Chess: Strongest players, Iranian underdogs take wins in opening rou

Strongest players, Iranian underdogs take wins in opening round of FIDE championships
by MAHMOUD KASSEM; Associated Press Writer

Associated Press Worldstream
June 19, 2004 Saturday

TRIPOLI, Libya — The two strongest players in the World Chess
Federation championships glided through the first games of round
one Saturday with solid wins, while two Iranian underdogs clinched
surprise victories against well-respected grandmasters.

Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov, seeded No. 1 in the tournament and fifth
in the world, beat Libyan outsider Tarik Abulhul, ranked 128 in the
tournament, in 41 moves.

England’s Michael Adams, world No. 8 and second seed in the tournament,
thrashed his Libyan opponent, Hussein Asabri, in an Anti-Berlin line
in 35 moves.

However, the biggest upset of the event came from the Iranian
contingent. Morteza Mahjoob, ranked 115 in the tournament, beat Zurab
Azmaiparashvili of Georgia even though the 44-year-old grandmaster
was playing his favorite line, the Pirc defense.

Azmaiparashvili was ranked 14 in the tournament.

“Today I am so happy,” Mahjoob told reporters after his match. “My
game was hard. I won in a hard position. … He made some not so
good moves.”

Mahjoob’s compatriot Ehsan Ghaem Maghami also displayed unexpected
prowess against Armenia’s Rafael Vaganian in a Queen’s Indian Defense
after offering his opponent a draw, which was declined.

Vanganian is ranked 37 in the tournament.

“The game was normal was for first 18 moves. I offered my opponent
draw but he tried to win and did some bad moves,” said Maghami,
ranked 92 out of the tournament’s 124 players.

The World Chess Federation, known by its French initials FIDE, kicked
off its Tripoli championship Saturday despite Libya’s refusal to
allow players from Israel and the absence of many top players.

Only two of FIDE’s top 10 were participating, apparently because many
players were angry that Garry Kasparov of Russia was to be allowed
to play the winner without having to go through qualifying rounds.

Libya, which is putting up the US$1.5 million in prize money for the
tournament, has been struggling to shake off its reputation as a rogue
state that sponsors terrorism and foments trouble around the world.

Welcoming the chess tournament and making a failed bid to host the
2010 soccer World Cup were seen as part of a campaign to clean up its
international image, but its refusal to bend on Israel show old ways
die hard.

Libya has been one of Israel’s harshest critics in the Arab world,
once hosting military bases for radical Palestinian groups. In the
mid-1990s, Libya expelled thousands of Palestinians in protest after
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat entered peace talks with Israel.