It is Viswanathan Anand who has varied first from the opening of game 1, and this time he's playing the sort of opening I would have expected: the Slav. Ironically, he's playing a variation Kramnik was successful with against Topalov back in the 2006 match, just as the Catalan, employed in game 2, is also a Kramnik favorite. (As the old saying [almost] goes, if you can beat them, join them!) Here's what we have so far:
Topalov - Anand
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Ne5 e6 7.f3 c5 8.e4 Bg6 9.Be3 cxd4 10.Qxd4 Qxd4 11.Bxd4 Nfd7 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.Bxc4 a6 14.Rc1 Rg8
The 7...c5 Variation had been considered dubious, but Kramnik showed that it was playable (as a drawing weapon). Basically, the problem is that the Bg6 is out of play, but Kramnik showed that with patient but purposeful play Black could crawl out: ...a6, ...Rg8, ...Rc8, ...Bc5, ...Ke7, ...f6 and ...Bf7/e8. It's time consuming, to be sure, but back in 2006 Topalov was unable to dent it. More recently, there have been plans with a quick h4 designed to send the bishop all the way to h7, when the rook on g8 prevents it from returning via the a2-g8 diagonal. We'll see who has the latest wrinkle soon.
The following moves have been played since we left off: 15.h4 h6 16.Ke2 Bd6 17.h5 Bh7 18.a5 Ke7 19.Na4 f6 20.b4 Rgc8.
Here we can see the fulfillment of the Kramnik recipe, a la Anand. He has managed to finish his reorganization, needing only to bring his bishop back to g8, as needed, at some future moment. Black has equalized, and all that remains now is for Topalov to find some way around his silly I-won't-offer-or-accept-any draws policy.
Some people wondered about 18...Bb4, or perhaps 20...Bxb4. The first seems to lead to a forced draw with best play, after all, but the latter gives White an edge, in my view. (Some details are in the comments section, and I'll have more on both when I present the full annotations later in the day.) But the quick answer is this: the Kramnik recipe, once completed, will give him the draw without any risk at all, so unless he's 100% positive that everything is working in the sharp lines, there's no reason for him to go for them - especially when they offer no winning chances.
Here are the latest moves: 21.Bc5 Bxc5 22.bxc5 Rc7 23.Nb6 Rd8 24.Nxd7 Rdxd7 25.Bd3 Bg8 26.c6 Rd6.
23.Nb6 is a very nice move that keeps White's initiative alive for the moment. Taking on b6 was bad (see the comments and the later post with the (more) fully annotated game for details), and after 23...Rd8 24.Nxd7 (24.Bd5 was a fascinating alternative, but I think both 24...Nb8 and 24...Ne5! sufficed against it, e.g. 24...Ne5 25.f4 Nd3! 26.Kxd3 exd5 27.f5 (27.Nxd5+?? Rxd5+ wins) 27...dxe4+ 28.Kxe4 Kf7=) 24...Rdxd7 Topalov had eliminated Black's knight and made blockading White's pawns slightly tougher.
After 25.Bd3 Black had many options, including the sharp 25...f5, the safe-looking (but probably not best) 25...Rc6 and the counter-attacking 25...Rd4, but Anand chose another approach with 25...Bg8, aiming to restore the bishop's relevance. Every move but 25...Rc6 allows 26.c6, and that's what happened here. White would like to create a situation where he enjoys an outside passer, and for now that chance is enough to give him slightly the better of things, but a draw is still the likeliest result by far.
The game was drawn, and the only drama left by move 33 was to see how Topalov will acquire a draw without losing face by offering one. The answer, of course, was to allow a repetition. Here's how it ended.
27.cxb7 Rxb7 28.Rc3 Bf7 29.Ke3 Be8 30.g4 e5 31.Rhc1 Bd7 32.Rc5 Bb5 33.Bxb5 axb5 34.Rb1 b4 35.Rb3 Ra6 36.Kd3 Rba7 37.Rxb4 Rxa5 38.Rxa5 Rxa5 39.Rb7+ Kf8 40.Ke2 Ra2+ 41.Ke3 Ra3+ 42.Kf2 Ra2+ 43.Ke3 Ra3+ 44.Kf2 Ra2+ 45.Ke3 Ra3+ 46.Kf2 Draw Agreed.
Remember, I'll have the game later today, in a separate post, with lots of annotations. Stay tuned!