Magazine article The Spectator

Reign in Spain

Magazine article The Spectator

Reign in Spain

Article excerpt

In spite of general excoriation attendant on his numerous drawn games, world champion Vladimir Kramnik finally triumphed at the elite tournament in Linares, Spain. Oddly enough, this is the first occasion during his reign as world champion that Kramnik has taken undivided first prize in a major tournament played at a classical time rate. It is quite a feat to go through such an event without losing a game and also to finish ahead of so many illustrious competitors. His fans, though, would doubtless prefer to have seen rather more action, but in his sedate approach to tournament chess Kramnik recalls Tigran Petrosian who was also averse to pushing his luck, simply taking chances when they arose. Kasparov was unlucky, in that several winning positions turned to dust in his hands. Peter Leko will also be disappointed, having led for much of the time. Later this year Leko challenges Kramnik for the world title, and to have lost with White in their individual game does not augur particularly well for their coming clash.

Leko-Kramnik: Linares 2004; Sicilian Defence

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e5 The Sveshnikov Variation introduced with this move is the height of fashion among the younger grandmasters. 6 Ndb5 d6 7 Bg5 a6 8 Na3 b5 9 Bxf6 gxf6 10 Nd5 f5 Black's pawn structure is smashed and his position, as Capablanca once said of the Sicilian, is 'full of holes'. Nevertheless, there is dynamic compensation. Black owns the bishop pair and the open g-file. Meanwhile if he can tuck his king away on h8 (about the only safe square on the board) it will be secure from White attacks. Although White dominates the light squares it will be some time before the stranded knight on a3 can be reintroduced into combat. 11 Bd3 Be6 12 0-0 Bxd5 13 exd5 Ne7 14 Qh5 e4 15 Be2 Bg7 16 c3 Rc8 When Leko had this position as Black against Shirov in Cap d'Agde 2003, he tried 16 . …

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