If all goes according to plan, Viswanathan Anand and Alexey Shirov will today begin packing their bags in New Delhi and heading to Iran for the final of the FIDE World Championship.
In a more serious replay of their exciting exhibition match at the Sydney Olympics, Anand and Shirov will compete for the official world title over six games in Tehran, with a tie decided by rapid and, if necessary, 5 minute games.
Anand's path to the final has been relatively smooth, with the exception of a tense match against the defending Champion Alexander Khalifman in the quarter-finals. Having "looked death in the face and survived", as a relieved Anand described his escape from near-certain defeat in the tie-breakers against Khalifman, the Indian's semi-final defeat of heavily fancied Englishman Michael Adams proved something of an anti-climax. In contrast, Shirov has lived on the edge in almost every match yet, unlike Anand, has never been only a move away from elimination.
After winning a tough fourth round match-up with another favourite, Boris Gelfand, Shirov was one down with one to play against Evgeny Bareev yet fought back with devastating chess to win the tie-breakers. Shirov's semi-final against the tournament's surprise packet, 17-year-old Russian Alexander Grischuk, should, on paper, have been a formality but a black-out by the Spaniard in the second game enabled Grischuk to stretch the match to four games.
With the home-crowd pressure off Anand's shoulders in Tehran, Anand must be favourite to win the final but, with the lure of a reunification world title match against Vladimir Kramnik just over the horizon, Shirov will be extremely highly motivated.
New Delhi 2000
Opening: Ruy Lopez
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Bc5 6.c3 b5 7.Bc2 d6 8.a4 Bg4
9.h3 Bh5 10.d3
The recommended recipe against Black's set-up, but it leads to little in this game.
10...0-0 11.Nbd2 b4 12.a5 Rb8 13.g4 Bg6 14.Nc4 bxc3 15.bxc3 Qc8 16.Ba4 Na7 17.Be3 Bxe3 18.Nxe3 c6 19.Qd2 Qc7 20.c4!? c5?
A move described as "a horrible positional blunder" by Anand. After 20...Nd7 Black would have nothing to fear, whereas now the weakness of the d5 square renders Black's position near hopeless.
21.Nh4 Kh8 22.g5 Nh5 23.Nd5 Qd8 24.Rfb1 Nf4
The best chance, but White has a second knight ready to jump into d5.
25.Nxf4 Qxg5+ 26.Nhg2 exf4 27.Rb6 Rbd8 28.Qxf4 Qe7 29.Rab1 Nc8 30.Rb7 Qe6 31.Qg5 h6 32.Qg3 Qf6 33.Nf4 Ne7 34.Kg2 Ng8 35.Nd5 Qe6 36.Bd1! 1-0
A surprising end to the game but Adams can barely move - a bid for freedom with 36...Kh7 37.Bg4 f5 loses material after 38.Nf4 - and Black's 'a' pawn will drop off the board any time Anand can be bothered taking it.
FIDE World Championship Semi-finals
Anand(Ind) def Adams(Eng) 2.5-1.5
Shirov(Spa) def Grischuk(Rus) 2.5-1.5
The favourites Vladimir Smirnov and Brian Jones enjoyed a comfortable victory at last weekend's Vikings tournament, the final Grand Prix tournament in the ACT this year. NSW juniors Tomek Rej and Catherine Lip also performed impressively, with Lip upsetting her higher ranked brother Michael in the final round.
Tuggeranong Vikings Weekender Leading final scores:
1eq. Smirnov(ACT), B.Jones(N) 5/6;
3eq. Rej(N), C.Lip(N), Rout(ACT), Bragin(ACT) 4.5.
Ginninderra Cup 'A' final Scores:
1eq. Rout, Ramakrishna 2/3;
3. Morton 1.5;