Elista 2006: Kramnik wins game one

9/23/2006 – The World Championship between Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik started with a fighting 75-move game that lasted six and a half hours. Topalov played a novelty on move 12, and achieved a drawing position. But he refused to repeat moves, pressed for a win, blundered and lost. Full report and commentary.

Veselin Topalov vs Vladimir Kramnik

Twelve games, played from September 23 to October 12 in Elista, Kalmikia. The games start at 15:00h (3:00 p.m.) local Elista time, which translates to 11:00h GMT, 13:00h CEST, 12:00h London, 7 a.m. New York.

Live coverage is available on the official FIDE site and on Playchess.com (with live audio commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan for ten Ducats per day).

Game one – Saturday, Sept. 23


The well-filled venue of the world championship in Elista


The stage, before the players have arrived

The first game in the World Championship match provided the spectators, in Elista and all over the world on the Internet, just what they wanted – match strategy, tension, spurned draw, attack, defence, a blunder and a win after six and a half hours.

Before the start of game one between Kramnik and Topalov. In the background are Deputy Arbiter Panagiotis Nikolopoulos, the Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Alexander Zhukov, the President of the Russian Chess Federation Organizing Committee Chairman Vyacheslav Fetisov, the President of Kalmykia and of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and Chief Arbiter Geurt Gijssen.


Start of game one, Kramnik vs Topalov, with 1.d4 Nf6

Vladimir Kramnik had white and gained a small advantage after Topalov's novelty on move 12 in the Open Catalan that ensued. On move 35 he picked up a pawn, but was confronted with a dangerous attack by Black. Topalov rejected multiple chances of repeating moves and taking the draw that most people were expecting. But he pressed too hard and at a critical moment was not able to display the great precision for which he is famous. Move 57 was a serious blunder and led to black's demise after 75 moves.


The winner of game one: Vladimir Kramnik

On the Playchess server many thousands of spectators watched the drama unfold, with GM Yasser Seirawan providing his unmatched audio commentary.

In the above graph of the sever stats you can see how the number of visitors climbed as the game progressed, peaking at 19:00h CEST or 21:00h Elista time, which was when the game reached its final phase. At one stage a record-breaking seven and a half thousand visitors were logged in, causing as few minor bandwidth problems for the audio commentary.


Playchess commentator GM Yasser Seirawan

From game two onwards Yasser Seirawan's commentary will cost ten Ducats, which is about one Euro (just over a dollar). For this you can watch every video and audio broadcast during the entire game.


Commentary on Game One

The following express commentary was provided to us by Romanian GM Mihail Marin, who is the author of a number of very popular ChessBase training CDs and articles for ChessBase Magazine. GM Marin will study the game from the World Championship in Elista in greater detail and provide the results of his analysis in the next issue of ChessBase Magazine.

(1) Kramnik,V (2743) - Topalov,V (2813) [E04]
WCh Elista RUS (1), 23.09.2006 [Mihail Marin]

The match had a promising start: 75 moves of uncompromising fight, abrupt changes in the course of the game and... a decisive result. It could have all ended in an "interesting draw" right after the first control if any player other than Topalov had been playing with black. For Kramnik, the general pattern must be quite familiar. Two years ago in Brissago, he also won the first game of his match with Leko, after his opponent overstepped the limit of admissible risk. It will be interesting to follow the way Topalov will overcome this cold shower untill tomorrow.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 Bb4+. A relatively rare continuation. More topical is 5...Nc6 ] 6.Bd2 a5 7.Qc2 Bxd2+ 8.Qxd2!? This move is in slight contradiction with the general rules of development: White moves for the second time in a row with an already developed piece. Even more paradoxical is the justification of such a decision: White intends to effectuate a new series of three consecutive moves with the queen in order to win the pawn back! In fact, moving around with the queen before the development of the other pieces has been completed is quite typical for the Catalan, the most recent example in Kramnik's practice being his game against Naiditsch from Dortmund 2006. The explanation why such radical deviations from the normal course of the game are viable is probably connected with what I would call "The quality of development". Indeed, the Catalan bishop is sometimes so strong that it can compensate for a delay in the mobilization of the other forces.

8...c6 9.a4 b5 10.axb5 cxb5 11.Qg5 0-0 12.Qxb5 Ba6 13.Qa4 Qb6 14.0-0 Qxb2 15.Nbd2 Bb5 16.Nxc4 Bxa4 17.Nxb2 Bb5. Finally, the piece in which White has invested five tempi has been exchanged. White has a nice structure of pawns and, after the next move, strong pressure along the h1-a8 diagonal. However, Black's a-pawn should not be underestimated. In order to block it or simply capture it, White will need to concentrate considerable amount of resources on the queenside, leaving the other wing slightly weakened.

18.Ne5 Ra7 19.Bf3 Nbd7 20.Nec4 Rb8 21.Rfb1 g5 22.e3 g4 23.Bd1 Bc6 24.Rc1 Be4 25.Na4 Rb4 26.Nd6 Bf3!? This certainly looks like a double-edged decision: will the pawn be a strength or a weakness? The further course of the game offers us partial answers in both ways. The pawn kept White passive for a long time but then perished without glory after Black's first slip.

27.Bxf3 gxf3 28.Nc8 Ra8 29.Ne7+ Kg7 30.Nc6 Rb3 31.Nc5 Rb5 32.h3 Nxc5 33.Rxc5 Rb2 34.Rg5+ Kh6 35.Rgxa5 Rxa5 36.Nxa5 Ne4 37.Rf1 Nd2 38.Rc1 Ne4 39.Rf1 f6 40.Nc6 Nd2 41.Rd1 Ne4 42.Rf1 Kg6. With such a perfect coordination of pieces (R + N + P), Topalov correctly assumes that he can play for a win without too much risk. He might have also thought that even if White would hold a draw, it would useful to take the psychological initiative from the very first game of the match. However, he might have underestimated the strength of the enemy knight, which, in spite of being cut off his colleagues, is able to restrict Black's activity by attacking the enemy pawns from behind.

43.Nd8 Rb6 44.Rc1 h5 45.Ra1 h4 46.gxh4 Kh5 47.Ra2 Kxh4 48.Kh2 Kh5 49.Rc2 Kh6 50.Ra2 Kg6 51.Rc2 Kf5 52.Ra2 Rb5 53.Nc6 Rb7 54.Ra5+ Kg6 55.Ra2 Kh5. After subtle maneouvers, Black has managed to create the deadly threat ...Rg7-g2. However, White's (possibly) unexpected answer will mark the turning point in the game.

56.d5! e5. For the time being, Topalov reacts correctly. 56...exd5 loses the pride of Black's position after 57.Nd4; but 56...Rg7 also seems to keep Black in the game after 57.dxe6 Rg2+ 58.Kh1 Nxf2+ 59.Rxf2 Rxf2 60.e7 Rf1+ 61.Kh2 Rf2+ 62.Kg3 Rg2+ 63.Kxf3 Rg8 and only further analysis will show whether White has any winning chances after transfering the knight to f5 and defending it with the e-pawn.

57.Ra4 Now, Black loses stability in the centre and has to prove certain inventivity in order to save the game. 57...f5? Probably surprised by the unexpected course of events, Topalov fails to find his last saving possibility, consisting of 57...Nxf2 58.Kg3 e4 and if 59.Kxf2 then 59...Rb2+ with perpetual.] 58.Nxe5 Rb2 59.Nd3 The rest is easy. 59...Rb7 60.Rd4 Rb6 61.d6 Nxd6 62.Kg3 Ne4+ 63.Kxf3 Kg5 64.h4+ Kf6 65.Rd5 Nc3 66.Rd8 Rb1 67.Rf8+ Ke6 68.Nf4+ Ke5 69.Re8+ Kf6 70.Nh5+ Kg6 71.Ng3 Rb2 72.h5+ Kf7 73.Re5 Nd1 74.Ne2 Kf6 75.Rd5 1-0. [Click to replay].

Mihail Marin, 41, Romanian Grandmaster, three times national champion (1988, 1994, 1999), nine times member of the Olympic team, participant in two Interzonals (Szirak 1987 and Manila 1990). In 2005 Marin was the second of Judit Polgar at the FIDE world championship in San Luis. Highest rating: 2604. Author of the ChessBase opening CDs English 1.c4 e5 and The Catalan Opening and the books: Secrets of Chess Defence, Secrets of Attacking Chess and Learn from the Legends. Graduate from the Polytechnic Institute Bucharest (Specialty Electrotechnic) in 1989.

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