Kramnik vs Leko Mark Crowther Round 14 Report
Vladimir Kramnik in serious mood at the start of the final game. Photo © Mark Crowther
The final game of the Classical World Chess Championship had a simple equation for the players. Kramnik needed a win to tie the match and retain his title, Leko only a draw to become the new champion.
The players talk just before the prizegiving.
Vladimir Kramnik came out fighting playing a rare variation on the white side of the Caro Kann, made unique by a novelty on move 6. The players consumed similar amounts of time throughout the game and the tension just continued to rise. On move 15 Kramnik offered Leko the possibility to go into an endgame with a bad bishop which he accepted. Kramnik developed pressure on both sides of the board and then broke through to the 7th rank with his rook and then broke through with pawns and his king to force mate at the time of the 1st time control. The players shook hands and then Kramnik waved his fist in triumph.
Kramnik's relief and delight were obvious.
Huge crowds at the closing ceremony. Photo © Mark Crowther
At the closing ceremony he praised his opponent saying that right now he was a more difficult opponent than Garry Kasparov and that in fact the whole match had been more difficult for him than when he won in 2000. He expected a hard fight but he in particular praised Leko's astonishing defensive abilities. He said that he had required some luck to finally tie the match. Leko said he was disappointed but had learned much and at 25 he expects to challenge again.
Post match interview with his trophy on the right. Photo © Mark Crowther
Leko later gave a series of press interviews to the media. He of course was disappointed to come so close to winning the match. He pointed out he lost the first and last games of the match. The first game he probably tried to play to the crowd too much and he drew the lesson that you should play for yourself and the match strategy and the final game was very difficult psychologically with Kramnik having to hope for a win he had a clearer objective than Leko. He nevertheless believe he had given his maximum throughout the match.
Leko said that Kramnik was incredibly well prepared in the opening throughout the match. He thanked his seconds who he said worked "day and night". Nevertheless he thought that no-one even comes close to Kramnik in terms of preparation, its like a factory and so strong. It was impossible to get out of his preparation. He said he wasn't ready to play the Sveshnikov against Kramnik as he was likely to run into at least a months preparation. He however claimed that Kramnik was the only player in the World against whom he would have opening problems. Their strategy was not to fight him in the openings. He was determined to make himself mentally and physically fit.
He thought that game 11 was a turning point. He didn't understand he had the initiative in the match and should play on at that moment instead of giving a short draw.
Leko is confident that at 25 and having learned so much from the match that he will be back to try again. Kramnik also thought this at the closing ceremony. Both players admitted to be very tired and ready for a rest for some time. "I am very motivated but I need my rest" said Leko. He added that he had absolutely no physical problems during the match. Right now he feels disappointed and empty but that over the whole match 7-7 was the correct score although the champions advantage he understood and accepted but said it wasn't exactly fair.
Kramnik,V (2760) - Leko,P (2743) [B12]
Kramnik - Leko Brissago, Switzerland (14), 18.10.2004
1.e4 c6 A risky choice according to Leko but he only had a limited number of defences possible. 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h6 5.g4 Bd7 6.Nd2N
In a sharp position white finds an early prepared novelty. [ 6.h5 c5 7.c3 Nc6 8.Bh3 e6 9.Be3 Qb6 10.Qb3 cxd4 11.Qxb6 axb6 12.cxd4 Na5 13.Nc3 b5 14.Bf1 b4 15.Nb5 Kd8 16.Nf3 Nc4 17.Bxc4 dxc4 18.Nd6 Bxd6 19.exd6 Bc6 20.Ne5 Bxh1 21.Nxf7+ Ke8 22.Nxh8 Be4 23.d5 exd5 24.Bd4 Nf6 25.Kd2 Kd7 26.Nf7 Ke6 27.Ne5 Kxd6 28.f3 Bh7 29.g5 hxg5 30.h6 gxh6 31.Nf7+ Ke6 32.Nxh6 Ng8 33.Ng4 Bf5 34.Ne3 Bg6 35.Ng4 Bf5 36.Ne3 Bg6 37.Ng4 Kd6 38.Ne5 Bf5 39.Nf7+ Kd7 40.Nxg5 Ne7 41.f4 Nc6 42.Nf3 Kd6 0-1 Tal,M-Botvinnik,M/Moscow (Russia) 1961 (42)] 6...c5 7.dxc5 e6 8.Nb3 Bxc5 9.Nxc5 Qa5+ 10.c3 Qxc5 Black is perfectly OK here both Kramnik and Leko agreed on this after the game. 11.Nf3 Ne7 12.Bd3 Nbc6 13.Be3 Qa5 14.Qd2 Ng6 Looks solid. [ 14...d4 at a different stage in the match Leko would have played this dynamic move. Its unclear which is why Leko rejected it.; 14...0-0-0 also possible.] 15.Bd4! A nasty shock for Leko. He didn't take this possibility seriously before it was played and didn't seem in the spirit of Kramnik's play so far. The endgame is far from easy for Leko but should in the final analysis be OK. 15...Nxd4 16.cxd4 Qxd2+ 17.Kxd2 Nf4 18.Rac1 h5 Leko stood by this move after the game and that he should always play to the maximum rather than passive defence. He said that he had defended dynamically throughout the match and wasn't going to change now. [ 18...Nxd3 19.Kxd3 and grovelling defence but perhaps this was a better practical choice.] 19.Rhg1 Bc6 [ 19...Nh3! Leko.] 20.gxh5 Nxh5 21.b4 a6? 22.a4! Kd8 23.Ng5 Be8 24.b5 Nf4 [ 24...axb5 25.Bxb5 and black's position disintegrates. Leko missed this.] 25.b6
After the game Kramnik told Beat Zueger "I was happy when I played b6." 25...Nxd3 [ 25...f6 26.Nf3 Bh5 27.Rxg7 Bxf3 28.exf6] 26.Kxd3 Now black is definitely already in desperate trouble. Although Kramnik makes it look comparitavely easy he is very accurate in finishing the game. 26...Rc8 27.Rxc8+ Kxc8 28.Rc1+ Bc6 29.Nxf7 Rxh4 30.Nd6+ Kd8 31.Rg1 Rh3+ 32.Ke2 Ra3 33.Rxg7 Rxa4 34.f4!
Looks like a winner. Perhaps even after 31.Rg1 this could also be said. 34...Ra2+ 35.Kf3 Ra3+ 36.Kg4 Rd3? Computers start to say white is winning very clearly. 37.f5 Rxd4+ Now finally computers were saying the position was lost. 38.Kg5 exf5 39.Kf6 Rg4 40.Rc7 Rh4 A relieved Svidler let out a sigh of relief whispered to me that its mate in three. 41.Nf7+