Vlad the Placator

By Keene, Raymond | The Spectator, March 6, 2004 | Go to article overview

Vlad the Placator


Keene, Raymond, The Spectator


Vladimir Kramnik, the reigning world champion, who deposed Garry Kasparov in 2000 in their match in London, has started to wake up in the elite tournament at Linares, Spain. After some lacklustre draws he moved into top gear for his game as White against the aggressive and dangerous Bulgarian grandmaster Veselin Topalov. This victory assisted Kramnik in keeping within shooting distance of the front-runner, grandmaster Peter Leko from Hungary. Later this year Leko will challenge Kramnik for his world title, so jockeying for precedence at Linares will prove a useful morale booster for one or the other.

It must be said, though, even after his brief mobilisation against Topalov, that Kramnik once again sank into a torpor and began to draw his games more or less without fight. He is fortunate in that at this elite level, whether one fights hard or not, the evenness of strength among the competitors tends in any case to lead to a plethora of draws.

Kramnik-Topalov: Linares 2004; Sicilian Defence

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 f3 Nbd7 This is a sharp line of the Najdorf Sicilian, in which White normally castles queenside and hurls forward his kingside pawns. 9 Qd2 b5 10 0-0-0 h5 11 Nd5 Apparently a new move which throws Topalov into some confusion. 11 KbI has been seen before. 11 . . . Bxd5 12 exd5 g6 13 Kb1 Nb6 14 Qc3 Remarkably hard to meet and possibly overlooked by Black. 14 . . . Be7 15 Qc6+ Nbd7

16 Bb6 This shot either forces the win of material or leaves Black badly tied up. …

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