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Kramnik-Leko WCh

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I suppose it's time to start talking about the Kramnik-Leko classical world championship match that starts on September 25. And why not? Nobody else is talking about it. With a roomful of chessplayers and fans at the Accoona match, nobody mentioned it once. It was all about the Olympiad. The two most consistently conservative elite players in a 14-game match. Yawn. Not that the 2000 Kasparov-Kramnik match wasn't a draw-fest. I was there for the duration. But the ongoing shock of seeing the heavily favored Kasparov down and increasingly desperate added tension and drama.

Anand said it best when he called Kramnik-Leko a battle of immovable object versus immovable object. Kasparov favors Kramnik, and thinks there will be more action than many predict. ("At least three or four decisive games. Two wins each if it's a draw. If Leko wins it will be plus two minus one.") What happens if both players just wait for mistakes? In K-K 2000 both decisive games (wins by Kramnik) were directly out of the opening. As well-prepared as Leko and Kramnik are, and as cautious as they tend to be, this could be a drag.

But let's be optimistic. Kramnik and Leko have played some very exciting games in the past. Leko has the game and the mental toughness to be able to beat Kramnik, who has the edge in experience and, I would say, in sheer talent and depth. If I were betting even money I'd go with Kramnik. But since you can get good odds on Leko, that's the smart bet. Leko even has a career plus against Vlady in classical chess.

Go vote on the winner in our message board poll and predict the score.



Isn't it the immovable object versus the irresistable force?


That's a lesson to me not to post at 1am when I am exhausted at 1am. You have the description of the match just right.....doh.

I am rooting against Drawnik, on principle.

I guess Kramnik has to be the favorite to win (he beat Kasparov, he's been consistently higher rated). On the other hand, Leko seems to be a very serious guy and his results have improved a lot over the last couple years. So although I would pick Kramnik by a small (1 or 2 game) margin, I think there is a reasonable chance of an upset.

I also understand the comments about expected draws (after all, Drawnik has often been accused of too many short Lekos), but I personally wouldn't be surprised if, even in this relatively short 14-game match, there are 5 or 6 decisive games.

Everything else aside, Kramnik and Leko are both great chess players and I am looking forward to seeing the games.

- Geof

It would be a lovely surprise if the players provide 8-12 swashbuckling games. Here's hoping.

To ensure that games are decisive, the arbiter should play the moves 1.e4. e5 2.Nf3 f5?!, to start every game.

HeH just got my first notification in my e mail box about updates to the Daily Dirt, GREAT idea. Good to see you arn't resting on your laurels of an excellent chess newsletter/web site Mig!!!

Not sure about the winner of the match, I would have preferred Micky Adams but then .... he isn't playing ;-)

Another idea along this line is to make both players wear arctic gloves, ensuring many touch move violations occur and thus decisive games.

Hey, I think you are being a little unfair on Kramnik with all this draw stuff, although clearly recent years have not been his best. The Guy did not get to his lofty rating by drawing lots of games. The same is true for Leko. I think many too many complain when they haven't even seen the games, let alone tried to understand them. I think that is the problem - too many players just complain because they don't understand - not every game can have a sacrifical Kingside attack.

Mig as for the 2000 WC drawfest I was there too (at least for the weekend games) and Kramnik would not really be blamed for the draws. Some stats!:

7 Kramnik white games - average length 48 moves (shortest was his win in game 11 at 25 moves). Secondly he tried hard to complicate in a number of those games albeit with his own style, not with the kind of firework complications that GK would more usually be associated with.

The 8 Kasparov white games - average length 30 moves, of which of course were those pathetic 11 and 14 move draws. Obviously GK was not on form but that is not Kramnik's fault!

Finally, and this is a very important point Mig, your message is clearly another example of your continued bias - constantly sniping at Kramnik and Leko whilst you have still not come out and stated that Boris Alterman - coach extraordinaire, general nice guy and computer wiz, be made world champion - as I said total bias. (Hoping no one is reading who suffers from SOHB (sense of humour bypass) disorder.)

I also noticed from examination of the games that Kramnik was super-squeezing to get wins from White and it was only some fairly miraculous defense that saved Kasparov from more losses. Therefore, I am optimistic that the quality of the games will be high. Remember the string of draws in Spassky-Fisher? The only thing I pre-lament about K-L is that the openings will be dull and repetitious. Please guys! Give us some variety! It actually might give either player a chance to win the match if he has the courage to play different openings.

My comments about the 2000 Kasparov-Kramnik match being a drawfest didn't blame Kramnik. By saying "not that..." my emphasis was actually on showing that even if Kramnik-Leko has a lot of draws it is unlikely to be as boring chess-wise as Kasparov-Kramnik. Kramnik missed a few other winning chances early and Kasparov missed a few chances late, but as Garry pointed out in our interview after the match, it must have been the first WCh match in history without a single combination! (Kramnik's second win had one, but it was published opening analysis.)

I also pointed out a while back that Dortmund 2004, while excruciating and embarrassing with all the draws, actually had a higher percentage of decisive games than Linares 2004, which had a different format and Kasparov playing.

But as I always try to point out, saying that something else is just as bad doesn't make something less bad.

Garry expects at least three decisive games, possibly even four or five.

Contrary to several other chessplayers I'm quite excited about the Kramnik-Leko match.

This is mainly because I really hope and believe that this is a step towards unification of the world champion title.

Let's face it:

In order for our "sport" to survive we need new players. For young people to find chess amongst all other things there are in the world chess needs to be mentioned in ordinary media.

But at the same time our sport is too odd and oldfashioned to be mentioned in mass media other than on large occations.

No occation will be deemed large and worthy of mentioning in media if there are several competing "world champion circuces" going on.

And if it's not mentioned in media there will also not be any sponsors so the events won't be deemed large enough too report about...

But hey, when I think about it, maybe it would be better not to have any sponsors instead of (as in the Kramnik-Leko match) having the murderous tobacco industry turn us into cigarsmoking old men in the public eye again...

Anyway: Go Leko!

Jens Petersson, Sweden
(national class II player rated 1716)

How about the most murderously boring chess match of all time, Karpov-Kasparov I? Every time Kasparov and his fan club start whining about the decline of the romantic spirit in chess they should be made to sit down and replay every one of those games!

Before that strawman gets too big for the page, there aren't any such comments about Kasparov or his fan club here. The mentions of Kasparov are about how he was part of the boring and drawish 2000 match.

More relevantly, Kasparov having played in a drawish match doesn't make Kramnik's chess any more exciting. Answering criticism with deflection isn't an answer, nor is using it as an excuse to bash. "Yeah, but Kasparov..." isn't much in the way of debating Kramnik-Leko.

Kasparov has admitted many times that Kramnik simply did what he had to do to win in 2000, and that he learned something. No doubt he would say he reflected that same pragmatism in the 1984-85 match. But it's no crime to be fearful of the direction Kramnik's style would take chess if widely imitated. Hate the sin, love the sinner. Imagine if the Berlin replaced the Sicilian as the top answer to 1.e4. Or if all the top tournament games averages 26 moves instead of 35. More on this debate:



I guess it's all a matter of taste. I found the Kasparov-Karpov I match to be rather interesting (and still do), notwithstanding the large number of draws. For much of the match, both Karpov and Kasparov, with white, were trying to break down one of the solidest of all black openings(i.e., the Tartakower Variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined and various lines where White avoids the Tartakower), and both of them failed. For anyone who plays the Tartakower, this match (and the following Karpov-Kasparov II and III matches) contain much food for thought; and many of the games are still theoretically significant 20 years later.

Of course, I am a big fan of Karpov's and Kasparov's, and I play the Tartakower, so I may be somewhat biased about Kasparov-Karpov I. More generally, I do understand the desire for more decisive games (as opposed to short GM draws), as to some extent I share it myself. But I think it's also important to try to make some distinction between fighting draws and "I didn't get any edge as White so let's take a day off" draws. A high percentage of the former doesn't bother me at all. A high percentage of the latter makes me think about dusting off the Shogi board and playing a game where draws are rare (and result in a rematch).

- Geof

Hey, it's a WC match, you just have to watch!
Ultimately, I think it will be filled with draws but I feel Kramnik will win a few games and seal the deal. Lets' face it though---Kramnik cheated to get his shot at the title from Kasparov by taking Shirov's rightful place. Yeah , yeah, Kasparov would have demolished Shirov, whatever. The fact is that Shirov was screwed over and that's just not cool. Shirov beat Kramnik in match play, that's got to say something about his play at the time. So anyway, the WC is a total sham :) FREE FISCHER!

Kramnik-Leko winner will decide the new WC. I feel it will be tough as both are talented and resilient. I am sure both are well prepared and one reason their current games have been dull is because they have felt it prudent not to expose their armoury.

I feel there should be a new qualification cycle to determine the challenger to Kramnik-Leko. Kaspy-Kasim match has no credibilty anyways.

The next cycle should be organized by ACP and there should be a wider participation (not the way Kasparov hand-picked a challenger who had lost).

Anybody who followed the 2000 match realizes there were some tense battles, many games that were one side was on the edge of +/- to +- especially in those Berlins. The fact that the games ended as draws simply demonstrates how damn resourceful these top guys are under pressure. Maybe the rest of us can learn a thing or two...about not cracking in a bad position?! Just a thought.

This match would've been nothing if it wasn't for the sparkling personalities of the players. I can hardly wait....

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 20, 2004 1:25 PM.

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