Defending champion Viswanathan Anand's precise defense neutralized a small advantage for challenger Vladimir Kramnik in the opening game of the world chess championship on Tuesday, and the game ended in a draw after 32 moves. Kramnik, of Russia, called it "a very typical first game as the players get used" to match conditions. He added that a draw "is the normal result when both players play without mistakes." Anand of India, playing with Black, used the complex Slav Defense and Kramnik responded with the solid and symmetrical Exchange Variation, which allows White to play for a small advantage with almost no chance of losing.
Kramnik's 14th move was practically new, winning a pawn at the cost of some development. In the only previous game where that move has been played, a German league game between two amateurs in 2002, White did not actually take the pawn as Kramnik did. In the resulting endgame, Black had control of c-file as compensation for his pawn. More importantly, the presence of opposite-color bishops made it very difficult for Kramnik to play for a win.
Pure opposite-color bishop endgames are almost always drawn because it virtually impossible to break a blockade on a square not controlled by one's bishop - so Kramnik could not neutralize Anand's rooks by offering to exchange them.
Still, Kramnik had every reason to try to squeeze a win from the position.
"I had a certain slight advantage and was trying to do this and that but ran out of constructive ideas," he said. Kramnik placed his rooks on e1 and d1 to support a central pawn advance. The critical point came on move 24, when he advanced his e-pawn to the fifth rank.
Computer analysis suggested that pushing the d-pawn might have offered better chances of maintaining his advantage, and Kramnik spent a lot of time considering it before concluding that it offered no real winning chances.
Anand called White's advantage "token." After that, the game quickly petered out into a dead even position and the players shook hands.
Anand will have White in game two on Wednesday. The 12-game match is scheduled to continue through Oct. 31. If Kramnik and Anand are tied after 12 games, Nov. 2 is set aside for a series of rapid and, if necessary, blitz games to decide the winner. The purse of euro1.5 million (US$2.04 million) is to be equally divided between the two, regardless of who wins.
Kramnik-Anand, game one:
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.Bf4 Nc6 6.e3 Bf5 7.Nf3 e6 8.Qb3 Bb4 9.Bb5 0-0 10.Bxc6 Bxc3+ 11.Qxc3 Rc8 12.Ne5 Ng4 13.Nxg4 Bxg4 14.Qb4 Rxc6 15.Qxb7 Qc8 16.Qxc8 Rfxc8 17.0-0 a5 18.f3 Bf5 19.Rfe1 Bg6 20.b3 f6 21.e4 dxe4 22.fxe4 Rd8 23.Rad1 Rc2 24.e5 fxe5 25.Bxe5 Rxa2 26.Ra1 Rxa1 27.Rxa1 Rd5 28.Rc1 Rd7 29.Rc5 Ra7 30.Rc7 Rxc7 31.Bxc7 Bc2 32.Bxa5 Bxb3