Kramnik 3.5-Leko 4.5!
Two more games down in the World Chess Championship. The score was tied going into game seven, in which Leko had white. Kramnik switched from the Orthodox Queen's Gambit, with which he lost game five, to the Slav Defense. This was in keeping with his strategy of playing passive but solid openings as black. Leko got nowhere out of the opening, and after massive exchanges the game ended in a quick draw.
I was rather annoyed by this, since I felt it showed a lack of fighting spirit on the part of the players. Then came game eight. Just as in all the other games in which Kramnik had white, a Ruy Lopez quickly appeared. But instead of exploring the quiet, positional lines that had appeared in games two, four and six, Leko busted out the Marshall Gambit, one of the most violent and exciting openings in grandmaster practice. Basically, black gives up a pawn early in the game. In return for this concession, all of his pieces reach active squares, and white has to defend carefully to keep from getting mated. This time, Kramnik let his guard down, and Leko came crashing through in a flurry of tactics.
By winning this game with the black pieces, not only did Leko get revenge for his loss as white in game one, but he also took the lead in the match. He only needs to draw the remaining six games to win the title. If he manages to win another game, that would effectively end the match.
There has definitely been a psychological shift in the match. Kramnik was the favorite going in, but he has been unimpressive since his win in game one. He'll really have to hunker down to bring the match back under the control. Stay tuned!