CHESS Lubomir Kavalek

By Lubomir Kavalek
Monday, October 16, 2006

Vladimir Kramnik of Russia is the undisputed chess champion of the world. He defeated Bulgaria's Veselin Topalov on Friday in the $1 million World Chess Championship in Elista, Russia. After the regular 12 games finished in a 6-6 tie Thursday between the 31-year-old players, Kramnik won the rapid-game tiebreak 2 1/2 -1 1/2. The match unified the world title and ended the schism in the chess world that began in my kitchen 13 years ago.

The Kitchen Debacle

On Feb. 23, 1993, FIDE President Florencio Campomanes announced Manchester, England, as the venue for the world championship match between Nigel Short and Garry Kasparov. That day Short was unavailable, crossing on a ferry from Italy to Greece. Instead of Manchester, the English grandmaster preferred two bids from London. By not consulting Short, Campomanes broke FIDE rules. Suddenly, Short had a reason to pursue the bids from London even at the cost of breaking up with FIDE -- provided Kasparov agreed. When Short contemplated how to reach Kasparov, I pointed to the phone in my kitchen and said: "Call Kasparov in Linares directly." Kasparov answered Short's call in Spain shortly after midnight on March 3. In a 13-minute conversation they discussed for the first time playing their match outside FIDE. Kasparov later called it one of the biggest mistakes of his chess career. Not only did they get less money in London, but they began the 13-year split of the world titles that ended only last Friday with Kramnik's victory.

The Clincher

For the first time in the history of the world championship, the outcome was decided in rapid games (roughly 30 minutes per game). With the score tied 1 1/2 -1 1/2 after three games, Kramnik clinched the championship by winning the last rapid game. He gradually outplayed Topalov in the Meran defense. In a difficult position, the Bulgarian blundered the game away.


1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Be2 Bb7 9.0-0 Be7 10.e4 b4 11.e5 bxc3 12.exf6 Bxf6 13.bxc3 c5 14.dxc5 Nxc5 (The usual answer is 14...0-0 and it worked out well for black. Topalov borrowed the knight capture from computer games played in 2004 and 2005.) 15.Bb5+ (This is a logical check, forcing the black king to move. In a 2004 Internet game between two computer programs, Deep Fritz 8 vs. Shredder 8, white tried 15.Ba3 and after 15...Qc7 16.Rb1 Rd8 17.Qc1 Ne4? 18.Bb5+ Bc6 came up with a brilliant queen sacrifice 19.Qf4!! with the idea of 19...Qxf4 20.Bxc6+ Rd7 20.Rd7 with a powerful attack. Black declined the offer with 19...Qb7, but after 20.Nd4! Bxd4 21.Bxc6+ Qxc6 22.cxd4 g5 23.Qf3 Qc3 24.Qxe4 Qxa3 25.Qe5 Rg8 26.Rb8 Ke7 27.Rb7+ Rd7 28.Rxd7+ Kxd7 29.d5 the black king was in trouble and white won in 60 moves.) 15...Kf8 (The only good move. Retreating with 15...Nd7 is dangerous after 16.Ba3!?, depriving black of the short castling. For example, after 16...Bxc3? 17.Rb1 Bd5?!, white wins with a spectacular 18.Qxd5!! exd5 19.Rfe1+! Bxe1 20.Rxe1+ Qe7 21.Rxe7+ Kf8 22.Bxd7 etc.)

16.Qxd8+ (Having an excellent endgame technique, Kramnik does not mind getting the queens off the board.) 16...Rxd8 17.Ba3 Rc8 18.Nd4! (Kramnik improves on a computer move 18.Rab1, played last year.) 18...Be7! (Allowing his knight to move from the square c5, Topalov could have done the same thing with 18...Kg8.) 19.Rfd1? (Seemingly preventing the knight move from c5.) 19...a6? (Kramnik gets away with a possible miscalculation. Topalov should have played 19...Ne4! because after 20.Nxe6+? fxe6 21.Bxe7+ Kxe7 22.Rd7+ Kf6 23.Rxb7 Nd6, black wins the exchange. White would have to try surviving with 20.Bb4 Bxb4 21.cxb4 Nc3 22.Re1.) 20.Bf1 Na4 (Topalov goes after the pawn on c3 and is hoping to bring his king into play after 21.Bxe7+ Kxe7. But Kramnik finds a great counterattack and slowly turns the table.)

21.Rab1! Be4 22.Rb3 Bxa3 (After 22...Nxc3 the pin 23.Rc1! wins.) 23.Rxa3 Nc5 24.Nb3! (Kramnik immediately challenges black's best defender.) 24...Ke7 25.Rd4 Bg6 (After 25...Nxb3 26.axb3 Bb7 27.b4, black is left with a weak pawn on a6.) 26.c4 Rc6? (Topalov drops a pawn. Exchanging first 26...Nxb3 and only afterward 27.axb3 Rc6 was better.) 27.Nxc5 Rxc5 28.Rxa6 Rb8 29.Rd1! (Covering all threats and getting the rook behind the a-pawn.) 29...Rb2 30.Ra7+ Kf6 31.Ra1! Rf5 (31...Bb1!? with the idea 32.a4?! Ba2 was better.) 32.f3 Re5 33.Ra3! (Threatening 34.Rb3, to unleash the a-pawn.) 33...Rc2 34.Rb3 Ra5 35.a4 Ke7 36.Rb5 Ra7 37.a5 Kd6 38.a6 Kc7 39.c5 Rc3 40.Raa5 Rc1 (After 40...Bd3 41.Bxd3 Rxd3 42.Rb6 Rc3 43.Rab5 Ra8 44.Rb4! Rxc5 45.Rb7+ Kd6 46.R4b6+ and white cleans up the kingside.) 41.Rb3 Kc6 42.Rb6+ Kc7 43.Kf2 Rc2+ 44.Ke3 Rxc5?? (Losing outright, but Topalov's position is difficult to defend. White should win by picking up pawns on the kingside. For example: 44...Rc1 45.Be2 Rc3+ 46.Kd2 Rc2+ 47.Kd1 Rc3 48.Rab5 Ra8 49.Kd2 Ra3 [Or 49...Rxc5 50.Rb7+ Kc6 51.Rxc5+ Kxc5 52.f4! Kd4 53.a7 e5 54.fxe5 Kxe5 55.Bf3 wins.] 50.Rb3 Rxb3 51.Rxb3 Kc6 52.g4 Kxc5 53.h4 f5 54.Rb7 and white should win.) 45.Rb7+! (After 45...Rxb7 46.Rxc5+ Kb6 47.axb7 wins.) Black resigned.

Solution to today's two-mover by B. Pustovoy (White: Ke5,Qe8,Bb8,Bd7; Black: Kb7): 1.Ba4! Ka8 2.Bc6 mate; or 1...Kb6 2.Qb5 mate.

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