Apr 30, 2001

Kramnik – Kasparov (m/2) [D85]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5

Having chosen the Gruenfeld Defence, Garry Kasparov demonstrated how fundamental his creative principles are: he applied this opening for d2-d4 most often for the last years, and there is no doubt that his opponent has devoted much time to studying its lines.

4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Nf3

Vladimir Kramnik tested Black’s position more than once in variations to appear after 7. Bc4, but without any particular success.

7... c5 8. Be3

Now a little surprise. At present the variation with 8. Be3, very popular in the eighties, is rather uncommon at prestigious tournaments. 8. Rb1 is used much more frequently, and many lines of this variation were analysed as far as the thirtieth move. Vladimir Kramnik also made an important contribution to the development of this variation. He restored to life the forgotten 8. Bb5+ where he won several worthy victories, one of them over his present adversary, but in a blitz game.

8... Qa5 9. Qd2 Bg4

The fashion of the nineties replaces the eighties-like style. Previously they played often 9... Nc6, the pattern was the game Jussupow – Kasparov (Reykjavik, 1988), where after 10. Rb1 a6 11. Rc1 cxd4 12. cxd4 Qxd2+ 13. Kxd2 f5 14. Bd3 Black equalised owing to an original idea: 14... Rf8! 15. exf5 Bxf5 16. Rc5 Rd8. Well, later it was found out that after 14. e5!? Be6 15. Bc4 Bxc4 16. Rxc4 O-O 17. g3 Rfd8 18. Rb1 Nxe5 19. Nxe5 Bxe5 20. Rxb7 Bf6 21. Rb6 Black still experienced some difficulties, as the game Dautov - M. Rytshagov (Pula, 1997) showed.

10. Rb1

After 10. Rc1 Bxf3 11. gxf3 e6 an incautious 12. d5?! allowed Black to take the initiative with 12... exd5 13. exd5 Nd7 14. c4 Qb6 15. Bh3 f5 16. O-O Qd6 17. Bf4 Be5 18. Rfe1 O-O-O 19. Bxe5 Nxe5 in the game Yermolinsky - Kasparov (Wijk aan Zee, 1999).

10... a6

Considered to be the strongest. The alternatives were 10…Bxf3 and an evidently defective 10… cxd4.

11. Rxb7

This seems to be a novelty. In the game Timman - Ivanchuk (Linares, 1992) there was 11. Rb3 b5 12. d5, and Black missed an opportunity to get a good play with 12... c4! 13. Rb4 Bxf3 14. gxf3 Qa3. A return to the move 11. Rc1 to be followed with 11… Bxf3 12. gxf3 e6 13. d5 exd5 14. exd5 Nd7 15. c4 Qb6 16. Be2 O-O-O 17. O-O Qd6 makes little difference in comparison with the cited game Yermolinsky - Kasparov (Wijk aan Zee, 1999), though it was also seen at a tournament in Spain (Cheparinov - B. Arkhangelsky, Mondariz, 2000). As for the move in the game, we can note that Vasily Ivanchuk in his annotation of his game with Timman simply put a question-mark after this move.

11... Bxf3 12. gxf3 Nc6

The analysis of V. Ivanchuk ends with this move, he evidently regarded Black’s position to be no worse. Now Vladimir Kramnik is going to define the estimation more accurately in this game.

13. Bc4 O-O 14. O-O cxd4 15. cxd4 Bxd4 16. Bd5 Bc3

“Activity” is Kasparov’s immutable motto. Black wants to avoid the endgame to appear after 16... Qxd2 17. Bxd2 Ne5 18. Kg2 (there was also a similar situation in case of 18. Bh6 Rfe8 19. Kg2 e6 20. Bb3 Rab8) 18... e6 19. Bb3 Rab8 in which White’s rook is displaced from the seventh horizontal, but instead White keeps the advantage of two bishops.

17. Qc1


 Black sacrifices a pawn in order to annihilate White’s advantage of two bishops. After a normal 17... Rac8 White could play 18. Bb6 Qb4 19. a3 Qb2 20. Qxb2 Bxb2 21. a4 and Black had certain problems.

18. Bxd4 Bxd4 19. Rxe7 Ra7 20. Rxa7 Bxa7

So Black traded one of White’s bishops, did away with his active rook, and Kramnik’s extra pawn is double and not very dangerous at the moment. Let’s add the opposite-colour bishops which usually increase the drawing chances, and it can seem that Black’s decision, taken on the seventeenth move, was correct – but actually the situation is not at all so good. Owing to the annihilation of Black’s e-pawn the white light-squared bishop became much stronger. With that pawn, its opportunities could have been restricted with the advance e7-e6 at any moment – but now Black is deprived of such a resource.

21. f4!

White’s pawns on the kingside begin to move. Black has to undertake something quickly, or his king can be endangered very soon.

21… Qd8 22. Qc3 Bb8 23. Qf3 Qh4 24. e5 g5 25. Re1 Qxf4

Black wants to transpose the game into an endgame to increase the drawing tendency of the opposite-colour bishops.

26. Qxf4 gxf4 27. e6 fxe6 28. Rxe6 Kg7 29. Rxa6

The position got settled. The opposite-colour bishops are no guarantee of a happy end for Black as he has to watch White’s passed pawn on the queenside and defend his two pawn islets on the kingside at the same time.

29… Rf5

There was also 29... Rd8, as in case of 30. Be4 (the position after 30. Ra5!? Kf6 was probably better for White) 30... Rd2 31. a4 (if 31. Kg2, then 31… Be5) 31... Be5 Black’s pieces were well co-ordinated, and there was no 32. Ra7+ Kf6 33. Rxh7 because of 33… Bd4.

30. Be4 Re5

Or 30... Rf7, and in case of 31. a4, similarly to the game, Black had 31… Ra7, and White was not able to avoid an exchange of the rooks with 32. Rb6 because of 32… Rxa4 – owing to the unprotected bishop e4.

31. f3 Re7

A necessary move. In case of 31... Bc7 after 32. Ra7 Rc5 33. a4 White’s a-pawn was ready to continue its advance, and an attempt to interfere with 31… Kh6 allowed White to achieve his goal through a zugzwang after 34. Kg2 Rg5+ 35. Kf1 Rc5 36. Ke2.

32. a4 Ra7

Black’s manoeuvres on the foregoing three moves would have been more consistent if Black organised his defence with the use of the basic square e3 for his bishop with 32... Ba7+ 33. Kg2 Be3. But in this case the black rook stood passively on the seventh horizontal – very dangerous for Black because an exchange of the rooks allowed him to get a draw not in any case, but only with a certain position of the white king.

33. Rb6

Now an exchange 33. Rxa7+ Bxa7+ led to a draw, as White was not able to break through on the kingside with 34. Kg2 Bb6 35. Kh3 h5 36. Kh4 Kh6.

33... Be5 34. Rb4 Rd7 35. Kg2 Rd2+ 36. Kh3


An important move. Covering some squares, Black weakens some others at the same time, whereas White can advance his pawn closer to the eighth horizontal. 36... Ra2 was more evident, even though Black had to reckon with a keen 37. Kg4 Rxh2 38. a5, as well as with a more quiet 37. Bd5 Rd2 (the endgame after 37... Rb2 38. Rxb2 Bxb2 39. Kg4 Bc1 40. a5 Kf6 41. a6 Be3 42. Kh5 Kg7 43. Kg5 was most probably losing for Black despite the opposite-colour bishops, because it was too hard not to allow the white king come up to the a-pawn and to keep all black pawns on the kingside alive) 38. Rb7+ Kf6 39. Rb6+ Kg7 40. Be4 Ra2 41. Ra6, White’s a-pawn being ready to begin its advance. Still, after 41… Bd4 (no 41… Bc3 because of 42. Ra7+ Kf6 43. Bxh7) there was 42. a5 Bg1 43. Kg4 Bxh2 44. Kf5 Bg3, and Black was likely to keep the balance, though his position was very dubious. In case of 41. Rb5 Bc3 42. Rc5 Be1 (bad was 42… Bd2? because of 43. Rg5+ Kf6 43. Rg2) 43. Rc7+ Kf6 Black also held.

37. Rb5 Kf6 38. a5 Ra2 39. Rb6+


A time trouble blunder, losing Black’s game immediately, whereas after 39... Kg7 40. a6 Bd4 41. Rd6 Be3 there were still chances for a draw, as an active 42. Kh4 was repelled with 42…Rxh2+ 43. Kg5 Rg2+ 43. Kxh5 Kf8, and Black contained the onslaught of the white pieces.

40. Bd5! 1-0

Black resigned. He was losing a piece inevitably.

"Chess is so interesting in itself, as not to need the view of gain to induce engaging in it;and thence it is never played for money."

Benjamin Franklin, "Chess made easy", 1802

"It is one of the insights of modern players, and especially of the best ones, that one has toplay the position itself, not some abstract idea of the position."

John Watson, "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy", 1998

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