The 2004 World Chess Championship Opens in Libya

by E. "Doc" Smith on June 21, 2004

With Libya’s Qaddafi at the opening ceremonies, the controversy and excitement flowed from the sands of the Maghreb, as 128 participants from around the globe have assembled in Tripoli, Libya for Africa’s first World Chess Championship tournament. Many of the games young stars are out in full force as the older breed from the upper echelon of chess have decided not to participate. Despite the controversy leading up to the tournament, (boycotts from the Israelis and lack of the world’s top players), FIDE has forged ahead to try and make this a memorable tournament.

Perhaps what is most interesting about this tournament is the “youth movement”, as young stars dot the tournament stratosphere. With names like Teimour Radjabov, America’s youngest Grandmaster, Hikaru Nakamura, Sergei Karajkin, Alejandro Ramirez and Magnus Carlsen, all eyes will be on this contingent of future world contenders. African players are making a historic appearance, and hope to fare well in their matches. Africa’s #1 Hichem Hamdouchi, will be there as well as current African champion, Essam El-Gindy and 17-year old Ahmed Adly. Zambia’s Amon “The Shark” Simutowe and Kenny “King” Solomon are both shining stars south of the Sahara.

Two of England’s best players, former championship contender Nigel Short, and Mickey Adams, hope to make a dent in a field loaded with Russians, Bulgarians and the like. Unlike the traditional championships of the past, the newer FIDE format is a knockout tournament. The winner moves on, and the loser goes home. Gone are the “Interzonals”, where the best players from each continent battle in a match with the winner ultimately playing the World Champion for the title. Many players hate this new format, and do not not support FIDE’s attempt to make the royal game more “spectator” and “TV” friendly.

Many of the top players are absent from this tournament, including former champs Kasparov and Anand, and current champs Krammnik and Ponomariov, although it may be a blessing in disguise. This may allow for new talent to emerge and for others to get the world-class experience needed to improve their games. Only time will tell.

An exciting game occurred when America’s Hikaru Nakamura traded blows with Russian Sergei Volkov. It appeared that the American star had a good position, but Volkov beat back the attack and started one of his own. As both players were in serious time pressure, it appeared that Nakamura was on the brink of defeat. In the diagram above, Nakamura sacked a piece to create threats and in the maze of tactics, Volkov erred and had to settle for a draw by three-fold repetition.

Special thanks to Dr. Daaim Shabazz for his reporting of this event.

E. “Doc” Smith is a former Rhode Island Amateur Champion, and has won divisional titles in the U.S. Amateur Team Championships for Brown University as well as the Rhode Island Chess League Championships. He has also taught chess to kids in S.F. schools, where he has recently directed several successful citywide tournaments.

America's Hikaru Nakamura desperately played 33.Nxf4!? and after 33.exf4 34.Qxf4+, Volkov erred with 34...Kc8? (best was 34...Ka8! 35.Qf8+ Bc8 36.Re8 Rh1+!) and Nakamura secured the draw with 35.Qf8+ Kc7 36.Qf4+ Kc6 37.Qf6+
America’s Hikaru Nakamura desperately played 33.Nxf4!? and after 33.exf4 34.Qxf4+, Volkov erred with 34…Kc8? (best was 34…Ka8! 35.Qf8+ Bc8 36.Re8 Rh1+!) and Nakamura secured the draw with 35.Qf8+ Kc7 36.Qf4+ Kc6 37.Qf6+

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