Independent Pursuits: Chess

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The Independent Culture
YESTERDAY I described our journey home from the Olympiad in Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, in Russia, via what is fondly described as Stavropol International Airport. While we were becalmed, the story was breaking of Bessel Kok's offer to hold a unification match between Gary Kasparov and the winner of the Fide World Championship in Las Vegas.

Kok, originally Dutch but now Belgian, was the organiser of Kasparov's recent friendly match with Jan Timman in Prague. During it, he floated the idea of the unification contest in which his group would not only offer a prize fund of $3million to be split two to one, but also provide all the organisational expenses. Kok, who organised of the Swift tournaments in Brussels in the mid Eighties and was a co-founder with Kasparov of the GMA (Grandmasters Association) has naturally had his differences with that maker and destroyer of organisations (who hasn't?). But there's great underlying mutual respect, and Kasparov has reacted quite positively - though Fide was more cautious, appointing Kasparov's old bugbear Florencio Campomanes, the former Fide president to "investigate the matter".

Meanwhile, the Fide world championship itself has had to be moved. The reason can be stated in two words: Anatoly Karpov. Following his rather pyrrhic victory against Anand in January, Karpov was promised the title for two years. When Fide proposed another such contest in December, Karpov demurred and he came to Elista to plead his cause hoping, at least, to be seeded near the final. In a straw poll in Elista, Jan Timman found many players, myself included, who would tolerate his seeding to the third round - nobody else is accelerated beyond the second - but few who thought he deserved more.

In the end, Fide found the Gilbertian solution of deferring the tournament into Karpov's second year as champion. January 1999 was the first idea but this would clash with the important tournament at Wijk aan Zee in Holland, which has contracts with top players, so the spring is more likely.

Tomasz Markowski

(Black to play)

Peter Green (White)

The above diagram shows a combination by my last-round opponent in Elista four days earlier during Poland's 4-0 win against New Zealand. Although White has just won the h7 pawn, the two bishops and White's exposed queenside give Black tremendous compensation. The game lasted just four more moves: 27...a4 28 b4 Nb3 29 Nxb3 axb3 30 c5? g6! and White resigned in view of 31 Nxg6 d3! when a pawn promotes.