Chess: Kasparov and Karpov are threatened by Kramnik

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OF THE trio of grandmasters (Anand, Kramnik and Kamsky) still involved in both world championship cycles, Vladimir Kramnik is looking the man most likely to topple Kasparov or Karpov. Last week, he added to his credentials by beating Kasparov at Linares.

With 7. d5 and 8. Bg5, White closes the centre and tempts an advance of the black K-side pawns. By playing 11. h4 and 12. Nh2, Kramnik brought back a line that went out of fashion 25 years ago.

The first crucial moment came when Kramnik took up the challenge with 16. b4], virtually forcing Black into a pawn sacrifice with e4 and Nd3. On first sight, it looks as though Black will obtain exactly what he wants - after 19. Qxd3 Qf6 20. Ne2 Bxf5 or 20. Ne4 Qd4+ 21. Qxd4 Bxd4+ 22. Kh1 Bxf5 Black's powerful bishop pair gives him more than enough for the pawn, but Kramnik's 19. f6] changed the game. Since 19 . . . Bxf6 20. Qxd3 would leave White threatening Qg6+, Kasparov had to take with the rook.

Black's 20 . . . Qf8 was designed to meet 21. Ne4 with Rf5, but Kramnik's change of direction with 21. Nb5] posed new problems. The real point of White's play was revealed by 22. Rxf5] - a finely judged exchange sacrifice without which White would be in a mess. White's knight reaches e6 where, by blocking the e-file and controlling f8, it considerably reduced the effectiveness of Black's rooks and, for an encore, keeps the queen out of d4.

After the exchange of queens, Kasparov seemed set to loosen White's grip when 28 . . . Bf8 put pressure on the advanced pawns, but Kramnik coolly sacrificed another pawn to keep his knights tethered to good squares. Until 31. b5] the game was tensely balanced, but Kasparov then began to go downhill as time-trouble approached. 31 . . . Bh6 was a dubious move and 38 . . . Kh7? was an outright blunder. Instead 38 . . . Kh8] would have left the result still in doubt.

As the game went, 39. Ne5 Rff1 would have been met by 40. Rg7+ Kh6 41. Nf7+ Kh5 42. g4+ Kxh4 43. g3 mate, while 39 . . . Re7, as Kasparov played, loses to 40. Nf8+ Kh6 (Kh8 loses a rook to Nfg6+) 41. Rg6+ Kh5 42. g4+ Kxh4 43. Nf3 mate.

----------------------------------------------------------------- White: Kramnik Black: Kasparov ----------------------------------------------------------------- King's Indian Defence 1 Nf3 Nf6 21 Nb5 Bf5 2 c4 g6 22 Rxf5 Rxf5 3 Nc3 Bg7 23 Nxc7 Rc8 4 e4 d6 24 Ne6 Qf6 5 d4 0-0 25 Nf1 Re5 6 Be2 e5 26 Rd1 Qf5 7 d5 Nbd7 27 Qxf5 Rxf5 8 Bg5 h6 28 c5 Bf8 9 Bh4 g5 29 Ne3 Rf6 10 Bg3 Nh5 30 Nc4 dxc5 11 h4 g4 31 b5 Bh6 12 Nh2 Nxg3 32 Re1 Re8 13 fxg3 h5 33 Re5 Re7 14 0-0 f5 34 Rxh5 Ref7 15 exf5 Nc5 35 Kh2 Bc1 16 b4 e4 36 Re5 Rf1 17 Rc1 Nd3 37 Re4 Rd1 18 Bxd3 exd3 38 Rxg4+ Kh7 19 f6 Rxf6 39 Ne5 Re7 20 Qxd3 Qf8 40 Nf8+ 1-0 -----------------------------------------------------------------