Stunning Performance by Radjabov!

Young Teimour steals the spotlight from 
Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand and Leko 
at the Corus Super GM Tournament!

13-year-old Teimour recorded the 
most number of victories at the 
2001 Corus Super Chess Tournament.

Teimour Radjabov probably didn't realize he wasn't playing at the juniors!  He simply stole the spotlight from the likes of super GM's Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik, and Peter Leko who played in a different tournament but in the same arena.  In a stunning performance before a worldwide audience, Radjabov picked-up what he left out at the juniors and crushed his much older opponents one after the other to emerge as the winningest player at the 2001 Corus Wijk aan Zee Super Chess Tournament.  With 6 victories to his credit at the Grand Master B Tournament, he in effect, bested both GM Mikhail Gurevich (Group B first placer) and now former World Champion Garry Kasparov (Group A first placer) who managed to register only 5 victories each.  So incredible was Teimour's feat that he had already bagged his 2nd Grand Master norm with still two rounds left in the star-studded tournament!

However, it is not the GM result that he gained in this tournament that may count for him in the long run.  Neither is it the prestige nor the prize money.  This seems to be a tournament that showed more of his tremendous composure than his immense talent.  Despite his lofty finish, the youngster faced an uphill battle and needed to a lot of the courage that would have been expected more from a seasoned veteran.  Stung by back to back loses in the early rounds, 13-year-old Teimour was almost at the bottom of the standings after four rounds.  Then in an unimaginable turn of events, like a wounded tiger he roared back in the next four rounds ripping the flesh out of his opponents!  He finished off he tournament with a very strong finishing kick, scoring six points in the last seven rounds for an overall of 7.5/11 and a performance rating of a super Grand Master!

Round 1

[Note:  The Corus Group A with more participants, started 3 days earlier, and was well on it's 3rd round when Corus Group B started.] 

Radjabov and Leko in the same chess arena for the first time.

Many consider the Corus Group A as the greatest tournament ever.  Since it shared the same arena with Corus Group B, Teimour found himself not just with players taller than himself but for the first time, he was in the same stage with the real titans of the game.  Naturally as anyone who enjoyed the same privilege would, he went around and closely watched the Leko-Piket, Kasparov-Anand and Adams-Kramnik Group A games.  Nevertheless, he certainly was not awed by their presence as he handily won his own game against local bet Erik Hoeksema.  Kasparov meanwhile, had already won 2 games with the black pieces.  He really had come here armed to the teeth, poised to win this tournament to prove he's definitely not yet over the hill.

Round 2

Radjabov looking over at the Kasparov-Ivanchuk table
while playing the legendary veteran GM Boris Gulko.

Radjabov found himself face to face with wily veteran GM Boris Gulko in round 2.  If Teimour is said to be following the footsteps of Kasparov, it may be an ominous omen for this particular encounter since Gulko is famous for having Kasparov's number.  This may have sounded silly for most people specially when their position had reached a drawn endgame-- until Teimour blundered with 47. … b6, that gave away his good pawn in the h-file and thus handed Gulko a sudden victory.  Over at Group A, Dutch No. 1 Jan Timman got away with a draw against Leko while Shirov and Kramnik joined Kasparov at the helm with the lead.

Round 3

Kramnik-Kasparov on the foreground while 
Gurevich (standing at the center) looks at 
his game with Radjabov from afar.

Probably disappointed he had already lost a game (he shouldn't have) this early in the tournament, Teimour was just out of focus against the top-seeded Gurevich.  Teimour overlooked a combination and Gurevich exploited this advantage with a swift attack on the kingside.  Gurevich, surely doesn't want this tournament, where almost everyone expects him to win, to slip from his hands like the famous Manila Interzonal in 1990 where he led most of the way, only to miss the bus going to the candidates matches in the end.  And he's definitely not going to allow a 13-year-old to steal this tournament away from him. 

Teimour's main priority in coming here is not so much in winning the tournament as getting his GM norm.  With his second loss, his chances have lost a great deal. Perhaps, Peter Leko might have offered a little comfort to Teimour here.  He was in the same predicament a few years back in this same tournament.  Knowing his chances for a GM norm in that tournament had lessened after an early loss to Tiviakov, Peter said he played more relaxed afterwards.  And it did turn out a blessing in disguise for at the end of that tournament, the then 14-year-old Leko had surpassed Bobby Fischer's feat of becoming a GM at 15.  Perhaps Leko's loss to Loek Van Wely in this round was in a way, a solace.  The loss could be the biggest upset in this tournament since it is now very rare for Leko to lose under the standard time control.

Round 4

Taking a stroll along the tables, Radjabov looks
at Alexei Shirov who is in a very deep thought. 

Teimour got a one pawn advantage with the black pieces against Karel Van der Weide but the position was even and both players agreed to a draw after 41 moves.  Shirov meanwhile, has pulled away with a full point lead in Grand Master A Group.

Round 5

There is a saying that the greatest glory is not in never falling (or losing), but in rising everytime one falls.  Teimour is certainly a player who is not used to losing so some people doubt his ability to recover from a fall.  Such was the case a few months ago, when he played a rapid exhibition match with Bu, where he let one lost game he should have won affect him for the rest of the match.  In this round however, Teimour may have permanently shut down all the doubts about his ability to bounce back in a tournament after scoring a crushing victory against Yge Visser.  Teimour played very aggressively, sacrificing a few pieces that allowed his opponent to take control of the center but dealt a fatal blow to Visser's queen side.

Perhaps if Garry just looked sideways here, he could've
whispered, "Hey, Chucky!  It's your turn to move," 
and he wouldn't have to be fuming mad about the 
audience's decision on the brilliancy prize later!

This was an exciting day for both groups.  Over at Group A, Kasparov played his best game of the tournament, showing no mercy to a hapless Bulgarian no. 1 Topalov.  While Braingames World Champion Vladimir Kramnik found himself leaning on the ropes as he was being pounded by Vassily Ivanchuk.  Lucky for him though, Chucky only had one minute left to make his next 15 moves.  (Talk about serious time trouble!  Ivanchuk probably hasn't heard about FIDE's announcement of the new faster time controls.)  To Chucky's credit, his flag fell down on move 38-- he was only 2 moves short.  Later, Kasparov nearly blew his top when he heard that the audience voted for Kramnik to receive the day's brilliancy award.  Garry certainly had a point!  What was the brilliant thing Kramnik did anyway?

Round 6

Radjabov on the comeback trail wasn't only sharp, he was vicious!  The audience could only feel sorry for his victim Dennis De Vreugt.  Radjabov couldn't care any less despite having the black pieces as he executed the Dutch Grand Master in only 26 moves.   The euphoria that exploded from a thousand miles at The Realm after every Teimour victory could almost be heard inside the playing arena.  Not to mention the pandemonium created by his followers in his hometown in Baku. 

Kasparov ponders his next move as Leko, 
and Radjabov who is standing beside him, wait patiently.

Probably, the reason he rushed his game was because he didn't want to miss the Leko-Kasparov encounter.  He must have felt disappointed like the rest of the audience worldwide when both players suddenly agreed to spilt the point just when things were starting to get rough.  With no pawns on both of their kingsides, the game could have gone either way.  There was a report that they continued the game privately at the analysis room.  Surely, a lot of people were willing to pay just watch the continuance of that game.

Round 7

Kasparov brings down tournament leader Shirov.
Inset  Bosboom found Teimour too hot to handle.

Teimour just would't let up!  He accomplishes a hattrick by routing Manuel Bosboom in only 30 moves.  His incredible run here justifies his decision to skip last year's world youth events and concentrate more on the pro tour where he appropriately belongs despite his age.  Over at Group A, Kasparov shot down leader Shirov to gain a share of the lead while Kramnik was humiliated by Morozevich with the black pieces.  Also for the nth time, FIDE World Champion Anand again escaped Leko with a draw.   When the smoked cleared, Peter just had his King and a Bishop left but Anand only had his King.  Although it's just another draw for Leko, the audience appreciated his effort to play till the end this time.

Round 8

Part of the huge crowd that stayed-on in the arena
to watch Teimour take his 4th straight victory.

A resilient Radjabov recorded his biggest win in this tournament in this round, shattering GM Frisco Nijboer in a marathon 69 moves!  It is said that what separates a true champion from the rest is that champion has a heart of a champion.  With his 4th straight win after those loses in the opening rounds, young Teimour proved he not only does he have a heart of champion, he has a huge heart of a true champion.  Now, he's only half a breath away from the GM norm.  Absolutely astounding!

Round 9

Radjabov and Harikrishna: both got their 2nd 
GM norms at the same time with their 10-move draw.

After only 10 moves, Teimour generously shared the point with fellow IM Pentyala Harikrishna of India as they both achieved their 2nd GM norms.  The organizers presented them with a token as a souvenir for their accomplishment in this truly memorable tournament. 

The sad story of the day was Peter Leko’s illness.  During the FIDE World Championship in New Delhi he was caught by a devious virus.  A two-week Mediterranean absence of chess, didn’t kill the disease.  He was still very ill when he played Kramnik in a rapid 12 game match, an exhibition match previous to this tournament.  Last week the virus returned in full swing and this morning it turned out playing this round was all but possible.  Kramnik, Leko's opponent for the day, acted like a true champ and said he had no desire to beat someone who was in no state to play.  At first, the game was postponed for an hour and once it started a draw was soon agreed. 

Radjabov takes a glimpse of the Timman-Kasparov
match the Dutch have all been waiting for.

Kasparov meanwhile chalked up another win against his long time rival, Jan Timman to secure the lead.  It seemed that Timman had indeed stopped playing chess in the second part of the tournament as claimed by some local newspapers.

Round  10

Kasparov-VanWely on the foreground while 
Radjabov witnesses Gurevich win his 10th
round game to virtually take first in Group B.

With his goal of a GM norm achieved, Radjabov allowed himself to relax for the day with a quick draw with German GM Thomas Luther.  Gurevich had afterall, virtually won their Group B tournament.  Teimour stayed on the arena however to enjoy watching the other games.  And what a treat it must have been for him!  Today Peter Leko ignored suggestions that he should withdraw from the tournament for his health's sake and played on-- to win the brilliancy prize of the round!  His opponent, Weird Al Morozevich, as usual, followed his own original ideas in the opening.  This time he decided to leave his king at the center.  Despite his viral problems, Leko was not impressed and he quickly killed the black king.

Like Peter Leko, Michael Adams seemed to have recovered a little.  Not from a virus, but from yesterday’s painful loss to Alexei Fedorov.  In an irregular Sicilian opening, Sergey Tiviakov’s two back ranks were forcefully sweeped by a white queen and rook.  Black lost all piece coordination and it was telling that his king was the most active piece of all, until it died anyway.  Once again it turned out that it’s wiser to have the king direct the soldiers, than the soldiers the king.

Round  11

Adams nearly ruined Kasparov's victory party with this game.
Inset  Radjabov crushed Vink with black in the final round.

At the start of final round and it was still possible for Teimour to tie Gurevich for first, but Van der Weide didn't offer any resistance against Gurevich at all and quickly accepted Gurevich's draw offer after only 11 moves.  Like a real professional however, Radjabov went to work on the final round and gave the audience their money's worth.  Opening with the Modern Defence for black, he opened up the his kingside in the middlegame then hunted Nico Vink's king no end until Vink surrendered on the 49th move.  Young Teimour's solo 2nd  finish is stunning as evident by the audience shaking their heads in awe.  Seriously, looking back in those early rounds, specially his game with Gulko, Radjabov could have easily won this tournament.

Kasparov drew against Adams with white and, thus, got to the 1st place in Group A.  Although Mikey had a promising position in sharp variation of the Catalan System, he didn’t have any pretensions, and on the 27th move the opponents shook hands.  Again Garry proved his ambitions as the strongest chess player in the world.  He as fearsome even with his unusual prefix ex, and, perhaps, the chess world understood what a champion it lost…

As a result of his final dash, FIDE World Champion Anand got 2nd place while his Braingames counterpart, Kramnik shared 3rd place with the highly touted Ivanchuk. As for Leko, he became the sole participant of the Wijk aan Zee tournament to break even.  Obviously, his illness didn’t prevent him from achieving such a worthy result. 

Peter Leko and Teimour Radjabov, 
two youngsters whose geniuses
are out of this world.

Both the youngest in their groups, Peter and Teimour had once again presented an endearing example to the youths of the world, this time exemplified by their fighting spirits against overwhelming odds. 
Bravo to both!

At the conclusion of his victory speech, Kasparov  remarked that he was happy that Teimour Radjabov, had done so well in the Grandmaster B Tournament: "I’m glad to see that once again the boy from Baku came ahead of the boy from India!"

Below is an excerpt of the funny story behind Kasparov's remark written by John Henderson of The Week in Chess just before the start of the first round of the Corus Grand Master B Tournament:

Rubbing my tired eyes, I began to think I was dreaming as I could see Garry Kasparov’s eyes staring at me from the bottom of the bed.  My first reaction was to swear there and then that I’d never sneak into the player’s room at Wijk aan Zee to steal the tea and sandwiches. 

But then I realized I had fallen asleep (again!) with the TV on.  Roughly translated, I had a rude awakening to the Dutch version of Breakfast Time, with the lead item in the news being today’s events at Wijk aan Zee.  My goodness, the Dutch do take chess seriously! 

It all looked highly efficient and serious stuff, but unfortunately it was all Double Dutch to me – I couldn’t for the life of me understand what they were saying.  Perhaps it could have been because they were speaking in Dutch?  I remember once having a dinner conversation in Linares with the editor-in-chief of New In Chess magazine, Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, who kindly explained to me the finer points of his mother tongue: “Dutch don’t so much have a language; it’s more of a throat infection!”

However I diverge from the main reason for this lengthy TV report on the morning news.  Basically, it was to build-up the first of the big showdowns at Wijk – Kasparov vs. Anand!  It was truly hyped up by the media.  Arriving in to the press centre earlier than usual, I was shocked to discover that most of the Dutch media outlets had also decided to follow this encounter. 

One of them, who knew absolutely zippo about chess and had been sent to cover the big story of the day, had the misfortune to ask me in my sleep-deprived state if I knew where the “Russian from Baku and the Indian genius who would be playing for the world championship would be sitting?”  With that same devil-may-care-attitude and sarcasm that saw me being thrown out of Raymundo Keene’s shindig in London, I politely pointed him in the general direction of the Grandmaster “B” tournament, stopping only to add: “But I think you're 10 years too early for Radjabov vs. Harikrishna!”

Grand Master A Final Standings

Grand Master B Final Standings

  2001 Corus Wijk Aan Zee

  DOWNLOAD  all the games of the
2001 Wijk aan Zee Corus
Grand Master A and B Tournaments

[The ziped file is in .pgn format.  Open the file in 
chess programs like Chessmaster.]

Mind, Body, and Spirit

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