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    Thursday
    May132010

    The Battle of World Champions: Karpov vs. Spassky on TV in 1982

    In 1982, Hamburg TV ran a very strong tournament in two stages. In the first stage there were two double round-robin quads. In one, Anatoly Karpov won with 4.5/6, a point ahead of John Nunn; Slim Bouaziz and Yasser Seirawan tied for last with two points apiece. In the other, Boris Spassky won with an enormous 5.5/6 score, ahead of Jan Timman (3), Eric Lobron (2) and Eugenio Torre (1.5).

    In the final match, Karpov played Spassky. I won't tell you what happened, if you want to see the drama for yourselves, but after you watch the videos, click here - I give all the games from that match.

    For those of you who prefer the drama, you can watch the Hamburg presentation of the two 1-hour games between Karpov and Spassky - complete with voice-over commentary by the players themselves. The links from one to the other aren't so clear, so I'll provide them all here.

    Game 1, Part 1

    Game 1, Part 2

    Game 1, Part 3

    Game 2, Part 1

    Game 2, Part 2

    Game 3, Part 3

    And remember to check out the replayable boards on here when you're done watching!

    (HT: Ben Vinyard)

    Thursday
    May132010

    Astrakhan Grand Prix, Round 4: Lots More Draws

    The games weren't really that bad, with two exceptions, but the draws just keep on coming - we're up to 22 in 28 games. Here's the recap:

    Leko - Ponomariov: This battle of grinders was legitimately hard-fought. Leko had a persistent edge against the Berlin Wall, but it wasn't enough. On move 28 he had a tough decision to make: he could have played 28.f3, preventing liquidation, but then he couldn't have created a passed pawn on the kingside. Anyway, although it was a draw there's not too much to complain about. 1/2-1/2, 44.

    Ivanchuk - Inarkiev: Ivanchuk played the Panov/Botvinnik against the Caro-Kann, and offered an interesting gambit (5...Nc6 6.Bf4) which was declined. They quickly reached an ending where Ivanchuk was very comfortably better, but at a certain point he couldn't find a way to make progress. Rather than allow a repetition, Ivanchuk opted for a very risky approach, going for a situation where both players would have passed pawns on opposite sides. Ivanchuk's pawns had a headstart, but Black's bishop vs. knight edge made up for that. Several inaccuracies later, it was all over: 0-1, 45.

    Akopian - Mamedyarov was another well-played game, a Breyer Ruy where both sides played to win, often at the same time, all the way through to a complicated and unbalanced ending. Nothing to complain about here, either: 1/2-1/2, 53.

    Svidler - Radjabov: This was some of strange English/Gruenfeld (1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.g3 0-0 5.Bg2 c6 6.e4 d5) that looked very comfortable for Black. Black could have played on at the end without any risk at all, but perhaps he felt that a day off would do him more good in the long run, and he allowed a repetition: 1/2-1/2, 25.

    Eljanov - Gashimov was a Modern Benoni. White played a solid system with Bf4 and e3, but the position was anything but solid starting with 21...a5 22.Rxb6. Black temporarily sacrificed a pawn, but with 24...Nh5 strongly "encourages" White to sac a piece. When the smoke cleared by move 30, Black enjoyed a slightly better ending with a piece for three pawns. Maybe he had some chances early on, but White quickly equalized and the game was agreed drawn just before Black removed the last non-king from the board. 1/2-1/2, 61.

    Jakovenko - Alekseev was a very old-fashioned Queen's Indian, and the players seemed as bored by the game as the spectators. To escape, they found a pointless but sufficient repetition: 1/2-1/2, 30.

    Gelfand - Wang Yue was a Gruenfeld or Schlecter Slav, as you prefer, and while the game wasn't thrilling it was a nice example of defensive technique. Rather than suffer at the hands of Gelfand's bishop pair, Wang Yue sacrificed a pawn to reach a position where White could do very little to untangle. It's really a game worth studying as a model of good defense! 1/2-1/2, 33.

    Games and more info here.

    Thursday
    May132010

    Match Recaps by the Winner and the Loser

    Anand's little summary on the match can be seen in this video (and there's another video interview with him here), while Topalov's thoughts (translated) are here (HT: Jaideep). Topalov's comments are fascinating: he outprepared Anand and overall handled the pressure better, too, in his opinion. One would normally draw the conclusion that Anand must be a significantly better player than Topalov in order to overcome all those handicaps, but no, it was just Topalov losing the match. (While demonstrating better nerves, too. Maybe Anand's win was simply a miracle?)

    Topalov's recounting of events was more than a little self-serving. Game 1 was his "crushing Anand's trump card" rather than Anand just blundering by mixing up his preparation. (On the other hand, Anand never returned to that line, and gave up the Gruenfeld until game 10, so perhaps Vishy's story is fishy.) He mentions missing four wins, which is approximately four more than I'm aware of. (Certainly he had advantages in games 3, 5 and 10. But "wins"?) And what about his gifts in games 7, 8 and 9? He admits to some luck in game 9, but not games 7 (where Anand was at the very least closer to winning than Topalov was in game 3, 5 and 10) and 8 (the opposite-colored bishop ending).

    Topalov may feel that way, and perhaps that sort of attitude helps him as a competitor. But doesn't he or anyone around him have the sense to realize that putting things so gracelessly just alienates all but his most fervent supporters? When Anand speaks of the match, Topalov is elevated; when Topalov speaks, he lowers himself. Whatever one thinks of the players, the right man won.

    Thursday
    May132010

    Some (Minor) Highlights From Astrakhan

    Here are three game fragments that caught my eye. None of them are especially beautiful or profound; it's more in the realm of the cute and/or whimsical.

    Here's the first, from the round 3 game Alekseev-Ivanchuk.

    White has just played 12.Bf1-c4, attacking the f-pawn, and contrary to the advice we'd give to kids, Ivanchuk not only didn't defend the f-pawn, he encouraged White to take it: 12...h6. The pawn isn't taboo, either: White can play 13.Nxf7 (but not 13.Bxf7+? Kf8, when White's two pawns will not adequately compensate for the piece) Rf8 14.Qd5 Bg6 15.Nxh6 gxh6 16.Bxh6 Bf7 17.Qe4 Rh8 18.Bxf7+ Kxf7, with level chances. Rather than go into that swamp, Alekseev played it safe with 13.Nf3, and the game was later drawn in a rook ending.

    The next two examples are really a pair:

    The first diagram is from the round 2 game Ivanchuk - Wang Yue, the second from Gashimov - Gelfand in round 3. In a remarkable coincidence, the games finish in the same way: White sacs a rook to give perpetual on the 7th and 8th squares of the rook file. Thus the first game ended like this: 23.dxc5!? Rxd1 24.cxb6 axb6 (24...Re1 was possible) 25.Ra8+ Kc7 26.Ra7+ 1/2-1/2, and the second game concluded with 22.Rxh7!? cxb2+ 23.Kxb2 Kxh7 24.Rh4+ Kg8 25.f7+! Kxf7 26.Rh7+ Kg7 27.Rh8+ Kf7 28.Rh7+ Kg8 29.Rh8+ 1/2-1/2. (I have a sneaking suspicion that White's decision to go for the perpetual, and to execute it vertically rather than horizontally, was at least in part due to its predecessor.)

    Assuming I'm not guilty of painting a Texas Bulls-Eye, and I don't believe I am, the odds against such a repeated pattern in so short a time span must be pretty long.

    Wednesday
    May122010

    Astrakhan Grand Prix, Round 3: 7 Draws

    It's a thrill a minute in Astrakhan, where the players are doing all they can to force organizers to outlaw draws altogether. Here's a review of today's scintillating action:

    Akopian - Svidler: A Gruenfeld-turned-Symmetrical English was drawn by repetition in 23 moves.

    Alekseev - Ivanchuk was a 5.Nc3 Petroff (I'll show a cute moment from this game in a later post), and although White was unable to drum up any attacking chances, he did enjoy a slight pull in the ending. Alekseev made him work, but Ivanchuk was able to construct a fortress and held the draw in 43 moves.

    Gashimov - Gelfand was also a 5.Nc3 Petroff (and you guys thought you missed 1.e4 in the Anand-Topalov match. Ha!), but unlike Topalov - Gelfand from Linares, Black's king stayed safe enough throughout. This game had a funny finish leading to a perpetual check (in 28 moves), and I'll also cover this game (and its surprising counterpart) in that same subsequent post.

    Inarkiev - Leko saw the ever-popular Neo-Archangelsk. They followed a Karjakin - Shirov game from Wijk aan Zee earlier this year until Inarkiev varied with 18.Be3. Leko seemed well-prepared, and he soon equalized and even enjoyed a tiny edge. Nevertheless, the rook and opposite-colored bishop ending was hard to win, and although Leko pressed in it for 25 moves or so he was unable to win, and they split the point on move 56.

    Mamedyarov - Eljanov was a Ragozin. They followed theory for 17 moves, and although there was eventually a new move there didn't seem to be any big new idea, and the game looked like a pretty routine draw (by repetition in 36 moves).

    Ponomariov - Radjabov was hard to categorize: I guess one can call it a Double Fianchetto system against the Gruenfeld (or maybe the Schlechter Slav). Radjabov had little difficulty neutralizing White's normal first-move edge, and the game was a draw by repetition in 33 moves. (Since the repetition was rather silly, with White playing Kg1-g2-g1-g2 and Black going ...Kg8-g7-g8-g7, I wonder if they are already in fact using the Sofia rules.)

    Wang Yue - Jakovenko was a Catalan, though not one of the lines tried in the Anand-Topalov games. White seemed to be winning this game, or at least nearly so, but erred near the end and allowed Jakovenko to set up an elementary drawing formation. Had White played 34.Nc4, he may have had a winning advantage with 34...Rb4 35.Ne5 Rb2 36.b7, followed in due course by a rook move attacking the knight, or Nc4-d6 and a rook move, followed by queening. Even after the game's 34.b7?! Nxf3, 35.Ra8 or 35.Rc8 would have maintained winning chances, as 35...Rd2 36.Ra/c3 stops the perpetual. After 35.Re8? Rd2, Wang Yue realized what he had done, and the game was agreed drawn.

    So, the leaderboard looks exactly as it did yesterday, just with everyone enjoying half a point more. The leaders, with 2/3, are Gashimov, Gelfand, Leko, Ponomariov and Eljanov.

    Games and more info here.

    Wednesday
    May122010

    Astrakhan Grand Prix, Round 2

    Unlike round 1, there were lots of interesting and decisive games today, though the move counts were pretty short - especially in comparison with the Anand-Topalov match.

    Svidler - Ponomariov was a Berlin Wall in which Black had at least equalized when Svidler blundered on move 24 and resigned a move and a half later.

    Eljanov - Akopian was an Anti-Meran that was equal for a long time, all the way into a bishop and knight vs. bishop and knight ending, until Akopian's 39...Ke8? This was a subtle tactical error costing him his b-pawn (with the king on g7 instead Black could meet 40.Bc3 Bxc3 41.Nxc3 with 41...Nd7, and there won't be any knight check after 42.Nxb5 Nc5 allowing White to keep his b-pawn), and after that the ending was probably lost. One interesting variation: if Black played 45...Kb4, then 46.Nd5+! Nxd5 47.exd5 Kc5 48.g5! wins - 48...hxg5 49.hxg5 Kxd5 50.Kf2 Kc5 51.Ke3 and White's king gets to Black's pawns while Black collects the b-pawn.

    Jakovenko - Gashimov was a Taimanov Variation Modern Benoni, but despite that variation's fearsome reputation Black held without much trouble at all, and the players shook hands on move 25 after repeating moves.

    Ivanchuk - Wang Yue saw the Ukranian legend play 1.Nc3. The game had a Caro-Kann/Center Counter-like feel to it (even if Black never played ...c7-c6), and although White had a very small advantage it never looked like anything serious. Ivanchuk's 23.cxb6 was a spectacular move, but it only served to force a quick perpetual: 1/2-1/2, 27.

    Radjabov - Inarkiev saw the Azeri use the Scotch, one of his favorite weapons. Perhaps at one moment Radjabov had a very small edge, but it quickly dissipated and the draw was agreed after 28 moves.

    Leko - Alekseev was a little surprising in that Leko played 1.d4. This was another Modern Benoni, but the line with Nf3 and then later the 9.Bd3 b5 pawn sac. Leko's 18.Bh6 was a near-novelty in a well-known position, but he didn't seem to get much from it. 26...f5 probably equalized, and while Leko was better most of the way the final position was equal. Unfortunately for Alekseev, he lost on time making the final move (move 40) of the time control.

    Gelfand - Mamedyarov was an interesting English/Gruenfeld-turned-Fianchetto Gruenfeld. Mamedyarov was fine, but his double-edged decision to let his rook get buried on a6, while possibly sound, eventually boomeranged. Somehow the rook never found its way back into the game, and when Black resigned on move 39 he was about to lose either it or its compatriot to a knight fork.

    The games can be replayed here.

    Leaders After Round 2:

    1-5. Gashimov, Leko, Ponomariov, Gelfand, Eljanov 1.5

     

    Tuesday
    May112010

    Game 12, With Notes: A Closer Look at the Game that Retained Anand's Championship Title

    Game 12 was a terrific victory by Viswanathan Anand, whose 6.5-5.5 match win over Veselin Topalov earned him a continued reign as World Chess Champion. It can't be denied that his win in game 12 was greatly helped by Topalov's 1-2 punches to his own face (31.exf5? + 32.fxe4??), but Anand played well before that and found all the moves he had to afterwards as well. He had an interesting opening idea, played dynamically, fought hard, found all the tactics he needed to and didn't choke under pressure. He's a deserving winner.

    Here's the game, with my comments.

    Tuesday
    May112010

    Game 12 Underway: QGD Lasker (Update at 12:35 p.m. ET) - Anand Wins!

    Anand has cleverly chosen the very solid (drawish) Lasker Variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined. Those of you who want to look up key games will want to have a look at the Karpov-Yusupov ("Jussupow" in ChessBase's databases) Candidates match in 1989, I think, and also some of Kramnik's games with Black in the 1990s.

    It's a super-solid variation which gives Black almost no winning chances at all against a peer, but it's hard to beat too. For a single game, it's an excellent choice in a situation where a draw is a good result. Here are the moves so far:

    1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 (No 4...c6, going for the Semi-Slav) 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 0-0 7.e3 Ne4 (The Lasker Variation) 8.Bxe7 Qxe7 9.Rc1 c6 10.Be2 (Usual is 10.Bd3, but it will transpose back to normal lines momentarily) 10...Nxc3 11.Rxc3 dxc4 12.Bxc4 Nd7 13.0-0 b6 14.Bd3 c5 15.Be4 Rb8 16.Qc2 (16.Qa4 is the other main move) 16...Nf6 and we have the following position:

    This last move is a little unusual, but not a novelty. It's quite logical, too. Black will accept a weakness on c5, but in return gets excellent play. For instance: 17.dxc6 Nxe4 18.Qxe4 bxc5 19.b3 Bb7 followed by 20...Bxf3, as played twice successfully (meaning with a draw) by Polish GM Miroslaw Grabarczyk.

     

    8:50 Update

    The first predicted moves were played: 17.dxc5 Nxe4 18.Qxe4 bxc5, but now 19.Qc2 as played in a correspondence game. So far they're following that game with 19...Bb7 20.Nd2 Rfd8 21.f3. White has the better structure, obviously, but Black's activity is very hard to restrain. Here's a sample variation: 21...Qd6 22.Nb3 Ba6 23.Rc1 (23.Rd1?? Qxd1+ 0-1 was the end of the correspondence game - a pen slip?) 23...Bd3 24.Qf2 c4 and White has nothing better than to liquidate to a draw: 25.Na5 Qa6 26.Naxc4 Bxc4 27.Rxc4 Qxa2 28.R4c2 with equality.

     

    9:15 Update

    Not much since the last update, but perhaps Anand is out of his preparation. Instead of 21...Qd6, Anand chose 21...Ba6, and now instead of the natural 22.Rc1 Topalov played 22.Rf2.

    This overprotects b2, so now there's a threat against c5, but it weakens the d1 square. Anand might even be a tiny bit better by doubling on the d-file. If Anand does not succeed in getting this counterplay, however, he can wake up one moment with a strategically lost position. So we have prospects for a decisive result today!

     

    9:30 Update: Some Variations

    Anand played 22...Rd7, preparing to double on the d-file, and now we're waiting for Topalov's reply. It looks like Anand has the more comfortable, maybe even slightly better position. Black's c-pawn looks weak, but it's pretty resilient.

    For starters, taking on c5 right away is nothing: 23.Rxc5 Rxb2! 24.Qxb2 Qxc5 and Black is a little better.

    Trying to pile up with 23.Ne4? is an outright error, and demonstrates the weakness of White's back rank: 23...Rxb2!, with the point that 24.Qxb2? Rd1+ mates next move.

    Piling up the other way with 23.Nb3 is no big deal either: 23...Rbd8 24.Rd2 c4 25.Nd4 Qh4 26.g3 Qg5 is also slightly better for Black.

    White's best is probably the move Topalov just played: 23.g3. This takes care of the back rank worries and stops the sometimes annoying ...Qh4 from occurring. I'd expect 23...Rbd8 here, and after 24.Kg2 Black can choose between moves like 24...Bd3, 24...e5 and 24...h5.

     

    9:50 Update

    After 23.g3 Rbd8 24.Kg2 Bd3 Topalov chose 25.Qc1, which renews the threat to c5. So 25...Ba6 is possible, when 26.Qc2 Bd3 or 26.Ra3 Bd3 27.Rc3 Ba6 are an invitation to rapid games on Thursday. 26.Nb3 is more aggressive, when the obvious possibilities are:

    (A) 26...c4 27.Nd2 (threatening the c-pawn) 27...Qg5 (counter-attacking against the e-pawn) 28.h4 (28.Nxc4 Rd1 29.Qc2 Bxc4 30.Rxc4 Qxe3=) when Black can choose between the dynamic 28...Qh5 followed by ...g5 and the counter-attacking 28...Qa5.

    (B) 26...Rd1 27.Qc2 Qb7! 28.Rxc5 (28.Nxc5 Bf1+! 29.Rxf1 R8d2+ 30.Rf2 [30.Kh3?? Qd5-+] 30...Qd5 and White must give up his queen [e.g. 31.Qb3?? Rxf2+ 32.Kxf2 Qd2#], though he's not too much worse as a result.) Bf1+! 29.Rxf1 Rxf1 30.Kxf1 Qxf3+ 31.Ke1 Qxe3+ with a perpetual.

     

    10:15 a.m. Update

    As expected, Black retreated with 25...Ba6, but after 26.Ra3 he played the ambitious 26...Bb7. I didn't find anything great for White after 26...Bd3, but Anand preferred to put the bishop on the long diagonal. Now Topalov chose 27.Nb3 (27.e4 f5 gets crazy), and now Anand probably needs to put a rook on the c-file, which looks like a minor concession.

     

    10:40 a.m. Update

    The game remains very interesting, and could explode at any moment. Here are the latest moves:

    27...Rc7 28.Na5 Ba8 29.Nc4 e5

    Black's aim is clear: he wants to play ...e4 and to meet f4 with ...Rd3. White can stop this with 30.e4 though Black is absolutely fine after 30...f5 31.Nd2 fxe4 32.Nxe4 Bxe4 33.fxe4 Rd4.

    Another White possibility is 30.Ra5, trying to aim at both Black weaknesses, and then we could have something like 30...e4 31.f4 Rd3 or - even better - 31...Bd5 hoping to follow with ...Be6-g4-f3+.

    Sure enough, White has played the safer 30.e4 and Black replied 30...f5.

     

    10:50 a.m. ET Update

    Wow, Topalov has played 31.exf5 - this seems crazy! Anand immediately played 31...e4, and now the position looks extremely dangerous for White. This will almost definitely avoid the rapid play, but most likely not the way he wants.

     

    10:52 a.m. ET Update

    Unbelievable, Topalov is committing suicide here! He has just continued with the horrible 32.fxe4??, and after 32...Qxe4+ White's position is 100% lost. For instance: 33.Kh3 Rd4 (threatening 34...Qg4#) 34.Ne3 Qe8! 35.g4 h5! White's kingside is obliterated and his king likely to get mated. Topalov has absolutely lost his mind.

     

    11:05 a.m. ET Update

    Those moves have been played: 33.Kh3 Rd4 34.Ne3 Qe8 35.g4 h5 and now all that's left is for Topalov to find his last way to flail around.

    This is just target practice. After a few desperate minutes Topalov played 36.Kh4, and now the most direct win is 36...Qd8+ 37.f6 hxg4, when a move like ...g3+ is in the air. But frankly one doesn't need to find anything too concrete - White's king is on h4, and Black has five attacking units going after it.

     

    11:20 a.m. Update

    Topalov is still battling. After 36.Kh4, Anand chose the sufficient and more human 36...g5+, getting the Rc7 into the action as soon as possible. Topalov played the forced 37.fxg6 Qxg6 38.Qf1, and now Anand's best is 38...Rxg4+ 39.Kh3 and now either 39...Re7 (threatening 40...Rxe3+ 41.Rxe3 Rh4+ 42.Kxh4 Qg4#) or the subtler 39...Rf7 (with the idea 40.Rxf7 Bg2+ 41.Nxg2 Rh4+ and 42...Qg4#).

    It's not done yet, but it is winning, and he has 18 moves for the last three moves to make it to the time control.

     

    11:50 a.m. Update

    Still going! Anand did indeed play 38...Rxg4+ 39.Kh3 Re7, and Topalov dealt with the mate threat (40...Rxe3+, 41...Rh4+, 42...Qg4#) with 40.Rf8+ Kg7 41.Nf5+. This sets a small trap: 41...Kxf8?? 42.Nxe7+ Qf7 (42...Kxf7?? 43.Rxa7+ +-) 43.Ng6+! Rxg6 44.Qxf7+ Kxf7 45.Rxa7+ with a better position. Of course Anand didn't fall for it though: 41...Kh7 and now White must deal with the threats 42...Bg2# and 42...Rh4+ followed by 43...Qg4#.

    So the only move is 42.Rg3, and the following forced moves have happened quickly: 42...Rxg3+ 43.hxg3 Qg4+ 44.Kh2 Re2+ 45.Kg1 Rg2+ 46.Qxg2 Bxg2 47.Kxg2 and although the material situation isn't that bad for White, it's bad enough after 47...Qe2+ and ...Qxb2. White's thoroughly lost.

     

    12:00 p.m. ET Update

    More moves and a diagram: 47...Qe2+ 48.Kh3 c4

    White is in a sort of zugzwang here, and the ever-present threat to take on b2 doesn't make White's life easy either. It's a 100% win.

     

    12:25 Update

    We have a few more moves: 49.a4 a5 (Zugzwang.) 50.Rf6 Kg8! (50...Qxb2 won too - 51.Rh6+ Kg8 52.Rxh5 c3 53.Ne3 and now as long as Anand avoids 53...c2?? it's a win. But Anand's 50...Kg8 is even stronger, disrupting the coordination of White's pieces.) 51.Nh6+ Kg7 52.Rb6 Qe4 53.Kh2 Kh7 and now White's knight is just dead. Black will start cleaning up pawns at his leisure.

    The game has been as good as over for a long time now, but resignation can't be far away.

     

    12:28 - A Note on the Pawn Ending

    Some commenters thought that 47.Rf7+ led to a drawn king and pawn ending. They're right that it leads to a king and pawn ending, but it's not the least bit drawn. After 47...Kg6 48.Rg7+ Kf5 49.Rxg4 hxg4 50.Kxg2 Ke4 51.Kf2 Kd3 the win is trivial - a 1500 should beat Topalov here.

     

    12:35: Anand Wins: Game Over, Match Over

    Here are the remaining moves: 54.Rd6 Qe5 55.Nf7 Qxb2+ 56.Kh3 Qg7 0-1

    The final position:

    Congratulations to Viswanathan Anand, who continues his reign as world champion! (Stay tuned later for the full annotations.)

    Tuesday
    May112010

    A Request and a Reminder

    The request: if you've enjoyed the coverage of the match, and the blog in general, I'll have no objection at all to grateful individuals making a donation via PayPal. (My account is the email address you can find at the end of the first paragraph here.)

    The reminder is that I give chess lessons. If you're interested, please drop me a note via the "Contact me" box at the bottom of the right sidebar and we'll set something up.

    Tuesday
    May112010

    Game 12, Predictions

    This is it, we're down to the finale! This is the last regular game of the match, and if either player wins the game, he wins the match as well.

    In theory, Topalov is playing with house money: a loss with White is unlikely, a win is possible and ends it, while even after a draw the result is that they go to tiebreaks on Thursday. But in fact the pressure is on him to make something happen, as Anand is a big favorite if it goes to rapids. Anand has long been the best rapid player in the world (possibly except for Kasparov, who has been retired for more than five years), while Topalov has historically seemed a below-average rapid player. (Below-average compared to his rating in slow chess, that is.)

    What will Topalov do, then, to maximize his chances? I don't believe he'll play 1.e4, as Anand is extremely solid with both 1...e5 and 1...c6. Nor do I think he'll take a page out of Anand's book with 1.c4. No, I believe Topalov will play 1.d4 once again, and will take his chances against either a Gruenfeld or a Slav.

    As for Anand, what will he play? My feeling is that if he has still a third Gruenfeld line on tap, he'll play it, but he won't repeat the variation of game 10. I don't think he'll go back to the Kramnik Slav, but here too, if he has another Slav line (a Chebanenko? Maybe, but probably not) at the ready it might show up. In sum, if I have to pick one opening or the other, I'll say it's going to be a Gruenfeld.

    Your predictions?