Fifty years ago, opponents used to complain that the young Mikhail Tal’s “hypnotic” gaze added to the psychological pressure caused by his dynamite sacrifices. Hungarian-US GM Pal Benko took to wearing wraparounds when playing Tal. Tal was amused but the shades prompted complaints from others, who were distracted.
Vassily Ivanchuk is lucky his compatriots at the Tal Memorial emulated the late world champion when he landed up in a face-mask. They collectively collapsed in laughter. Tournament leader Vladimir Kramnik, who has +3,=4, has a cold and so does Magnus Carlsen. Ivanchuk, who shares second place with Anand (both 4.5) didn’t want to chance infection.
One feature of Kramnik’s sharp play here has been the exploitation of passed pawns in complex middle-games. Anand has been solid and near error-free. Ivanchuk has been hit-and-miss. With three rounds to go, any of them could win.
The only non-participant from the Top 5, is the world no:1 Veselin Topalov, whose next engagement is Linares (February 2010). Topalov may be saving his powder for the title match, scheduled for April in Sofia.
Topalov’s manager, Silvio Danailov came up with several one-liners in a telephonic interview to Gong, a Bulgarian newspaper, which released audio as well as text. Samples: “Topalov will rest on the Canary Islands while Anand rests on his laurels”. Also “Anand has no energy at his age and he wants to retain the world title” The 40-year-old Anand may disagree with conjectures about his suspect fitness but he will concur with this analysis of his sentiments.
Danailov also said “We expect that (-) Anand’s team will try to (-) insist on implausible conditions (—) just to make us nervous (the words “nervous” and “angry” are interchangeable in Russian and Bulgarian). There will surely be whims. But after Elista (the Toiletgate Match which Topalov lost to Kramnik), we are ready.” Given Danailov’s track record, the verbals will get more strident.
The diagram, WHITE TO PLAY, (Morozevich Vs Kramnik, Tal Memorial 2009) sees white spurn the simple 16. Nxd4 for the dubious 16.Ng5 f5 17.Qc4 Qc8! 18.Qxd4 Nc5 19.Rd1 Nb3 20.Qd3 Nc1 21.Qb5 Qc2! and black has deadly counter-play.
White counted on 22.Rxd5 but 22.— a6! 23.Qxb6 Qc4+ 24.Kg1 exd5 25.g3 h6 26.Nf3 f4 27.g4 Qe4 28.Kg2 Nd3 29.Qb3 saw black take over with material advantage and the more dangerous attack, which can be pushed through with 29. — Qe2 30. Qxd5+ Kh8 31. Rf1 Rac8.
Instead, Kramnik followed up 29.— Qc4!? 30.Qb7?. Now 30. Qd1! is better in practice though black wins with 30.--Rac8 31. Qd2 Qe4 32. Rd1 Nxf2! After 30. Qb7 Nxf2! 31.Kxf2 Qc2+ 32.Kg1 Qd1+ 33.Kf2 Qxh1, the attack crashes through (0-1, 45 moves).