Click to follow
The Independent Culture
DESPITE THE nearby war, a truly splendid tournament is starting today in Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia Herzegovina. Averaging 2698 no less - category 18 - it comprises Kasparov, Short, Shirov, Morozevich, Adams, Topalov, Leko, Bareev, Timman and Ivan Sokolov (who was originally from Sarajevo before he moved to Holland). And indeed it would even have been slightly stronger had not Kramnik withdrawn and been replaced by Nigel Short.

With such strength - and such fighting players - we can expect a true feast of uncompromising chess. Any game at this level is bound to be tense but there are even several especially (painfully) tense encounters in prospect. Most of these involve Kasparov who will presumably be thirsting for revenge against Ivan Sokolov following his defeat by the latter at Wijk aan Zee. Meanwhile Alexei Shirov can't be too pleased at being passed over in his quest for a match with Kasparov in favour of Viswanathan Anand; and there's also the rising star Alexander Morozevich to consider.

Following his two magnificent recent performances at Wijk aan Zee and Linares, Kasparov surely has to be the favourite in any tournament he competes in this year though there are several other players who could challenge him if they hit a hot streak: Morozevich, in particular, made 8/9 at the New Year tournament in Pamplona.

Of course that was in a different class though - category 13 average 2561.

And the one thing Morozevich must avoid repeating is his performance in his only two (unless I'm mistaken) previous games against Kasparov. These were in the PCA Quickplay Grand Prix in Paris and following the defeat below, Morozevich lost as White in just 23 moves after sacrificing a piece in the opening in a King's Gambit but signally failing to get sufficient - or indeed any real - compensation.

At the beginning, Kasparov chose to transpose to a King's Pawn opening rather than - after 2.d4 d5 the Queen's Gambit Chigorin Defence. With calm play, he built up a nice central advantage and the desperate excahnge sacrifice 26...Rxd6 soon led to defeat.