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Kasparov and Ponomariov draw; Adams beats Anand

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March 4, 2002, 9 a.m. |
LINARES, March 4 - Former world champion Garry Kasparov of Russia came close to beating FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine in round six of the Linares tournament, but settled for a draw.

Britain's Michael Adams defeated Viswanathan Anand of India. The results leave Adams and Kasparov tied for the lead with three points in five games. The seven-player tournament is a double round-robin due to end on March 10.

Ponomariov's title means nothing to Kasparov, the world's top-rated player, who has been ridiculing it for nearly a decade. The players' first match ever was a seesaw one. Kasparov emerged from the opening with a position that Yugoslav grandmaster Ljubomir Ljubojevic called "unhappy." But Kasparov obtained counterplay and reached a rook-and-opposite-colored-bishop endgame in which he stood only slightly marginally worse. Ponomariov's rook then took what Israeli master Aviv Friedman called "a strange journey" to the queenside. The result was the exchange of pawns which left both players with passed pawns on opposite wings. This position was still drawn but now it was Kasparov who stood slightly better. Ponomariov declined an opportunity to trade rooks and force a draw. Instead, he advanced his passed pawns. Observers in the press room speculated that he was playing for a win. This nearly led to disaster. Kasparov was able to get his rook into Ponomariov's position to support his pawns while preventing Ponomariov's rook from assisting in stopping Kasparov's pawns. It soon became apparent that Ponomariov's pawn was just strong enough to hold the position even if he gave up his bishop for Kasparov's pawn. This was most apparent from the expression on Kasparov's face. He kept shaking his head in disgust before making his 44th move and offering a draw, which Ponomariov accepted.

Kasparov, 38, first won the world championship in 1985. In another game, Anand stood slightly worse on the black side of a French Defense for almost the entire game but the draw seemed obtainable when he inexplicably weakened his kingside pawns and lost his h-pawn. Adams pushed his own h-pawn to h7 and Anand resigned on move 44. Alexei Shirov tried hard to squeeze the life slowly out of fellow-Spainard Francisco Vallejo. But Vallejo hung on to draw in 33 moves. Since 1993, chess has been in a state of civil war with two world champions and two camps at loggerheads. In that year, then world champion Kasparov broke away from FIDE to form the Professional Chess Asssociation and defended his title twice under its auspices before it was dissolved in 1998.

In 2000, Kasparov lost a title match to Vladimir Kramnik of Russia. That match was sponsored by Braingames.net, an internet startup company.

Ponomariov won the FIDE title by beating Ivanchuk in a short match in January. They had qualified by being the only two left standing after a massive knockout event with 128 players and two-game minimatches late last year. Kasparov and Kramnik, the world's top two rated players, have repeatedly mocked the FIDE championship as a farce while FIDE has lambasted the Kasparov-Kramnik match as a private sideshow.

The pairings for the seventh round on Saturday are: Kasparov-Shirov, Anand-Ponomariov, and Ivanchuk-Adams. Vallejo has the bye. The standings after six rounds: Adams, Kasparov 3/5; Vallejo 3/6; Ponomariov, Shirov 2.5/5; Anand, Ivanchuk 2/5.
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