Kramnik – Kasparov [E32]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6
Kasparov changed the opening once more, as the development of events in the previous four games obviously cannot satisfy him.
Kramnik accepted the challenge and agreed to the Nimzowitsch Defence. If he wanted to play with a guarantee of soundness he had a choice between the Queen’s Indian or the Catalan Opening.
3… Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O
The thirteenth World Champion preferred a neutral 4… 0-0 to the positional 4... c5 as well as to the keen 4... d5, thus keeping an opportunity to deliver a blow at White’s centre with any of his pawns.
5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3
White has two bishops, while Black got an advantage in the development, which promises an interesting opening conflict.
6… b6 7. Bg5 Bb7
A traditional continuation, though 7... Ba6 gets more and more popular now.
Kramnik takes the important square e4 under his control. An advance of the e-pawn to e3 or e4 is postponed now and depends in many respects from Black’s next actions.
This move is necessary if Black is planning a strike at White’s centre with his d-pawn, because after 8... d5 9. e3 Nbd7 10. cxd5 Nxd5 11. Bxd8 Nxc3 White has 12. Bxc7 Nd5 13. Bf4, winning a pawn. The traditional snake-like position of pawns on dark squares in the centre (to begin with 8... d6) also has certain shortcomings when performed with the order of moves, chosen by White. After 9. Nh3 (in case of an immediate 9. e4 there was 9… c5, making White either waste time to close the centre or allow Black’s knight b8 to enter an active play against the square d4) 9... Nbd7 (in case of a keen 9... c5 there was 10. dxc5 bxc5 11. O-O-O whereafter the black knights were not able to join because of the weakness of the d6-square, and in case of 9... h6 10. Bh4 Nbd7 White could afford a modest 11. e3, as after 11… c5 12. dxc5 bxc5 13. Be2 his dark-squared bishop had a good retreat to f2, while the knight could have entered the play through f4) the white e-pawn had 10. e4, ensuring a slight advantage for White in the line 10… c5 11. Be2 h6 12. Be3.
9. Bh4 d5 10. e3 Nbd7 11. cxd5 Nxd5
In case of 11... exd5 White had 12. Bd3 Re8 13. Ne2, successfully developing his pieces, since there was no 13… Rxe3? because of 14. Bxf6 Nxf6 15. Bh7+.
12. Bxd8 Nxc3 13. Bh4
Sometimes an intermediate 13. Be7 occurs.
13... Nd5 14. Bf2 c5
Apart from the move in the game they play also 14... f5 as a preventive measure against White’s advance e3-e4.
15. Bb5 Rfd8 16. e4
A novelty. Black ventured on a pawn sacrifice. Previously 16... Ne7 17. Ne2 Bc6 (there was also a luckier 17... cxd4 18. Nxd4 a6 19. Be2 Nc5 20. b4 Na4 21. O-O e5 22. Nb3 Nc3 which gave an equal play to Black in the game Anand - Karpov (Monte Carlo (active), 1999)) 18. Ba6 b5 19. a4 bxa4 20. dxc5 Ne5 21. Nd4 was seen in the game Kasparov - Kramnik (Moscow ( blitz, m/16), 1998) with White’s initiative.
White does not want to waste time for a retreat of his bishop while the pieces of his kingside are still underdeveloped.
17… Rxd7 18. dxc5 f5 19. cxb6?!
White is consistent. Well, probably he should have restricted himself to a less showy 19. e5, as in this case Black’s bishop had worse prospects than in the game. After 19… bxc5 20. Bxc5 Rd5 21. Rc1 Rxe5+ 22. Kf2 there was an approximately equal play. White’s trump, the pawn advantage on the queenside, was neutralised with the opposite-coloured bishops.
19... axb6 20. Ne2
White hurries to complete his development. The time for 20. e5 is already missed because of 20… Ra5!. The continuation 20. exf5 exf5 21. Bxb6 was more than dangerous for White, as after 21... Re8+ 22. Kf2 Rd2+ 23. Kg3 f4+ 24. Kh3 (24. Kxf4 cost a piece to White because of 24… Nd5+) 24... Nd5 all Black’s pieces together took part in the attack against the white king. In case of the most fundamental 20. Bxb6 fxe4 21. fxe4 (if 21. Bf2, then after 21… Nd5 22. Rd1 Rf7 Black’s knight got to f4, in case of 23. Bd4 there was a strong 23... e5!, because after 24. Bxe5 exf3 25. Nxf3 Ne3 White encountered serious problems) 21... Bxe4 22. Nf3 Nd5 23. Bc5 (in case of 23. Bd4 there was an unpleasant 23… Nf4, and for 23. Bf2 Black had a good 23… Rb7) 23... Rb7 24. Bd4 (in case of 24. b4 there was 24… Nxb4 25. Bxb4 Rxb4, and 24. O-O-O would be met with 24… Rc7) 24... Nb4 25. O-O Nc2 26. Rac1 Nxd4 27. Nxd4 Rxb2 28. Rf2 there was a position with a strong drawing tendency because of the pawn deficiency.
20... fxe4 21. fxe4 Bxe4 22. O-O
White completed his development, but now Black’s rook gets to the second horizontal, which, combined with the dominance of Black’s light-squared bishop on the big diagonal, makes White to be most cautious.
22… Rd2 23. Nc3 Bb7 24. b4
A forced weakening, as in case of 24. Rad1 Rxb2 25. Rd7 Rc8 26. Na4 there was a strong 26… Rc2! 27. Nxb6 Rf8 with the decisive threat Bb7-a6.
The bishop f2 is under attack of Black’s major pieces, and the helpless pawn g2 and White’s king are concealing themselves behind its back.
Black’s rook on the second horizontal makes White nervous, so he tries to get rid of it as soon as possible. There was no 25. Rad1 because of 25… Rc2, and after 26. Rc1? the solution was 26... Rfxf2, while in case of 26. Na4 Black got a decisive advantage after 26... Nd5 27. Bxb6 (27. g3 was losing because of 27… Ne3) 27... Rxf1+ 28. Kxf1 Bc6. Still, a cool 25. Rac1!? with the threat of 26. Nb1 deserved attention, and after 25... Nd5 26. Nxd5 Bxd5 27. b5, despite White’s very passive-looking position, it was not at all easy to find a reinforcement for Black. The point was that plain pressure upon the rook f1 with 27… Be4 28. a4 Bd3 encountered a refutation of 29. Be3!.
25... Rxa2 26. Nxa2 Nd5
After the rook exchange White’s knight temporarily left the main arena, and it’s vis-à-vis made use of this circumstance at once.
27. Bd4 Ra8
Like a good tennis player, Black’s rook has time to deliver blows from both sides of the back line.
White cannot stand the tension and decides to part with the pawn in order to advance an endgame with opposite-coloured bishops. It was most unpleasant to hold the position after 28. Rf3 g5, but probably the line after 28. Bb2 was worth testing. After 28… Ne3 29. Rc1 (bad was 29. Re1 Nc4 30. Bc1 Nxa3 31. Rxe6 because of 31… Bd5 32. Re2 Nb5, catching the white knight) 29... Bd5 (there was no immediate 29… Bxg2 because of 30. Kf2 Bd5 31. Kxe3 Bxa2 32. Rc7) 30. Nc3 Bxg2 (if 30... Nc4, then after 31. Nxd5 exd5 32. Rc2 Nxb2 33. Rxb2 Rxa3 34. Rd2 Rb3 35. Rxd5 Rxb4 36. Rd6 White got a drawing rook endgame a pawn down) 31. Re1 Nc4 32. Kxg2 Nxb2 33. Rxe6 Rxa3 34. Nd5 Nc4 35. Rc6 (unfortunately there was no 35. Nxb6 because of 35… Ra6) 35... b5 36. Rc5 Ra2+ 37. Kh3 Na3 38. Nc7 there was an inevitable exchange of the b-pawns, and an endgame with two black pawns against one white on the kingside was drawing with any equivalent set of pieces, staying on the board.
28... Nxc3 29. Bxc3 Rxa3 30. Bd4 b5
This was Kramnik’s idea which he began to perform on the twenty eighth move. The white rook wants to get to g4 to defend the own g-pawn and attack the opponent’s.
Black opposed nothing to White’s plan. The move 31... h5! was much more dangerous for Kramnik, depriving the white rook from the important square g4. After 32. g4 h4 (there was also 32... Bf3 33. gxh5 Bxh5 with winning chances by Black) 33. g5 Ra2 34. Rf2 Ra4 35. Bc5 Kh7 36. Rf7 Bd5 37. Ra7 (no 37. Bd4? because of 37… e5) Black need not be afraid of a rook exchange which gave him another passed pawn and allowed to reinforce his position still more with 37... Kg6.
32. Rg4 g5 33. h4 Kf7 34. hxg5 hxg5 35. Kf2 Rd2+?!
Missing any winning chances once and for all. After 35... Kg6!? 36. Ke2 Rb3 37. Be3 Kf6 White still had problems, as there was neither 38. Bxg5+? because of 38… Kf5, nor 38. Rxg5? because of 38… Rxe3+, both ways leading to positions with an extra piece by Black. In this case White had to began a passive defence after 38. Bc1 Bd5 39. Bd2 Bc4+ 40. Kf2 e5 or agree to the line 38. Rg3 Rxb4 39. Bxg5+ Ke5 where Black, despite the poor material, still had some winning chances owing to his two passed pawns.
This was the point. White was not obliged to play 36. Kg1 as he could part with his second pawn to exchange the rooks.
36… Rxg2 37. Rxg2 Bxg2 38. Be5 1/2-1/2
A draw is evident. Black’s passed pawns can be easily stopped with the white bishop on the diagonal b8-h2 and with the king, patrolling its zone from d4, e3, f2.
"He who fears an isolated queen's pawn should give up chess". Siegbert Tarrasch
"The most powerful weapon in chess is to have the next move"! David Bronstein.