Here and There

I haven’t blogged for over a month now, missing the end of the Tal Memorial (which Carlsen won) and the non-existent Bazna King’s tournament (which looks to be canceled, although the official word is “postponed”).

The annual Dortmund tournament is underway though, and the field has been opened up for once to include a number of players outside the traditional elite. So far though, things are generally falling in rating order with the 2700+ players in the top half, and the 2600 players in the bottom half.

Still, there was a pretty amazing game played in round 2 between Jan Gustafsson and Vladimir Kramnik, where Kramnik played the King’s Indian Defense with a rather deep idea in mind.

In the following position, Kramnik introduced a novelty with 13…a5!?:

(FEN: rnbqr1k1/pp3pbp/6p1/3p4/3NP3/4BP2/PP2B1PP/2RQ1RK1 b - - 0 13)

I’m not totally sure what the idea is if White doesn’t play like Gustafsson did with 14.Qb3, but I’m sure there’s something.

After 14.Qb3, though, Kramnik seemed to have prepared a brilliant concept: 14…a4! 15.Qxd5 Qxd5 16.exd5 a3! 17.b3 Nc6! 18.Nc2 Rxe3! 19.Nxe3 Nb4, and White is already in some trouble. Maybe he can draw in computer-like fashion after 20.Rc7, but it’s already White who is fighting for survival without having done anything terribly wrong (at least at first glance). Gustafsson, probably completely bamboozled by developments, went wrong immediately and was lost in a couple moves.

For one, this is pretty amazing preparation by Kramnik in an opening he essentially never plays with the black pieces. He seems to have gone into huge depth in certain openings, finding serious novelties in sidelines that probably no other top player is considering.

(It’s sort of like his last two games with 1.e4 against Aronian – the first time around, I was wondering, “what could he possibly have in the main line – that’s been known to be equal for decades.” And then at the Tal Memorial, Aronian “allowed” Kramnik to get his preparation in and found himself in difficulties.)

He said first noticed this …a5 concept when preparing the line as white, which suggests to me that he had been looking at these …exd4 lines for the Candidates Match with Radjabov. Radjabov, of course, switched up on him by playing the QGD every game there.

(Note to every other candidate playing in London 2013 … prepare something new for Vlad!)

Maybe even more surprising to me is that even if I had been told about such an idea, I’m not sure I would have played a totally new opening like that. Maybe Gustafsson’s repertoire is extremely narrow, but playing the King’s Indian, seemingly on a whim, is a pretty huge risk in my view. What if White deviated and didn’t play the Gligoric System? What if White played the Gligoric but continued with the main line of 9.Bxd4? Despite his opening prowess, I can’t believe Kramnik had something brilliant ready in every line.

I usually figure that if I play something totally new like that randomly, my opponent will smell a rat and play something else. In the Aronian games, he doesn’t play anything but 1…e5, and there isn’t really all that much you can do to avoid a Four Knights. However, as Black in a King’s Indian? White has a lot of options available to him – Gustafsson has to be kicking himself for nothing playing some other line he has looked at.

Also, speaking of London 2013 … there was news that the main sponsor has been trying to convince Kasparov to come back and play (! Andrew Paulson can choose one wildcard in the event, but it looks like Kasparov declined and Radjabov was the pick instead (or, he was talking about the subsequent Candidates Cycle). With a top 3 of Carlsen, Aronian and Kramnik in the double round-robin (with Anand already into the final match), adding Kasparov to the mix would have been incredible. Not that he’d have won, but still incredible.


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