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India Diary
The 2000 FIDE Championships

by GM Alexander Baburin from New Delhi

First Report  Round 2


Murphy's laws are true whether we like it or not and I never questioned this. So, while I hoped to start this diary on Wednesday, I am not at all surprised that it took whole three extra days before I can post them here. I hope that your waiting was not in vein and that you will enjoy this reading.

Early days of the trip - 28-29 November.

It takes a lot of time to get to India, unless you live near by. In my case it took 17 hours and 3 flights (because of the cost!) - first to London, then to Kuwait and finally to New Delhi. Unfortunately I had to start my journey at 6-30, which involved getting up at 4 in the morning. As I always seem to have lots of very urgent things to do before any trip, I got just about 2 hours of sleep. Add to that an early arrival to New Delhi (5 in the morning local time) and you can imagine how tired I was... The only good news was that I could have breakfast after checking into the hotel and before collapsing onto the bed! :-) Other than tiredness, the trip was fine and Kuwait Airlines looked OK to me, except that you can't earn miles with them. A pity, as the trip would have gained me many extra miles!

Getting from the airport to the hotel was interesting. First local taxi drivers tried to charge me $30 for the trip (you negotiate before you travel!), but finally I got a ride (about 30 minutes) for $13. I knew that it was too much anyway, but had little energy to argue at 5 in the morning. Basically, you can hire a taxi for 10 hours for $20 here. Travelling by car in a big Indian city is a scary experience for foreigners - you may think that an entire population of a huge mental asylum got a temporary leave and was given vehicles to get home! They do not obey too many rules, they use their horns all the time, etc. However, it's not too bad: Indian drivers actually communicate with signals and are not hostile to each other - a sharp contrast to Russia, where drivers often try to prove to one another who is a tougher guy! What was interesting in my ride from the airport was that the driver flashed lights and used horn every time he approached a junction. At first I could not see why he did that, but then I realised that although he had green, he was afraid that somebody would go on red!

The venue of the Championship is the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Delhi. Many players stay here, while some (e.g. most Russian players) stay in yet another Hyatt hotel in town. Both Championships (men's and women's) are staged in the same hall. Playing conditions - like lighting, level of noise, etc. - are quite good. Maybe the hall was a bit overcrowded in round 1, but that round solved the problem itself and in this respect things will get only better and better! :-)

The weather is great here - warm and sunny, but not hot. Some people sunbathe at the hotel's out-door swimming pool. The hotel offers a good variety of cuisine - for example Indian, Japanese and Italian. I am growing fond of Japanese cuisine and upon my return will have to find a Japanese restaurant in Dublin! Staying in the Delhi's Hyatt Regency Hotel is not cheap, but it's worth it: the players are fighting for high stakes and are under a lot of pressure, so good facilities and convenience are much needed.

There are not many spectators at the championship (when was the last time you saw many spectators at a chess tournament?!), but it gets a fair amount of attention in Indian press, as quite a few Indian players are participating. Of course, Anand is India's biggest hope, but other local players get some publicity too. So far it has not been a particularly spectator-friendly tournament, as only a few boards are clearly visible to the spectators. There are a few PCs connected to a local computer network, where all games can be followed in real-time mode. The organisers promised to install 12 large monitors from round 3 and translate top games on them. That would be very nice from a spectator's point of view!

The media room is quite large. The staff at the championship is very friendly and helpful, which is typical for Indian people in general. I played in India in 1999 (Commonwealth Championship in Bikaner, Rajastan) and despite some problems with the organisers, got very good impressions from that trip. I have many friends among Indian players and already met some of them here. There are bulletins produced for every round and once we get a better Internet connection (hopefully it will also become free!) in the pressroom, it will be a nice place to work. During each round GM Valery Salov provides commentary or rather briefing for the journalists, covering the event. Naturally, he concentrates on the games of Indian participants. Salov has also taken a few brief interviews with some players, which are quite interesting. It seems that most of not players are happy with the tournament and its organisation. So far FIDE and local organisers are doing a good job here.

I missed the first two days, but I saw day three of the first round. Quite a few surprises happened already: France's best player Joel Lautier lost to Rafael Leitao from Brazil, Jonathan Speelman went down to Bartolomej Macieja from Poland and Ruslan Ponomariov lost to Thien Dao. Another upset happened in the match Alexei Fedorov - Alexander Ivanov. Highly rated Grandmaster from Byelorussia, who will play in Wjik aan Zee in January, has been in poor form lately and went down to Ivanov -1. Unfortunately my friend Lev Psakhis got knocked out as well, after losing in blitz to GM Dizdarevic from Bosnia. Probably the most interesting fight was in the match Sakaev - Volkov. Both of them became champions of Russia in the last 2 years and both are tough players with a very solid style. Sakaev took Volkov's place on the Russia's Olympiad team and the rumour goes that Volkov was very upset by the decision of the Russian Chess Federation to drop him from the team... Both players are known as particularly dangerous when playing White, but surprisingly in this match Black scored 3 out of 4! Volkov won despite losing game 1. Here is the decisive fourth game:

Konstantin Sakaev - Sergei Volkov [D15]

FIDE World Championship, New Delhi

Notes by GM Alexander Baburin

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6 5.c5 Nbd7 6.Bf4 Nh5 7.e3 g6 8.Bd3 Bg7 9.0-0 f6 10.h3 e5

This is an improvement compared to 10...Nxf4 11.exf4 e5, which after 12.f5! e4 13.Bxe4 dxe4 14.Nxe4 0-0 15.Qb3+ Kh8 16.Nd6 Bh6 17.Rfe1 gave White a decisive advantage in the game Gelfand-Movsesian, Polanica Zdroj 2000.

11.Bh2 e4

12.Bxe4 dxe4 13.Nxe4 0-0 14.Nd6 f5 15.g4?!

This is a very double-edged decision, as White's king gets exposed. I do not see what's wrong with 15.Qb3+ Kh8 16.Nf7+ Rxf7 17.Qxf7 - White has a small material advantage and pretty good pieces left. Of course, it may not be easy to open up the files for him here, but in the game he opened too many files around his king!

15...fxg4 16.hxg4 Nhf6 17.Ng5 Qe7 18.e4 Nd5! 19.f4 h6 20.Nh3 Qh4 21.Rf3 N7f6!

Now Black is winning as an extra piece in the attack means a lot!

22.Nf2 Bxg4 23.Nxg4 Qxg4+ 24.Kh1 Nxe4 25.Nxe4 Nxf4 26.Rf2 Qh4 27.Qe1 Rae8 28.Rxf4 Rxf4 29.Nf6+ Bxf6 30.Qxe8+ Kg7 31.Qd7+ Be7 32.Rg1 Rf2 33.Rg2 Rf1+ 0-1 White resigned just before 34.Re1 Qe4#.

Another tough match was between two Pavel Tregubov and Alexander Rustemov (another Russian match!). Tregubov won in blitz and the final score was 3-2. It took even more games to define a winner in the match Alexandrov - El Taher. Eventually Alexandrov went through 4-3.

India is an exotic place. Of course, staying in the hotel you won't see much, but even a short walk outside of the hotel provides some unusual scenes - like cows walking in the streets and people living their lives in pretty harsh conditions. It must be said though that despite certain (sometimes extreme!) poverty, Indians are very friendly people and walking here is very safe, which I could see on my previous trip as well. After being knocked out a lot of players try to learn more about the host country and so they take excursions. By the way, losing in a knockout tournament sometimes brings a strange kind of relief to the losers, as they know that the pressure is finally off... Some players have taken a trip to Taj-Mahal and many more might go there soon. It takes about 5-6 hours return by car and although I was there on my previous visit, I might go there again - of course, if I will not have to leave for Tehran! :-)

I hope to catch up with my report very soon, so stay tuned!

Yours in chess,

Alexander Baburin

All text Copyright Alexander Baburin unless otherwise noted