Friday, Oct 20, 2000

Kasparov vs Kramnik

By Quah Seng Sun

IT HAS been such a long time since Gary Kasparov played a series of games against one and the same opponent that I had almost forgotten the thrill of following the games live through the Internet.

Heck, the last time that the Russian did play a match, his opponent wasn't even human! In May 1997--and that's three years ago, mind you--he precipitated the downfall of mankind by managing to lose a six-game match to Deep Blue which was IBM's little pile of chess nuts and bolts.

Since then, he has carefully avoided playing another match even against his fellow humans. True, there were two attempts to lead Kasparov back to the board but both attempts floundered because of obstacles erected by him.

Nobody is presently more peeved with Kasparov than Alexei Shirov, formerly of Latvia but now a Spanish citizen. Two years ago, Kasparov attempted to set up a small body to organise a match between Shirov and Vladimir Kramnik to determine a winner who would then play him in a chess match.

World No.2 Kramnik (left) is meeting the No.1 Kasparov in the ongoing London match that boasts a £2mil (RM11mil) prize money.

Clearly, Kasparov would have preferred his friend and compatriot Kramnik to win, but when Shirov unexpectedly won the match, Kasparov downplayed Shirov's achievement by saying that such a match would be of little commercial value. Just imagine how much irreparable damage was done by that statement. It appears that Kasparov was never serious about playing against Shirov at all!

Viswanathan Anand was another "victim''. The Indian grandmaster was promised a match against Kasparov in September last year but the latter caused potential sponsors to back away from the match when he refused to support the idea of a regular cycle of matches among top players.

Anand was preparing hard for this match to the extent that he had to forego playing in many lucrative events in the second half of last year, especially the world chess championship in Las Vegas that was organised by the World Chess Federation.

But Kasparov's name had pulling power and if Kasparov had a preferred bias for playing Kramnik, sponsors would be found to put together such a match with terms even Kasparov himself could not refuse.

This match is now going on in London. It is a series of 16 games which would be completed in four weeks. Already, the match is almost at the halfway stage and there are only nine more games to be played. Four games are played in a week: on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

At this point of writing, Kramnik holds a one-point lead over Kasparov after the first five games. The first game was drawn but in the second game, Kramnik drew first blood when Kasparov misplayed the game while in time trouble. The third game saw Kasparov trying hard to level the score but to no avail, then came the fourth game in which Kasparov's tenacious defence saved him from another loss. With both players feeling very tired at this stage, a draw in the fifth game was never really in doubt.

One good point of this match is that all the games start at 11pm local time, not too late for us here to follow via the Internet. There are various websites dedicated to covering this event live, including: (the London Chess Centre) (the Internet Chess Club) (the official site which even sports real video clips of the games)

 Your move

THIS position arose after Vladimir Kramnik, playing with the white pieces, had captured a pawn with 43.Bxb6. The position looked bad for Gary Kasparov as he was a piece down and Kramnik was threatening to push up his a-pawn. However, with the rooks, bishops and knights still on the board, there was still a lot for Kasparov to play for.

The game continued 43. ... Kd7, 44.a4 Rh3, 45.Nc5+ Kc6, 46.a5 Re3+, 47.Kd1 Re7, 48.Rc8+ Kb5, 49.Ne4 Rxe4, 50.Rc5+ Ka6, 51.Nc7+ Kb7, 52.Rxf5 Be3, 53.Bxe3 Rxe3, 54.Rxf7 Re5, 55.a6+ Kb6, 56.Rg7 Ra5, 57.Kd2 Ra1, 58.Kc2 Rh1, 59.Kb2 (This looks like a blunder as 59.Rg8 looks like a win, e.g. 59. ... Kxc7 60.a7 or 59. ... Ra1 60 Rc8) 59. ... Rh8 (This position is a draw! After Black plays 60. ... Rc8 to win the a7 pawn, the rook and knight versus rook endgame is a fairly straightforward draw) 60.Kb3 Rc8, 61.a7 Kxa7, 62.Kb4 Kb6, 63.Nd5+ Ka6, 64.Rg6+ Kb7, 65.Kb5 Rc1, 66.Rg2 Kc8, 67.Rg7 Kd8, 68.Nf6 Rc7, 69.Rg5 (Cutting off the white king from the black king) 69. ... Rf7, 70.Nd5 Kd7, 71.Rg6 Rf1, 72.Kc5 Rc1, 73.Kd4 Rd1+, 74.Ke5 (1/2-1/2)

Could you have done better than Kramnik?

Up next

Istanbul Olympiad (Oct 28-Nov 12): The Malaysian Chess Federation will send the national men's and women's teams to play in the 34th Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey. The biennial Chess Olympiad is organised by the Turkish Chess Federation under the auspices of the World Chess Federation (Fide).

The men's team: international master Mas Hafizulhilmi (captain), Wong Zi Jing, Mok Tze Meng, Jonathan Chuah, Ismail Ahmad and Azhaari Md Nor. The women's team: Eliza Hanum Ibrahim (captain), Siti Zulaika Foudzi, Samantha Lee and Lim Jean Nie.

MCF secretary Abdul Hamid Majid will be manager of both teams, while MCF committee member Zainal Ishak will head the Malaysian delegation to the Fide general assembly and congress which will be held concurrently with the Chess Olympiad.

A total of 201 teams from 126 countries, comprising 861 men and 422 women, are expected to play in the event.

Royal Selangor Club junior and veteran events (Oct 29): The club will organise its third junior tournament at the multi-purpose hall of the Dataran Merdeka venue in Kuala Lumpur. This will be a rapid-play event over six rounds for the under-10 and under-14 age groups. The first round will start at 9am. There will also be a veterans tournament at the same time for players aged 50 years and above.

Entry forms can be obtained at the RSC's Dataran Merdeka premises or at the Bukit Kiara Sports annexe. Registration can also be faxed to 03-252 3643 or e-mail: Entry fees are RM15 for the two junior sections and RM20 for the veterans section, and will include lunch. Cash prizes and trophies will be given to winners.

Kepong Open (Nov 5): Now in its seventh year, the tournament continues to grow from strength to strength. Even before the closing date is reached, the target of 300 entries has already been achieved. As such, due to organisational and equipment constraints, the tournament organisers said they are unable to accept any more entries. Registered players are reminded to turn up at SJK(C) Kepong Dua in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 5 before 8.30am. The school's parent-teacher association is organiser of the event which is held in four age categories.


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

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