Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Last Laugh for Leko in Dortmund

| Permalink | 43 comments

The Dortmund tournament was yet again the scene of baffling results. The briefness of the tournament lends itself both to solid, conservative play and to underdogs on a hot streak. We saw both this year. Jan Gustafsson, the lowest-rated player in the tournament and the one with the least elite experience, was the clear leader headed into Saturday's penultimate round. He had white against Leko, who had been displaying his usual umbrella-on-a-sunny-day caution up to that point and was trailing the leader by a half-point. Leko steadily outplayed the German underdog out of his favorite Queen's Indian to reach a favorable endgame. Larry Christiansen thought that White would be able to hang on for a long time with decent drawing chances, but it ended surprisingly quickly. 39.Nd5 put the knight on an obvious square but it also fatally limited the movement of his queenside pawns. The anticipated pawn race never materialized and Gustafsson resigned on move 45.

That flipped the standings at the top and Leko entered today's final round needing only a draw with white against Naiditsch for his third Dortmund title (1999, 2002). That came as effortlessly as you might have expected in a Marshall line Leko used several times a few weeks ago at the Yerevan rapid event, where he showed good form. Leko had better formula tiebreaks than Nepomniachtchi and Gustafsson, so even if their last-round game ended decisively the winner wouldn't take the title. That became a moot point when they agreed a draw soon after Leko and Naiditsch, leaving the Hungarian in clear first on +2. Congratulations to Peter on his clutch victory on Saturday and his tournament win. (Which, by the way, was anticipated by his manager Carsten Hensel, who said that Kramnik's energies were more focused on the Anand match.) Kudos to Gustafsson for a very impressive run and to both him and Nepomniachtchi for reminding us once again that rating isn't everything and that more top tournaments should include hungry "outsiders" like them. Mamedyarov and Ivanchuk joined the +1 festival with their last-round wins. Naiditsch finished even with two wins and two losses.

Attention then turned to van Wely-Mamedyarov, which we watched the way NASCAR fans look forward to the inevitable 10-car crash. van Wely showed early on with 12.g4!? that his fighting spirit remained undiminished despite his laying more eggs than a Barnevelder lately. Mamedyarov got through the complications and played the transition into the endgame brilliantly. The unexpected black counterplay with the Rac8-c6-a6 maneuver gave him full compensation for two sacrificed pawns. By move 33 time trouble added to van Wely's problems. On ICC Chess.FM, Kaidanov estimated objective chances to be about even in a wild race, but with the Dutchman out of form and out of time, disaster was in the hall and pounding on the door. Analysis shows several drawing lines came and went, though it's barely worth mentioning the insane computer concept of allowing Black to queen with 37.Ke4!!? c2 38.Kxd5 c1Q 39.Re7+ Kg8 40.Rg7+ Kh8 41.Rc7! with a repetition draw by force. Really. (There's an even more amusing way for White to win with 41..Qxc7?? 42.Bxc7 Kg8 43.Ke6 Rxd4 44.f7+ Kf8 45.f3! controlling the e4 square and creating an amazing winning line of tripled pawns.) But even without that silliness, White had better survival chances with Kc2 on moves 36 and 37. But with no time it ended quickly, giving Mamedyarov his first win of the event after six draws and van Wely his fifth loss and third in a row. Ow. This may actually drop van Wely out of the top 100 on the October list if he doesn't make up ground. I'd say he needs a vacation. He's been playing constantly and several people told me that it hasn't been a good year for him on the home front.

Well after we had signed off Ivanchuk finished a masterful grind of Vladimir Kramnik, a man who is not often ground. I was impressed simply by their playing on beyond move 22 after early trades in a standard Petroff line made it look like a typical final-round non-game was on the way. Instead, Ivanchuk got a nagging plus with a bishop versus a knight and simply outplayed Kramnik inch by inch in Karpovian style. Nice of Chucky to wake up for the second half. Two losses for Kramnik's Petroff (another angel got its wings!) and a negative score in Dortmund for the former world champion, who ended up relegated to 7th place. I certainly owe Nick de Firmian a few beers on our bet. (I took Kramnik against the field for at least a share of first.) Are Kramnik's Petroff woes a boon or bust for Anand? Kramnik may now dump, or at least seriously retool, his main weapon against 1.e4, which Anand plays almost exclusively. The Bonn organizers certainly hoped to bill Anand-Kramnik as #1 vs #2, but that's looking very far off now, as Kramnik will shed around 15 points and possibly drop out of the top five. Heck, Carlsen and Ivanchuk are making moves on Vishy's #1 spot...

An intriguing event if not really an exciting one. Draws dropped to 60% from last year's 70% thanks mostly to van Wely's self-immolation. There were several excellent games with both of Kramnik's losses standing out. Nepomniachtchi played interesting chess and still got through the tough field without a loss. "Morozevich Junior" doesn't turn 18 for a few weeks and is showing he can play solidly, not just speculatively.


I did certainly expect to read something about another angel getting a pair of wings, but that fluffy winged knight's picture was just hilarious. You made my day! Thanks a lot

Poor Van Wely, bottom at the table.

But interestingly from the table, he lost to everyone except the top two: Leko & Ivanchuk, where he managed to salvage draws.

you know your writing style is simply beautiful.

I join Artin. That was hilarious. Keep it up Mig!

If Kramnik ditches the Petroff, we may see him return to the Berlin! Or he revive some other drawish 1. e4 e5 variant. The possibilities are endless!

If the Bilbao Grand Slam is not rated in time for the October list (the tournament ends mid-September) then Anand will go into the match on 2798. There are reasonable chances for both Carlsen (with a 'crushable' field at Biel) and Ivanchuk to overtake him.
Assuming Anand does well in the grand slam and it is rated he should again go over 2800, probably staying #1.
Kramnik has Tal to look forward to. His live rating now is 2772. Let us assume he needs at least 20 points to get back #2. Last year he tore up the field scoring 6.5/10 gaining about 12 points.
So unless Carlsen, Ivanchuk and Morozevich flame out badly in the coming months I would say that the organizers will (with luck) get #1 vs #4.

Despite being number 1 ranked, Anand could easily drop out the top 3 with one bad event (Morozevich is 4th with 10 below him), which would be huge considering that he has never been outside the top 3 since 1997.

Not such a big deal for Kramnik to drop to number 6 as he was even lower a year or two ago- he is much less consistent than Anand.

What I really hope for is Ivanchuk to break 2800 and become world number 1 for the first time. He really would deserve it and is so close..

Why does Van Wely receives such a big number of high-class tournament invites? He rarely performs well.

He seems a nice guy and all but there are at least 50 players that could receive the same kind of chances he's receiving and he's been rated over 2700 only briefly. It's not a young player progressing rapidly. I'd prefer to see players like Nepo anytime.

He must have the best manager around. (By the way I have no idea who is manager is).

The current volatility of the top spots is really making me realize how impressive Kasparov's run at the top really was. Before Mr. Runde set up his "Live rating list" I had no idea how quickly ratings could change. A couple bad tournament can easily drop you 40 points off your rating, and a couple good ones can easily gain you 40.

The consistency needed to be number 1 for about 20 years is incredible. I imagine it might have had to do as well with the lack of the balancing power of computer preparation. The extra resources you get as a world champion don't count for as much a they used to, now that anybody can get his hands on a good laptop running Fritz or Rybka.

By the way, does anybody know if the Barnevelder has anything to do with the gerat Dutch dart player Barneveld?

Van Wely is Dutch, is a huge part of it. There's only a handful of West European super-GMs, and they get disproportionally invited to strong events in Western Europe--especially to ones in the Netherlands. When Piket (also Dutch) was active, he also got boatloads of invites to super-tournaments.

Van Wely is a respected guy in the community, partly because he is a well known theoretician in a few lines (Najdorf!) that are important at the top level. He is known for playing topical lines to win, and that makes sponsors happy.

That won't save him from 2677 and 1/7 performance forever, but it has gotten him into a lot of tournaments he otherwise never would have been invited to.

I'm far from knowledgeable about the Petroff Defense. Can someone who is let me know whether the line in Ivanchuk-Kramnik and Naiditsch-Kramnik was the main line, or a random sideline Kramnik adopted as cover while he prepares for Anand? Has he played it before/often/recently? Is it a frequent guest in other top players practice?

Loek has been working as Kramnik's second off and on, including at Mexico 2007. That may have gotten him the Dortmund invite in particular.

Kramnik playing the Najdorf? Too fond a hope.

gmc, I play the Petroff and I have to know at least a bit out of necessity as otherwise I'd just get blown away. It was White who deviated from the main lines in those games (by 8.Re1). Kramnik's 8..Bg4 is arguably "less solid" than 8..Bf5, but I believe slightly better according to theory. Apart from 8.c4 there is also 8.c3, this too likely to lead to sharp stuff, for example in http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1292510 which Anand won "at home" due to deep preparation.

After this Black has some alternatives, but nothing wrong with Kramnik's play. Noteworthy is that he did not avoid 16.Bf4 in the Ivanchuk game, even though from there everything to the position before Naiditsch's 19.Qd2 is, I believe, forced. Already done his homework for sure.

At least this game was not lost in the opening, and the endgame is something he should definitely hold -- but by all appearances, Ivanchuk played very well, and used every opportunity to keep what pressure there was up, until Kramnik gradually started to crack culminating in the final pretty bad blunder (perhaps a sign of fatigue?)

If Loek has been working as Kramink's 2nd lately, that would explain Kramnik's recent bad form... time to switch 2nds!

Kramnik did not blunder, he got ground into a fine Petroff powder and blown into the wind..AMEN

Here is the list of the best West European players:

1. Magnus Carlsen (NOR), 2775
2. Alexei Shirov (ESP), 2741
3. Michael Adams (ENG), 2735
4. Vadim Milov (SUI), 2705
5. Etienne Bacrot (FRA), 2691
6. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA), 2681
7. Laurent Fressinet (FRA), 2673
8. Arkadij Naiditsch (GER), 2665
9. Vladislav Tkachiev (FRA), 2664
10. Ivan Sokolov (NED), 2658
11. Joel Lautier (FRA), 2657
12. Nigel Short (ENG), 2655
13. Igor Khenkin (GER), 2655
14. Peter Heine Nielsen (DEN), 2652
15. Francisco Vallejo-Pons (ESP), 2650
16. Sergei Tiviakov (NED), 2645
17. Loek Van Wely (NED), 2644
18. Tomi Nybäck (FIN), 2639
19. Mikhail Gurevich (BEL), 2631
20. Fabiano Caruana (ITA), 2630

Thanks pawnpusher.

I think for example number 6, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who is a young GM should get the chances that Loek Van Wely gets. I understand for tournaments in Netherlands, but tournaments in Germany?

I guess unless you are 2700+ (and maybe more 2730+), politics, managers, being close to Kramnik, etc. is the most important thing when you are rated around 2600-2700.

It's interesting that 7 out of 20 in your list are ex-soviets or eastern Europeans in origin.

Thanks pawnpusher. One note - Gurevich IIRC is now playing for Turkey instead. He moved.

Another thing going for Van Wely is that he is Dutch, as is the sponsor of Melody Amber and the organizers of Corus. This means that he is almost automatically invited to both each year. Beyond those, it doesn't seem like he plays too much at the top level. Dortmund just seems like a random invite that any 2600 could have gotten.

He also plays in the Dutch championships and often winning, which is no mean feat.

I bet Jan Timman could have scored at least 1/7 at Dortmund. They invited the wrong Dutchman!

J. Peters, Kramnik did blunder with his Nf8 move at the end. Instead he could have played Qh1. Even the previous Rb3 wasn't a strong move; he should have played Qh1 immediately..

This bad result from Kramnik..I wonder how significant it is. He probably wasn't taking the tournament too seriously of course; but still! Must have been a blow! A world championship pretender can't possibly be unaffected by such a result. And his invincible defence given a good spanking, even if not the fault of the defense itself. Who bets that Anand will choose precisely that line? Btw nice summary Mig. Cept there should be TWO knights... :)

I posted this on chessgames.com also.

" OK I have been researching openings for Kramnik as white.
Extrapolating past results, looks like the English / Reti can be very powerful for Kramnik. check out:



Anand is a woeful 2674 in this opening as black. As white Kramnik is 2990. Kramnik is also a healthy 2770 as black. Anand never plays 1.c4.

If Anand doesnt shore up his English games, I think it might be an achilles heel for him.

I welcome your thoughts on this."

The problem with the English/Reti is that Black can virtually force a transposition to a double-d-pawn opening by playing (carefully) for the transposition. Anand's 2674 as Black in the c pawn complexes is just those occasions where he doesn't transpose to the Slav or Semi-Slav (where he's been practically invincible against anyone but Aronian).

There -are- a couple of independent lines that are theoretically significant, as in White has chances for advantage, but the paths are pretty narrow (if you're avoiding d2-d4) so it doesn't make much sense as a frontline opening.

So: there is a consensus that Kramnik will be able to neutralize Anand's whites and the real theoretical battle will be with the black pieces. If Kramnik can get his "grindhouse" positions he will win (last year's corus game), if there is significant activity Anand will blast through (this year's melody amber game a good example).

Of course Kramnik's two losses in Dortmund may have changed this slightly revealing a hereto unknown weakness.

what consensus? There is no consensus at all that Kramnik will be able to neutralize Anand's whites. That is only a hypothesis put forward on these pages by Russianbear, albeit backed by some empirical evidence given Kramnik suffered only one loss with black in '07. However 2008 is different. Reality is that even before his recent misadventures on the black side of the Petroff, he was under some pressure against Anand at Corus in the Petroff. If you consider 2008, Kramnik has already lost three black games, two of which are Petroffs.

About Kramnik on the white side - I agree that Kramnik would like Queenless positions with a nagging advantage. Even in those positions, there is actually quite a margin for drawing [like in Grischuk - Anand, Mexico City] - so it is possible Anand bends but doesnt break. If Anand has some activity, then it is a double edged sword - I am not really sure, he can BLAST through although Kramnik's recent blunders must worry him. It might, at most, fetch him an extra win or so. Of course, Anand himself is not blunder free - just watch the blitz game with Ivanchuk or the Leon final also against Ivanchuk .. where Anand's blunders were pretty bad. Overall though, it is safe to say that Kramnik would probably blunder more than Anand in tactical positions.

These guys aren't going to lose with White in a World Championship match. Kramnik lost once in memory with the white pieces (to Carlsen at Corus in a game he was better in for a long time). Anand lost a Marshall to Aronian in Linares, and back in 2006 a couple of games to Topalov and Kamsky (!??) at Mtel, but that's about it for recent history. Of course there's the usual smattering of blind and rapid losses from Monaco, but that's not really the point for WC purposes.

Anand plays relatively well against the Petroff, and virtually never loses on the White side. More importantly, Anand has been the instrument of destruction for entire lines of play on the Black side; he has introduced important ideas for White frequently.

The Petroff and Berlin are very much two-result chess, which is what you want against Kasparov but might not be against Anand. Anand is very good in simple open middlegames and complicated endings, and is less reliant on theoretical surprises than Kasparov for victories.


"It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Kramnik, and his trainer Loek Van Wely had their minds on the former’s world title match in the autumn against Vishy Anand."

Is Loek Van Wely still Kramnik's second? I dont know about that. AFter all the opening blunders at Dortmund, if I was Kramnik, I wouldnt go anywhere near Loek.

However, Loek's blunders may also have been a result of his desire not to play lines that he and Kramnik have analyzed.


In the decisive games between them, Kramnik has played the Reti thrice against Anand and the score is 3/3...Anand winning all three!


So I'm not sure where you got your statistics.

About the Reti statistics .. I think yalie cites statistics from 2000 to 2007, while the head to head statistics from jaidepblue are prior to 2000.

While yalie's statistics are compelling, Anand would probably just avoid the lines and transpose to an opening he is more comfortable with.

As I said, I agree the Reti is too transpositional to be a serious independent weapon in a modern World Championship match.

That doesn't mean Kramnik won't open 1 Nf3 and 2 d4, but it is unlikely that he will avoid d2-d4 just to keep things independent. Giving Anand a reversed Maroczy Bind or some such isn't a receipe for opening advantage.

Instead, I expect a very extensive investigation of either the QID or Semi-Slav, with the latter possibly more likely as Anand probably isn't eager to test Kramnik in the QID (why play into the world's foremost Catalan expert's stock in trade), as the fashionable QID lines are those with g2-g3 anyway.

Kramnik is looking for technical positions, and trades of center pawns and major pieces, because he is the best player in the world of purely technical positions. Anand is actually not that great; he has a tendency to overpress in technical positions (I cite his win against Leko in Linares this year - which should probably have been a loss).

I believe Kramnik wil not play the petroff at all in the match - and the reasons have just been demonstrated. Back to back losses one from an opening surprise which he didnt find the best reaction to and 1 from a slighly inferior position which had a lot of torture value. I predict it will be a mix of the Caro cahn and the Ruy Lopez with at least 1 berlin and other Lopez variations. If I am right about the Caro then the advance variation will be in the lab now as nothing else promises much against this opening.

And I predict the opposite, that he will use the Petroff regularly during the match.

Can't we agree on anything?

Kind of curious (to my mind, anyway) that virtually no one's suggesting Kramnik utilize the Marshall to neutralize Anand's 1. e4 (if, indeed, he continues to play that, which is of course debatable); isn't it generally regarded as a pretty reliable drawing resource in recent years?!

Rich Fireman:

I've somehow got the impression, that might be completely wrong, that the trend has started to shift somewhat in White's favour.

Also, Anand has immense knowledge of the Marshall, the chances of springing a nasty surprise are so much higher.

It seems like White is the one that decides how a Marshall is going to go. There are a number of ways that he can get an easy draw; however, I think there are also ways that he can play for more, but those carry more risk.

check out:


I know Kramnik as regarded as the foremost exponent of the Petroff as black. But do check out the statistics. Anand has a 2784 rating in 20 games playing the black side of the Petroff, while Kramnik has a 2701 rating in 31 games. Oh, and this does not even include his two recent debacles in Dortmund 2008.

Nice link, Yalie.

As a side note, notice how Chucky plays ALL openings as black :)

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 6, 2008 6:45 PM.

    And Then They Came for the Poker Players... was the previous entry in this blog.

    And Then They Came for the Air Hockey Players is the next entry in this blog.

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