Kramnik Fights Back to Win Game 3, Leads 2.5-0.5

10/8/2002 – To be a Grandmaster you must know how to fight every type of battle. To be a world champion you must learn how to make your opponent fight on your battlefield. Vladimir Kramnik came out of an inferior position to outplay Fritz in a tough five-hour duel. More

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Team Fritz had reason for optimism after the opening, but perhaps it was misplaced. Although the position Fritz reached out of the venerable Scotch Opening was a good one, it was just the type of strategic maneuvering position that computers don't understand well and that world champions understand very well indeed. Kramnik slowly outplayed Fritz in a brilliant display of chess that drew constant praise from our Grandmaster commentators.

"How much longer can Kramnik continue playing at this level?" wondered four-time UK champion Julian Hodgson. "18...Nb4 was brilliant and unexpected," GM Danny King said of the move that took Kramnik over 30 minutes to play. It was well worth the time because after the simplifications Fritz was left in a passive position that suited Kramnik from his head down 1.95m to his toes.

Kramnik even took a quick smoke break while pondering his 18th move. When asked about this in the post-game press conference Kramnik replied that he didn't think smoking helped his game but that he'd tried to quit 40 times, clearly without success. He also said that he knew he was winning as early as 19.a3, when Fritz weakened its pawns on the kingside. It took 30 more precise moves to pocket the point.


Kramnik faces Fritz operator Mathias Feist, who is one of ChessBase's lead programmers

It was almost a shame to see the nice position Fritz had created out of the opening spoil like date pudding in the Bahraini sun. The super-program knew it was in trouble but didn't see any way out as Kramnik began to squeeze. The middle of the board fell under the control of his rooks and he smoothly transformed that into a winning pawn endgame. This pattern is very reminiscent of the last game and highlights a well-known computer weakness in long-range endgame planning.

The Fritz team has the consolation of having outplayed Kramnik in the opening stages with the Scotch Opening that is favored by former world champion Garry Kasparov. Kramnik must have prepared extensively for the Scotch before his 2000 title match with Kasparov, but Fritz reached a very comfortable position. The problem was that like the eunuch who walked into the harem Fritz had no idea what to do when he got there.


During the game GM Daniel King, Alexander Kure and Fritz author Frans Morsch analyse the game on a notebook

So Fritz won the opening skirmish but Kramnik had chosen the battlefield: a queenless middlegame with a rigid pawn structure he could pick apart at his leisure. It took excellent technique to keep Fritz under control during the rest of the game and the world champion was up to the task.

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