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Moro Bounces, Anand Suffers

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Vishy Anand still has a share of the lead after three rounds of the Mexico WCh tournament, but no leader has ever looked shakier. He's had two whites, two Petroffs, and two scrapes with defeat. This one came at the hands of world champ Vladimir Kramnik, who effortlessly outplayed the Indian star in a much-anticipated duel between the world #1 and the defending champion. It's easy to forget that you can even play for a win on the black side of the Petroff it happens so rarely. It's deservedly known as a drawish defense and at the 2700 level white wins three for every loss in the Petroff (it's 2 to 1 in the Sicilian). Against Gelfand in the first round Vishy could have come out worse several times but the Israeli was looking for a draw and found one. Kramnik wasn't so forgiving, winning a clean pawn after an Anand miscalculation and then enjoying himself by putting the screws to a classic 4 vs 3 rook and pawn endgame with a passed a-pawn.

This is an endgame that "should" be drawn but that GMs, even strong ones, lose on occasion. In particular, Anand lost exactly this endgame to Peter Leko in Linares in 2003. Oddly, that game started with the exact same line of the Petroff, but Anand had black. Vishy has also lost a couple of other high-profile rook and pawn endgames that should have been drawn (e.g. against Kasparov at that same Linares 2003), giving one of the most creative defenders in chess history something of a reputation for laziness in technical positions. This time Anand held firm, although Kramnik, the world's best technical player, took the time to show how many tricks exist in these positions. They played it out all the way to the stalemate commentators had foreseen 20 moves earlier, a kind gesture to the spectators. Anand and Kramnik still share the lead at +1.

The only decisive game of the day was Morozevich's typically bamboozling effort against Svidler. I swear that man plays some moves just to see the look on the other guy's face. It was one of the most unnatural sequences I've seen in a long time as Svidler chased Moro's queen around and Morozevich kept finding ways to keep material on the board. Eventually Svidler worked his way into a miserable position with two knights versus two bishops and a pair of mobile center pawns. How did that happen? The Moro works in mysterious ways. The win moved him back to 50% and dropped Svidler into the negative column.

Grischuk missed a win in a blunt attacking effort against Aronian. The Armenian played the unusual 9..d5, which Bacrot tried twice against Kasimjanov in Mainz this summer. (Kasparov analyzed it in 1998 before his aborted match with Shirov.) Grischuk declined the "delayed Marshall Gambit" and instead gave up a pawn himself to rip open the black king. It looked like Aronian had defended well and Grischuk, down to just a few minutes, forced a perpetual. In time for my podcast wrap-up last night, however, I discovered White has missed a simple win with 28.Qh6 (threatening Rh4) 28..Qd2 29.f4 and White wins material. A close shave for the bearded Aronian, who is still on -1.

Did someone say play the Petroff to win? That might be Boris Gelfand's next book. He dropped his usual Najdorf like a hot matzoh ball and has had the better of things with black in the Petroff against both Anand and then Leko in round 3. He grabbed an extra pawn in a heavy-piece endgame and then played out the queen and pawn endgame for seven hours before having to settle for the draw. Kasparov tossed out 46..Qf4 as a possible improvement.

Lots of good reports out there I don't have time to link to right now. Will try later, add some links below, por favor! I think my podcasts are being incorporated into Macauley Peterson's videos, not sure! Round 4: Aronian-Leko, Kramnik-Grischuk, Svidler-Gelfand, Morozevich-Anand. Live at official site.


I think playing mainly 1.e4 will be a significant drawback in this tourney. The Petroff seems impossible to dent.

Mark my words - the winner of this tourney will either not play 1.e4 or be ridiculously successful with black.

If it didn't say that Leko is playing black against Aronian, I would think that Ulf Andersson had snuck in.

Leko's 28...dxe5 was a blunder or what? He gave up a Knight just like that?

Too bad Moro missed the even more amazing 20.Ne6!

I agree that 1.e4 is not enough to become world champion and Anand does not seem to be able to part with it any more.

Clear favorite after the first four rounds is Kramnik who plays refreshingly and very strong.

Aronian and Moro could both be surprise winners.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 16, 2007 2:15 PM.

    Kramnik and Anand al Frente was the previous entry in this blog.

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