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Corus Round 1: Akopian beats Kramnik and leads

1/10/2004 – While the other dozen players were splitting the points, the battle of the Vladimirs provided action to spare. Akopian finished off Kramnik with a spectacular rook sacrifice to become the first leader of the year. Games with notes and report here.
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Corus Wijk aan Zee 2004 – Round 1

66th Wijk aan Zee Tournament – Jan. 10-25
Category 19 (avg. Elo 2702)

Round 1 (Saturday, January 10, 2004)
Veselin Topalov
Mickey Adams
Ivan Sokolov
Jan Timman
Peter Leko
Viswanathan Anand
Vladimir Akopian
Vladimir Kramnik
Loek van Wely
Evgeny Bareev
Viktor Bologan
Zhang Zhong
Peter Svidler
Alexei Shirov

A few months ago we joked about Radjabov being invited to Linares this year on the strength of a single game, his win over Kasparov at the 2003 edition. If that theory hold true we should be seeing a lot more of Vladimir Akopian! He demolished world #2 Vladimir Kramnik with a stunning rook sacrifice that left Black with no hope at all. The 32-year-old Armenian is best known for having won many junior titles and for finishing second to Khalifman in the 1999 FIDE KO in Las Vegas. (Photo from official site.)

Of course Akopian was awarded the Audience Prize in round one for his victory over Kramnik, which evened the score between them in classical chess at one win apiece. "It was the first round, no one knows what's going on," commented Peter Svidler, who had just finished a dangerous game against Alexei Shirov.

It's too early to talk about the effect of one game on the final standings, but it will be interesting to see how this blow affects Kramnik. After months of inactivity he blunders in round one. Will he come out swinging to get back in the chase or stick to his normal conservative game plan? Akopian's aggressive play certainly calls into question Kramnik's comments in a 2003 interview that the reason he drew so often was because his opponents were scared to play for a win against him.

Akopian became the clear leader when no one else could achieve a binary result. Sokolov squeezed Timman for a while and Zhang had an edge against Bologan, but stiff resistance was the order of the day. The new front-runner immediately gets a stern test because Kramnik and Anand picked consecutive numbers in the draw. That means everyone (except for Leko) gets to play them back to back. Ouch.

Here's the scene of the crime in Akopian-Kramnik. Instead of immediately trading with 28..Qxb2+, Kramnik went for attack and defense with 28...Rc7. That covers e7, b7, and prepares to get the other rook into the game.

That would be fine if White didn't have anything better than 29.Nxg7, but he has something a lot better. 29.Rh7!! is a spectacular passive rook sacrifice. If Kramnik captures the rook he gets mated on the h-file after the discovered check.

All he could do was capture on b2, which loses a pile of material. 29...Qxb2+

[29...Kxh7? Decoy to h7. 30.Nxe7+ Discovered attack. 30...Kh6 31.Rh1+ Bh5 32.g4 Crushing.

Black can play on down material with 29...Nxb2 30.Rxg7+ Kf8 31.Qxb2 Qxb2+ 32.Kxb2 e6 33.Rh7 exf5 34.Bd5 The tactics all work for White. 34...Rd7 35.Rh8+ Ke7 36.Re1+ Kd6 37.Rxa8 Bxd5]

30.Qxb2 Nxb2 31.Rxg7+ Kf8 32.Rh1! 1-0 [32...Ke8 33.Rh8+ Kd7 34.Rxa8+-]

Standings after round one

All the games played in PGN (no notes) GM group AGM group BGM group C

Schedule – (Rest days 12, 16, 21)
Round 1 - Saturday, 10th
V. Topalov - M. Adams
I. Sokolov - J. Timman
P. Leko - V. Anand
V. Akopian - V. Kramnik
L. van Wely - E. Bareev
V. Bologan - Z. Zhong
P. Svidler - A. Shirov

Round 2 - Sunday, 11th
M. Adams - A. Shirov  
Z. Zhong - P. Svidler  
E. Bareev - V. Bologan  
V. Kramnik - L. van Wely  
V. Anand - V. Akopian  
J. Timman - P. Leko  
V. Topalov - I. Sokolov  

Round 3 - Tuesday, 13th
I. Sokolov - M. Adams  
P. Leko - V. Topalov  
V. Akopian - J. Timman  
L. van Wely - V. Anand  
V. Bologan - V. Kramnik  
P. Svidler - E. Bareev  
A. Shirov - Z. Zhong  
Round 4 - Wednesday, 14th
M. Adams - Z. Zhong  
E. Bareev - A. Shirov  
V. Kramnik - P. Svidler  
V. Anand - V. Bologan  
J. Timman - L. van Wely  
V. Topalov - V. Akopian  
I. Sokolov - P. Leko  

Round 5 - Thursday, 15th
P. Leko - M. Adams  
V. Akopian - I. Sokolov  
L. van Wely - V. Topalov  
V. Bologan - J. Timman  
P. Svidler - V. Anand  
A. Shirov - V. Kramnik  
Z. Zhong - E. Bareev  
Round 6 - Saturday, 17th
M. Adams - E. Bareev  
V. Kramnik - Z. Zhong  
V. Anand - A. Shirov  
J. Timman - P. Svidler  
V. Topalov - V. Bologan  
I. Sokolov - L. van Wely  
P. Leko - V. Akopian  
Round 7 - Sunday, 18th
V. Akopian - M. Adams  
L. van Wely - P. Leko  
V. Bologan - I. Sokolov  
P. Svidler - V. Topalov  
A. Shirov - J. Timman  
Z. Zhong - V. Anand  
E. Bareev - V. Kramnik  

Round 8 - Monday, 19th
M. Adams - V. Kramnik  
V. Anand - E. Bareev  
J. Timman - Z. Zhong  
V. Topalov - A. Shirov  
I. Sokolov - P. Svidler  
P. Leko - V. Bologan  
V. Akopian - L. van Wely  

Round 9 - Tuesday, 20th
L. van Wely - M. Adams  
V. Bologan - V. Akopian  
P. Svidler - P. Leko  
A. Shirov - I. Sokolov  
Z. Zhong - V. Topalov  
E. Bareev - J. Timman  
V. Kramnik - V. Anand  
Round 10 - Thursday, 22th
M. Adams - V. Anand  
J. Timman - V. Kramnik  
V. Topalov - E. Bareev  
I. Sokolov - Z. Zhong  
P. Leko - A. Shirov  
V. Akopian - P. Svidler  
L. van Wely - V. Bologan  

Round 11 - Friday, 23th
V. Bologan - M. Adams  
P. Svidler - L. van Wely  
A. Shirov - V. Akopian  
Z. Zhong - P. Leko  
E. Bareev - I. Sokolov  
V. Kramnik - V. Topalov  
V. Anand - J. Timman  
Round 12 - Saturday, 24th
M. Adams - J. Timman  
V. Topalov - V. Anand  
I. Sokolov - V. Kramnik  
P. Leko - E. Bareev  
V. Akopian - Z. Zhong  
L. van Wely - A. Shirov  
V. Bologan - P. Svidler  
Round 13 - Sunday, 25th
P. Svidler - M. Adams  
A. Shirov - V. Bologan  
Z. Zhong - L. van Wely  
E. Bareev - V. Akopian  
V. Kramnik - P. Leko  
V. Anand - I. Sokolov  
J. Timman - V. Topalov  

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