Miskolc 2007: Peter Leko misses a big chance

4/26/2007 – After a tense, uneventful game one local hero Peter Leko missed an excellent opportunity to take the lead in game two in his rapid chess match against Vladimir Kramnik. Peter suffered a similar mishap in the previous year against Anatoly Karpov – was it nerves or the fast time controls? The event is under way in the beautiful National Theater. We bring you annotated games and pictures.

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Rapid Chess Match Leko-Kramnik in Miskolc

The rapid chess match between Vladimir Kramnik, the reigning world champion, and Peter Leko, Hungary's top grandmaster, takes place from April 23 and 30 in the National Theater of Miskolc, Hungary. The games start at 16:00h and 17:30h (4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.) local time, which is Central European Sommer Time (GMT +1). The arbiter is WGM Zsuzsa Veröci, Head of Communication of the Hungarian Chess Federation. The games can be watched live on the official site and on Playchess.com. Schedule:

24.04.2007 Opening ceremony
25.04.2007 Rounds 1 + 2
26.04.2007 Rounds 3 + 4
27.04.2007 Rest day
28.04.2007 Rounds 5 + 6
29.04.2007 Rounds 7 + 8

Round one + two report

The first two games of this rapid chess match ended in draws. The first was a basically uninteresting affair, with both players obviously in a tense mood, trying to get a feel for the ground. In the second then the fireworks, with Peter Leko coming very close to taking the lead in front of his home public. But as in last year's match against Anatoly Karpov his nerves and the rate of play caused him to let a golden opportunity slip. The annotations below were provided by GM Ferenc Berkes and IM Gyula Meszaros, who are doing the official match commentary for the public over infrared headphones.


Game one Kramnik vs Leko

Kramnik,V (2772) - Leko,P (2738) [A33]
Rapid Match Miskolc HUN (1), 25.04.2007 [Berkes/Meszaros]
The first move was made by Sandor Kali, the Mayor of Miskolc. The flashlights had blinked for a number of minutes, then the game finally began. The players started the match in an apparently tense state of mind. 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 e6 6.Bg5 Be7 7.e3 Qa5 8.Bh4 Ne4! Black happily accepts the simplification. 9.Bxe7 Nxc3 10.Qd2 Nxe7. We would have also expected 10...Kxe7. 11.Nb5 0-0 12.Qxc3 Qxc3+ 13.Nxc3 b6 14.0-0-0 Rd8 15.Be2 Bb7 16.e4?! f5!

Black doesn't wait like a sitting duck. He won't let White finish his development and play on Black's main weakness, the 'd6' square. The intense counterplay tumbles the white army. 17.exf5 [17.f3?! fxe4 18.fxe4 Ng6 19.Rd4 Bc6 (19...Kf7?! 20.Nb5! Ke7 21.Nd6 Bc6 22.b4!) 20.b4 Ne5 21.Rhd1 Kf7 =/+] 17...Nxf5 18.Rhg1 Rac8 19.Rd2 Kf8! The king belongs to the middle of the board. By the time White wakens, Black is taking the initiative. 19...d5 20.cxd5 Bxd5 (20...exd5?! 21.Bg4 g6 22.Bxf5 gxf5 23.Rd4²) 21.Kd1 Kf7=. 20.g3 Ke7 21.Re1 Nd6 22.b3. Better is 22.Rd4. 22...b5 23.Red1 Ne4 24.Nxe4 Bxe4 25.Kb2.

Black is better because of his central pawns, but the advantage is far from being decisive. We would have liked to see a "skinning" á la Lékó, but considering the time shortage the players divided the point. Draw. [Click to replay]


Leko,P (2738) - Kramnik,V (2772) [C88]
Rapid Match Miskolc HUN (2), 25.04.2007 [Berkes/Meszaros]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.h3. This time Peter avoids the Marshall-gambit 8...Bb7 9.d3 d6 10.a3 Na5 11.Ba2 c5 12.Nbd2 Nc6 13.Nf1 Bc8 14.Ne3 Be6 15.Nd5 Bxd5 16.exd5 Nd4 17.Nd2 Nf5 18.Ne4 Nd7

19.g3! Up to this point the game developed very quickly, but Peter came up with a very deep positional plan here. The idea is to paralyze Black's f5 knight and e7 bishop, and the same time prepare an attack on the kingside, [19.b4 Rc8 20.Bd2 happened in two games of Anand, but he didn't manage to fight out any advantage.] 19...g6 20.h4 Rc8 21.b4 Qb6 22.h5

22...cxb4? This is a mistake for a number of reasons:

  1. It releases the tension in the centre.
  2. The a1 rook becomes a strong piece because of the weakness of the a6 pawn
  3. White now is able to prepare a sweep on the queenside with c2-c4.

22... a5 seems to be better but 23.Rd2 still ensures a slight advantage for White.

23.axb4 Nf6 24.c3 Ng7 25.h6! Unpleasant move. White obtains a tactical pawn which is a permanent threat to the black king. 25...Nge8! [25...Nf5 26.Bd2 Bd8 27.Kg2 Qb7 28.Qe2 Nxe4 29.dxe4 Ne7 30.f4+/-] 26.Bd2 Nxe4 27.dxe4 f5 28.exf5 Rxf5 29.Be3 Qb7 30.Rc1! Bd8 [30...Bg5 31.Bb1! Bxe3 32.Bxf5 Bxf2+ 33.Kxf2 gxf5 34.Qd3 Qf7 35.c4+/-] 31.c4 bxc4 32.Bxc4

32...Qxb4 [32...Bb6 33.Bxa6 Qxa6 34.Rxc8 Qxc8 35.Bxb6 Rh5 36.Qf3 Qh3 37.Be3+/-] 33.Rb1!+/- At the press conference after the game Kramnik told us that he actually didn't sacrifice the queen but he was forced to give her up. Eventually, considering the result, he was not sorry to have done so. 33...Qxc4 34.Rc1 Qxc1 35.Bxc1 Bb6 36.Be3 Bxe3 37.Rxe3 Nf6 38.Qa4 e4! Black sizes every opportunity to reduce material. 39.Qxa6 Rc1+ 40.Kg2 Rc2

41.Re2? As once before this move will hound Peter. Last year he also let a half point slip out of his hands against Karpov in a similar situation. He has shown practically perfect play, and in a long game White would easily win. However, in the grip of the time Peter, doesn't want to take risks. 41.Qa8+ Kf7 42.Qa7+ Kf8 43.Re1 (43.Rb3? Rfxf2+ 44.Qxf2 Rxf2+ 45.Kxf2 Nxd5 46.Rb8+ Kf7 47.Rh8 Nf6 48.Ke3 Ke6 49.Kd4 Kf5=) 43...Rfxf2+ (43...g5?! 44.Rf1) 44.Qxf2 Rxf2+ 45.Kxf2 Nxd5 46.Rxe4+/- would give good winning chances. 41...Rxe2 42.Qxe2 Rxd5 43.Qc4 Kf7 44.Qc7+ Ke6 45.Qc8+ Ke7 46.Kf1 Rc5 47.Qb7+ Ke6 48.Ke2 Rf5 49.Qc8+ Ke7 50.Qc7+ Ke6 51.Qc8+ Draw. [Click to replay]

Picture Gallery

The town of Miskolc (we remind you that the pronunciation is "Mish-kolts") is the third largest in Hungary. One of the most convenient forms of transportation is the electric tram, which passes along the pedestrian main street noisily at regular intervals.

For the players and for special guests – to which we are mysteriously counted – there are BMW limousines and drivers who will pick you up and take you anywhere at a moment's notice. They are allowed to drive (very slowly and very carefully) in the pedestrian zone.

Locks on the railing of a bridge near the playing venue. Apparently lovers come here and attach the locks for luck.

Each partner in the love pact has a key to the lock, so we assume it is pretty devastating when you come to the bridge and find your lock missing. Or just an elegant alternative to "I think we really need to talk, Jozsef".

For the first game a German TV crew was given permission to set up a "dolly" right next to the table. For the uninitiated: a dolly is a small wheeled vehicle used to move a camera around in a scene.

"I'd like you to start the game with some real action, like a knight move, and play it with a flourish..." Vladimir Kramnik receives some pre-game instructions from documentary film producer Dr. Bernhard Pfletschinger.


Before the start of the game the photographers have a few minutes to get their shots


The Mayor (Polgármester) of Miskolc, Sandor Kali, executes the first move


Peter Leko replies and the rapid chess match is under way


Game two about to begin in the beautiful National Theater


Another prominent personality makes the ceremonial first move


Lékópéter working on his deep strategic plan


Come on, I know there is a win somewhere here


Unfortunately he blew it on move 41 – we are not going to sleep too well tonight, are we, Lékó-Péter?

Photos and report by Frederic Friedel

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