Pursuits: Chess

THE SUPER-GRANDMASTER tournament at Wijk aan Zee on the Dutch coast is getting into its stride. Following two rounds and a rest day on Monday there was already a clear leader in the shape of Viswanathan Anand on 2/2, ahead of Topalov, Kasparov, Shirov and Kramnik on 1.5.

Before the kick-off, the anglophone Argentine Michael Greengard, who writes on the World Wide Web under the name of Mig, carried out a survey (on Mark Crowther's Home Page http://www.chesscenter. com/twic/twic.html). In three days, this admirable exercise enticed 1,009 voters from many countries, of whom 490 voted for Anand to win, followed by Kasparov 249, Shirov 112, Kramnik 67, Ivanchuk 42 and the rest 16 or fewer. As I wrote on Friday, I'd go for one of Kasparov, Anand and Kramnik, with Ivanchuk, Shirov and Svidler having some chances. And just two rounds have changed little (though if pressed I'd certainly plump, about 50-50, for one of Anand and Kasparov).

Perhaps the most interesting game so far was the draw, in just 22 moves, between Kasparov and Ivanchuk. Almost invariably a powerful force in the opening, Kasparov is particularly strong in the Exchange variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD), in which he has a massive score against world class opposition.

Ivanchuk's choice was therefore calculated daredevilry. The first critical moment came when Kasparov avoided the endgame after 6 e3 Bf5!? 7 Qf3 Bg6 8 Bxf6 Qxf6 9 Qxf6 gxf6, with 6 Qc2. 7 ...Na6 aims to exploit this but in the diagram the normal 12 ...Be7 13 Ng3 Bh7 14 Bd3 Bxd3 15 Qxd3 looks better for White.

The point of Ivanchuk's rather extraordinary 12 ...Nd7 was, if I've understood, revealed two moves later, when if 14 Bd3 g5 15 Be5 f6 16 Bg6+ Ke7 White doesn't seem to get nearly enough for the piece.

I suspect that if he doesn't find an improvement earlier, Kasparov will look at 15 e5 or, more likely, 15 f3!? trying to maintain the centre. After 16 ...Qxd5!, White had to force matters. 18 ...0-0-0 effectively acquiesced in a draw - other moves are extremely risky. And Kasparov was forced to take the perpetual check.

White: Gary Kasparov

Black: Vassily Ivanchuk

QGD Exchange Variation

1 d4 d5

2 c4 e6

3 Nc3 Nf6

4 cxd5 exd5

5 Bg5 c6

6 Qc2 Na6

7 e3 Nb4

8 Qd2 Bf5

9 Rc1 a5

10 a3 Na6

11 Nge2 h6

12 Bf4

(see diagram)

12 ...Nd7

13 Ng3 Be6

14 e4 Nb6

15 exd5 Nxd5

16 Nxd5 Qxd5!

17 Bc4 Qxg2

18 Qe3 0-0-0

19 Bxe6+ fxe6

20 Qxe6+ Rd7

21 Qe8+ Rd8

22 Qe6+ 1/2-1/2