The Great Trio!

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
In exactly a week from now, the pairings for the Corus Chess Tournament start. To get in the mood already, today we publish, with authorization of World Chess Network, the nice and enthusiastic preview that was written by GM Alex Finkel.

This year traditional super tournament in Wijk an Zee, which will be held 13-28 January 2007, is obviously going to be an extremely exciting event. Organizers made a terrific job putting up an exceptionally strong and intriguing lineup!

Indeed, it's been a while since we have seen Kramnik, Topalov and Anand competing head to head in the same event. Add to it three brightest young talents Radjabov, Carlsen and Karjakin, ever brilliant Svidler, Aronian and Shirov, rising star of the modern chess David Navara (replacing Morozevich, which had withdrawn for the personal reasons, even though the rumors circulating in the chess world strongly imply that he is just not ready to play in the same event with Topalov!), former world champion Ruslan Ponomariov, two best Dutch players Van Wely and Tiviakov, the winner of last year tournament ?¢‚ǨÀú'B'' Alexander Motylev (who happens to be Kramnik's second!) and you've got a perfect recipe for a perfect tournament!

Almost all of the players are regulars at the top events, so introducing them would just be a waste of my and (more importantly) your time, so I'll limit this part of the article by shortly introducing the player, who might be less known for wide audience of chess fans (even though he is very likely to join al elite club for good!), Czech grandmaster David Navara. Navara (21 years old, elo 2725, number 13 in the world) made a meteoric rise during the last couple of years, adding about 150 (!) points to his rating and establishing himself as one of the most promising players of young generation. Unlike his younger contesters Carlsen and Karjakin, who have been famous for many years, Navara didn't manage to break through to the top until the last year. However once he started to collect elo points he never looked back, reaching an incredible rating of 2725 by adding up 65 point in half year time! Frankly speaking I'm not very familiar with his games so I wouldn't dare to define his playing style, but it seems that we got another player who might be able not just to compete as equal with the greatest, but to beat them all in a very short period of time!

David Navara

We don't have to go too far for the examples, as another player made pretty much the same way not a long time ago. Today it's pretty hard to imagine that one and a half years ago most of us would raise an eye brow finding his name between the participants of a super tournament (now it's almost as difficult to imagine a super tournament without this fellow!). The name of this ?¢‚ǨÀú'mysterious'' player is Levon Aronian, I bet you've heard about him!

I guess it's about time to share my thoughts regarding those who are most likely to fight for the top places in the tournament and to refer to those whom I'd like to see between the winners. You don't really need to be a great chess expert to predict that at the end of the day the main fight for the first place will be between Kramnik, Topalov and Anand. With all the respect to the others, these players clearly stand out from the rest of the field. On the other hand, if I had to advice on which one of them to put all of your money I'd be facing an incredibly difficult choice.

Kramnik should be a bit tired after facing Fritz less than a month ago, so it's logical to suggest that he is most unlikely candidate to win the event. However, we shouldn't forget that he's done a huge amount of work preparing for the match against Topalov, so some of the opening novelties are still to be tried. Assuming that after all that has been done by Topalov and his team in Elista (and said by him and Danailov in post- match interviews) he is not going to accept a challenge for re-match for the world chess crown (even though one million US dollars appearance fee would be a good reason for some hesitations) Kramnik should feel quite relaxed. This could be a major positive factor in his play, so I believe he's got a fair chance to go all the way. The main problem for Kramnik could be to keep up the pace with Topalov or Anand who are both capable to show +5 or even +6 result (that is to score at least 5 or 6 wins). If this would be the result required for an over all win I can hardly see Kramnik to be the winner.

Vladimir Kramnik

Speaking of Topalov, the main question is in what psychological shape he is in right now. Losing a match to Kramnik was a serious blow for his self confidence. In my opinion this is Topalov's main problem at this point. He is very eager to prove to everybody (and mainly to himself) that the loss of a title was just a ?¢‚ǨÀú'slip'' and he remains the best tournament player in the world. Being over-motivated could backfire on him, especially if he wouldn't start the tournament good enough. Of course I don't think that Essent failure would repeat itself, but I do not exclude a possibility that Topalov's performance in the tournament could be a fiasco. However if the beginning of the tournament will be favorable for him, I think he is the most likely candidate to take the title. I know that this kind of ?¢‚ǨÀú'prediction'' is not very convincing, but that's the best I can come up with at this point:-)

Veselin Topalov At the conclusion a couple of words about Anand. This is not a secret that Vishy is my favorite player and I would be happy to see him repeating last year fantastic performance, but he is also not coming to this tournament in ideal shape. Well...May be he is actually in the great shape, but he didn't play a tournament with classical time controls for more than half a year, so the lack of practice could have a serious impact on his play. It has become a fact that there is no equal to Anand in rapid chess, but chess with classical time control is a completely different story. Would he be able to make the necessary adjustments? I don't really know the answer to this question, but I definitely hope that the answer is ?¢‚ǨÀú'yes''!

Vishy Anand

As for the rest of the field, I consider Aronian and Ponomariov to be able to intervene in the fight for an over all victory. Pono's performance in Tal Memorial in Moscow made us recall that the guy was a world champion! It's true that he just shared a victory with rather modest 5.5 out of 9 score, but the level of play that he had shown in this event was very impressive. Aronian proved a couple of times that he can win super tournaments (something that we can't say about Svidler for example, even though there is no question about Peter's incredible talent and level of play), so I won't be surprised if he does it another time. Another guy who is capable to step up is Radjabov, who is continuing to improve. After coming second in Linares earlier on this year we can definitely expect from him to perform well, but I think that his time is yet to come. I'll allow myself to say almost nothing about Carlsen and Karjakin. Super kids can definitely fight as equal with everybody, but they still have a couple of years to complete their chess education:-)

The rounds begin at 7:30 am server time, starting on Saturday, January 13th. I'm convinced there will be many exciting games to follow, not to mention our audio coverage by the best WCN professionals, so get ready for the action! You don't want to miss it! See you on-line!

GM Alex Finkel, Israel
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