Hungary Rejoices! Leko Beats Anand to Rejoin Lead

3/9/2003 – It's all about the Leko in Linares. The former Schlechter Award winner bounced back from his loss in round 12 to defeat none other than Vishy Anand for the first time ever and moved back into a tie for first with Kramnik. Anand fell to a tie for 3-4 with Kasparov, who was held to a draw by Vallejo. Kramnik-Leko in the final round! More..

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Linares Super GM 2003 – Round 13

XX International Chess Tournament
Cuidad de Linares 2003 (Cat. XX)

Round 13 (Saturday, March 8, 2003)
Kasparov, Garry
½-½
Vallejo, Francisco
Leko, Peter
1-0
Anand, Viswanathan
Radjabov, Teimour
½-½
Kramnik, Vladimir

Peter Leko picked a great time for his first-ever win against Viswanathan Anand. (No, I don't count "advanced chess" any more than I would count a win at Pac-man.) They have met 30 times since their first meeting in 1994, back when Leko had to have his diapers changed after each time control. Only three of their classical chess encounters have finished decisively, all in favor of Anand.

The third win came last week in Linares in round six and pulled Anand up to +2 while sending Leko down to +1. In the 13th round, Leko returned the favor. He now has +2 for the third time (!) and is back in a tie for first place with Vladimir Kramnik. Kasparov failed in his best chance to join the leaders when he was held to a draw by Vallejo in a blocked Caro-Kann. Kramnik roused briefly to come close to a win against Radjabov, but pulled back just when it looked like the full point was in view.

Tiebreaks haven't been in issue in Linares in a while thanks to Kasparov's large winning margins in the past two years. In 2000 Kasparov and Kramnik tied on the scoreboard so they went to the list of tiebreak systems. Most wins? Equal. Head-to-head? Equal. Wins with black? Equal. Ummm... what's next, push-ups? Actually it was the dreaded coin toss, which was refused by both winners. They insisted on sharing the title, although Kasparov proposed that Kramnik take the Linares trophy because it was the big Russian's first and Kasparov already had a room full of them back in Moscow.

I love having most wins as the first tiebreak because it rewards fighting chess. Progressive score tiebreaks make no sense in round robins because everyone faces the same field and how does rewarding winning early and perhaps drawing the rest of your games encourage fighting chess? Plus, it's only a symbol, as I believe the prize money – no big thing in Linares anyway – is split evenly among players with equal points regardless of tiebreaks. So unless the system has been revised the current standings would give Peter Leko his first Linares trophy, although I would consider both him and Kramnik to be winners. Points is points!

Leko had the initiative throughout the critical game, which started in a very hot line of the Petroff Defense that repeated Anand's game against Kramnik from Corus Wijk aan Zee in January until Leko varied on move 16. On move 26 Anand gave up a pawn to reach a rook + queen endgame that should have been drawn comfortably. A few moves later and it was another rook and pawn endgame, showing that these guys have no pity at all on the poor people covering Linares and who need their sleep.

On the other hand, sleep is for wimps! I'll save the instructional material for a more appropriate venue, but suffice it to say that this ending is drawn drawn drawn. The white rook is in the exactly wrong place: in front of its pawn. The rules of chess dictate that as long as it stays there, the pawn can't queen.

Okay, it's not that simple, but as long as the black rook is behind the a-pawn and the black king has access to the white pawns when the white king roams over to help the a-pawn, there is enough activity to draw. I thought that this was something handed down from Moses directly to Cheron on stone tablets, so I was stunned by several of Anand's moves.

First 37...Kg7 instead of the immediate ..Rd1+, allowing Leko to either defend his pawn from the side. 38.a4 Rd1+ 39.Kg2 Ra1. Right, black rook behind the pawn, white rook in front of the pawn, draw! 40.g4 Kf6 41.Kg3 Rc1. Huh? This allows White to shift his rook to defending the a-pawn from the side, a vastly more favorable location. The position may already be lost after Leko pounced on this unexpected gift with 42.Rb5.

As Leko pointed out after the game, these endgames are being won more often than a decade ago when there were adjournments. For you youngsters out there, back in those days the game would be stopped, usually at move 60, and continued on another day. In these days of Fritz and tablebases on every GM's laptop that sounds odd, but back then it was more a matter of who could do better analysis, who could get more analysis sent to them by friends, or who had a stronger team of Soviet Grandmasters around to help.

Adjournments were abolished in the mid-90's, due in no small part to Fritz and friends, and I think the 1996 Karpov-Kamsky FIDE world championship match was the last top-level event to use them. (Please send in other candidates. A few German events continued to use them, I believe.) One of the consequences of this necessary step was to lower the quality of endgame play significantly. Not only did the games suffer directly by not being deeply analyzed, the players did not have the benefit of countless hours of adjournment analysis to improve their endgame play.

It's tough to criticize someone like Anand, who only lacks a few sets of extra arms to be a full-fledged chess demigod. This loss was a particularly painful one and reports from Linares describe both Vishy and his wife Aruna as terribly upset after the game. Both players are true nice guys of the sport and it's almost worse that it happened against someone as hard to hate as Leko. It's like losing to Bambi, albeit a 2700+ Bambi.

Garry Kasparov has never inspired comparisons to any Disney character that didn't breathe fire. In round 13 he had white against Vallejo, who was giving up over 200 rating points to his opponent. The Spaniard continued his solid efforts with a locked center Caro-Kann that left Kasparov in the sort of closed maneuvering position he dislikes.

White still had space and all the chances and they got much better as both players entered terrible time trouble. With less than a minute per move to go until move 40, Vallejo hung a pawn with 29..a4 (diagram). Kasparov grabbed it with 30.gxf5 fxe5 31.Bxa4 but failed to make any progress after that. It may have been wiser to ignore the a-pawn and play 30.g5, preempting Black's push on the kingside.

It looked like Kasparov was going to wait things out until the time control and then look for a winning plan, but for the second time in this Linares Kasparov allowed a three-time repetition draw in a favorable position in a time scramble. On move 40 Vallejo made his claim to the arbiter and Kasparov "shook his head in disbelief" according to my friend Rob Huntington of the Associated Press.

This might have been simply disbelief in not having won the game and not at allowing the repetition. The final position is far from clear, but it seems obvious that Kasparov would have liked to continue playing down to bare kings if he had to. Even playing this game in the round of his lucky number 13 couldn't get Kasparov the win he wanted so much today.

Update: Before the round started today I received this from Rob Huntington in Linares: "Just a short explanation on the story you cited. It was written in the heat of the moment when everyone in the press center (including the GMs like Rogers and Ljubo) thought Garry was winning. Right after the game, Vallejo said the position was unclear but people assumed he was kidding. One Russian-speaking journalist overheard Garry telling Dokhoian "I'm just very tired." Then we starting looking at the position and revising our opinions. It did indeed appear that Garry knew the repetition was the 3rd and was shaking his head for letting the position get away from him."


The first meeting between Vallejo and Kasparov, 1987! Thanks to David Llada for this wonderful photo.

Vallejo passed his trial by fire and Kasparov's hopes of finishing atop Linares for the ninth time dimmed to a flicker. He has black against Anand tomorrow and even though he has beaten Vishy with black in Linares no fewer than three times (Anand always plays 1.e4 to face Kasparov's Najdorf, will he do so again?!), doing so in the final round on demand might be too much to ask. And let's not get so caught up in Kasparov's chances that we forget about Anand's! If Leko can get his first win over Anand ever, why not Vishy's first win against Kasparov since 1995? What we can really hope for is that both games are great battles. Of course a decisive result in Kramnik-Leko would render Anand-Kasparov moot.

Speaking of Big Vlad and mooting things, that's almost what he did to the entire final round today. He was very close to beating Radjabov with black and taking a half-point lead and the white pieces into the final round.

Kramnik played for a win from the start, pushing his g-pawn forward Ponomariov-style in the opening, but with much more success. He won a pawn and even though Radjabov managed to survive the attack he was left in a very tough endgame. Kramnik still had his extra pawn and his rook had reached a dominating position.

Now everyone was expecting 41...f4, cementing the rook and preparing 42...Bf5 and infiltrating with the knight. Instead Kramnik retreated the rook with 41...Re7, leading to a draw after 42.a5 Rg7 43.axb6 Rxg2+ 44.Ke3 axb6 45.Rb1 h5 (45...b5!?) 46.Rxb6 Ke7 47.Ra6 f4+ 48.Kxf4 Rg4+ 1/2-1/2.

What more could we ask than to have the two leaders meet in the final round? Oh, you also want the two leaders to be the classical world champion and the man who will play him for the title later in the year? Well, we've got that for you too, sir. And how about a last-round meeting between the players tied for 3-4 to go with it? Yes, it's Kramnik-Leko and Anand-Kasparov in the final round of the year's strongest tournament.

Mig Greengard
www.chessninja.com

Standings after round thirteen

 

Round 1 (Saturday, February 22, 2003)
Anand, Viswanathan
1-0
Ponomariov, Ruslan
Kramnik, Vladimir
½-½
Kasparov, Garry
Radjabov, Teimour
0-1
Leko, Peter
Round 2 (Sunday, February 23, 2003)
Kasparov, Garry
0-1
Radjabov, Teimour
Ponomariov, Ruslan
0-1
Kramnik, Vladimir
Vallejo, Francisco
½-½
Anand, Viswanathan
Round 3 (Monday, February 24, 2003)
Kramnik, Vladimir
½-½
Vallejo, Francisco
Radjabov, Teimour
½-½
Ponomariov, Ruslan
Leko, Peter
½-½
Kasparov, Garry
Round 4 (Tuesday, February 25, 2003)
Ponomariov, Ruslan
½-½
Leko, Peter
Vallejo, Francisco
½-½
Radjabov, Teimour
Anand, Viswanathan
½-½
Kramnik, Vladimir
Round 5 (Thursday, February 27, 2003)
Radjabov, Teimour
½-½
Anand, Viswanathan
Leko, Peter
1-0
Vallejo, Francisco
Kasparov, Garry
1-0
Ponomariov, Ruslan
Round 6 (Friday, February 28, 2003)
Vallejo, Francisco
½-½
Kasparov, Garry
Anand, Viswanathan
1-0
Leko, Peter
Kramnik, Vladimir
1-0
Radjabov, Teimour
Round 7 (Saturday, March 1, 2003)
Leko, Peter
½-½
Kramnik, Vladimir
Kasparov, Garry
1-0
Anand, Viswanathan
Ponomariov, Ruslan
1-0
Vallejo, Francisco
Round 8 (Sunday, March 2, 2003)
Ponomariov, Ruslan
½-½
Anand, Viswanathan
Kasparov, Garry
½-½
Kramnik, Vladimir
Leko, Peter
1-0
Radjabov, Teimour
Round 9 (Monday, March 3, 2003)
Radjabov, Teimour
½-½
Kasparov, Garry
Kramnik, Vladimir
½-½
Ponomariov, Ruslan
Anand, Viswanathan
½-½
Vallejo, Francisco
Round 10 (Wednesday, March 5, 2003)
Vallejo, Francisco
½-½
Kramnik, Vladimir
Ponomariov, Ruslan
½-½
Radjabov, Teimour
Kasparov, Garry
½-½
Leko, Peter
Round 11 (Thursday, March 6, 2003)
Leko, Peter
½-½
Ponomariov, Ruslan
Radjabov, Teimour
½-½
Vallejo, Francisco
Kramnik, Vladimir
½-½
Anand, Viswanathan
Round 12 (Friday, March 7, 2003)
Anand, Viswanathan
1-0
Radjabov, Teimour
Vallejo, Francisco
1-0
Leko, Peter
Ponomariov, Ruslan
½-½
Kasparov, Garry
Round 13 (Saturday, March 8, 2003)
Kasparov, Garry
½-½
Vallejo, Francisco
Leko, Peter
1-0
Anand, Viswanathan
Radjabov, Teimour
½-½
Kramnik, Vladimir
Games – Report
Round 14 (Sunday, March 9, 2003)
Kramnik, Vladimir
-
Leko, Peter
Anand, Viswanathan
-
Kasparov, Garry
Vallejo, Francisco
-
Ponomariov, Ruslan
Games – Report

Topics Linares 2003
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