The Man with the Hammer

I returned from a tournament very late on Sunday evening, slept well, and prepared to visit the new hall where M-Tel Masters 2008 is played.
I did not visit them yet, and was eager to see what happens there. Two Bulgarian players take part this year; this is something exceptional for us. Moreover-a young Chinese player, one of the youngest GMs ever, another former prodigy from Azerbajdjan, and established top players Aronian and Ivanchuk, the tournament cannot be boring!
I took the bus to the Sport’s Palace where Bulgarian Chess Federation is situated, then walk up to the National Theater. Nothing is changed in the garden-our “kibitzers” are playing their games on small stakes, at the beautiful boards that were presented to them from the former M-Tel editions.
I walk further and behind the new statue of Stefan Stambolov (famous Bulgarian politician in the past) I recognize the building of the Central Military Club. The first Novelty this year. And immediately see at the balcony Robert Fontaine. French GM is already doing his report for the day for Europe Echecs.
I get in and discover the second novelty. The cage, the aquarium, or whatever you may call it. This box of glass is an impressive construction. It is innovation that might change ordinary’s man attitude towards chess. While players play in it, you can walk around, chat with other people, and have a coffee. It is not a problem for the players, there is a double wall of glass that perfectly isolates the noise. True, experienced public is still whispering in the hall, we are not very used to the innovations. And Danailov’s idea I guess is to place the “cage” somewhere outside, where everyone will be able to see these top players.
I meet him in the lobby, energetic and busy as always. Giving interviews for the Medias, talking on his cellular, ruling the press-center, negotiate. He is trying to widen the “chess market” and open it for new horizons. China is a perfect place. “The Grand Slam has already 3 tournaments in Europe and one in Latin America - Mexico City. From next year - 2009, USA will join the Grand Slam with a super tournament in Seattle with prize fund of USD 750 000. I think it would be perfect if the 6th tournament takes place in Asia, especially in China”, states Danailov for the tournament site. And it looks like that he will manage to succeed in this difficult task, too.
Danailov also does well for the youth players. Promotional M-Tel Мasters Junior tournament is to be organized by his Caissa Chess Management on 17 May-the day of sports in Bulgaria. Young player (born after 01.01.1994) will compete into the same hall where top-players fight and the final match for the first place will be in “the Cage”. First price is also very useful-notebook for the winner, but the best thing is that former world champion legendary Boris Spassky will present the winners! Yesterday on “Black and White party” in City Garden the chair on which Veselin Topalov sits here was sold for 10000 BGN (approximately 5050 Euros). The money will be gifted for the M-Tel Masters Junior tournaments.
Outside the venue I meet Plamena Andreeva, one of our good female players. She is working for the tournament. And if you are wondering who executes Topalov’s moves in his game against Juett before the start of the M-Tel Masters-the mystery is already solved-Plamena does it.
Many chess players are involved into organization. GM Evgeny Ermenkov was replaced in the last moment, and his functions are taken by Radislav Atanasov from National Sports Academy and another talented female player-Stefi Bednikova. They are entertaining the public. Their commentaries are more show, rather than pure, dry chess. The ordinary public highly appreciates this.
Players are coming. Most impatient is Ivan Cheparinov. He is in the cage fifteen minutes before the others. Highly concentrated, eager to show quality chess. Today he will sacrifice an exchange straight from the opening against Radjabov. An idea by his second Ervin L’Ami from Holland. They are both astonished by Azeri choice-he is taking the exchange and going into a passive defense. His position looks quite dubious, but in the time-scramble White misses something, and has to force perpetual. “Ng3 instead of g4-g5 was winning”, states L’Ami, “Ivan could win a pawn for the exchange and go into almost winning endgame.”

This game appears to be only draw today. Veselin Topalov takes the initiative from the opening. He finds nice maneuver to activate his knight, exchanges it for a bishop on g6, and further nets the point with direct attack. “It was easy to play this position, Black lacked counter play”, said the former world champion. True, he had about 50 minutes left on his clock when his opponent resigned. Probably Bu’s thoughts were somewhere in China where earthquake took many victims. “You are well known for your final speed, how it feels when doing well in the beginning?” asked a journalist Topalov. “Well, plus three is an excellent result in such field, and I am a little bit disappointed that I am not leading. But I will not bother that much if I do not win the tournament if I can make some more plusses, play attractive chess and improve my rating”.
In the meanwhile incredible Ivanchuk was netting his fifth in a row. His opponent chose a rare move in the Slav opening 10.b3, which caused some time-consuming thought by the Ukrainian. Later Aronian played risky, first sacrifices a pawn, then a piece, but Ivanchuk defended well and remained on 100 %. “The man with the big chuk” as one of my friend calls him. “Chuk” in Bulgarian means “Hammer”. There is no better expression for his play so far here.
I waited to snap Ivanchuk, Aronian and Radjabov in the press-room, but Krasimir Kushev called me for TV life-transmission, and missed them. Bulgarian National TV has everyday reports (life and diaries in the evening). We are expanding.
Today is the only rest day of the tournament. Our players will play football against PFC “Levski”. Topalov wants to be a defender; his idea is to left the youngsters attack. We shall see if this will work well. But having in mind the fact that “Levski” barely took the silver this year, I predict 4-3 result for Chess United!

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