Friday, September 29, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game six preview

Thank you to the readers who sent me feedback. It seems I am not the only one who is interested in the openings.

When I was a student at university I had sometimes training with a grandmaster. He told me if I wanted to improve my over the board play, I should play simpler openings. I decided that I enjoy analysing the openings, and that chess is just my hobby. I did what I enjoy, not what would help me to improve my results best. The grandmaster was right however - I never improved my over the board play. At the board I usually don't remember my own analysis anyway. However in correspondence chess I think it is more useful.

I got one interesting feedback from Pirkka Kärenlampi from Finland:

My own ELO 2000 opinion is that playing black Topalov must have something relatively unexpected (Kasparov/Dragon, Anand/Scandinavian etc.) up his sleeve, which he'll have to pull out preferably sooner than later. But maybe I like my speculation a bit too wild.

Unfortunately your speculation today became true in a most bizarre and disgusting way. Topalov played the toilet gambit, and Kramnik pulled a Fischer. I really hope future surprises in this match will be on the board, instead of in the toilet.

So lets have a look at game four and what this means for game six, shall we?

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3

In game one Topalov played 4.Nf3 but got nothing from the opening, see my game four preview.

4.. e6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 Bb7 9.a3 b4 10.Ne4 Nxe4 11.Bxe4 bxa3 12.O-O Bd6 13.b3 Nf6 14.Nd2

This was Topalov's novelty. Black could win a pawn here, but after 14..Nxe4 15.Nxe4 Bxh2 16.Kxh2 Qh4+ 17.Kg1 Qxe4 18.f3 Qh4 19.Bxa3 Black's King would have difficulties finding a safe haven. There is no easy way to break through, but White should be better.

14..Qc7 15.Bf3 Bxh2+ 16.Kh1 Bd6 17.Nc4 Be7 18.Bxa3 O-O 19.Bxe7 Qxe7 20.Ra5

I think this position is slightly better for White. Black is very passive, and if White manages to win both of Black's queenside pawns, he will have chances to win. If Black gets too passive in defending those pawns, White may even get an initiative on the other side of the board. Black wisely sacrificed his c-pawn to free his game, but still White was a little bit better. I think Topalov can actually be happy with the opening for the first time in the match.

However, in the press conference after the game, Kramnik said:

To be honest, I thought we’ll be able to finish in two hours today – there was almost nothing to play with. But Veselin wanted to continue, and so we did. Frankly, for the rest of the game I was more concerned about making it to the TV to see a Champions League match. I agree, this encounter was kind of boring, but this is the only such case. Although there was still some tension in it.

Vladimir, you must be kidding. You are playing a world championship, White is having some nice pressure, and you are thinking about watching TV? I think I won't even bother to read anymore what they are saying in the press conferences.

I think in game six we will see another Meran. Not the same line as in game four, but another one. There are many other lines to explore, for example 6.Qc2. Topalov has even played a game against Kramnik in that line before, a draw in Dos Hermanas 1997. There is one very exciting line, 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.g4. Topalov could play this, but it is not without risk.

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