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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Opening Gambit - World Chess Championship 2010, Sofia

The eruption of the now infamous Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland caused a week of global chaos with more than 95 000 flights cancelled worldwide and millions affected. Among them, reigning world chess champion Viswanathan Anand, making his way to Bulgaria to defend his crown on the home soil of challenger Vesselin Topalov.

Citing the disruption, Anand asked for a three-day postponement to the first match against Topalov, with Bulgarian media revealing that Anand arrived in Bulgaria on April 19 after a 40-hour bus journey from Frankfurt with wife and manager Aruna.

A bus journey of nearly two days is no easy task by any accounts, but Anand’s demands were rejected by organisers in Sofia, who said that the world champion could have easily made it to Sofia in time to have his week-long acclimatisation period since a member of his advisory team had checked the delegation into their Sofia hotel on April 15.

The Indian chess federation’s quick rebuttal was that "any such refusal would give a distinct advantage to Topalov, because the 40-year-old is not used to travelling such enormous distances" or 1500km in this case.

In the ensuing squabble, a compromise was reached by which the title showdown inauguration ceremony would be held as scheduled on April 21, but the first match was postponed by one day to April 24.

Chess federation FIDE deputy president Georgios Makropoulos, who was overseeing the World Championship Match 2010 on behalf of the federation, wrote to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov to say that "whilst the one-day postponement may cause some problems, it is justified by the circumstances that the whole world faced last week and ensures a fair play situation for both players".

Furthermore, the April 18 deadline for the final match inspection had been missed because of a delay caused by match organisers and had to be re-scheduled for the morning of April 21. The three days until April 24 would offer sufficient time for all "organisational requirements" to be met, the letter said.

Anand himself said he was content with the decision. "I would like to thank Borissov and FIDE for the cooperation. I will be ready for the match on April 24," he said as quoted by Bulgarian daily Dnevnik.

Topalov won the right to challenge Anand for the title after winning the chess crown pretenders match against American Gata Kamsky on February 26 2009. Topalov’s superb performance forced Kamsky to concede on the 45th move of the seventh match, with one game to spare.

Topalov, the 2005 world champion in the FIDE championship, lost the title in the unification match to Professional Chess Association champion Vladimir Kramnik in 2006. Anand, the FIDE champion in 2000/02, then won against Kramnik in 2007.

Topalov and Anand, the two top-ranked grandmasters in the FIDE rankings, were initially scheduled to play against each other in 2009, but the title match was postponed over scheduling conflicts.

Source : The Sofiia Echo
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