WCC 2006: FIDE Champ falls behind 2-0

Going into this long-awaited match, Bulgarian GM Veselin Topalov was heralded as the favorite. However, he finds himself down two games to Classical Champion, Russia's Vladimir Kramnik. The match-up is one of opposites: Topalov, a brash and bold player who takes chances and presses for victory at all costs…. Kramnik, a conservative layer known for his deep understanding, but cautious play.

In the first two games, Topalov has have the misfortunate of falling victim to his own zealousness. In the first game, he sacrificed a pawn for pressure and established good counterplay. On playchess.com,
GM Yasser Seirwan, felt that Topalov enjoyed the initiative and was surprised when he returned to find Topalov losing. Improbably, Topalov blundered a pawn with 57…f5?? and Kramnik soon wrapped up the victory.  There were thousands of fans viewing the game online and they were treated to a fantastic battle from start to finish! (See game with annotations by IM Malcolm Pein).

GM Veselin Topalov looking for answers.

GM Veselin Topalov looking for answers.
(Photo by ChessBase)

In the second game, Topalov commanded the white pieces and got a vicious attack on the black king. At a crucial point, Topalov had a chance to deliver a mating attack with 32.Rxg4+! but chose alternative 32.Qg6+? which allowed Kramnik to survive. A very interesting ending ensued as Topalov has two menacing  passed pawns steamrolling up the board. Kramnik played actively with his rook and has able to simplify the position. The game appeared to be headed for a draw when Topalov missed his last chance to split the point. It was clearly a crushing loss for the FIDE World Champion. (See game with annotations by GM Mihail Marin)

When asked about the game in the press conference, neither Kramnik nor Topalov stated saw the winning move 32.Rxg4+!  What is strange is how many fans are concluding by these two games that Kramnik has played superior chess which is simply not the case. He has certainly capitalized on uncharacteristic errors, but of course one can argue that it is part of match psychology. When asked if he would change his strategy, Topalov stated, "I won't make any changes. I play strongly, and get good positions, but one just has to convert them." Game three is tomorrow and Topalov needs to continue his energetic play. Kramnik on the other hand has to take care not to try and sit on a two point lead. One only points to
Fischer-Spassky and Kasparov-Karpov matches to understand why.

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Posted by The Chess Drum: 25 September 2006