Kramnik - Topalov Unification Match : Week 3

Monday October 16, 2006

The third and final week of the World Chess Championship Unification Match in Elista, Kalmykia, started with the score tied at four points each. Both players had won two games: GM Vladimir Kramnik of Russia had won the first two games; GM Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria had won the controversial fifth game by forfeit and the eighth game with the Black pieces. Four more games at standard time controls were scheduled for the final week, and in case of a 6-6 tie, a series of tiebreak games at increasingly faster times would decide the winner.

Topalov scored his second consecutive full point in the ninth game. Playing White, he uncorked a novelty on move 8 of a Slav Defense. Kramnik failed to find an adequate continuation, found himself in trouble by move 20, and resigned on his 39th move. Topalov took the lead for the first time in the match.

Topalov 5.0 - Kramnik 4.0 (+2+1F-2=4)

Topalov's lead was short lived. Kramnik achieved a strong position early in the game, which started as a Catalan Opening. Under pressure, but not yet lost, Topalov blundered on his 24th move and lost material. He held on for almost 20 more moves but resigned just after the second time control started.

Topalov 5.0 - Kramnik 5.0 (+2+1F-3=4)

In case anyone had forgotten that Kramnik was continuing the match under protest, his manager issued a new statement. Excerpts:

10 October 2006, Elista • Open Letter of Carsten Hensel • Having received innumerable published and unpublished inquiries I would like to clarify, in the name of Vladimir Kramnik and his team, our position in the decision taken by FIDE regarding the fifth game of the current World Championship match. • Consistent with this standpoint Vladimir Kramnik will be playing this match, including a possible tiebreak, up to the last move under protest. Should the decision of FIDE regarding the fifth game have any influence on the awarding of the World Championship title, with Mr Topalov receiving the title after being granted a free point for the unplayed game, Mr Kramnik declares unequivocally: "I will not recognize Mr Topalov as World Champion under these conditions, and I will take legal action against FIDE at the end of the World Championship." • On behalf of Vladimir Kramnik, Yours sincerely, Carsten Hensel (Manager to Vladimir Kramnik, Classical World Chess Champion)

After a rest day, the eleventh game was another Slav Defense. In the same position as in the ninth game, on White's eighth move, Topalov introduced a new move: same position, different novelty, different effect. This time Kramnik defended accurately while Topalov wobbled. The Russian eventually simplified into a Rook, Bishop, and Pawn endgame with opposite colored Bishops. The winning chances were few, but they were all his. He forced the Bulgarian to play until the draw was agreed on the 66th move.

Topalov 5.5 - Kramnik 5.5 (+2+1F-3=5)

With a tied match going into the final standard game, there were three possible outcomes. A Kramnik win would give him the unified title outright. A Topalov win would trigger Kramnik's threat of a lawsuit and send the match into legal limbo. A draw would delay the first two outcomes by one day.

After another rest day, Kramnik took the White pieces and played 1.d4. Topalov defended using the same opening system that Kramnik had played as Black in games nine and eleven. Where Topalov had introduced a novelty on White's eighth move in both games, Kramnik followed a popular continuation. The game became sharp and double-edged, both players attacking and defending simultaneously. Neither player could gain a decisive advantage and after a few cat-and-mouse moves, Topalov sacrificed a Rook to force a draw by perpetual check.

Topalov 6.0 - Kramnik 6.0 (+2+1F-3=6)

Tiebreak is an unusual event in World Chess Championship matches. Several previous matches had been played where the winner was the first player to win a certain number of games. Others had been played where the reigning World Champion kept the title in case of a drawn match. Kramnik had retained his title in a 2004 match against Peter Leko after the 14-game match finished with two wins each.

The unification match would not be decided this way.

The rules for tiebreak had been specified in the match regulations.

3.7 Tie-breaks

3.7.1 If the scores are level after the regular twelve (12) games, after a new drawing of colours, four (4) tie-break games shall be played. The games shall be played using the electronic clock starting with 25 minutes on the clock for each player with an addition of 10 seconds after each move.

3.7.2 If the scores are level after the games in paragraph 3. 7. 1, then, after a new drawing of colours, two (2) five-minute games shall be played with the addition of 10 seconds after each move.

3.7.3 If the score is still level, the players shall play a single decisive sudden death game. The player, who wins the drawing of lots, may choose the colour. White shall receive 6 minutes, black shall receive 5 minutes, without any addition. In case of a draw the player with the black pieces is declared as winner.

As fate would have it, the tiebreak games were scheduled to be played on Friday the 13th. Topalov had White in the first series of four rapidplay games. True to his aggressive style, he sacrificed a Pawn in the middle game. Kramnik found a tactical twist and the game simplified into a dead drawn Rook and Pawn endgame. Kramnik won the second game with the White pieces, but Topalov equalized the score by winning the third game, also with White.

Like the first three playoff games, the fourth was a Slav Defense. Kramnik jumped to an early lead in development and converted it to an extra Pawn. In a desperate situation, Topalov blundered, was about to lose a Rook, and resigned. After 13 years, the painful schism in the World Chess Championship was over. Vladimir Kramnik was the undisputed World Chess Champion. The man who had conquered the maverick World Champion Garry Kasparov in 2000, had now conquered the undisputed FIDE World Champion.


For more about the Unification Match, see our ChessChrono on the

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