And to think that just a few days ago it seemed like this match would end abruptly because of an insane dispute over visits to the bathroom.
Topalov scored back-to-back victories in games eight and nine to take a one point lead in the match. Kramnik was back on ihs heels, and some among the cognoscenti were talking seriously about a complete psychological collapse on his part. Add to that the fact that both of Topalov’s wins were impressive and convincing, whereas Karmnik’s earlier wins had more to do with luck, and it was not looking good for the champ.
But as he has done so often in the past, Kramnik saved his best stuff for the crucial moment. This morning he won game ten in classic style, and the score is once again tied. Here’s the crucial position, with Kramnik playing white:
Kramnik once again used the Catalan. He obtained just the sort of slightly better, risk-free position he likes so much. Kramnik had been pressuring him slowly for the last twelve moves or so. Topalov had been forced to play passive defense, which is not his strong suit. If it had been Peter Leko, or Anatoly Karpov in his prime playing black, the defense would probably have held. The computer rates the diagrammed position as slightly better for white, but after wholesale exchanges on b5 with 24. … Bxb5 25. axb5 Qxb5 26. Qxb5 Rxb5 the game would probably have ended up in a draw.
But Topalov misanalyzed the position and uncorked 24. … f6??. After 25. Nd7! Rf7 26. Nxb6 Rxa7 27. Nxd5 white has a decisive material advantage. Topalov struggled on for a while, but several further inaccuracies on his part made Kramnik’s job pretty easy. After Kramnik simplified to an easily won endgame, Topalov decided to pack it in.
All tied up with two games remainiing. Game eleven is on Tuesday, with Topalov playing white. How will it end? Stay tuned!