Levon Aronyan and Vladimir Kramnik are playing an exhibition match at the Zurich chess club. Oddly, this is a record with two players rated above 2,800 in matchplay for the first time. Kramnik-Kasparov, Kramnik-Topalov, Anand-Kramnik and Anand-Topalov have all 2,800-plus players but never both at the time of a given match.
After four classical games, the match is tied, with one win each. Short draws within three hours are immediately followed by a rapid game. Aronyan leads 1-0 in rapids. It’s been highly entertaining with both playing adventurously. Meanwhile the Dubai Open ended in a five-way tie of Ni Hua, Jobava, Mcheidlishvili, Miezis and Chanda scoring 7 each.
Several GMs have given guarded predictions about the title match starting May 11. Anand is the hot favourite on paper with more match experience (two successful title defences), higher rating and better head-to-head. But Anand has also been in poor form, with his rating eroding from 2817 in September 2011 to 2799 at present. Boris Gelfand is a rock-solid technician, well-prepared, and nerveless.
In a poll by Chessbase, Kramnik noted that he expects Anand to play sharp tactics. He thinks Gelfand is somewhat similar in playing style to Kramnik himself and Anand won a title match against Kramnik decisively by sharp tactics. Karpov points out that Gelfand will be hungrier and Korchnoi expects a lot of opening surprises from both players. Kasparov said justly enough, that neither player could claim to be the strongest in the world. (Anand @ 2799 is no:4 and Gelfand @2727 is no:22).
The diagram, WHITE TO PLAY, (Kramnik Vs Aronian Zurich Challenge 2012) is the start of some fascinating tactics misplayed by both sides in time trouble. It’s a deceptive position with even the engines vacillating in assessment.
White played for 22.e5 dxc3! This looks good for black. After 23.exf6+ Qxf6, the natural 24. Ne4 Qe7 25. Bd1 d5 26. Nxc3 Qxe2 27. Nxe2 dxc4 recovers the piece. The engines say 25. Ncxd6 Rxb3 26. Nxc8 Rxc8 is equal. In practice, no human white would enjoy facing pressure down the b-file backing the passer.
Play continued 24.f4!? cxd2 25.fxg5 Qe6?! An inaccuracy. It allows the fantastic 26. Ne5! Rxb3 27. Rxf7+ Kg8 28. Rf6, which is about equal. Black had a better shot in 25. - Qe7!, avoiding the Bb3-Qe6 battery.
26.Qd1 Rxb3! 27.Qxb3 Ba6. White can’t return the exchange with 28. Nxa5 Qxb3 29. Nxb3 Bxf1 30. Rxf1 Be3 31. Rd1 Ra8 32. Nxd2 Rxa4 when the c-d passers win. Now black wrapped up with 28.Qf3 Bxc4 29.Qxc6 Bd4 30.Bg1 Bxa1 31.Rxa1 Re8 32.g6 Qf6 33.Qxc4 Re1 34.Kh2 Rxa1 35.Bd4 Rh1+! (0-1). After 36. Kxh1 d1=Q+ 37. Bg1 Qf2, it’s clear enough.
Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player