LAS VEGAS (AP)–Alexander Khalifman clinched the World Chess Championship title Saturday with a draw against Vladimir Hakopian.
After 40 moves and almost four hours of play–Hakopian stared at a position where he had no chance to win–shrugged his shoulders–and offered his opponent a draw.
Khalifman–33–thus became chess’ 14th world champion. He joins fellow Russian–Anatoly Karpov–who he just replaced–and Garry Kasparov as the only champions of the last quarter century.
"I don’t claim to be the best chess player in the world," Khalifman’said after the game–"but it is fact that I just won the World Championship–and it is the only world championship that the chess world has."
Hakopian–27–of Armenia tried for a complicated game where he would have some disadvantage but would also have serious winning chances if his opponent made a slip.
Since the Russian grandmaster only needed a draw–experts were surprised when he allowed the complications sought by his opponent. Khalifman explained that he thought about making a move that entailed much less risk but then said to himself: "Come on. This is the final game. I must play the best move."
The new champion managed to solve all of the problems posed by his adversary and end the match with a score of 3 1/2-2 1/2.
The Federation Internationale des Echecs (FIDE) provided the $3 million prize fund for the 100 participants in the seven-round–month long event at Caesars Palace.
Khalifman earned $660,000–while Hakopian settled for $396,000.
Seeded 36th–Khalifman won six matches–including upsets of American Gata Kamsky–Israel’s Boris Gelfand–whom he called his toughest opponent–and Judit Polgar of Hungary–to reach the finals.
In each of the first two rounds Khalifman came through in must win situations after dropping the initial game.
Khalifman’said he didn’t take his chances to win the tournament seriously until he won the first game of the finals. He blamed this attitude for his bad form early–but also credited it for much of his success–since he felt little pressure.
Khalifman previously won the championship of Russia–the world’s top chess power–but he had never been considered among the world’s elite.