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   Linares, 2004.    


(02/28/04)  Thanks to all the email that this page has generated - and also the high degree of interest - I have decided for the sake of clarity and organization to move this material here ... PERMANENTLY!!   Enjoy! 

An excellent  PREVIEW  of  Linares, 2004  ...  by  IM Malcolm Pein  of the London "Daily Telegraph." 


The time controls - as far as I know are forty moves in two hours. (40/2) After they make it to move forty, the players get another hour added to their clock. After move 60, they get a half-hour for the remainder of the game. There is no delay built in, as far as I know. 

  (Jugadores)  (Cross-table)  


21st ALL-GM  (Super) Tournament  in  Linares, Spain

A seven player round-robin tournament of 20th category (Rating Average 2731), Linares  2004 will take place February 19th - March 5th. FIDE Number One, Garry Kasparov, (# 1 - 2831);  will participate in Linares - together with six  (FIDE)  'Top'  players:  Vladimir Kramnik, (# 2 - 2777);  Veselin Topalov, (# 6 - 2735);  Peter Leko, (# 10 - 2722);  Alexei Shirov, (# 5 - 2736);  Paco F. Vallejo-Pons, (# 33 - 2663);  and Teimour Radjabov. (# 35 - 2656) (Radjabov will be approximately 16 years old when this tourney is played.) 

Noticeably absent from this list is GM Viswanathan Anand, (# 3 - 2766 ... and the winner of CORUS/Wijk aan Zee, 2004.);  GM Peter Svidler, (# 4);  GM Alexander Morozevich, (#  7);  the ever popular (lady player) GM Judit Polgar, (# 8);  GM Ruslan Ponomariov; (# 9 - and the current FIDE Champion ... the last time I looked); etc. It is not clear why some of the players in this second-named group ... all of whom have played in this event before ... were not invited or did not play. 
(Visit the official web site for this event.)  (Rounds)  (LCC / TWIC coverage.) 

 (As of today - Thursday, Feb. 26th, 2004 - you can go to the London Chess Center's    
   main web  site  and read  IM Malcolm Pein's  round-by-round coverage. There is a     
   description of all the games, commentary, and some of the games are even briefly     
   annotated.  Good stuff!  --->  Click   HERE   to go there now.)    

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Round # 1:  Shirov - Kasparov was a draw, as was Kramnik's game against Paco. 
(Pons) I had to stop and do a few things, but it looked like 'Rady' was losing to Leko in the ending, both players had passed move 40. (Feb. 19th, 2004.)   [ more    

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Round # 2:  All the games were eventually drawn. Two were exciting, Kramnik - Shirov was agreed drawn just when things were starting to heat up. {BOOO!!!!}  [ more
Personally, I think Garry took a draw  ...  in a position where he had winning chances. 

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Round  # 3:  (Sat. Feb. 21st, 2004.)  T. Radjabov vs. Kramnik was  {once again}  agreed drawn only when an interesting position had been reached. Of course the young player from Baku was clearly the under-dog and was delighted to make a draw. 

Leko - Kasparov was a very strange affair. 'Kaspy' sacked an exchange out of the opening; I thought Black was clearly better.  But moves like  ...b5!?  and  ...d5!?;  allowed Leko to return the compliment and sacrifice his Rook (back) to establish material  equality. Then while Dzhindzhi was all ready to give the game to Leko, Garry fought back {hard} to make a draw. An amazing contest. 

And the wildest game of all was Shirov - Topalov, a wild 'back-and-forth' see-saw battle where the on-line pundits were busy first chalking up a win for Alexey and then marking up the point for Bulgarian star, Veselin Topalov. Eventually things worked out to a draw, but not until after a few adventures and complications. Shirov and Topalov should be given an award for their outstanding fighting chess and giving the spectators their money's worth for this round.  (Also giving much kudos'/thanks to Leko and Kasparov for an exciting game.)  

Conversely, Kramnik should be fined for laziness and lack of ambition.   [ more

***

I am continuing my work annotating all the games. The project is about half completed, and when it is finished I am going to try and send it to a publisher for publication as a possible book. (I need all the cross-tables for ALL the previous Linares' events. Can anyone  e-mail  this to me?) One game that I particularly was impressed with was the game between Shirov and Topalov. 53 moves of hard-fought action. Shirov played his last 4-5 moves of the first time control with only seconds left on his clock. Annotating this game was like climbing a small mountain. (The analysis runs almost 20 pages, and there are not that many diagrams.) This game was also very time intensive, I estimate that to annotate this game took somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-75 hours of effort, but it was spread out over a span of many weeks. 

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Round # 4:  (Sun. Feb. 22, 2004.)  I watched these games on ICC and also listened to the on-line commentary at several different sites. (The best today was GM Christiansen (on 'chess-dot-fm.')  I also bounced around several other servers as well. 
(Garry Kasparov apparently had the day off.) 

Kramnik - Leko was a non-game  ...  drawn in 18 moves. (I think Kramnik is trying to bore people to death. Why anyone would pay good money to watch him play is beyond me.) 

"Paco" Vallejo-Pons vs. A. Shirov shaped up to be an interesting battle ... but then the players agreed to a draw on move 20. But I will admit all the fire had gone out of the position, only Black would have benefited from any continuation of this game. 

The real game of the round was the contest between V. Topalov (as White) and the young tiger from Baku, T. Radjabov. Black played his favorite Sveshnikov Sicilian. ALL the on-line pundits ... and most commentators, to include Larry Christiansen ... were pretty clear in saying that Black's position was completely lost. But all of a sudden, the Bulgarian star gave back a piece  ...  for reasons that totally escaped all the experts. (This includes the respected GM L. Christiansen.) After some VERY Interesting moves, the game wound down to a dead-drawn ending. R+3P's+K vs K+R+B+1RP.  Of course Larry was quick to point out that the Bishop was the wrong color  ...  even IF (and that is a mighty big if); Black could somehow win all of White's Pawns. I have not yet finished my analysis of this game, but I suspect several (big) surprises await in the notes.  [ more ]  

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Round # 5:  (Monday;  February 23rd, 2004.)  Today was a day of all draws ... BUT WAIT!! Before you go tuning me out, please hear  ...  "the rest of the story." (Shirov had the bye today. As usual, I observed on  ICC,  but also bounced around quite a bit as well. I also tuned into  'chess-dot-FM,'  I find their coverage to be indispensable.) 

The game on the bottom board, (# 3. T. Radjabov - F. Vallejo Pons);  was a real barn-burner ... Radjabov seemed determined to get back to 'even' ... even if he had to do so at the expense of Vallejo Pons. But neither player was willing to go quietly, especially Radjabov - who should probably win some kind of prize for playing the most 'fighting chess' in this event. The opening started quietly enough, a Slav with 5.e3 and 6.Qc2. But then Vallejo surprised everyone by playing an early ...b6. Play developed normally, and many of the pundits were predicting a quick draw. White sunk a Knight into e5, and then protected it with f4. Certainly the players would soon split the point. But then something really bizarre happened, Black took the White Knight on e5, but White did NOT recapture - instead choosing to take a lowly pawn on b4! (Only Radjabov would try such a move, I think.) The game featured a VERY unusual material balance ... at one point Black has THREE minor pieces for two Rooks and a Pawn. A time scramble ensued, the experts doing the commentary on the London Chess Center said both sides probably missed a win. In the end, Pons gave up a piece to erect a Pawn-down fortress, and a draw was declared. Hats off to both contestants for perhaps the most amazing game I have ever been a spectator to, at least one that ended in a draw.  SALUTE!!  (y gracias) 

Leko - Topalov  was a Najdorf Sicilian, with Peter repeating the same line that he used against Kasparov. Once again fireworks erupted, (At almost the same time on all three boards!!!); and at one time Black was ahead two Pawns. (The pundits awarded Topalov the point at least 20 times.) But after the first time control, Leko played perfect chess to find just enough counterplay to balance his one-button deficit. An incredible fighting game, that was the last contest to finish. Thanks to both players for a great game! 

Kasparov - Kramnik  was the hero of the round  ...  everyone expected a wicked "grudge-match" game between these two combatants. The play started off as a Queen's Indian, with Kasparov playing the Petrosian System, (5.a3) a line he help resuscitate as a young player. (Today many books consider it the main line, all but replacing g3 as the most ambitious winning attempt for the player of the White pieces.) Kasparov chose his moves very carefully and tried to slowly build up his position. Several times Kramnik seemed to be offering Garry an easy draw with a three-time repetition, but Kasparov - very heroically - turned them all down. (Once in rather severe time pressure.)  Finally the time control was reached. (Move 40, both players get an hour added to their clocks.) Many of the experts said Kasparov was clearly better, but the commentary on 'chess-dot-FM' was more balanced, seeing chances for both sides. Black's Queen had taken up an EXTREMELY dangerous post on g5, in combination with an active Black Knight ... one slip by Garry would have meant annihilation. But Garry fought back and played both h4 AND g4, Kramnik chose to sink his Knight into g3. (Which - by the way - many TITLED players were kibitzing on this game, and said that Black was now clearly lost.) Immense complications ensued, White plays Nd3, seemingly trapping Black's Queen. But Vlad calmly sacked a Knight on e4, and the game ended in a seemingly forced draw by perpetual check. An incredible game of fighting chess. Kramnik shows that when the situation requires it, he can play great tactics. (But Garry pushed him all the way!  When Garry plays, all the games are interesting!!  Kramnik apparently can play chess, but ONLY when he is provoked. A game that could take years to analyze.) 
 [ more ]  

 I DO NOT MIND DRAWS    LIKE THIS, WHEN ALL PARTIES CLEARLY GONE FOR THE WIN AND HAVE NEARLY EXHAUSTED EVERY REASONABLE WINNING OPPORTUNITY!!!!!   (In fact, this was one of the greatest days for draws, ever!)    

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You can now  download  all the games from the first five rounds, I have already annotated several of these! Good stuff here. Lots of work went into creating this file! Enjoy! 

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Reminder:  NO Games Tuesday; February 24th, 2004. (A rest day for all the players.) 

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 Round 6:  (Ash Wednesday; February 25th, 2004)  There was a great deal of action, especially considering that Kramnik had the day off. At one point, I was even thinking we might have three decisive games!!! But first let me tell you a story. 

I had promised my many fans I would post a "blow-by-blow" within an hour or so after the completion of each round. It is raining outside, the patter of the drops of water falling has an almost hypnotic effect one me. My oldest daughter is spread out on the floor close to me, trying to do her homework. I am sitting in front of the computer, trying to analyze one of the games, and the phone rings. (A friend and a former Internet student from a city in Florida.)  The voice on the other end of the line is nearly frantic. "Its almost five-thirty, and you have not posted the results! I worked all day, I want to know what happened!" (I very quickly give him a complete rundown - we chatted for over 20 minutes.) 

Today was a VERY interesting and exciting day, we even had another decisive result! 
(But I should not get ahead of myself, and I will save the best for last.)

F. Vallejo Pons - P. Leko  was a very interesting game. Pons played the Scotch again, but this time it seemed that he wanted a fight. An extremely tense struggle ensued, both sides appeared to be playing for a win. But suddenly ... with both players running VERY low on time, (approximately less than 10 minutes each); ... the players agreed to a draw. In the end it was not a bad result, the position seemed about level to me. And to have a hair-raising time scramble is probably not really to the benefit of either party. At least in the end, we got over 3.5 hours of enjoyment and tension from this contest. 

V. Topalov - G. Kasparov  was also a torrid affair. It appeared to me - from the moves - that Veselin was determined to get to 'plus-one.' The game was a Semi-Slav, and Garry played an early ...a6. (The same line that was a complete debacle vs. Huzman at the European Cup {team} Championship last year in Rethymnon, Greece. 1-0 in 22 moves!) But Kasparov apparently was better prepared, and a very unusual system was played on the chess board - one that I had only seen once or twice before. White seemed to have a VERY strong position, at one point Shredder gave White an advantage of over half-a-point. But Topalov played Qa4!?, a move which seemed sure to leave Garry with a rotten ending. Garry responded with ...f5!; a move that was condemned by many on-line pundits. But Garry played well and soon had traded Queens and even won a Pawn. The experts were already chalking this point up for Garry, but they forgot what a tough customer Topalov has been recently. He dug deep and defended, and both players got into time trouble. In the final position after move 36, a draw is probably the correct result. (Did Garry blow the win? Or did Topalov defend magnificently? Analysis will tell.) 

The real news was the contest: Alexei Shirov - Teimour Radjabov.  Shirov played d4, and 'Rady' responded with his beloved King's Indian. Shirov obviously had studied his opponent's games and played the Knight sally Ng5-e6 in one of Radjabov's favorite lines. Soon Shirov felt forced to sacrifice an exchange. (All this had been seen before, but Radjabov had won rather easily the last time he faced this system.) Soon it was obvious that White had compensation, but how he would manage his piece play was less than clear - the online experts seemed clearly divided. Shirov played very courageously, he placed his pieces on their best squares; and did not even seem to mind when Radjabov won a Pawn on the b4-square. Then suddenly and surprisingly a Bishop changed direction. Shirov followed this piece of inspiration with a brilliant piece sacrifice that eventually netted Radjabov's Queen. Radjabov hung on as long as was humanly possible, but had to resign around move 66, after it became obvious that Shirov was not going to make a mistake. So far, this is the best game of the tournament. Really great stuff, and this is also a game that could have a VERY large impact on opening theory as well. 
[ more ]  

(I hope to have these games at least lightly annotated soon, and available for everyone at my web site for chess downloads.) 

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 Round # 7:   (Thursday, February 26, 2004. Radjabov - mercifully - has the bye.)  

Let me apologize - again! - for a late posting. It seemed that Murphy's Law kicked in, and everything that could go wrong ... did! (The person who has been e-mailing me the PGN copies of the games was a no-show, I had to wait and get them off the Internet. One game went a very long time, I thought we might even get into the third time control. ICC had one of the game positions wrong ... and on and on. I was also frantically e-mailing people, trying to get some information on the games, as I was very unsure of the moves that were actually being relayed.)  

Well one of the players who has played the most moves, and showed the most fighting spirit had the day off today. This led me to predict that the only interesting - and perhaps decisive - game of the day would be on Kasparov's board. I could NOT have been more wrong!!! In fact, ALL the games today were decisive! ("Did they put something in the water today?," as I joked on ICC. Or did the sponsors promise/threaten to pull the plug? Or did the players themselves get sick of all the derogatory comments? Whatever the motivation, we can only rejoice at the outcome! A day full of fighting chess!!)  

The first game I will discuss is the contest:  Garry Kasparov - F. "Paco" VallejoPons
On paper, this would look to be a fairly easy contest for the former World Champ. But in reality, it turned out to be an extremely hard-fought and stiffly contested game. Both players used a LOT of time early on. Garry faced a Semi-Slav. Rather than allow g4 - the line Garry uses to crush people and computers - Pons opted for the super-sophisticated ...b6. Garry built up his position slowly and carefully. ("Does c5 drop a Pawn?" Maybe yes, maybe no ... maybe rain, maybe snow.) Anyway, Garry unleashed a torrent of tactics. Pons had to make like 5-7 moves with well less than a minute. And although his position looked bad, it did not appear to me that Black was clearly lost. But then came a real howler, ...Re5?? After Garry's Qxf6+, it was simply lights out. (1-0 on time and position?) 

Addendum:  (AM / Feb. 27th, 2004.)  I got an e-mail from a titled player ... who was in a position to both watch this game and comment on it as it was being played. (He also chewed me out a little bit, but that's OK. And I certainly want to be fair and balanced in my coverage.)   :p  

His point was that Garry played a brilliant game ... and was (probably) already winning long  before  Pons played Re5 ... which still looks like a blunder to me. (Analysis?) My apologies to Garry Kasparov AND Mr. Francisco Vallejo-Pons. (I mean no disrespect to ANYONE. Any reader of my web pages can tell you that I am a BIG fan of Garry Kasparov! Look how many games of his I have annotated. I often try to use humor in my commentary. And I honestly did not mean to offend anyone.)  I am also trying to give a different and honest perspective on the games. 

*******

 As for my criticisms of Kramnik ... I apologize to NO ONE!!!   His games, at least in this event, have been pitiful. Maybe its nice - and easy - if you can play 15-20 moves and make a draw against a top GM, but it does not do much for the average chess player, chess fan, the organizer, etc. I also truly believe it is hurting the image of chess in the media when he plays in such a manner! Take Bobby Fischer, look very carefully at his games. 

  (I have studied nearly all of his efforts, hundreds and hundreds of games.)    

  I cannot find one game where he (Fischer) took a quick and easy draw   ...   EVER!!   

And while as a person, Kramnik is a real gentleman - his conduct at the chess board is of great importance to chess fans all around the globe, especially in the position of World Champion. 

The next game was  V. Kramnik - V. Topalov.  First, surprise number one. Kramnik plays 1.e4. Now was this because Topalov is an "easy customer" as one on-line pundit said? Or perhaps because he had found a weakness in one of Topalov's favorite variations? Whatever the reason, the game was virtually over as Kramnik had won an exchange before move twenty. Now it was truly only a "matter of technique," and Kramnik has enough of that for a small army of players. I almost felt sorry for Topalov.  (almost) 

The last round was the battle of the leaders, (P. Leko - A. Shirov); - both of whom were leading at the tournament at "plus-one" and I clearly expected only a formality of a game. 20 or so perfunctory moves ... and then a quick handshake and yet another draw. Instead the players struggled almost endlessly - in a position that ALL the experts said was a very easy draw. Leko showed some play ... and some technique which bordered on a supernatural plane. But no matter where the inspiration came from, after almost 60 moves - Leko had wrested the full point from poor Shirov.  

A one-in-a-million endgame!!  (And hats off and a big salute to Leko.)  

So at the halfway point  ...  its Leko at "plus-two," (4.0 points, out of a possible 6.); and Kramnik, Kasparov right behind him at "plus-one," (+1)  and Shirov, (the hero of the last round); is back to even. (To be honest, Topalov and Pons at "minus-one" ( -1 ) and Radjabov at "minus-two" ( -2 )  ... these guys have absolutely no chance of winning this event.) It is turning into an extremely interesting tournament!  [ more

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 Round 8:   This round saw a complete reversal of yesterday's trend.  (boo!) 
(All the games were eventually drawn, but only one was without much of a real fight.)  

The most important game - in terms of the tournament standings - was the contest: 
Peter Leko  versus young  T. Radjabov.  (Leko is currently the tournament leader.) 
Both players seemed eager for a fight, Leko allowed Radjabov to employ the Sveshnikov, the opening was exactly the same, at least for the first 17 moves, as Radjabov's earlier round four game versus Topalov. But Leko 'improved' with Rad1, and Radjabov came up with a surprise of his own. (...Rb6. A TN?) Anyway, after some very sharp play, the game eventually was drawn. Either player could have fought on, but apparently Radjabov was happy not to lose and the draw suited Leko's purposes as well. And while I was slightly disappointed, calling a (near) 3 hour struggle and nearly 30 moves a "GM draw" would be clearly stretching the truth. A game that could have an impact on opening theory. 

Garry Kasparov faced off against his <supposed> favorite customer,  Alexei Shirov. It would have been a disaster for Shirov to lose two days in a row, but this did not happen. Garry played the Ruy Lopez, and Shirov offered a possible Zaitsev / Marshall Attack ... but Garry decided that the pawn gambit might be too hot to handle. An early d3 was played, but this was hardly the prelude for a quick draw and a handshake. In fact the game found Kasparov losing or sacrificing a Pawn. It also featured a pretty bad time scramble for Garry. (All the on-line experts predicted an easy win for Shirov ... of course!) But shortly after the first time control, Garry forced a repetition of moves, it appeared too dangerous for either side to try for more. Sooooo ... another draw. 
(But a good game ... a VERY good game ... to watch!) 

GM Vladimir Kramnik  - formerly a killer, but now backsliding to his bad habits of earlier rounds - faced off against the local hero,  GM Francisco Vallejo Pons.  The opening saw a very sharp line of the Najdorf Variation, I thought that since Garry had won against Pons, (with the White pieces); Kramnik would feel the need to do the same. But either Kramnik misplayed the opening, or Pons played very well ... or maybe a little bit of both. Whatever the cause, 20 moves were played and the draw was agreed. The position was pretty balanced, I doubt if either player had much of an advantage in the final position. But I was still disappointed with Kramnik's somewhat listless and a little passive play. 
 [ more ]  

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  Round 9:    [ schedule ]  (Saturday, February 28th, 2004.)  

 The games for today were ALL real fights, and I shall cover each one individually. 
  (The tournament leader,  GM Peter Leko  has the day off.) 

The first game we shall discuss was the slug-fest between the parties: 
F. Vallejo Pons - V. Topalov.  These two squared off, one commentator said Pons looked "very serious" today. The opening was the extremely sharp Sveshnikov Sicilian. (This opening has gotten a good workout in this tournament, the theory of this whole system will surely be advanced by these games.) The first 10 moves were the same as in a couple of Radjabov's games, up to 10.Nd5. (Currently, this is a topical line.) Black chose the sub-system that begins with 10...f5; which usually leads to extremely sharp play - and this game was no exception. Then Vallejo-Pons rocked the chess world by playing the EXTREMELY sharp piece sacrifice, 13.Nxb5!? (A sack on b5 is nothing new, but with the spate of draws, this was definitely a surprise.) I predicted a victory for one side or the other, but as usual, my predictions have not been too accurate for this tournament. The play was terribly complex, and there has not (yet) been time to analyze these moves, but it seemed that both sides must have played perfectly. In the end, White had too many pawns, and kept all the key lines closed, a draw by repetition could not be avoided. 
(A fantastic game for the spectators!) 

The next game was between  A. Shirov - V. Kramnik.  This game was a shock, I predicted that Kramnik would break all speed records with a draw offer. Instead we saw the same opening as on Pons - Topalov, a Sveshnikov Sicilian!! Ad the opening was identical up until move 10! But Shirov did NOT sacrifice on b5, he played a slightly slower, more positional system with c3 - but this was no guarantee of an easy life. In fact, it appeared that Kramnik was trying hard to score a victory here. Shirov chose a very unusual plan, one I was not at all familiar with. (He ignored Black's thrusts on the King-side, and tried to rip Black up on the Queen-side.) At one point Kramnik sacrificed a Pawn, and I thought Shirov might be in real trouble. But Shirov found the best moves and the players agreed to the draw somewhere after move thirty. This was NOT a GM draw, in fact Alex was running critically short of time. BRAVO! BRAVO! 
(This was also a FANTASTIC game to be a spectator to, even if I did not understand exactly what was happening on the chess board. Hats off to both men!) 

Finally we come to the contest:  T. Radjabov - G Kasparov.  Rady surprised slightly by opening with 1.e4. Obviously I would normally predict the Najdorf, but Garry shocked us - as in his match with Fritz_X3D - by responding 1...e5. (!) (Throw all my stuff out the window about this game being a sharp Najdorf.)  Now you would normally expect the Ruy Lopez, but not here. Radjabov shocked us yet again by playing ... 
 THE SCOTCH OPENING!!   (1.e4, e5;  2.Nf3, Nc6;  3.d4!? !!!)  

Needless to say, all the pundits were surprised. (I don't think I can find a single instance of Kasparov EVER playing the Black side of this opening! He did play the WHITE side of it, however, in one of his WCS,  {WCS = World Championship Series};  matches with Anatoly Karpov.) Garry obviously came well prepared, he very carefully neutralized his opponent's opening, traded Queens, and even won a button. But ALL the experts said it was a near meaningless pawn, around move 30, everyone was expecting a draw. 

Garry used a TON of time ... as did his opponent ... and I began to get worried one of the contestants would eventually lose the game on time. But the first time control was reached, and Garry seemed to have found a way to break out of the bind. I think at some point Radjabov even made at least one mistake, one GM on ICC claimed he found an easy draw for White. Finally an ending was reached, Rady had a Rook, Knight and his QNP running up the left side of the board, Garry had a Rook, Bishop, and two connected, passed-pawns (RP & NP) running down the board on the other side. (At this point all the pundits predicted a win for Black, and I think that the game should indeed have been won for Kasparov.) Somehow Rady found a way to sacrifice his passed Pawn and set up - what I am told - is a theoretical draw. After nearly 60 moves, the game was drawn. 
(I feel sure Garry missed a win somewhere, the endgame specialists will probably be looking at this one for years.) THANKS GUYS FOR A FANTASTIC GAME to watch!! 

As of this writing, the games were not yet available for downloading. (But I did verify the game scores at three different sites.) The only sour note of the day was I was very tired, nearly falling asleep. I wished that I had more energy and could have appreciated what a great day for chess this was.  Chess.FM  was either not covering Linares, or was covering more than one event. (I had to turn them off. It was too distracting to try and follow the games and analysis on 2 different servers and hear them yak about stuff I wasn't really interested in following. I hope this trend is not repeated again any time soon.)  [ more

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 Round # 10  (Sunday, February 29th, 2004.)  GM F. Vallejo-Pons  had the bye.  

The games were:  # 1.) Topalov - Shirov; 1-0  # 2.) Kramnik - Radjabov1/2 - 1/2 
and finally  # 3.) Kasparov - Leko.  1/2 - 1/2  Two of the games were really interesting. 

0200 hours / Monday / March 01st, 2004:  There was one decisive game, and two draws. I will definitely update this later. I am still trying to determine - from a chessical standpoint - exactly what the heck happened. How did Shirov lose? (Its NOT an easy question!) 

***

 --->  The first game that I will discuss here was the game between Garry Kasparov and, of course, Peter Leko.  ***   The two top players square off and I think Garry was still suffering the ill effects of his game with Radjabov. (He missed a win, and from the photo's of today's round it appears Garry may not have gotten a lot of sleep.) 

Garry plays the super-cautious 3.Nc3 line ... which allows Black to prevent White from opening the center by playing 3...e5. And while initially White has tremendous success with this system, the second player has now figured out how to defend all the key squares. (It is rapidly becoming ... a drawing line. In fact, the dullest line of all time; most of the games in this line lately are almost guaranteed to put me to sleep.) 

Garry probes for a while, and it looked like he might have had a tiny bit of success. But Leko is currently one of the best defenders on the planet, and he was not going to lose from this position. (too simple) So the players shake hands and draw. (In the end, this draw hurt Garry a great deal. He was White against the leader and failed to make any 
headway. Now if he does not win the tournament, he only has himself to blame - surely he had thought about the ramifications of all of this?) 

***

The next game on our plate was the contest between  V. Kramnik  and  T. Radjabov
***  What a strange game this was. 

Kramnik opened with a KP. There quickly followed a Giuoco Piano, and I thought: "Great! Maybe they will play and ultra-sharp Mller Attack."  (But such was not meant to be.) 

Instead Kramnik played the very slow and somewhat mediocre positional system. 
(Once again, Vladimir seems to prefer the fine art of swapping pieces to anything resembling a real OTB chess fight.) 

Kramnik very slowly and carefully built up a very powerful position. And just when it appeared that Kramnik could play the maneuver of Ra5!-h5, (with a possible mating attack); suddenly Kramnik chickened out, and allowed a draw. In the final position, the endgame with 2 Rooks and both sides having their Queen, Black might even be fractionally better. (Or at least I thought so, when I first wrote the introduction for this game.) A fine defensive effort by Radjabov, and a rather lackluster effort by the World Champion.  (To say the least! And I am being really nice!)   

***

The last game to "chew on" was the clash between  V. Topalov  and  A. Shirov
 ***  These two players are to be congratulated  ...  they were the only ones who provided the spectators - both locally and on the Internet ... anything to cheer about. 

Shirov answered Topalov's King-Pawn in kind, and it quickly became obvious that we were headed for the main line of the Ruy Lopez. 
(The venerable Tchigorin System.) 

Somewhere along the way, Black got outplayed in this opening ... but without any  {seemingly obvious}  mistakes  -  at least none that I could detect after almost 2 straight days of {computer-assisted} analysis  ...  and digging through ALL the applicable opening manuals!!! 

Topalov quickly showed why this opening is sometimes referred to as: 
 "THE SPANISH TORTURE." 

White slowly improved his position ...  ...  ...  
but with all the speed of a glacier that moves only a few inches a year. 
Poor Shirov seemed to be in a state of near-Zugzwang, he could move almost nothing without immediate loss of material ... or a drastic worsening of his overall position. 

Whether this was best play  ...  or whether Topalov preferred to delay the finale because he wanted the extra time to think ... the game lasted until the first time control. (At move 40 - when both players get an extra hour of time added to their clock.) 

Topalov finished off crisply, Shirov resigned without waiting to be mated, or lose major amounts of material.  (I think it is a mate in most of the key lines.)  

An incredible game by Topalov ... who is definitely a chess fighter ... 
in EVERY sense of the word!   [ more ]  

***

ADDENDUM:  The above game between Topalov and Shirov may have a  huge  impact on theory. There are many key games in this line: A few examples are a contest between Geller and Keres from a Candidates Tournament in the 1950's. And even the VERY recent contest between Kasparov and Ivanchuk in this line. (2002) Topalov seems to have improved over ALL of this ... in fact this game is obviously the result of some very deep preparation at home. And it may have refuted an entire sub-line of the Tchigorin! 

*******

 MondayMarch 01st, 2004.  NO Games!  (It is the second rest day.)  

*******

  The two top dogs square off ... in a fight for ALL the marbles!  (cn_lin-04_001.jpg, 05 KB)

Linares, Round 11:   Leko falters against Kramnik 
02.03.2004  For the longest time it looked like Peter Leko would once again take a full point with the white pieces against his favorite opponent, Vladimir Kramnik. But on move 32 the young Hungarian stumbled and allowed Kramnik to spin a mating net. The other games were drawn.  (From the ChessBase web site.) 

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  Round # 11:    (Tuesday;  March 02, 2004.)  (Today Kasparov had the bye.) 

The first game we will talk about, is the encounter between  A. Shirov  and  F. Vallejo-Pons. This was a very exciting game to watch. (Also - the last to finish.) 
(It must have been more difficult to play, than it was to be a spectator for this game!) 

Alex opened with his QP, and Pons responded with a Gruenfeld Defense. We very quickly reached a topical and popular line for White that features an early Rb1. (I have long said that the theory of this line was very suspect. And this is not idle chatter, but based on many training games played against several strong computer programs.)

Pons played one of the main book lines which features the goofy Bd7. (I dont like this line, I have often said that Black leaves his QBP Pawn hanging too long!) Anyway Shirov proved me correct by taking the pawn on the c-file, and it soon became obvious that Black would have to struggle hard to get it back. In fact, by move 15 Black had already lost the exchange! (But Black did have strong central pressure as compensation.)

I think this should have been a relatively easy [technique] win for Shirov. But as usual around move 30, Shirov decided to go for some head-spinning complications. (Whether this was brilliant or not will be determined later in analysis.) Then Alex played 36.Qd2!? It looked good, but the boys at the London Chess Center (LCC) said that f6! was much stronger - and for a change, they were correct. But still Qd2 looked like a reasonable winning attempt. Paco met Qd2 with Qc8?, (??) when now Shirov had a relatively easy win with 37.Ra5!, which I spotted almost right away. (The idea is that if 37e6?; or 37Bf3; then 38.f6! wins the house.) Anyway Shirov played 37.Rb6?, (??); after which White lost his f-Pawn and Black anchored his Bishop on d5 with e6. After this, Shirov was really fortunate and had to work hard just to ensure that he received his half-point! (All these events make me wonder if Alexei has recovered from the setbacks and losses in previous rounds. I certainly hope that he is not still dwelling on these reversals, but Shirov has always been a very brilliant, but somewhat moody player. You have to learn put these things behind you ... and concentrate on the task at hand!) 

***

The next contest we will talk about was the exciting game between  T. Radjabov  and  V. Topalov.  This was an extremely exciting game. After a double-QP opening, we quickly reached a gambit line of the Catalan.

White did not appear to know what he was doing, Radjabovs handling of the opening elicited much criticism from the titled players on ICC. (Especially the move, Bf4!?) Soon White was two Pawns down and many of the pundits were predicting an easy win for Topalov. However, Radjabov broke through in the center, and with Topalov still not castled, it soon became apparent that Black might have real problems. In the end Topalov had to return the material, excellent moves like g6!; and d4!; virtually cinched the draw. (The game was agreed drawn in 23 moves. The decision was completely justified, all of the Queen-side Pawns were coming off.)

***

The final game we will discuss was the game between tournament leader  P. Leko,  and the  World Champion Vladimir Kramnik.  (I predicted a 10-move draw.) 

Once again, we saw an open Sicilian. In this tournament, this means we are probably going down into the vortex of complications that arise from the Sveshnikov Variation, and this is exactly what transpired. Leko played a positional line, and soon he was just a Pawn up, but Black had lots of pressure and play for the button. Most of the pundits myself included! were already predicting that the smile, the split point, the handshake, and the scoresheet-signing ceremony were not far off. This time, I could not have been more incorrect!  ("A thousand yards off," as one fan put it!)  

The key position arose around move thirty-one. (Whether or not Leko had chosen the correct plan leading to this position is anyones guess!) Anyway, in the key position, Leko was a clear pawn up, but Black still had nagging pressure and some attacking chances on the King-side. (I thought White should play 31.Rd6, or 31.Qg4. Maybe the safest move for White was to move his King 31.Kh1 seemed like a wise precaution.) Instead, Leko played the very ugly 31.Qh3?!  (?)  (Perhaps Leko was hoping that Kramnik would force the draw by a perpetual attack on his Queen with the Black Rook? If so, he certainly miscalculated! The boys at LCC were extremely critical of this move.) Instead, Kramnik played 31Qg6! (A logical move.) The rotten move of Qh3?! had already thrown away any advantage that Leko might have had, but now he blundered with the horrible  32.Rad7?  (Maybe - '??')  Kramnik immediately hit him with  32Rh5!  White responded with  33.R/7-d6!?  (This might not be best it is hard to say. Maybe nothing would save Lekos game now, anyway.) Kramnik responded to the Rd6 idea with the move,  33Bf6. Of course Leko had to try  34.Rxf6,  but then Kramnik surprised the Hungarian star with the bolt,  34Qc2!!  (This is almost certainly the move Leko must have missed during his calculations before playing Qh3.) After the volley to c2, Leko tried  35.QxR/h5,  to which Kramnik simply played 35QxB/e2; (!) threatening both the White Rook on d1 and a checkmate on the g2-square. Peter Leko tried his last rather desperate trick,  36.g4!?  At this point the boys of LCC were practically screaming and suggesting this move or that move. Kramnik (instead) calmly plays  36Qf2+!;  and after this shot, it was time for poor Peter Leko to resign. A great game by both players, but I am not sure if I can stand this much excitement on a daily basis!! This result also has a tremendous impact on the leader board, suddenly Leko drops back a notch - and GM Vladimir Kramnik is the new tournament leader! An outstanding result!! Bravo!  [ more ]  

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 Round  # 12:    (Wednesday, March 03rd, 2003.)  (GM Alex Shirov has the bye today.) 

(1015 hours)  First off, I wanted to apologize for the late posting, it has been a hectic day. Just about everything that could happen did. (The baby got sick, a neighbor moved in, you name it, it probably happened today.) ChessBase was also very, VERY late with their story; the last time I checked, they had NOT posted the games for round twelve. (Which means I have played through the games several times on ICC. But I won't save or copy the games from ICC, they have had incorrect game score far too many times. I then had to go to the home page for Linares, then find the chess section, hunt for the section on the current Linares tournament, {not the archives}; and then find the page where they give the current games.  {Consulte las PARTIDAS ANTERIORES}  THEN ... I had to copy the games down by hand - actually this was kind of fun. My 7-year-old daughter called out the moves, and I wrote them down. Then I go to yet another website, verify the game scores by playing through the text scores. Now the fun really begins ... I get to enter the games - by hand - into ChessBase 8.0; and then I check them twice.) All this will help you to appreciate what I say when I tell you that it has been a weird day - and a very busy one! As usual, I watched all the games on ICC, and listened to the radio show. 
{ I tried the coverage on the "Play-Chess" server several times, I found it to be kinda lame. I want experts - titled players - to talk about the games. Check out chess.fm. } 

***

The first game we will discuss is the game between  V. Topalov  and  P. Leko. White opened with the rather passive and tame 3.Nc3. (I guess this is the move you play now if you don't have the ___s to face the Open Sicilian.) Play developed pretty sharply, at least for this variation. There followed quite a bit of maneuvering, I felt that Leko was slowing outplaying his opponent with the Black pieces. Both players used a bit of time. Then suddenly - the dreaded handshake at move 21 ... the game is drawn. (I felt Black had every reason to continue, but maybe he was still smarting from the spanking he received yesterday at the hands of World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik. Too bad.) 

***

The next game we will talk about is the highly anticipated encounter between  Garry Kasparov,  and the man who took his title away,  Vladimir Kramnik.  Kramnik was White, so Garry really had his work cut out for him if he wanted to win today. (BUT! ... It is not impossible to win with Black, as VK proved yesterday against Leko.) The champ opened with 1.d4, which is the opening he seems to favor in all of his key games. Garry - as he did in his last game with Fritz_X3D - played the Queen's Gambit Accepted. Kramnik was equally suave, playing his favorite line, d4xc5 ... the line he has tortured both humans and computers with. (See Kramnik and his match with the computer program, Deep_Fritz.) Anyway the Queens came off, and Garry lost his castling privileges. (Many people have lost to Kramnik in this line ... it is NOT as tame as it looks!! And Garry was quickly using up nearly all of his time on the clock as well - part of it was probably spent trying to recall his home analysis.) Most masters were predicting a win for Kramnik, as he has squeezed too many good players in the past from this position. But Garry came up with a TN, instead of the expected ...Ra7; he sacrificed. But he did not sack material, instead he allowed is structure to be broken up. (I thought Garry had lost it, the isolated QBP looked doomed for sure.) But all of a sudden, its over ... they shake hands, and the game is drawn. (At first, I thought Kramnik wimped out. But every time I played it out on my computer, Black got the advantage. Maybe Kramnik is not so dumb.) 

In all reality both players probably think they benefited from a draw. Kramnik drew against Garry ... without expending nearly as much energy as he must have used last time. (In his game where Kramnik played the Black pieces.) And of course Garry did not lose with the Black pieces, which would have virtually iced the tournament win for his opponent. Garry must be hoping he can win one of his last two games and tie for first place.  Maybe. 

***

I have saved the best for last. Of course I am talking about the very exciting contest between  Francisco Vallejo-Pons  and young  GM Teimour Radjabov. (The only decisive game of the round.)  It seems both players thought that this might be their last opportunity to pick up a point, Pons told fans at the site that he would not finish the tournament in last place. It shaped up to be an exciting game ... and it was!! 

Pons opened with 1.e4, of course he had to know that Rady would use his favorite line of the Sicilian. (The Sveshnikov System, I have many books on this line ... and I still do not understand most of the games that have been played in this event with this opening variation!!) Anyway, we reached the well-known system with 9.BxN/f6, gxf6;  10.Nd5. Play went down the same channels as we have already seen before, White plays Qf3!?, and Black plays the incredibly bold - and seemingly risky - pawn sacrifice that begins with the move, 15...d5!??!!  It was also obvious that Pons probably had something special prepared in this line. One photo that I saw on the Internet from just before this contest started - Pons clearly has a look of excitement on his face. (He needs to study Spassky. Bobby Fischer once said you never knew from Spassky's poker face whether the move he just played was a blunder ... or a brilliant sacrifice!!)  {Something to consider.} 

Radjabov used 18...Qd7!? here, I think I prefer the move he used against Leko. 

At one point, (in the late opening); Pons declined a repetition of moves, much to the relief of all the fans and spectators, I am sure. (Just after Pons declined the repetition, I predicted on ICC that Radjabov would win. This was based not on any real chess factors, just a gut feeling ... and a belief in Rady's ability and fighting spirit.) Instead Pons popped out Qh4, there soon followed 26.BxP+ and then 27.Qb4!  (One commentator remarked that from the look on Pons face - and the speed with which he played Qb4, that this was obviously prepared in advance. The boys in the London Chess Center were all screaming that EVERY move that Rady could play would definitely lose!! {I was literally sweating now!} Every move, except one ... of course!)  Radjabov calmly played practically the only move at his disposal - that did not lose the game, (...Bb7); and it did indeed appear that Black was in DEEP 'kim-chee.' (ALL the titled players on ICC I saw were saying stuff like: "This game is over," and "Black is clearly lost." Stuff like that.)  

But then a minor miracle happened ... or maybe we were still in Radjabov's deep opening preparation. Anyway, Black slowly began un-tangling his pieces, after about 10-15 moves ... not only did it seem that Black was OK, he might even be better. (According to Professor Shredder, anyway.) Then Black played the shot,  34...Bxg2!!  Some titled players (on ICC, again) were saying that this lost, (for Black); I had no idea, as the battery on my lap-top had suddenly run out of juice. White could play Kxg2, but Black would then respond with a Queen check and win White's Bishop. BUT WAIT!!! The guys on ICC were saying that this loses to Qd8+, picking off Black's Rook! Had Radjabov indeed BLUNDERED?? Heck no! Looking a little further into the position, after Qd8+, Black calmly plays ...Kg7. And after White captures Black's Rook, Black plays the wicked repartee of ...Qf3+. (!) White's ONLY legal move is to play Kg1, after which Black plays ...QxP/e3+; forking and winning White's Rook - which he will pick off ... WITH CHECK!  (And the White b-pawn will then fall with check as well.)  At this point, I got up and walked outside for a minute or two. For some reason, this felt like a tournament game that I was {personally}  playing  ...  I could hear the blood pounding away in my ears! Too much!! 

Anyway, all the above commentary was un-necessary ... Pons never captured the Black Bishop on g2, but instead slyly slid his Queen over one square. (White obviously wanted to meet ...Qg5! with Qg3!) Eventually the Queens were exchanged, and I thought that White might be a little better. (Outside passed pawn for the ending. A  K+P  endgame is a relatively simple win for White, but only IF he makes it that far.) After the Queen swap, I thought White would surely enter the R+P endgame ... and we would be one step closer to that dog-gone, dreaded draw. But such was not to be. I guess both players were going for the win. The K+B+R ending looked fairly balanced ... White even won the Black a-Pawn back. (eventually) But when Black won White's e-pawn ... and got two, connected, passed-pawns rolling up the center ... supported by Black's Bishop and Rook; all of a sudden they began to say that ... BLACK WAS WINNING!  {I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming at this point.}  But it turned out to be true. Black's f-pawn was clearly unstoppable ... earlier it had advanced with ...f5!!; and promptly turned the tide of the game. What an incredible and fantastic fighting game. Both players surely deserve a bonus for this game ... it is the only game that has lasted into the THIRD time control!! 

***

After the two earlier draws, the round looked like a complete wash-out. (From the chess fan's point of view.) But thanks to Pons and Rady, I had all the fun I could stand!  [ more

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  Round Thirteen (# 13):    (Thursday; March 04th, 2004.)  (Kramnik had the bye.) 

Two of the games today were extremely hard fought. We had some interesting games. 

***

Before I go any further, let me briefly tell you a story. Years ago, (circa late 80's or early 1990's); I was on a roll ... I had gone more than 50 games without a loss. Then I went to a big tournament up on the east coast somewhere. I distinctly remember the game, it caused a crisis in confidence that lasted a very long time. I was Black, my opponent captured my c-pawn ... and eventually held on the button and beat me with it. I showed the game to a titled player, he looked at it less than 5 minutes. His response was: "When White captured your QBP, that was a mistake. Those doubled and isolated pawns should be nearly worthless, you should win the Pawn back  ...  and have the advantage!" 
(Needless to say, this was an extremely superficial judgment, I studied the game for months and never found a way to clearly improve. But bear with me just a little longer!) 

***

The first round we shall talk about was probably the least interesting game of the day. I am talking about the encounter with Peter Leko as White, against Vallejo-Pons. Peter opened the game with 1.P-K4, and a Najdorf Sicilian soon followed. We saw a repeat of the variation we have already seen several times. (Be3, e5;  Nb3, Be7; f3, Be6; etc.)  White castled Q-side, as did Kramnik in one of his victories. Pons struck back almost immediately with ...a5!; threatening to advance and bust up the squares around White's King. (This seemed to be a big improvement in the whole handling of the line for Black.) White's play now looked strange to me, I think Leko lost the thread of the game ... he began to lose a great deal of time. (Q-d2-e2, Be3-g5xf6, B-b5-a4, etc.) Then when White played Nd5, I just felt this was the wrong approach here. Anyway, when the draw was agreed upon at move 19, it was very clear that Black stood better. (At least by a small margin. The titled players on ICC were all saying that they would prefer to be Black from this position!!) AND Pons had a huge advantage on the clock. (Close to an hour, maybe a little more.) Under such conditions, I see no reason at all to take the draw! Pons had virtually everything to gain and almost nothing to lose here! Why not play on? 

*** 

The next game to be discussed is the unbelievable fighting game between Kasparov and Topalov. It started off as a fairly normal Ruy Lopez, I think Topalov wanted to play a Marshall Gambit, but Garry did not allow it. It turned into a standard kind of Ruy with Black working hard to activate his pieces, concentrating mostly on the Queen-side, and White continued to mass his pieces on the King-side ... for the almost inevitable attack that was to {surely} come. (This is a standard strategy ... almost every KP-player knows this.) 

Suddenly Black played ...h6; attacking White's Knight on g5 ... Garry responded with the salvo of the unreal move 22.Nh5!?!!?! (Was this sound? You got me, I haven't a clue - the commentator on chess.fm was completely perplexed as well ... at least judging from his comments.) Anyway, Topalov did not take the Knight, but instead retreated his Bishop. More complications ensued ... they were all of the most mind-boggling kind ... and judging from the comments on ICC, I wasn't the only person who was not really sure of what was going on. Anyway, at one point - the critical move was clearly 24...Bxh4; but Topalov did not play this move. (He instead chose to try and block White out of the K-side with ...g6!?)  More wood went flying in all directions ... and suddenly it looked like Garry found a way in. But it was only good for a perpetual check!!! Certainly one of the most wild and hair-raising games I have ever watched. And to be honest, most of the time I did not have a clue as to what the correct move should be. I feel almost certain that this is a game the analysts will work on for many, many years to come.  (Myself included!)  

I did take the trouble to set up the key position on my computer ... and let DR. FRITZ have a whack at it. I went through it several times. One thing I can tell you is that neither side, ESPECIALLY Kasparov!, missed any  EASY  wins ... certainly not of the type that the computer could spot in 2-3 minutes per move. I have always fancied myself a tactical player ... but today I saw some really incredible stuff. Now I know how the average spectator in the crowd must have felt shortly after the creation of ... ... ...  
THE IMMORTAL GAME!   (My version of this classic game.)  

***

The last game I want to discuss was the clash between young Teimour Radjabov and Alexei Shirov. the game was a Grunfeld Defense, with 4.Bg4. (The Taimanov Variation, I believe.) Anyway the opening was a fairly tame thing, it should have resulted in easy equality for Black. But I think a draw was the last thing on Shirov's mind, he played chess like a man who was determined to win. 

On move 12, Black played the pawn thrust ...e5. ('!?/?!') My own opinion of this move is that it left the c-pawn hanging one move too long. Radjabov fearlessly played 13.d4xc5! And it was truly incredible to hear all the terrible things said about this move on the Internet. But Radjabov developed, covered all his weak squares, kept his King in the center, and also managed to KEEP the c-pawn. (I wrote down like the first 20-25 moves, and went through them with the aid of Professor Shredder. It never found any easy tactic for Black to equalize. Remember the game I told you about? Talk about deja-vu!) 

Poor Shirov wiggled, struggled and played as inventively as about any human I have ever seen; but it was all in vain. Soon Alex sacrificed an exchange, and the "experts" all predicted that Shirov had very good counterplay. ("More than enough to draw," said one GM on ICC.) Of course not of them was playing the young tiger from Baku! White found the creative and very inspired defense of e5!+, driving back the Black King. After this Black was slowly pushed back. In a game that took a seeming eternity ... 78 moves!!! ... Radjabov finally gathered in all of Black's King-side pawns ... and the full point.  [ more

I just want to say a few words about Radjabov. From the spectators point of view, his games were often the most interesting to watch. (Win or lose!) He also played the most moves, and continued to struggle when the other contestants in this event were content to do the easy 25 moves and handshake routine.  
  Three cheers for Radjabov!!  Bravo!    

 *** 

Addendum:  I already had the basic outline of what I was going to say written down ... it just needed some polishing. (I took a break and went to chess club tonight, when I got home - I picked up where I left off.)  I checked my e-mail just before posting, and it was good that I did. It seems that Kasparov DID miss a win.  IM Larry Kaufman  found 32.Ne4+!!, (winning); even before the game was over. (Apparently this was announced on one radio show and also on several chess servers.) But I am not really that surprised. 

Let me explain. As I said earlier ... I already went through the games, albeit very briefly. The first pass, I was running (an earlier version of) Fritz, (6.0); with about 75 MB on the hash-table. And I did this on purpose. I wanted to see if there was any easy mate in two or three, or some simple tactical shot that either player missed. I didn't find anything. 

I did not "dumb down" the computer, nor was I trying to mislead. But I watched this whole game, from start to finish. Garry only had about 3-4 minutes to play his last 10-15 moves before the time control. I don't think there was much of a chance that Garry could have found this line. I played through the analysis that my {former} student sent me. (It also contained several mistakes, but I am not surprised; it was apparently done in a very big hurry.) I spent at least an hour looking at this analysis, and I got so curious that I fired up Fritz 8.0, set the hash-table as high as my memory would allow ... and went to work. About 90 minutes later, I could almost guarantee that Garry had indeed missed a line that would almost definitely won the game for him. (I will save the line for game analysis, besides - I am still not through with it.) But do the math. Let's just suppose my student worked on it at least an hour with the help of a couple of friends and the program, ChessMaster 9000. I worked on it at least an hour before deciding to fire up my own analysis engine. I then worked another 1-2 hours before deciding that I had seen enough. (It is now past 0200 hours, Friday; March 05, 2004.) That works out to at least four hours of analysis ... much of it computer aided. And Garry is supposed to see all of this with less than five minutes on his clock??? GIVE ME A BREAK!!! Of course, I have been saying throughout this whole tournament that ALL of the players time usage makes absolutely no sense to me. They often seem to use up almost all of their time before move twenty-five, (25); leaving no time for the big "crunch-time" when they need it. 

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  Round 14,    (Friday; March 05th, 2004):   (GM Teimour Radjabov had the bye.)  

The games were:  Shirov - LekoTopalov - Kramnik;  and  Kasparov - Pons

 *** 

Before I get to the games, I want to take a note of something. At one time we had the very unique situation of two games with the identical position on the boards, at least for the first ten or fifteen moves. (In the first two games mentioned above.) This was rather odd, and has very few parallels in chess history. Was it arranged, or accidental? (funny/odd) 

***

The first game that we shall dispense with was the encounter between Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik. Both players moved with great speed ... causing one commentator to wonder if this result was pre-arranged. (Maybe, maybe not. I cannot say for sure.) Anyway, both players did move with a great deal of speed, 20 moves were bashed out at an incredible rate. I guess both players had appointments, or wanted to be somewhere else - as they decided to call it a day and head for the bar. It was too bad, the position on the board was one that was incredibly interesting. White was a pawn down, but had a tremendous amount of play. But the players agreed to a draw, anyway. 

Maybe Topalov did not want to lose to Kramnik, and Kramnik did not want to risk anything if he did not have to. While this is a fact of modern-day, top-flight tournament life, it was and is deplorable. As interesting as the final position was, Topalov should have played it out. I don't think the way this game was played can gain the respect of anyone. (opinion) 

 *** 

The next game between Alexei Shirov and Peter Leko was actually interesting for quite a while. Shirov seemed to be making a real effort to win. (As noted above, the position for the first 10-to-15 moves was exactly the same as the one on board between Topalov and Kramnik. This led many to speculate that the entire last round had been pre-arranged.) 

At one point, it even looked like Shirov had something tangible, maybe he would drum up a nasty attack against Peter Leko's slightly weakened King-side. But Leko still has the right stuff, he defended neatly and forced an exchange of Queens. Once the position of 2 Rooks, 1 Bishop, and Pawns and Kings had been reached ... Leko had nothing to fear. So the draw was quickly agreed to. (It has not been a great event for Alexei Shirov.) 

 *** 

As usual, I have saved the best for last. Of course, I am talking about the amazing contest between GM F. Vallejo-Pons (as White), and GM Garry Kasparov as Black. Garry wanted to win ... very badly ... as if he could pull it off, he would manage a tie for first. 

Pons had not come unprepared, and he was courageous enough to open with the KP. (And thus allow Garry's favorite opening system, The Najdorf Sicilian.) But first we had a small and curious detour, White played Ne2 on the second move. (I thought for a while we might see the "Chameleon Sicilian," as I have a book on this system.) But Garry had come loaded for bear, he was not going to let anything deter him. After a feint, Pons must have decided that d4 was the only way to go, and thus we had transposed back into the main lines of the Open Sicilian. Naturally Garry would respond with his beloved Najdorf. 

Once more we saw the system with an early f3 and Be3, albeit by transposition. Pons did not back away from a fight, but played the sharpest lines that begin with 9.g4. (The English Attack against the Sicilian.) This was - as far as I know - the first time that this particular line, (with 9.g4); had been played in this tournament. (Usually the players have been playing Qd2 here.)  A critical move came when Garry bravely, (some said it was risky); decided to play 22...a5!?. ('!') [ At this point it was clear to me that White had played the opening somewhat inaccurately, and allowed Black to seize the initiative. ] The game quickly developed into a VERY nasty attack on White's King, many of the on-line (titled) players on ICC very confidently predicted that Pons was going down. (To be honest, I thought so too.) Pons mystified everyone by playing 27.Rg4, ('?!') I have no idea what this move did. It truly looked as if Garry would smash through and win easily. 

Garry did succeed in busting through and breaking up the pawn shield around White's King. Pons then - once again - shocked everyone by daring to capture a pawn on b2. (I really thought this was a blunder!!)  But it appeared that the Spanish player had worked out a very deep line of defense ... that involved marching his King all the way across the board. The first time control was reached ... and Garry still appeared to have an incredibly strong attack. And it was amazing to hear the on-line 'experts' and all the pundits claim win after win for Garry, only to check them on the computer, and discover that they simply did not pan out. (But I was having fun kibitzing and suggesting ideas as well. Incredible chaos. But a tremendous amount of fun as well.) 

I think the key position came on move forty-four.  (44.)  Garry could play his Queen to a3, to a6, (or several other squares); he could even play  44...b4-b3!?  Garry decided not to play any of these moves, preferring instead to play ...Bg3. (I think Garry was angling for a possibly won endgame ... all of White's King-side Pawns WERE fixed on the same color square-complex as Garry's Bishop.) But this apparently blew all of Black's advantage, the computer immediately noticed the change in this position. (Suddenly Fritz liked White for the first time in a long time.) White might have still lost the game - but Pons proved that he belongs at this level and each time found the absolutely best move for White. In the end, Garry was actually struggling to make the draw. Garry found a few cute ideas like ...h6!?, ...d5!; and it soon became obvious the game was drawn. Just about the time I made this realization, the game was over - it was set to a draw. And Linares had drawn to a close. 

*******

So ... THE WINNER IS: GM Vladimir Kramnik. (gulp)  [ His final score was 'PLUS-TWO' or a total of 7.0 points out of a possible 12. ]  And to be honest, he deserves this victory. He was never in any real trouble, he seemed to know when to press for the win, and when to conserve his energy and wait for another day. He also had to defend several times - especially when he faced ... "The Lion of Baku." Kasparov (at 'plus-one') took second place on tie-break over Peter Leko. A truly amazing event. 
  [ more ]   

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The most exciting player of this event had to be Radjabov. He played tough, gritty, fighting chess. He took almost no quick or easy draws. Usually, his games were the only ones of any round to provide any entertainment to the many spectators. And he will get better! 

Garry Kasparov played exciting chess, and but for a bit of luck, this could have been yet another story of a world-class tournament which Kasparov took by storm. But he could not quite close the deal at this tournament, me missed several wins. (Rust?) 

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  (More Linares stuff goes here.) 


ALL the games are now available as a  download  from my web site
(Thanks to several offers, I have decided to offer the full version of this file for sale.) 

A few of the games are already annotated!  It has been a real experience. 
Some games have been deadly, boring draws; but some have been fighting 
chess of the highest caliber. 

SOON  ... I will also have a separate page where I will discuss the theory of Linares. 
I.e., I will be talking about how the games of Linares will wind up affecting opening theory. Many opening lines - like the Sveshnikov Sicilian - have already received quite a workout in this tournament. This is one area many people ignore, but many of these games will be discussed  - and be the subject of theoretical debate - for maybe years to come. 


Click  here  to return to my  "Chess News"  page. 

Click  here  to go to (or return to) my  Home Page  for this site. 

Click  here  to see all of ChessBase's reports on Linares, 2004.  


   Copyright  (c)  A.J. Goldsby I   

  Copyright () A.J. Goldsby, 1995 - 2008. 
  Copyright   A.J. Goldsby, 2009.  All rights reserved. 

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  This page was last updated on 07/14/12 .  


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