerevan (Armenia) a strong rapid tourney took place which was sadly interrupted before it had started: at just 28, Armenian GM Karen Asrian had passed away. He had pulled his car into a court yard in Yerevan and lost consciousness. An ambulance crew pronounced him dead at the scene, possibly of a heart attack. It was soon announced that the “Chess Giants Yerevan 2008? tournament was renamed “Karen Asrian Memorial”, and that the Asrian Memorial would traditional.

By then, Magnus Carlsen was on 4.5 out of 5 at the Aerosvit tournament and in the recently started "live ratings" by Hans Arild Rulde, the Norwegian star was suddenly the number two in the world! With a round to spare he secure tournament victory, and ChessVibes got carried away in the enthusiasm. We got "confirmation by FIDE" (a notion that's pretty funny in itself) that Foros would be calculated for the July 1st rating list, but a few days later they said the opposite, stating that only for tournaments mentioned in the FIDE Handbook an exception could be made. Eventually Carlsen dropped one place to 6th on the list; Morozevich was 2nd behind Anand.

Soon the Sparkassen Chess Tournament in Dortmund started; the traditional 6-player single round-robin. This year Kramnik, Leko, Nepomniachtchi, Naiditsch, Gustafsson and Van Wely played. Like in 2007, I took the train to Dortmund and did a few video interviews. Here's the intro video in which we speak with Jan Gustafsson:

The German participants Naidisch and "Gust" played well, but in the end it was Leko who won his 3rd title in Dortmund. Here's a longer interview I did with him:

And then, on July 10, we dropped a small bomb. Well, at least for the Dutch community that included a number of our oldest fans, who had been following the website from the birth of Doggers-schaak on February 6th, 2006. We didn't like it, but we had to: ChessVibes discontinued the Dutch version of the site. A few days later your editor-in-chief went on a holiday to Ireland, which meant the start of the Summer Contest. It was also the period when Michael's first Beauty in chess column appeared, and Arne and Merijn also helped a lot to provide content in my absence.

When I got back (injured - torn ligaments in my left ancle after I fell from a mountain bike), Carlsen seemed to be winning Biel, but after an unexpected loss to Alekseev, the Cuban Dominguez was leading and then caught in the very last round by Alekseev.

Meanwhile I had travelled (on crutches!) to Sochi, Russia, to another webmaster job again at the 2nd Grand Prix. During that event there was also the annual Mainz Chess Classic, where Anand remain(z)ed king, winning his 9th rapid world title. Oh yes, and FM Ali Bitalzadeh won the Dutch Open, stunning (and leaving behind) 6 GMs and many IMs.

But the world's attention focused on Sochi soon thereafter. First, because a bomb exploded on Sochi beach (tough it was 40 km from the playing venue), and then because the tournament (which was won by Aronian was actually held pretty close to the Russian-Georgian border; two counties that were suddenly in war. For the women world championship that was to be held in Nalchik, all Georgian participants withdrew.

Soon afterwards, both the Tal Memorial in Moscow and the NH Chess Tournament began. In the Russian capital Morozevich was doing well, and at some point he was even number one in the live ratings. But in the end it was Ivanchuk who scored another marvelous win, while Kramnik disappointed in his last tournament before the world championship match against Anand.

Like in Nice, Macauley and me made daily videos in Amsterdam, where the Rising Stars already secured victory against Experience two rounds before the end:

Not long after that event I was on the road again: ChessVibes could't miss the first Grand Slam Final in Bilbao! One of the strongest chess tournaments in history, played in a glass cube at a major square in a big European town, that still sounds amazing even from looking back. Well, it certainly was. Remember and enjoy some more of Topalov's great win in the following video playlist:

Then, at the European Union Championships (eventually won by Dutch GM Jan Werle) Nigel Short lost a game due to his mobile making a sound, Alexandra Kosteniuk became women world champion and the FIDE October rating list had Topalov taking over the number one position from Anand, who had dropped to 5th. His opponent in the upcoming match, Kramnik was 6th! Morozevich had kept his 2nd spot and Ivanchuk was 3rd; Carlsen had climbed two places to 4th.

And then, on October 14th, the moment had come: the start of the World Championship Match between Anand and Kramnik. You know the story of course: after two draws Anand came up with that damned fine 14...Bb7 move in the Meran, heavily analysed by one of his seconds, Rustam Kasimdzhanov. He won games 3 and 5 with Black, and then profited from a blunder by Kramnik in game 6 to take a huge lead in the match that would only last 12 games. Fighting for his life, Kramnik won the 10th game to avoid a premature end of the match, which happed anyway in game 11, where Anand went for 1.e4 for the first time to draw and retain his world title.

Before the Olympiad in Dresden there were two big quickplay events. At the Cap d'Agde rapid American GM Nakamura beat Karpov in the semifinal and Ivanchuk in the final to grab the 2008 Troph?©e CCAS. In Almaty, Kazachstan it was Cuba's best player Leinier Dominguez who became the surprising winner of the World Blitz Championship, ahead of Ivanchuk, Svidler and Grischuk.

But November 12 it was the take-off of another big event in Germany: the 38th Chess Olympiad. (You'll surely remember that Armenia and Georgia won gold.) This edition was a reasonable succes, although not all of the new rules were enthusiastically welcomed by the chess community. It certainly was a great event to cover. Here's the intro video:

Since there was so much to cover, it was hardly possible to create more of these (very time consuming) videos like this one. Therefore I restricted myself to bringing the press conferences, which were interesting enough:

During the Olympiad the Topalov-Kamsky match soap was finally concluded: on November 20 both teams signed the contracts for the match. Sofia will be the venue and 16th to 28th February, 2009 the dates.

While working in Dresden, ChessVibes twice had a news scoop: on the cancellation of the Doha Grand Prix (and last-minute moving to Elista) and on the announcement of the FIDE Candidates Tournament.

Sad news on November 29, when Bob Wade died from pneumonia. And soon afterwards the chess news was all about Ivanchuk, who had refused a doping test after his disappointing last round in Dresden. According to the rules he risks a 2-year ban from international press, but there's a big chance FIDE will restrict themselves to a reprimand, when they speak with Ivanchuk in January in Wijk aan Zee.

After the Olympiad, I created one more video this year 2008: in Wolvega, The Netherlands where Bartlomiej Macieja won the 2nd Remco Heite Tournament:

The last month of the year started with some bad news for FIDE: Magnus Carlsen and Michael Adams withdrew from the Grand Prix Series, Aronian expressed his concerns and the 4th event, scheduled to take place in Montreux, was cancelled. Until the moment of writing FIDE hasn't yet confirmed a replacing host city. Still, the 3rd Grand Prix was held, in Elista, and won by Jakovenko, Grischuk and Radjabov only a few days ago.

Before that, Topalov had convincingly won the 1st Pearl Spring; a brand new super tournament in China which was another sign that, in terms of events being organised for top players, these aren't such a bad times for chess.

And with this we come to an end of this annual survey, and of this chess year 2008. Although I'm still responsible for most of the content here at ChessVibes, I'm sure that I speak on behalf of my co-editors Arne, Merijn, Michael and Yochanan when I want to thank you for your support and your comments. I wish everyone of you a happy and healthy 2009 with lots of great chess.
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