Chess: Nail-biting finale

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The Independent Culture
THE FINAL round of the Interzonal in Biel began with a succession of whimpers but grew into a nail-biting finale, particularly for the pre-tournament favourite, Viswanathan Anand. When the round began, Boris Gelfand led with 81 2 points, half a point ahead of Paul van der Sterren, Gata Kamsky, Alexander Khalifman, Leonid Yudasin, Valery Salov, Vladimir Kramnik and England's Michael Adams. Anand was one of three players on 71 2 , together with Joel Lautier and Vladimir Epishin.

The last-round pairings on the top boards were Gelfand-Salov, van der Sterren-Kamsky, Anand-Epishin, Khalifman-Kramnik, Adams-Salov and Lautier-Gurevich. With qualification for the Candidates the main concern of all the players, and 10 places on offer, a quick calculation showed that a final score of 81 2 points would be enough. So within 10 minutes of the round starting, the top four games had all ended in draws. Gelfand, Salov, van der Sterren, Kamsky, Khalifman, Kramnik, Adams and Salov had all qualified, leaving two places left. Lautier beat Gurevich to secure one of them, but the Anand-Epishin game ended in a draw, leaving both on 8 points, waiting to see which of the large group on 7 points would win and join them.

We must now go into the arithmetic of the tie-split. In the case of a tie (which was by now certain), qualification would go to the player with the highest sum of opponents' ratings, omitting the lowest. So the player who met the strongest opposition (excluding the weakest opponent of each) would go through.

When Anand agreed a draw, any of Portisch, Bareyev and Dreyev could have edged him out of the Candidates by winning. All three had better tie- split scores, and all stood better in their games. Then Portisch missed a win against Judit Polgar, and Dreyev lost a messy game to Shirov. Bareyev, however, was a pawn up in an endgame. Sveshnikov's technique, however, secured Anand's qualification.

Final scores: Gelfand 9; Adams, Kamsky, Khalifman, Kramnik, Lautier, Salov, van der Sterren, Yudasin 81 2 ; Anand, Epishin, Lputyan, Shirov, Ivanchuk and Sokolov 8. Judit Polgar finished on 71 2 , Jonathan Speelman scored 61 2 .