(1) Karjakin,S (2591) - Kramnik,V (2770) [B90]
Dortmund (4), 25.07.2004
[Ramirez Alvarez, Alejandro]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6
Kramnik is well known to be a solid player, playing for a draw on many occasions with openings such as the Berlin Ruy, and the Sveshnikov. Yet this year we saw a new addition to his repertoire, the Najdorf. His results so far have not been very good, his only win being in Monaco on a blindfold game against Vallejo. Probably faced with a young GM, Kramnik tries to go for the kill! That said, I find this a very dubious decision, the sharp long variations of the Najdorf make Karjakin feel like a fish in the water! (it means he feels confortable....)

The English Attack... Basically everyone plays this stuff now, but there is nothing wrong with "good ol'" lines such as Be2, f4 and a4!? to try to deviate from the masses of theory 6. Be3 has accumulated.

[ 6...Ng4 Was Kramnik's choice against Akopian in Corus this year, but he suffered quite a crushing defeat...; 6...e6 This was Vlad's choice against Adams also in Corus this year... but he lost yet again... perhaps the Najdorf is just not for Kramnik? :)]

7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Nbd7 9.g4
Again, this is the hot line, to throw g4 in before Qd2... chess is filled with very subtle details! White's score with this order is extremely good

Despite this move being rather illogical at first sight (it blocks the b pawn) it has some other ideas, like a quick jump to c4, for instance... [ 9...b5 10.g5 b4 Is the other main line, which is very sharp]

10.g5 Nh5 11.Qd2 Rc8
[ 11...Be7 allows 12.Qf2 which is another famous game from this year, Leko-Kasparov from Linares, which was drawn at the end, although Leko was better at a certain point. This line is very sharp and easy to prepare against, so perhaps Vlad didn't want to test Sergey's preparation]

12.0-0-0 Be7 13.Kb1 0-0 14.Rg1 Qc7!?
Before Linares, for some reason, 14... g6 was almost religiously played, yet 14... Qc7 seems much more logical

15.Qf2 Nc4 16.Bxc4 Qxc4 17.f4N
This deviates from Vallejo Pons - Kasparov, Linares 2004 which ended in a draw, although Kasparov was winning easily in many variations, as he himself claimed

Forcing the exchange of the knight is quite logical (knights on the rim are dim... or so they say)

18.Bxf4 exf4 19.Qxf4 Rfe8?
I think, this is the start of Kramnik's troubles, since this move is connected with a strange, slow and bad plan. Just looking at the position will reveal that white is trying to slaughter Black's king, and black is probably aiming to do the same. Yet chess (thank Caissa!) is much more complex then that. For now, though, b5 looked logical, since the rook is well placed on f8 for the time being [ 19...f5 Trying to give air to his bishops, was an interesting try, yet it failed to 20.Nd4! When Black's pieces feel rather uncomfortable; 19...f6 is even worse, since 20.g6 h6 21.Nd4+/- Leaves him with gaping holes on the light squares; 19...b5 was much more logical 20.h4 f5!? 21.Nd4 b4 22.Nd5! Bxd5 23.exd5 Qxd5 24.Rge1 Leaves white with compensation for the pawn, but perhaps no more then that.]

20.h4 Bf8
This manoeuvre is too slow. The whole plan of sitting and waiting is dubious at least. White's breakthroughs on the k-side aren't that far off. Karjakin seized his chance, and rams his h pawn forward, threatening g6

21.h5 g6 22.h6!
Quite instructive, it is much more important to kill the black bishop, and leave some big wholes on the k-side, then to open the h file: [ 22.hxg6?! hxg6 Any Dragon fan should know this: it is not easy to rip your k-side defenses apart, if there is no dragon slayer to get your g7 bishop! In the normal dragon, the dark square bishop takes care of that functionality, here, even if white gets Rh1, Qh3 AND Qh7+, it is still not easy to see a way in. ( 22...fxg6 Is also quite good for black, defending through the 7th rank) ]

The queen rushes back to d8

23.Qf6 Qb6 24.Nd4!
A good move, black is very solidly placed, and his bishops are doing an excellent job protecting their king. They must be eliminated! That said, the knight wasn't really doing much at b3...

24...Qd8 25.Qf3
Of course, keeping the queens on! Try not to exchange when you have a space advantage

Hitting the base of White's strong k-side pawn chain, its time for white to crash into Blacks base

26.Nxe6 fxe6 27.Qg4
Another possibility was to swing the rook in first, but this looks good enough

Allowing the e6 to fall, although it was safer to play [ 27...Bf8 28.Rdf1 b5 since White is still not crashing through anywhere]

Sergey forces black to push his d-pawn forward, so he can gobble it up later!

28...d5 29.Qxe6 Bxg5 30.Qf7
[ 30.Qxd5? This would have been a lazy move 30...Qxd5 31.Rxd5 Bxh6 And White can at most claim a minimal advantage]

Huh?! what is THIS?! After this move it seems white can go on auto-pilot right into 1-0. Much better was [ 30...Re7 31.Qf2 Rxe5 32.Qd4 Bf6 33.Nxd5 Rf5 34.Qe4 when Black is still inferior, but holding]


[ 31...Bg7 32.Rxh7+! was mate]

The strongest move [ 32.Qxd5 was also good, Black can't exchange queens 32...Qg5 ( 32...Qxd5 33.Nxd5+- ) 33.Qd6! This goes into a probably won endgame, but if you are not so sure ( 33.Rdg1+/- keeps up the pressure with good winning chances) 33...Rce7 34.Qf6+ Kg8 35.Ne4 Qxe5 36.Qxe5 Rxe5 37.Nf6+ Kg7 38.Nxe8+ Rxe8 39.Rd7+ Kg8 40.Rxb7 and this endgame should be won for White]

32...Bg7 33.Nxd5 Rd7
[ 33...Bxe5 34.Nxc7 Qxc7 Is not very pleasant for Black, since pushing his passed pawns would be suicide, leaving his king out in the open. On the other hand, White is not "crashing through" anywhere, so it was interesting to look at this for Black.]

Karjakin loses the thread a bit, why not Rxh7+ without losing the e-pawn? [ 34.Rxh7+! Kxh7 35.Nf6+ Bxf6 ( 35...Qxf6 36.Rh1+ Kg8 37.exf6 Rf7 38.Qg2! Rxf6 39.Qxb7 should be even easier for White then the previous variation) 36.Qh3+ Kg8 37.Rxd7 Qxd7 38.Qxd7 Rxe5 39.Qc8+ Kg7 40.Qxb7+ Re7 41.Qb4 should be easily winning, since white has the queen AND a passed pawn, contrary to the game's endgame]

34...Rxe6 35.Rxh7+ Kxh7
[ 35...Kg8 seemed better, remember my comment on the powerful bishop on g7, defending the k-side against all intruders? Well this seems to be the case here: 36.Rhh1 ( 36.Qb3 Rdd6! 37.Rhh1 Qd7 and Black is far off from ok, but is holding) 36...Re5 37.c4 when Black is inferior, but far from lost]

36.Qh3+ Kg8 37.Qxe6+ Rf7
Thing is, black is close to zugzwang here

a3 was better, not allowing b5 ideas [ 38.Qxg6?? is of course met by 38...Qxd5-+ Always watch your back!]

38...g5 39.Ka2
Cunning move, with the idea that Qxd1 will no longer be check

Going into a pretty bad endgame for Black, when he could still have created some counterplay [ 39...b5! This move, which was supposed to be played 20 moves ago, is sitll good :) 40.axb5 ( 40.Qxa6? bxa4 41.Qxa4? is met with 41...Qb8 forcing 42.Qb3 ( 42.Nc3 Ra7 43.Rd8+ Qxd8 44.Qxa7 Bxc3 also promises nothing) 42...Ra7+ 43.Kb1 Qxb3 44.cxb3 with a likely draw) 40...axb5 41.Kb1 Kf8 and, as in the previous variations, Black is not toast yet]

A brilliant tactician like Karjakin will never pass an opportunity like this!

[ 40...Qxf6? 41.Qc8+ Ke7 42.Qxb7+ Ke8 43.Qc8+ Ke7 44.Qd8+ Ke6 45.Qd5+ Ke7 46.Re1+ is totally winning for White]

41.Rxd8+ Bxd8
We have arrived at a very interesting endgame! Black's defensive resources are the passed g-pawn, and the possibility for a fortress position. Since Black's king is still on f8, far from the Q-side, White's winning chances are quite high. White is probably winning in this position, but only a very big piece of analysis could prove that statement right or wrong!

42.Qc8! Ke8 43.b4
Marching them up

Perhaps not the best [ 43...Rd7 was interesting, cutting the queen from the g4 square although after 44.c4 Black's position isn't so much fun, since 44...g4 is met by 45.c5! g3 46.c6 bxc6 47.Qxc6 and White's queen dominates the board to an extent to pick the a6 pawn AND stop the g-pawn]

44.Qg4 b6
It seems this accelerates defeat, but it was VERY hard to recommend something for Black. His main problem is lack of moves. Sure, he would love to play Kd8 right now, to pass to the Q-side, but there's that detail of the bishop blocking the way... Also, whites win is still not trivial [ 44...Bf6 comes then as a logical move, yet this is met by 45.Qe6+! Be7 46.Qe4! And the b7 falls]

45.Qe2+ Kf8 46.Qf1+ Ke7 47.Qe2+
A normal repetition of moves... giving your opponent the hope of you repeating for a third time and giving him a draw is an effective and cruel psychological torture :)

47...Kf8 48.Qxa6 g4 49.Qc8 Ke8 50.Qc6+ Kf8 51.Kb3 g3 52.Qg2 Rg5
Kramnik sets his last hopes to stop the pawns on his 4th rank

53.c4 Kg7 54.Kc2
[ 54.c5 bxc5 55.bxc5 ( 55.a5 Kg6! also seems drawn) 55...Rxc5 is drawn]

54...Kh6 55.Kd3 Be7 56.b5
[ 56.c5 bxc5 57.b5 Bd8 was not so easy, since the route back from b6 to g1 is cut off]

[ 56...Bb4! Was much better, since now both c5 and a5 are being controlled by the bishop, and White can't afford to lose the 3 pawns for just Black's bishop and b-pawn 57.Ke2! continuing White's march of the king to stop the g-pawn, seems like the best try]

A nice little combination, netting the bishop and the game

57...bxa5 58.b6 Bxb6 59.Qh1+!
The point

59...Kg6 60.Qc6+ Kh5 61.Qxb6 g2 62.Qg1 Rg3+ 63.Kd4?
(??) This move, recommended by Illescas, is weak. Much better is [ 63.Kd2! and here, the win is easier 63...Kh4 64.c5 Kh3 65.c6 Rg6 ( 65...Rg7 66.Qe3++- ; 65...Rg8 66.c7 pins the rook to the 8th file) 66.c7 Rd6+ 67.Ke3 Re6+ 68.Kf4 Rf6+ 69.Ke4 Rc6 70.Qe3+ Kh2 71.Qf4+ Kh1 72.Qh4+ Kg1 73.Qd8+- ]

Kramnik's defensive strategy is best, he wishes to defend the g-pawn with his king, leaving his rook to battle the c-pawn and White's king single-handedly. I must admit, that I'm skeptical that there should be no win for White here. Yet, I am unable to find one. Perhaps Kd4 was really extremely bad? [ Incidentally 63...a4? 64.c5 a3 65.c6 a2 66.c7 a1Q+ 67.Qxa1 g1Q+ 68.Qxg1 Rxg1 69.c8Q Would have led to a Q vs R endgame, which is of course won, but Karjakin would have had to show Kramnik his technique! On the other hand, Black's king is already in the edge... making White's task easier.]

64.c5 Kh3 65.c6 Rg4+ 66.Kd5 Rg3 67.Kc4
[ 67.c7 Rc3 68.Kd6 Rd3+ 69.Ke5 Rc3 leads to the same type of positions of the game]

67...Rg4+ 68.Kb5
[ 68.Kd3 Rg7! and again I can't find a winning idea, although perhaps this was the best try. The difference with this and Kd2, is that White is quite some tempos down, and can't go running with his queen as easily.]

68...Rg5+ 69.Kb6 Rg6! 70.Kb7 Rg3!
The point, the rook CAN stop the c-pawn from queening single-handedly, while it ties the queen down to g1

71.c7 Rb3+
This position is now drawn, there is no way for white to progress

72.Ka6 Rc3 73.Kb6 Rb3+ 74.Kxa5 Rc3 75.Kb6 Rb3+ 76.Kc6 Rc3+
The king is just harassed with checks, and the queen can't help

77.Kd7 Rd3+ 78.Kc8 Rg3!
This move draws, since whites queen is pinned down, and any K move will lead to more checks

79.Kd7 Rd3+ 80.Ke6 Rc3 81.Kd6 Rd3+ 82.Ke5 Rc3 83.Kf5 Rxc7
Now the draw is obvious

84.Qe3+ Kh2 85.Qf4+ Kh1 86.Qxc7 g1Q 87.Ke4
A heart-breaking draw for many observers, I'm sure, but you also have to be amazed by Kramnik's defensive capacity. 1/2-1/2