The Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting is one of the most prestigious annual tournaments on the chess calendar. While Dortmund doesn't always have a field quite as strong as those in Wijk aan Zee or Linares, it is still considered to be an elite "super-tournament," as only world-class grandmasters normally compete there. The only exceptions to this rule come in the form of special invitations, which sometimes allow a player who wouldn't normally be able to get entry to a world-class event to compete with some of the biggest names in the chess world.
History of the Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting
Dortmund has hosted strong tournaments at least as far back as 1928, when Fritz Samisch won an event there. However, the annual tournament tradition began in 1973, when Heikki Westerinen won the tournament for the first time (he would go on to win the tournament again in 1975).
Over the years, a number of the world's greatest players have won the Dortmund tournament, including world champions Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Vladimir Kramink, Veselin Topalov and Viswanathan Anand.
Along with the familiar faces that dot every elite tournament, you might find a couple of names on a Dortmund tournament roster that you wouldn't normally expect. For instance, it has become traditional for the winner of the Aeroflot Open - the world's most prestigious open tournament - to earn an entry to the next Dortmund event. In addition, there are usually one or two German grandmasters invited to add local flavor to the tournament.
Depending on the size of the field, Dortmund is usually held as a round robin or double-round robin event, though knockout matches have been held in the past. Vladimir Kramnik holds the record for the most Dortmund victories, having won or shared first place ten times.
Notable Tournament Moments
In 2000, the Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting invited an unusual competitor to play against the nine invited grandmasters. That tenth player was none other than Deep Junior, which was among the strongest chess programs in the world at the time. Despite the success of Deep Blue three years earlier, it wasn't yet clear at this time whether any computer was truly stronger than the world's top players, though they were certainly capable of beating them. In the end, Deep Junior showed it belonged, but it didn't dominate the field, scoring 4.5/9 to finish in the middle of the pack. Deep Junior won games against Robert Huebner and Peter Leko, but lost to Vladimir Kramnik and Jeroen Piket. That tournament would ultimately be won by Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand.
In 2002, Dortmund was used as the Candidates Tournament for the 2004 World Chess Championship. Eight players were grouped into two double-round robin sections, with the top two players in each section qualifying for the knockout round. In the end, Peter Leko defeated Veselin Topalov 2.5-1.5 in the final to earn the right to challenge Vladimir Kramnik for the World Championship.