Canberra Times Chess Column for December 24

When Alexey Shirov sat down to play the first game of the FIDE World Championship final against Viswanathan Anand at the Mabna Convention Centre in Tehran, he stood up again immediately - his chair refused to stop rolling backwards when occupied.

The embarrassed Iranian organisers, conducting their first major chess event since chess was banned in the 1980s, were forced to replace the chair and also to calm Shirov's displeasure at the excessive distance between the playing area and his relaxation room. (The players each have a private room, containing a couch, food and drink, to which they can retire while waiting for their opponent to make a move.)

In contrast, Anand, 31, remained cool throughout the clamour and after game one began he comfortably steered a dangerous opening to a draw; a modest success when playing with the black pieces.

The following game was an even greater success for the Indian, whose biggest challenge in this Championship so far has been finding time to read the hundreds of good luck cards he has received from his Indian fans.

Anand secured a near-winning position from the opening but relaxed and allowed Shirov, 28, to reach a rook endgame which should have been drawn.

"I saw many drawing variations but suddenly I realised it was difficult for him," said Anand at the post-game press conference.

Sure enough, the Spaniard's endgame technique proved insufficient and the hall erupted into applause as Shirov resigned on the 64th move and Anand registered his first win.

The next game was even more demoralising for Shirov, another loss which left Anand only a point away from victory.

Anand and Shirov are playing for the official world title, a $1m purse and the chance of a match against the other World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik.

Upon his arrival in Tehran, the President of the world body FIDE, Kirsan Iljumzhinov, began canvassing the possibility of a so-called 'World Prestige Match' in middle 2001 between the Tehran winner and Kramnik.

However Iljumzhinov also appeared to be indirectly trying to discourage Kramnik from agreeing to such a match.

Iljumzhinov refused to concede that Kramnik's win over Garry Kasparov last month gave the 25-year-old Russian any right to call himself World Champion and also insisted that the WPM would not be a world title reunification match, just a contest "for the chess fans" plus a few million dollars.

FIDE World Championship Final
Tehran, Iran

Game 1 
Shirov (Spain) v Anand (India) Draw
Game 2
Anand v Shirov 1-0
Game 3
Shirov v Anand 0-1

Standings after 3 of 6 games: 
Anand 2.5, Shirov 0.5.

The ICON Australian Open is set to be Australia's best international event for almost a decade, with internationals from 10 countries taking on Australia's best in a format which allows amateurs to play alongside and against the Masters.

Favourites for the title will include rising Indian star Abhijit Kunte and experienced Russian Grandmaster Alexander Volzhin.

Games commence at 2.00pm each day from December 28 at the Rydges Canberra Hotel and facilities for spectators should be excellent.