Monday, October 09, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game eleven preview

Kramnik equalized in game ten. Game eleven is Topalov's last White game in the match. He has to create winning chances with White to avoid a Brissago-like last game situation: facing Kramnik in the last game with Black is tough, as Peter Leko can tell you. Topalov should be used to this situation by now, he was under pressure to generate good chances in practically every one of his White games.

Lets have a look at game nine, where Topalov managed to break through Kramnik's black wall for the first time in the match:

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3

Topalov plays the same move order as in game seven. He does not seem to mind transposing to the same queens gambit accepted line we saw in game seven. Or maybe he wants to play another Meran?

4..Bf5

Kramnik deviates from game seven. As I said in my game ten preview, Kramnik had so far played like a wall, and a wall should stand still. I think Kramnik should have played 4..e6 just as in game seven.

5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4

I think this line is dangerous for Black. There are a lot of different ways to play this line for White.

6..Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6 8.a3

The main lines here are 8.g3 and 8.Bd2. I think the idea of this move is to have the option of playing c5.

8..Nbd7 9.g3

This is the new move. Topalov said in the press conference:

I used a good novelty, but one cannot say it gives White a decisive advantage. The move 10.f4 is invented by my second Vallejo – he specializes on this variation and worked a lot in Elista. So, you see the fruits of our work!

9..Be7 10.f4

The problem for Kramnik after this novelty is not that he has to calculate many forced variations, but that he is faced with a completely new concept in this opening. He first has to find a good plan for Black, which is difficult over the board, especially when you know that your opponent and his team have probably spent a lot of time analyzing everything at home.

10..dxc4?!

I don't like this move. Susan Polgar writes

Why not to wait with this trade until White moves the Bishop from f1?

Actually, I am not sure if Black has to give up the center at all.

Mihail Marin proposes

Giving up the centre so easily is a risky decision. 10...a5 deserves attention, with the idea to answer 11.c5 with 11...b6.

If somebody plays f4 against me, and I have an open h-file available, I am always thinking about capturing the g3 pawn. But 10..g5? does not work, because after 11.fxg5 Nh5 12.g6 is strong, and after 10..Nh5 White can just defend with 11.Qf3.

Maybe Black can really just play the waiting game Susan suggests:

10..O-O and I think Black does not need to fear 11.c5 b6 12.b4 a5 13.Bd2 axb4 14.axb4 Rxa1 15.Qxa1 Qa8. If White moves his bishop, say 11.Bd3 Black can play 11..dxc4 and win a tempo upon the game. Maybe White will start rolling the pawns on the other side of the board though, 11.g4 or 11.h4.

Of course Black could even consider castling long in this position - you will have the rook h8 still on the open h-file. Or maybe Black should wait with castling, and decide wether to castle short or long only after White has revealed a bit more of his plan?

You can see Kramnik's dilemma - deciding between all these lines over the board is a difficult decision at home, and much more so over the board.

I also noticed, that the plan with attacking g3 may be not so bad if Black had put his Bishop on d6 on the ninth move instead of on e7, e.g.

9.g3 Bd6 10.f4 Nh5 11.Qf3 g5!? or

9.g3 Bd6 10.c5 Bc7 11.f4 g5 12.fxg5 Bxg3 13.hxg3 Rxh1 14.gxf6 Qxf6 15.Qe2 O-O-O 16.Bd2 Rdh8 17.O-O-O e5 with a complicated game.

The game continued

11.Bxc4 O-O 12.e4 b5?

After Black has given up the center, he should think about attacking White's center immediately - with 12..c5 or 12..Nb6 and 13..c5.

13.Be2 b4 14.axb4 Bxb4 15.Bf3

Here Kramnik had the last chance to play 15..c5, when he could at least have caused complications after 16.e5 cxd4. The game continued

15..Qb6 16.O-O

and Kramnik had a terrible position.

He had to say this in the press conference:

It is difficult to play well in positions such as the one I got today. Topalov’s novelty turned very strong – at least for one game. I didn’t manage to find adequate response to it. Already 12…b5 was played because I could not find anything satisfactory, especially bearing in mind that it was all opponent’s preparation. After the opening, I continued resisting because it was inconvenient for me to resign that early, but the game was basically decided by the move 17.

In game eleven, I think Topalov will try the same move order for the third time. Even if Kramnik or his seconds find a solid plan against Topalov's novelty at home, I think he should avoid the line after 4..Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4. Topalov may just have another new plan in that line and surprise Kramnik again.

It should be much safer for Kramnik to play 4..e6 like in game seven. I think the queens gambit accepted was not that dangerous, and Topalov would go for another Meran after that. As I said in some of the other previews, the sharp lines where White plays Qc2 and g4 are still left to be explored, and would certainly bring us another exciting game.

I think neither of the players will switch to 1.e4 at this point in the match - there are too many unexplored options. They will concentrate on trying to show an advantage for White in the setups that have already been played.

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