Anand sitting pretty

MERIDA (MEXICO), MAY 20. Leader and World chess champion Viswanathan Anand is enjoying his chess here and the ability to sacrifice and play for the initiative comes from a fresh mind, totally relaxed and one which is raring to go.

At the end of the first round robin, Anand is on plus two with two victories and a sole draw. Anand has been impressive on and off the board and is very popular with the spectators. Three rounds remain to be played and the event gets over on Tuesday.

From Sunday the players face each other with reversed colours. Khalifman gets his chance to play Anand with the white pieces. With Anand preferring to get into sharp tactics and willing to sacrifice material in the Mikhail Tal fashion, Khalifman is likely to play risk free chess.

For Anand who is calculating deep and swift, each game has been a big exhaustive movement and he looks tired at the end of it. In the second cycle he plays both Khalifman and Short with the black pieces and gets white against Hernandez.

On Saturday the four players gave a clock simultaneous display beating four opponents each. Anand was impressive, finishing first, followed by Khalifman, Short and Hernandez.

They finished in rating order. The organier said they fielded young talents from the Yucatan state. Following that the players spoke to the press briefly. Anand used the extra time he got for finishing off his opponents to check e-mails on a desk top computer while Khalifman was checking his Grandmaster Chess School website.

Later, Short sat before another terminal and getting himself updated on world cricket from the CricInfo web site. In the second half, Anand should be able to keep this lead if not widen it in the manner in which he is playing. Shirov scored four points to win the tournament and at this juncture, Anand is likely to surpass this number.

If there is one keen race for any place it is the second and third places between Khalifman and Short. Hernandez will require a big upset to change his course in this tough field.

Players from central American countries are here competing in the open tournament and are getting a rare opportunity to witness Anand in action. In Elo strength it is the strongest tournament in the region.

Among the six games seen, Anand's blasting of Hernandez with the black pieces in round two is the best of the lot. The Anand versus Short encounter was error-filled but had good spectator value. The Anand versus Khalifman game was a

disappointment after the Russian equalised fairly early in the game to get a draw.

Short deserved better. He was winning but could not beat Hernandez in the first round. Nonetheless, he compensated by doing it in the second round against Khalifman.

Thrilling encounters in the second half of the double round robin is a rarity unless there is a title race before the players. The fight should be for Elo points. Any big gain from here could push Anand's 2794 rating into the twenty-eight hundred mark in the July 2001 rating list which will be a landmark for him.

The round robin points table after the first cycle: 1. V.Anand Ind X = 1 1 2.5; 2. A.Khalifman Rus = X 0 1 1.5; 3. N.Short Eng 0 1 X = 1.5; 4. G.Hernandez Mex 0 0 = X 0.5.