By Ian Rogers
In this topsy-turvy World Championship match in Elista, there was perhaps nothing more surprising than the eleventh game ending in an uneventful, blunder-free draw.
Tuesday’s game saw the rival World Champions complete their first draw for a week after another new opening idea by Veselin Topalov, playing White, failed to disturb Vladimir Kramnik.
Although Topalov held the initiative for the first part of the game and Kramnik was on top in the second half, the margin of advantage was never enough to seriously threaten either player and a draw was agreed after 65 moves and 5 hours play.
Both players appeared satisfied with the result, appearing at the separate post-game press conferences in good spirits, with Topalov signing multiple autographs. Each player declared their willingness to fight hard in the final regular game on Thursday.
Kramnik spent some of his press conference explaining that playing on for 20 pointless moves in a drawn endgame today was not psychological warfare but just a function of neither player wanting to offer a draw after having had chances earlier in the game.
On Monday Team Kramnik produced an open letter clarifying that Kramnik will complete the entire match under protest and that if Topalov wins, legal action is certain.
Presumably Kramnik will take FIDE and Topalov to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland but the result is entirely unpredictable. Past chess cases have seen Anatoly Karpov and Zsuzsa Polgar enjoy victories over FIDE, while Vadim Milov lost a seemingly unbeatable case appealing against his exclusion from the 2004 World Championship knockout tournament in Libya. However in all cases, the result of the disputed event was not overturned – the only sort of decision which would satisfy Kramnik (should he ultimately lose in Elista).
After game 11 Kramnik was asked whether it was correct to issue such a letter revisiting the issue of the forfeit. “I just wanted to remind everybody about my position in the conflict and that I don’t agree with the score,” said Kramnik. “I certainly wasn’t trying to make a new scandal.”
Team Topalov were also active on the free day, unleashing a rumour that Kramnik had evaded a drug test after game 9 (or possibly 10). (Both players are subject to obligatory drug testing in Elista. The substances being tested for are identical to those tested by all other sports. For example, it is illegal to take diuretics - a masking agent for steroids - even if such a drug was manifestly detrimental to one’s chess. (Diuretics could, coincidentally, cause a player to need to use the toilet frequently.)
Certain details of the rumour, as published by various Bulgarian sources, did not ring true – for example the idea that FIDE drug tsarina Jana Bellin would ask Kramnik for a sample before a game (and then agree to defer the test until afterwards).
In any case the rumour was refuted in the clearest possible way when Tuesday’s post-game press conferences were delayed for half an hour while both players were drug tested!
FIDE must be relieved that, with the reputation of the Elista match already having been trashed in the world’s media though Toiletgate, the insinuations of drug test avoidance by Kramnik are unlikely to cause much uproar.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6 8.Rb1!?
As usual, it is Topalov who comes up with the first new idea, albeit arguably not a major improvement on 8.a3 which did so well for the Bulgarian two games earlier.
8...Nbd7 9.c5 a5 10.a3 e5 11.b4 axb4 12.axb4 Qc7 13.f4!? exf4 14.exf4 Be7 15.Be2
This was the first moment that Topalov - already 40 minutes up on the clock – slowed down, although it was not until move 18 that he began thinking seriously.
15...Nf8 16.O-O Ne6 17.g3 Qd7!
Kramnik’s time has been well spent and the text move sets up a number of nasty tricks, including 18.Re1?! Nxc5! 19.bxc5 Qh3
“A very perceptive move after which Black has no problems,” said Topalov, who now began to think long and hard, eventually deciding to allow exchanges into an endgame with only minimal chances for White.
18.Qd3 Ne4! 19.Nxe4 dxe4 20.Qxe4 Qxd4+ 21.Qxd4 Nxd4 22.Bc4 O-O 23.Kg2 Ra4 24.Rd1 Rd8 25.Be3 Bf6 26.g4 Kf8 27.Bf2 Ne6 28.Rxd8+ Bxd8 29.f5?!
Condemned by all the commentators. 29.Kf3 would keep a tiny edge but Topalov is hoping for more and achieves less.
29...gxf5 30.gxf5 Nf4+ 31.Kf3 Nh5 32.Rb3 Bc7 33.h4 Nf6 34.Bd3
34.Bd4 here or next move would hold the balance; now Black takes over the initiative.
34...Nd7! 35.Be4?! Ne5+ 36.Kg2 Ra2 37.Bb1 Rd2 38.Kf1 Ng4 39.Bg1 Bh2! 40.Ke1 Rd5
The last move of the time control. After Topalov’s strong reply Kramnik can no longer avoid a drawn opposite bishops endgame so 40...Rg2 was a better try to preserve winning chances.
41.Bf2! Ke7 42.h5 Nxf2 43.Kxf2 Kf6 44.Kf3 Rd4 45.b5 Rc4 46.bxc6 bxc6 47.Rb6 Rxc5 48.Be4 Kg5 49.Rxc6 Ra5 50.Rb6 Ra3+ 51.Kg2 Bc7 52.Rb7 Rc3 53.Kf2 Kxh5 54.Bd5 f6 55.Ke2 Kg4 56.Be4 Kf4 57.Bd3 Rc5 58.Rb4+ Kg3 59.Rc4 Re5+ 60.Re4 Ra5 61.Re3+ Kg2 62.Be4+ Kh2 63.Rb3 Ra2+ 64.Kd3 Bf4 65.Kc4 Re2 65.Kd5 Draw Agreed