Sun-Herald, February 25

The World Chess Federation's 2001 Grand Prix series has begun and already appears likely to be the one of the most bemusing events of the year.

The FIDE Grand Prix is intended to link together the best events of the year, with 16 qualifiers playing off in a final tournament.

Curiously, only 32 players are allowed to compete for the Grand Prix, the top players on the world ranking list and their best two results in 2001 GP events will decide who is allowed into the final.

Unfortunately FIDE has yet to decide exactly which events will form part of the GP but appear content to decide at random which tournaments count for GP points.

FIDE has recently published their list of progressive standings based on one event - the recent Corus tournament in Holland.

The Corus organisers must be rather surprised by this list, since they held a press conference last month specifically to deny FIDE's claims that they had agreed to be part of the 2001 GP.

The second GP event is apparently the ongoing Linares tournament, another invitation-only event featuring Garry Kasparov, the only top player who is sure to boycott the GP final.

The upshot of FIDE's haphazard Grand Prix is that some of the 32 eligible players may not be invited to play any GP tournament while popular players such as Alexey Shirov will be able to take their pick of GP events.

FIDE have proposed creating a new tournaments for the less fashionable members of the 32 but equality of opportunity in this Grand Prix is unlikely.

Wijk aan Zee 2001
White: A.Shirov
Black: L.Van Wely
Opening: French Defence
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.Be2 Nge7 7.Na3 cxd4 8.cxd4 Nf5 9.Nc2 Qb6 10.g4 Nfe7 11.0-0 h5 12.h3 hxg4 13.hxg4 f6?!

13...Ng6 14.Be3 Be7 was safe enough.

14.Bd3 0-0-0 15.b4! Nxd4?! 16.Ncxd4 fxe5 (Diagram)

Black's pawn centre would be good compensation for the sacrificed piece were it not for White's willingness to return the favour

17.Qe2!! e4

17...exd4 is strongly met by 18.Bf4.

18.Bf4 Ng6 19.Rac1+ Bc6 20.Bg3 Bd6 21.b5 Bxg3 22.fxg3 exf3?

22...Ne5! was the only chance.

23.Qe3 Qc7 24.Rxf3 Ne5 25.bxc6 Nxf3+ 26.Qxf3 Qe5 27.cxb7+ Kxb7 28.Nc6 1-0