Chess: Adams to win - just

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The Independent Culture
HOT on the heels of the PCA World Championship qualifier in Groningen, the Netherlands, the Fide World Championship has just begun the first round of its final eliminating matches in Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands. While England has two (Michael Adams and Nigel Short) in the last eight of the PCA competition, Adams is the sole Briton remaining in the Fide competition. His match against Boris Gelfand looks the most difficult to predict of the current encounters.

Here is the line-up, with current ratings of the players: Jan Timman (Netherlands, 2620) v Joel Lautier (France, 2625); Gata Kamsky (US, 2695) v Paul van der Sterren (Netherlands, 2605); Valery Salov (Russia, 2685) v Alexander Khalifman (Russia, 2660); Viswanathan Anand (India, 2710) v Artur Yusupov (Germany, 2665); Vladimir Kramnik (Russia, 2710) v Leonid Yudasin (Israel, 2625); and Boris Gelfand (Belarus, 2685) v Michael Adams (England, 2660).

Each match will consist of eight games, with the six winners going through to the next round. The three who survive that stage will be joined by the current Fide champion, Anatoly Karpov, in semi-final matches that will determine the contenders for the 1995 title match. The decision to include Karpov in the eliminators seems to be Fide's way of recognising that the Karpov- Timman match was something less than a full world championship, more a gap-filler in the wake of the defection of Short and Kasparov.

In match more than tournament play, experience seems to count for a great deal and I expect Timman, 43, to see off Lautier, 20, and have one final attempt to win the world championship. However, the teenagers Kamsky, 19, and Kramnik, 18, look mature enough in their play to go through to the next round. with out undue difficulty. Salov, 29, is favourite to beat Khalifman, who will be 28 tomorrow; and Anand, 24, is tipped by many to go all the way to win the world title.

Which leaves Adams and Gelfand. Over the past two years, Adams' results have been as impressive as anyone's, but Gelfand is one of the most complete players to have emerged from the ruins of the Soviet chess empire. A powerful strategist and gifted tactician, he seems at home in all types of position. He has, however, shown an occasional tendency to lose his balance when the tension is high. By deciding not to compete in the PCA cycle, Gelfand has shown that he is taking the match with Adams very seriously indeed, but it is by no means clear that such single-mindedness will be good for his nerves.

So let's throw caution to the winds and tip Adams to win, in a quick-play play-off, after the main match has been tied at 4-4.