Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game seven preview

Thanks to every reader who made me aware that they are actually changing the order of the games in the second half of the match (you can send me feedback at bennedik@gmx.net). Therefore game seven will see Topalov with White again - actually, because of the defaulted game, for the third time in a row.

So lets have a look at the opening of game six, and see what this means for game seven.

After

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5

Topalov played

6.Ne5.

In the second game he played 6.e3, but got nothing out of the opening - although he managed to conjure an attack later (see my game four preview). Now Kramnik did not go for 6..Nbd7, but after

6..e6 7.f3

he didn't go for the sharp 7..Bb4 8.e4 Bxe4 either. Instead he went for the side line

7..c5

and after

8.e4

he surprised Topalov and played the rare move

8..Bg6

I have some games from Smyslov with this move in my database, but it has not been played very often. There are more games with 8..cxd4 9.exf5 Bb4 with some unclear complications.

In the game, Topalov did get an endgame that looked a little bit better for White, but Kramnik never was in any real danger:

9.Be3 cxd4 10.Qxd4 Qxd4 11.Bxd4 Nfd7 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.Bxc4 a6 14.Ke2 Rg8

and so on.

Can Topalov improve White's play?

A) Susan Polgar shows that after

9.d5 exd5 10.Nxg6 hxg6 11.e5 Nh5 12.Nxh5

Black can (instead of 12..Ng3 13.Bxc4 Nxh1? 14.Nf6+ Ke7 15.Ng8+) just play

12..Nd7

and White has only managed to weaken his own position.

B) Of course White could try to avoid the exchange of Queens with

10.Bxd4,

but is that really an improvement? I have one game Pelletier-Smyslov, Z├╝rich 1998 in my database, which continued

11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bxc4 Qa5 13.Qe2

and a draw was already agreed. Indeed, an advantage for White is not in sight, and if Black plays

13..Bc5

maybe it is already White who should think about equalizing.

I think Kramnik did a fine homework here, this rare line seems to be safe enough for Black. I don't see any good way for White to improve. Maybe this will be played more often by Black in the future.

I think Topalov will have to return to 4.e3 and play another Meran, as I discussed in my game six preview.

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