Monday, October 02, 2006

Kramnik-Topalov game eight preview

Update: This is now game eight preview, because of the changed order of games in the second half of the match.

I am glad we have more chess. I already had nightmares of a certain match between Karpov and Timman.

Today Topalov played the Slav line with 6.Ne5 and 7.f3, but did not get real winning chances. I will come back to that line for the preview of game eight.

Thanks again to the readers who sent me feedback (you can send me feedback at

Mark Bowen from Jamaica sent me the following question:

I'd also love to hear your thoughts on the whole design of one's opening repertoire and discussion of the player's overall styles and how their repertoires take advantage of this.

For your own opening repertoire of course it depends on how strong a player you are. If you are an average club player and you don't have a lot of time for studying openings, I would recommend to use some of the repertoire books that are out there, and spice it up with some lines that are either rare, for example from an SOS book from New In Chess, or some main lines that you are particularly interested in.

Of course I am interested in opening theory more than in my over the board results, so I am reading the hardcore books about the lines I am interested in, but I am regularly forgetting my own analysis, and have big holes in the openings I am not so interested in. So I cannot really recommend this, unless you are doing this like me just for fun, not for results.

With regards to the styles of Kramnik and Topalov, and how this affects their openings in this match, Kramnik excels in technical positions and middle games without queens, while Topalov plays his best in dynamic or even unclear positions that offer a lot of different ways for fighting.

But today's opening preparation at world class level goes so deep, that you cannot just choose your openings by style. For example, Topalov may in principle like the Petroff positions with White. While the Petroff has a drawish reputation, usually you keep enough pieces on the board for a full fight, and White often has several ways to anvance his center pawns (c3,d4). But the opening is analysed very far, and you have to come up with some strong new moves to actually get to a position where you can pose Black some problems and get to this fight. The same goes for the Sveshnikov - in principle this is a very interesting and dynamic position with a lot of different ways to fight for both sides. But there is so much analysis on this opening that you have to find something new to pose any problems.

That is why it is an advantage if you can play both 1.e4 and 1.d4, especially in a match where the openings can be repeated several times. If Topalov has not found enough strong moves against the Petroff, maybe he has some new ideas in the Slav. That is why Kramnik has learned to play 1.e4, too, even if it fits less to his style than 1.d4. That is why Leko prepared 1.d4 for his match against Kramnik, although he almost always played 1.e4. And he was glad he did, after banging his head against Kramnik's Petroff.

But one new move can make a difference. Actually I have to revise my so far unused preview of game five a little bit, because Peter Svidler showed a move that I did not consider. After

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.Qa4 Bd7 7.Qxc4 Na5 8.Qd3 c5 9.O-O Bc6 10.Nc3 cxd4 11.Nxd4 Bc5 12.Rd1

the alternative mentioned by Topalov in the press conference

12..Qxd4 13.Qxd4 Bxd4 14.Rxd4 Bxg2 15.Kxg2 Nc6 16.Rd1

seems to be equalizing after all. I did only consider 16..Ke7, when White can play 17.b3, however Svidler just castles:

0-0 17.Bg5 Rfd8 "and it is hard to believe Black's problems are not temporary" (Svidler).

Svidler also has the following explanation why Topalov did not play this line, and why it looked as if Topalov did not prepare this game well:

My feeling, as I sat watching the game live, was that Veselin came to the board with the idea to trade as many pieces as possible as soon as possible and make a draw, but couldn't bring himself to do it - the whole concept is, as we've seen on numerous occasions, alien to him.

I think that makes a lot of sense. As you see, one move can make a difference.

It will be interesting to see if this line is repeated in game seven. Maybe this position is not enough even for Kramnik. Or Topalov, if this concept is so alien to him, will choose another line himself?



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