Wijk round nine: the tournament spectacular

1/23/2008 – Topalov vs Kramnik in round nine was pure spectacle, with a stunning novelty which had been kept a secret for three years, complicated middlegame fight and mutual missed opportunities. And with a kibitzing Garry Kasparov offering special insights. Adams gradually squeezed van Wely in a static position, managed to win a pawn with a simple trick and then the game. Mihail Marin comments.

Wijk aan Zee 2008

GM Mihail Marin in his analysis kitchen at home in Romania

The following express commentary was provided by Romanian grandmaster Mihail Marin, who is the author of a number of very popular ChessBase training CDs and articles for ChessBase Magazine. GM Marin will study the games of the World Championship tournament in much greater detail and provide the full results of his analysis in the next issue of ChessBase Magazine.

Round nine commentary by GM Mihail Marin

Group A: Round 9 - Tues. Jan. 22th
Michael Adams - Loek van Wely
Levon Aronian - Pavel Eljanov
Vassily Ivanchuk - Shak. Mamedyarov
Judit Polgar - Teimour Radjabov
Veselin Topalov - Vladimir Kramnik
Boris Gelfand - Vishy Anand
Peter Leko - Magnus Carlsen

The 9th round scheduled one of the most awaited game of the tournament, one that opposed the ex World Champions Topalov and Kramnik. The game was pure spectacle, with a stunning novelty which had been kept a secret for three years, complicated middlegame fight and mutual missed opportunities in the final part. Topalov won after 45 moves and there seems to have been just one moment when Kramnik could have saved the game.

Leko-Carlsen featured a tense fight with some initiative for White. Black defended actively, but then missed a relatively simple draw and immediately resigned (see the express report).

Playing with white, Adams gradually squeezed van Wely in a static position. He managed to win a pawn with a simple trick. Black was forced to launch an energetic counterplay, but eventually misplaced his pieces and, confronted with additional losses of material, resigned on move 47.

A spectacular tactical fight could be seen in Ivanchuk-Mamedyarov. The exchange of blows eventually resulted into almost complete simplifications and a logical draw.

Playing with Black against Judit Polgar, Radjabov unearthed the out-fashioned Jänisch Attack and obtained an entirely adequate position out of the opening. Soon, Judit initiated a tcaticaloperation resulting into a draw by perpetual check.

Anand once again employed his "pet" variation against Gelfand's Catalan and equalized comfortably. In fact, Black'sposition looked more attractive after 25 moves, when a draw was agreed.

A solid but complex line of the English Opening was rehearsed in Aronian-Eljanov. Players ageed on a draw after 20 moves, in a moment when there was a lot of play yet.

Topalov,V (2780) - Kramnik,V (2799) [D43]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (9), 22.01.2008 [Mihail Marin]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6. During the Elista match, Kramnik played 4...dxc4 in all the 3 games where this position arised, obtaining entirely satisfactory positions out of the opening. After the match, he started employing the sharper Moscow/Anti-Moscow systems, where he seems to feel at home with both colours. 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4. Between players that do not shake eachother's hands before the game, the positional 6.Bxf6 is out of question, of course. 6...dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 Bb7 10.0-0 Nbd7 11.Ne5 Bg7

This position is so frequently seen nowadays that it would hardly deserve a diagram under normal circumstances. The real tabyias arise slightly later, but in the present game White deviated from the approved path abruptly. 12.Nxf7!? If such surprises, in the true spyrit of the King's Gambit, can arise from once in a while still, we are quite far from the exhaustion of our favourite game still. In the press conference Topalov said Cheparinov found Nxf7 three years ago, and they have been saving and developing it ever since. A huge effort indeed, but the resulting positions cannot be analized properly without considerable investment of time. All engines would consider that Black is just winning in all the lines, which can be quite discouraging for the faint-hearted. Contrary to the almost unanimous opinion, the move is not a novelty, though. It had been played for the first time by the Romanian correspondemce player Miron Nacu two years ago, as Marius Ceteras (among others, captain of the Romanian Ladies Olympic correspondence team) kindly informed me. 12...Kxf7

Black is a full piece up and there is no obvious way for White to get at least part of his material back. However, the permanent exposure of the black king to White's pieces' attack justifies the sacrifice from abstract point of view. 13.e5. Only this move is new. Both correspondence games continued with 13.f4 (If we spoke about the King's Gambit, this move is quite natural, even if played with a delay of more than 10 moves) 13...b4 (This looks suspicious. Later, Black tried to improve by evacuating the king from the centre with 13...Kg8 when after 14.e5 Nd5 15.Nxd5 cxd5 16.Bh5 White's kingside pressure eventually proved sufficient for reaching a draw in Brodda-Zidu, ICCF 2007.) 14.f5 exf5 (There is no immediate refutation for 14...bxc3 15.fxe6+ Kxe6 , but the presence of the king in the centre would be a permanent source of worries.) 15.Bxc4+ Ke7 16.Rxf5 bxc3 17.bxc3 Rf8 18.h4 with strong initiative for the considerable material disadvantage, Nacu-Brodda, ICCF 2006. 13...Nd5 14.Ne4. The next phase of the game consists of natural developing moves, as if nothing extraordinary had happened. Quite logically so, because development should be the highest priority in the first phase of the game no matter what. 14...Ke7 15.Nd6 Qb6 16.Bg4 Raf8 17.Qc2

17...Qxd4. This is the first move after which engines switch their evaluation from better for Black (already not winning, though) to at least equal for White. Which does not mean anything really, it might just be a consequence of the horison effect. Kramnik's move was probably dictated by the desire to establish some communication between the opposite wings (something that was possible only along the back rank until now). From the computer's suggestions, I would consider 17...Rhg8 as logical, because it develops the last piece, anticipating the infiltration of the white queen at the same time. 18.Qg6 Qxg4 19.Qxg7+ Kd8 20.Nxb7+. Black's material advance has been reduced to the minimum, but Kramnik probably relied on his stability on light squares as well as on the optical dispersion of White's forces all over the board. The queen and the knight are placed on active positions, but they are not sustained by the rooks, restricted to back rank activity for the time being. At the same time, the g3-bishop is somewhat out of play. Its only function is to keep the essential e5-pawn protected. 20...Kc8

The king could not go to c7 because of Nc5, with an unpleasant pin. However, the relatively best king retreat to c8 is not without drawbacks either. White is not at all forced to hurry with the check on d6, when after ...Kc7 Black would reach relative stability on the queenside. Taking advantage of the fact that the d7-knight is hanging, too, Topalov will leave his own knight on b7 for several moves, keeping Nd6+ in reserve. This is a typical way to increase the force of a determinedpiece. From b7, the knight controls the c5- and d8-squares, but also, indirectly, all the squares that can be reached from d6 in one move. After a premature knight jump to d6, the former area of influence would be lost. During the game, it is hard to foresee all the cases when a difference would be made by delaying the move Nd6+, but while this possibility will be available anyway, delaying it will (at least theoretically) restrict Black's choices. 21.a4 b4 22.Rac1. Threatening Rxc4! Black has obvious problems maintaining the queenside closed. 22...c3 23.bxc3

23...b3!? Aiming to maintain the c-file closed. 23...Nxc3 would allow White to coordinate the action of most of his pieces with 24.h3! Qd4 (24...Qe2 would leave both e6- and b4-pawns undefended and White would immediately attack them with 25.Qe7!) 25.Rfd1! when Black would have to find a form of giving up the queen for (probbaly) insufficient compensation, since the natural line 25...Nxd1? 26.Nd6+ Kc7? (Black should capture on d6 already. The text move aims to keep the knight and the e6-pawn defended, which is essential in order to avoid decisive attack.) loses the queen for nothing to 27.Nb5+; In case of 23...bxc3 White has a wide choice, but I like 24.Rfd1 best, because it brings the last piece into play. The concrete threat is Rxd5 followed by Qe7 with a strong attack. 24.c4. After the recent structural modifications, Black's central knight has lost stability. 24...Rfg8 Black cannot afford to open the d-file and has to start chasing the enemy queen. 25.Nd6+.He could still have waited for one more move. 25...Kc7 26.Qf7 Rf8

A first critical moment of the game. White cannot evacuate his queen starting with 27.Qg6? because of 27...Nf4! 28.Bxf4 Rhg8! followd by 29...gxf4 with a strong counterattack. Agreeing to the repetion of moves is out of question (they would have had to look into eachother's eyes in order to fix the draw in that case, but this would have been almost as humiliating as shaking hands!) which means, using the method of elimination, that White has to create a threat at least as strong as ...Rxf7. 27.cxd5!? Optically speaking, the most natural decision. It is easy to establish that White will get ample compensation for his queen; no complicate calculation is required. Objectively speaking, 27.h3! might be better, though. This move was suggested by Garry Kasparov, who was following the game informally (phoning and discussing with people in between) on a notebook without an engine! In fact, the first sequence of moves is not difficult to calculate and I assume that Topalov saw it, too: 27...Rxf7 28.hxg4 Nf4 (The only way to maintain the material disadvantage within acceptable limits) 29.Nxf7 Ne2+ 30.Kh2! (This move is natural and would be the instant choice of most players. I have awarded it with an exclaim because in a certain line it will be essential not to have the king on the back rank.) 30...Nxc1 31.Rxc1 Rb8

Analysis diagram

Players have reversed their parts and it is White who is a piece up now. However, with the bishop temporarily imprisonned on g3, the b-pawn, sustained by the rook and knight, seems to be very dangerous. Topalov must have evaluated this position as unclear, but further analysis proves that Kasparov's intuition did not let him down. White is able to generate a powerful and somewhat unexpected counterplay on the opposite wing, developing by one tempo faster than Black's simple plan. Here are some possible continuations (part of them provided by Kasparov himself, when confronted with a powerful chess engine by Frederic Friedel) 32.Rb1 Nc5 33.f4! Nxa4 (Black should not lose time. In case of an exchange on f4, the bishop will get into play just in time to keep Black's counterplay under control) 34.fxg5 hxg5 35.Nxg5 b2 (35...Nc3 also leads to remarkable play after 36.Nxe6+ Kc8 . The only possible retreat on an apparently empty area of the board. After any other move, White would play Rxb3! Once again, the direct and indirect action of White's knight keeps under control a bunch of important squares. 37.Rf1 b2 38.Nc5! Establishing a nice net around the enemy king. 38...b1Q 39.Rf8+ Kc7 40.e6+ Kb6 41.Rxb8+ Kxc5 42.Rxb1 Nxb1 43.e7 winning.) 36.Nxe6+ Kc8 (Again the only square. 36...Kd7 37.Nc5+! Nxc5 38.e6+ would lose the rook; while 36...Kb7 leaves Black without the threat ...Nc3.) 37.g5 Nc3 Finally, Black has reached his optimal regroupment, but after 38.Rxb2 Rxb2 39.g6+- the pawn is unstoppable. 27...Rxf7 28.Rxc6+ Kb8 29.Nxf7

29...Re8?! This is the second critical moment and... Black's only chance to save the game! Kramnik played his last move quickly, apparently without considering any alternative to removing the rook from the attacked square. By this moment, Kasparov felt somewhat frustrated by the fact that on the server nobody was suggesting 29...Qe2! , which he considered a way to hold the position. The basic idea is similar to that behind his previous suggestion, 27.h3. Instead of parrying the threat Nxh8, Black creates a stronger one! Indeed, in case the knight captures on h8, Black takes on f1 followed by ...b2, with a likely draw by perpetual, because Wite's pieces are not communicating with eachother. Here is a (not entirely forced) line confirming Kasparov's evaluation: 30.Rc3 (After 30.Rcc1 Rc8! 31.Rb1 b2 White is too passive to claim an advantage.) 30...b2 31.Rb3+ Ka8 32.Nxh8 Nc5 33.Rb5 (The rook is instable along the b-file and will have to capture on b2 at some point. However, it is useful to distract from its actual square the knight before doing that. 33.Rxb2?! Qxb2 34.dxe6 Nxe6 allows Black consolidate on the kingside,, while his a-pawn could prove dangerous in the near future.) 33...Nxa4 34.Rxb2 Qxb2 35.dxe6 Qb6 36.e7 Qe6 Apparently, White is in some trouble, but he can maintain some initiative with 37.f4 gxf4 (Otherwise, Black would have to fight against two connected pawns) 38.Bh4, but the position remains fairly unclear. 30.Nd6 Rh8 31.Rc4 Qe2 32.dxe6 Nb6 33.Rb4

White has a material advantage already, active piece placement, far advanced pawns and the safer position of the king. Black is in big trouble. 33...Ka8 34.e7?! More accurate would have been 34.Rxb3, keeping both e-pawns on board. 34...Nd5 35.Rxb3 Nxe7 36.Rfb1 Nd5 37.h3

There seems to be some hope for Black now, since there is no obvious way for White to improve his position. 37...h5?! But after this pseudo-active move, weakening the g5-pawn and allowing White regroup with gain of time, simplifies White's task. 38.Nf7 Rc8 39.e6 Threatening mate in one. 39...a6 40.Nxg5 h4 41.Bd6! The h4-pawn has little significance in this moment. Topalov prefers to use his bishop to sustain the advance of his passed pawn. 41...Rg8 42.R3b2 Qd3 43.e7 Nf6 44.Be5 Nd7 45.Ne6

There is no satisfactory defence against Nc7+ followed by Rb7#. 1-0. [Click to replay]

Adams,Mi (2726) - Van Wely,L (2681) [B87]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (9), 22.01.2008 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bc4

This might be regarded as a tribute to Fischer, who played the Sozin Attack almost exclusively for a long period of time. 6...e6 7.Bb3 b5 8.0-0 Be7 9.Qf3 Qc7 10.Qg3 0-0 11.Bh6 Ne8 12.Kh1 Kh8 13.Bg5 Bxg5 14.Qxg5 Nf6 15.f3

This is a familiar modern pattern, but Fischer usually advanced his f-pawn until the 5th rank. Or, alternatively, he did the same with the g-pawn. 15...Bd7 16.Rfd1 Nc6 17.Nxc6 Bxc6 18.a3 Rab8 19.Rd4 Rfc8 20.Rad1

Black is in no immediate danger, but White's advantage of space is hard to challenge in any way. The presence of the bishop on b3 inhibits such thematic freeing moves as ...d5 and/or ...e5. 20...h6 21.Qd2 Ne8 22.Ne2 a5 23.c3 Nf6 24.Qe3 Rd8 25.Ng3 Rd7 26.h3 Qa7 27.Qe1 Rbd8 28.R4d2 Qc5 29.Ne2 Qe5 30.Rd4 g5 31.c4 bxc4 32.Bxc4

32...Nh5?! Black's counter-attack has a static character and is not likely to develop quickly. Therefore, he should have first played a prophylactical kingmove, removing His Majesty from the dangerous long diagonal. 33.Qc3! Suddenly, the threat Bxe6! is not easy to parry. 33...Bb7. 33...Rc8 would lose the d6-pawn to 34.Rxd6! This is another drawback of the king's presence on the long diagonal. 34.Bb5! Winning a pawn. The bishop is taboo because of a deadly discovered check. 34...Rc8 35.Qxa5 Rc2 36.R4d2 Rdc7 37.Qb4 Kg7 38.Qd4 Kf6 39.Kg1 d5 40.exd5 Bxd5 41.Qxe5+ Kxe5 42.Nc3 Rxd2 43.Rxd2 Nf4

44.g3! A well calculated tactical operation, annihilating Black's counterplay. 44...Nxh3+ 45.Kh2 g4 46.f4+! Kd6 47.Be2 Black cannot parry the threats Bxg4 and Nb5 simultaneously. 1-0. [Click to replay]

Leko,P (2753) - Carlsen,M (2733) [C95]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (9), 22.01.2008 [annotated yesterday]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d6 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.Nf1 Bf8 14.Ng3 g6 15.b3 a5 16.Bd2 Rb8 17.Bd3 b4 18.Qc2 d5 19.cxb4 dxe4 20.Nxe4 Bxb4 21.Bxb4 Bxe4 22.Bxa5 Bxd3 23.Qxd3 e4 24.Qc4 exf3 25.Bxc7 Qc8 26.Bxb8 Qxb8 27.Rxe8+ Qxe8 28.a4 fxg2 29.a5 Qe4 30.a6 Nb6 31.a7 Kg7 32.Qc7 Qxd4 33.Re1 Qb4 34.Re7 Qxb3 35.Kxg2 Qd5+ 36.Kg1

Watching the game on Playchess Garry Kasparov expressed approval with the performance of "the kid", whom he had sent tow of his books a few years back and in fact met for a training session in Norway. "He is really quite extraordinary," he told us, "a superb talent." This game was a well-played draw, since Magnus had keep checking, and if the king moved to h2 he could play ...Qd4! The game continued 36...Qd1+ 37.Kg2 Qd5+ 38.Kg1 Qd1+ "Leko is saving some time," Kasparov said, "now he will move to h2." 39.Kh2. "Okay, the kid will find ...Qd4, lets go to another game." 39...Qf3?? "What?? Oh dear, he blew it. He broke under the pressure." Actually under time pressure: Magnus had just 20 seconds left on his clock. 40.Qxb6 Qf4+ 1-0. [Click to replay]


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