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Essent: Schaak, Awe & Poetry Print E-mail
By Macauley Peterson   
October 25, 2006
Peter Doggers

Macauley blogs from Holland

“What I remember, clear as thought itself
is the quick opening with a strange word
those two simple pawns, the boundless start”
--excerpt from “Chess Lesson – Sicilian Opening” by Albertina Soepboer, translated from Dutch by Willem Groenewegen

In Holland they do things a little differently. For instance, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Essent Chess Tournament, organizers commissioned a hardcover book of chess poetry (“schaakgedichten”), from which the excerpt above is taken. For me, that alone made the two hour trip from Amsterdam worthwhile.

Essent includes a small invitational, an open, and an amateur tournament. The so-called “crown group” consists of just four invited players who make their moves on elegant sets made of glass. As is tradition, the world champion (or former WC), the top female player, the junior champion, and the top Dutch player were invited to the double round robin event, in the large town of Hoogeveen, The Netherlands.

At the midway point, Judit Polgar and Shakhryar Mamedyarov, who drew each other Tuesday, are leading with 2.5/3, while ex-World Champion Veselin Topalov, and Ivan Sokolov of the Netherlands, are in the cellar with just a draw between them.

Polgar’s performance is especially noteworthy, as she has not played classical chess since last year’s FIDE Championship in San Luis, Argentina. Around the time of that tournament, she became pregnant with her second child, her daughter Hanna, who was born just a few months ago.

Some dismayingly misogynistic comments by anonymous Internet pundits clowns regarding Ms. Polgar’s motherhood prompted me to ask her how she feels about returning to competition. Judit was refreshingly nonchalant.

“I’m getting used to the new situation that I have two kids and chess as well,” she said Tuesday. “Two kids is certainly more of a job...but I’m getting more and more organized...I know that when I’m with my kids I’m with them, but when I’m away then I try to be much more efficient than before.”

Meanwhile, Topalov, playing the yang to Polgar’s yin, will begin the second half on Thursday with nary a win to his name.

Grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov notes that the type of aggressive, uncompromising chess Topalov relishes requires a tremendous amount of energy. Coming right on the heels of disappointing match loss to Kramnik in Elista, Veselin is struggling. He lost to the talented twenty-one year old world junior champ Mamedyarov (video), in the first round, and was outmaneuvered by Polgar in a sharp Sicilian Najdorf, in which Judit ultimately pursued black’s king from e8 to a5 and forced him to start jettisoning material.



Topalov noted Tuesday, “I’m not in my best shape, obviously...today I was lucky because I could play quickly, but in general, of course I’m tired.” Topalov referred to his game with white against Sokolov in which he banged out about thirty moves of home preparation using up very little time. Of the resulting draw, Topalov remarked, “what can I say? Ivan defended perfectly.”

Peter Doggers, courtesy www.doggers-schaak.nl

Of course with two Whites in the second round robin, Topalov may yet make a late hard charge, but the odds are against him.

Regarding the controversial forfeit during the world championships, Topalov was indignant. “I was not the one who was breaking the rules -- I mean come on -- it’s ridiculous,” he said, adding that he has no plans to make any changes to his management team, and has read very little of the press, peer and chess fan comments surrounding the matter. It is obviously a sore subject with the world’s highest rated player; his second Grandmaster Ivan Cheparinov, who is himself playing in the Essent Open, was quick to hustle his countryman out the door.

Mamedyarov is accompanied by his two sisters, Zeinab and Turkan, a WGM and WIM respectively, who are also playing in the Open. (A member of the Dutch press staff joked that Azeri’s “tend to come in hoards” when they conquer the Netherlands.) “Shak” Mamedyarov, who achieved two 2900+ performance ratings in 2005 tournament play, shares first with Polgar, having bested fourth seed Sokolov as well as Topalov, in a wild tactical battle:


Mamedyarov will have black against the later when the tournament resumes on Thursday.

Download all games from the Essent crown group (PGN)

Macauley Peterson is a writer and filmmaker from New York. He doesn't have a management team (or an agent) and prefers to conquer the Netherlands solo, but can be reached at www.MacauleyPeterson.com