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Aug 8,2002

chess chess

A. Khalifman


Yesterday I was flying home but stumbled almost at the door and nearly broke my foot. Enduring the pain, I somehow hobbled to my chair, opened my eyes and saw… a TV set. You know, that latest invention of modern technologies! And when I reached the controller, I also remembered the event: the opening of the XXVIIth Summer Olympic Games. The outline of the Superdome appeared on the screen, and I forgot about my foot…

The great elder Samaranch straightened his shoulders and heralded the beginning of the last millenium’s games to the world! And then the Olympic fire approached the main arena… It had been lit far away in Athens and had traveled all over the world. Thousands of hands touched the sacred fire in an endless relay race, but the honor to set it into the bowl of the chief stadium of Sidney fell on women! Well, the Australians have their own ways for everything, they even walk with their heads down. And there was a date: one hundred years since the weaker sex was allowed to compete together with us, men – oh, never mind…

Apart from this, at the end of the millenium a chess event was included into the program of the Olympic Games (even though it was only in the unofficial program for this time), and what an event! The match Anand – Shirov between challengers who were “not approved by the boss” is played at the super high level, so now we can hope that chess may appear in the official program of the Olympic Games in the future. Maybe even next time. Well, at least in the next millenium.

Then, other things through the opening ceremony were unusual too. The irreconcilable Koreans, who went together, hand in hand, under a single flag. The entrancing “ocean wave” which covered the stadium. The incredible Olympic bowl which appeared from nothing, from the deep, and then flew up to the beaming heaven like a “Frisbee”. And, finally, the marvelous Superdome itself, with all its architectural extravagances. It is probably a deep symbol that it was built where a normal city dump had been… As an old rhyme from the Soviet time reads: one can fly into outer space, if he really wants it very badly! By the way, maybe, just accidentally, you have spare 4,000,000,000.00 $?


Not long ago, in an article, written by a respected football journalist, I encountered a sentence that the Soviet Championship was, in fact, no worse than Italian calcio?! The same tension and intrigue until the last round, the same opposition (only we had Russia vs. the Ukraine instead of the North vs. the South), and the football itself was practically of the same level…

Now I think, how strange it is. And why did Milans and Inters win European cups, and our achievements were restricted to a few attacks on the Cup of Cups? It seems to me that the Italians were World Champions three times, and as for us… so much I remember, we never played the final. Concerning tension and intrigues – they are always present, even in the championship of the Faroes, so what has the analogy with the SU to do with this? As the saying goes, there’s nothing bad in dreaming, but let’s take pride in those things which are really great, there are plenty of them to choose from.

I can suppose that many Italian experienced tiffozi (and who can stay away from the football passions in that land where football is a religion) would only smile condescendingly at such football arguments of our “specialists”: let them make up, we know well, who is who!

Now the same thing, if you come to any of our chess clubs and ask about the development of chess in the native land of Pavarotti, they will smile at you still more condescendingly: what do you mean? Even the first placed in Italy is our rather modest Igor Efimov, not to mention the others. And then, just imagine: seashore, hot sun, what chess can be there?

It seems to be clear: Italy is not a chess land, whereas Russia is not quite a football land. But then please explain me how did the Italian Godena manage to defeat in the struggle for the last qualifying place for the World Championship (from zone 1.1) the ex-Russian chess player Tiviakov who, among other things, was a challenger once upon a time? He won in the match without losing a single point. Looks very much like a victory of Torpedo over Milan. Or probably I really don’t understand something important...

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