Friday, October 6, 2006

The action has been fast and furious at the FIDE world championship match now entering the home stretch in Elista, Russia. Unfortunately, too much of the excitement has actually occurred away from the chessboard.

With a win with Black in Thursday’s Game 8, Bulgarian GM Veselin Topalov has knotted the score against Russian rival Vladimir Kramnik in the 12-game match staged to unify the divided world crown. But it is a degrading dispute over bathroom breaks that has dominated the news out of Elista, leading an angry Kramnik to forfeit Game 5 to Topalov and generating mocking news stories in press outlets around the globe. Whether the mud fight will irrevocably tarnish the overall match is still an open question.

Just after we filed last week’s column, Topalov’s camp filed a formal protest over what it said were the suspiciously high number of restroom visits by Kramnik during the first four games.

The clear implication: that the Russian, up two wins to none at the time, was getting illegal help in the unmonitored toilet breaks.

But instead of a quiet word with the arbiters, Topalov manager Silvio Danailov chose to lodge his protest in a strongly worded statement released immediately to journalists covering the event, a statement that hinted the Bulgarian would pull out of the match if his demands were not met.

Such blatant gamesmanship is not unknown in top-level chess, but it was disappointing to see from Topalov, who does not have a record for such antics. Making the protest even more puzzling was the fact that Topalov had good and even winning positions in the games he lost, suggesting that whomever or whatever Kramnik was consulting in the men’s room wasn’t providing him with very good dope.

Even more disappointing was the decision of match organizers to accept the Bulgarian protest and change key match regulations that had been agreed to by both camps in the long, delicate negotiations leading to the reunification bout.

Kramnik, of whom there has never been a whiff of scandal in his rise to the title, was justifiably infuriated and refused to show up for Game 5, handing Topalov (who was set to play Black) a free point. It was only under protest that Kramnik showed up to play Game 6, and a cloud still hangs over the match, especially if Topalov now comes back to win.

Grandmaster opinion to date has been strongly running in the Russian’s favor, with a list of top players signing a letter this week in support of Kramnik and criticizing the arbiters’ decision.

Since the score of Topalov’s first win in Game 5 reads “1. 0-1,” we offer up Thursday’s Game 8 here, where some opening preparation in the QGD Meran by the Bulgarian paid off in his first over-the-board triumph of the contest.

Topalov reportedly reeled off his first 20 minutes in quick order, and by 21. Bxb4 Nd5 has gotten a nicely unbalanced position in which his two knights are at least the equal of Kramnik’s rook. As Black unwinds his tangled position, his advantage becomes only more evident.

By 44. Kf3 Ne4 45. Ra6+ Ke7 46. Rxa5, White is temporarily three pawns to the good, but his king now falls victim to a vicious crossfire from the Black pieces, who ruthlessly weave a mating net. White’s kingside pawns fall one by one after 51. Ra1 Rb2 52. a5 Rf2+ (see diagram), and Kramnik’s king is not long for the world. White resigned.

• • •

Before Thursday’s loss, Kramnik had managed to play two correct draws after his forfeit, but Bobby Fischer did even better after his famous forfeit in Game 2 of the storied 1972 Reykjavik world title match with Soviet star Boris Spassky, today’s second game. It was Fischer’s first win ever against the Russian star.

Down 2-0 after the forfeit, Fischer came roaring back with a novelty in the Modern Benoni (11…Nh5!, inviting White to give up a bishop to double Black’s h-pawns), which thoroughly flusters Spassky. A string of weak moves, including 15. Bd2, 17. Bf4 and 18 g3?, soon puts White in a terribly passive position.

The pragmatic Fischer methodically shuts down White’s game, picks up a pawn with 31…Bxc3, and finds a killer tactic in the resulting queen-and-bishop ending. Fittingly, Black’s sealed move takes advantage of the absence of white’s light-squared bishop, traded away for the knight back on Move 12.

The end: 40. Qd2 Qb3 41. Qd4 Bd3+ (sealed), and Spassky resigned without resuming play as 42. Ke3 Qd1 43. Bb2 Qe1+ 44. Kf4 Qd2+ picks off the bishop. Spassky would win only once more after the forfeit and Fischer took the overall match by a 121/2- 81/2 score.

FIDE World Championship, Game 8, October 2006


1. d4d527. Rb7Ke8

2. c4c628. Bxe7Kxe7

3. Nf3Nf629. Rc1a5

4. Nc3e630. Rc6Nd5

5. e3Nbd731. h4h6

6. Bd3dxc432. a4g5

7. Bxc4b533. hxg5hxg5

8. Be2Bb734. Kf1g4

9. 0-0b435. Ke2N5f6

10. Na4c536. b3Ne8

11. dxc5Nxc537. f3g3

12. Bb5+Ncd738. Rc1Nef6

13. Ne5Qc739. f4Kd6

14. Qd4Rd840. Kf3Nd5

15. Bd2Qa541. Kxg3Nc5

16. Bc6Be742. Rg7Rb8

17. Rfc1Bxc643. Ra7Rg8+

18. Nxc6Qxa444. Kf3Ne4

19. Nxd8Bxd845. Ra6+Ke7

20. Qxb4Qxb446. Rxa5Rg3+

21. Bxb4Nb547. Ke2Rxe3+

22. Bd6f548. Kf1Rxb3

23. Rc8N5b649. Ra7+Kf6

24. Rc6Be750. Ra8Nxf4

25. Rd1Kf751. Ra1Rb2

26. Rc7Ra852. a5Rf2+

White resigns

World Championship Match, Game 3, Reykjavik, 1972


1. d4Nf622. Rae1Qg6

2. c4e623. b3Re7

3. Nf3c524. Qd3Rb8

4. d5exd525. axb5axb5

5. cxd5d626. b4c4

6. Nc3g627. Qd2Rbe8

7. Nd2Nbd728. Re3h5

8. e4Bg729. R3e2Kh7

9. Be20-030. Re3Kg8

10. 0-0Re831. R3e2Bxc3

11. Qc2Nh532. Qxc3Rxe4

12. Bxh5gxh533. Rxe4Rxe4

13. Nc4Ne534. Rxe4Qxe4

14. Ne3Qh435. Bh6Qg6

15. Bd2Ng436. Bc1Qb1

16. Nxg4hxg437. Kf1Bf5

17. Bf4Qf638. Ke2Qe4+

18. g3Bd739. Qe2Qc2+

19. a4b640. Qd2Qb3

20. Rfe1a641. Qd4Bd3+

21. Re2b5White resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at dsands@washington

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