Corus Draw Sets up Showdown
By Macauley Peterson   
January 27, 2007
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Photo Macauley Peterson

by Macauley Peterson
Saturday, Jan. 27 Wijk aan Zee, The Netherlands

At the Corus opening ceremony, fifteen days ago, the drawing of lots was facilitated by a group of school children lined up on stage in numbered football jerseys. Each child was selected by a grandmaster in the “A” group, some of whom thought the jersey numbers would become pairing numbers in the draw. But in a sudden reversal, the children removed their top tee shirts to reveal a second jersey underneath with a completely different number. The result of this random process resounded throughout the chess world today. Two champions fought to a draw, and 19-year-old Teimour Radjabov has his first shot at the Corus “A” title, Sunday.

 As reported on CLO on Thursday, today’s match-up between Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik is to be the only tournament meeting between these players in 2007, according to both players’ present schedules.

 Topalov, the first to arrive at the playing hall, took his seat at the board surrounded by a media frenzy more commonly seen at a boxing match. The number of photographers and public spectators today easily dwarfed any of the prior eleven rounds. When Kramnik arrived, with coffee and water in hand, he scarcely glanced at his Bulgarian opponent, and neither player offered his hand in magnanimous tribute to the spirit of the game. In the wake of their now infamous World Championship match in Elista, significant animosity remains between the pair's respective camps.

Indeed, the penultimate round in Wijk aan Zee began amid yet more allegations of cheating – this time in a major German daily newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung. While Kramnik’s behavior in his Elista bathroom was the subject of much scrutiny and accusation last October, lead primarily by Topalov’s manager, Silvio Danailov, today Danailov himself was the subject of scrutiny by the German reporter who filed the story.The alleged collusion between Mr. Danailov and Mr. Topalov, reported in Süddeutsche (available in translation), is utterly unsubstantiated, and has been dismissed by both veteran Corus journalists and, more importantly, by the tournament director and arbiters. It contains several examples of questionable innuendo, such as the claim that Topalov, in a typical thinking pose during a game, apparently studying the board, “could also be peeking through his fingers at Danailov, who sometimes executed some strange movements,” like putting on his glasses and tapping them.

The reporter attempts to give credence to his theory by noting that the chief arbiter, Thomas Van Beekum, agreed to look into the claim, and then did, but, inexcusably, the article does not continue to explain the arbiter found no evidence to support the accusations. Tournament director, Jeroen van den Berg, interviewed for this story, confirmed that the allegations had been considered, and rejected by the organizing committee.

The alleged cheating is said to have been observed primarily during Topalov’s second round match with six-time Dutch champion Loek Van Wely. Given that this game was played back on Sunday, January 14th, it strikes this reporter as odd that the Süddeutsche story is only emerging now, the day of Topalov’s match with Kramnik.

More illuminating still, is the statement by Loek Van Wely himself, at a press conference following his win over Peter Svidler this afternoon (video). When asked about the report, he said, “I heard about some people were suggesting this [sic], but I must say from the play of Topalov, I cannot say that he was getting – let’s say helpful – signals, because my opinion was that after the opening my position was almost lost, let’s say, and somehow I still got back into the game, so I don’t know what kind of signals he got, but maybe it was not 'chess signals' [laughs]…I would expect him to crush me really badly if he was getting some signals – otherwise, why get signals?"

In October, Van Wely signed a letter of support for Kramnik, in his dispute with Topalov’s team at the World Championship match, so it would seem he has no ulterior motive for now defending Topalov.

Photo Carla Amse,
www.beam.to/corus

Topalov
seemed genuinely amused when I asked him, after his game today, about the allegations, of which he said he had not been aware. With a sincere grin, he scoffed at the claim, saying of such rumors, simply, “it’s not anything new.” Danailov was more outspoken, openly ridiculing the report, calling it “completely crazy stuff,” and denying each of the specific observations reported. “I am amazed that a serious newspaper can publish this,” he continued. “This I don’t understand.” The game, meanwhile, was a fighting draw, with the two champions trading queens early, but battling until nearly all the pieces had been exchanged at move 49.



The draw sets up an exciting finish as Radjabov, back in a tie for first place following his win over Motylev, chose a child, two weeks ago at the opening, whose jersey number gives him the white pieces against Topalov in the final round. These two played with the same colors in Radjabov's first and only other appearance a Corus, in 2003, at just 15 years old. Topalov won that game, but finished tied with his young future rival for ninth place. Four formative years for Radjabov, a hundred rating points, and several impressive upsets to his credit, will make tomorrow's game challenging for the beleaguered Bulgarian. The winner, should the game be decisive, will take home the Corus trophy. A draw could allow Levon Aronian, who will be playing Tiviakov with White, to catch the leaders on 8.5. Loek Van Wely won against Svidler today in an exciting tactical game, putting Svidler out of the race for first place.



Corus Wijk Aan Zee "A"

Standings after 12 rounds

1-2. V. Topalov and T. Radjabov 8
3. L. Aronian 7½
4-6. V. Anand, P. Svidler and V. Kramnik 7
7. D. Navara 6
8-9. S. Karjakin and R. Ponomariov 5½
10-11. L. van Wely and S. Tiviakov 5
12. A. Motylev 4½
13-14. A. Shirov and M. Carlsen 4

Thanks to Edwin "forest" Woudt (ChessVibes.com) for assistance with this story. Macauley Peterson has been reporting live from Corus all this week on the Internet Chess Club's Chess.fm webcast. He can be reached at www.MacauleyPeterson.com.