- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2006

Russian GM Vladimir Kramnik is the new, undisputed chess heavyweight champion of the world after benefiting yesterday from a huge blunder by Bulgarian rival Veselin Topalov in the fourth and final rapid-playoff game of their title match in Elista, Russia.

The two rival claimants to the world crown had played to a 6-6 tie at classical time controls in the 12-game match to reunify the title, which has been divided for more than a dozen years. The two had each won a game in the rapid playoff and were heading for a blitz showdown when Topalov blundered a rook in an inferior position in the final game.

The result is likely to be a welcome one in the chess world, as Topalov’s camp squandered a good deal of good will with a protest earlier in the match — briefly upheld by arbiters for FIDE, the international chess federation — that Kramnik was taking too many trips to the bathroom during play.

The final games of the match have been played under a cloud. Kramnik formally protested Topalov’s forfeit win in Game 5, when the Russian boycotted play. His manager said earlier this week that Kramnik would not recognize Topalov as the legitimate winner if the forfeited point proved critical to the final score.

Kramnik needed a late comeback with a win in Sunday’s Game 10 just to force yesterday’s overtime playoff, bouncing back from demoralizing losses in the previous two games to tie the score at 5-5. The victory was Kramnik’s first since Game 2.

Topalov displayed the more creative opening play in the match, although the results were not always favorable. In this Catalan, Black again gets out of the main lines with 9. Qc2 a5, but White reacts vigorously with 11. Bc1 b5 12. cxd5 cxd5 13. e4!, pushing for open central lines and more play for his fianchettoed bishop.

Kramnik shows excellent judgment with the unexpected 17. Ne5 Nd5 18. Bxd5!, giving up a powerful bishop for the knight but transforming the d5-square from a Black asset to a defensive liability. On 18…exd5 19. Nc3 Nf6 20. Nxb5 Ba6 21. a4, White is even up a pawn, and Black must work hard just to restore material equality.

The aggressive Topalov is clearly less comfortable in positions where his opponent has the initiative, which may explain in part his game-losing blunder: 23. Rc7 Bd8 24. Ra7 f6? (see diagram; 24…Bxb5 25. axb5 Qxb5 26. Qxb5 Rxb5 27. Ra2 gives White all the play, but was infinitely preferable for Black) 25. Nd7! (Kramnik said his biggest dilemma here was choosing between this shot and the equally strong 25. Qg4!) Rf7 26. Nxb6 Rxa7 27. Nxd5, picking up a second pawn.

White carefully nurses his edge, even rejecting the piece-winning 29. f3 Bxb5 (Nd6 30. Qxe8+ Nxe8 31. Nxd4) 30. Nxb5 Rb4 Re1 Bb6+ 31. Kg2 to avoid complications. A little tactical trick — 33. Nc7 Qc4 (Bxc7 34. Qxc7 Qxb2 35. Qd8+ Kf7 36. Qd7+ Kg6 37. Qe8+ Kf6 38. Be3 wins) 34. Qd1! Bxc7 35. Qd7, attacking the bishop and threatening mate on e8 — brings more simplification and by 42. Bc7 g4 43. Bxa5, Black is the exchange and a pawn down with no compensation. Topalov resigned.

There was triumph and tragedy in yesterday’s clinching game. After a draw in the first rapid game, Kramnik broke through with a win with White in Game 2, only to see Topalov return the favor in Game 3. In the final game, the pressure apparently got to the Bulgarian, who made an elementary mistake just when it looked as if he could save the position.

The QGD Slav got a heavy workout in the match, with both players adopting it as Black at times in Elista. The queens come off early in the final game, and White’s slight edge in development translates into steady pressure on the Black pawns.

Kramnik wins material with 27. Nxc5 Rxc5 28. Rxa6, but Black has good chances to blockade White’s divided queen-side pawns while keeping Kramnik’s king out of play.

However, a moment of chess blindness by Topalov hands the title belt to the Russian on 43. Kf2 Rc2+ 44. Ke3 Rxc5??, no doubt expecting 45. Rxc5+ Kxb6, and White’s a-pawn is safely under control.

But the simple 45. Rb7+! exposes the hole in Black’s calculations, as 45…Rxb7 45. Rxc5+ Kb6 47. axb7 wins a full rook, as Black can’t capture on c5 without allowing the pawn to queen. Topalov resigned at once.

FIDE World Championship, Game 10, Elista, Russia, October 2006


1. d4Nf623. Rc7Bd8

2. c4e624. Ra7f6

3. Nf3d525. Nd7Rf7

4. g3Bb4+26. Nxb6Rxa7

5. Bd2Be727. Nxd5Rd7

6. Bg20-028. Ndc3Rxd4

7. 0-0c629. Re1f5

8. Bf4Nbd730. Qc2Rb4

9. Qc2a531. Nd5Rxb5

10. Rd1Nh532. axb5Qxb5

11. Bc1b533. Nc7Qc4

12. cxd5cxd534. Qd1Bxc7

13. e4dxe435. Qd7h6

14. Qxe4Rb836. Qxc7Qb4

15. Qe2Nhf637. Qb8+Qxb8

16. Bf4Rb638. Bxb8Nd2

17. Ne5Nd539. Ra1g5

18. Bxd5exd540. f4Nb3

19. Nc3Nf641. Ra3Bc4

20. Nxb5Ba642. Bc7g4

21. a4Ne443. Bxa5Black

22. Rdc1Qe8resigns

FIDE World Championship, Rapid Playoff, Game 4, Elista, Russia, October 2006


1. d4d524. Nb3Ke7

2. c4c625. Rd4Bg6

3. Nf3Nf626. c4Rc6

4. Nc3e627. Nxc5Rxc5

5. e3Nbd728. Rxa6Rb8

6. Bd3dxc429. Rd1Rb2

7. Bxc4b530. Ra7+Kf6

8. Be2Bb731. Ra1Rf5

9. 0-0Be732. f3Re5

10. e4b433. Ra3Rc2

11. e5bxc334. Rb3Ra5

12. exf6Bxf635. a4Ke7

13. bxc3c536. Rb5Ra7

14. dxc5Nxc537. a5Kd6

15. Bb5+Kf838. a6Kc7

16. Qxd8+Rxd839. c5Rc3

17. Ba3Rc840. Raa5Rc1

18. Nd4Be741. Rb3Kc6

19. Rfd1a642. Rb6+Kc7

20. Bf1Na443. Kf2Rc2+

21. Rab1Be444. Ke3Rxc5

22. Rb3Bxa345. Rb7+Black

23. Rxa3Nc5resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected]washington times.com.

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