Friday, Nov 03, 2000

Kasparov in trouble

By Quah Seng Sun

THE big surprise in the current 16-game match in London between Gary Kasparov, 37, and Vladimir Kramnik, 25, is the way in which the younger player has baffled his older opponent in just about every game.

Instead of trying to out-prepare Kasparov, Kramnik cleverly plays chess openings that he knew Kasparov would not expect. For instance, Kramnik had dropped his usual Nf3 English openings, his Petroff and Sicilian defences in favour of the solid Berlin defence. This strategy undermined the confidence of the normally unperturbable Kasparov.

Let me recap the first five games. The first game was drawn but in the second game, Kramnik drew blood when Kasparov misplayed it. The third game saw Kasparov trying hard to win but he did not succeed. Then came the fourth game in which Kasparov's tenacious defence of a worse-off position saved him from another loss. The fifth game was a quiet draw.

Gary Kasparov eyes up his opponent Vladimir Kramnik in the 10th match of the 16-game World Chess Championship in London.

In the sixth game, Kasparov escaped from another lost position in a superbly fought game. Kramnik played a sharp, attacking game and took some positional risks by advancing both his rook pawns in an attempt to attack on the dark squares.

Around the 30th move, Kasparov looked better but Kramnik showed his real strength in time pressure and took full advantage of a misjudgment by his opponent to achieve a won game shortly after the time control. He kept up the pressure and looked almost certain to pocket a full point but somehow, as in the fourth game, Kasparov found some brilliant defensive moves to escape with a draw.

The seventh game was a disappointment because both players agreed to an 11-move draw. Why did Kasparov, playing with the white pieces and a point behind, offer a draw? No explanations were given but I'm sure he would have something to say about this after the match.

This far in the match, Kasparov's only virtue has been his resilient defence of some pretty desperate situations. However, in the eighth game, he finally played like the player we knew.

He sprung a surprise on Kramnik which enabled him to fight for the advantage with the black pieces. However, Kramnik was equal to the task and managed to hold his position by making some good practical decisions despite being short of time.

The ninth game saw Kramnik repeating the Berlin defence opening which had served him so well in the first and third games. At the cost of some passivity, Kramnik frustrated Kasparov by short-circuiting his creativity and attacks.

Then came Kasparov's worst-ever defeat in the 10th game. In just 25 moves, Kramnik unleashed an attack on Kasparov's king and forced the latter to resign the game or face immediate material loss to avert checkmate.

Kramnik was aided by an opportunity to sacrifice a piece deep in Kasparov's position. Surely a player like Kasparov must have seen it coming; it was puzzling why he had allowed it in the first place. A faulty miscalculation, perhaps?

In the 11th game, Kramnik varied from the Berlin defence to another system known as the Accelerated Archangel variation. Either fear of Kasparov's preparation or the desire for the advantage of surprise must have induced this change. Anyway, the queens came off early and an endgame of rook and two pawns against two bishops was quickly reached. Kramnik very comfortably held the draw.

The 12th game was also interesting. Kasparov put Kramnik to the test but the latter was again up to the challenge. Kasparov grabbed a pawn in uncharacteristic fashion and withstood what looked like a tremendous attack from Kramnik.

But halfway through the attack, in a decision that showed his maturity, Kramnik decided to give up playing for a win and instead switched into a defensive mode to save the draw. As he had done so many times with the black pieces in this match, Kramnik dug in and Kasparov was unable to make any headway.

With only four games remaining in the match, Kramnik was leading Kasparov by 7-5. The 13th game was drawn in 14 moves.

It now appears that Kasparov has given up all hope of even drawing level in the match. After this game, he said he was tired and depressed over missed opportunities.

Tomorrow will be the last day for the match and the 16th game will be played. My gut feeling is that there will not be much of a game tomorrow. Kasparov may want to get everything over with fast and leave London as soon as possible!

You can view the final game through the Internet and the various websites dedicated to this match include (the London Chess Centre), (the Internet Chess Club) and The official site is at

The most popular bi-annual chess competition, the 34th Chess Olympiad, opened in Istanbul last Saturday. There are 126 men's and 84 women's teams taking part.

Tipped to win the men's event is the Russian team led by world champion Alexander Khalifman on the first board, Alexander Morozevich on the second board and Peter Svidler on the third board. Other players in the team are Sergei Rublevsky, Konstantin Sakaev and Alexander Grischuk.

However, the Russian team, after beating Morocco 4-0 in the first round, could only beat Italy by a 3.5-0.5 score in the second round, thus enabling Hungary, also a strong title contender, to leapfrog them.

Hungary has a very strong line-up in Peter Leko, Zoltan Almasi, Judit Polgar, Lajos Portisch, Gyula Sax and Robert Ruck. After beating the United Arab Emirates 4-0 in the opening round, the Hungarians followed through with a similar 4-0 score against Myanmar.

The Malaysian men's team--comprising Mas Hafizulhilmi, Mok Tze Meng, Wong Zi Jing, Ismail Ahmad, Azahari Md Nor and Jonathan Chuah--played a difficult first round and were almost routed by Poland. It was left to Mas Hafizul to salvage an important half-point from this match.

However, the second round was easier and the Malaysians lost no time in beating Jersey 4-0.

The women's event will probably be dominated by the Chinese powerhouse again. Led by women's world champion Xie Jun, the Chinese team beat Brazil in the first round and Spain in the second round by similar 3-0 results.

The Chinese women's greatest challenge will come from Georgia who have players like former world champion Maya Chiburdanidze, Nana Ioseliani and Nino Gurieli.

Malaysia has a team playing in the women's section and after a first-round 0-3 debacle at the hands of the Czech Republic, the team reversed its luck with a 3-0 score against the Yemenis.

The Malaysian team comprises Lim Jeannie, Samantha Lee, Eliza Hanum Ibrahim and Siti Zulaikha Foudzi. The adventures of the two Malaysian teams in Istanbul can be obtained from the official homepage of the Chess Olympiad at The games are played daily from 1am Malaysian time, but both today and Nov 11 are rest days for the competitors.

Up next

Perak closed tournament this month

The Perak International Chess Association will hold the Perak closed tournament over two weekends at the Great World Centre in Jalan Kampar, Ipoh, this month. This will be a nine-round event with a time control of 90 minutes per player for each round.

The tournament is open to all chess players in Perak who have a state rating of at least 1,700 points. Players without any rating points will be accepted on a case-by-case basis.

The first two rounds will be played on Nov 11; this will be followed by three rounds on Nov 12. There are two more rounds on Nov 18, and the tournament wraps up with the final two rounds on Nov 19.

Prizes include RM300 and a trophy for the winner, RM200 and a trophy for the runners-up, and RM120 and a trophy for the third placed player. The fourth to 10th prizes range from RM100 to RM30. The prizes are sponsored by Super Highway Computer (Ipoh) Sdn Bhd.

For enquiries, call W.K. Wong ( 05-3661 692).

Penang Grand Prix continues

The Penang Chess Association will organise the third and fourth legs of this year's Penang chess Grand Prix circuit at the Bayan Baru Residents' Association clubhouse on Dec 10 and 31 respectively.

Both legs will comprise six rounds. For enquiries call Goh Yoon Wah ( 04-644 5687) or Ooi Kiem Boo ( 04-226 2209 / 04-658 0809).


Quah Seng Sun's e-mail address is His previous chess articles are archived at Logo

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