Corus-voorbeschouwing: Grootmeestergroep BCorus preview: Grandmastergroup B

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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0 | Chess Event Coverage
After yesterday's preview of C, today we'll have a closer look at the Corus Chess Tournament's Grandmastergroup B. Yes, it's called "B", but we're not talking local club championships here, no, we're talking world class event, with an average rating of 2618 (category 15, if anyone wants to know).Most organizers would be proud with such a list, especially with names like Nigel Short, Etienne Bacrot and Ivan Cheparinov.

To start with, it's very sportive of Nigel Short to just accept the invitation and play in Wijk aan Zee, even though the A group is currently out of the question (except if he'd naturalize and become a Dutchman). For Jan Timman, the B group probably wasn't appealing enough, but why? Anyway, as a former winner, Short is a welcome quest of course but he probably won't win this group. First seed Ivan Cheparinov, who doesn't need the standard add-on "Topalov's second" anymore, will grab victory and promotion, I tell ya. This guy is a rising comet and wants to make up for last year, when he scored an unsatisfying 7 / 13. Besides, he has the best second that's available at the moment: Topalov!

But let's look at the list, before I forget.

[TABLE=50]

Whatever happens, it's going to be interesting, this tournament, with lots of players full of fighting spirit. Let's go down the list, starting with Bacrot. Another player who has played in group A before (in 2005) and surely one of the favourites, if only because with October ratings, he would have been top seed. One of my personal favourites too, after we spent one night at a bar in Mainz. But I also fear for him: as a young father of tho little girls, you never know how much energy is left when you're at the chess board.

The Slovakian Sergey Movsesian, whom I've met at the Karlovy Vary tournament in September, is an equally friendly guy. He's coming to Wijk aan Zee for the first time and probably takes his wife with him, who happens to be a WGM. Sergey was in good shape in 2007, so who knows. Then Sargissian: he played in the B group last year too, and not bad (shared second with 8 out of 13), but if he can repeat this, remains to be seen. His last tournament (Pamplona) was below his standard (3 out of 7).

Pentala Harikrishna is the second best chess player of his country, and that's not bad at all considering the fact that a billion people live there. Whether he can make a differince in this group, I don't know; I predict he will stay somewhere in the middle of the standings. Then we arrive at Nigel Short, the man who will always be famous for his match against Kasparov. But also the guy with a sharp tongue, many great games and at least a slight interest in everything that's female. Shortly: someone you want to have around. He'll definitely play more games than in Khanty-Mansiysk.

Krasenkov is no stranger in The Netherlands, where he won the open tournament in Vlissingen in 2006. This year I played him there, and although it wasn't a very long post-mortem (neither was the game), this guy was a nice teacher. He promoted from the C group but his status and respect amongst other GMs is much higher (for instance, he has played in group A as well). Then Stellwagen: the best Dutchman in the group. Just as with Jan Smeets and Erwin l'Ami, I have the feeling this tournament is quite important for him. The three young Dutchies have been established GMs for quite a while now, and now is the moment for another breakthrough. Are they capable of going for that 2650, or have they reached the top of their abilities?

Humpy Koneru is ninth on the list but her status is much more impressive than that: after Judit Polgar the strongest female player in the world (and consequently, of huge India). In Holland we know her as the clear winner of the Hilversum Open (and after that she also ended shared first in Luxemburg). Ian Neponmiachtchi, these days the best chess player named Ian, promoted from C as well, after a great tournament that ended unfortunately. He'll surely be able to set a decent score, and perhaps even better.

For Hou Yifan it will be tougher - she also played in C last year and she's still the youngest player in all three groups. But despite being only thirteen, she's now the world's number five (and we won't even start about the number of people in China). She had some good and some bad results this year and so we have to see how tough she has become. Same story for Wouter Spoelman, who's going to need resilience like he's never needed before. In December I saw him playing in Groningen with contact lenzes instead of glasses - hopefully it helps!

And, what do you think...

[Poll=20]
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