Melody Amber, Round 5
First, there's the Anand exhibition: his lead over the field is now 2.5 points.
Second, there's a nice battle for second, as Svidler, Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich, Gelfand and Kramnik are all within a point and a half of each other.
And third, there's a battle to avoid the cellar, with Shirov, Vallejo, van Wely, Bareev and Topalov within a mere half-point range.
Maybe the three mini-events will reintegrate into one. This might happen, I think, if the participants can maintain the sort of blunder-free chess we saw today. In my view, today's round was the cleanest of the tournament - let's hope it continues.
There are a number of games from this round worth examining (you can replay them online here), but I'm going to focus on the big game alluded to above: Vallejo's utter demolition - with Black, no less! - of Kramnik in their blindfold game. This is powerful stuff:
Kramnik,V (2754) - Vallejo Pons,F (2686) [B32]
Amber Blindfold Monte Carlo MNC (5), 24.03.2005
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 a6 This is a very old-fashioned line called the Lowenthal Variation. Black gives up the two bishops and a seemingly monster hole on d5 in return for active play and some tactical shots. It's generally believed that the tactics work out in White's favor, though, so the line has slipped into relative obscurity. (But maybe not after this game!) 6.Nd6+ Bxd6 7.Qxd6 Qf6 8.Qd1 Qg6 9.Nc3 Nge7 [9...d5 is a very tricky line, but the consensus is that White has the advantage with correct play.] 10.h4 h5 11.Rh3 [11.Bg5 is both the most common and best-scoring move, but whether Kramnik had a concrete worry about this move or was instead particularly optimistic about the move he chose is beyond my knowledge. In any case, this variation may continue like this: 11...d5 12.exd5 Nb4 13.Bxe7 Kxe7 14.Bd3 Nxd3+ 15.Qxd3 Qxd3 16.cxd3 Nunn's Chess Openings stops here and claims a slight edge for White. That seems plausible, as White's extra pawn isn't particularly impressive and Black's bishop looks like it could become the better minor piece; however, White's score in this position is +13 -1 = 5, according to my main database, so perhaps the true evaluation is more in White's favor.] 11...d5 If you've ever wondered what exactly the initiative is and what it looks like, this game is a marvelous demonstration of that phenomenon. At the heart of the idea is the ability to make threats, to dictate the direction in which the game will go, and that's exactly what we're about to see. Move after move, Vallejo threatens something new until Kramnik's position implodes. So far, though, this is just book, and it's a good read for Black, who has scored 59% in 22 games from this position. 12.Rg3 Bg4 13.f3 dxe4 14.fxg4 [14.Nxe4 has also been played before and looks like a more solid choice, though Black is doing well after 14...Rd8 15.Bd3 f5 16.Ng5 e4 17.fxg4 hxg4 18.Nxe4 fxe4 19.Rxg4 and now not 19...Qxd6, as in Geller-Bronstein, Kislovodsk 1968, but 19...Rxh4! (19...Qd6 20.Rxe4 Qg3+ 21.Kd2 0-0 22.Kc3 Nd5+ 23.Kb3 Na5+ 24.Ka3 b5 25.Qg4 Qc7 26.Bd2 Nf6 27.Qe6+ Kh8 28.Qe7 Qb6 29.Re6 Qd4 30.Qb4 Nc4+ 31.Bxc4 a5 32.Qxb5 Qxd2 33.Rf1 Rb8 34.Rfxf6 Rxb5 35.Rxf8+ Kh7 36.Bd3+ g6 37.Re7+ 1-0 Geller,E-Bronstein,D/Kislovodsk 1968/MCD) 20.Rxg6 Rh1+ 21.Kf2 Rxd1 22.Bxe4 Nxg6 23.Bxg6+ Kf8 with a clear advantage for Black in the endgame.] 14...Rd8 15.Bd2 f5
At the moment, Black has just one pawn for the piece. But look at the position! Black's threatening 16...hxg4, and if 16.g5 then 16...f4 followed by 17...e3 regains the piece with interest. Black has more space and better development, too, so White's position is precarious. I think this is White's last chance to change the trend, and ironically, it's the most that was played the first time this position occurred in a game: 16.Qc1! That gets the queen off the d-file (no more ...e3 to worry about) and prepares to meet ...f4 with Bxf4! There, White's got a chance; after the move in the game, it's a hurricane. 16.Re3 [16.Qc1 Rf8 (16...f4 17.Bxf4 exf4 18.Qxf4 Nb4 19.Rc1 hxg4 is unclear and might be a critical position for those interested in playing this line with either color.) 17.Bg5 f4 18.gxh5 Qf5 19.Rh3 f3 20.Kf2 Nd4 21.g4 Qxg4 22.Rg3 Qe6 23.Nxe4 Rc8 24.Bd3 Nef5 25.Qd2 Qb6 26.Be3 Qxb2 27.Qc1 Qb4 28.Rb1 Qa4 29.Rxb7 Qc6 30.Rgxg7 Nxc2 31.Bc5 Nb4 32.Rxb4 Nxg7 33.Qg5 Qe6 34.Bc4 1-0 Lenchiner,I-Nikolaevsky,Y/Kiev 1958/EXT 2003; 16.g5 f4 17.Rh3 Nb4 18.Na4 Ned5 19.Rb3 Ne3 20.Bxb4 Rxd1+ 21.Rxd1 Nxd1 22.Kxd1 Qc6 23.Nc3 Kf7 24.Ba5 Rc8 25.Kc1 e3 26.Rb6 Qd7 27.Ne4 Rxc2+ 28.Kxc2 Qa4+ 29.Kc1 Qxe4 30.Be2 Qxg2 31.Bxh5+ Ke7 32.Rb3 Qh1+ 33.Kc2 Qe4+ 34.Kc1 f3 35.Rc3 e2 36.Rxf3 e1Q+ 37.Bxe1 Qxe1+ 38.Kc2 Qxh4 39.Bg6 Qxg5 40.Be4 b5 41.a3 Qg1 42.Kb3 Qd4 0-1 Sherzer,A-Slavov,D/Thessaloniki 1988/EXT 2002] 16...hxg4 Two pawns for the piece. 17.Kf2 Rxh4 Three pawns for the piece. 18.Rc1 Qd6 Threatening to take the Bd2. 19.Ke1 Rh1 Threatening to take on f1 and then on d2. 20.Qe2 Nd4 Threatening the queen. 21.Qf2 f4 Threatening 21...fxe3 and 21...g3, for starters. 22.Nxe4 Qg6 Still threatening ...fxe3 and ...g3, but we can add to this a threat to the Ne4 if the rook leaves the e-file, plus a potential threat to c2. To give you an idea of just how horrible White's position is, the best Shredder 9 can come up with here are moves like 23.c4, 23.c3 and 23.b3; in other words, all White can do is wait for the axe to fall. 23.Ng3 There's nothing wrong with 23...fxe3 now (though it's not nearly as strong), and 23...Nxc2+ is completely devastating. But Black's move is great too, and it keeps the threat parade marching. 23...fxg3 Threatening the queen and ...Nxc2+. 24.Rxg3 Qe4+ 25.Kd1 Nef5 Not just hitting the rook on g3, but the g3 square itself, as we'll see in a moment. 26.Rd3 g3
What a picture! It's only a blindfold game played at a rapid time limit, but it's still quite rare to see a world champion lose such a one-sided tournament game - especially with White! A strange opening choice by Kramnik, but a fine win for Vallejo! [26...g3 27.Qe1 (27.Rxg3 Nxg3 28.Qxg3 Qe2#) 27...Qg4+ is terminal.] 0-1
Round 5 summary:
van Wely-Leko 1/2-1/2
Leko-van Wely 1/2-1/2
Ivanchuk, Leko, Kramnik, Morozevich 3
Vallejo, van Wely 2
Bareev, Topalov 1
Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich, Svidler 3
Bareev, Kramnik, Shirov, Topalov 2
Vallejo, van Wely 1.5
Ivanchuk, Leko, Morozevich 6
Gelfand, Kramnik 5
Shirov, Vallejo, van Wely 3.5
Bareev, Topalov 3