London Chess Classic – <i>Kramnik-Carlsen</i> revisited

12/15/2010 – After crushing Carlsen through the game, Vladimir liquidated into an endgame without a second thought, which turned out to be far trickier than expected, and a miraculous draw ensued. Was it winnable? Yes, said a 12-core Hiarcs, but it was a fiendishly hard win to work out. IM and psychologist Ilias Kourkounakis shows how this could have been avoided, with added analysis by GM Karsten Mueller.

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London Chess Classic 2010

The tournament is an eight-player round-robin for seven rounds played at 40/2h + 20/1h + g/15'+30" using the Sofia Rules.

Prizes: 1st 50000 Euros, 2nd 25000 Euros, 3rd 15000 Euros, 4th 10000 Euros, 5th 10000 Euros, 6th 8000 Euros plus seven daily Best Game prizes of 1,000 Euros voted on by the public. To further incentivate combativity, there is a winners’ pool of 20,000 Euros for each game won. At the end of the tournament the number of wins is counted with a proportionate prize is awarded for each win, all of equal value. For example if there are twenty decisive games then the prize will be 1000 Euros per win.

Tie Breaks: In order of priority. 1. Number of games with Black. 2. Number of games won with Black. 3. Number of games won. 4. Ranking based on the games between the tied players only.


THE POWER OF COMPARATIVE THINKING
(an oft underestimated decision-making tool)

By Ilias Kourkounakis

The game Kramnik-Carlsen from the 2nd London Chess Classic event provided great excitement to all that followed it live, either on stage on via the Internet. After outplaying his opponent, Kramnik seemed to be sailing comfortably to an easy win, but then the improbable happened: he himself liquidated to an ending that proved incredibly difficult and the game was eventually drawn. However, he could have avoided this outcome by using the method of comparative thinking.

Comparative thinking is a decision-making process, by which a choice can be made without an exhaustive analysis of the position. It can prove to be a powerful analytical aid when complete calculation is impossible, either because of the human limitations of a player or because of time shortage. However, it must be emphasized that comparative thinking should not be used as a substitute for calculation.

A most useful aspect of comparative thinking is that it may be used even when we are not completely certain of the result, but with a certainty that using it maximizes our chances. This can be illustrated almost perfectly in the following critical position from Kramnik-Carlsen:








Here Carlsen played quite cleverly 61…Rc5, without giving it a lot of thought. It is evident that he should lose with best play and his only real hope lies in the K+B+Ps vs K+Ps endgame that actually arose in the game. When he made his decision he did not need to know the result of that endgame, but only that his practical drawing chances were better than if the situation remained unaltered. Consciously or subconsciously, he used comparative thinking to choose 61…Rc5 over other more neutral moves, for example 61…Ra5.

In reply, Kramnik decided to liquidate with 62.Rxd6+. This might have been a good move from a purely “chessic” point of view or it might have not. From the standpoint of comparative thinking, however, it was a clear mistake.

Liquidation of pieces does not necessarily simplify matters, it only simplifies the data available for analysis. In practice, simplification of the data might actually complicate the analysis by requiring a more specific approach and calculations to greater depth, as is the case here. This is exactly why comparative thinking is the appropriate decision-making tool to use in such a situation.








It is clear from the result that Kramnik did not calculate the endgame to the end. It is possible that a player of his caliber actually could, but he need not to. As a matter of fact, he should not even try to. In the K+B+Ps vs K+Ps endgame he can win only in a very restricted front, where the doubled g-Pawns and the Bishop’s obligation to guard the a2 square limit his possibilities of controlling crucial black squares to the King. The main argument of comparative thinking is as follows:

Even if the K+B+Ps vs K+Ps endgame is winning, it is clear that the present balance of power wins more easily (for example, by first eliminating the enemy a-Pawn). On the other hand, while the present balance of power is surely winning, it is not 100% sure that the same is the case with the K+B+Ps vs K+Ps endgame. Therefore, not liquidating would maximize his chances, while liquidating might decrease them.

This argument could be easily made by Kramnik if he stopped and considered seriously the difficulties of the resulting endgame for a few minutes. The fact that he made his decision relatively quickly indicates that he had no doubts, not because he reached the wrong conclusion, but because he failed to question it.

I believe he should have suspected something, if only because Carlsen allowed the liquidation. Once again, the Norwegian GM did not need to know the result of the K+B+Ps vs K+Ps endgame. From the standpoint of comparative thinking and from Carlsen’s point of view, if that endgame was also lost, it was not more lost than the position of the diagram. Therefore, he could make his decision fairly quickly and without calculating everything.

In conclusion, it is far from my intention to severely criticize Kramnik for his choice of 62.Rxd6+, especially as this was my own very first idea while watching the game. Besides, even when writing these lines shortly after the completion of the game, I could not claim to know for sure the objective evaluation of the K+B+Ps vs K+Ps endgame without accessing databases and/or exhaustive analysis. I consider Kramnik’s mistake fully acceptable after many hours of play and when in an emotional need to release the tension by clarifying the situation on the board as much as possible. Nevertheless, I hope it has been made clear that his was more a psychological error than an analytical one. Moreover, it was an error that could have been prevented by using the method of comparative thinking at the right moment.

Finally, I cannot refrain from repeating the warning mentioned earlier. Comparative thinking should be used only in positions where precise calculation to the end is practically impossible, or at least undesirable because of the time consumption it demands. If one can calculate everything to the end, then that is what should be done.

Ilias Kourkounakis is an International Master with a B.Sc. in Psychology (University of Toronto) and has been a professional trainer for more than 25 years. He has published seven books on various aspects of chess, all in the Greek language.

Endgame Analysis by Karsten Mueller

Kramnik,Vladimir (2791) - Carlsen,Magnus (2802) [D07]
2nd London Chess Classic London ENG (6), 14.12.2010 [Mueller,Karsten]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bf4 Bd6 6.Bg3 Nf6 7.e3 0-0 8.a3 Ne7 9.Qb3 b6 10.Ne5 c5 11.Nxg4 Nxg4 12.Rd1 Bxg3 13.hxg3 Nf6 14.cxd5 exd5 15.Be2 Qd6 16.Qc2 h6 17.0-0 c4 18.b3 Qxa3 19.bxc4 dxc4 20.Bf3 Rab8 21.Ra1 Qd6 22.Nb5 Qd7 23.Qxc4 a5 24.e4 Rfc8 25.Qe2 Rc6 26.Rab1 Rd8 27.Rfd1 Rdc8 28.d5 Rc2 29.Qe3 R2c5 30.Nd4 Re8 31.Qd3 Qd6 32.Qa6 Rb8 33.Nb3 Rc2 34.Nd4 Rc5 35.Nb3 Rc2 36.Qd3 Rcc8 37.Nd2 Ng6 38.Be2 Qc5 39.Rb5 Qc3 40.f4 a4 41.e5 Nd7 42.Qxc3 Rxc3 43.Ne4 Rc7 44.Ra1 Ra7 45.d6 Ngf8 46.Nc3 Nc5 47.Nd5 Ra5 48.Rxb6 Rxb6 49.Nxb6 Nfe6 50.Bc4 Kf8 51.f5 Nd8 52.Rf1 Ncb7 53.Re1 a3 54.e6 fxe6 55.fxe6 Nxd6 56.e7+ Ke8 57.exd8R+ Kxd8 58.Rd1 Kc7 59.Ba2 Rg5 60.Nd5+ Kc6 61.Nc3 Rc5 62.Rxd6+ Kxd6 63.Ne4+ Kc6 64.Nxc5 Kxc5








65.Kf2 Kd4 66.Kf3 Kd3 67.g4 Kd2 68.Be6 Kd3








A miraculous escape. It is hard to believe that Magnus Carlsen got away with a draw despite being down a piece. 69.Kg3? Kramnik allows the king to penetrate too deeply. Hiarcs 13, running on a 12-core machine and providing added information to the live commentary, calmly spat out a mate score with an irreductible winning line. Here it is with some added analysis to clarify. 69.g5! hxg5 (69...h5 70.Kf4 Kd4 71.g3 Kc5 72.Kf5 Kd6 73.Ba2 Ke7 74.Kg6 Kf8 75.Kh7+-) 70.g3 opening the gates to the deadly endgame weapon: the Zugzwang, which takes the day once more. 70...Kd4 71.Kg4 Ke3 72.Kxg5








and here all attempts to defeat the triangulation with the bishop will fail. 72...Kf3 (72...Kf2 73.Kf4 Kg2 74.g4 Kh3 75.g5+ Kh4 76.Kf5 Kh3 (76...Kh5 77.Bf7+ Kh4 78.Ba2 Kh5 79.Be6 Kh4 80.Kg6) 77.Bb3 Kh4 78.Ba2 Kh5 79.Be6 Kh4 80.Kg6) 73.Kh4 g6 74.Bf7 g5+ 75.Kh3 Kf2 76.Kg4 Kg2 and now a triangulation with the bishop wins it. 77.Ba2 Kf2 78.Bd5+- 69...Ke3 70.Kh4. 70.g5 is no longer good enough. Ex: 70...Ke4 (70...Kd4? 71.Kf4 hxg5+ 72.Kxg5 Ke3 73.Kf5 Kf2 74.g4 Kg3 75.g5 Kh4 76.Kg6+-; 70...h5? 71.Kh4 g6 72.g4 hxg4 73.Kxg4 Ke4 74.Ba2 Ke5 75.Bf7+-; 70...hxg5? 71.Kg4 Kf2 72.g3 Kg2 73.Ba2 Kf2 74.Bd5 Ke3 75.Kxg5 Kd4 76.Ba2 Ke4 77.Kg4 Ke3 78.Bb1 Kf2 79.Kf4 Kg2 80.Ba2 Kf2 81.g4 Kg2 82.g5 Kh3 83.Kf5 Kh4 84.Bb3 Kh5 85.Be6 Kh4 86.Kg6+-) 71.Kg4 Ke5 72.Ba2 Ke4 73.g3 Ke3 74.Bb1 Kf2 75.g6 h5+ 76.Kxh5 Ke3 77.Kg5 Kd4 78.Kf5 Kd5 79.Ba2+ Kd6 and Black has succeeded in securing the draw. 70...Kf2 71.Bd5. 71.Kh5 fails because the white bishop is overwhelmed after 71...Kxg2 72.Kg6 Kg3 73.Kxg7 a2 74.Bxa2 Kxg4 75.Kxh6= 71...g6 72.Kh3 g5!= White cannot leave the kingside without losing the g4 pawn. 73.Kh2 Kf1 74.Be6 Kf2 75.Bc4 Ke3 76.Kg3 Kd4 77.Be6 Ke3 78.Kh2 Kf2 79.Bc4 Ke3 80.Kg1 Kf4 81.Be6 Ke5 82.Bb3 Kf4 83.Be6 Ke5 84.Bb3 Kf4 85.Be6 Ke5 86.Bb3 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]


Pairings of the London Chess Classic

Round 1: Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Nigel Short 
0-1
 Vladimir Kramnik
Luke McShane 
1-0
 Magnus Carlsen
Michael Adams 
1-0
 David Howell
Viswanathan Anand 
½-½
 Hikaru Nakamura
Round 2: Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vladimir Kramnik 

0-1

 Hikaru Nakamura

David Howell 

½-½

 Viswanathan Anand

Magnus Carlsen 

1-0

 Michael Adams

Nigel Short 

0-1

 Luke McShane

Round 3: Friday, December 10, 2010

Luke McShane 

½-½

 Vladimir Kramnik

Michael Adams 

½-½

 Nigel Short

Viswanathan Anand 

1-0

 Magnus Carlsen

Hikaru Nakamura 

½-½

 David Howell

Round 4: Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vladimir Kramnik 

1-0

 David Howell

Magnus Carlsen 

1-0

 Hikaru Nakamura

Nigel Short 

0-1

 Viswanathan Anand

Luke McShane 

½-½

 Michael Adams

Round 5: Sunday, December 12, 2010

Michael Adams 

½-½

 Vladimir Kramnik

Viswanathan Anand 

½-½

 Luke McShane

Hikaru Nakamura 

1-0

 Nigel Short

David Howell 

0-1

 Magnus Carlsen

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rest day

Round 6: Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vladimir Kramnik 

½-½

 Magnus Carlsen

Nigel Short 

½-½

 David Howell

Luke McShane 

½-½

 Hikaru Nakamura

Michael Adams 

½-½

 Viswanathan Anand

Round 7: Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Viswanathan Anand 

½-½

 Vladimir Kramnik

Hikaru Nakamura 

½-½

 Michael Adams

David Howell 

½-½

 Luke McShane

Magnus Carlsen 

1-0

 Nigel Short


Links

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