Peter Svidler,


Game 5

In order to keep this column from becoming a political forum, I will limit myself to the bare minimum on the subject of Game 5. I believe that the actions of Silvio Danailov could - and still can, as is evident from his latest outpouring on the subject of percentages - do untold harm to the chess world. What's more, I suspect that Veselin Topalov is slowly coming round to that point of view - I was present at the press-conference after Game 6, and it seemed from his demeanor and his answers (he looked extremely embarrassed, and said he was 'not too proud' of what has been done in his name) that he is aware just how damaged his reputation could be by his manager's actions. However, due to incompetence and partiality of the original Appeals Committee, the fifth game was awarded to Topalov when Vladimir Kramnik refused to take his place at the board, protesting from the unlawful change of the match regulations. A few more days were spent trying to work out some sort of a compromise, and in the end Vladimir Kramnik decided to continue the match, with the score standing at 3-2, but under protest.

Slav Defence D17
Game 6

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Ne5. While Vladimir Kramnik was busy trying to negotiate the restart of the match, Veselin Topalov was nowhere to be seen. He was expertly shielded by Danailov and free to do what he does best - preparing for the battles ahead. Once again the Bulgarian is the first one to deviate - after the unexpected break in play he is ready to enter the notoriously tricky main line.

6...e6 7.f3 c5 8.e4 Bg6. But Kramnik has other plans. This is a relatively rare line, in which Black is aiming to simplify the position as much possible. This way Black also avoids the abundant theory of the 7...Bb4 8.e4 Bxe4 line.

9.Be3. Caught somewhat unawares, Veselin opts for the safe edge in the resulting endgame, not wasting too much time on the sharper alternatives - such as 9.d5.

9...cxd4 10.Qxd4 Qxd4 11.Bxd4 Nfd7.

Vassily Smyslov, who understands Slav better than most, played this line once.

12.Nxd7. 12.Nxg6 would have been completely unreasonable - this bishop is the only piece that Black has to worry about, and White certainly does not want to trade it.

12...Nxd7 13.Bxc4 a6 14.Ke2 Rg8. All played very fast. Black has no weaknesses, and if he manages to develop his dark-squared bishop, play Ke7 and then f7-f6, activating his passive bishop on g6, he will have no problems at all. White needs to play very energetically if he is to create any pressure.

15.Rhd1 Rc8 16.b3. A rather odd decision - the bishop is not doing particularly well on c4, and now it will be difficult to extricate it if there's ever a need to do so.

16...Bc5. There were other options, such as 16...Bd6, and possibly even 16...Nb8 - but Vladimir is keeping to the plan, and it is very understandable - both players are feeling their way back into the match, and are perhaps unwilling to take too many chances.

17.a5. Very optimistic - this pawn is more of a weakness than an asset. It is not obvious what to suggest instead, however.

17...Ke7 18.Na4 Bb4. With the pawn on a5 Black does not want the bishop trade anymore. 18...Bxd4 19.Rxd4 would justify White's previous play.

19.Nb6 Nxb6 20.Bxb6.

20…f6! 20...Bc5 would equalize on the spot, but Black rightly decided he is the one with the (theoretical) chances for a win, and played on.

21.Rd3. Veselin seemed happy at this point - he played this move very quickly, perhaps thinking that the travails of the last 4 days must have finally gotten to Kramnik. It seems that Black has just surrendered the d-file...

21...Rc6! ...but after this move White sank into thought - Black is just in time. From now on he will have an option of trading one pair of rooks wherever he wants, and with only one rook on the board White's control of the d8 square is rendered useless.

22.h4. This decision can also be criticized - the pseudo-active activity on the K-side is likelier to create targets for Black's counterplay than anything else - but once again the question 'What else?' is very difficult to answer.

22...Rgc8 23.g4 Bc5. A very logical decision - if White takes on c5 Black is clearly slightly better, due to the fact the one of his rooks will forever be tied down to the defence of the pawn on a5. However, this move allows White to solve all his problems tactically. Black could have waited another move: 23...Be8 - and White would have to find 24.Rad1 Rd6 25.Rxd6 Bxd6 26.Kd3!, preparing to meet 26...Bc5 with 27.Bxc5+ Rxc5 28.b4, to ensure he will not have to suffer too much.

24.Rad1! Now the draw becomes forced.

24...Bxb6. 24...Be8 25.Bd8+ Kf8 is not what Black kept the bishop on b6 alive for.

25.Rd7+ Kf8 26.axb6 Rxb6 27.R1d6! Rxd6 28.Rxd6 Rc6! Black could make a draw by other means, for instance 28...Be8!? 29.Rxe6 (29.Bxe6 Rc6) 29...Bf7 30.Rb6 Bxc4+ 31.bxc4 Rxc4 32.Rxb7, and the handshake is not far away - but the text is also very forcing.

29.Rxc6 bxc6 30.b4. 30.Bxe6 Ke7 31.Bc4 a5 does not promise White anything either, and he sterilizes the position completely.

30...e5 31.Bxa6. Draw agreed. A good result for Vladimir Kramnik - after being robbed of a point, and a White game to boot, he calmly secured an important draw and a rest day before, by a quirk of the regulation, yet another (third in a row) game with Black.

Game 11 & Game 12. Comments by GM Mikhail Golubev. «Two Fighting Draws»
12-я партия. мг Михаил Голубев. «На чужой территории»
11-я партия. мг Михаил Голубев. «В поисках Абсолюта»
Game 9 & Game 10. Comments by GM Mikhail Golubev. «A Decisive Chess»
10-я партия. мг Михаил Голубев. «Пятью пять»
9-я партия. мг Михаил Голубев. «Развилка близка»
Game 7 & Game 8. Comments by GM Peter Svidler. «Too Close to Call»
8-я партия. мг Алексей Коротылев. «Безжалостные кони»
7-я партия. мг Алексей Коротылев. «Нерасчехленное копье»
6-я партия. Комментирует мг Алексей Коротылев. «Это мы не проходили»
Game 3 & Game 4. Comments by GM Peter Svidler. «Sanity Restored»
4-я партия. Комментирует мг Алексей Коротылев. «В режиме прощупывания»
3-я партия. Комментирует мг Алексей Коротылев. «Завышенный запас прочности»
Game 2. Comments by GM Peter Svidler. «A very human masterpiece»
2-я партия. Комментирует мг Алексей Коротылев. «Серп и молот»
1-я партия. Комментирует мг Алексей Коротылев. «Воля и судьба»
Game 1. Comments by GM Peter Svidler. «Drama Unfolds»