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Kramnik and Anand al Frente

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It's still very early in a long event, but favorites Kramnik and Anand, the defending world champ and the world's #1 ranked player, have moved into the lead after the second round of the 2007 world championship tournament in Mexico City. Kramnik out-dueled Alexander Morozevich in a hyper-complicated tactical melee. He played a speculative piece sac out of his standard Catalan, not the sort of thing we've come to expect from either Kramnik or the Catalan. As Kramnik himself put it after the game, a computer could likely have defended the Black position -- and the computers agree -- but even the chaos specialist Morozevich wasn't up to the task. He was in deep time trouble well before move 20 and the position was absolutely insane. No human can be expected to play this sort of thing perfectly; you just have to outplay your opponent. That's what Kramnik did, finding the key blows 18.Qa4! and later 22.b6! to finish things off. His 21.Bf4 was a mistake (21.Rac1), allowing a remarkable counterattacking idea that Morozevich, with just a few minutes on his clock, failed to find. In that respect Kramnik's real mistake was playing too quickly in Moro's time trouble, leading to the inaccuracy. Had Moro found 21..Qd5! preparing ..Qf3 and ..Bd5, both players would have been dancing on the knife's edge. (Feel free to go through the occasionally ludicrous complications with your favorite engine. One main line is 21..Qd5! 22.Rac1 Bc5 23.Qxa6! Nb6 24.Rxc5 Qxc5 25.Bxe3 Qxc7 26.Bxb6 Rxa6 27.Bxc7 Rxa2 draw!) Morozevich found the idea a few move later, but it was too late. Spectacular stuff from Kramnik, who is clearly here to play. Perhaps his rematch clause has given him a nothing-to-lose attitude that will shake off anything that remains of his old Dolmatov Doldrums.

That game ended in just 27 moves, but Anand was actually the first to finish. I thought Aronian could make a statement in this game but it was Anand who said, ¿Quién es tu Papá? to Aronian. Vishy's novelty on the black side of the Semi-Slav gave him a huge lead on the clock that was soon matched by a big advantage on the board. 17..c5 was the contribution of Anand's second, Nielsen, and it put Aronian in the tank for a long time. The superficial point is that Black needn't fear the pin on the d-file or the skewer 19.Bd6 because of 19..Qxh4 with mate threats. He solidifies his queenside pawn chain and takes his time collecting the c5 pawn. Unless White can do something quick he's just down a solid pawn. Aronian seemed to freeze in the headlights at first (Kh1 might eventually be necessary, but it really cut down on his options to play it immediately) and then overreacted (¿? Not sure there are better alternatives, really.) with a temporary knight sac. (Played, coincidentally, at the exact same time as Kramnik's, so two knights were hanging at the same time.) It wasn't enough to shake free from the black pawn bind, however. Anand found the nice 22..Be5! and White was forced to bury both of his bishops alive with 23.f4. 26..Qe6! was another star move, one that Aronian said he missed. His rook got locked up on h5 and eventually Anand collected the exchange and finished efficiently. The computer points out a wild try with 27.axb5!!, hanging the rook in midair. After 27..Qxd5 28.Bxc4 Qd4 29.Bd3 f5 30.Bxe4 White gets counterplay with his pair of passers. Black should be able to round them up, keeping a solid plus even if he has to give back the rook. Still, it's a great shot that gives Black a chance to make a mistake.

Gelfand and Grischuk were already watching the games from the sidelines. They played a short but interesting draw that liquidated into clearly drawn position hard to take issue with. 20..Nxe2+ could have kept things alive, but the two pieces always seem to come out on top over the rook in the long battle. Both players were questioned about short draws and Sofia rules later, and FIDE veep Azmaiparashvili (who arbitraged the draw offers in Sofia) made some noises about implementing anti-short-draw measures since "Sofia is one of the most successful tournaments in the world." Anand is quoted as saying "40% of the games end in draws, so we quickly get used to the criticism." Maybe a misquote, as 40% hasn't been the case at this level in decades. Recently Linares has seen from 65% to 79% with a freak low of 53% in 2006.

Other players were also asked, as Ian Rogers reports in his CLO reports, by far the best coming out so far. Fellow pro Leontxo Garcia's reports are now appearing on the official site, so things are looking up. They also have horrible tag-resized photos. If you right-click them and choose "view image" you can see them in full without the jaggies. (I was just told that the organizers have been bouncing checks to the staff, including the web staff, which explains a lot. Sigh.)

Svidler had an interesting new idea in the Marshall against Leko, and he tried for a long while to make something out of it. Leko held on and White's king was just unsafe enough to guarantee Black a perpetual if Svidler let his pieces get too far away. One spectacular early line GM Benjamin looked at on the ICC was 18.Ne4 Bh3 19.Bd1 Bxf1 20.Bxh5 Bd3 21.f3 f5 22.Bxe8 Rxe8 23.Bf4!! and White comes out ahead because the light-squared bishop is trapped! Amazing, but perhaps Svidler didn't like the looks of 19..Qf5. Everyone noticed that Black can't take the knight on move twenty or Bd1 will win the exchange. Leko could have avoided that by kicking the white queen to f2 with 19..Bh3 before going to f4.

Kasparov is touring Spain to launch the Spanish edition of How Life Imitates Chess so I didn't get much from him on the round other than a quick "nice game by Vishy." Nice report in El País (Spanish), if mostly about politics, with a good photo. He had a great radio appearance as well. They brought in Paco Vallejo Pons and had several callers from Linares to talk about his retirement there in March 2005. He also saw Spanish GM Miguel Illescas, who told me he has always been a Kasparov fan but it's been difficult because he's always found himself on the other side, first assisting the Deep Blue team and later seconding Kramnik!

Round 3 sees the big showdown, even if it's early yet. Did Kramnik bring van Wely to sharpen up his repertoire? Anand-Kramnik, Morozevich-Svidler, Leko-Gelfand, Grischuk-Aronian. Live games here. Video and more, plus live radio with GM Joel here.


The 2nd round was very-very interesting. Let's see how many sleep hours we will lose this 3rd round :-))

It's too bad nobody asked Zurab in what sense Sofia is one of the most successful tournaments in the world. Is it the subpar quality of the games for this level of players? The lack of rest days that favors endurance over chess skill? The fact that Topalov wins every year? That Mamedyarov and Adams were the only 2700s who wanted to play in 2007?

I would ask myself, but that would be too close to calling him a dunderhead.

Hehe....nice Yuriy!

I wish I were in Mexico right now so I could let Kramnik and Anand know that their rook and pawn ending is a draw. =8-)

Seems like Kramnik is winning.

Kramnik-Anand 1/2-1/2.

Very good game by Kramnik throughout. Bad opening by Anand (just like against Gelfand - doesn't he have anything against the Petrov?) - but very good defending work in the endgame. I almost thought Kramnik might have a win somewhere.

I liked Morozevich's game. 19.Qb1 instead of trading down was nice; considering the role she played in the end.

Anand fan though I may be, it would be so awesome if Moro were to win this thing!

Sorry, should read 20.Qb1.

If Anand wants to win with white, he better switch to something other than e4!

MORO defeats Svidler to move back to an even score! He will win this thing if he is pressing and everyone else is drawing.

I'm still intrigued by Kramnik's choice of Van Wely as second. Van Wely is an optimistic risk taker - sort of Topalov without the top talent - and a total contrast to Kramnik's own style. Maybe Kramnik has decided on a more aggressive approach to try and win this instead of settling for his usual + 2 ?

Yep, I suppose he has. After all, Kramnik is certainly well aware that winning tournaments requires somewhat riskier play than winning matches.

So far Kramnik does not seem to play sharp openings, he just gets a + in the black side of Petrov :)
And his piece sac against Moro was possible because Moro chose the sharpest possible line against Catalan!

Does any website publish the Q&A with the players after the games? It's surprising that whereas other sports utilize any form of communication with the players to reach the fans, the Chess WC organizers don't even have organized their media releases properly. Even a Q&A transcript or video would be fine but I am very much interested in listening to the players' views on their own games.

I don't think Kramnik or anyone has to adopt a "riskier" approach.

Note that even Kramnik's "usual +2" was enough for him to win Linares three times in a row.

Now his "usual +2" since his comeback has in fact been +2 over 7 rounds in Dortmund, +3 over 13 rounds in Wijk, +3 over 7 rounds in Dortmund. This is two tournament wins and one where he came very close to winning without even seeming to exert himself to max.

Now this field is so close and consists of so many strong players - definitely no weakies at all to collect wins from - that you can't expect anyone to run away with it: +3 should be enough for at least shared.

Why should Kramnik have to change what is already working quite fine?

Kramnik bashing is a popular vocation,and Mig has his fair share of it.
But what is less well commonly understood about Kramnik is that he's a kind of practical player. He believes that his depth of understanding is superior to the other players, so why take the risk of losing to them when he can play for a win, with a draw in hand. Kasparov agreed about Kramnik's real strength, until Kaspy started getting screwed over his return match.
Here, when there is so much at stake, Kramnik realises that a fight for first with 2nd or 3rd or 4th in reserve is no longer an option.
Its time for all-out attempt to win the tournament outright.
So a risky piece sacrifice early in the tournament fits right into his gameplan. He will sit cosily at +1, hoping for a technical convert to +2, when we will see the reemergence of the old Kramnik. If he loses a game, we might see more of the "new" kramnik.

Remember his games his kasparov ? His piece sacrifice, just for play. That was because, against kasparov, he needed it. For the only person Kramnik respects is Kasparov. (See his website for his account of all the world champions)
Ask Kasparov what he thinks of this, Mig !!

Garry seems to be embittered towards Kramnik. Mig said he said nice win by Vishy. Maybe he didnt see Vlad's game :-)

Interesting thing so far is the stability of Kramnik's opening play as black and the flexibility of his white openings. No surpise really. I know Vishy does play d4 but generally he is an e4 man through and through. I cant help thinking that at this rarefied level thats a microscopic disdvantage. I keep wondering what did kasparov have prepared against Kramnik's petroff for the 2000 match? I guess its locked away in his databases. I am looking forward to Anand Aronian what can he have against his marshall? - Aronian makes the anti marshall lines look like a draw offer. A great tournament nothing easy every line up is tough. 3 rounds 12 games and no sicilian defence I guess that will change to day with Leko Gelfand a likely Najdorf and maybe Anand Moro a sicilian?

Interesting comments about checks being bounced off the website staff. This may explain why an email to them, sent to the address listed on the website's contacts page, also bounced! I was trying to be helpful and point out that the pairings the website lists for the second half of the tournament were completely crazy. Someone's had a little too much tequilla or been out in the Mexican sun too long. I just hope none of the players trusts what they read on the website, prepares for player X with White and turns up to find they are playing Player Y with Black. It couldn't happen - could it?

"Bad opening by Anand (just like against Gelfand - doesn't he have anything against the Petrov?)"

Perhaps there is just nothing there; nothing left to find.

What happens in case of a tie for first place in Mexico? I assume there will be some sort of rapid match or tournament in case more than two are tied but am not sure. Does anybody know?

In case of a tie, the result of the mini-match between the two players will decide the World Champion. If that fails to separate the players, the player in the tie who lost the most games will be World Champion.
If the players are still tied on those two tiebreak methods then the player who beat more of the high scorers wins. Only if all three methods finish with the players still tied, highly unlikely, will a playoff be held.

I don't have a problem with the first Tie-Break of head-to-head games, but putting the other criteria ahead of a Play-off? Even a rapid chess play-off would be preferable to deciding the Title on the basis of most decisive games.

I agree that Anand's opening choice against Gelfand's Petroff was just a bit on the craven side. If Anand was willing to make a concession by accepting a position where he would obtain no objective advantage, then there were several other systems that he could have played, which would have injected some dynamic chances into the game.

I was wondering what was this "usual +2" everyone talked about :)

Speaking about tie-breaks, did you know that the title may theoretically be decided in an armageddon blitz game? Good thing all these coefficients have higher priorities than play-offs, really.

Kramnik has a big chance in a match world championship. With the help of his seconds and nice computer softwares, their battalion can study well their opponent's games throroughly.

Unlike with various top rated players playing at the same time in a world championship, Kramnik is having great difficulties to balance for shifting from dealing with one top player to another with different style because he is not so genius for dealing this kind of championship play, he needs more time for homework with battalions and computer chess softwares. Kasparov had made huge mistake way back 2000 for taking Kramnik as his opponent despite Kramnik is not the really the qualified contender that time but shirov. And that cost him his crown and never get a chance to get a rematch because kramnik is tenacious enough to deny the match so kasparov will never get it back.

It is good however that worch championshio tournament set up is created because we can really find who is the best among top players and champion is really deserving to be called champions by beating the rest of top players.

Kramnik however in the match play will have a big chance.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 15, 2007 12:46 PM.

    Mexico WCh 2007 R2 was the previous entry in this blog.

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