Russian GM Vladimir Kramnik and Indian GM Viswanathan Anand, the world's No. 2 and No. 3 players, tied for first in the Category 17 Hoogovens Invitational in Wijk aan Zee, Holland, the first big tournament of the year.
Kramnik, who skipped FIDE's massive world-championship knockout tournament, which ended last month, and Anand, who lost in the finals at Groningen to FIDE titleholder Anatoly Karpov, both went 8 1/2-4 1/2 in the all-GM field. Karpov played some uninspired chess and was fortunate to achieve a level score and a five-way tie for sixth place. Garry Kasparov, the world's top-rated player, did not compete.
No one emerged unscathed at Wijk aan Zee. Kramnik broke from the starting gate with four straight wins but lost in later rounds to Spain's Alexei Shirov and Dutchman Loek van Wely. Hungary's Judit Polgar handed Anand his only loss, capped by a neat combination from today's diagrammed position, which employs a mating net, a queen sacrifice, an X-ray attack and a knight fork.
In a Sicilian, Polgar as White planted a knight at d5, and the rest of the game virtually played itself. In the diagram, Anand has just played 54...Bf6-g5 and play continued: 55. f4! exf4 56. Rh8+ Resigns!. Anand quit figuring that the tactically sound Polgar wasn't going to miss 56...Kg7 57. Qd4+ (weaving the net) Bf6 (57...Rf6 gets the same treatment) 58. Qxf6+!! (surrendering the queen) Rxf6 59. Rh7+!! (X-ray) Kxh7 60. Nxf6+, forking king and queen.
Kramnik is no slouch either in tricky positions, as he showed against Polgar in a Round 11 game that was key to his catching Anand. Polgar's 19. Qe2 is the first move out of the book in this Pelikan Sicilian, and a fierce firefight breaks out for control of the center.
White seems to get good pressure and saddles Black with some weak pawns, but Black's workhorse light-squared bishop comes to the rescue on 28. Nc4 Qxh5 29. Bxh5 Bb5!, a bishop pin that is much stronger than 29...Rxb3 30. Nxd6 Ne5 31. Rxf4 Rxf4 32. Nxf4 Rxc3 33. Nf7+! Nxf7 34. Rxd7 Rc1+ 35. Rd1 Rxd1+ 36. Bxd1, when the Black advantage is iffy.
If 31. Rxf4, instead of 31. Rf3, Black has 31...Rxf4 32 Nxf4 Bxc4 33. bxc4 a4; White's doubled pawns are hard to defend, and Black's outside passer …