Learning from Kramnik!

by ChessBase
9/19/2016 – Among the many brilliant performances turned in at the Baku Olympiad was Vladimir Kramnik's gold medal performance on board two, and taking him to 2817 Elo and world no.2. While everyone appreciates his brilliance, understanding the games and moves of such a deep player often requires the help of a grandmaster who can shed light on seemingly baffling choices. Providing just that is GM Elshan Moradiabadi who shares his insights in this wonderful class on strategy.

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Learning from Kramnik!

By GM Elshan Moradiabadi

The 42nd chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan concluded last Tuesday and will be remembered by chess fans and enthusiasts as unique for several reasons. First, the US team in the Open section managed to clinch gold after forty years (last time, Haifa 1976), and even so was the first time ever in which Russia played.

The second catchy moment was when US team, edged Ukraine on tie-break point when the tie-break’s outcome was dependent on a game taking place on board 28 (read the full story to learn more) making it one of the most thrilling endings in the history of Chess Olympiads. In fact, I can only recall one similar case: when the Soviet Union won the 1980 Olympiad with all its big guns by virtue of tie-break over Hungary.

The Russian team came once more as the top-seed with a ratings advantage over all teams, though over the US was quite modest (three Elo!). Still, in previous ones it had a larger edge, and even so they had gone “goldless” in the Olympiad six consecutive times, and as fate would have it, seven after Baku.

To be fair though, with three of the world’s top ten players in the US team, not to mention Ukraine’s team spirit, nobody predicted an easy task for the Russians. In such events, just as any tournament, it is crucial to score when the points matter the most, and unfortunately, these slips cost them dearly.

One player who never stumbled however, and who remained a rock of stability throughout was the legendary Vladimir Kramnik who constantly scored points for his team and whose role grew bigger and bigger as the Olympiad reached its end.

Vladimir Kramnik was the pillar the team leaned upon (photo by E. Kublashvili)

However, it was not just Kramnik’s result that motivated this article. In addition to the 14th World Champion’s great result, which has put him at his highest Elo ever at the age of 41, the skill he demonstrated in the endgame, his deep positional understanding, effortless technical play and calculation ability were so vivid in his games that if someone were to write a book about Kramnik’s best games in the past ten years (a book on his career would be nothing short of encyclopedic in size, much like Anand’s or Topalov’s), he or she would have to pick a couple of games from this event.

Kramnik remains one of the last top-players from the ‘Kasparov era’ and post-Kasparov time where engines didn’t dominate as they do today. Anand’s recent interview reveals a lot about how chess has changed since engines’ role has become more dominant. With “40 being a new 50” and truth in moves overtaking judgement, it is amusing to see, and learn from Kramnik’s games when he seemingly effortlessly dismantles his opponents in this tournament.

In this article I cover six games Kramnik played in Baku, all superb, and all with valuable lessons. Inside you will find quiz questions asking you to find moves that have a tactical solution or a strategic solution.

A crash-course on simple chess

The following game reminds one of those "effortless" victories by Capablanca. What we can learn from Kramnik in this game is his examplary handling of the game against a lower rated player in an even middlegame. Instead of trying to outcalculate his opponent, Kramnik demonstrated deep knowledge of "what belongs where" in this game. After reading Anand's interview the other day, I started to wonder if future champions would be computer-like calculating machines or if we could still expect to see demonstrations of strategies and ideas like the 'Golden Age' of chess. Well, at least as long as we have Kramnik around, we should not worry much about it!

The engine does not know everything...yet!

Vladimir Kramnik was in good spirits before his fifth round game against GM Ahmed Adly (photo by David Llada)

Readers might ask why I chose one of the somewhat 'weaker' performances of Kramnik in this event. My reply is simple: First, Bc8 is not suggested by engines. Second, the way Kramnik handles simple positions is always very instructive. Third, we can learn from Kramnik's experience, just as Kramnik himself will!

The advantage of being Kramnik is that you are not expected to play like Kasparov!

Another masterful performance as Kramnik shows how flexible he is (photo by Paul Truong)

Kramnik changes gears: In this game Kramnik demonstrates that we should not forget how universal he is. In the first game we talked about how he dismantled his opponent in a Capablanca style game and in his second game he was in the same 'simple chess' shoes. In this game, we learn that Kramnik can play like Alekhine or Keres if he wants!

Anand is right! There is no dogma in chess anymore

In the following game, Vladimir Kramnik puts on a performance reminiscent of Fred Astaire by making what is incredibly hard look easy. He outplays the top player Teimour Radjabov as if he faced a much weaker opponent. Scary.

Off-beat is fun

The former World Champion's victory over Indian GM B. Adhiban was masterful (photo by L. Afandiyeva)

In my opinion, this is the best game of Kramnik in this tournament. Regardless of any inaccuracies in this game, the way Kramnik handles the position and the way he constantly poses Adhiban with difficult over-the-board questions is very instructive.

What happened in this game? 1. Kramnik started slow 2. Soon he chose an off-beat line 3. Adhiban over-reacted 4. Kramnik got an advantage and increased his pressure every move. 5. He may not have played the best moves but he always maintained his advantage close to winning.

Intuition matters

A final crucial match, and once more Kramnik could be counted upon (photo by E.Kublashvili)

In this last round encounter with the young Italian squad, Kramnik sealed the deal for the Russians, securing bronze for his team and a gold medal for himself. The theme: Let us just play some chess.

Lessons learned: 1.Be7 was not only pure calculation. Kramnik intuitively felt that his active pieces and extra pawns are more important since Black could not activate his pieces except for one moment that Vocaturo missed. 2. Kramnik once again posed difficult practical questions 3. Never relax against such legendary figures in chess! They are merciless!

Vladimir Kramnik
My Path to the Top

Born in 1975 in Tuapse on the shores of the Black Sea, Vladimir Kramnik studied at the Botvinnik-Kasparov chess school. At 17 he was included in the Russian Olympiad team and scored a sensational 8.5/9, the best result at the Olympiad. After that followed a string of great tournament results, culminating in a World Championship in 2000. Kramnik played the chess legend Garry Kasparov and beat him to take the title, which he successfully defended in 2004 against Peter Leko and 2006 against FIDE champion Veselin Topalov, whom he defeated to take the unified world championship title.

On this DVD Vladimir Kramnik retraces his career from talented schoolboy to World Champion in 2006. With humour and charm he describes his first successes, what it meant to be part of the Russian Gold Medal team at the Olympiad, and how he undertook the Herculean task of beating his former mentor and teacher Garry Kasparov. Kramnik dissects his wins against Leko and Topalov, giving us a vivid impression of the super-dramatic final games of the 2006 match. His commentary is full of useful advice and provides a fascinating insight into the thought processes that govern top level play.

The DVD contains more than six hours of video with narrative and game analysis. There are also five additional segments from an exclusive video interview on the intrigues that surrounded the 2006 world championship, and on the state of the chess world in general.

Price: €39.99; €33.61 without VAT (outside the EU); $36.30 (without VAT)

About GM Elshan Moradiabadi

Elshan Moradiabadi is a GM born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He moved to the US in 2012. Ever since, he has been active in US college chess scenes and in US chess.

Elshan co-authored "Chess and the Art of War: Ancient Wisdom to Make You a Better Player" with Al Lawrence. He has also published written articles for ChessBase, and edited opening materials for fellow authors.

Elshan Moradiabadi is a veteran instructor and teaches chess to every level, with students ranging from beginners to IM. He can be contacted for projects or teaching at his email.

You can contact him at his email or follow him on Twitter.


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