Vladimir Kramnik continued his strategy of avoiding his normal opening repertoire in dramatic fashion in round 3 of the Zurich Chess Challenge.
Kramnik surprised the audience, commentators and his opponent Fabiano Caruana by playing the dynamic Benoni defence! It is a measure of the skill of the world's #2 ranked player that he can move so quickly and confidently in positions that he has little experience of playing.
The game became a fierce and fascinating struggle, especially after Kramnik voluntary trapped his own knight deep in enemy territory on h3! Despite this remarkable off-side location the trusty steed proved to be more of an asset than a liability, and Caruana came under great pressure as the first time control approached.
Just when it seemed that we might see a first decisive game in Zurich, Caruana managed to slip out of Kramnik's grasp and a draw was agreed on move 53.
The great Garry Kasparov joined Yannick Pelletier and Werner Hug in the commentary box
If Boris Gelfand is keeping his powder dry in terms of opening preparation ahead of the Candidates tournament, he is doing it more subtly than Kramnik! The Israeli Grandmaster chose one of his favourite defences, the uncompromising Sicilian Najdorf, against Vishy Anand.
Gelfand sacrificed his d-pawn early on but missed a tactical shot with 14...Bxh3 (15. Bxh3?? Bh2+ wins) which would have posed greater problems for the world champion. After that, the game eventually fizzled out to a draw after a series of exchanges.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the tournament's only rest day, so the games will resume on Wednesday with round 4, when Vishy Anand will have the white pieces against Fabiano Caruana, and Boris Gelfand has white against Vladimir Kramnik. The pairings in full are:
The time control is 2 hours for 40 moves, then 1 hour for the next 20 moves, and 15 minutes plus a 30-second increment for the remainder of the game. If a game is drawn before move 40, the players will play an additional rapid exhibition game (not counting towards the scores).
Playing Schedule (times = GMT+1)
The tournament is being staged by the Zurich Chess Club and the main sponsor is Oleg Skvortsov of International Gemological Laboratories. The venue is the Savoy Hotel, Paradeplatz.
Screenshot from the official website live coverage. Games via TWIC.