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Mtel R1: Kramnik beats Ponomariov

5/13/2005 – 150 years ago it was common for the world's best players to give pawn odds and still win. Today former FIDE champ Ponomariov learned you can't do that to Vladimir Kramnik. The classical chess world champion smoothly converted the endgame to take the early lead. Meanwhile Anand and Topalov gave the Bulgarian public a sharp adrenalin boost.
 

Super GM Tournament
in Sofia

World's top six players
clash in the M-Tel Masters

May 11 to 22, 2005
in the Grand Hotel Sofia, Bulgaria

The Mtel Masters Super Tournament is under way. It is a category 20 event with an Elo average of 2744. The time controls are classic (up to seven hours per game) and the tournament is a double round robin (every player plays every other player twice). There is a special rule in place at this Super Tournament: draw offers are not allowed, i.e. draws by mutual agreement between the players are forbidden, only technical draws may be given by the arbiter.


Players at the press conference before the event


And posing for the photographers before the action starts

Kramnik takes early lead

Classical world champion beat former FIDE champion today in the first round of the Mtel Masters in Sofia, Bulgaria. Ruslan Ponomariov played a horrible opening, lost a pawn, and was ground down by Kramnik, who made it look very easy. The other two games were interesting draws.

Round 1 (Thursday, May 12, 2005)
Vladimir Kramnik
1-0
Ruslan Ponomariov
Viswanathan Anand
½-½
Veselin Topalov
Michael Adams
½-½
Judit Polgar
GamesReport

You remember that draw offers are not allowed in Sofia? Many thought this was an April Fool's joke, when we strategically published the news on April 1st. But true it was, and work it apparently did. In the first three games there was no sight of tentative, probing games, no question of warmup draws or slowly getting into swinging. All six players hit the Bulgarian ground fighting, with a 60-move win and two long, ferocious draws (60 and 74 moves).

We start with Adams-Polgar, the "tamest" of the three first-round encounters. The world's strongest female player – of all time – seemed to equalise effortlessly in a Sicilian Paulsen, so that under normal circumstance a draw at around move 34 would have been on the order. But knowing that they did not have the right to agree on one themselves, and that the arbiter would most certainly tell them to keep working if they appealed to him, the game continued, with Judit Polgar suddenly becoming quite ambitious and starting an assault with her kingside pawns. It looked optically dangerous and dubious, and Mickey Adams worked hard to prove that it really was. But in the end Judit had held him to an iron draw.

Adams,Mi (2737) - Polgar,Ju (2732) [B47]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (1), 12.05.2005
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.g3 a6 7.Bg2 Nf6 8.0-0 Nxd4 9.Qxd4 Bc5 10.Qd3 Ng4 11.Qe2 Ne5 12.Kh1 d6 13.f4 Nc6 14.Be3 b6 15.f5 Ne5 16.Rad1 Bb7 17.Bg5 0-0 18.f6 g6 19.Na4 b5 20.Nxc5 Qxc5 21.b3 Rac8 22.Bh6 Rfe8 23.Rd2 d5 24.Be3 Qb4 25.Bf4 Nd7 26.e5 Nc5 27.h4 Ne4 28.Bxe4 dxe4 29.Kh2 Red8 30.Rfd1 Rd5 31.Be3 Rxd2 32.Qxd2 Qxd2+ 33.Rxd2 Bd5 34.Bd4 h5 35.Kg1 Kh7 36.c3 g5 37.hxg5 Kg6 38.Kf2 Kxg5 39.Ke3 Kg4 40.Rh2 Rh8 41.Kf2 h4 42.Rxh4+ Rxh4 43.gxh4 Kxh4 44.Ke3 a5 45.Kf4 a4 46.bxa4 bxa4 47.a3 Bb7 48.Be3 Bd5 49.Bd2 Bb7 50.Be1+ Kh5 51.Bf2 Kg6 52.Bc5 Bd5 53.Be3 Bb7 54.Bd2 Bd5 55.Ke3 Kf5 56.Kd4 Bb7 57.c4 Ba6 58.Bc3 Kf4 59.Kc5 e3 60.Kd6 Bxc4 61.Ke7 Kf5 62.Kxf7 Be2 63.Ke7 Bh5 64.f7 Bxf7 65.Kxf7 e2 66.Ke7 e1Q 67.Bxe1 Kxe5 68.Kd7 Kd5 69.Kc7 e5 70.Kb6 Kc4 71.Ka6 Kb3 72.Bb4 e4 73.Bc5 e3 74.Bxe3 Kxa3 ½-½

Possibly the most "uneventful" game of the day was Kramnik-Ponomariov. The classical chess world champion simply outplayed the former FIDE champion in a Caro Kann, pioneered by Kramnik's favourite second Joel Lautier (Lautier-Karpov, Biel 1997, 1-0). Pono's novelty, 15...g5, is to be found in Lautier's analysis. Kramnik came up with a nice idea – judging by the time he spent he found Qh4-h3-f3 at the board – and

Kramnik,V (2753) - Ponomariov,R (2695) [B17]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (1), 12.05.2005
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7.N1f3 Bd6 8.Qe2 h6 9.Ne4 Nxe4 10.Qxe4 c5 11.0-0 Nf6 12.Qh4 cxd4 13.Re1 Bd7 14.Nxd4 Qa5 15.Be3 g5 16.Qh3 0-0-0 17.Qf3 Be5 18.a4 Nd5 19.Nb5 a6 20.c3.

Why is 20...axb5 not an option in the above position? The answer in the game replay. With his opponent's queen in an awkward position Kramnik soon won a pawn (the weakie on f7) and then went on to drive the extra pawn to a full point in flawless Kramnik style (maybe 46.Kg6 would have been even more efficient).

20...Nxe3 21.Qxe3. Kramnik also had 21.b4 Qb6 22.a5 g4 (22...Bc6 23.Qh5) 23.Qe4, which looks like an easy win. 21...Bc7 22.b4 Qb6 23.Qxb6 Bxb6 24.Nd6+ Kb8 25.Nxf7 Rhf8 26.Nxd8 Bxf2+ 27.Kh1 Bxe1 28.Nxe6 Bxe6 29.Rxe1 Bb3 30.a5 Rc8 31.Rc1 Bc4 32.Be4 Re8 33.Bf3 Kc7 34.Kg1 Re3 35.Kf2 Rd3 36.Be4 Rd6 37.Ke3 Bb5 38.Rc2 Bc6 39.Bxc6 Rxc6 40.Kd4 Rf6 41.Ke5 Rf1 42.h3 Kc6 43.Rd2 Re1+ 44.Kf5 Rc1 45.Rd3 Kb5 46.Rd7 Rxc3 47.Rxb7+ Ka4 48.Kg6 Rg3 49.b5 axb5 50.a6 Re3 51.Kxh6 Re6+ 52.Kxg5 Rxa6 53.h4 Ra8 54.g4 Rg8+ 55.Kf4 Rf8+ 56.Kg3 Ka5 57.h5 Ka6 58.Re7 b4 59.h6 b3 60.Re3 1-0

Kramnik himself was the first to admit that Anand-Topalov was the most exciting encounter of the day. At the press conference after the match Vladimir admitted that he had watched that game almost as intensely as his own, calling it "23rd century chess". It was a déjà vu Sicilian Sheveningen, won by Anand against Topalov in Linares. But the Bulgarian had used it to beat Kramnik at Corus this year. He obviously analysed it with his protégée second Ivan Cheparinov, who used it against Rodriguez Guerrero in Dos Hermanas. The game is too complex for quick analysis, we simply draw your attention to some key points with an invitation to poke around with Fritz.

Anand,V (2785) - Topalov,V (2778) [B80]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (1), 12.05.2005
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.f3 b5 8.g4 h6 9.Qd2 b4 10.Na4 Nbd7 11.0-0-0.

Anand correctly did not take on b4 but castled long, upon which the Bulgarian tank Topalov went on the attack, sacrificing a knight for two pawns: 11...Ne5 12.b3 Bd7 13.Nb2 d5 14.Bf4 Nxf3 15.Nxf3 Nxe4 16.Qd4 f6.

Already the position looks quite promising for Black, but watch what Vishy does: 17.Bd3!?. You want sacrifices? We have bigger sacrifices! That seems to be the mood of the game. Anand gives up his queen for a super-sharp counter. 17...Bc5 18.Bxe4 Bxd4 19.Bg6+ Kf8 20.Rxd4. Count the men on the board: White has three minor pieces and an uncastled black king for a queen and two pawns. The following complications will be analysed to great depth by a great many people. At the press conference Anand said he felt he was better but that the position was very "messy".

20...a5 21.Re1 Be8 22.Nh4 e5 23.Rd2 a4 24.bxa4 Kg8 25.Bg3 d4 26.Rd3 h5 27.Bxe8 Qxe8 28.g5 Rc8 29.g6 Rh6 30.Rxd4 Rxg6 31.Nxg6 Qxg6 32.Rd2 Rc3 33.Red1 Kh7 34.Kb1 Qf5 35.Be1 Ra3 36.Rd6 Rh3 37.a5 Rxh2 38.Rc1 Qe4 39.a6 Qa8 40.Bxb4 h4 41.Bc5 h3 42.Nd3 Rd2 43.Rb6 h2 44.Nf2 Qd5 45.Be3 Re2 46.Rb3 f5 47.a7 Rxe3 48.Rxe3 Qb7+ 49.Rb3 Qxa7.

50.Nh1!? Anand could have picked up the h-pawn with 50.Rh3+, but he was afraid that Topalov would "escape" with a draw. Anand is playing for a win! f4 51.c4 e4 52.c5 e3 53.c6 e2 54.c7 Qxc7 55.Rxc7 e1Q+ 56.Rc1 Qe4+ 57.Ka1.

Now it is only Black who can win, but in desperate time trouble Topalov opts for the safe repetition: 7...Qd4+ 58.Kb1 Qe4+ 59.Ka1 Qd4+ 60.Kb1 Qe4+ ½-½.


Me too, not a clue what was going on in that game...

Schedule and results

Round 1 (Thursday, May 12, 2005)
Vladimir Kramnik
1-0
Ruslan Ponomariov
Viswanathan Anand
½-½
Veselin Topalov
Michael Adams
½-½
Judit Polgar
GamesReport
Round 2 (Friday, May 13, 2005)
Ruslan Ponomariov
-
Judit Polgar
Veselin Topalov
-
Michael Adams
Vladimir Kramnik
-
Viswanathan Anand
Games – Report
Round 3 (Saturday, May 14, 2005)
Viswanathan Anand
-
Ruslan Ponomariov
Michael Adams
-
Vladimir Kramnik
Judit Polgar
-
Veselin Topalov
Games – Report
Round 4 (Sunday, May 15, 2005)
Michael Adams
-
Ruslan Ponomariov
Judit Polgar
-
Viswanathan Anand
Veselin Topalov
-
Vladimir Kramnik
Games – Report
Round 5 (Monday, May 16, 2005)
Ruslan Ponomariov
-
Veselin Topalov
Vladimir Kramnik
-
Judit Polgar
Viswanathan Anand
-
Michael Adams
Games – Report
Round 6 (Wednesday, May 18, 2005)
Ruslan Ponomariov
-
Vladimir Kramnik
Veselin Topalov
-
Viswanathan Anand
Judit Polgar
-
Michael Adams
Games – Report
Round 7 (Thursday, May 19, 2005)
Judit Polgar
-
Ruslan Ponomariov
Michael Adams
-
Veselin Topalov
Viswanathan Anand
-
Vladimir Kramnik
Games – Report
Round 8 (Friday, May 20, 2005)
Ruslan Ponomariov
-
Viswanathan Anand
Vladimir Kramnik
-
Michael Adams
Veselin Topalov
-
Judit Polgar
Games – Report
Round 9 (Saturday, May 21, 2005)
Veselin Topalov
-
Ruslan Ponomariov
Judit Polgar
-
Vladimir Kramnik
Michael Adams
-
Viswanathan Anand
Games – Report
Round 10 (Sunday, May 22, 2005)
Ruslan Ponomariov
-
Michael Adams
Viswanathan Anand
-
Judit Polgar
Vladimir Kramnik
-
Veselin Topalov
Games – Report

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