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Topalov Match

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But against Nisipeanu. The four game match started today in the Romanian capital of Bucharest. The first move of the first games was made by the Romanian president. (Of course you know who that is.) The hometown hero, #20 on the rating list, and the world #1 and FIDE champ thrilled the crowd with a 25-move Berlin Defense draw. It was devoid of interest as Nisipeanu's new 11.Nd4 came to naught.

With the Berlin firmly established in Topalov's repertoire the prospect of a Kramnik-Topalov world championship match makes the QGD marathon Alekhine-Capablanca match look like the Texas chainsaw massacre. Not that I think Topalov would or should play the Berlin against Kramnik, but still.

Speaking of, odd non-announcements and comments keep accumulating about this September match in Elista. The latest is by a Russia journalist in an article printed Ilyumzhinov's reelection website, which doesn't seem like a coincidence to me. (That it's listed on the "Around Elections" page may just be an amusing Freudian slip.) Neither player has confirmed anything. Kramnik has said he's willing to play and mentions the match in passing on his website and makes some "ready, but who knows?" remarks in a ChessBase interview from March 13. Nothing has been heard from Topalov. If things are as solid as that Kuznetsov article makes it sound we'd have heard something from the players and on the FIDE website.

Back-channel negotiations have a place. With big egos and many previous statements of honor and blah blah on the record from both players, it's close to impossible to come to an accord in public at this point. Face must be saved and we may never know the fine print. But we've been burned too many times before to get too excited about this yet. (Anyone else have a souvenir plane ticket to Yalta?) Of course I'd be very happy to see such a match, especially if it marks a return to health and form for the recuperating Kramnik. I don't even care if it's an election-time pork-barrel match if it can be that new healthy pork for the chess world.

I'm hoping to hear from either player or their representatives at least to get an update on the status of the negotiations. Are contracts on the table? In the mail? In the word processor? We still have a passle of FIDE candidates matches we've heard nothing more about, remember. The bidding for those was supposed to have closed two weeks ago.


While we are on the topic of upcoming hypothetical matches (an in-form Kramnik vs. Topalov would be tremendous, but "in-form" is a big if), Mig, what ever happened to your tease about a "high profile" Fischer random chess match? Any more tantalizing morsels of information?

The collapse of the Kasparov-Pono and Kasparov-Kasim matches seemed awfully odd in their own ways. Unless Kasparov was secretly dodging Kramnik, which I doubt, neither he, nor Pono, nor Kasim benefitted from aborting the matches.

Did Kirsan wake up one morning and realize that he'd rather not contend with such a powerful and sometimes contrary-minded champion as Kasparov?

This time around I expect that both Kramnik and Topalov sincerely want this match. What about Kirsan? Would he prefer that the classical, long-match championship just wither up and die and stop cluttering up his chess landscape?

If Kirsan ruled out any interest in participating in the long-match tradition, Kramnik would presumably look around and find a challenger. So perhaps Kirsan is stringing along Kramnik as he strung along Kasparov some years ago.

I've not been overly impressed with Kramnik's business managers... I'd hope they'd be preparing, right now, for the eventuality of a Kramnik-Topalov fizzle-out. Maybe a challenge to Kasparov. Or successive challenges to each of the top dogs on the rating list, until one of them says "yes."

I'm afraid, however, that if/when Kirsan aborts the match Kramnik will announce that he's starting to think about how he'll defend his title.

Little details such as "number of games to be played" would give this mid-September Kramnik-Topalov match more believability.

And Kramnik's fall schedule seems to indicate that HE doesn't think the Topalov match will happen.

The Berlin wall. Eek! I hate that freakin' opening. Can't even stand to play through games in the system. Pity Topalov keeps getting good results - he'll probably keep playing it! I shudder to think of a Topalov-Kramnik Berlin fest. Perish the thought.

I must admit that it is still a little surprising to me that the Berlin is a mainstay in Topalov's opening repertoire. However, his adoption of such a dry opening has been much more successful than Kramnik's attempts to vary his openings with the dynamic 1. e4.

I think it would be cool to see a T v K match, but in my heart, what I would really like to see, is a slugfest between Topalov and Anand. Let the 2800 club take off the gloves and duke it out. Winner takes all. And, if Kasparov comes back and plays in a couple of tourneys at his usual 2800+ level, give him a crack at the new champ.

If Topalov and Kramnik believed that the Eltsta match was a serious possibility they would not have scheduled computer matches immediately afterwards. Naturally they are keeping their options open by not ridiculing the proposal but clearly neither believe the match will happen in the form announced.

Since Kramnik's match does not begin until late November, my last post is probably wrong - there would be a month between the end of the Elista match and Kramnik's Fritz match. And since Topalov has been delaying the announcement of his Hydra match, originally planned for October, perhaps negotiations to play in Elista are continuing.

It's long been the fashion for supporters of a WCC loser to insinuate that there was something faintly unfair, unsportsmanlike or boring and uninteresting about the winner's choice of openings. Petrosian's Petroff is one example, and, more recently, Kramnik's Berlin.

In London 2000, Kramnik played the Berlin four times. Games One and Nine were interesting. Game Three was fantastic. And in Game Thirteen Kasparov conceded perhaps the most unusual agreed draw in WCC history. Following Kasparov's failure to overcome the Berlin in those four games, there's been no better means of currying favor with him than to criticize the Berlin.

Ironically enough, Kasparov cites his Astana victory against Kramnik as one of his best games. There are plenty of exciting Berlins and plenty of boring Sicilians.

Who said anything about unfair? The word is boring. Of course it depends on what you mean by exciting, the game or the situation around the game. Most people think of king attack and tactics, counterplay and sacrifice. These things are absent in the Berlin almost by definition. (This is why the Astana game was such a notable exception.) It, as the Petroff used to be and still is to an extent, an attempt to nullify white's winning chances via simplification, to suck the dynamic potential from the game even if this means prolonged suffering in a technically inferior position with few counterchances.

This is hardly a Kasparovian declaration. It's blatantly obvious to anyone with minimal understanding of the game. Bareev, who prepared the Berlin with Kramnik for weeks and months, said all that and much worse about the "horrible" Berlin positions. It doesn't make it illegal or unfair or anything else. Of course Black can win with superior play; it's still chess. It does often make for boring games, boring meaning the opposite of the aforementioned definition of exciting. The rare times they are exciting it is usually well beyond the opening phase. I.e., if you love endgames and consider them exciting.

Kasparov's win over Kramnik's Berlin in Astana was a critically important game because it won the tournament. It was a nice novelty and a strong endgame. It was otherwise satisfying for Garry for obvious reasons. And just about any win over the Berlin is a pleasure for many who dislike the Berlin and the Petroff and other defenses based on removing dynamism simply because we hope that if people lose with it they, and others, will play it less often.

Fischer 2006 is not of interest to anybody who is interested in chess. He's been toast ever since he lacked the cojones to play Karpov. He would, of course. have been decimated by Karpov in his prime. And he knew it. Q.E.D.

I know anytime I open my mouth about chess, I get this deluge of... "You don't know anything, you probably think caissa is a card game!" (My current blitz rating on the ICC is a meager 1805).

This, of course, doesn't stop me from commenting.

So, wassup with Game 2?!? It looks like Nisi gives a pawn away for nothing on move 6, with black, against a world champion. Not smart.

I'm ready now for the barrage of rebukes from the many wannabe GMs. "If you weren't such a pawn pushing patzer you would see that Nisi sac’d the pawn for activity rather than suffering with a weak isolani…ad infinitum…”

Still looks dumb to me.


Nisi did end up down a pawn "for nothing", and quite early in the game too -- but surely not as early as move 6. An immediate ...c5 has long been the automatic reply to White's Bf4, in numerous types of QG and Nimzo-Indian positions; so that move cannot be where Nisi went wrong.

I'm only looking at the position offhand, and I'm not familiar with QGD theory, to boot. I was surprised by Toppy's 9.e4; maybe that was a novelty that surprised Nisi too (although as I just said, just because I'm unfamiliar with the move hardly makes it a novelty).

My first impression was that depriving White of the castling privilege might be worth a pawn, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that it wasn't. By move 19 it looks to me like Black's position is already resignable. If for instance Black tried 19...Rd6 to avoid giving White connected passed pawns, then I think 20.Bxd6 Rxd6 21.Qd3, when 21...Nxd5 is met by 22.Ng5 g6 23.Ne4, winning material (a fork is coming on f6.

Going back to move 11, perhaps Black should have tried ...Nb4 instead of the too-obvious ...Bb4+. Then if White protects the pawn with 12.Bc4 he will lose the castling privilege anyway (to ...Re8+). More pointed is 12.d6. But Black could then launch complications via 12...Be6 (threatening to regain the pawn with ...Nd5) and if 13.Ng5 Qf6!? 14.Nxe6 exf6 leaves White in a mess due to the pressure against f4, f2 and b2.

By the way, Todd, my ICC blitz rating is only in the 1800s, too. So, don't be intimidated.

OT: The BBC's Owen Bennett Jones interviews Garry Kasparov:

Very interesting!

Game 2 looks like a very exciting battle. Do you concur?

Dunno of anyone has mentioned this already, but Topalov could have played a useful underpromotion to a knight on move 35 of game two. Topalov was obviously pretty sure the rook endgame was winning to avoid going up a piece with the underpromotion. Certainly it seems to be a faster win than with an extra knight but no passer.

I am just blown away by the commentary from GM Marin on chessbase.com.

There is so much going on even in seemingly quiet phases of a game between masters.

Wheels within wheels within wheels...


Agreed--Marin's analysis is outstanding.

From GM Marin's Game Two Chessbase report:

"Topalov probably rejected 35.c8N because of 35...Rd8 when Black could hope to give up one of his rooks for the enemy knights at the right moment and then defend his a4-pawn by placing his bishop on b3, which would lead to a draw."

An interesting interview by Topalov, immediately after his match against Nisipeanu: http://www.chessfidelity.com/elections.php?txt_id=95

Thanks, Giannis

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on April 6, 2006 12:36 PM.

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