1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 e6 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.Qa4 Bb4+ 7.Bd2 Nd5 8.Bxb4 Ndxb4 9.Nc3 Bd7 Aronian had played this offbeat variation last year against Adams who chose ...a6 instead. Bd7 is by far the more common choice, but the question remains what Kramnik has prepared for his opponent. He is behind in points and is currently playing catch-up to make the top two and qualify for the grand final next month.
10.0-0 a5 11.Qd1 Time to remove the queen from the line of fire.
11...0-0 12.e3 a4 13.Qe2 Na5 14.Ne5 Nd5 15.Nxd5 exd5 16.Bxd5 Bh3 17.Qf3 Both players are following Rodshtein-Landa (Politiken Cup, 2010) to the T. It is possible the players are aware of it, but it is also perfectly possible that being GMs, their moves happen to coincide with the others, after all, good is good.
17...Bxf1 18.Bxf7+ Kh8 19.Rxf1 Nc6 20.Nxc6 bxc6 21.Qh5 Rb8
22.Bxc4 Novelty! At last! [The young Israeli Rodshtein had continued with 22.Bg6 h6 23.Qe2 Qf6 24.Bb1 but after 24...c5! was worse, though he managed to draw. Aronian's choice is the simplest and best.]
22...Rxb2 23.Bd3 g6 24.Bxg6 Qe7 25.Bb1 Qf7 26.Qc5 Since this leads to serious problems for White after Rxf2, a better chance might have been [26.Qe5+ Qg7 27.Qc5 Qf6 28.Bc2 and now if 28...Rxa2 29.Qc4! and if the a-pawn falls, White will have solved his most serious problems. 29...Qf7 30.Qc5 ]
26...Rxf2 27.Qe5+ Rf6 28.Rf4 Qg7 29.Bf5 Rd6 30.Bc2 Rxf4 31.Qxf4 a3 32.g4 Qe7 33.g5 c5! Opening the path for his rook.
34.dxc5 Rd2 35.Bb3
35...Kg7? [35...Qg7! was missed by Kramnik. 36.Bc4 (Why not 36.Qf6? Because after 36...Qxf6 37.gxf6 Re2 38.e4 Rxe4 39.f7 Kg7 40.Kf2 Re5 41.c6 Rc5 Black is won.) 36...Qa1+ 37.Bf1 Qxa2 38.Qf6+ Kg8 39.g6 Black may have seen this and feared being stuck in a perpetual, but he would escpae unscathed. Time may also have been a factor. 39...Qb3 40.gxh7+ Kxh7 41.Qh4+ Kg7 42.Qg4+ Kf8 43.Qc8+ Ke7 44.Qxc7+ Rd7 45.Qe5+ Qe6 46.Qg7+ Qf7 47.Qe5+ Kf8 and the checks run out.]
36.h4 Rd3 37.Kg2 [Why not protect the only pawn giving his king cover with 37.Kf2 It is very difficult for Black to make progress as his king is also extremely exposed. For example 37...Qxc5?? 38.Qf6# ]
37...Rxe3 38.Qd4+ Re5 39.Bd5 c6 Though this move seems logical and strong, it is going to allow White to exchange almost all his pawns and offer very serious saving chances.
40.Kg3 h6 41.gxh6+ Kxh6 42.Qf4+ Kh7 43.Bxc6 Rxc5 44.Qe4+! Qxe4 45.Bxe4+ With the h4-pawn removed, the tablebases claim this is a win for Black, however *with* the h-pawn, things stand differently.
45...Kg7 46.Kf4 Kf6 47.Ke3 Ke5 48.Kd3 Rb5 49.Kc4 Rb2 50.Bh7
50...Rh2! [Black cannot take with 50...Rxa2? as 51.Kb3 Ra1 is a simple draw]
51.h5 The position is a theoretical win for Black, but requires precise play.
51...Rxh5 52.Bc2 Rh2 53.Kb3 Kd4 54.Bg6 Rh3+ 55.Kb4 Rh6 56.Bf7 Ra6 57.Bg8 Ra7 58.Be6 Kd3 59.Bb3
59...Kd2! Kramnik's technique so far has been utterly flawless, and even the six-piece tablebases have no improvements to suggest.
60.Ba4 Rb7+ 61.Kc4 [61.Kxa3? Kc3 and Ra7 ends it.]
61...Kc1 62.Kc3 Kb1 63.Bb3 Rc7+ 64.Kd3 Kb2 65.Kd2 Rd7+ 66.Ke3 Kc3 67.Bg8 Re7+ 68.Kf2 Kd2 69.Kf3 Kd3 70.Kf2 Re2+ 71.Kf3 Re8 White gave up as there is no respite in view. Black will simply push the White king to the h-file, leave him cut off, then bring the king to the a-pawn, capture it, and win. 0-1