vrijdag, oktober 08, 2004

Desultory Turgescence

WCC Game 8: Leko Takes the Lead

Like the night following the day, the first half of the match ended in a quiet splitting of the points, and there followed the first game in the second half of the match, a superb combination earning the full point. Maybe a signal of what we should expect in the second half of this match?!

First things first. Game 7, the half way point in the match, employed a very quiet Slav Defense. Leko, I'm sure, thought the Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD) played earlier in the match, was good enough for a win in Game 5, Why not use it again? Kramnik, of course had other ideas, so he steered the game into a SlavDefense, a variation which he is very comfortable with. After giving up the gambit pawn at move 4.(dxc4), Leko took it back with 7.Bxc4. At move 11, Kramnik moved his knight to c4, a weak square from which he could hopefully blockade the Leko's isolated d4 pawn. At move 13. Leko decided to simplify with 13.d5 and we spectators were beginning to worry that the game would be over before Kramnik got a chance to demonstrate his, by now, famous fetish for getting the queens off the board. We need not have worried though, for on move 16...Bc8 offers a Queen trade. Actually, a pretty strong defensive move in this case. A few moves later, at move 21. Kramnik agreed to a draw. It was a legitimate offer because the position looks very even. Black has the Bishop pair, but white has the more active pieces. This ended the first half of the match. The players both commented that the 2nd half of the match should be a real fight with tensions building each day.

Now for Game 8! This was another Spanish affair, but varied from games 2, 4, and 6 with a new move at move 8, (8.c3). Previous games all had 8.h3 as the move of choice. In this game, Kramnik allowed Leko to play one of his favorites, the Marshall Gambit variation of the Ruy Lopez, when he played 8.c3. The game followed, pretty much, the normal move order for the first 20 moves or so. Kramnik successfully demonstrated his misogvny at move 16. with 16.Qf1. Leko refused the trade. The pyrotechnics started at move 24 when Kramnik missplayed with 24.Qxe2, where 24.bxa6 was called for. Kramink's home analysis mistakenly showed that white had nothing to fear a powerful passed pawn, but he and his team missed the beautiful combination which Leko found, apparently, over the board; 26...Bxf3. After 28...Nxc3 the game was Leko's. At 29.bxc3, Kramnik hits the wall, giving up a huge material loss. He turned his King over 3 moves later, when Leko played 32...g4, sealing Kramnik's fate.

Yes, the second half of this match should be a real battle, as both players predicted. Coming down the home stretch, both players can smell the winners share of 1M Swiss Francs. I think you share with me, the idea that yes indeed, the second half will be a dog fight and we can hardly wait for Saturday's game to start.

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