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The Year 2004 in Review
The World Championship

The first half of the year saw the latest in the series of FIDE World Championship Knockout tournaments, started in 1997. Unlike the two previous FIDE events, the men's and women's championships were not held concurrently. Unfortunately for FIDE, both championships were dogged by controversy.

The women's event, initially announced for Adjaria, Georgia, was moved to Elista, Kalmykia, after violence erupted in Georgia, the 'breakaway region of the former Soviet republic'. The men's event, announced for Tripoli, Libya, fell victim to regional hostilities. FIDE announced that if Israeli players were unable to obtain visas, part of the event would be held in nearby Malta. Instead, the entire event was held in Libya, and the event was marred by the absence of many top players who were unable to obtain visas or who cancelled participation at the last moment.

Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria became the new Women's World Chess Champion by beating Ekaterina Kovalevskaya of Russia (+2-0=1) in the final round of the women's tournament, held 21 May - 8 June. Kovalevskaya eliminated 17-year old top seed Koneru Humpy in the semifinal round, while Stefanova beat Maia Chiburdanidze.

Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan became the new FIDE World Chess Champion by beating Michael Adams of England (+2-2=2; +1-0=1) in the playoffs of the final round of the Libya event (the men's event is open to men and women), held 18 June - 13 July. Kasimdzhanov eliminated Veselin Topalov in the semifinal round, while Adams beat Teimour Radjabov.

Along with a $100.000 first prize, Kasimdzhanov won the right to face world no.1 Garry Kasparov in a title unification match. That right had originally belonged to former FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov, but when the Ukranian declined to sign the match contract without reservations, FIDE organized the Tripoli event.

The non-FIDE World Championship also saw action in 2004. Vladimir Kramnik of Russia played Peter Leko of Hungary at the Centro Dannemann in Brissago, Switzerland, from 25 September to 18 October. It was the first title defense by Kramnik since he become World Champion by beating Kasparov in 2000. The non-FIDE title was created when Kasparov bolted from FIDE in 1993.

Although Kramnik won the first game of the 14-game Dannemann World Championship, Leko took the lead with wins in the fifth and eighth games. The rules stipulated that the reigning champion would retain the title in the event of a drawn match. After drawing games nine through 13, Kramnik had a +1-2=10 score and was faced with a must-win situation in game 14. World Champions are expected to perform well under pressure and Kramnik did just that by winning the crucial game in classic style.

During the last week of the Kramnik - Leko match, FIDE announced that the Kasimdzhanov - Kasparov match would be held January 2005 in Dubai. Since the winner of that match would face Kramnik in a title unification match, the stage was set for at least two important matches in 2005. Kramnik was the first to burst the bubble. In a post-match interview he said

I consider myself completely free from any kind of obligations. I do not owe anything to anyone. I played a match for World Championship and defended my title. In general, I am positively inclined towards the idea of unification, but we need to discuss conditions under which this unification can take place.

If that wasn't enough to kill any hope of unification, FIDE hammered another nail into the coffin. In December, it issued a press release saying

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) announces the termination of negotiations with the candidate organiser of the World Chess Championship match Kasimdzhanov - Kasparov, originally scheduled for January 2005 in Dubai. The organiser from Dubai did not supply FIDE with the required financial guarantees within the deadline set by the FIDE President.

A year filled with so much promise for the World Chess Championship ended with no prospects in view.

Next : International Events 2004

 More of this Feature
• The Best Players
• World Championship
• International Events
• National Championships
• Opens
• Computers
• Passages
 Related Resources
• World Championship 2003
  Glossary (offsite)
  ChessChrono (offsite)
• FIDE Championship, Libya
• Women's Championship
• Kramnik - Leko
• Kasparov - Kasimdzhanov