Sunday, October 24, 2004

Short about the Kramnik-Leko match

Nigel Short uses some strong words to describe his point of view of the Kramnik-Leko match, in today's instance of his excellent, if very subjective, telegraph column, in which he also does not shy away from analysing his own losses:

"Neither of these two Titans deserved to win the World Championship, so it is most appropriate that neither of them did. We will not be fooled into believing that this was an interesting match just because the last two games were exciting. No, the overriding impression was of a turgid and dreary affair.

Once upon a time they would have got away with it. When chess fans received their monthly magazine with carefully distilled highlights, the dross was discreetly hidden away. Now, in the age of live internet broadcasts, there is no “junk game filter”. The rubbish is clearly visible. People will not be fobbed off with heavy theory, a novelty, a 40-minute think and then a draw offer, with happy smiles all round as the hands are shaken. The crowd, quite rightly, want blood."

Of course Nigel Short is just the man who can get away with these words, indeed in his match against Gary Kasparov there was only one short draw, and a fight and blood all over in the other 19 games. Certainly my favourite world championship match, although Peter might call Nigel's performance as "not professional" because of the disappointing number of points Nigel was able to achieve at the time. Of course Nigel's critique is not very constructive, I hope my earlier comments were a bit more substantial in that respect.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Vladimir Kramnik world champion

By winning the last game, Kramnik was able to level the score, and remain world champion because of his draw odds. In my opinion Peter had very good chances to win. However, he did not follow the match strategy that I outlined in my previous entry about the match.

After the brilliant win with the Marshall, Leko stopped pushing. After the match, he said that he was depressed, but not tired. This confirms his great physical shape, and in my opinion he should have put the pressure on Kramnik, by continuing to play in several games, instead of offering a draw.

In game 12 he played a Caro Kann, and after being under pressure, he emerged with the better position, only to offer a draw. Also, in game 6 he could have continued to play.

Both players can't be happy with what they achieved with the White pieces. Some of the games have been very short indeed, and this cannot have been in the interest of Peter. This gave Kramnik all the time he needed for a rest and in the final two games it was Kramnik who put the pressure on Leko.

Leko says that he hopes to play for the championship again. I hope that this will be possible, regarding the current, rather unclear situation in chess politics. Lets see if the FIDE match really happens in January. Did we ever have three world championships in such a short time?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Solution to nice move

The solution to the nice move puzzle below is ...Bd5.

The first to guess the move correctly is Oliver Koeller.
Tim Krabbe features the move in his excellent chess diary.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Match strategy

Yesterday Peter Leko fought back in the chess world championship and equalized the match. Here are some comments about the match strategy of the contestants:

Kramnik tries to play very solid with Black. He even plays positions which are supposed to be slightly better for White. However these positions usually involve an early exchange of queens, and are very technical. Kramnik hopes to make use of his superior technique. These positions are also very thoroughly prepared, usually a small novelty or deviation from previous play. In addition, if Kramnik feels that the opponent has prepared something during the match, he will vary slightly to avoid the preparation.

In his match against Kasparov in 2000, Kramnik had prepared the Berlin defence. In game 1 Kasparov achieved absolutely nothing, and a draw was agreed after 25 moves. In game 3 an interesting fight happened, but the game ended in a draw after 53 moves. Then Kasparov switched the battle ground and played 1.c4, without achieving anything at all, playing draws in game 5 after 24 and in game 7 after an abysmal 11 moves, despite trailing the match since game 2. In game 9 Kasparov returned to the main battle, but this time Kramnik played a different line with 9...h6 instead of 9...Bd7, sidestepping Kasparov's preparation and drawing after 33 moves. In game 11, Kramnik didn't play the Berlin but played another very technical position with two Bishops against a rook and two pawns in a ...Bc5 Ruy Lopez. In game 13 another Berlin led to a draw in 14 moves only. Finally in the last game Kasparov eventually started the 1.d4 battleground and for the first time in the match got a somewhat promising position with White, but Kramnik was able to hold and win the match.

We can't really say Peter Leko is more successful so far, as he also lost one game with White, but some thoughts about what he is trying to do differently. First, Peter wants to show that his technique is no worse than Kramnik's. Second, while Kramnik stopped smoking and drinking a long time ago and is in very good shape now, Peter is one of the finest sportsmen in the chess cirquit. This means Peter will try to play many long games, hoping that Kramnik will get tired sooner than him.

Apparently for this match, Kramnik has prepared the Petroff defence. While Peter certainly has a good record against the Petroff, Kramnik seems to have prepared an arsenal of small improvements, and I am sure he will be able to switch to a slightly different line again, as he did in the previous match with the Berlin.

Peter must have anticipated this, and prepared a second battle ground in 1.d4, which he never played before. Out of several hundred of Peter's games, the Megabase only has 2 where he did play 1.d4, and those were Trompovskies. He got a very technical position where he was able to put some pressure on Kramnik. While the position must have been a draw theoretically, he managed to win after a long fight.

It is interesting to note that Kramnik - in contrast with the 2000 match - is now able to play both 1.e4 and 1.d4 as well. So far, Peter has had no problems against Kramnik's Anti-Marshall, so it will be interesting to see if Kramnik will also open a 2nd battleground with 1.d4 today or in the upcoming games. I don't think that Kramnik has prepared, or will play the main line Marshall, but it would make an interesting surprise.

I am looking forward to the forthcoming games in this interesting match.

Update: In game 6 Kramnik got no advantage again with the Anti-Marshall. I haven't analysed the position at the end in detail, but to me it looked like Peter should have grabbed the chance and played on. He may have been tired, but as I said above, I would believe Kramnik was more tired.