(1) Kramnik,Vladimir - Fritz 10 [E03]
2006 Match, 25.11.2006

In his matches with Deep Blue, Garry Kasparov was quite cagey with the White pieces. In order to avoid certain defensive lines he would play 1.Nf3 in order to steer the computer into the type of (closed) game that he was aiming for. In contrast, Vladimir just gets on with business.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3
Repeating the Catalan Opening which he used to good effect in his recent match with Veselin Topalov. In principle, an excellent choice against the computer as the strategic positions that arise are extremely subtle, without making an obvious error the Black side can be put under pressure long into the endgame.

3...d5 4.Bg2 dxc4!
While there is nothing wrong with moves like: 4...Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 and an eventual ...c7-c6 playing the Closed Catalan, there are dangers present in these lines. White might get a QS clamp and the computer might not realize that a central break is required. By the text, the computer insures at least a semi-open game and the danger of being dominated in a Closed position passes by at an early stage.

In general, most Catalan players are not afraid of losing the c4-pawn and often prefer not to recapture it at once. However, sacrificing material against a human is one thing, against a computer, Vladimir might never get the pawn back.

5...Nbd7 6.Qxc4 a6 7.Qd3
Up to this point, Vladimir could see the computer's monitor as the players were still in "book" or rather opening theory. After the text, Deep Fritz or Fritz 10 was out of book and the monitor was turned away from Vladimir. However, a few moves later, the game had transposed back into opening theory and Vladimir could again observe the computer's monitor. The text sidesteps a quick ...c7-c5 and ...b7-b5 which would come with tempo. White's early Queen moves aren't particularly effective in terms of playing for an opening advantage.

Annoying. Okay, the text is a perfectly normal move but Vladimir could hope that his opening novelty could induce the computer to take another approach such as playing 7...Bd6 aiming for ....e6-e5 which is not a particularly good idea.

8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.Nf3 0-0 10.0-0 Qe7 11.Nc3 b6
Thus far the game has followed along what could be described as normal channels but the first real question has been laid before Deep Fritz. Would it play 11...b6 or 11...b5 and why? I'm not sure which of the two is best. On the one hand an argument for 11...b5 can be made that Black takes control of the c4-square and keeps the b6-square open. Also, after 11...b5 a future ...b5-b4 might be a useful tempo. On the othter hand, a future a2-a4 might undermine the Queenside. A difficult choice and an intriguing moment into the insight of how Deep Fritz plays. [11...b5 12.Nd4 Ne5 ]

An excellent moment to clear the board of some pieces. White cannot become complacent. It is clear that after ...Bc8-b7, Black will bring a rook to the d-file and suddenly White could find his queen harrassed. The text preempts the potential for such problems.

Further insight into how Fritz 10 plays. The text shows a prejudice for Bishops. A reasonable alternative was 12...Bb7 13.Nxc5 Nxc5 14.Qa3, when White's Queen is safe from further harrassment. White has won the two Bishops but Black's harmonious development gives a comfortable game as well. [12...Bb7 13.Nxc5 Nxc5 14.Qa3 ]

13.Qxe4 Nf6 14.Qh4!
Keeping the game simple. Against a human player the line: 14.Qxa8 Bb7 15.Qxf8+ Kxf8, with two rooks for the Queen deserves consideration. After all the c and d-files are both open and offer good avenues for the rooks. However, if we continue the line several ply further for example: 16.b3 e5! 17.Bb2 e4 18.Ne5 e3!, the human player starts to feel uncomfortable already. There are some dynamic factors at work in Black's favor and the rooks have hardly had a chance to exert themselves. [14.Qxa8 Bb7 15.Qxf8+ Kxf8 16.b3 e5 17.Bb2 e4 18.Ne5 e3 19.f3 ]

14...Bb7 15.Bg5 Rfd8 16.Bxf6
[16.Bxf6 Qxf6 17.Ng5 (17.Qxf6 gxf6 18.Rfd1 Rac8 19.Ne1 Bxg2 20.Kxg2 ) ; 16.Ne5 Bxg2 17.Kxg2 Qb7+ 18.f3 Be7 ]

16...Qxf6 17.Qxf6 gxf6 18.Rfd1
On the one hand, Vladimir can be pleased, he has managed to channel the game into the quiet waters of an ending. Best of all Black has doubled f-pawns which give a certain optimism. Vladimir is "gambling" that Deep Fritz will not play the correct move...

The gamble is successful. Most human players would have played 18...Bxf3! and offered the world champion a halving of the point. Vladimir had correctly understood that the computer would look at the wonderful open-range b7-Bishop, saw the puny f3-Knight and refused such a trade. While Deep Fritz can see 18 ply deep and even more in certain positions, it is unable to deduce that the f3-Knight has the potential of being a superior piece to the c5-Bishop.

After this move, White has a serious endgame advantage. Of course from this moment to the end of the game Deep Fritz was showing that the game was always equal or perhaps at most a 0.18 advantage for White. In actuality, of course, White's winning chances are excellent.

19...Bxg2 20.Kxg2 f5 21.Rxd8+
[21.f4 Bd4 22.Rd2 ]

21...Rxd8 22.Nd3 Bd4 23.Rc1
In my day, players like Ulf Andersson (Sweden) and Zoltan Ribli (Hungary) made an excellent living from such endgame positions as White. Time and again they would demonstrate that White's control of the c-file was more important then Black's d-file control. That Black's KS structure was a serious liability and that given time, White's King could play a more active role in the endgame then its counterpart.

More annoyance. The computer refuses to go quietly into that good night. White just wanted to play moves like f2-f4 and Kg2-f3 to really get his positional grippers latched on to the position. The text interferes with this delightful dream by creating counter-play based on ...e5-e4 and also keeps White's King at bay.

Simple chess. Vladimir covers the b2-pawn as well as protecting the d2-square against any invasion. He now awaits developments, perhaps Deep Fritz, with a wide range of pawn moves would weaken its position? [24.b3 ]

Whoa, this hyper-active move was certainly a surprise. I was having some doubts about White's winning chances after 24...a5, preventing a possible Nd3-b4-c6 idea. In that case, 25.e3 e4 26.exd4 exd3 27.Rd2 Rxd4 28.f4! (28.Kf3 f4! 29.gxf4 f5) leads to a likely drawn rook endgame but White after a subsequent Kg2-f3-e3 and vacuuming up the d3-pawn might have something to enjoy. After all the doubled f-pawns have to have some kind of disadvantage. After the text, I got really excited about Vladimir's winning chances. Now he can force a classic good knight versus bad bishop minor piece endgame. [24...Rd5 25.Nb4 (25.a4 a5 ) 25...Rb5 ; 24...a5 25.e3 (25.f3 e4 ) 25...e4 26.exd4 exd3 27.Rd2 Rxd4 28.f4 (28.Kf3 ) ]

[25.Nb4 Rb5 26.Nc6 (26.Nxa6 Rxb2 27.Rxb2 Bxb2 28.Nc7 Bd4 29.Nd5 b5 30.f3 ) 26...Bxb2 27.Na7 Rb4 28.Nc6 Rb5 ; 25.a4 ]

In passing, I should note that my Fritz 9 engine rated the text as well as 25...Rc5 as about even. Needless to say, after 25...Rc5 26.Rxc5 bxc5 27.Nxa6 c4 28.b3 c3 29.Nb4 and White , a pawn to the good wins easily.

26.Nxa6 Rxb2
Suddenly, there are many pitfalls in the position for Black. For example: 26...Bxb2 27.Nc7 Rb4 28.Nd5 Rb5 29.Ne3 f4 30.Nf5, with both the threat of a back-rank checkmate as well as a plan of Kg2-f3, when we see an example of how White's King can become far more active then its counter-part. Another nice trapping line could be seen after 26...Bxb2 27.Nc7 Rc5 28.Rxc5!? bxc5 29.Nd5 c4 30.Ne3 c3 31.Kf1, when White's King races to blockade the passed c-pawn. [26...Bxb2 27.Nc7 Rc5 28.Rxb2 (28.Rxc5 bxc5 29.Nd5 c4 30.Ne3 c3 31.Kf1 ) 28...Rxc7 29.Rxb6 Rc2 30.Kf3 Rxa2 31.Rf6 ]

27.Rxb2 Bxb2 28.Nb4
This is one of those moves that I find difficult to explain. At the time, I was convinced that Vladimir should win by 28.Nc7!, in order to "freeze" the Black King and to quickly bring the knight to the wonderful d5-square. My arguments were quite convincing, at least to myself. Then Vladimir played the text and I was left wondering what the difference was? Now, I'm unable to recall. [28.Nc7 Bd4 29.Nd5 b5 30.f3 Kg7 31.e4 fxe4 32.fxe4 Kg6 33.Kf3 ]

[28...b5 29.Nd5 ]

[29.a4 Kg6 30.Nd5 Bd4 31.e3 Bc5 32.f3 e4 33.Kf2 Kg5 34.h3 h5 35.f4+ Kg6 36.Ke2 ]

Thus far we can only express our admiration for Vladimir's play. He is literally at the precipice of victory while Deep Fritz 10 is happily producing 0.00 evaluations. If the game is won, it is as this point. At the time of play, I thought the win was simple: White should play a2-a4, e2-e3, march the King to the b5-square and make sure that Black had insufficient opportunity to penetrate on the KS with his King. Now of course, I realize that the move a2-a4 is not critical to this line of play and that it might even be helpful if Black can be coaxed into playing ...b6-b5 brining the pawn closer to its own execution.

Missing the direct path to victory. After 30.e3 Bc5 31.Kf3 the win is as clear as a sunny sky. White's King is making a beeline to the b5-square, where the b6-pawn is captured and the a-pawn is escorted to coronation. I see no defense: 31...f6 (Black is welcome to march his King to the g5-square when h2-h3 shuts the door to further progress.) 32.Ke2 now Black has a choice. He can play 32...e4, delaying White's King march by a move or not. Keeping in mind that 32...e4 gives up the f4-square, let us assume 32...Kf7 as the main line. White continues his march: 33.Kd3 Ke6 34.Kc4 and White has achieved his ideal. Black is in zugzwang. His Bishop cannot leave the protection of the b6-pawn and Black's King is fastened to the protection of the f6-pawn. White's win is simple, he just plays a2-a4 with the threat of a4-a5 when the Bishop is undermined. White wins. Because this main line is so convincing, Black would likely have to try a line combining ...e5-e4 and ...b6-b5 but I view the ending has hopeless. Let us check: 30.e3 Bc5 31.Kf3 f6 32.Ke2 e4 33.Kd2 b5 34.Kc3 Kf7 35.Nc7 Bb6 36.Nxb5 (Let us pause to give thanks. White has achieved our favorite living condition, he is ahead in material.) 36...Ba5+ 37.Kd4 Be1 (This counterplay is far to late.) 38.a4 and Black can give it a rest. [30.f3 ; 30.e3 Bc5 31.a4 ; 30.e3 Bc5 31.Kf3 f6 32.Ke2 Kf7 33.Kd3 Ke6 34.Kc4 ]

[30...e4 31.f3 Kg6 32.e3 Bc5 33.Kf2 Kg5 34.Ke2 ]

This is a real groaner. I think the text throws away any winning chances that were left. I was still optimistic about White's chances after 31.Kf3! One point is to trick the computer into playing an innocuous move like 31...Kg6? When after 32.e3!, White is back in business and simply goes to the b5-square as we have seen. If Black plays 31...e4+? 32.Kf4 Kg6 33.Ke5 gives White the active King and a simple win. The main question is: 31.Kf3 f6 and can White still win? Black is now prepared for ...Kg7-f7-e6 booting away the overpowering d5-Knight. My attention had been focused on 32.e4 inviting the line 32...fxe4+ 33.Kxe4 Bxf2 34.Kf5 playing for the simple recapture of the f6-pawn. White appears dominant. Therefore, 31.Kf3 f6 32.e4 Kg6, when we come to the major difference between this line and the game continuation, White can provoke Black into playing ...f5xe4 under favorable circumstances: 33.Ne3! Now after 33...fxe4+ 34.Kxe4, White has achieved what he wants, an active King. While after 33...Bxe3 34.Kxe3, White has achieved a tricky but winning King and pawn ending. [31.e3 e4 32.f3 Kg6 33.Kf2 Kg5 34.h3 ; 31.f3 Kg6 32.e4 h5 33.h3 f6 34.Nc7 ; 31.Kf3 f6 32.e4 Kg6 33.Ne3 fxe4+ (33...Bxe3 34.Kxe3 ) 34.Kxe4 ]

31...f6 32.f3
[32.g4 Kg6 ]

32...Kg6 33.e4??
The final unbearable mauling of this favorable ending. Although my optimism was seeping away I still felt that Vladimir had not tossed away all of his chances. Now was the time for 33.e3! awaiting developments. If Black falls asleep, then the plan of Kf1-e2-d3-c4 will force a rude awakening. White's dream is revealed after 33.e3! h5 34.Kf1! Kf7 35.Ke2 Ke6 36.e4, now the difference in the game is crystal clear, Black's King on e6 is not offered any KS counterplay: 36...fxe4 37.fxe4 f5 38.Kf3 Bd4 39.Ne3! fxe4+ 40.Kxe4 and White's King has reached the square of milk and honey. [33.e3 h5 34.Kf1 (34.Kf2 h4 ) 34...Kf7 35.Ke2 Ke6 36.e4 fxe4 37.fxe4 f5 38.Kf3 Bd4 39.Ne3 fxe4+ 40.Kxe4 ]

Whoops. Now White finds himself in zugzwang. If his King was on e2, then Ke2-d3 and just wins. Unfortunately, White's King has to stay close to the e4-square as 34.Kf1 fxe4 35.fxe4 f5 and White can't maintain his White square dominance. Vladimir now went into a long pause and was horrified to realize that he had done the one thing that he was trying to avoid: Leaving a KS pawn weakness.

[34.Nc7 Bb4 35.Kf2 Bc5+ 36.Ke2 fxe4 37.fxe4 f5 38.Kf3 fxe4+ 39.Kxe4 Bf2 ]

34...hxg4 35.hxg4 fxe4 36.fxe4 Kg5 37.Kf3
[37.Kg3 Kg6 38.Kh4 (38.Nc3 Bb4 39.Ne2 Be1+ 40.Kf3 Kg5 41.Nc1 Kh4 ) 38...Bf2+ 39.Kh3 Kg5 40.Kg2 Bc5 41.Kf3 Kg6 42.Kg3 Kg5 43.Nc7 Bd6 44.Ne6+ Kg6 45.Kf3 Kf7 46.Nd8+ Ke7 47.Nc6+ Kd7 48.Na7 Ba3 49.Ke2 Bb2 50.Kd3 Kc7 51.Kc4 Kb7 52.Nb5 Kc6 53.Kb3 Ba1 54.Na3 Bd4 55.Kc4 Bf2 56.Nc2 Bc5 57.Ne1 Be3 58.Nf3 (58.Nd3 ) 58...Bg5 59.Kb4 Kc7 60.Kb5 Kb7 61.Ng1 Bh4 62.Ne2 Be1 63.Nc1 Kc7 64.Nb3 Bf2 65.Na1 Be1 66.Nc2 Bd2 67.Na3 Be3 68.Nc4 Bd4 69.Nd2 Kd6 70.Nf3 Be3 71.Nh4 Bf2 72.Nf5+ Kd7 73.Ng7 ]

37...Kg6 38.Ke2
[38.Nc7 ; 38.Ke2 Kg5 39.Kd3 Kxg4 40.Nxf6+ Kf3 41.Kc4 Be7 42.Nd7 Kxe4 43.Nxb6 Kf5 ; 38.Nc7 Bd6 39.Nb5 Bb4 40.Ke2 Kg5 41.Kf3 Kg6 ]

38...Kg5 39.Kd3 Bg1!?
A bit of a surprise. Most of us would have played 39...Kxg4 40.Nxf6+ Kf3 41.Nd7 Bd4 and awaited a draw offer. [39...Kxg4 40.Nxf6+ (40.Kc4 f5 ) 40...Kf3 41.Kc4 Be7 42.Nd5 Bc5 ]

40.Kc4 Bf2 41.Kb5 Kxg4 42.Nxf6+
[42.Nxb6 Bxb6 43.Kxb6 f5 44.exf5 Kxf5 45.Kc5 e4 46.Kd4 Kf4 47.a5 e3 48.Kd3 Kf3 49.a6 e2 50.a7 e1Q 51.a8Q+ ]

[42...Kf4 43.Kc6 Bh4 ]

43.Kc6 Bh4
[43...Bg1 44.Kd5 Bd4 45.Nd7 Kf4 ]

44.Nd7 Kxe4 45.Kxb6 Be1
[45...Kd5 46.Nxe5 Kxe5 47.a5 Bd8+ 48.Kb5 Bxa5 ]

46.Kc6 Kf5 47.Nxe5 Kxe5 1/2-1/2