Judit Polgar to Play Greg Kaidanov in Sicilian Theme Match
By FM Mike Klein   
February 19, 2010
GM Gregory Kaidanov rarely plays the Sicilian. GM Judit Polgar rarely plays in the United States. Top-level chess is rarely played amidst the marshlands and golf courses of Hilton Head, South Carolina. Despite the abnormalities of the setting and protagonists, the two will duel from February 22-25 in a Sicilian Theme Match. The rules of the match dictate four different Sicilian variations to be played over the four-game match. Under classical time controls, the grandmasters will employ the Sveshnikov, Dragon, Najdorf, and Scheveningen, in that order. Each game will begin at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time with a possible blitz tiebreaker to follow.

According to Kaidanov, he has never played Polgar. He will be outrated by nearly 100 points and is over the age of 50, but even the younger Polgar will be off her peak rating by several years. Still, she remains the number-one woman in the world by a healthy margin.

In some respects, the match resembles the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match between the aging Bobby Riggs and younger Billie Jean King, albeit with much less machismo. However close the parallel, Kaidanov said he relishes the role of underdog (a position Riggs would have vehemently denied).

The pre-match coin flip landed Kaidanov with White in games one and three. He will have the White pieces versus the Sveshnikov and Najdorf and Black using the Dragon and Scheveningen. "I'm happy with anything because I don't get to play many Sicilians for any side," Kaidanov said.

A check of databases shows that Kaidanov has been involved in fewer than 50 Sicilians in serious competition, and all but a handful have been from the White side. Curiously, in the mid-1990s he trotted it out as a weapon against a trio of promising juniors - Boris Kreiman, Josh Waitzkin and Tal Shaked.

Polgar, meanwhile, has clashed in more than 500 Sicilians in her career. Unlike Kaidanov, it is a staple in her Black repertoire.

Kaidanov said that the Sicilian has been a mainstay at the upper echelons of chess circles for so long because it "leads to rich positions with lots of ideas." Kaidanov, now primarily a chess trainer and coach for various U.S. Women's Teams, has previously stated that he thinks it is important for chess teachers to remain active in competition to remain attuned to the game's practical considerations.

According to the match web site, the winner of each game "earns at least $1000." Kaidanov, busying himself with match preparation, admitted to not knowing the specific amounts at stake.

The match, sponsored by chess benefactor Jeff Smith, will be hosted in a private setting, with only close friends allowed inside. Chess fans will be able to follow the games live on www.monroi.com.

Check back to CLO for a wrapup article, also by FM Mike Klein, following the conclusion of the match.