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Kramnik Rolls Up Gelfand

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Two of seven rounds of Dortmund 07 are over and it's been a rather conservative event so far. That's not unexpected with this field and the short length of the tournament. The young firebrands -- Carlsen, Alekseev, Mamedyarov, Naiditsch, don't seem to be quite as fiery in the presence of veterans Leko, Kramnik, Anand, and Gelfand so far. Round two split those groups neatly.

Carlsen surprised GM Benjamin on ICC Chess.FM by agreeing to a repetition in a position where he could play on with better chances against Naiditsch. That the 16-year-old had the black pieces was likely a factor. He did a fine job of gaining activity against Naiditsch's Exchange Ruy, which is what the German used in their game at last year's Bosna tournament. In that game Carlsen played the goofy 5..Be6 but survived. This time he went with the only slightly more pedigreed 5..Qf6. At the end of the game we were expecting Black to dive in with 32..Qa2 with threats on the back rank. White has to be precise not to lose a queenside pawn in traffic.

Anand-Leko was another inch along the Marshall Gambit trail and a draw in 29 moves. The new idea came when Leko played his rook to e7 instead of the usual e6. Anand used this subtle difference to play 22.Bf4, when 22..Bxf4 hangs the e7 rook to the back rank weakness. Swaps are supposed to be good for the side with the extra pawn, but Leko correctly figured that his bishops would have no trouble holding the queenside pawns. Anand agreed without debate. Instructive.

Mamedyarov looked helpless in a Scheveningen against Alekseev. It reminded Joel of the way Karpov used to play these positions back when the young Tolya was playing 1.e4 the likes of Spassky and Andersson. Mamedyarov gave up just about every possible positional card you can give up in these positions. Allowing a5 and never getting in ..d5 pretty much leaves Black with nothing to do. That is, nothing but give up the exchange for little compensation. It was either that or sit and wait for White to crash through with an inevitable kingside pawn wave. The depressed Mamedyarov showed little of his usual defensive tenacity trying to rush Alekseev in time trouble. He opened up a set of new weaknesses and lost abruptly with a run of bad moves after the time control. That dropped Mamedyarov back to an even score and put the Russian champion into a tie for first with the day's other winner, world champion Vladimir Kramnik.

Big Vlad once again displayed his ability to do a lot with very little. He played a fairly discarded line of the Semi-Slav against Gelfand with a quick 7.e4 break. Gelfand appeared to take his problems lightly, but that's really the point. It doesn't look like Kramnik has much in these positions until the game is practically over, then it appears clear that Black was bad the whole time. Or perhaps Gelfand was overreacting instead of the opposite? He pitched his b-pawn and then left his minors and king dominated while his queen went to get the pawn back. Kramnik got his c-pawn rolling and even creative and precise defense from Gelfand failed to hold. (41..Bf7 needs analysis.) The tricky relocation of the knight with 28..Ne8!? 29.Qc5+ Nd6 just looks like another road to zugzwang. 43..g6 looks like a much better endgame, but it's hard not to defer to Gelfand on that one. 44.Ke3 is probably good enough.

Monday is a rest day (Thursday is another), so we can watch AeroSvit, where they are playing eleven rounds with just one rest day. Karjakin leads, and if he holds on to win I get a bonus cookie for my not terribly daring suggestion he was ready for a breakout performance.


Kramnik really is a class act especially when in comparison you think of Kamsky's inability to cope with Gelfand's repertoire.....
I'll be really intrerested to see if Kramnik's Black openings have changed in prep for Mexico.

"Kramnik really is a class act especially when in comparison you think of Kamsky's inability to cope with Gelfand's repertoire....."

I have to agree wholeheartedly, one of his patented squeezes, against very high quality opposition as well. Good to see the big Vlad back and playing something like his best.

Congrats to Alekseev, the lowest player in the field on a +1 score already!

Would be interesting to learn whether Vlad really has anything in the main lines of 7 e4, which have been thought equal for Black for ages. Guess it depends how much he's hiding his ideas for Mexico.

I think the point in Anand-Leko is not so much the two bishops as the weak White light squares. That's why the light bishop is able to keep the king out so effectively, and also prevent the knight from finding anywhere stable, since on black squares it gets exchanged and on white ones attacked.


actually what Gelfand played (c5 instead of e5) is/was statistically (according to megabase) the best line for black after 7. e4. ECO also considers c5 as a straightforward equalizer. Definitely it looks a lot safer than murky lines after the possible Q sac.

I don't think that this e4 business is a serious long term weapon. Black has too many ways to equalize according to the current theory (Be7 Qe7 instead of Qa5+ is one). My guess is that Kramnik knew Gelfand's preferred way to equalize before hand (they could have even discussed it together) saw a chance to get a slight pull there and went for it without hesitation. Then Gelfand made a slight inaccuracy and Kramnik brilliantly converted.

Yes, I know, osbender, but since Sokolov's Ke2 has been discovered Black's not done half as well in this line, certainly not theoretically, and I'd be surprised if statistically either.

Gelfand's ...Rxd1 superficially was a very curious move. It's hard to believe there wasn't some good tempo move he could have waited with, since White's pieces seem to be perfect already.

A lot of good players commenting on ICC thought the B -v- N ending would be drawn. I didn't, not because I know better than various GMs but because I thought Kramnik probably did.

Gelfand indeed defended ingeniously and precisely throughout. No wonder he is so hard to beat - this was actually his first loss in a classical game this year. Almost looked like Kramnik had to win the game several times.

I more and more understand Kasparov's reaction to Kramnik style as stock-market chess. With white, it seems he likes lines that are basically equal but certainly pose no danger to white and where it is not quite clear how to fully equalize and there are many "roads." There is a certain probability the opponent will take a road that is not quite enough and from that point Kramnik almost never let's go even against the best players. It is this later high conversion rate that makes it profitable for him to play this way it seems. In any case, it is good that those who criticize his perfectly rational style have silenced somewhat.

2 comments on what DP said:

1. I think it's fair to sum up and say that Kramnik wins through superior technique rather than any sort of "over-the-board" or "away-from-the-board" innovation.
2. Kramnik was only fairly successful as a match and tournament player from 1998-2005 (+1-1=1 in match play, a couple of tournament wins, several less than flattering performances). But since his return from his illness, he impressively beat Toopalov, got the highest rating in Olympiad, performed well against Deep Fritz the mate in one not withstanding, won Amber and Dortmund (and looks like he is about to do the latter again) and finished only half a point out of first in Corus. In other words, he is playing like the best player in the world and the champion. That will silence many critics every time.

Kramnik "Impressively beat Topalov"??

C'mon, all the games Topalov lost in Elista were because he over-pressed trying to win, Kramnik never showed anything special...

"C'mon, all the games Topalov lost in Elista were because he over-pressed trying to win..."

For "over-pressed" read "blundered".

Game One: 57...f5?? 58. Nxe5 +-

Game Two: "Topalov did not spot the instant win and continued with his not completely convincing attack....Kramnik ground out a second win in two games." --Marin

Game Ten: 24...f6? "A terrible move...loses outright...it is not very clear what he had in mind..." --Marin

Rapids Game Two: 31...b4? "But this is equivalent with complete strategic surrendering." --Marin

Rapids Game Four: 44...Rxc5?? "The last of a surprisingly long series of mistakes in this match." --Marin

It was a match between a 2700 player and a 2800 player. The glass wall helped a lot despite the fuss arranged by the inferior player.

If making a lot fewer mistake than one of the top chess players in the world is nothing special, then let's hear it for the not so special GMs everywhere.

The game of chess has advanced so far that even very casual chess players can point out the errors made by the world's very best, thanks to the excellent computer engines they may have by their hands. Can you point a loss in the past few years in which the losing side was not found by the analysts to commit an error?

Do you think that maybe Topalov simply overpressed and did not commit any errors? If so, that is still a measure of skill. A lesser player would have caved in under pressure, but Svidler, Kramnik and other strong players have withstood Topalov's attack in the past year and even turned the tide.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on June 25, 2007 12:28 AM.

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