On your marks. Get set. Go! The 2007 World chess championship will start tomorrow (with an inaugural ceremony) in Mexico City and the first round will be played on Friday afternoon (2pm local time, 9pm in Italy). "Following the historic reunification match between bulgarian champion Veselin Topalov and russian new weltmeister Vladimir Kramnik in late october 2006", you can read on the official site, "the Fide World Chess Championship will prove whether Kramnik is strong enough to defend again his title, this time facing 7 of the best players from around the globe".
The upcoming 8 players tourney is one of the strongest tournament ever in chess history, with an average rating of 2752 (XXII cat.). Vlad will face Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian, Peter Leko, Boris Gelfand and compatriots Peter Svidler, Alexander Morozevich and Alexander Grischuk. I can't see a clear favorite, but if I was forced to place a bet, well, I'd bet on Kramnik. My second choice would be Anand, then Aronian. I think the new world champion will be among one of these three players. Indian news portal DNA asked Garry Kasparov to predict a winner: "I'm in no way trying to please your readers by saying that Vishy Anand is the clear favourite", he replied. Well, Garry, we'll see... Anand is now the highest rated player in the world and he won Linares/Morelia six months ago, but Vlad looks in good shape as well: he took clear first in the "Melody Amber" rapid event and in Dortmund and he was placed fourth in Wijk aan Zee, last January, without any loss. Aronian has a good score against both of them in their most recent games; so, it will all depend on their preparation and their mood, as usual :-)
The last issue of the popular Daily chess web-zine "Chess Today" (www.chesstoday.net) also provides some opinions about the WCC. GM Alex Baburin writes: "Most of all I hope to see interesting chess – who will win in the end, is of less interest to me. I believe that every player has a chance to win that tournament, though with a different likelihood. A lot will depend on their general form, which should be evident after the first 3-4 rounds. In my opinion the most likely winners are: 1. Anand; 2. Leko; 3-4. Kramnik and Aronian".
Coming back to Garry's interview to the DNA portal, he also said that "my decision in 1993 to break away from the world chess federation, Fide, with Nigel Short was the worst mistake of my career. It was a serious miscalculation on my part. I thought we could start fresh with a professional organisation, but there was little support among the players. It led to short-term progress in commercial sponsorship for chess, but in the long run hurt the game. I tried many times to reunite the chess world, but as usual the strong personal interests on all sides prevented this. There is apparent unity now, but it is extremely superficial because Fide still puts its own petty interests ahead of those of the players and the players themselves will not sacrifice to fight for their rights against Fide". Will Kasparov the politician ever become Fide president? You can read the full interview to Garry at http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1120623.
And now let's speak about Italian tourneys. Czech GM Igor Rausis took first place in Cesenatico (178 players): he scored 7 points out of 9 and edged out on tie break German IM Mathias Roeder. Italian GM Lexy Ortega, Bulgarian GM Milko Popchev, German GM Arkadij Rotstein, Greek GM Spyridon Skembris, German GM Felix Levin, Bulgarian IM (and Elo-favorite) Nikolai Ninov and German FM Peter Dittmar shared third place on 6.5. Official site: http://www.antiquascom.it/risultati2007.htm.
Croatian GM Nenad Sulava won the 47th Imperia Chess Festival: he scored 7/9 and edged out by half a point Italian FM Raffaele Di Paolo and Czech GM Tomas Likavsky. 143 players took part in the event. Official site: http://imperiascacchi.altervista.org/.
Do you miss my annotated games? Well, just wait for Mexico City...