Moro Bounces Back
By GM Ian Rogers   
September 15, 2007

 

morosvidlead.jpg
Photo Cathy Rogers
That Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, the World Championship leaders, drew their third round game should come as no great surprise - after all, they have played each other almost 150 times and more than 100 of these encounters have ended as draws.

 

However the manner of the struggle was far from standard; Kramnik gaining an early advantage with Black and forcing Anand to defend for 65 moves before a stalemate trick in a pawn endgame ensured that the point was split.

 

"I was lucky to get my preparation on the board," said Kramnik. "Up to 26...f6 it was all preparation and surprisingly then it is Black who is playing for a win. I couldn't see anything better than what Vishy did - he lost a pawn but the rook endgame he reached should be a draw. If my pawn was on f7 in this endgame there would be certain practical winning chances but on f6 it is much worse.

"Still, there is no reason to be dissatisfied - Black against Vishy is not a dream - it is one of the toughest games in the modern chess world."

 

Asked why the game had continued until stalemate, Kramnik replied, "I wanted to show the stalemate variation to the spectators - but of course both players had seen [the idea] 20 moves earlier."

Anand was torn between annoyance at emerging so poorly from the opening and satisfaction at holding the endgame.

"Of course it was not my dream to defend a bad endgame straight from the opening. In the ending I went through stages of thinking it was an easy draw and then panicking. However once I played h4 I was very happy and sure it would be drawn. I even had the small satisfaction of forcing him to move his king all the way to b8 before he could move up the board."

Alexander Morozevich bounced back from his crushing defeat in round two to dispose of Peter Svidler equally convincingly. "The opening was very interesting but after he played ...Bd3 I got a comfortable advantage," explained Morozevich. "That's why he went for all these strange [maneuvers] - otherwise I just improve my position."

 

Opening: Scotch

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Be3 Qf6 6.c3 Nge7 7.Bc4 0-0 8.0-0 Ne5 9.Bb3 d6 10.f3 Be6 11.Kh1
A new move but, in view of Svidler's accurate response, perhaps too slow.
11...Bc4! 12.Rf2 d5!
"A very interesting plan," said Morozevich, who now began to think long and hard.
13.Bc2 dxe4 14.Nd2! Bd3?
"I understood when I played this that the resulting positions would be difficult for Black," said Svidler. "This was not one of my better days." Certainly Black had to avoid 14...exf3? when 15.Nxc4 Nxc4 16.Qd3 wins a piece. However Morozevich feared 14...Nd5! 15.Nxe4 Qb6 "when the position is completely unclear."
15.Nxe4 Bxe4 16.fxe4 Qg6 17.Rf4 Nc4!?
"The only good thing about my position is the knight on e5," said Svidler, "and I realised if my [next few moves] do not succeed then I would only worsen my position."
"Anyway the position is unpleasant for Black as he has no good squares. The structure is very pleasant for White and he can strengthen his position," added Morozevich.
18.Bg1 Qh6 19.Rf3 Qd2 20.Qb1! Bb6 21.Bb3 Bxd4?
"It is hard to understand why I didn't play 21...Ne5," said Svidler. "It was my original idea."
Morozevich agreed that 21...Ne5 was forced. "If I win the queen with 22.Be3 Nxf3 23.Bxd2 Nxd2 then it will not be easy to convert the advantage. So I was thinking to play 22.Rh3 and keep the pieces."
22.cxd4 Na5 23.Bc2 Rad8 24.Rc3!
Black's position is already on the point of collapse since 24...c6 leaves the knight on a5 stranded.
24...Nac6 25.d5 Nb4 26.Bb3!
Precise play - White keeps all his advantages since the Black pawns are doomed in any case.
26...Na6 27.Be3 Qe2 28.Bc4 Qg4 29.h3 Qh4 30.Bxa6 bxa6 31.Rxc7 f5
Absolute desperation, but "I [am experienced enough] to know that a pawn centre and two bishop is just too much," said Svidler.
32.Bc5 Rfe8 33.d6 Ng6 34.exf5 Nf4 35.Qc2 Re2 36.Qb3+ Kh8 37.Rg1 1-0

At the post-game press conference Morozevich was surprised by a number of questions about his statement from quite a few years ago that he was no longer a professional and may stop playing chess. "Amazingly I'm still playing - I don't know why! It is hard to say if I am a professional or not a professional; it depends how you look at 'professional'. In 2005 I started to prepare for the World Championship only two weeks before the tournament but this was not enough so this time I started work a bit earlier."

Grischuk and Aronian played an exciting game, which ended when Grischuk, down to his last two minutes, forced a draw by repetition.

"I expected Aronian to [try for] a Marshall," said Grischuk, "but I didn't expect his 9...d5 move, an idea of Ivan Sokolov. Then Lev played very ambitiously, grabbing the d3 pawn and giving me the initiative.

"When I played 20.Nh4 I thought I had a big advantage - in fact I thought that 21...e4 was forced when I win back the pawn and the game goes to a technical stage. But Lev played very well with 21...Qe8.

When asked about his time trouble Grischuk replied, "Such positions are very easy to play with very little time on the clock - at least for a draw. Maybe the compensation was only good enough for a draw [anyway]."

Aronian thought that the game had been very correct - "We didn't see any improvements [in the post-mortem]."

Aronian explained, "I went for the pawn because in my memory I thought this was supposed to be good for Black. However during the game I was not happy. In the end I managed to hold the position by some dynamic active play. It is unclear if more time would have helped Alex to win this game."

In fact both players had missed that a careless 27th move, removing the attack on the White knight, had given Grischuk the chance for a simple win - 28.Qh6! threatening the unstoppable 29.Rh4 (if 28...Qd2 29.f4 cuts out the queen).

Peter Leko paid the penalty for pushing too hard against the tournament veteran Boris Gelfand.

At almost any moment up to move 40 Leko could have allowed a draw but after 40...d3 he found himself defending a highly unpleasant queen ending, which he eventually managed to draw.