After several days of intense off-the-board turbulences, we saw a quiet game today. Kramnik employed a rare and peaceful variation against Topalov's aggressive setup and then gradually neutralized White's (possibly only optical) advantage by cool-blooded defence.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Ne5 After having employed positional systems of development in the first two games where he had White, Topalov switches back to his trusted weapon against the Slav, probably hoping for a sharp fight. If that is true, Kramnik's choice must have come as a disapointment.
6...e6 7.f3 c5!? [Not the most topical continuation. For decades, there have been intense theoretical disputes in the line starting with 7...Bb4 8.e4 Bxe4 ]
8.e4 Bg6 [But this is really a rare move. The more common 8...cxd4 leads to complications, but Kramnik seems to have opted for a quiet game at any cost today.]
9.Be3 cxd4 10.Qxd4 Qxd4 11.Bxd4 White is better developed and enjoys considerable advantage of space. Besides, the g6-bishop is cut off play for a long time. However, Black has some trumps of his own, too. First of all, his position is quite solid and has no weaknesses at all, which is likely to make White's advance in development less relevant. Besides, the b4- and d4-squares have been weakened by the advance of White's pawns, which gives Black some chances in the long-term fight.
11...Nfd7 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.Bxc4 a6 14.Ke2 Rg8 Black needs to lose one more tempo in order to enable the development of his dark-squared bishop. I would remark here Kramnik's strategic vision that enabled him to understand that Black can afford to play like this and stay alive. To a certain extent, the situation is similar to the Berlin Ruy Lopez (one of Kramnik's specialties, too) where Black's development looks terrible according to the classic canons, but White has problems proving an advantage.
15.Rhd1 Rc8 16.b3 Bc5 17.a5 White needs to convert his better development into something more concrete. The weakness of the b6-square can be such an element.
17...Ke7 18.Na4 Bb4 19.Nb6 Nxb6 20.Bxb6 f6 Black only needs to neutralize White's pressure along the d-file by means of ...Rc6-d6 and the position would become plain equal.
21.Rd3 Rc6 22.h4 Rgc8 23.g4 In order to take advantage of such an impressive advantage of space, White would have needed a knight. With just bishops on board, Black is quite safe.
23...Bc5 Finally exchanging White's most active piece.
24.Rad1 Bxb6 [This well calculated move will lead by force to mass simplifications. The careless 24...Be8?! would have allowed White maintain his pressure with the slightly unexpected 25.Bd8+ ]
25.Rd7+ Kf8 26.axb6 Rxb6 27.R1d6 Rxd6 28.Rxd6 Rc6 29.Rxc6 bxc6 30.b4 e5 31.Bxa6 1/2-1/2