Mar 19, 2001

Kramnik – Kasparov (m/12) [E55]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 d5 6. Nf3 c5 7. O-O dxc4 8. Bxc4 Nbd7

Black does not hurry to exchange with 8... cxd4 9. exd4 like in the tenth game, preferring to reinforce his centre instead.

9. a3

Some twenty years ago they played often a popular line 9. Qe2 b6 10. d5 Bxc3 11. dxe6 Ne5 12. exf7+ Kh8 13. bxc3 Bg4 where Black got good attacking opportunities for the sacrificed pawn.

9... cxd4 10. axb4

Black was OK after 10. exd4 Bxc3 11. bxc3 Qc7 or 10. Qxd4 Nb6. Also 10. Nb5 Be7 11. Nbxd4 was admissible.

10... dxc3 11. bxc3 Qc7

12. Be2

White sacrificed a pawn in order to liven up his dark-squared bishop. After 12. Qb3 Nb6 13. Be2 e5 14. c4 Be6 15. Ra5 Nfd7 White also had to part with a pawn in the game Timman - Keene (Reykjavik, 1976).

12... Qxc3

Having refused to take the sacrificed pawn with 12... e5, White got a better play after 13. c4 b6 14. Bb2 Bb7 15. Qb3 in the game Garcia Gonzales - Balashov (Leningrad, 1977).

13. Ba3

A novelty. 13. Bd2 Qc7 14. Qb1 Nd5 15. Rc1 Qb8 16. Bd3 h6 17. e4 Nf4 18. Bc3 b5 19. Bf1 a6 occurred in the game F. Schlosser - Kayser (corr., 1991), and White failed to organise real threats to Black’s position for the sacrificed pawn.

13... Nd5!

A forcible argument. Black’s knight made place for the queen and now it can jump to c3.

14. Qb1 Qf6 15. Bd3 h6 16. b5 Rd8 17. Bb2

White’s compensation for the pawn consists in the advantage of two bishops and Black’s underdeveloped queenside. Still, it’s not easy to develop the initiative as Black has no real weak points. With his next moves White will try to weaken Black’s kingside. In case of 17. Rc1 Black could have simplified the position to a certain degree with 17… Ne5 18. Nxe5 Qxe5.

17... Qe7 18. Ra4

White’s rook begins to get closer to Black’s kingside.

18... Nc5 19. Bh7+ Kh8 20. Rh4 f6

21. Rxh6 was threatening.

21. Rc4!

Kramnik saw that there was no straight onslaught on the black king, so he removed the rook before it got stuck at the kingside. At the same time White freed h4 for his knight.

21... Bd7

Black completed his development and pulled his bishop to e8 in order to cover the square g6 in case of need.

22. Ba3 b6 23. Be4?!

Well, probably White underestimated Black’s next strong move. He could have maintained his initiative with 23. Nh4!?. After 23… Be8 (in case of 23... Qd6 after 24. Rfc1 White’s initiative compensated the missing pawn fully, as he was threatening, for instance, to launch a drawing machine in case of 24… Rab8 with 25. Rxc5! bxc5 26. Bxc5 Qñ7 27. Ng6+ Kxh7 27. Nf8+ Kg8 28. Qh7+ Kf7 29. Qg6+) 24. Rfc1 Rac8 25. Bg6 White was threatening to win back the pawn after an exchange, and in case of 25… Kg8 there was a retreat 26. Bh7+.

23... a6!

A new force prepares to enter the arena, the rook a8.

24. bxa6 Rxa6 25. Bxc5

White cannot keep two bishops. In case of 25. Bb2 Black had 25… Nxe4, whereas for 25. Qb2 there was 25… Rxa3! 26. Qxa3 Bb5 27. Nh4 Qd6 28. Ng6+ Kg8.

25... bxc5 26. Rfc1 Ra5 27. Qb2

In case of 27. Nh4 Black had a choice between 27… Qd6 or 27… Be8.

27... Rb5 28. Qa3 Nb6 29. R4c3


Probably 29... Be8!? was more precise: now if 30. Nd4 (in case of 30. h3 there was 30… Rb4 like in the game, but the d-file was already open for the black rook), then 30... Qd6!, as there was no 31. Nxb5?? because of 31… Qd1+, the absence of an air by the white king turning to be the decisive factor.

30. Nd2

White prepares a capture of Black’s pawn on c5, supporting the bishop.

30... f5

30... Bc6 31. Bxc6 Rxd2 was insufficient because of 32. Rd3! (in case of 32. h3 Black had a strong 32… Qd6 33. Bf3 c4, and there was no 32. Rxc5 because of 32… Qxc5! 32... Rbb2 33. Rxd2 Rxd2 34. g3 whereafter Black was not able to keep his extra pawn.

31. Bf3?!

After 31. Rxc5! Rxe4 (also 31… Ra4 was not dangerous because of 32. Qb3 Qd6 33. Bf3, relieving White’s pieces) 32. Nxe4 fxe4 33. Qb4 Na4 34. R5c4 White got a rook and a pawn for two pieces, and, as the play would be centred on one flank, there would be no particular problems in obtaining a draw.

31... Na4?!

Black lost the rest of his advantage. After 31... Qd6! 32. Nb3 (in case of 32. Rd3 Qf8 33. Rdc3 Na4 there was already no 34. Rxc5? because of 34… Rb5!, and if 32. Nf1 Na4, then, again, no 33. Rxc5 because of 33… Rb6!) 32... c4 Black still had good winning chances.

32. Rxc5!

This move is possible when Black’s queen is on e7.

32… Rb2

The point is that in case of 32... Rb5 White had 33. R5c3!.

33. Nc4 Qxc5 1/2-1/2

Draw. There is an absolute balance on the board.

"And his six pawns were scattered like the ships of the Armada that should have conquered England; the Lord blew, and they were all isolated."

-Hans Kmoch, Groningen 1946 tournament book

"Nowadays, when you're not a grandmaster at 14, you can forget about it."

Anand Vishwanathan

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