FIDE put out an October update when I wasn't looking. I don't know if this will be a new trend towards more frequent updates or if they just wanted an update out before the chess Olympiad which started a couple of days ago.
There were no real shakeups. The top 20 sees only 1 new face, Kiril Georgiev(2674) of Bulgaria gained 13 points and 7 places to check in at #20. Garry Kasparov(2849) still holds the top spot by a wide margin over Viswanathan Anand(2774) who nosed past Vladimir Kramnik(2772) for the second spot. Of course, the match in London will put Kramnik past Anand, and may even catch him up to Kasparov. This presumes FIDE will rate what they might consider a "renegade" world championship match. England's Michael Adams(2754) continues his climb up to #4 despite losing a rating point. Leko(2748) and Shirov(2746) also moved up a notch each as Alexander Morozevich(2734) dropped 22 points into 7th place.
The Chinese maintained 3 players in the top 30 with Jiangchuan Ye(2670) now in the #17 spot. My hope that some of these players might be invited to some of the big European tournaments doesn't look like it will come true for the Corus tournament in January. The invited list there is the world top 9, last years B tournament winners #45 Federov(2639) and #82 Tiviakov(2606), plus the top 3 Dutch players #40 van Wely(2643), #43 Piket(2640), and #46 Timman(2639).
The big mover in the top 100 is #28 Russian GM Alexander Lastin(2663) up 83 points. FIDE champ Alexander Khalifman(2658) is at #30 although his 3000+ performance at the Essenet tournament could propel him all the way to the top 10. Looking at the list, I see that the "Alexes" (see 9/26/00) are not only prominent in the US. 13 of the top 100 have some form of Alex as their first name including the double shot #96 Aleksej Aleksandrov(2597)
#37 Yasser Seirawan(2647) is still the top active US player. Yasser partially fufilled my prediction of winning the US championship. He tied for first, but Joel Benjamin won the 3-way playoff over Yaz and #94 Alexander Shabalov(2599). Old news you might say, but the US chess web site still shows #41 Boris Gulko(2642) as the US champion (he won last year). They'll probably change the web site sometime in 2001 when Chess Life finally reports the results. #63 Gregory Kaidanov(2619) is the other US player in the top 100 as the Yermonator fell out. I slipped one rating point to 2307 putting me #167 among active US players. This was from 5 games at the Chicago Open giving me 17 FIDE rated games. Only 7 more to qualify for the FM title, but the US Open might set me back below the required 2300 level.
Although he still needs to score 1 point in the final 3 games, I'm ready to congratulate Vladimir Kramnik as the NEW CHESS CHAMPION OF THE WORLD!! He has done what almost anyone would have considered impossible just a month ago by breaking Garry Kasparov's will to fight.
Game 11 once again saw the story which was played out so many times in this match. Kramnik finally switched from the Berlin Defense to the Modern Archangelsk (6...Bc5). Both players were clearly deeply prepared for this variation and followed some old Shirov games until 17.Bxf6. Even this was not a new move and the first deviation from known theory was 21...h5. Both players claimed to have analyzed the ending with two bishops vs. a rook and two pawns as part of their preparations, but had different opinions. Kasparov claimed to have missed a win by 23.Ra1 while Kramnik said that he had already looked at this move and found it to be a draw. From how the theoretical disputes have resolved themselves in this match, I believe Kramnik.[Event "Braingames WCC"]
Game 12 was Kasparov's best chance for a win. Despite being a two points ahead in the match he played enterprising chess sacrificing a pawn in the opening to gain the initiative (12.Be2). After very long thought, Kasparov accepted (12...Qxc3). A good decision in my opinion. Going for an imbalanced position is probably the best way to try and win. I was suprised that he took so much time (~45 minutes) to make this decision, so Kramnik once again won the battle of preparation. Again, as so many times in the match Garry Kasparov was forced to play a position that was a bit alien to his style. Kramnik looked to be gaining so serious threats to Kasparov's king with the rook lift 18.Ra4 and 20.Rh4. However, after 20...f6 Kramnik went into a long think and it was apparent something had gone wrong when he reversed his tracks with 21.Rc4. Now his compensation for the pawn was minimal and both players were drifting into serious time pressure with less than one minute per move. Kasparov tried some tricks based on White's weak back rank with 28...Nb6 when 29.Rxc5?? would be met by 29...Bc6! winning. Kramnik didn't fall for this and retreated his rook. A couple of moves later Kasparov played 31...Na4 which allowed the drawing combination 32.Rxc5 when Black's extra pawn is liquidated and a dead ending arises. Another cool defense by Kramnik.[Event "Braingames WCC"]
After the previous two games, I looked forward to game 13. Kasparov has always claimed 13 as a lucky number (he was born April 13, 1963 and is the 13th world chess champion in the lineage that begins with Steinitz). It looked from the previous two games that he might be rounding into form. Kramnik returned to the Berlin variation (maybe Kasparov was right about the ending from game 11?) and after 10...Ke8 Kasparov unbelievably went into the tank for half an hour before coming up with the unimpressive 11.Ne4 in a position he and his team must have been analyzing in depth for the past 3 weeks. After 14.g4 Kasparov offered a draw which was of course accepted. It would have been more ironic if he had offered this draw on move 13, but maybe 14 moves is a more appropriate passing of the torch to the 14th world chess champion. Afterwards, Kasparov complained of being tired having to play back-to-back games with a tough Black game followed by White every weekend. Perhaps this was an advantage to the younger Kramnik, but Kasparov routinely plays several days consecutively in tournaments. Also, from my understanding, Kasparov practically dictated all the terms to the match, so he only has himself to blame. This game is in stark contrast to Kasparov's declaration, "I will fight" when asked about losing his crown after the 11th game. I looks like the match will end with a wimper and it is probably safe to predict three more draws in this fashion to close out the match. Maybe Kasparov will summon the energy to make one more valiant attempt on Thursday with White to force a decisive game 16 on Saturday, but right now he looks like his spirit is broken.[Event "Braingames WCC"]
I did manage to check out the coverage on the chess servers during game 12 on Saturday, so I'll give a review of them now. I had tried chess.net earlier in the match and had not found their coverage too impressive so I didn't revist them. I first tried ICC . I entered as a guest, and was able to observe the game with the comments of several IM's. As far as I could figure out, out paying members or those with the 7-day trial membership could see the GM comments on a separate board. Also, around move 23 or so, the ICC crashed. I tried following their instructions to log into the backup server, but never managed to get back in, so that was a disappointment, too. Finally, I checked out the World Chess Network . This one was pretty good with rapid relaying of the moves, light commentary by GM Fedorowicz, and no crashes. Overall, I was a bit disappointed with the servers. I would have expected a bit more for having to take the effort to download and install their software rather than just viewing over the web. So in my opinion the best way to watch the match online is still to have the braingames.net audio/video feed (BTW, I found that using the Windows Media Player as opposed to the Real Player gave me an uninterrupted flow) with the Kasparov Chess java window open for comments by Shipov, MIG, and Deep Junior (although for game 11 I spent most of my time at the MSO World site which featured banned journalist John Henderson).
As I mentioned in my last post, I played in a Grand Prix tournament in Lexington, KY last weekend. Despite a large guaranteed prize fund ($2800) and the promise of analysis by GM Kaidanov (although this fell through because of Kaidanov's commitment to the US Olympiad team), only 32 players turned up. For some unknown reason there was a competing event in Louisville and I'm not sure why the Cinncinnati players stayed away. Needless to say, the small turnout left the organizers with a huge shortfall. While the organizers were prepared to eat the entire loss, before the first round the players accepted Billy Woodward's proposal that all prizes be reduced by $25. This helped ease some of the pain, but next time Lexington holds an event like this it will almost certainly have a based on entries prize fund. Because of the low turnout the 3 sections were combined into one. I was the top seeded player and the only other master was Jim Dean from Indiana, although there were several experts.
In Round 1, I had white against Jeff Wicker and built up a nice position in a Benko Gambit.
I think Black's last move 19...Nd7-c5 was a mistake. 20.Rxa8 Rxa8 [20... Nxa8 21.Qxc4 Ne6 22.Ra7 Qb8 23.Qb4] 21.Rxa8+ Qxa8 22.Bxc5 dxc5 23.e5 locking Black's bishop up 23...Nxd5 restoring material equality, but releasing the blockade of the b-pawn. Perhaps 23... Qd8 was a better try for resistance. 24.Nxd5 I think this is simplest, the b-pawn becomes a monster 24...Qxd5 25.Qd2 Qa8 26.b6 f6 27.h3 g5 28.Qd7 Qa1+ 29.Kh2 Qxb2 30.b7 c3 31.Qe8+ Bf8 32.b8=Q 1:0
In the second round, I played Black against the organizer, Denton Dykes. I played a pawn sacrifice in the opening that I had seen in an old Tal game (so it is probably unsound, but hard to prove 8-). I managed to keep alot of pressure, but never found a knockout blow. He finally gave back the pawn to reach a queen ending where I almost made some progress.
Here 38.Ke4? guarding the pawn would be a mistake 38...Qe5+ 39.Kd3 Qxe3+ 40.Kxe3 Kf6 and Black wins 41.fxg6 (41.Kf4 g5+ 42.Ke4 a5 43.Kf3 Ke5 44.Ke3 h6) 41... fxg6 42.Kf4 (42.h4 Ke5 43.h5 g5 44.Kf3 h6 45.Ke3 a5 46.Kf3 Kd4) 42... g5+ 43.Ke4 a5 44.Kf3 Ke5 45.Ke3 h6] instead he played 38.Qf4! and all I could find was perpetual check after 38...Qxh3+ 39.Ke2 Qg2+ 40.Ke1 Qg1+ 41.Ke2 Qg2+ 1/2:1/2 It is probably only dangerous for Black to try to keep playing with 39... f6 40.Qxd6 Qxg4+ 41.Ke1 Qxf5 42.Qe7+ Kh6 43.d6 when the White d-pawn is very dangerous. There were only 5 perfect scores after this round so I knew that I could climb back into contention by winning.
In the third round, I played Eddie Ray Wood. He played the opening terribly and for the first time in my career, I was allowed to play the classic mating attack with Bxh7+ and Ng5+
13.Bxh7+ Kxh7 14.Ng5+ Kg6 15.h4 with the idea 16.h5+ Kh6 17.Nxe6+ winning the queen for two pieces 15...Rh8 moving the queen doesn't help either [15... Qc8 16.h5+ Kh6 17.Qe4 f5 18.exf6 ; 15... Qe8 16.h5+ Kh6 17.Qe4 f5 18.exf6 Rh8 19.f7 ; 15... Qe7 16.h5+ Kh6 17.Qc2 Qxg5 18.Bxg5+ Kxg5 19.Qxc7] 16.Qe4+ f5 17.exf6+ Kxf6 18.Qf3+ Ke7 19.Ba3+ 1:0
In Round 4 I was paired against Jerry Baker. I arrived about 15-20 minutes late (they had moved the round a half hour earlier than the originally scheduled time and I had been up late watching the Mets and the Yankees) but my opponent wasn't there so I set up and started his clock. As Baker is often late to his games, I didn't think too much of it. Around 10:00, I asked Dykes if I could claim a forfeit since he was an hour late to the start of the round or did I need to wait until an hour had expired on his clock. We consulted the rule book which had contradictory statements. The rule stated that if a player failed to arrive within one hour of the actual start of play he would be forfeited. However, it also gives a variation which says an hour has to run on the clock (with time split in the event of both players being late). Dykes decided to give him another 10 minutes to show up. It turned out to be a moot point as I waited until a full hour had run off of his clock, but I don't think that rule should be open to so much subjectiveness on the part of the TD. Decide which way it should be and make the rule read that way.
The standings going into the last round were myself, Sergey Shchukin, and Nick Barber with 3.5/4 and Jim Dean with 3/4. The last round pairings were Shchukin-Bereolos and Dean-Barber. Here is my game with Sergey. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 The Moller Attack is fairly rare these days, but this is the 2nd time this year I have faced it. 7...Nxe4 8.0-0 Bxc3 9.d5 Bf6 10.Re1 Ne7 11.Rxe4 d6 12.Bg5 Bxg5 13.Nxg5 As far as I know there have been no big improvements for White in the line 13...0-0 14.Nxh7 Kxh7 15.Qh5+ Kg8 16.Rh4 f5 17.Qh7+ Kf7 18.Rh6 Rg8 19.Re1 Qf8 20.Bb5 Rh8 21.Qxh8 gxh6 22.Qh7+ Kf6 23.Rxe7 Qxe7 24.Qxh6+ with perpetual check. So this is a big problem with the Moller in that most players want more than a draw with White. Still, Black may not want a draw either, so the game continues 13...h6 14.Qe2 hxg5 15.Re1 Be6 16.dxe6 f6 17.Re3 the idea Re4-e3-h3 followed by invasion of the weakened Black kingside was what revived the Moller in the late 80's, but as this and other games have shown, the theoretical ball is now back in White's court 17...c6 18.Rh3 Rxh3 19.gxh3 g6
20.b4 This is the most popular of the slew of moves (Rd1,Bd3,Qd2,Qf3,h4,Qd3) that have been tried in this position, but none has turned out too well for White 20...Kf8 NCO leaves off here with the evaluation clear advantage to Black. I also considered 20... Qb6 and castiling queenside, but thought he might have more attacking chances with his pawn already on b4. In the game continuation, after I secure my King the White queenside pawns can become weak. 21.h4 gxh4 22.Qg4 Kg7 23.Re3 This seems to be the first new move. Other games that had reached this position continued 23.Qxh4 which is probably better, but Black is still comfortable 23...d5 It may seem a bit illogical to drive the White bishop where it wants to go, but this frees up the d6 square for the Black queen where she eyes the important squares e5,e6, e7, b4, and h2. 24.Bd3 Qd6 25.a3 Now, 25.Qxh4 Rh8 26.Qg3 Qxg3+ 27.hxg3 f5 is just a great ending for Black and 25.f4 Qxb4 pins the f-pawn 25...Rh8 the immediate 25... a5 also came into consideration, but I didn't see a problem with retaining the h-pawn which might advance in some lines to attack the White King. Also, it looks like the only way for White to try to make any progress is 26.f4 but after 26...f5 the f4 pawn is another weakness and White can't exploit the a1-h8 diagonal which can always be closed with ...d4 27.Qf3 a5 beginning the final assault, White is in big trouble now 28.Re2 axb4 29.axb4 Qxb4 30.Qe3 Qc3 31.Rc2 Qa1+ 32.Kf2 Ra8 33.Qc5 Qa7 White can safely resign after this move, but perhaps Sergey recalled our first game where he beat me despite being 5 pawns down. 34.Qxa7 Rxa7 35.Ke3 Ra4 36.Rb2 b5 37.Bc2 Ra3+ 38.Kd4 Kf6 39.Bb1 Kxe6 40.Re2+ Kd6 0:1
In a long game, Dean finally avoided Barber's try at perpetual check and won to give me clear first. I hope the organizers aren't too discouraged by the turnout and try to have more large tournaments in Lexington, which is a much shorter trip for me than Louisville. I'd also like to thank Chris Cunliffe for saving me a hotel bill by letting me stay at his house (he had a good tournament too, winning the under 1400 prize).
I've been pretty busy the past few days, so I have alot of catching up to do. I won a big Grand Prix tournament in Lexington, Kentucky over the weekend. I'll try to do a full report on that tomorrow. The big news, though, continues to be The Match. Since my last post there have been 4 games. In game 7, I was confident that Kasparov would come out swinging with something planned against the Berlin Defense. Instead, it was another English Opening. Again, Kramnik seemed to suprise the champ in the opening. He went in for a sharp variation, but instead of trying to seize the initiative with the pawn sacrifice 7.Bg5, Kasparov uncharacteristically played 7.Qd3, which leaves Black with no problems. Then, 4 moves later, to suprise of everyone, Kasparov offered a draw. Kramnik being a point up accepted. This was the shortest game of Kasparov's career. Of course, short draws between grandmasters are a part of chess, we usually don't see such things happen in the middle of a match, especially with the champion trailing and playing White. Kasparov didn't give much of a clue in the press conference saying only that what happened was entirely his responsibility. Maybe he'll reveal more after the match.[Event "Braingames WCC"]
After that game, I wasn't sure what to expect from Kasparov. In game 8, he again switched defenses, this time going for the Nimzo-Indian. This was the first time we saw the Kasparov we are accustomed to. He introduced a novelty on move 16 and sacrificed a pawn with 18...f5, which Kramnik declined. Kasparov then won a pawn, but the ending had bishops of opposite colors. Kramnik gave another pawn to reach a pure opposite-colored bishops ending when the draw was not in doubt. Finally, a ray of hope for Kasparov fans, but another cool defense by Vladimir Kramnik.[Event "Braingames WCC"]
Game 9 saw Kasparov return to the Ruy Lopez and attempt to break down Kramnik's Berlin Defense. Kramnik beat Kasparov to the punch by switching to the older 9..h6 line. Again, Kasparov was unable to create any serious problems for Kramnik.[Event "Braingames WCC"]
Game 10 was another shocker. Kasparov once again played the Nimzo-Indian Defense, but Kramnik switched from game 8's classical variation (4.Qc2) to the Rubenstein variation (4.e3) they followed a theoretical line known to be good for White for a long time, although it seemed that both players were outside of their preparation. The first new move came from Kasparov with 19...Qxb2, which most commentators regarded as a poor move. Kramnik quickly attacked and Kasparov only seemed to put up minimal resistance over the next 5 moves and resigned on move 25. One of the worst beatings of Kasparov's career. The only game I recall being on a par with this one is the final game against Deep Blue when Kasparov fell into an opening trap. This game was much more impressive. Kramnik is making it look easy against one of the best players of all time. This is the first time Kasparov has been 2 points down in a match since they stopped his 1984 match with Karpov.[Event "Braingames WCC"]
So is this the end of Kasparov's reign? I wouldn't count him out just yet, but it is starting to look grim with only 6 games to go. Kasparov has never beaten Kramnik with the Black pieces in a serious game and has looked shaky with black in most of the games in this match. Kramnik has only lost 2 games in the last 100 he has played and now Kasparov needs to beat him twice in 6 games. If Kramnik stays undefeated in the match, it will be the first time since 1921 that both players did not register at least one win (Capablanca +4 =10 -0 over Lasker). Only twice in a world championship match of fixed duration has a player been two points down and come back to win the title (Fischer trailed Spassky 2.5-0.5 in a 24 game match and Euwe trailed Alekhine 5-2 in a 30 game match), but never with so few games remaining. Still, if anyone can do it, it's Garry Kasparov. Time is running out, so I think we'll see Kasparov start to take some risks starting with game 11 tomorrow.
Vladimir Kramnik has turned up the heat on Garry Kasparov in the BGN World Championship, but still has only a one point lead as Kasparov has been doing his best Houdini impersonations. Game 4 on Saturday was a dramatic affair. For the first time in his career Kasparov defended the Queens Gambit Accepted. Kramnik quickly steered for the quiet exchange variation and again the queens came off quickly. While this variation has a boring reputation, Black must still play accurately. Spassky used this variation against Fischer in their 1992 rematch to score a win. Still, most master commentary predicted the first quiet draw of the match. Kramnik wasn't willing to give up his White so easily and gradually started pushing Kasparov's pieces back with a kingside expansion. When Kasparov decided to play actively with ...Rc2 a tactical melee exploded across the board. When the dust finally settled Kasparov was down a whole piece and it looked like a matter of time before he would resign. However, Kasparov dug in and somehow managed to play on for another 32 moves while still down a piece! In the blunder filled final session he finally managed to eliminate White's last pawn to reach the drawn R+N vs. R ending. Miracle seemed to be the adjective of the day and justly so. The only game in world championship history that I can compare this to is the titanic 5th game between Korchnoi and Karpov in 1978. In that 12 hour marathon that stretched over 3 sessions Korchnoi missed a mate in the second time scramble and finally found himself in the theoretical endgame of K+B+wrong colored a-pawn vs. a- and b-pawns. Korchnoi tried every last trick but Karpov defended accurately and Korchnoi finally delivered stalemate on move 124, still the longest game in World Championship history. I regret that I missed this game live, but I was playing in a small tournament in Crossville on Saturday. (I took clear first with a 4-0 score). The best post game coverage I found was on the KasparovChess site with comments by Team Kramnik member Miguel Illescas.[Event "Braingames WCC"]
After the drama in game 4, the players basically took the day off in game 5, which was the first back-to-back game of the match. Kasparov abandoned 1.e4 for the English Opening and it looked like he might be getting some initiative, but after some possibly small inaccuracies Kramnik was able to defend and may have even held a slight edge in the final position. I didn't follow this game on line at all since by the time I logged on they had already signed the peace treaty.[Event "Braingames WCC"]
In Game 6 today, we witnessed another fantastic escape by Kasparov. Kasparov again opted for the Queens Gambit Accepted and Vlady played down the main lines reaching a typical middle game position for this opening with an isolated White queen pawn. We were then treated to what looked like a classic Kramnik squeeze and the Boss did not look very happy. First, one pawn dropped off. Then, perhaps too greedily Kramnik won another pawn. However, in getting this second pawn Kramnik decentralized his queen. Kasparov got his queen and knight to work well together (as they often do) and generated threats to Kramnik's king. Kramnik finally bailed out with perpetual check.[Event "Braingames WCC"]
Once again, the braingames network coverage tops my list. I think the video feed is indespensible, especially since Garry Kasparov wears his emotions on his sleeve. You really get a feel for when he is struggling since he pulls out the infamous "faces". I still haven't gotten to check out the servers coverage, I would imagine that ICC is tops in that department since they have so many GMs. I've gotten favorable reports about the ICC coverage from readers. US Chess Live has been giving post game lectures, but I don't know if they do anything during the game. I did check out chess.net for the first game, but didn't think it was anything special. Back to the web coverage, KasparovChess was again second with their solid line up GM Shipov, Deep Junior, and MIG. I finally got to check out the MSO World site. It's more of a "fun" site even with 2 GMs present. Kind of interesting if you want a change of pace during the long thinks, but not for me. The TWIC live coverage continues to sink in my book. They had technical difficulties this game. Then, later on the main TWIC page they said they solved the difficulties, but the link was still broke. After the draw was agreed, I tried them again. The link off the main TWIC page was STILL broke! However, I finally got to their coverage by first going through to their World Championship page. On the bright side, their off-line coverage continues to improve with reports by Mark Crowther as well as John Henderson. I like the KasparovChess off line coverage too. They've set up a single page as their world championship index (navigation on that site has always been a drawback to me) that has all their coverage. This includes in depth analysis by Shipov, same day comments by "Team Kramnik" (apparently their was something in Kramnik's contract that prevents him from being the author of comments on a site other than Braingames), and postgame audio and video reports from London by MIG and Danny King.
I did have a huge negative on all the live sites today. Most of the time they were several moves behind the game. Watching the video you could see moves being made and even follow the position on the board a bit. The audio commentators on Braingames kept up, but the java applet didn't register the moves. The same was true at several points on the other sites as well, including a 20 minute lag on Kasparov Chess. I'm not sure what the problem was today, I hope they can get it cleared up.
Vladimir Kramnik played with fire yesterday in Game 3 of the Braingames Network World Championship yesterday, but held a draw to maintain his one point lead over challenger Gary Kasparov. I had thought it would be prudent for Kramnik to abandon the Berlin Defense which served as a surprise weapon in Game 1. While it was unlikely that Kasparov would drop a bombshell in this solid opening, he certainly would be much better prepared. Indeed this was the case. They followed Game 1 for the first 12 moves, then Kasparov deviated with 13. Rad1 and Kramnik's 13...b6 was the first move outside of theory. Kasparov followed this up with an agressive knight maneuver Ne2-f4 eyeing the d5 square and the e6 push. Significantly, for the first time in the match Kasparov gained a large lead on the clock (nearly one hour at one point). This is a primary reason that I think Kramnik should keep switching defenses. While he didn't get blown out of the opening by some Kasparov preparation, he let Kasparov have plenty of time in a familiar position to formulate agressive plans. When Kramnik loossened his position on the kingside with 17...Rg8 and 18...g5 we got a position more in tune with Kasparov's style. Kasparov went for complications with the suprise move 32.bxa4 volunarily damaging his pawn structure. A pawn race in the time scramble ensued and when the dust cleared Kasparov was left with an extra pawn, which he was unable to convert (47. Kg2 has been suggested as a better winning attempt, but I haven't seen any analysis of it).
At this level, psychology plays an important role. This game has psychological ramifications for both players. Kasparov can be happy that he finally got his type of position. Kramnik can be happy that he didn't crack in his first difficult position of the match. He also gained by not blinking and sticking with the Berlin Defense. While I thought that was dangerous, Kasparov may now have second thoughts about a third encounter in the Ruy Lopez, so maybe we will see the Scotch Game and see what Vlady has up his sleeve there. This is where it starts to become like a poker game. With only six white games left, Kasparov may have to make some tough decisions. Still, I wouldn't think the champ will panic. After all, in his 8 matches for the world championship he has trailed in 5 of them. We now come to the first back to back games in the schedule on Saturday and Sunday. These games could mark either a turning point or a building of the tension. Should be an interesting weekend.
I didn't catch much of the online commentary for this game. The video at the Braingames Network site was again fantastic, and I also followed along at the Kasparov Chess site. I still couldn't get MSO to work on any browser on any machine despite GM Tisdall's invitation to everyone in the chess newsgroup. I'm going to try to survey the servers this weekend (if Windows 98 will hold together long enough for me to download the appropriate software!) to answer criticism that my reviews have been solely web based. I also found another live coverage site on the web at Sports.com (mirrored at Sportsline.com) with commentary by IM Malcom Pein and move suggestions by Fritz. There seems to be some overlap by the TWIC reporters with Pein also doing some commentary for TWIC and John Henderson reporting for TWIC and CNN (his reports on TWIC have boosted their postgame coverage in my opinion).[Event "Braingames WCC"]
Challenger Vladimir Kramnik drew first blood in World Championship Game 2. Employing an approach to Kasparov's Grunfeld Defense that had previously been thought not to yield much (11.Rxb7 allowing Black to damage White's kingside pawns and put pressure on his center), he again won the opening battle getting a large lead on the clock. Kasparov sought refuge in a pawn down ending with queens rooks and opposite-colored bishops. Kramnik kept the pressure up and with only a minute left to make his final two moves, Kasparov blundered horribly(39...Ke7??), losing a piece to a simple tactic (40.Bd5 threating both Bxa2 and Re6+ winning the bishop on d4). This was Kasparov's first defeat since January 1999!
Thursday will be an important game for Kramnik. In 1995, Vishy Anand drew first blood in game 9 against Kasparov, then proceed to only score a half point in the next 5 games, essentially finishing the match (BTW, Anand has not beaten Kasparov since). I think that with a point lead, Kramnik should trot out the solid Petroff's Defense (which also sticks to the strategy of presenting Kasparov with a moving target). It will be interesting to see what Kasparov's strategy is. In the early stages against Anand, he tested several different openings until he found a weakness. In a short match, a point behind, he may feel pressured to strike back quickly.
In my opinion, Braingames Network again had the best live coverage. I don't think anyone will be able to beat live audio and video. They also have the press conference after the game with both players (I was suprised that Kasparov showed up, in the old PCA matches only the winner was obliged to meet the press after a decisive game). Both players expressed the opinion that White was very close to winning most of the endgame, contrasting the view of online experts and computers that Black had good chances to hold. I find the commentary by King, Ward, Speelman, Hodgson, and crew to be very entertaining and it is easy to follow since they illustrate it on screen using Fritz. They also have the press conferences and a recap by King and Keene. The only disadvantage is that if you can't sit there and follow things live, there is no way to get earlier comments that you may have missed.
KasparovChess moved up to number 2 this game. I finally got their java program to work in IE5.0 (I still can't seem to find the right settings is IE5.5, anyone have suggestions?). Here you can follow all the commentary of GM Shipov, IM Belov, Deep Junior, and MIG. The KasparovChess site also has the best overall coverage so far with exclusive postgame analysis from Kramnik and also the deepest analysis on Game 1 by Shipov.
The Week in Chess slipped to third. Early in the game they were missing some moves, and their commentary is a bit thin compared to the others. I got onto the Mind Sport Olympiad Site for this game, but couldn't get their chat to work at all in IE or Netscape. Their gameplayer was also a bit annoying since they spelled out the name of the piece on each move (e.g, 1.Pawn-d4) and stacked the moves on top of each other rather than the traditional move pairs. I still haven't found any further coverage on the web.[Event "Braingames WCC"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 c5 8. Be3 Qa5 9. Qd2 Bg4 10. Rb1 a6 11. Rxb7 Bxf3 12. gxf3 Nc6 13. Bc4 O-O 14. O-O cxd4 15. cxd4 Bxd4 16. Bd5 Bc3 17. Qc1 Nd4 18. Bxd4 Bxd4 19. Rxe7 Ra7 20. Rxa7 Bxa7 21. f4 Qd8 22. Qc3 Bb8 23. Qf3 Qh4 24. e5 g5 25. Re1 Qxf4 26. Qxf4 gxf4 27. e6 fxe6 28. Rxe6 Kg7 29. Rxa6 Rf5 30. Be4 Re5 31. f3 Re7 32. a4 Ra7 33. Rb6 Be5 34. Rb4 Rd7 35. Kg2 Rd2+ 36. Kh3 h5 37. Rb5 Kf6 38. a5 Ra2 39. Rb6+ Ke7 40. Bd5 1-0
Kasparov and Kramnik finally squared off today in London for the start of the first Braingames Network World Championship. Since most of the chess world still recognizes Kasparov's claim to be "World Champion", this is a major event. I followed the game online at several web sites that you can reach by following the link at the top. I think most of the servers will also be covering the event, but I'll reserve comment on those since I didn't try them out except for chess.net (which had the moves and the usual chorus of kibitzers, but no top level commentary).
I'm going to review the coverage of 4 sites in this review. I give the top score to the host site Braingames network. They had streaming video coverage of the playing hall and the audio feed that was heard by the spectators in London. There was lively commentary from many titled British players, although it was hard to identify everyone since they didn't show their faces and generally only refered to each other by first name. I was able to identify Danny King, Jonathan Speelman, and Julian Hodgson. I believe that "Chris" was Chris Ward since there was a bit of joking about him wanting to see the Dragon played. A couple of small gripes were the constant "net congestion" on the RealPlayer (cleared up by hitting refresh) and they did not have a gamescore listed anywhere that I could find.
Next up was The Week In Chess site. I was a bit disappointed here since I had expected a bit more. Their "commentary" was very light and they didn't seem to have any audience interaction (there was an email address where you could send in questions, but I didn't see any of them get answered). One neat feature here was a live assessment by Fritz 6. On the servers you usually get the computers opinions when their operator decides to say it during a lull in the action. With the TWIC site it was like a scoreboard that was constantly updated. Curiously, at the moment the draw was agreed Fritz had the assessment as dead even 0.00.
Third in coverage was the KasparovChess site. Supposedly, GM Shipov was providing live commentary, but I never could get to it. I think early in the game this site was having some trouble, but later on I still couldn't get the live coverage although several people on chess.net said it was working. I guess I need to look at my Java settings before game 2. They did have an up-to-date move list and this was the only site that didn't crash on me during the game (although I was not there that often and was not able to run the app most likely to crash). KasparovChess also had the best preliminary material with a wealth of preview articles. They are promising round the clock coverage, I hope we get Garry's "Express Commentary" like he gives during tournaments. One thing I wish they had done (especially since I couldn't get the java) was to have an html page with periodic updates.
The final site I found that was providing live coverage was the Mind Sport Olympiad site. Unfortunately, I thought of them late in the game, and when I tried I could not get into their site. It will be interesting to see if they have a different slant since the MSO and Braingames are now sort of rival organizations. I'll have to hold off further review of this site until later games.
I tried some other sites, including Inside Chess, the GM chess school, and SmartChess Online, but found no coverage. If you know of some others let me know and I'll add them to my list. I'm also scrapping my poll since it seems to keep resetting itself and also is giving results that weren't even choices!
The game itself was not extremely interesting. Kramnik eschewed the Petroff by playing 2...Nc6 for the first time in his career. Kasparov responded with the Ruy Lopez. This was almost universally declared a suprise by the commentators, pointing out that Kasparov had used the Scotch in World Championship matches against Karpov, Short, and Anand. I would counter that in only one of those matches (one of the Karpov encounters) was the Scotch a major success. On the other hand, the Ruy Lopez served Kasparov well against all of those players. I haven't looked up the statistics, but I would guess that Kasparov's score with the Ruy Lopez in the World Championship is higher than with the Scotch. In any case, Kramnik went down a currently fashionable line of the Berlin Defense (3...Nf6) leading to an early exchange of queens. I'll agree with the experts that this will probably not be Kramnik's main defense. I think that if Kramnik has a chance to win this match, he must present a moving target with Black. That is the lesson to be learned from Short and Anand, who stuck with openings until Kasparov solved them and turned the tide (Short's Marshall Gambit and Nimzo-Indian and Anand's Open Ruy Lopez). Both had relative success near the end of those matches by employing the hit-and-run strategy, but by then it was too late. Short actually had some success with White against Kasparov by bringing new systems to the table each time, but was just unable to convert several brilliant attacks. In the current match, only 16 games are scheduled, so I think varying Black tactics can really work to Kramnik's favor.
Back to Game 1, Kasparov spent alot of time early in the middle game and it looked like he might be getting somewhere. However, Kramnik was able to blockade Kasparov's attempts to mobilize his kingside pawns. Kasparov played several indifferent moves and the game petered out to equality with time pressure approaching (Kasparov had 12 minutes left to make his next 15 moves.)[Event "Braingames WCC"]
Lots of topics this week:
1. Happy Anniversary. It's been a full year since I started this web site. With basically only word of mouth publicity I've been pleasantly suprised at how many people have come up to me at tournaments saying they liked the site. One thing I would like is more reader feedback on how to improve this site.
2. Kasparov-Kramnik. After a 5 year wait Garry is finally putting his title on the line starting Sunday. While I think Shirov was the most deserving challenger, on paper Kramnik is a better match-up. Still, I think Garry will remain the boss 8.5-5.5. What's your guess? Vote in the first ever Shakmaty Bereolos readers poll. My plans for this site for the world championship is to serve as a meta-site linking to all the coverage and throwing my two cents in from time to time.
3. Celebrity Status. I was a bit surprised to hear that my game against GM Kaidanov in the US Open was the subject of Sunday's chess column in the New York Times. I was surprised because it was not when of my better efforts as the headline "Lesson on How Not to Play A Hypermodern Defense" attests. I still haven't gotten a copy of the full article, but I have posted my thoughts on the game in the GM games section. I'll update this after seeing GM Byrne's article if he has anything interesting to add.
4. US Championship. After 7 rounds my prediction of Seirawan taking first is holding up as he is the clear leader with 4.5 points. It's still a tight battle with 11 of the 12 players on 3 points or more. Yermolinsky is the only one lagging with only 2 points, but he can take consolation that his wife, Camille Baginskaite is the clear leader in the woman's event with 5/7.
5. The sad state of US chess. Of course we already knew that the US Championship was almost cancelled because of lack of funds until a private organization jumped in. Now, 2 more sad items to report from the US Chess website. First, it looks like the US might not send a team to the Olympiad in Turkey because of financial concerns. There is a letter circulating asking for donations. Second, the Grand Prix is going to be cancelled after this year. That one is a real shame, because it is one way masters like myself choose which tournaments to go to. The Grand Prix had minimum prize requirements, which gave a good idea as to the level of competition. The Grand Prix section in Chess Life made it easy to look for out of state tournaments. Maybe another savior will step in and rescue this series, I'll hate to see it go.
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