Drama in Yerevan – Aronian wins Rapid match 4:2

5/7/2007 – World Champion Vladimir Kramnik was trailing by two points, and on the final day he almost pulled off an historic save. In both games he had a forced mate on the board, and in both cases, plagued by time constraints, he went on to almost lose the game. The two draws left Levon Aronian, Armenia's great treasure, with a 4:2 victory. Illustrated report with analysis.

The Aronian-Kramnik Rapid Chess Match took place in Yerevan, Armenia, from May 4th to 6th, 2007. It went over six games, played at the rate of 25 min for the entire game with a increment of 10 seconds per move.

Day three report (final)

From the tournament bulletin:

Levon Aronian defeated the World Champion Vladimir Kramnik 4-2 in a fine display of active play, tactics, and execution. After losing the first game, the young Armenian reeled off three wins in a row, and then held a dramatic game 5 draw to win the match. Kramnik is known to be an excellent rapid chess player, armed with fantastic opening knowledge as well as vast match experience. However, playing on his home soil, it was Aronian who appeared to be directing the style – and outcome – of the match.


The Opera House in Yerevan where the Rapid Chess event was held

The fireworks lasted throughout the three-day match. Even during game six, with the match outcome no longer in question, the packed Opera House spectators sat on the edge of their seats (or in the aisles, on the handrails, or on each other) fascinated by the final moves which were blitzed out until the final draw was agreed.

Game five

Aronian came out fighting. Needing only one draw in two games to wrap up the match (leading 3-1 after the 1st 4 games), Aronian played an unorthodox opening, emerging with a precarious position. However, as is becoming customary with him, the Armenian countered with several middle-game tactics and ideas, and despite being low on his clock, entered an endgame that seemed tenable. At this point however, it was Kramnik, perhaps drawing upon his last energy reserves to salvage the match, went for a mating combination with rook and knight. He had Aronian on the ropes but missed out on a final knight maneuver which would have kept his match hopes alive. Aronian defended well, secured the draw, and in doing so won the match.

Kramnik,V (2772) - Aronian,L (2759) [A60]
Rapid Match Yerevan ARM (5), 06.05.2007
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 b5 6.Nd2 Nxd5 7.Bg2 Nc7 8.Bxa8 Nxa8 9.b4 c4 10.a4 Bxb4 11.Qc2 Bb7 12.Ngf3 a6 13.axb5 axb5 14.Qb2 Qf6 15.Qxb4 Qxa1 16.0-0 Qa6 17.Bb2 f6 18.Ba3 d6 19.Nd4 Nc7 20.Rb1 0-0 21.Nxc4 bxc4 22.Qxb7 Qxa3 23.Qxc7 Qc5 24.Rb7 Qxc7 25.Rxc7 d5 26.Nf5 Na6 27.Rxg7+ Kh8 28.Ra7 Nb4 29.Rc7 h5 30.Kg2 Re8 31.e3 Nd3 32.f4

Until now Aronian has been hanging on in this Modern Benoni. But now he embarks on a devious plan: 32...Ra8? 33.Kh3 Ra5? Gives up the h-pawn and allows Kramnik's king to join in a mating attack. 34.Kh4 Rc5 35.Rd7 Kg8 36.Kxh5 Kf8 37.Nd6 c3?? Ignoring the treat and allowing forced mate. 38.Kg6 Rc6

Now it is mate in seven: 39.Rf7+ Kg8 40.Re7 Nxf4+ (or 40...Ne5+ ) 41.gxf4 Rc8 42.Rg7+ Kf8 43.Kh7 Rc7 44.Rxc7 c2 45.Rf7#. But in time trouble Kramnik doesn't see it. 39.Kxf6? Kg8 40.Kg6 Kf8 41.Kf6 Kg8. Kramnik is struggling to find the win, and gets into deep trouble. 42.g4?? Nc5 43.Rd8+ Kh7 44.Kf7 Rc7+ (44...c2 also wins) 45.Kf6.

Now White is lost, since Black can play 45...c2 46.g5 Nd7+ and the c-pawn queens and wins, since White has no serious mating attack. But Aronian, also short of time, does not see this line. 45...Rc6? 46.Kf7 Rc7+? He could still win with 46...c2. 47.Kf6 Rc6 and draw agreed, even though ...c2 was still in the books. A tough struggle with missed chances, typical for chess played under great tension and time constraints.

Game six

The sixth game began innocently enough. With the match in hand, Aronian played the opening somewhat complacently, and Black achieved the upper hand. Once again however, Kramnik was unable to capitalize on a promising position, and the game spiraled into a wild finish where no one was able to predict any moves, and any of three results (1-0, ½-½, or 0-1) was possible.

Aronian,L (2759) - Kramnik,V (2772) [D12]
Rapid Match Yerevan ARM (6), 06.05.2007
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6 8.g3 Nbd7 9.Bg2 dxc4 10.Qe2 Nb6 11.0-0 Bb4 12.Bd2 0-0 13.Ne4 Qe7 14.Bxb4 Qxb4 15.Nc5 Rab8 16.Rfc1 Rfd8 17.Qc2 Nfd7 18.Ne4 e5 19.a3 Qe7 20.Re1 Nf6 21.Ng5 exd4 22.exd4 Qd6 23.Nf3 Re8 24.Re5 Nfd7 25.Ra5 a6 26.Rd1 Rbd8 27.Bf1 Re7 28.Rg5 Qf6 29.Kg2 Rde8 30.h4 Qe6 31.a4 Qe4 32.Qc1 f6 33.Ra5 Qe6 34.Qc2 Qe4 35.Qc1 Kh8 36.Re1

36...Qg4. There was an interesting alternative: 36...Qxf3+ 37.Kxf3 Rxe1 38.Qc2 Rxf1 39.Qxg6 Re7 40.Rh5+ Kg8 41.Qh7+ Kf7 looks promising for Black. 37.Rxe7 Rxe7 38.Bxc4 Nxc4 39.Qxc4 Qe4 40.Qb3 c5 41.dxc5 Qc6 42.Qc3

42...Re2? Once again Black misses a great opportunity: 42...Ne5! and now for instance 43.b4 (or 43.Qe3 Rd7 threatening devastating ...Rd3) 43...g5 44.hxg5 fxg5 45.b5 Qd5 and Black is winning. 43.b4? Aronian does not see the black threats. 43...Ne5 44.b5 Qe4 45.c6

45...Nd3? Instead of forcing mate: 45...Ng4 46.cxb7 Rxf2+ 47.Kg1 Qe2 48.b8Q+ Kh7 and White will be mated, even with two queen on board. 46.Qxd3 Qxd3 47.cxb7 Re8? Allows White to turn tables. 48.bxa6 Qb3 49.Rc5 Kh7 50.Rc8 Rg8 51.Nd4 Qb6 52.Rxg8 Kxg8

53.Kg1? White could have simply played 53.a5 Qc7 54.Kh2 Kh7 55.Nc6 Qxc6 56.b8Q Qxa6 57.Qb6 (or 57.Qd8). With his king in safety he can go for the win. After the text move the game is a draw: 53...Kh7 54.Nc6 Qb1+. Black escapes with a perpetual. 55.Kg2 Qe4+ draw.

Final Standings

 
1
2
3
4
5
6
Total
Levon Aronian
0
1
1
1
½
½
4
Vladimir Kramnik
1
0
0
0
½
½
2

Picture gallery


Chess players adorn the entrance of the Opera


The Armenian Chess Federation President (and Prime Minister of Armenia) Serge Sargsyan, second from left, arrives with his deputies


Sargsyan, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Kramnik and Aronian


During a game...


... and in the press conference at the end of the day's play

In the press conference both players responded with class to the reporters’ questions. Kramnik attributed his less-than-optimal performance to exhaustion, coming off of a busy schedule (in particular, the recent rapid match against Leko). The World Champion nevertheless acknowledged that Aronian is among the best in the world at rapid chess, an opinion with which few would disagree. Aronian was gracious as victor, and was understandably content with his fine performance.


Vladimir Kramnik answering the questions of the journalists


Levon Aronian talking to the adoring Armenian press


Bonus picture: some of the country's top female players

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