Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Leko's Big Day

| Permalink | 12 comments

Tomorrow in Brissago, Switzerland, is 25-year-old Peter Leko's chance to enter the history books. Even if this annoyingly fractured era in chess history is littered with asterisks and footnotes in the chess encyclopedias of 2050, a match win over Vladimir Kramnik would stand on its own as a formidable achievement. Kramnik lost candidates matches to Kamsky (94), Gelfand (94), and Shirov (98), but showed an impeccable ability to pick his spots in 2000 by beating Kasparov.

On the other hand, if Kramnik beats Leko in the final game to tie the match and retain his title, Brissago becomes an instant classic. He'll have done what only Emanuel Lasker (1910) and Garry Kasparov (1987) have done: win the final game to change the result of a world championship match. Everyone is incredibly hard to beat at this level, but it's interesting that Leko fits the uber-defensive-expert profile of the two guys on the wrong side in 1910 and 1987, Schlechter and Karpov.

Few have had even the opportunity, of course. Alekhine, Bronstein, Smyslov, and Korchnoi had the chance and couldn't do it. In 1984 Karpov had 21 games to knock out Kasparov and failed. Karpov could have kept or taken the title from Kasparov in the final game in 1985 with a win and in 1987 with a draw.

Leko basically stopped playing after his win in game eight put him ahead. But he has risen to the occasion when pressed and has outplayed Kramnik consistently after the opening. The overall standard of play is nothing to write home about, but Leko has been better when it counts.


It is surprising to see Kramnik finding it this difficult to break Leko's defenses. I now realize having 2 elite-GMs as seconds doesnt guarantee a trnament victory. Anyway, good work Leko (& especially, Tkachiev and Akopian!). If Leko holds Kramnik to a draw (which I am sure is going to happen) today or better win this game, he really will be a worthy world champion! Who knows? Kasparov might find Kasim's defenses difficult to break too :) If that happens, it'd be fun to watch what Kasparov has to say then!


I have learned almost a new meaning of the word “Professional” from Leko. He keeps saying that in almost every press conference. He seems to mean Professional = “going for a drawing line”.

Is that what professional means? I understand something else when he says that, for me it means more like: Professional = pragmatic, “lets leave the game as quickly as possible” or “playing a bit cowardly”.

Well, his ”professional” way of playing has worked out, as it seems. We have to see the last game. I guess then he will be ultra professional.

I’m not criticizing his winning strategy; I’m just noticing Leko’s interesting use of the word professional.


Leko will be the most uninspiring champion ever, even more uninspiring than Kramnik was. Chess needs a guy like Kasparov... Go Garry.

You folks are being uncharitable to Leko. He has won two games after being down and has then defended difficult positions. He has been solid, resilient, and resolute. He has shown that the preparation for over a year has worked well.

There have been 3 decisive games and a number of other hard-fought games. I would say that is impressive. Better than what Kasparov did against far lower rated players in the club championships.

Credit should also go to Kramnik for fighting hard. He hasn't given up and not gone for short draws the way Kasparov did in the previous match.

If he wins, he will be a worthy champion. Kasparov, better be prepared. It will be a lot different from criticizing the level of play in chat rooms and flawlessly predicting winning lines from one glance while packing your bags :)


I must agree with Kapalik. Although there have been some very annoying short draws, there have also been some hard-fought draws and 3 decisive games. This doesn't seem bad for a match with only 14 games, although it obviously could have been better. And I don't think anyone can reasonably say that Leko has not played very well overall. He could have even played on in a couple of the positions in which he agreed to a draw.

One of the most interesting things about this match is both players' apparent inability to make much of the White pieces. Arguably there have been only a couple of games where White emerged from the opening with any significant edge. My understanding has always been that the stronger the player, the bigger the advantage in moving first. Either that is no longer as true as it once was (probably not the case), or this match has a strange dynamic (more likely in my opinion), possibly partly as a result of it being so short.

Anyway, regardless of your opinion of the match up to this point, I don't think anyone can deny the drama of the Classical World Champion needing to win the final game to keep his title. A chess fan's (and a sponsor's) dream ending. Sufficiently compelling that I decided I didn't want to just check in on the game occasionally from work, and I am taking the day off to watch the whole game. :)

- Geof

As I write this Kramnik has just defeated Leko in the 14th game to save his championship. It must go down in history as a rather underwhelming defense, but it is a successful defense nonetheless.

Mig observes that, after Leko won Game 8, he basically stopped playing. Indeed, there were at least two games since then in which he agreed to draws when the evaluation was in his favor. I'll bet he wishes he could have those games back. This is what comes of "playing not to lose," rather than playing to win.

I remember Kramnik at the pre-match press conference quoting Alekhine's statement at the beginning of the latter's match with Capablanca to the effect that he couldn't imagine beating Capablanca, but that he couldn't imagine Capablanca beating him either. (Kramnik was saying that applied to his assessment of Leko.) After the 7-7, I would say those were prophetic words indeed.

One more thing: Draw odds for the champion have a long tradition. But leaving aside Lasker-Schlechter 1910 (5-5) and Kasparov-Kramnik 2000 (where Kramnik won outright), I believe this only applied to matches of 24 games. And I find this much fairer.

Finally: I agree with Marc Shepherd wholeheartedly. I am sure Leko will be seeing the final position of Game 12 in his mind for weeks to come.

So sad. Leko did not win the match. I think its going to be a Kasparov-Kramnik match for the unified title. I hope Kramnik does not become Pono.

We should be happy. We're Kasparov beating Kasimdzhanov away from fixing 11 years of ruined history. We can soon finally put the "Avignon Pope" line to bed forever.

You need to now re-title this article to Kramnik's big day. :)

Rustam Kasimdzhanov may not be the favorite to win against Kasparov, but if Kasparov loses to Kasimdzhanov, I think Kasimdzhanov will likely become the favorite to beat Kramnik. Given that Kasimdzhanov was not the favorite to beat Ivanchuk, Grischuk, Topalov or Adams, I like his chances.

Prague agreement was never an agreement.Very few playaers were consulted and it was essentially to facilitate back door entry to Kasparov and a way to more legitamise the tittle of Kramnik as his results at that time were nothing to boost of.It is unwise to call something is dead when it was not even born.Nobody, (save kasparov)including chess will loose if this doesn't take place.Chess gets legitamacy only when players like Anand,Moro,Topolov along with Kramnik,Kasparov,Leko are given equal footing and fairchance .To achieve this you need not have to years or discuss forever.Just ignore few psychopants.

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on October 17, 2004 11:53 PM.

    Calvia Olympiad was the previous entry in this blog.

    Kramnik Wins, Sort Of is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.