Zurich Challenge G3: Kramnik strikes back, evens score

4/24/2012 – On move eleven Levon Aronian sacrificed his queen – and it didn't seem to be preparation, as the opening choice by Vladimir Kramnik was very offbeat – a Scotch Four Knights, something he had never played before. He refuted the very dangerous looking attack of Aronian with precise calculation and went on to win an unusually exciting game – for which we bring you extensive commentary.

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Zurich Chess Challenge: Kramnik vs. Aronian

The Zurich Chess Club announces a six-game chess match between Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) and Levon Aronian (Armenia) from 21 to 28 April 2012. The numbers two and three of the world ranking will meet in the time-honored Hotel Savoy Baur en Ville at Paradeplatz, the venue of many a famous chess event in the past. Kramnik and Aronian are the winners of the two most prestigious tournaments of the last months. While the 36-year-old Kramnik gained a convincing victory at the London Chess Classic in December, the 29-year-old Aronian won the famous tournament in Wijk aan Zee with an outstanding score.

Game three


Before the start of game three: Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik

[Event "Zurich Chess challenge Kramnik vs Aroni"] [Site "Zurich"] [Date "2012.04.24"] [Round "3.3"] [White "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C47"] [WhiteElo "2801"] [BlackElo "2820"] [Annotator "Ramirez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] [EventCountry "SUI"] 1. e4 {60 There is a certain irony when a valid comment is to state that both players of the match chose 1.e4 as a surprise weapon. After Aronian's 1.e4 in game two, Kramnik also chooses to employ it. True, Kramnik has played it before, but the last time he did so in a classic game was against Adams in the 2006 Dortmund SuperGM tournament. They drew.} e5 {60} 2. Nf3 {0} Nc6 {0 This is already the first decision, though Kramnik had assuredly planned this in advance. Against the more typical 3.Bb5, Aronian usually plays his pet Marshall Gambit, his primary choice to neutralize his opponent with black. Unless Kramnik wishes to draw, or somehow try to outbook one the world's foremost theoretician's in the line, he needs another plan.} 3. Nc3 {0} Nf6 {0} 4. d4 $1 {0 The exclamation is because there is no way Aronian could have expected this unless he has a crystal ball. For one thing, Kramnik has never played any form of Scotch Defense with black or white in his career. The opening motto of the match seems to be "expect the unexpected".} exd4 {120 Aronian's only foray in this line dates back to 2003, when he was 19 years old and rated 2581.} 5. Nxd4 {0} Bc5 {240} (5... Bb4 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 { Transposes to one of the main lines of the Scotch game. Aronian wants none of that. As he said after the game - he was playing for a win! This is a great advantage of the 'friendly' matches, as they allow players to really play for both results.}) 6. Be3 {60} Bb6 {0.00/0 60} 7. Qd2 {0.27/0 120 "Expect the unexpected" indeed! This variation has only been played twice by players even rated 2500, and only one is worth mentioning.} O-O {0.29/0 420} 8. O-O-O {0.29/ 0 0} Re8 {0.35/0 0} 9. f3 {0.39/0 60} d5 {0.42/0 120 as Kramnik says, this is the only way of justifying Black's previous play. In some way, the Queen sacrifice that follows is somewhat forced.} (9... d6 10. g4 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 Be6 12. Rg1 Bxd4 13. Qxd4 c5 14. Qd2 Qa5 15. a3 a6 16. g5 Nd7 17. f4 b5 18. f5 Bc4 19. g6 fxg6 20. Bxc4+ bxc4 21. fxg6 h6 22. Qxd6 Ne5 23. Rd5 Qd8 24. Qxc5 Qh4 25. Rdd1 Rac8 26. Qa7 Qxh2 27. Nd5 c3 28. bxc3 Qh4 29. Rdf1 Kh8 30. Qd4 Nc6 { 1/2-1/2 (30) Reefat,B (2430)-Hebden,M (2550) Dhaka 1995 CBM 048 [King, D]}) 10. exd5 {0.38/0 480} Nxd5 {0.27/0 60} 11. Bg5 {0.41/0 0} Nxc3 {0.52/0 120} 12. Bxd8 {0.53/0 480} Nxd1 $1 {1.21/0 60} (12... Bxd4 13. Re1 Nxa2+ 14. Kb1 Rxd8 15. Kxa2 Be6+ 16. Rxe6 $1 fxe6 {is clearly better for White.}) 13. Bxc7 {0.76/ 0 660} (13. Bh4 Nxd4 14. Qxd1 Nf5 15. Bg5 h6 {Black has enough compensation for the queen.}) 13... Bxc7 {0.66/0 420} 14. Nxc6 {0.59/0 60 White is up a significant amount of material, but Black has a great deal of counterplay. First, he has the pair of bishops, which gives him a strong hold on some dark squares. Also, Black's pieces will swing into the game very quickly.} Ne3 {0. 54/0 1020} 15. Bb5 $1 {0.52/0 1380 Kramnik spent a lot of time on this move. Going back is simply not an option!} (15. Nd4 $6 Bf4 {already leaves white in huge problems. Consider the following two mover:} 16. Bb5 {(actually best)} Nf1 $1 {And Black regains more than he sacrificed for the queen.}) 15... bxc6 {1. 14/0 1080} (15... Bf5 $6 16. Nd4 Bf4 17. Bxe8 Nxg2 18. Qxf4 Nxf4 19. Bxf7+ Kxf7 20. Nxf5 {This is not so easy to win, but : "if I wanted to hold, I would've played 5... Bb4" - Aronian}) (15... a6 16. Ba4 Nc4 $5 {Wait for the next CBM issue for full annotations in all these crazy variations.}) 16. Bxc6 {0.86/0 0} Nc4 {1.26/0 540} 17. Qd4 {0.95/0 900} (17. Qb4 $5 {Kramnik mentioned during the postmortem that this was possibly better.}) 17... Be6 {0.49/0 120} 18. Bxa8 {1.50/0 0} Bb6 $1 {0.98/0 0 The problem of having an extra queen is that when it gets attacked you really have to move it. Black is building up slowly by using the Queen as a punching bag.} 19. Qd3 {1.67/0 1260} (19. Qe4 {trying to hold on to the Bishop, simply doesn't work.} Be3+ 20. Kd1 (20. Kb1 $4 Nd2+ $19) 20... Nxb2+ (20... Rd8+ $5 21. Ke1 Bb6 {Aronian thought that he was winning in this position. Much more analysis is needed.}) 21. Ke1 Bd7 {And Black is at least ok in every line.}) 19... Rxa8 {1.06/0 900} 20. Re1 {0.64/0 0 Of course, every amateur will tell you that three pieces are worth more than a queen. However, in this specific instance, White also has two pawns, one of them passed! The struggle is far from over.} Rd8 {1.93/0 60} 21. Qe4 {1.07/0 0} g5 { 1.51/0 600 This is a strange move. Black seems to weaken unnecessarily.} 22. c3 {2.14/0 120} (22. b3 Bc5 23. Qb7 Ba3+ 24. Kb1 Nd2+ 25. Ka1 {and Black cannot make any progress.}) 22... Bc5 {1.72/0 274} 23. Re2 {1.61/0 240} h6 {1.93/0 93} 24. g3 {1.61/0 237 The pieces are controlled for now, and now f4-f5 is coming into the fray.} a5 {1.33/0 212} 25. f4 {1.61/0 82} a4 {1.61/0 206} 26. f5 {2. 14/0 320} Bd5 {1.89/0 4} 27. Qd3 $1 {1.87/0 6 Forced, but sufficient. There are no good discoveries since the rook is under attack, but as Kramnik proves, even if it was protected, there is nothing to fear.} (27. Qg4 $2 a3 28. b3 Ne3 $1 {and the tables have turned.}) 27... Bb6 {4.51/0 179} 28. b3 $1 {4.55/0 93} axb3 {3.34/0 36} 29. axb3 {4.28/0 3} Na5 {3.17/0 13} 30. Re8+ {2.34/0 195 A very human decision. Kramnik eliminates some pieces and lets his pawns decide the issue.} (30. Qb5 $1 {is a surprising resource easily found by computers. However the Grandmasters were in time pressure and it is not so easy to calculate.} Nxb3+ 31. Kc2 Bc5 32. Re5 $18 {The bishop is trapped which means that the knight is doomed. Black has no more counterplay.}) 30... Rxe8 {2.39/0 3} 31. Qxd5 {2.19/0 1 In many ways, the smoke has cleared. Black's material is very reduced, so there is no possibility of creating serious threats against the king. Without these threats, the pawns will simply roll forward.} Rd8 {2. 13/0 93} 32. Qb5 {2.18/0 31} Rd6 {3.16/0 37} 33. Kc2 {2.86/0 63} (33. Qe5 $1 { was more accurate to prevent a little maneouvre from black, Bd8-f6, which grants him some coordination.}) 33... Kg7 {4.01/0 37} (33... Bd8 $1 {Aronian was down to his last few minutes here, and this backwards move is again, hard to find. White should still be winning in this position with accurate play, but the idea is to put the B on the a1-h8 diagonal, which combined with a N on c6 might potentially create threats against the king.} 34. Qb8 $1) 34. b4 {3. 70/0 17} Nb7 {3.26/0 0} 35. c4 {3.84/0 43 Now it's all over, Black has no coordination, and there is little hope to sacrifice one piece for both pawns.} Rf6 {4.05/0 4} 36. g4 {4.60/0 55} Nd8 {3.78/0 3} 37. c5 {4.06/0 11} Bc7 {6.48/ 0 1} 38. Qd7 {7.18/0 9} Nc6 {9.13/0 1} 39. b5 {11.01/0 27} Na7 {17.01/0 1} 40. Qxc7 {299.82/0 35} Nxb5 {16.26/0 1} 41. Qe5 {3621} (41. Qd7 $1 {Traps the knight, but White no longer has to be very accurate, just minorly careful.}) 41... Na7 {3601} 42. Kd3 {0 The king marches in, and the knight cannot help unpin the rook. A very exciting game in which Aronian was maybe too optimistic throughout the entire game, as can be seen in some of the comments. They did provide quite the spectacle!} 1-0


Video report on Game 3 by Daniel King

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site, and naturally on Playchess. In addition there was a video broadcast with commentary and images from the playing hall. If you missed it you can follow the entire four hours of action and the press conference in this video stream:

Score

Players
Rating
1
2
3
4
5
6
Total
Perf.
+/–
Levon Aronian
2820
1
½
0
     
1.5
2801
–1
Vladimir Kramnik  
2801
0
½
1
     
1.5
2820
+1

Remaining schedule

Round 4 Wednesday April 25 15:00h CEST
  Thursday April 26 Rest day
Round 5 Friday April 27 15:00h CEST
Round 6 Saturday April 28 13:00h CEST

Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 11 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.


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