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Old September 3rd 07, 08:58 AM posted to,
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I am still (yes, STILL) reading the August 2007 issue of Chess life,
have finally made it to GM Pal Benko's column (page 56). He starts
with a rapid event where GM Kramnik had White against GM Leko in
game 5. A rather unusual sequence of moves led to an early trade of
Queens, and I suspect, a heavily-analyzed (by GM Kramnik) position.

White starts off with the superior pawn structure, but at move 25 GM
Kramnik did some "free repair work" for his opponent -- a mistake just
glossed over by GM Benko, apparently because White wins eventually.

But the real problem came when GM Leko later mistimed the
liquidation of his a-pawn at move 35; this is quite simply a blunder,
but again it is glossed over, possibly because he had one opportunity
later on to escape with a draw (though this was due to other errors).
White failed to punish this mistake properly, and this somehow
resulted in zero question marks being doled out by GM Benko even
though the refutation was fairly obvious.

I sensed that the annotator was using computer help, as in some
cases his analysis is an exact copy of what appears on my chess
program's screen; but he does not make the same mistake as my
computer in the simple ending near the finish, recognizing a draw
as a draw, not a +1 point advantage! I had to look at that ending
closely, just to be sure the extra pawn was useless.

I find it interesting that this opening line -- which I had never
before -- is walked into by 2700+ players with Black. It is obvious
that Black has not quite equalized, and that unless he can get
some free repair work out of his opponent (as in this game), he
stands worse. Maybe the thinking is that standing worse is okay,
so long as you are not down any material and the Queens have
come off.

GM Benko's comments attributed the win by GM Kramnik to his
endgame mastery, yet I felt this was not demonstrated and that it
was more due to GM Leko's unforced errors, some of which were
exploited and some of which went unpunished. For instance, at
one point GM Kramnik was well on top, but he then allowed his
opponent to walk his King half-way across the board(!) by messing
around, losing considerable time. Oh well, it was rapid chess.

In fact, in another article in this issue of Chess Life a different
annotator did something similar, crediting GM Kamsky when in
truth his opponent had simply refused to capture a hanging pawn
and let him keep it. Later on you see that he has this extra pawn
and think, wow, he must be good because he is still up a pawn!

I am mentally trying to compare these modern games against
classic games I replay on the Web, from many, many years ago.
In some cases, I find the old games to contain unbelievable
errors, like a back-rank mate delivered by GM Alekhine at Bled
in 1931. But in other cases, I see old games where both of the
players are ultra-precise, where just one tempo decides the
issue in favor of either player, and this sort of precision is, by
and large, nowhere to be found today, with little errors galore
in some cases. Perhaps the time controls were slower back
then, or maybe there is just less oxygen in the air today... .

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