Game 12 – Which player will hold his nerve better? Which one will score a critical victory? Will we see any shocking opening surprise? Both have shown that they can handle the pressure of the last game.

Kramnik defeated Leko in the final game of their match. Topalov is known for strong comebacks.

We will soon find out who can block out the pressure and perform at his best when the bell rings. 121,892 unique logins from all over the world followed game 11 LIVE right here! So in spite of all the shenanigans, chess fans still want to see exciting chess!

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6 (The players reversed colors in this position.)

8.g3 Nbd7 9.Bd2 Bb4 (This seems to be a new move. I cannot find any game with this move in my database.)

10.Qb3 Bxc3+ 11.Bxc3 Ne4 12.Bg2 Nxc3 13.Qxc3 f5 (Whether Topalov is Black or White, he still pushes his pawns. Black is doing fine here. Other more “normal” moves are 13…dxc4, 13…Nf6. I am not sure if I like this move all that much.)

14.O-O (I would have preferred to castle Queenside here as the h file is opened for Black. One of the possible moves now for Black is Nf6. It is a sensible move and Black can draw this game quite comfortably if he wants to. The Black Knight is better than the White Bishop in this position.)

14…Qe7 (Now, Black has the option can castle on either side but it would be safer to do it on the Kingside at some point. White’s only play is basically to attack on the Queenside. Black can try to attack on the Kingside or just wait and see as his position is solid.)

15.cxd5 (Now if Black takes back with exd5, White can try to do something on the Queenside with the eventual idea of b4-b5. If Black takes back with cxd5 then White would control the c file for now.)

15…exd5 (Black wants an unbalanced pawn structure. As I mentioned above, White’s idea is simple. White has to attack on the Queenside with the idea of b4-b5 and putting the Rooks behind the c and b files.)

16.b4 (Now Black has to be careful in defending this position. Some people may think that this position is boring. I think this is a perfect position for White as he has very little risk trying to squeeze out a win by grinding his opponent. This is a dangerous position for Topalov as it requires a lot of patience.)

16…Nf6 (A logical move to defend the d5 pawn.)

17.Rfc1 (17.a4 or even 17.b5 right away is possible. But as we know, Kramnik likes to be cautious. GM Luke McShane explains: 0-0 b5 cb5 Qb3 Qd7 Rc5 +/-)

17…Ne4 (If Black plays 17…a6, White will continue the minority attack with a4 with the idea of b5. My friend, the legendary IM Tony Saidy sent me this message: “…as one who played 1037 minority attacks and defended several, I point out a basic principle when facing the minority attack: play …a6 and force white to trade the “a” Ps, opening the “a” file. The c6 P may be defensible in long run, but the a7 Pawn is a second weakness. (White traded the wrong pieces in this game to have a strong minority attack.) Horowitz learned this the hard way vs. Geller in one of the US-USSR matches. Another good defense is checkmate.”)

18.Qb2 (To be honest, I would not be very comfortable to have this position as Black against players like Karpov, Kramnik, Kamsky or Topalov, etc. Black’s option is kind of limited right now. He must be able to hold the minority attack on the Queenside. There is no winning shot for White. The idea is to create weakness for Black’s pawn structure. GM Nigel Short adds: “It is better for White. Black is too slow in delivering checkmate on h2.“)

18…O-O (GM Jon Levitt explains: “He wants ..Rf6 to defend c6 and …g5…f4 xf2 for couterplay.” An important note to state is Topalov is using nearly as much time as Kramnik. He knows this game is important. He cannot fool around by playing fast. This is a very critical position to hold. Frederic Friedel of ChessBase offers his opinion: “The only result that will not lead to debate and litigation is 1-0. If the game is drawn then they will play rapid chess tiebreak games tomorrow and if they are drawn blitz. and if they are drawn armageddon.” Nigel Shorts adds his usual colorful statement: “World Championships used to have a little more gravitas. But now they are decided by rapid hand movements.”)

(Now the 2 main options for Black is to play 19…Rac8 or cxb5 which would create a weakness in the d5 pawn. I prefer Rac8.)

19…Rac8 20.bxc6 bxc6 (Taking back with the Rook would be a big mistake as the d5 pawn is extremely weak.)

21.Qe2 (With the idea of Qa6. Then White would double up his Rooks on the c file and pound on the c pawn.)

21…g5 (Black HAS TO create counter play on the Kingside. Otherwise, he is lost.)

22.Rab1 (Logical move, putting the Rook on the b file.)

22…Qd7 (Eventually, the idea for Black is to put the Rook on f6 to protect the c6 pawn and then g4. Black has to try to create counter play on the Kingside.)

23.Rc2 (The obvious plan of doubling the Rooks on the c file to attack Black’s main weakness.)

23…Rf6 (Black is continuing the plan.)

24.Rbc1 g4 25.Rb2 (This position is somewhat equal. An interesting note about evaluation. Fritz gives this position equal. Fruit gives this position slightly better for White. Junior gives this a strong advantage for White.)

25…Rh6 26.Qa6 (White has to continue attacking the Queenside. Otherwise, Black can launch a dangerous attack on the Kingside. My thinking is 27…Nd6 now to stop Rb7. GM Larry Chritiansen ponders with 27…Ng5 but that would lose right away with Bxd5+. This is a position where Black cannot go crazy. Black must be very careful. Another alternative could be 27…Rc7 but I still prefer Nd6 a little better.)

26…Rc7 27.Rb8+ Kh7 28.Qa3 (Kramnik made this move instantly. Now, Black should play Rb7 to try to trade off one Rook. 29…Rb7 30.Ra8 Nd6 or 30…Rf6 and Black should hold.)

28…Rb7 (As expected.)

29.Qf8 (A natural move but I am not sure if it is the strongest. Another alternative is 30.Ra8. With 30.Qf8, Black would trade Rooks with 30…Rxb8 31.Qxb8 then 31…Qf7 and Black’s position is fine.)

29…Rxb8 30.Qxb8 Qf7 31.Qc8 Qh5 32.Kf1 (Now the tide has turned. Black is fine now and White needs to be extremely careful. There is no direct win but Black can create an attack which White should be able to hold with proper play.)

32…Nd2+ 33.Ke1 Nc4 (Now if 34.Bf1 then Rf6 to protect the f5 pawn so the Queen can take h2. A possibility is to sacrifice an exchange with 33.Rxc4.)

34.Bf1 (Black has a choice between 34…Rf6 which I prefer or 34…Nb6. IM Ken Regan offers: “The way to continue the attack is 34…Rf6 35 Rb1!? Nd6 when both Pawn chains burn…”)

34…Rf6 (As expected and the strongest move. IM Ken Regan says: “Now a real crossroads for White: take (either) on c4 or stoke the fire with 35.Rb1. The latter looks dangerous, so I predict 35.Bxc4. Here’s a fantasy finale: 35 Bxc4 dxc4 36 Rxc4 Qxh2 37 Rc5 Qh1+ 38 Ke2 Qa1 39 Re5 Qxa2+ 40 Kf1 Qb1+ 41 Kg2 Qd1 42 Re8 Qf3+ 43 Kg1 Rh6 44 Rh8+ Kg6 45 Qe8+ Kg5 and it’s a perpetual.” GM McShane on the other hand says: “I think after Bxc4 dc4 Qa6 Qxh2 Qxc4 White preserves a healthy edge. White plays Kd2, Qe2/d3 and Rc5.”

35.Bxc4 dxc4 (This looks like the game will head for a perpetual for Black. I expect Kramnik to be happy with a draw. This way, he can claim that he remains a World Champion no matter what happens in the playoff since he won 3 games to 2 over the board.)

36.Rxc4 Qch2 37.Ke2 Qh1 38.Rc5 (I see this as a draw soon by perpetual. Black can force a draw with 38…Qf3+ 39.Ke1 Qh1+ draw.)

38…Qb1 (Even though this is nothing, Topalov is trying to win instead of taking a perpetual. It will still be a draw.)

39.Qa6 Qb2+ 40.Kf1 (Topalov is trying but the position is still very much equal.)

40…Qb1+ 41.Ke2 Qb2+ 42.Kf1 (Repetition will be the likely scenario.)

42…Rh6 (What else can you expect from Topalov? He is trying even if it is a drawn position. Now White has ONLY one move 43.Qd3. Everything else loses for White almost instantly.)

43.Qd3 (Of course Kramnik would find this “only” move. Otherwise, it would be the blunder of the decade. Now I do not see how Black can win here. It is dead equal.)

43…g6 44.Qb3 Rh1+ 45.Kg2 Rh2+ 46.Kxh2 Qxf2+ (100% perpetual now if Topalov wants it.)

47.Kh1 Qf1+ 1/2 (Now Black can try 48.Kh2 Qh3+ 49.Kg1 Qxg3+ 50.Kf1 Qf3+ 51.Ke1 g3. I would have tried this. White’s only way to force a draw is with 51.Kg1)

The question now is will Kramnik show up tomorrow for the playoff or will he declare himself a Champion? What do you think?

Now I am being bombarded with email about the outcome. I have not tallied up the count but many said Kramnik wins the match 6-5 and just about as many said that too bad if Kramnik does not show up for game 5 since the rule in chess is clear about a player not showing up for the game.

Many of you also said that you would support Kramnik as a Champion IF he stopped after game 5. However, the sentiment from many of the fans is he should have either stopped the match at that time or play on but he cannot have it both ways (play on just in case if he wins and sue if he does not).

It seems that unification is out the window and the debate is back to square 1. What a mess!
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