Games: chess

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When two top grandmasters meet, statistics show that a decisive result happens in just over one in three games. That is roughly the rate in world title matches and the strongest tournaments. So in a 10-game match, you would expect about three decisive games.

In practical terms, that purely probabilistic calculation tends to be modified by other factors, among which the fear of suffering the first defeat is the strongest. Whoever loses first can easily become desperate and go downhill quickly.

That is the only explanation I can offer for the dullness of the first two games in the Kramnik-Shirov match. Here we have seen the two most imaginative and brilliant young players in the world playing in uncharacteristically cautious style. Perhaps each is trying to tempt the other to take all the risks, but for both men it is a dangerous strategy. If the briefness of the encounter made them nervous at the start, then each draw will only increase that nervousness. Already they have only eight games left, and the terrible consequences of a loss grow with every draw. Both the players and spectators would have enjoyed it more if they had thrown caution to the winds from the start.

The only interesting moment in game two came when Kramnik decided to avoid 19...Bxh2+ 20.Kh1 Rxe6 21.Qxe6+ Kh8 22.g3 Bxg3 23.fxg3 Qxg3.

White: Alexei Shirov

Black: Vladimir Kramnik

Game Two - Petroff's Defence

1 e4 e5 13 Bg5 Qc7

2 Nf3 Nf6 14 c4 Be8

3 d4 Nxe4 15 Qh3 dxc4

4 Bd3 d5 16 Bxc4+ Bf7

5 Nxe5 Nd7 17 Be6 Bxe6

6 Nxd7 Bxd7 18 Rxe6 Rae8

7 0-0 Bd6 19 Qb3 Rxe6

8 Nc3 Nxc3 20 Qxe6+ Rf7

9 bxc3 0-0 21 Qe8+ Rf8

10 Qh5 f5 22 Qe6+ Rf7

11 Rb1 b6 23 Qe8+ Rf8

12 Re1 c6 Draw agreed

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