- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2006

The immovable object has jumped out to an early lead over the unstoppable force.

Employing pluck and luck, classical world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia won the first two games of his 12-game title match against FIDE belt holder Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria. The match, being played in Elista, Russia, will reunify the world title after more than a dozen years of division in the game.

Kramnik’s solid, match-savvy style held up — barely — against the more dynamic and aggressive play of his rival. Topalov very well could have collected at least 11/2 points from the first two games, but oversights and his own overreaching doomed him in both encounters. Two well-played draws this week left Kramnik with a 3-1 lead in the match, set to end Oct. 10.

The pressure of a world title match does not always produce top-quality chess, but the bouts tend to make up in drama what they lack in accuracy.

That goes in spades for Game 2, an epic tragicomedy in which Kramnik comes back from a totally busted position to win.

Down 1-0, Topalov somewhat unexpectedly allows a supersolid QGD Slav line as White here. But he quickly mounts a strong assault against perhaps the world’s best defensive player with shots like 20. g4! and 23. Rg2! — the latter move all but abandoning the queen-side to support the mating attack.

Whole monographs could be written about the next 15 moves, but it’s clear White missed a decisive shot after 28. Qc2! (a subtle finesse, as 28. hxg6? is a move too early because of 28…Qxd3 29. gxh7+ Kh7 30. Rg7+ Kh6 31. f5+ Qxe3 and wins) Rxb2 29. hxg6! (now 29…Rxc2 30. gxh7+ Kxh7 31. Rg7+ Kh6 [Kh8 32. Rg8+ Kh7 33. R1g7+ Kh6 34. f5+ Kh5 35. Rh8+ Nh7 36. Rhxh7 mate] 32. f5+ Kh5 33. R7g3 Ng6 34. Rxg6 Rh8 35. f6! is winning for White) h5 30. g7 hxg4 31. gxf8=Q+ (see diagram).

Topalov later explained that he spent so much time analyzing the mandatory 31…Kxf8! (when Black has some drawing chances in the line 32. Qg6 Qe2 33. Qxg4 Bg5 34. Re1 Qc2 35. fxg5 Kg7 36. Rc1 Rh8+ 37. Kg1 Rb1 38. Rxb1 Qxb1+ 39. Kf2 Rf8) that he was flummoxed by Black’s fiendishly awful 31…Bxf8??.

White can now win on the spot with 32. Rxg4+ Bg7 (Kf7 33. Qh7+ Bg7 34. Qxg7 mate) 33. Qc7! (a tactic Topalov overlooked) Qf1+ 34. Ng1, and Black can’t defend g7. But as Russian GM Peter Svidler observed, “The position didn’t come marked ‘White to win in two,’” and in the heat of battle, White misfires: 32. Qg6+?? Bg7 33. f5 Re7 34. f6 Qe2 35. Qxg4 Rf7 36. Rc1?! (Svidler says there was still a win for White on 36. Qh5 a5 37. Rg3!, offering the line 37…Qxe3 38. fxg7 Rb1+ 39. Kh2 Rb2+ 40. Kh3 Rxg7 41. Ng5 Qf4 42. Qe8+ Qf8 43. Qxf8+ Kxf8 44. Nxe6+ Kf7 45. Nxg7 a4 46. Nf5 and wins) Rc2.

Black appears rejuvenated by his near-death experience, and White can never make his passed central pawns pay off. By 51. Kxd5 Bxe7 52. fxe7 Rxe7, Black is a clear exchange up and his rook will be able to cut the White king off from the action.

In the final position, the White d-pawn is stymied and the Black b-pawn will soon cost Topalov his knight; White resigned.

• • •

Russian-born Swiss GM Viktor Korchnoi came up just short in repeated bids for the world championship in the 1970s and 1980s, but the 75-year-old Korchnoi earlier this month claimed another world crown, easily taking the 16th Senior World Championship tournament in Arvier, Italy, with an undefeated 9-2 score.

Korchnoi’s dominance was on display in his smooth victory over veteran Italian IM Stefano Tatai, punctuated by a lightning flash of killer tactics.

Play is dynamically balanced in the early parts of this Taimanov Sicilian, although one gets the feeling that Korchnoi as Black slowly takes over the game after draining the sting from White’s queen-side invasion with 35…Ra7!, when 36. Raa7? Rxa7 37. Rxa7 (Nxa7 Qh4! 38. Qf1 f3 39. g3 Qxe4 wins) Bg4 38. Qf2 f3 39. Ra1 fxg2+ 40. Qxg2 Qe3 is killing.

Tatai’s hopes to divert Black from his attack misfire after 43. Nd5?! (heading the wrong way; defensive measures with 43. Nd3 Bg6 44. Re1 Qg4 45. Qd2 Bxe4 46. Nf2 were in order) Bg6 44. Nc7 Bxe4!

Korchnoi brushes aside the knight fork with a nice sacrifice that liberates his f-pawn: 45. Ne6 Qd2!! 46. Rf1 (Qxd2?? f2+ 47. Rg2 f1=Q mate) Qxf2 47. Rxf2 Ra8. White’s resignation is a trifle premature, but Black clearly is winning on 48. Kg1 Ra1+ 49. Kf1 Ra2 50. Rf2 Bf5 51. Nc7 e4, and the pawns will soon prove overwhelming.

FIDE World Championship Match, Game 2, Elista, Russia, September 2006

TopalovKramnik

1. d4d533. f5Re7

2. c4c634. f6Qe2

3. Nc3Nf635. Qxg4Rf7

4. Nf3dxc436. Rc1Rc2

5. a4Bf537. Rxc2Qd1+

6. e3e638. Kg2Qxc2+

7. Bxc4Bb439. Kg3Qe4

8. 0-0Nbd740. Bf4Qf5

9. Qe2Bg641. Qxf5exf5

10. e40-042. Bg5a5

11. Bd3Bh543. Kf4a4

12. e5Nd544. Kxf5a3

13. Nxd5cxd545. Bc1Bf8

14. Qe3Bg646. e6Rc7

15. Ng5Re847. Bxa3Bxa3

16. f4Bxd348. Ke5Rc1

17. Qxd3f549. Ng5Rf1

18. Be3Nf850. e7Re1+

19. Kh1Rc851. Kxd5Bxe7

20. g4Qd752. fxe7Rxe7

21. Rg1Be753. Kd6Re1

22. Nf3Rc454. d5Kf8

23. Rg2fxg455. Ne6+Ke8

24. Rxg4Rxa456. Nc7+Kd8

25. Rag1g657. Ne6+Kc8

26. h4Rb458. Ke7Rh1

27. h5Qb559. Ng5b5

28. Qc2Rxb260. d6Rd1

29. hxg6h561. Ne6b4

30. g7hxg462. Nc5Re1+

31. gxf8=Q+Bxf863. Kf6Re3

32. Qg6+Bg7White resigns

16th World Senior Championship, Arvier, Italy, September 2006

TataiKorchnoi

1. e4c525. Ne3f4

2. Nf3e626. Nd5g5

3. d4cxd427. a4g4

4. Nxd4Nc628. fxg4Bxg4

5. Nb5d629. axb5axb5

6. Bf4e530. Ra7Be6

7. Be3Nf631. Qf3Qg5

8. Bg5Be632. Rfa1Rcc8

9. Nd2a633. Ne7Rce8

10. Nc3Be734. Nc6Rg8

11. Bxf6Bxf635. Rc7Ra8

12. Bc40-036. Na7Bg4

13. Nd5Rc837. Qf2Bh5

14. c3Kh838. Rg1f3

15. Bb3Bg539. g3Rab8

16. Nc4b540. Nc6Rbc8

17. Nce3Na541. Rxc8Rxc8

18. 0-0g642. Nb4Rf8

19. Kh1Bh643. Nd5Bg6

20. Qf3Bxe344. Nc7Bxe4

21. Qxe3f545. Ne6Qd2

22. f3Nc446. Rf1Qxf2

23. Bxc4Rxc447. Rxf2Ra8

24. Qd3Rc5White resigns

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

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