Dortmund 2014 – Round 2

So Germany always wins. At least in football. And Kramnik doesn’t always win when two pawns up. This more or less sums up today’s day for me as I arrived in Struga for the Macedonian team championship that starts tomorrow.

I noticed that Kramnik’s treatment of the Trompowsky is very different from his usual approach to his black openings (which are very solid and classical). I remember his game with Morozevich from Astana 2001 when he won a classical game (which started with 1 d4 d5 2 Bg5) and that game is in big contrast to his games with Carlsen from the Tal Memorial 2013 and today’s game with Adams. In both these games he went for atypical, double-edged positions with unclear positional imbalances. He deviated from his game with Carlsen with 6…Bc5 and managed to outplay Adams in the complex middlegame. And when he won two pawns I thought he’d just wrap things up, in spite of Adams’s stubborn defence, after all Kramnik has won many less winning positions against the world’s best players. But the Kramnik machine (unlike the German) broke down and he failed to win. It puzzles me what factors are behind the bad play Kramnik showed in the second half of the Stavanger tournament and in the first game here in Dortmund, plus his far-from perfect technique against Adams (he did play well in the middlegame and early endgame to reach a winning position though!) After a disappointment, like the one in the Candidates in Khanty, it’s understandable that a player suffers a dip in form and this is probably a time when Kramnik is considering his future career as a chess player. These thoughts are probably always in the back of his head and prevent him from concentrating fully – this is only my assumption, of course. We won’t know for sure until he gives an interview. However, I have also noticed that there seems to be some sort of silent consensus among the chess journalists not to ask Kramnik questions when he plays badly! So perhaps we can hope that Russia wins the Olympiad and then somebody just remembers to ask him about the first rounds in Dortmund?!
In the meantime Caruana showed that he may have some German origin. He went about his business and in an unassuming yet impressive fashion pushed Ponomariov out of the board in the Petroff, an opening that lost some of its popularity in the last years. In a symmetrical position he slowly outplayed Ponomariov and won with a nice combination. He’s at 2/2 and at the moment I don’t see who can prevent him from winning the tournament – this is both based on his play and the play of the others. It’s still early though, but the tournament has only 7 rounds so not so many games left for the others!
Meier-Leko was a game we see when both players want to draw. In a Catalan and in a very professional manner they reached a dead drawn endgame on move 27.
In the battle of the Germans, Naiditsch won with black against Baramidze. So at least one German lost today! I had the impression that Baramidze started the game with the intention to draw and then possibly got a bit ambitious, by ruining his structure but trying to play with a good knight against a bad bishop. A bishop is a bishop though and Naiditsch created counterplay against white’s weak pawns. It seems that on move 27 Baramidze miscalculated something as he lost a piece 8 moves later, after a forced line. It’s tough to adjust to the level of play of the elite when you’re used to playing people rated 2500-2600 or even lower. That’s why it’s essential for young and upcoming players to enter the elite as soon as possible, so as to get accustomed to this level and it becomes their inherent way of playing. This is one of the factors of Carlsen’s success, but very few get that chance.
Tomorrow Kramnik plays Baramidze and I’m really curious to see what opening he chooses! I’m also playing tomorrow, so it will be business as usual.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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