Saturday, June 09, 2007

FIDE candidates final matches: round four preview

Shirov - Aronian

Shirov had prepared a very interesting new idea in the trendy Queen's Indian line that we already saw in the candidates in the Bareev - Polgar game.

Aronian found an interesting way to play for Black over the board. He sacrificed the Queen for Rook, Bishop, and Pawn, getting enough practical chances. Theoretically however, the situation is far from clear, and there should be improvements possible (for example 21.Bf4 is recommended by my Fritz).

Also while Aronian is to be praised for finding this line over the board, this doesn't mean that it is already the best possible. If after 12.Nc3 Black delays castling for a move, and plays 12..Nb4 immediately, or even 12..a6, the whole idea with 13.g4 does not seem to work at all.

Therefore I think Shirov will continue his hit-and-run tactic and test Aronian in another line.

Bareev - Leko

Leko played the Slav in game two. This must have been a minor surprise to Bareev, as Leko has played the Slav only on a few occasions before. Indeed Bareev used a lot of time and then suddenly offered a draw in a position that Peter still knew from his preparation.

I don't know if Leko has prepared the Slav especially for this match. He could not have known that Bareev would be his opponent - but maybe he prepared for all three possible opponents, including Polgar. Or he has generally prepared the Slav as a second defence against 1.d4.

In any case I think he wanted to avoid the Queen's Indian that Bareev played against Polgar, and that Shirov also played against Aronian (see above). The line is very new, White has a nice initiative, and it is not easy to avoid with Black. Many unexplored ways to play this line with White probably still exist, making it not easy for the Black player to prepare against it.

I expect Bareev to prepare something against the Slav or switch to 1.c4.

Rublevsky - Grischuk

In game two Grischuk made Rublevsky's Scottish opening look very harmless.

In game three Rublevsky followed my suggestion and switched to the Paulsen. Actually he followed both of my suggestions at once, and later transposed to the Scheveningen, but used a different setup from the first game. Grischuk then proceeded to play another great game, only to miss the win just before the time control.

So far Grischuk seems to refute Rublevsky's openings for breakfast - and they looked so solid against Ponomariov. Rublevsky should better come up with something soon, but it looks difficult.

Gelfand - Kamsky

Kamsky played a (very!) terrible game three. I guess Gata has shown that you can play without openings on this level. But playing without openings and then spending ages of time on the first few moves was really too much.

Kamsky now faces the second half of the match with a point and a White game down. I am afraid another Slav won't help here. Did I mention I was still waiting for the KID?


Thursday, June 07, 2007

FIDE candidates final matches: round three preview

In the first round three very interesting games and one quick draw were played. For round three it will be important to draw the right conclusions from the first round games. I would like to recommend the round one commentary on the official site. Here the analysis is very good. For example in the game Leko-Bareev Black had a chance to win at move 28:


Here 28..Ne4! was winning for Black. Instead, being in time trouble he played 28..g5? and lost a few moves later. The analysis from Chessbase doesn't mention this move, and in TWIC it is mentioned as interesting only.

Armed with this excellent analysis, we can make some thoughts about the round three games:

Aronian - Shirov

Shirov surprised (again) with the Queen's gambit accepted, which he hasn't played much recently, and then never the line played in the game with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dx4 3.e4 e5.

Shirov later made an interesting exchange sacrifice with 15..Nxe4. Again I would like to recommend the analysis from the official site. They show some important improvements for Black, including 18..Ne5!? and 19..Bc3!? Shirov however didn't follow up correctly and later lost the game.

I think Aronian, being in the lead would switch to a safer line against the Queen's gambit accepted, should Shirov repeat it in game three, for example 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3.

Being a point down, Shirov could decide to play something more aggresive, for example his usual Slav, or spring another surprise (I am still waiting for a King's Indian). Or he could play the Queen's gambit accepted again, with two remaining White games in the second half of the match.

Leko - Bareev

Bareev played again the Caro-Kann, as he did against Polgar. Leko apparently does not fear Bareev's 17..Rd5 and played the main line with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4. Bareev however switched to 4..Nd7 here.

I think Leko will play the main line Caro-Kann again. As I said above, his position in the game apparently wasn't too great - but there are enough alternatives, including the common 13.b3 instead of 13.Re1. There are also many alternatives for Black available, giving Bareev the opportunity to play different from game one.

Grischuk - Rublevsky

Grischuk played an absolutely brilliant game in round one. Even the end position is fantastic and worth a picture:


White wins because of his pawn on b6. An instant classic.

What is worse for Rublevsky, White's play looked so strong that the setup chosen in the Scheveningen may very well be refuted by Grischuk's preparation.

I think Rublevsky should choose a different setup in the Scheveningen, or not transpose to the Scheveningen at all. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 Black does not have to play 6..d6 (Scheveningen), he can also play 6..Qc7 (Paulsen), or 6..Nge7 (Taimanov).

Kamsky - Gelfand

In game one Kamsky tried 6.a4 against Gelfand's Najdorf, but didn't pose any problems and the game was drawn after only 23 moves. I think Kamsky will play another surprise, not a main line, but I cannot possibly guess what.


Monday, June 04, 2007

FIDE candidates matches: Rublevsky - Grischuk

Rublevsky - Grischuk

Grischuk could play the Najdorf, because Rublevsky's 6.Bc4 looked a bit harmless.

But was it? In the fourth game against Ponomariov, after

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 5.Bc4 e6 6.Bb3 b5 8.O-O Be7 9.Qf3 Qb6 10.Be3 Qb7 11.Qg3 b4 12.Na4 Nbd7 13.f3 O-O 14.Rac1 Rb8 15.c3 bxc3 16.Rxc3 Ne5 17.Rfc1 Bd7

the following position was reached:


I had once the same position with White against Floyd Halwick (email, 1998), but my rook was on d1, not on c1. Rublevsky played 18.Qe1, but much more interesting was 18.Nb6. After 18..Qxb6 19.Nxe6 Qxe3+ 20.Rxe3 fxe6 an interesting material imbalance could have been created. That is what happened in my correspondence game, which ended in a draw. However with the rook on c1 it looks a bit stronger.

On the other hand you can't force this position either, as Black has so many alternatives, not the least of which would be 9..Qc7.

Grischuk can also decide to play 1..e5 and try Rublevsky's Scottish opening.

Grischuk - Rublevsky

I hope Grischuk has read my recommendation to Ponomariov, and will use Khalifman's line against Rubelvsky's Paulsen Sicilian.

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 Grischuk also has played the rare move 6.f3, also once against Rublevsky. This move is so rare that it isn't even mentioned in the books, and I don't know if it is any good.

Certainly Grischuk should not play 1.d4 and loose all his teeth against Kramnik's Slav version of the Berlin wall (I think this line should be called the iron curtain). Ponomariov knows why.


FIDE candidates matches: Aronian - Shirov preview

Carlsen's openings with Black weren't as solid as I thought. He put up a fantastic fight though, and what a great match it was. Magnus Carlsen lost, but he should be proud anyway. He is improving very fast still. On the 23rd of June we can look forward to see him in Dortmund (with Kramnik, Anand, Leko, Mamedyarov, Gelfand, Naiditsch and Alexejew).

It is really sad that we won't see any more candidates matches in the next cycle of the world championship. I think the matchplay is making the candidates very exciting. The FIDE president says that there weren't any sponsors, but why not give Global Chess a shot at finding a sponsor?

But lets enjoy the next four matches as long as we have the chance.

Aronian - Shirov

Against Aronian's 1.d4 Shirov is much more consistent in his openings than against 1.e4. He plays the Slav, and sometimes the Grunfeld. He has abandoned the King's Indian for several years now, as most top players have.

After 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Shirov has played all the moves 4..e6, 4..a6, and 4..dxc4.

I expect we will see a theoretical duel in the Slav, unless Shirov has prepared more surprises.

Shirov - Aronian

Adams did play the Marshall only once in his match against Shirov, and that was in the very last game of the match in the tiebreak, when Adams needed a win with Black. Adams played two other Spanish lines, and one Petroff, and once Shirov played 1.d4. I still think Adams should have played the Marshall in all the games.  Maybe Shirov has prepared something, but maybe that was not so dangerous. Then Adams would have been able to stand still like a wall and let Shirov become frustrated and try some other openings.

That is what Aronian did in his match against Carlsen, and what I expect him to do again.

Carlsen of course played 1.e4 only once and then tried 1.d4 and 1.Nf3 for the rest of the match, with more success.

Shirov played the Anti-Marshall in the last game against Adams, but there he only needed a draw to win the match. So I guess Shirov will try 1.e4 only if he has really prepared something against the Marshall, otherwise he will play 1.d4.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

FIDE candidates matches: Leko - Bareev preview

Bareev today qualified by drawing the last game against Judith Polgar. I was a bit disappointed that Judith didn't try the King's Indian, but the line she played also created some chances.

For Peter Leko it is interesting that Bareev plays some of the same openings that Leko's first round opponent Gurevich does. This has the advantage that Peter is well prepared against those openings. It also has the disadvantage that Bareev can take a look at the games between Leko and Gurevich and use that information.

Leko - Bareev

The last couple of games between the two always saw the same French that Gurevich plays with 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4. It is good that Peter indeed has prepared the other important line against the classical French with 4.e5, as we could see in game three against Gurevich.

Of course Bareev may continue to play the Caro-Kann, as he did against Judith Polgar. Against the Caro-Kann Peter usually plays the main line, as Polgar did in the first game against Bareev.

Apparently Polgar wasn't able to prepare something good against Bareev's 17..Rd5 (see my analysis in the game three preview).  Leko must have something ready against this, if he plays 1.e4, or play some other line against the Caro-Kann.

Of course Peter also has the option of playing 1.d4, against which Bareev uses the Slav most of the time. Peter won one nice game against Gelfand last November in the Slav, but Bareev will have much more experience with this opening than Peter.

Bareev - Leko

Bareev has played the Queen's Indian against Polgar.

He has also frequently played the classical Nimzo-Indian. Interestingly, this is another line that was discussed in the Gurevich - Leko games, and Peter's preparation looked very strong there. Bareev has even played a couple of games with the same endgame that was discussed in the Gurevich - Leko games, specifically with the line played in game four. Unless Bareev finds something good against the 16..f5 Peter used there, I expect Bareev will continue to use the Queen's Indian.

In game two, after

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3

Polgar played the same


that Leko plays. Bareev replied with the interesting

5.Qc2 c5 6.d5

that only last year found its way into top-level chess, after the introduction of the gambit

6..exd5 7.cxd5 Bb7 8.Bg2

It would be interesting to see this line discussed in the match. As the line is still very new, there should be room for improvements on both sides.


Thursday, May 31, 2007

FIDE candidates: No KIDchen sink, and game five preview

Congratulations to Gata Kamsky and Peter Leko, who already won their matches.

Gurevich repeated the endgame from the classical Nimzo main line that was played in game two. He tried the same line that Kramnik used last year to beat Leko, but Peter had prepared the interesting move 16..f5.

Kamsky and Leko now have a few extra days to prepare for their next match.

1. Carlsen - Aronian

The same situation of game three, again, with Carlsen being one point behind. This is Carlsen's last game with White, so it will be very important for him to win. He won't be able to surprise Aronian with the same line again, though. Maybe 1.d4, this time?

3. Ponomariov - Rublevsky

In game three Ponomariov played 1.e4. In the Paulsen Sicilian, after

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 d5 8.O-O Nf6

This position had already occured last year in a game between the same players. Last year Ponomariov played the main line, 9.Re1 and won. In game three he preferred 9.Qe2, and lost. The obvious question is, why did Ponomariov not play the main line again?

The comments on the official site mention that after

9.Re1 Be7 10.e5 Nd7 11.Qg4 g6 12.Na4 Qa5 13.Bh6

where Rublevsky played 13..Qb4 last year, the move 13..c5 is better.

In Khalifman's excellent book "Opening for White according to Anand, part 9", last year's game is also analysed. He analyses that Black was not worse in that game as late as move 28, and recommends for White to play 12.b3 instead of 12.Na4. Khalifman also mentions improvements to the game Carsen - Mamedyarov cited mentioned on the official site.

I think Ponomariov should have a look at Khalifman's analysis - it wouldn't be the first time that even on the highest level these books can be used with success.

4. Gelfand - Kasimdzhanov

In game three Gelfand tried the ultra-sharp and highly theoretical Moscow gambit, but Kasimdzhanov was very well prepared. Gelfand is a bit in Zugzwang in his last game with White. Should he play this risky line again, trying to use his advantage of the White pieces with sharp play, but risking a fatal loss? Or should he play something safe, but then face the final game with Black? I think his decision will depend on concrete analysis.

6. Grischuk - Malakhov

Grischuk is almost home, Malakhov has to win with Black. I am again betting on 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6.

7. Polgar - Bareev

Judith Polgar lost the fourth game without throwing the King's Indian KIDchen-sink at Bareev.

Bareev only needs a draw from this game to win the match. Polgar must prepare something in the Caro-Kann lines that were already discussed, or play a different line (maybe 3.e5, or 3.f3).

8. Adams - Shirov

Shirov lost game four with White. He is now one point behind. Since he wasn't able to win a game with White yet, it may not be the best plan to play for a draw in game five. Najdorf, anyone?


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

FIDE candidates: Game four preview

The official website has now comments to all games from the first three rounds.

1. Aronian - Carlsen

In the second game Carlsen, being behind in the score played the Volga gambit, as expected. In game four, since he has equalised, I think he is not going to repeat this experiment, but return to his usual Nimzo or Queen's Indian.

2. Gurevich - Leko

Leko played a nice game in the Classical Nimzo-Indian and won with Black. Since Gurevich is already two points behind, I think he is going to play 1.c4 in game four, to avoid Leko's excellent preparation.

3. Rublevsky - Ponomariov

In game two, Rublevsky played 6.Bc4 against Ponomariov's Najdorf. Ponomariov had no problems and even had the better chances in the game, which ended in a draw. Since Rublevsky won game three and is in the lead, I think he will return to his usual 3.Bb5+. Ponomariov will repeat the Najdorf, because he needs a win.

4. Kasimdzhanov - Gelfand

In game two Kasimdzhanov tried Gelfand's Queen's Indian, but it was a draw after only 23 moves. I think in game four Kasimdzhanov will test Gelfand's Petroff.

5. Bacrot - Kamsky

Kamsky surprised Bacrot with the Dutch. His strategy to surprise Bacrot in the opening while avoiding theoretical discussions has worked very well so far. Being to points in the lead I think he will play another surprise opening instead of his usual Slav, but something more solid. Maybe the Queen's gambit accepted?

6. Malakhov - Grischuk

Malakhov came close to defeating Grischuk in game two with 1.c4, so I think that is what he will try again.

7. Bareev - Polgar

Bareev beat Polgar in the topical Queen's Indian line with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qc2 c5 6.d5. Polgar is one point behind, and has two Black games remaining, with only one White, so may it already be time to bring back the King's Indian?

Bareev likes to play the Averbakh system against the King's Indian (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 O-O 6.Bg5).

They have played already a few games in this line against each other, but that was a decade ago or more, when the King's Indian was at the height of its popularity.

8. Shirov - Adams

In games two and three a theoretical discussion about the New Archangel line of the Spanish took place: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O b5 6.Bb3 Bc5. After 7.a4 Rb8 8.c3, Adams with Black in game two played 8..O-O, and Shirov with Black in game three chose the main line with 8..d6. I don't know if Adams is going to continue this discussion, or play the Marshall instead.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

FIDE candidates matches: Anti Marshalls


In game three, Kamsky played the following Anti-Marshall:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O b5 6.Bb3 Be7 7.Te1 O-O 8.h3 Bb7 9.c3

9.d3 is the usual continuation nowadays, but 9.c3 has of course been known for a long time, too. The reason nobody is playing 9.c3 anymore, is that Black can now play his intended gambit anyway:

9..d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.d3

Accepting the gambit here with 11.Nxe5 seems too risky, because of 11..Nxe5 12.Rxe5 Nf4. However, this system is completely harmless anyway, Black should have already achieved equality at this point.


In fact Black doesn't even have to defend his pawn. He could just play 11..Qd7, because after 12.Nxe5 Nxe5 13.Rxe5 Bf6 he has excellent compensation. But 11..Qd6 is fine, too.

12.Nbd2 Rad8 13.Ne4 Qd7

The queen could also go to g6, here, and Black should have nothing to worry.

14.a4 Kh8

Now Bacrot rapidly lost the thread of the game. After 14..b4 I don't see any problems for Black.

15.axb5 axb5 16.d4

Now Black could try 16..f5, with the idea of playing ..e4. White's knights do look a bit dangerous after 17.Neg5 e4 18.Nh4, but after 18..g6 they cannot be supported by the white queen, and Black should be fine.

16..exd4 17.cxd4 f6?

But this move is really bad. 17..Nf6 was probably still ok for Black. After

18.Nc3 Ncb4 19.Qe2

Kamsky won a pawn and later the game.


Monday, May 28, 2007

FIDE candidates matches: Game three preview

1. Carlsen - Aronian

In the first game, Carlsen played the Anti Marshall already on move five (5.d3). As I said in my preview of this match: "In fact Aronian seems to be very comfortable in these positions with Black and scores very well there." In fact Aronian had no problems with the opening and won a nice game.

If Carlsen has prepared something against the Marshall I see no reason not to play it in the first game. I think Carlsen will play 1.d4 tomorrow.

2. Leko - Gurevich

As expected, in the first game we saw the French with 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4. In the line played, in the following position

Gurevich was no longer able to castle, but found a nice way to bring his rook into play with 19..h5 followed by ..h4 and ..Rh5. Is is not easy to see how White should get an advantage then, and the game ended in a draw.

I think Leko will have prepared more than one line against this French, and would choose another one. However, since Gurevich lost the second game with White and is behind in the match, he may also play 1..d6.

3. Ponomariov - Rublevsky

Ponomariov played 1.d4 and Rublevsky chose the same line in the Slav that Kramnik used against Topalov in their world championship match last year. Of course Rublevsky was a second for Kramnik during that match and must have participated in the analysis of this line during preparation with Kramnik.

On move 13 Rublevsky played 13..Rc8 14.Ba2 a5, where Kramnik had played 13..a6. I don't know if a recent loss in this line by Kramnik against Aronian in their rapid match was so frightening for Black, or if this is just an alternative, in any case Rublevsky didn't look in any danger in this game.

I think Ponomariov is going to play 1.e4 in game three, as reasoned in my preview of this match.

4. Gelfand - Kasimdzhanov

Kasimdzhanov surprisingly played the Slav in the first game. Gelfand was pressing throughout the game but wasn't able to win. I am sure White's play can be improved - Kasimdzhanov should play different early in the game.

5. Kamsky - Bacrot

I was a bit surprised that Kamsky played 1.d4, but because he managed to take the lead in game 2 with Black, there is no reason for him to change strategy.

I don't know if Bacrot has prepared a riskier opening against 1.d4 for this match. Kamsky playing the Dutch in the second game makes you wonder if he has prepared more surprises for Bacrot.

6. Grischuk - Malakhov

I don't know why Malakhov avoided his usual Gurgenidze drawing weapon in the first game - Malakhov was probably wondering too, after the ugly position he got out of the opening.

Because he didn't manage to win the second game I am not sure going back to the drawing weapon would be the right choice in such a short match.

Maybe we will see 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 which Malakhov played a few times with success - albeit against much weaker opposition.

7. Polgar - Bareev

In the Caro-Kann main line after

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bf4 Qa5+ 12.Bd2 Qc7 13.O-O-O O-O-O 14.Ne4 Ngf6 15.g3 Nxe4 16.Qxe4 Nf6 17.Qe2

Bareev played the interesting side line 17..Rd5.

I am sure Judith Polgar didn't know this move. She spent a very long time considering her next move and then played the inferior

18.Ne5? Rxd4 19.Bf4 Re4 20.Qd3 Bc5 21.Ng6 Rxf4 22.Nxf4

when Black was already slightly better.

There are two better moves for White here:

A) 18.Bf4

Khalifman analyses this move on two densely filled pages of his excellent book "Opening for White according to Anand, part 3".

A1) 18..Qa5 19.c4 Rxh5 20.Ne5

Khalifman analyses 20.Rxh5 to an advantage, but this seems simpler.

20..Rxh1 21.Rxh1 Bd6 22.Nxf7 Bxf4+ 23.gxf4 Qxa2

Here Khalifman cites a game between two computers that ended in a draw after 24.Qxe6+ and says "it is amazing, but we failed to find an improvement for White". However, my Fritz gives

24.Rh3 as winning.

A2) 18..Bd6

This seems to be the only move, then. Here Khalifman suggests 19.Be5 with a small advantage for White.

B) 18.c4

Now after 18..Rxh5 there are two ideas for White:

B1) 19.Bf4

After 19..Qa5 20.Bf4 we would transpose to line A1 above, therefore Black has to play 19..Qe7. Black's pieces are a bit in a tangle now, but I don't see how White can exploit this.


19.Rxh5 Nxh5 20.Qe5 Qxe5 21.dxe5

Now White threatens to win the "knight on the rim" with g4, and Black has to make some concessions. It looks as if White can regain the pawn, but I am not sure if there is much more.

8. Adams - Shirov

Shirov surprised with the French. Maybe he thought Adams' 3.Nd2 not so dangerous for Black. Indeed he seemed to equalize completely - I think the complications later were unrelated to the opening. Adams' 12.g3 is a rare line, but Shirov was apparently well prepared with 14..Ne4. Maybe Adams will try the main line 12.Bg5 in the next game? Or Shirov will surprise us again with another opening.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Preview of FIDE candidates matches, part 8: Shirov-Adams

Wow, what a pairing for a quarter-final. Both players have played in finals. Shirov lost against Anand in 2000, Adams against Kasimdzhanov in 2004. And Shirov of course famously beat Kramnik in a supposed candidates final 1998, only to see Kramnik play the world championship match two years later. But this is just to show that both of the players have a lot of experince in matches, not to start talking about chess politics here.

Shirov - Adams

Shirov plays 1.e4 most of the time, but also has a great deal of experience with 1.d4.

Against 1.e4 Adams plays the closed Ruy Lopez, which Shirov allows with White. Adams most of the time plays the Marshall, which Shirov allows only sometimes.

As I said in my preview of the Carlsen-Aronian match, I am not convinced of the various Anti-Marshalls, at least from a theoretical point of view. On top of that, Adams also sometimes plays the Petroff, which may just be what he is going to do in a match.

Therefore I think Shirov - unless he has some excellent preparation against the Marshall proper - should actually look at playing 1.d4. Here Adams likes to play 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 O-O 5.a3 Bxc3 6.Qxc3 Ne4, which looks a bit cheesy to me. In NIC yearbook 62, Adams is quoted: "It isn't very good, but my results are reasonable and I keep playing it". Maybe Shirov can prepare something here.


Adams is a 1.e4 player and almost never plays anything else.

Against 1.e4 Shirov in his career has probably tried almost every decent opening, and even some not so decent ones. In recent years he has limited himself to various closed Spanish systems, a few Petroffs, some Najdorfs, and a lot of Sveshnikov Sicilians.

Adams seems to allow the Petroffs and the Najdorfs. He goes for the closed Spanish unless it is a Marshall, but never allows the Sveshnikovs recently. Instead of a Sveshnikov Adams plays 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 or 3.Bb5.

I think Shirov should play the Marshall move order of the closed Spanish with Black. Adams then has to either play some Anti-Marshall, where he hasn't won a single game recently, or show his hand against the Marshall proper, which he probably intends to use in this match himself with Black.

This match promises to be very exciting - I only hope we don't see too many boring Anti-Marshalls.


Preview of FIDE candidates matches, part 7: Polgar - Bareev

Polgar - Bareev

Judith Polgar always plays 1.e4. Bareev plays the French or the Caro-Kann.

Against the French Polgar always plays the main line with 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3. Here Bareev usually plays the Classical French with 3..Nf6, and sometimes 3..dxe4. After 3..Nf6 Polgar plays 4.Bg5, which Bareev answers with 4..dxe4 anyway.

Both player's opening repertoire here is quite fixed, and hence they have already played quite a number of games with this line.

Against the Caro-Kann Polgar plays both the Panov attack with 3.cxd5 and the main line with 3.Nc3.

Against the main line Bareev usually replies 3..dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5. This line was considered so super solid a decade ago or so, that many top players played the advance variation (3.e5), but since then there have been found many interesting ways to play the main line.

My guess is that while Polgar has played the Panov attack recently, she will actually prepare the main line Caro-Kann for this match, but that we won't find out because Bareev will stick to his French.

Bareev - Polgar

Bareev is a 1.d4 player. He sometimes plays 1.c4 or 1.Nf3, but to see him playing 1.e4 would be a huge surprise.

Judith Polgar traditionally played the King's Indian, but recently has relied more on the solid Nimzo/Queen's Indian, as so many other top players. I think in a match she will use the King's Indian only if she is behind in the score.

Bareev is playing the Nimzo Indian with 4.Qc2 a lot, where we could expect to see the main line with 4..O-O 5.a3 Bxc3 6.Qxc3 b6 7.Bg5. Here 7..Bb7 is the main line, but 7..Ba6 is also interesting.

Of course I would like to see Judith Polgar in a world championship final again, hoping she would do better than the last time. But Bareev is a very good player, too - I think this match can see a lot of decided games but still go to the tie breaks. I sure am looking forward to this one.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Preview of FIDE candidates matches, part 6: Grischuk - Malakhov

Grischuk - Malakhov

Grischuk is an 1.e4 player, but has started playing 1.d4 in some of his games a few years ago.

Against 1.e4 Malakhov plays the Gurgenidze variation of the accelerated dragon as a drawing weapon (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 d6 7.Be2 Nxd4). And a drawing weapon this line is in the hands of Malakhov - other results are very rare if he gets to play it. Grischuk would need to have some excellent preparation to beat Malakhov in this line.

Grischuk has been playing 3.Bb5 against the 2..Nc6 Sicilian's for some time now, and this may well be what we will see in the match.

Or Grischuk may prefer 1.d4, which Malakhov usually counters with the Slav with an early ..a6.

Malakhov - Grischuk

With White Malakhov is not nearly as predictable in his openings as with Black. He plays all the major opening moves 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.Nf3, and 1.c4 regularly.

Against 1.e4 Grischuk plays the Marshall, which has completely replaced any other closed Spanish lines he played earlier. He recently made the Najdorf another main part of his Black repertoire. He previously called the Najdorf losing by force after some of his nice wins with the English attack against it, but apparently changed his opinion.

Malakhov rarely plays into these main lines, though. Against 1..e5 he has played the Scottish four knights game (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4) and recently 3.Bc4, where we could expect the game to continue with 3..Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3.

Against the Najdorf, Malakhov has tried almost every system known to man, including sidelines such as 2.Na3.

Against 1.d4 Grischuk has played the Slav or the Nimzo/Queen's Indian recently.

A tough opponent for Grischuk. Malakhov's super-solid play with Black should be useful in a match, while he is unpredictable with White. If Grischuk manages to take the lead in the match though, it will be interesting to see if Malakhov avoids the Gurgenidze and plays something sharper.


Preview of FIDE candidates matches, part 5: Bacrot - Kamsky


Bacrot is a 1.d4 player, but sometimes plays 1.e4, too.

Against 1.d4 Kamsky has been playing the Slav, and the Nimzo or Queen's Indian since his comeback. In the Slav he likes to play modern systems with an early ..a6 or ..Qb6.

Back in the nineties, he played the Grunfeld and King's Indian, however.

I think in a match situation Kamsky is going to play it safe and rely on his most solid opening against 1.d4, the Nimzo or Queen's Indian. If he is behind in the score, he could bring back his King's Indian.

I don't think Bacrot is going to play 1.e4 unless he has cooked up something against Kamsky's super solid Marshall.


Kamsky most of the time plays 1.e4, but sometimes 1.d4. He generally plays main lines after 1.e4, but never after 1.d4, where he likes to play systems with an early Bf4 or Bg5.

Against 1.e4 Bacrot plays the closed Spanish, usually the Zaitsev variation, which would be very interesting to see in the match.

Kamsky has been avoiding the main line of the closed Spanish since his comeback, though. He nowadays plays like

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 O-O 9.d4 instead of the main line 9.h3.

He also plays like this against the Marshall move order, that Bacrot sometimes uses (7..O-O 8.d4 d6 9.c3).

Of course one reason for Kamsky to play lines like this and the Slav with an early ..a6 is that there is less theory than in other lines. He probably preferred these lines after his absence in order to concentrate on getting his practical part of his game back to where it was in the nineties - and even then he was much more a practical player known more for his toughness than for constant delivery of opening novelties.

It will be very interesting to see Kamsky in a match again, some of his matches in the nineties are classics.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Preview of FIDE candidates matches, part 4: Gelfand - Kasimdzhanov


Gelfand is a 1.d4 player.

Kasimdzhanov plays the King's Indian, the Queen's gambit declined, and the Nimzo Indian against 1.d4.

Against the King's Indian, Gelfand likes to play the main line, sometimes with 7.Be3.

Both players have a very good record with their side of the Kings's Indian, and I hope we are in for a treat. After the damage Radjabov did in Wijk, I am eager to see more.

But maybe Kasimdzhanov is going to play more solid. After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 Gelfand usually plays 3.Nf3. Kasimdzhanov never plays the Queen's Indian, but continues with 3..d5, transposing to the Queen's gambit declined.

Gelfand then usually plays the Queen's gambit declined with Bf4, or the Catalan.


Kasimdzhanov usually plays 1.e4, but sometimes mixes in 1.d4.

Against 1.e4 Gelfand plays the Najdorf, and sometimes the Petroff.

Against the Najdorf, Kasimdzhanov most often uses the English attack with 6.Be3. Gelfand has played all main moves 6..e5, 6..e6, and 6..Ng4 here.

Kasimdzhanov has an excellent record with the English attack. Therefore, and especially in a match situation, I expect Gelfand to play the Petroff, unless he is behind in the score.

In the Petroff, Gelfand plays the line with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.O-O Be7 8.c4 Nb4 9.Be2 O-O 10.Nc3 Bf5, which is very solid and a good drawing weapon.

Kasimdzhanov will need an excellent preparation to generate winning chances with White against Gelfand.


Preview of FIDE candidates matches, part 3: Ponomariov - Rublevsky

Rublevsky - Ponomariov

Rublevsky always plays 1.e4. Ponomariov usually answers 1.e4 with the Najdorf, or some form of the closed Ruy Lopez, but he has also tried many other openings.

Rublevsky has quite an original opening repertoire with White, though. Against the Najdorf he likes to play 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+, or 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.f3. Ponomariov wouldn't be likely to get a closed Ruy Lopez either, as Rublevsky prefers the Scottish. While these lines aren't the absolute main lines, they still can be dangerous, and Rublevsky is playing them with great success.

Ponomariov - Rublevsky

Ponomariov started as an 1.e4 player, but has been using 1.d4 also quite regularly for some time now.

Against 1.d4 Rublevsky plays the Queen's gambit accepted, or the Slav.

Against 1.e4 Rublevsky plays the Taimanov or Kan Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 or 4..a6).

In the Taimanov and Kan, a lot depends on move order and transpositions. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 Ponomariov always plays 5.Nc3. Now Black can play many different moves, and Rublevsky has tried 5..a6, 5..Qc7, and 5..d6.

I think Ponomariov feels very home against these systems, and has had great success against them. So I expect we will see Ponomariov playing 1.e4, and 1.d4 maybe only if he is in the lead and wants to take less risk with White.

I think this match will see interesting games. Ponomariov should be considered the favourite. Rublevsky has to try to surprise him.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Preview of FIDE candidates matches, part 2: Leko - Gurevich

Leko - Gurevich

Peter Leko is primarily a 1.e4 player, but has been using 1.d4 for variety, depending on the tournament situation and opponent, since his match against Kramnik.

Gurevich has a very consistent opening repertoire against 1.e4. He normally plays the French, but if he wants to play more risky, he plays 1..d6. In the candidates match I expect him to play the French unless he is behind in the score and getting desperate, as Peter has an excellent score against 1..d6 systems.

After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 Peter Leko always plays 3.Nc3, and Gurevich always counters that with the classical French, 3..Nf6, after which Leko has always relied on 3.Bg5. For an important match such as this, he may also prepare the important alternative 3.e5. After 3.Bg5 Gurevich usually plays 3..dxe4.

Gurevich has a lot of experience with the French, and it will be important for Peter to prepare some good lines against it.

Gurevich - Leko

Gurevich is primarily a 1.d4 player, but he also uses 1.c4 regularly.

Against 1.d4 Leko plays the Nimzo or Queen's Indian.

Gurevich plays three different systems here, the Petrosian system against the Queen's Indian (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3),  and the Classical or Rubinstein variation against the Nimzo Indian (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 or 4.e3).

I expect Gurevich to play 1.d4 unless he is behind in the score, when he will switch to 1.c4.

Leko must be considered favourite in this match, but Gurevich is very experienced - a successfull opening preparation should be a key for Peter to win this match.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Preview of FIDE candidates matches, part 1: Aronian - Carlsen

The FIDE candidates matches will begin on the 26th of May in Elista. The first round will consist of eight matches over a distance of six games. You can see the original FIDE news item here. The most important facts about the match between Aronian and Carlsen can be found on the official site of the Mexico tournament here.

I will resume my previews of the Kramnik-Topalov match and have a look at the openings that we may see in the forthcoming candidate matches. These matches are played over a shorter distance - if one player is behind in the match he may have to risk something immediately. On the other hand they would not want to risk much as long as the score is even.


It is remarkable that Magnus Carlsen plays both 1.e4 and 1.d4 regularly at his young age. The ability to play both of these major opening moves has been regarded as important for match play at the highest level, but many world champion candidates started out their international carreer playing only one of those moves and learned the other later. For example Peter Leko had played 1.e4 in almost all of his games, but had prepared 1.d4 for his match against Kramnik.

Against 1.e4 Aronian plays the Marshall. The Anti-Marshall variations with 8.h3 are currently en-vogue on the top level, but personally I feel that while these systems are not so easy to play, they don't pose any theoretical danger for Black. In fact Aronian seems to be very comfortable in these positions with Black and scores very well there.

Carlsen must have noticed that and has started all his White games against Aronian with 1.d4 so far.

Against 1.d4 Aronian usually plays 1..Nf6 2.c4 e6, answering 3.Nc3 with the Nimzo, and 3.Nf3 with the Queens Indian or 3..d5. Carlsen has tried all of these systems with White, and sometimes the Catalan, and both have played different sub-variations of all of these openings, so it is a bit hard to guess what we will see - but unless Carlsen has some excellent preparation against the Marshall, I expect to see 1.d4 from Carlsen unless he is in the lead (because it is not so easy for Black to win with the Marshall either, especially if White plays one of the known forced drawing lines).


Aronian is a 1.d4 player and seems to play something else only in the Monaco event. Again, Carlsen plays the same openings after 1..Nf6 2.c4 e6 we just discussed with colours reversed, and Aronian also plays different systems against the Nimzo, Queens Indian, and has also tried the Catalan a couple of times recently.

Aronian sometimes finds amazing ways to play on in positions that look harmless for Black, so Carlsen has to be very careful. If Carlsen is behind in the match, expect him to play something sharper, like the King's Indian or the Volga gambit.

Both players have a very solid opening repertoire with Black. Unless we see some good novelties or some bad blunders, this match may well be decided in the tie breaks.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

The King's Indian is back

Radjabov played two more King's Indians. Yesterday a draw against Kramnik, today a win against Motylev. That is 4.5 out of 5 with the King's Indian for Radjabov in Wijk aan Zee. The King's Indian is back in top level chess.

The King's Indian had rarely been seen in the elite events since Kasparov abandoned it after loosing two games against Kramnik in the 9.b4 "Bayonet" attack. But that was in 1997 and 1998, almost a decade ago, and one of the games was a Blitz game. Kramnik did not even dare to play the Bayonet against Radjabov, after Radjabov made things look easy for Black against van Wely and Shirov.

After today's win, Radjabov has catched up with Topalov. Tomorrow sees them in a last round show down. Lets hope they play a real game, and no early draw to split the point and 1st place. Radjabov has White. He was not very impressive with White so far, his first place is entirely because of the points collected with the King's Indian.

If both players want a fight, we could see another poisoned pawn. The line discussed in the games Motylev-Anand and Anand-van Wely was also invented by Radjabov. Anand repeating the line with White shows that it is not so easy for Black as it seemed against Motylev.


1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6 8. Qd2 Qxb2 9. Rb1 Qa3 10. e5 h6 11. Bh4 dxe5 12. fxe5 Nfd7 13. Ne4 Qxa2 14. Rd1

This is the move that Radjabov invented.

14..Qd5 15. Qe3 Qxe5 16. Be2 Bc5 17. Bg3 Bxd4 18. Rxd4 Qa5+ 19. Rd2 O-O 20. Bd6 Rd8

Motylev played

 21. Qg3 Qf5

and White's attack did not really take off, as Black was always threatening to exchange queens.

I think a possible improvement for White could be


with the idea of playing c5, and Black's queen can no longer get to the kingside. One funny sample line I found against my Fritz:

21..Nc6 22.O-O b5 23.Qg3 e5 24.Bh5 f6 25.Rdf2

threatening Rxf6

25..Kh8 26.Qg6 Qb6 27.c5 Qa7 28.Bd1

and White wins.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Openings of the world championship revisited in Wijk aan Zee

Both Topalov and Kramnik are playing in the tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Since the world championship, Kramnik has played only his match against Deep Fritz. Topalov did play directly after the world championship match in the Essent tournament, where he probably was very tired.

Yesterday Kramnik played a fantastic game against Anand in the Catalan line that I recommended to Topalov in my game three and game five previews, but which Topalov never tried. Don't miss the video of Kramnik analysing the game for the public.

Today Kramnik repeated the Slav line from game six of the world championship against Aronian. Aronian went into the same endgame, but did not achieve anything, and a quick draw followed.

Topalov seems to be back in form and got his third win today. Against Ponomariov he played a King's Indian, which later transposed into a Benoni structure. He was probably inspired by Radjabov's example, who is the only top player using the King's Indian on a regular basis. Radjabov managed three points out of three games with the King's Indian so far (two impressive, one lucky) and he leads the tournament.

Round eleven will see Kramnik-Radjabov, and I hope this will be a King's Indian, too. In round twelve there is Topalov-Kramnik, which should be very interesting. And in the last round thirteen we have Radjabov-Topalov - lets hope none of these games will see a quick draw.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Searching for Fritz

When I visited the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn, Fritz was not to be found anywhere. One building down the road I met this strange fellow:

He told me his name: "Mein innerer Schweinehund".

Turns out he is from Chessbase, too. Long forgotten, but there he was.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

How to run Fritz 9 on Windows Vista

Today I installed the Windows Vista RTM on my new machine. Here is how to get Fritz 9 running:

  • Install Fritz 9 as usual. At the end you do not have to reboot, even if the setup asks you to.
  • The installer does not install the chess fonts on Vista. You have to install them manually: on the Fritz 9 CD-ROM there is a folder "Fonts". Go inside the folder with explorer and select all the font files. Then right click and choose install.
  • When you go to the chess server for the first time, you will be asked to download the update. Download this update. When you start the updater it will fail.
  • Go to your old Windows XP machine and look inside the Fritz 9 directory. If you have run the update there, there is a file GUI9.iup. Copy that file to the Fritz 9 directory on your Vista machine.
  • Right-click the IUPgrade.exe in the Fritz 9 directory on your Vista machine and run it as administrator. The update will work now.

Thanks to Fritz developer Mathias Feist for his help.


Friday, October 20, 2006

ICCF congress in Dresden

This year I participated for the first time at the ICCF (international correspondence chess federation) congress.

I had always dreamed that I would one day be invited and get a nice IM title. Alas, this will have to wait for some time, as I have too much work with the server and not enough time to play correspondence chess on the level required for an IM title. But I was invited to the ICCF congress to make a presentation about the server.

On Saturday my wife and I visited Dresden. Here are some photos (you can click on the photos to see them bigger):

The photos show: (1) me in front of the Zwinger, (2) Semper opera, (3) Hofkirche and Residenzschloss , and (4) Frauenkirche.

It was impressive to see that many of the buildings which had been completely destroyed in the second world war have been rebuilt using the original plans. This includes the Semper opera and the Frauenkirche.

On Sunday there was the opening of the congress with several speeches and votes. Here you can see me sitting at the computer during congress.

This picture was published by Uwe Bekemann at the congress website.

I did the presentation of the server together with Alan Borwell and Gerhard Binder. I read on TCCMB that some people had problems with the internet access in the hotel. I did not have any problems. In fact, there was wireless access in the hotel, and it must have been broadband, too. I was able to make a backup of the server and run a report against it - I could then present the very latest server statistics.

In the evening there was the opening banquet. Six correspondence world champions were present:


(1) From left to right: Gert Jan Timmerman, Ivar Bern, Fritz Baumbach, Tunc Hamarat, Horst Rittner, and Grigorij Sanakojew, (2) Gert Jan Timmerman, Ivar Bern and myself discussing the gambit match between Timmerman and Umansky, (3) congress postcard with autographs of all six world champions present.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Kramnik-Topalov game twelve preview

In game ten Topalov played the Catalan again, and Kramnik again reached a better position. I won't do analysis of concrete moves today - there is an excellent analysis of the game at, where Mikhail Golubev replaces Peter Svidler, who is now playing at the European Club Cup. I think Topalov is somehow playing the Catalan when he wants to draw, and the Slav when he wants to win with Black.

Game twelve is the last game in the match, and Kramnik has White. While I generally think Topalov should play for a draw and not risk too much, I can only recommend the Slav to him.

Out of Topalov's four games with Black so far (not counting the forfeit), he played the Slav once, and the Catalan three times. Topalov has scored one point out of the Slav game, and half a point ouf of the three Catalan games together. He also had a good position out of the opening in the Slav game, but three times a worse position in the Catalan games. Enough said.

I hope for an exciting game twelve and am not thinking about the tie breaks yet - after all we have seen already five decisive games in the match. We haven't seen so many decisive games in a world championship match for some time.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game eleven preview

Kramnik equalized in game ten. Game eleven is Topalov's last White game in the match. He has to create winning chances with White to avoid a Brissago-like last game situation: facing Kramnik in the last game with Black is tough, as Peter Leko can tell you. Topalov should be used to this situation by now, he was under pressure to generate good chances in practically every one of his White games.

Lets have a look at game nine, where Topalov managed to break through Kramnik's black wall for the first time in the match:

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3

Topalov plays the same move order as in game seven. He does not seem to mind transposing to the same queens gambit accepted line we saw in game seven. Or maybe he wants to play another Meran?


Kramnik deviates from game seven. As I said in my game ten preview, Kramnik had so far played like a wall, and a wall should stand still. I think Kramnik should have played 4..e6 just as in game seven.

5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4

I think this line is dangerous for Black. There are a lot of different ways to play this line for White.

6..Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6 8.a3

The main lines here are 8.g3 and 8.Bd2. I think the idea of this move is to have the option of playing c5.

8..Nbd7 9.g3

This is the new move. Topalov said in the press conference:

I used a good novelty, but one cannot say it gives White a decisive advantage. The move 10.f4 is invented by my second Vallejo – he specializes on this variation and worked a lot in Elista. So, you see the fruits of our work!

9..Be7 10.f4

The problem for Kramnik after this novelty is not that he has to calculate many forced variations, but that he is faced with a completely new concept in this opening. He first has to find a good plan for Black, which is difficult over the board, especially when you know that your opponent and his team have probably spent a lot of time analyzing everything at home.


I don't like this move. Susan Polgar writes

Why not to wait with this trade until White moves the Bishop from f1?

Actually, I am not sure if Black has to give up the center at all.

Mihail Marin proposes

Giving up the centre so easily is a risky decision. 10...a5 deserves attention, with the idea to answer 11.c5 with 11...b6.

If somebody plays f4 against me, and I have an open h-file available, I am always thinking about capturing the g3 pawn. But 10..g5? does not work, because after 11.fxg5 Nh5 12.g6 is strong, and after 10..Nh5 White can just defend with 11.Qf3.

Maybe Black can really just play the waiting game Susan suggests:

10..O-O and I think Black does not need to fear 11.c5 b6 12.b4 a5 13.Bd2 axb4 14.axb4 Rxa1 15.Qxa1 Qa8. If White moves his bishop, say 11.Bd3 Black can play 11..dxc4 and win a tempo upon the game. Maybe White will start rolling the pawns on the other side of the board though, 11.g4 or 11.h4.

Of course Black could even consider castling long in this position - you will have the rook h8 still on the open h-file. Or maybe Black should wait with castling, and decide wether to castle short or long only after White has revealed a bit more of his plan?

You can see Kramnik's dilemma - deciding between all these lines over the board is a difficult decision at home, and much more so over the board.

I also noticed, that the plan with attacking g3 may be not so bad if Black had put his Bishop on d6 on the ninth move instead of on e7, e.g.

9.g3 Bd6 10.f4 Nh5 11.Qf3 g5!? or

9.g3 Bd6 10.c5 Bc7 11.f4 g5 12.fxg5 Bxg3 13.hxg3 Rxh1 14.gxf6 Qxf6 15.Qe2 O-O-O 16.Bd2 Rdh8 17.O-O-O e5 with a complicated game.

The game continued

11.Bxc4 O-O 12.e4 b5?

After Black has given up the center, he should think about attacking White's center immediately - with 12..c5 or 12..Nb6 and 13..c5.

13.Be2 b4 14.axb4 Bxb4 15.Bf3

Here Kramnik had the last chance to play 15..c5, when he could at least have caused complications after 16.e5 cxd4. The game continued

15..Qb6 16.O-O

and Kramnik had a terrible position.

He had to say this in the press conference:

It is difficult to play well in positions such as the one I got today. Topalov’s novelty turned very strong – at least for one game. I didn’t manage to find adequate response to it. Already 12…b5 was played because I could not find anything satisfactory, especially bearing in mind that it was all opponent’s preparation. After the opening, I continued resisting because it was inconvenient for me to resign that early, but the game was basically decided by the move 17.

In game eleven, I think Topalov will try the same move order for the third time. Even if Kramnik or his seconds find a solid plan against Topalov's novelty at home, I think he should avoid the line after 4..Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4. Topalov may just have another new plan in that line and surprise Kramnik again.

It should be much safer for Kramnik to play 4..e6 like in game seven. I think the queens gambit accepted was not that dangerous, and Topalov would go for another Meran after that. As I said in some of the other previews, the sharp lines where White plays Qc2 and g4 are still left to be explored, and would certainly bring us another exciting game.

I think neither of the players will switch to 1.e4 at this point in the match - there are too many unexplored options. They will concentrate on trying to show an advantage for White in the setups that have already been played.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Kramnik-Topalov game ten preview

With Black Kramnik played like a wall so far in the match. The wall stood still, and when Topalov threw something at it, it came back to him. In game nine however, after

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3

Kramnik deviated from game seven (4..e6) and played


allowing Topalov to play the line

5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4

where Topalov had prepared a new line and won in a very convincing way.

The wall had moved and collapsed. I don't understand why Kramnik did not continue to play like a wall and repeat the line from game seven. I think this was a bad idea, and he should have repeated the line from game seven. I will come back to this for the game eleven preview. If you have any idea why Kramnik played like this, please let me know - you can send me feedback at

Now Kramnik faces a difficult situation. He is behind for the first time in the match, and there are only three games to go. It will be crucial to create winning chances with White in game ten.

But first lets have a look at game eight, and what this means for game ten:

In game eight Topalov abandoned the Catalan and switched to the Slav. While the Catalan had not been a desaster, Kramnik was able to steer the games away from complications and towards the technical positions he plays so well. Therefore I think Topalov made a wise decision by switching to the Slav.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6

Kramnik with Black played 4..dxc4 in this position in games two and six, here.

5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Be2

Topalov played 8.Bd3 in this position in game four.

8..Bb7 9.O-O b4 10.Na4 c5

Topalov has prepared a rare line. Now 11.Nxc5 Nxc5 12.dxc5 Bxc5 13.Qa4+ Ke7 is ok for Black.

11.dxc5 Nxc5

Now 12.Nxc5 Bxc5 would transpose to the last note.

12.Bb5+ Ncd7 13.Ne5 Qc7 14.Qd4 Rd8 15.Bd2

Hannes Langrock at proposes the greedy 15.Qxa7 Bd6 16.f4 O-O 17.Nxd7 Nxd7 18.Bd2 and asks if Black has enough compensation. I think yes, for example 18..Nf6 (Black has to make room for the queen) 19.Rfc1 (or Rac1) Qe7 and the White pieces on the queenside have gone astray. Black will make moves like Rd8-a8-a5, Rf8-d8 or a8, Nf6-d5 or e4.


This is Topalov's new move.

16.Bc6 Be7 17.Rfc1

Here 17.b3 or 17.Rac1 are alternatives.

After 17.b3 O-O 18.Bxd7 Nxd7 19.Nxd7 Black can choose between 19..e5!? 20.Qxe5 Qxe5 21.Nxe5 Rxd2 with a very nice bishop pair for the pawn (Hannes Langrock) or 19..Bc6, which is also fine.

17..Bxc6 18.Nxc6 Qxa4

Now Kramnik played 19.Nxd8 and lost the endgame after 19..Bxd8 20.Qxb4 Qxb4 21.Bxb4 Nd5 22.Bd6 f5.

There are some interesting alternatives on move 19:

Stefan Löffler looks at 19.Bxb4 e5 20.Qh4 Bxb4 21.Nxd8 O-O 22.Nxf7, but after 22..Rxf7 23.a3 e4 24.axb4 Qxb4 25.Rxa7 Qxb2 I think Black's two knights may be better than White's rook.

But very interesting is the sharp

19.Nxe7 Kxe7 20.Bxb4+ Ke8 21.b3 Qb5 22.Rd1

Now Vladimir Below analyzes

a) 22..Qe5 23.Qxa7 Nd5 24.Ba5 Rc8 25.e4 Qxe4 26.Rd4 Qf5 27.Re1 "and it is difficult for Black to untie".

b) 22..Qb6 Peter Svidler thinks "sooner or later the extra piece will tell", but Belov gives 23.Qc3 "and it is not easy to find the way for Black to unpin, while White’s attack develops naturally".

c) I think maybe 22..a5 is the best try to untangle, e.g. 23.Ba3 Qe5 and now

c1) 24.Qc4 Nd5 25.e4 Nb4 or

c2) 24.Qa7 Nd5 25.Rac1 f5

but this is all very complicated. Black's problem is that he cannot castle, because the King has already moved, and that all his pieces are in various pins. But can White do something before Black manages to untangle?

I doubt that we will see this line again.

Interestingly, therefore Kramnik now faces the same situation that Topalov has faced a couple of times in the match: he is trailing in the match, and if he plays 1.d4 could face the mighty Slav again.

So maybe it will be Kramnik's turn to play something sharp after all? Another Meran, perhaps? What will happen if Kramnik decides to play 1.e4? Would Topalov play the Najdorf? But now for Topalov a draw with Black would be fine. As I briefly discussed in my game one preview, he usually plays the Berlin in these situations, however against Kramnik, who is a Berlin player himself, he may have prepared another line - maybe the Marshall.

Lets hope for three more interesting games.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game nine preview

In game eight Topalov switched to the Slav (as I predicted in all my previews :-)and scored his first win. Because of the defaulted game five the score is now equal at 4-4. There are only four games left and we can hope to see an exciting finish to the match.

But now lets have a look at game seven, and what conclusions we can draw for game nine:

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3

In game two Topalov played 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 and in game four 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3.

Nf6 4.e3

In game six Topalov played 4.Nc3 here, transposing to game two. Kramnik could play 4..Bf5 here, but he would like to transpose to game four:

4..e6 5.Bd3

Topalov could have transposed to game four with 5.Nc3, but he plays a clever move order. If Kramnik now continues 5..Nbd7, White has the alternative 6.O-O Bd6 7.Nbd2, when Black cannot play dxc4, b7-b5-b4 with tempo. White will then be able to get in e4. Therefore Kramnik played

5..dxc4 6.Bxc4 c5

when a position from the Queens gambit accepted is reached (the usual move order to reach this position would be 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5, taking one move less).

7.O-O a6 8.Bb3

In the worlchampionship match between Kramnik and Kasparov, Kasparov had abandoned the Grünfeld, and this position was reached twice. Kramnik played 8.dxc5 in game four, while game six saw 8.a4 Nc6 9.Qe2 cxd4 10.Rd1.

Please note that the common line 8.a4 cxd4 9.exd4 Nc6 10.Nc3 Be7 11.Re1 O-O would transpose to the game after 12.Bb3 - however White seems to have more useful moves in this position and almost never plays 12.Bb3.

Because of this observation I cannot believe that Topalov's novelty in the game can be that dangerous. I think the idea was more to get a playable position with fighting chances that Kramnik could not possibly have prepared.

8..cxd4 9.exd4 Nc6 10.Nc3 Be7 11.Re1 O-O

We have reached a typical position with an isolated queen pawn. This position can also be reached from other openings by transposition.

It is interesting to note that positions with isolated queen pawns have been played in many, if not in all worldchampionship matches. Sometimes the handling of this type of position was even decisive. The first world champion Steinitz developed the strategy of playing against an isolated pawn and used it to good effect against Zukertort. Later Botvinnik developed attacking plans for the side with the isolated pawn.


This move is new although the same position was reached in a game Gershon-Papatheodoru, Korinthos 1998 by transposition. The moves 12.a3, 12.Bf4 and 12.Bg5 are all more common.

12..Bd7 13.Ne5 Be8

I think the position of the bishop is a bit artificial here, because the rook on f8 has not moved yet. Furthermore the bishop moves again a few moves later. Maybe Kramnik could just play 13..Nb4 here. I think the loss of the pair of bishops after 14.Nxd7 would not pose Black real problems. In the game Black exchanges this bishop against a knight anyway, so 13..Be8 looks just like a move lost.

14.Be3 Rc8 15.Rc1

This rook moves to d1 a few moves later, maybe it could have gone there at once?

15..Nb4 16.Qf3 Bc6 17.Qh3 Bd5 18.Nxd5 Nbxd5 19.Rcd1 Rc7 20.Bg5 Qc8

Again the placement of Black's pieces looks artificial to me.

21.Qf3 Rd8 22.h4 h6 23.Bc1

As several commentators have shown, after 23.Bd2 White could have developed a nice initiative.

What does this mean for game nine? Topalov has a difficult decision - should he go for an all out attack but risk losing? On the other hand, if he plays too calm and makes a quick draw, Kramnik will have one more White game remaining. This can be very dangerous against Kramnik. In the last world championship match, Peter Leko was leading with one point before the last game - but Kramnik had White and won.

Topalov does not have so many options left for the remaining two White games. If he repeats the line from game seven I think Kramnik would handle the position better. After 1.d4, I think this just leaves the Meran as a good option - and then it seems time for the sharp lines where White plays Qc2 and g4.

Or is this to risky? Maybe Topalov should switch to 1.e4 now. Somehow after all these Slav games the Petroff may not look so bad any more.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game seven preview

Thanks to every reader who made me aware that they are actually changing the order of the games in the second half of the match (you can send me feedback at Therefore game seven will see Topalov with White again - actually, because of the defaulted game, for the third time in a row.

So lets have a look at the opening of game six, and see what this means for game seven.


1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5

Topalov played


In the second game he played 6.e3, but got nothing out of the opening - although he managed to conjure an attack later (see my game four preview). Now Kramnik did not go for 6..Nbd7, but after

6..e6 7.f3

he didn't go for the sharp 7..Bb4 8.e4 Bxe4 either. Instead he went for the side line


and after


he surprised Topalov and played the rare move


I have some games from Smyslov with this move in my database, but it has not been played very often. There are more games with 8..cxd4 9.exf5 Bb4 with some unclear complications.

In the game, Topalov did get an endgame that looked a little bit better for White, but Kramnik never was in any real danger:

9.Be3 cxd4 10.Qxd4 Qxd4 11.Bxd4 Nfd7 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.Bxc4 a6 14.Ke2 Rg8

and so on.

Can Topalov improve White's play?

A) Susan Polgar shows that after

9.d5 exd5 10.Nxg6 hxg6 11.e5 Nh5 12.Nxh5

Black can (instead of 12..Ng3 13.Bxc4 Nxh1? 14.Nf6+ Ke7 15.Ng8+) just play


and White has only managed to weaken his own position.

B) Of course White could try to avoid the exchange of Queens with


but is that really an improvement? I have one game Pelletier-Smyslov, Zürich 1998 in my database, which continued

11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bxc4 Qa5 13.Qe2

and a draw was already agreed. Indeed, an advantage for White is not in sight, and if Black plays


maybe it is already White who should think about equalizing.

I think Kramnik did a fine homework here, this rare line seems to be safe enough for Black. I don't see any good way for White to improve. Maybe this will be played more often by Black in the future.

I think Topalov will have to return to 4.e3 and play another Meran, as I discussed in my game six preview.


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?


Saturday, September 30, 2006

Common sense

My son Marcel is six years old. He is a little chess player, too. Today he asked me if he could watch the world championship game with me. I told him that they are not playing, because they are arguing about which toilet to use. He said matter-of-factly: "But it doesn't matter which toilet you use." I thought that makes sense. We are playing Fritz and Chester 3 now.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game six preview

Thank you to the readers who sent me feedback. It seems I am not the only one who is interested in the openings.

When I was a student at university I had sometimes training with a grandmaster. He told me if I wanted to improve my over the board play, I should play simpler openings. I decided that I enjoy analysing the openings, and that chess is just my hobby. I did what I enjoy, not what would help me to improve my results best. The grandmaster was right however - I never improved my over the board play. At the board I usually don't remember my own analysis anyway. However in correspondence chess I think it is more useful.

I got one interesting feedback from Pirkka Kärenlampi from Finland:

My own ELO 2000 opinion is that playing black Topalov must have something relatively unexpected (Kasparov/Dragon, Anand/Scandinavian etc.) up his sleeve, which he'll have to pull out preferably sooner than later. But maybe I like my speculation a bit too wild.

Unfortunately your speculation today became true in a most bizarre and disgusting way. Topalov played the toilet gambit, and Kramnik pulled a Fischer. I really hope future surprises in this match will be on the board, instead of in the toilet.

So lets have a look at game four and what this means for game six, shall we?

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3

In game one Topalov played 4.Nf3 but got nothing from the opening, see my game four preview.

4.. e6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 Bb7 9.a3 b4 10.Ne4 Nxe4 11.Bxe4 bxa3 12.O-O Bd6 13.b3 Nf6 14.Nd2

This was Topalov's novelty. Black could win a pawn here, but after 14..Nxe4 15.Nxe4 Bxh2 16.Kxh2 Qh4+ 17.Kg1 Qxe4 18.f3 Qh4 19.Bxa3 Black's King would have difficulties finding a safe haven. There is no easy way to break through, but White should be better.

14..Qc7 15.Bf3 Bxh2+ 16.Kh1 Bd6 17.Nc4 Be7 18.Bxa3 O-O 19.Bxe7 Qxe7 20.Ra5

I think this position is slightly better for White. Black is very passive, and if White manages to win both of Black's queenside pawns, he will have chances to win. If Black gets too passive in defending those pawns, White may even get an initiative on the other side of the board. Black wisely sacrificed his c-pawn to free his game, but still White was a little bit better. I think Topalov can actually be happy with the opening for the first time in the match.

However, in the press conference after the game, Kramnik said:

To be honest, I thought we’ll be able to finish in two hours today – there was almost nothing to play with. But Veselin wanted to continue, and so we did. Frankly, for the rest of the game I was more concerned about making it to the TV to see a Champions League match. I agree, this encounter was kind of boring, but this is the only such case. Although there was still some tension in it.

Vladimir, you must be kidding. You are playing a world championship, White is having some nice pressure, and you are thinking about watching TV? I think I won't even bother to read anymore what they are saying in the press conferences.

I think in game six we will see another Meran. Not the same line as in game four, but another one. There are many other lines to explore, for example 6.Qc2. Topalov has even played a game against Kramnik in that line before, a draw in Dos Hermanas 1997. There is one very exciting line, 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.g4. Topalov could play this, but it is not without risk.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Kramnik-Topalov game five opening preview

Before I look at the opening from game three and the preview for game five: I haven't got much feedback so far on my opening previews, and I have no idea if anybody else is actually interested in the openings from these games (apart from me and the players). So if you find my analysis below interesting, and would like to see it as a PGN file, drop me a note at and let me know.

In game three Topalov switched indeed to another line against Kramnik's Catalan. Lets have a look at the opening from game three, and possible improvements along the way to get a better idea what to expect in game five. After

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2

Topalov played


In the first game he had played 5..Bb4+.  As I explained in my preview of game three, there were too many possible improvements for Kramnik, and Topalov was right to play a different line in game three.

6.Qa4 Bd7 7.Qxc4 Na5 8.Qd3 c5 9.O-O Bc6 10.Nc3 cxd4 11.Nxd4 Bc5 12.Rd1

Now Topalov continued

12..Bxg2 13.Qb5+ Nd7 14.Kxg2 a6 15.Qd3

A game Tkachiev-Solozhenkin now continued 15..Be7 16.Bf4 but Topalov played the new move

15..Rc8 16.Bg5 Be7

Here Kramnik chose the solid

17.Bxe7 Qxe7 18.Rac1

and had a slightly better position throughout the game.

Many commentators noted that Kramnik could have gone for the interesting 17.Ne4 instead. In the press conference after the game, Kramnik was asked:

Could you play 17.Nе4 instead of taking on e7?
V.K.: Yes, it was interesting! But how to proceed after 17…Nе5? It looks like Black solves his problems. I think I played a good game. At some point it looked pretty even, but then I started dancing with my rooks, and managed to create serious problems.

Malcolm Pein analyses this line:

17.Ne4 Ne5 18.Bxe7 Qxe7 19.Nf5! Nxd3 20.Ned6+ Kf8 21.Nxe7

as White being clearly better. Everything is up for grabbing in the final position of that analysis, so lets look a few moves further:

21..Rd8 22.Ndc8 Nc6 23.Nxc6 Rxc8 24.Na7 Ra8 25.Rxd3 g6 (or ..g5) 26.Rc1 Rxa7 27.Rc7 Kg7 28.Rdd7

Fritz gives Black's moves after 21.Nxe7 all as the only moves, so in few of White's domination after 28.Rdd7 I would like to think that White is very close to winning here.

Malcolm also gives 17..Nc4 as a better way for Black to defend against 17.Ne4.

This move is analysed by Susan Polgar:

17.Ne4 Nc4 18.Rac1 Nxb2 19.Nf5 Nxd3 20.Ned6+ Bxd6 21.Nxd6+ Kf8 22.Rxc8 Qxc8 23.Nxc8 N3c5

Susan stops her analysis here, without further comment. She probably implies that Black has solved the problems, however White can play

24.Nb6 Ke8 25.Nxd7 Nxd7 26.Rc1 Nf8 27.Rc7

here - when White has a lead in development that is worth more than the sacrificed pawn, despite only two pieces being left on the board. Again I think White is very close to winning.

After 17.Ne4 Nc4 18.Rac1 Black could also try


This is analysed on :

19.Qb1 Bxg5 20.Nxe6 fxe6 21.Rxd8+ Bxd8 22.b3 Na3 23.Qb2 Rxc1 24.Qxc1 Nb5 25.Qc8 O-O 26.Qxe6+ Nf7 27.Qc8 b6 28.Qxa6 Nbd6 29.Nxd6 Nxd6 30.Qd3

unfortunately I don't understand the Russian comments, but I think in this position Black will soon have great difficulties defending defending against White's queen and pawns.

To summarize, it looks as if after 17.Ne4! White will get very good chances to win the game. I think Topalov's novelty was not good, and he cannot repeat this line. In fact I think it is safe to assume that Topalov did not prepare this line, and played the novelty over the board.

How can Topalov improve this line?

In the press conference he said:

Veselin, you surprised the opponent in the opening, being first to deviate from that first game. Was your preparation inefficient? Which move was unexpected for you?
Veselin TOPALOV: I tried complicating the struggle, but did not succeed. In principle, I don’t think Black had serious problems. It looked like White had serious initiative, but this impression proved wrong, and I made a draw. I could trade queens by 12…Qxd4, but I wasn’t sure whether I should take on d4 or castle. I saw 13.Qb5, of course, but reckoned that the struggle is more complex with queens on board. There was also 15…Be7 instead of 15…Rc8, not allowing the bishop to g5, and Black has no reasons to be sad…

I think this comment also makes clear that Topalov did not prepare the line at home. Now lets have a look at the possible improvements he indicated:

a) 12..O-O 13.Nxc6 Qxd3

If Black does not exchange the Queens, White could try 14.Qb5 Qe7 15.Bg5 with a nice pin.

14.Rxd3 Nxc6 15.Bf4 Rfd8 16.Rad1 Rxd3 17.Rxd3

White is slightly better because of the bishop pair - not the kind of position you would like to play against Kramnik.

b) 12..Qxd4 13.Qxd4 Bxd4 14.Rxd4 Bxg2 15.Kxg2 Nc6

b1) 16.Rd3 Ke7 17.Bg5 Rhd8 18.Rad1 Rxd3 19.Rxd3 h6

and Black seems to be holding, however

b2) 16.Rd1 Ke7 17.b3 and if Nb4 18.a4!

with the idea of 19.Ba3 a5 20.Na2 seems to be fine for White, again. I don't like Topalov's ideas from the press conference. Actually I am not sure if these guys tell the truth there about any lines in the opening, after all their opponent is listening. Maybe they are just bluffing?

The main line against 6.Qa4 is

6..Bb4+ 7.Bd2 Nd5 8.Bxb4 Ndxb4 9.O-O Rb8 10.Nc3 a6 11.Ne5 O-O 12.Nxc6 Nxc6 13.Bxc6 bxc6 14.Qxc4

I think it is also not the position that Topalov would like to play in game five.

Therefore I repeat my recommendation for game 3:

Topalov should play 4..Be7 5.Bg2 O-O 6.O-O dxc4 7.Qc2 a6 8.Qxc4 b5 9.Qc2 Bb7 or switch to the Slav.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game four preview

In game three we saw another Catalan opening, with Kramnik having the slightly better position with White. Kramnik however avoided all complications and the game ended in a draw.

In game four Topalov has White, and of course he will have to try to get a good opening and get some winning chances. It will be very important for the players and their seconds to analyze the complicated game two, and draw the right conclusions.

I am not an expert on the Slav opening, nor do I want to become one tonight by analyzing all those complications, but my impression is as follows:


1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.O-O Nbd7 9.Qe2 Bg6 10.e4 O-O 11.Bd3 Bh5 12.e5 Nd5 13.Nxd5 cxd5 14.Qe3 Bg6 15.Ng5 Re8 16.f4

Previously, in this position 16..Rc8 and 16..Be7 were tried. Kramnik played the novelty

16..Bxd3 17.Qxd3 f5

Now the game continued

18.Be3 Nf8 19.Kh1 Rc8 20.g4 Qd7 21.Rg1 Be7

Now Topalov retreated the knight with 22.Nf3 and later found a fantastic Queen sacrifice, which however does not seem to win, but rather seems to be the best way in trying to safe the game. However here he could have played 22.Nxe6 and get good attacking chances after, e.g. 22..Qxe6 23.gxf5 Qf7 24.Rg4 followed by 25.Rag1.

Black could have avoided this on move 20 with a lot of complications after 20..h6 or 20..fxg4, but Svidler analyses the solid 19..Be7 and comes too the conclusion that "Black has very little to fear".

So it seems like Kramnik's novelty was actually a good one, and Topalov needs to play a different line tomorrow.

I think the main alternative against the Slav would be 6.Ne5, which Topalov has played several times with White. Kramnik has seen this line with Black a couple of times and played the sharp 6..e6 7.f3 Bb4 8.e4 Bxe4, which seems to be out of fashion at the moment in favour of 6..Nbd7. Certainly, Kramnik being in the lead would prefer that line with less complications.

Or maybe Topalov will play 1.e4, which I have discussed in the preview of game two.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Kramnik - Topalov game three opening preview

In game two, like in game one, Topalov again found some excellent, very creative attacking moves but later played several inaccuracies and lost. So it is Kramnik two, Topalov nil.

What should Topalov do in game three? Should he play very risky attacking chess, and try the Benoni, Volga gambit, or King's Indian? I think rather not. Kramnik has shown time and time again that he is able to punish any opponent who dares to play these openings against him. Don't forget that Kasparov abandoned the King's Indian (and the Grünfeld) not the least because of his problems with these openings against Kramnik. If Topalov plays too risky with Black and loses game three... I think Topalov should play solid, and try to attack in game 4 with White. If he gets one win with White in game 4 or game 6 and does not lose game 3 nor game 5 with Black, he will still have all the chances in the match.

I think Kramnik will be happy with game one - not only with the result, of course, but also with the opening. He was prepared for Topalov's novelty 12..Ba6 and got exactly the queenless, technical position that he excels in. Kudos to Topalov for finding an excellent resource later in the game, when he was even able to press hard for a win. But I think the middle game was just very slightly better for White, and I am sure that Kramnik would not mind playing exactly the same line again and come up with an improvement somewhere. For example, Malcolm Pein suggested 19.Nbc4. Therefore I think Kramnik will play 1.d4 in game three again.

Topalov could go for another Catalan and play a different line. There are certainly many of them. Topalov has played the line 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 O-O 7.O-O c6 8.Bf4 b6 several times, but it is rather passive, and he lost his last two games in this line against Ponomariov and Kramnik. Maybe he could try the line 4..Be7 5.Bg2 O-O 6.O-O dxc4 7.Qc2 a6 8.Qxc4 b5 9.Qc2 Bb7 that Kramnik played himself against Kasparov in the last game of their world championship, and which Topalov's second Onischuk used last year to draw against Gelfand.

So what do I think will they play in the third game?

I think Kramnik will play 1.d4 again, but Topalov will switch to the Slav.