Chess match St Petersburg – New York via Internet
It might seem strange but there was a competitive aspect in addition to the show elements in the rapid match between the opponents, who were on different sides of the ocean, it became a custom since the Soviet times that chess is almost the only field in which our country can catch up and surpass the USA. Indeed, there was no struggle in this match: our four players (Khalifman, Sakaev, Alekseev and Vitjugov) surpassed new American players (Z. Polgar, Onischuk, Gulko and Stripunsky) both in their class and tuning. Alexander Valerievich demonstrated clearly the advantage of the men’s champion title over the women’s one – he let Zsuzsa get out of one hopeless position to get into another one, and, having won the first game he generously agreed a draw in the second one. Nikita Vitjugov is the only master in the grandmasters company, it looks as if he purposely makes his playing spectacular – he plays brightly and sharply. In a recent match St. Petersburg – Moscow he defeated grandmaster Potkin twice. Alexander Stripunsky shared the same fate this time. The games Evgeny Alekseev vs the USSR champion of 1977 Boris Gulko was of a particular interest. In the first game, playing White, Alexeev seemed to have a worse position, but a few mistakes of the opponent allowed him to win a rook ending. In the second game there arose an amazing position that was certainly analyzed by Boris Gulko with a help of Fritz: “extra” queen of Black was bricked up on a2 and stood there till the last minutes of the struggle, by that moment the veteran had less strength and there was a draw. Only games Sakaev vs Onischuk were quite calm, Sakaev could have tried to play for a win in the second game but for the slashing sore of the first round (3,5:0,5 in favour of St. Petersburg), so there were two draws. Concluding the description of the competitive aspect of the match, I would notice that this line-up of St. Petersburg team could play successfully against any line-up of the USA team.
The match St. Petersburg – New York was the second distance competition of this level after a match vs Paris that was carried out during the celebration of 300 anniversary of St. Petersburg. More than two years have passed but in comparison to St. Petersburg-Paris match, format of the match, technologies utilized, not to mention the attention of authorities and higher chess circles – everything was quite humdrum.
None of the guests announced on the web-site of St. Petersburg chess federation (Zhukova, Matvienko, Karpov, Spassky) was present at the match. Even the head of the city sport committee was represented by his assistant. Three vice-presidents of St. Petersburg federation of chess (Sergei Ivanov who was among them with the patriarch of St.Petersburg chess Mark Taimanov annotated the games while they were played) tried to do their best. However, for the lack of the cards of admission, some unauthorized people were in the hall of “Nevskij Palace”. As a result a bag of the famous children’s trainer was stolen.
The difference between this match and the match vs Paris from the point of view of the technologies utilized consisted in the fact that this time four pairs were playing simultaneously while that time four pairs played in turn. It was reflected in the number of equipment failures. The demonstration board stopped three times (after the second move in the second game, for example) during a game Khalifman-Z.Polgar. And FIDE ex-champion had zeroes on a display of time spent in the first game. Fortunately, it was a false alarm – there were 16 seconds on a display after a pause, and it was enough time for a win. Even a more unpleasant situation happened in the game Alekseev – Gulko, when the American had no time left on a display, but according to chess clock there was some time left. It was a friendly match and the score was quite definite, so they agreed a draw… It was shown many times how our chessplayers pushed the button of the clock another time for some reason – something was wrong. Perhaps, “Shahcom” equipment needs to be improved. It was a good luck that there were no troubles with the Internet… Finally, it was rumored in St. Petersburg hall that a screen on which there were displayed US players, was not in New York but a distance of thousand kilometers from it. This information has not been proved yet.
Distance chess… In our nimble time there will be more and more chess of this kind regardless of our wish and less and less possibilities to play with a real opponent. New formats of competitions will appear, contacts will be formed, “Hydras” will grow up and things will straighten out.