SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
An exciting round! Shirov and Carlsen repeated an earlier game (a sharp Sveshnikov from 2009, Shirov winning) but Carlsen was the first to improve. A draw was agreed by repetition in a position where probably no one has the advantage, and neither side felt confident enough about playing on.
Kramnik won an interesting game against the American star, Nakamura, (game analyzed below in full). Nigel Short bravely avoided a forced draw in an amazingly sharp middle game only to end up losing to Karjakin. Caruana won a nice positional game against Tiviakov, demonstrating the power of the bishop pair. Leko took advantage of a tactical oversight by Smeets to go plus 1.
Nigel Short with fan mail? He played a great game yesterday, but was punished for trying too hard.
Anand made his 8th draw in a row, this time against Ivanchuk. Is the current World Champion afraid of taking any risks? And finally Dominguez and Van Wely played a lot of theory and proved that if you don’t make any big mistakes a draw is the logical outcome.
Every great champion, when he sits in front of his opponent, has no fear. He hates to lose, ofcourse, but he is not afraid to lose. Alexy Shirov has been playing every game to win, regardless of colour. Despite having only gained one half point from the last two games, Shirov remains in first place. Deservedly so…can he keep it up?
Notes by Vladimir Kramnik, Mikhail Marin, and (otherwise) by yours truly. Thanks to the Corus website for the notes by Kramnik and Marin. http://www.coruschess.com/
Kramnik, Vladimir – Nakamura, Hikaru
CORUS 24- 1-2010.
1. d4 Kramnik: “I was a little lucky yesterday, so it gave me some motivation for today.”
Kramnik: “I know Nakamura would play the Dutch, as I’m somehow known as a theoretician. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to buy a book on the Dutch since the book stores were closed after I finished my game yesterday.”
The Dutch is an old opening that seeks to create asymmetry right from the first move, and is an excellent choice when the Black players want to win. The great Paul Morphy played it in the 19th century, and while the line has gone in and out of fashion since then, ambitious and enterprising players have never abandoned it!
It has been known since the time when the legendary Botvinnik was still a school boy that the finachetto was not just the safest way to fight against he Dutch, but also the most promising move.
2… Nf6 3. Bg2 g6
The Leningrad Variation! Similar to the King’s Indian (but with Black already having the double edged f5 thrown in), this variation has been a favourite of several generations of Russian players. Tal, whose name will always be associated with this opening, played many important games with/against it, including one game from his first title match in 1960.
I took up this line in the mid 70s, very much impressed with the game Benko- Tal 1959. Since then the Leningrad has been a regular in my opening repertoire, and I have achieved some great successes with it against all level of players, including strong GMs.
4. c4 Bg7 5. Nc3 Classical chess
A more modern line is 5. Nf3 O-O 6. b4!?
which seeks to gain space on the Queenside before deciding what to do with the White King.
5… O-O 6. Nf3 The Knight’s usual square
Very sharp is 6. Nh3 Nc6 7. Nf4 d6 8. d5 Ne5 9. b3 c5 which gives Black reasonable chances if he plays the tactics perfectly. White can proceed aggressively with 10.h4 or just castle and play for e4.
Theory has not been worked out in this variation, but the better player usually wins.
6… d6 7. O-O An important theoretical position
Marin: ”The Leningrad Dutch is an ambitious opening, which usually leads to strategically complex positions with mobile structures. Black’s aim is to establish a control over several parts of the board, while White usually tries to open a breach in what may become the over extended black structure.”
The oldest line in this variation, and also the most solid. However, there is plenty of choice , depending on your taste:
7… Nc6 A provocative move that hás never been refuted. I have played it numerous times. This is usually played when Black really needs to win, as it is considered very risky. Marin has also played it from time to time.
7… Qe8 A move that became popular in the 1990s, championed by Malaniuk and Misha Gurevich, seeks to play for either a fast e5 or to develop an attack with Qe8-h5.
A sound waiting move. Before deciding on his plan, Black wants to see White’s next move.
8. Rb1 !?
Marin: ”Not the main move here. White takes the rook out of the range of the g7-bishop and is ready to start a massive queenside attack with b4-b5.”
In my opinion, Whites best chance. I have considerable experience against this move, and I have analyzed it extensively at home. White plans an immediate Queenside advance, hoping to break thru before Black can get any concrete counterplay against the White King.
The most common move is 8. d5, trying to dominate in the centre, but after 8… e5 9. de Bxe6 (diagram,right) Black has done quite well in praxis. The Black d-pawn is just as weak as the White c-pawn, and Black has no problems getting his pieces into play. The line is considered very drawish today by the theoreticians.
White has tried virtually every other move in this position (8.b3, 8.Qc2, 8.Re1, 8.b4, 8.Qb3, 8.Bg5) and while each leads to complex and unclear positions, the results have never been discouraging for the Black players.
8… Ne4 !? Thematic, but possibly not best.
Marin: ”Since the previous white move did not add pressure in the centre, this knight jump looks logical. Black opens the long diagonal and makes the desirable …e5 easier. ”
I have played 8…Ne4 several times in my own practice. I today I believe that Blacks best chance for counterplay is 8… a5! And if 9. a3 (9. d5 e5 10. de Bxe6 is a perfectly playable version of the 8.d5 line) 9… Nh5!? , with the idea of …e5 or …f4.
If White persists in his plan of playing b4, then Black will have lots of open lines for his pieces, including the a-file.
9. Qc2 !?
Rarely played, but a very interesting choice. White simply defends his Knight and prepares b4
Kramnik: “Around 3 o’clock last night I was pretty annoyed. I hadn’t found anything yet and it’s not possible you can equalize with the Dutch. Finally I had a shower, where I realized that I just shouldn’t take on e4!”
Kramnik’s comment is interesting, if a bit subjective instead of mathematical rocket science. More often seen is 9. Nxe4 fe (diagram, right)
Now White must decide where to put his King Knight.
10. Nd2! (10. Ne1 is less effective:… d5 11. Nc2 Nd7 12. b4 Nb6 13. c5 Nc4 14. Ne3 Nxe3 15. Bxe3 e5! (diagram , right) with a good game for Black, as in Berry vs Spraggett, Canadian Championship 197810… d5 11. e3 Be6 12. b4 (diagram,right)
and praxis has shown that while Whites position might not be so much, he has a persistant initiative that requires Blacks full and undivided attention.
One of my games continued:12… b5 13. cb cb 14. a4 ba 15. Qxa4 Nd7 16. Qa2 Bf7 17. Bb2 e5 18. Qa1 Qe7 19. Nb3 Nb6 20. Na5 Be8 21. de Bb5 22. Rfd1 Rac8 23. Rbc1 Qxb4 24. Bc3 Qe7 25. Bh3± (diagram,below right) Beliavsky vs Spraggett,K Elista 1998
Somehow I managed to survive to a rook and pawn ending a pawn down, which turned out to be a theoretically important ending that has been analysed in various ending texts (but that is another story!)
I eventually drew the game.
Perhaps Kramnik was more worried about 10… Bxd4!? 11. Nxe4 Bg7 (diagram, right) when Black is a bit worse, but has a very solid position with no real weaknesses:12. Bg5 Be6 13. Qc2 Na6 with just a slight plus for White
RETURNING TO THE ACTUAL GAME:
Kramnik: “It’s not clear what Black should do instead.”
There are known alternatives, but they do not dissuade White from his fundamental plan: 9… Qe8 10. b4; 9… e5 10. de Nxc3 11. bc de 12. Ba3 Rf7 13. h4!(this position could have occured in the game) 9… Kh8 10. b4; 9… d5 10. Bf4 e6 11. b4
10. bc !
A typically modern move: White believes that his doubled pawns are an asset in his fight to gain the Queenside initiative. I believe that it was in the Kasparov vs Karpov match of 1985 that a young and ambitious Kasparov relied on this same double-edged strategy in his fight against Karpov’s Nimzoindian. It brought him some success!
Marin: ”An interesting decision. Capturing with the queen would have placed Her Majesty in a dangerous opposition with the enemy bishop. The pawn capture strengthens the white centre and opens the b-file for the just developed rook. The weakness of the c4-pawn is not too relevant for the time being, because Black is not fully developed. He would need several moves to effectively attack that pawn.”
10. Qxc3 is playable, ofcourse, when Black would continue with …e5 with a normal game.
Marin: ”Structurally, Black has a pleasant position, but it also is obvious that White is much better developed. In fact, Black’s last move is new. 10… Qa5 had been played in a game Giri-Reindermann, Hilversum 2009. The queen move does not look best to me. Black is supposed to develop his other pieces and then look for a way to activate the queen.”
It is worth noting that if Black tries to bring his knight into play 10… Nd7 then White can make use of his doubled pawns :11. c5!? with threats, for example: 11… dc (11… Nf6 12. Qb3!) 12. Qb3 Kh8 13. Ng5 and it is not clear why Black would want this.
11. Rd1 Kramnik liked this solid move
It is not the only move here. Ugly, but in a modern spirit, is 11. de de 12. Ba3 Rf7 13. Rfd1 (diagram,right)
13… Rd7 14. e4 White is trying to use his superior development to bring as much pressure on the Black position as he can. (diagram,right)
14… fe 15. Nd2 with interesting play, good for White.. It awaits practical testing to see whether this is stronger than Kramnik’s move.
The logical Philidor move. Philidor believed that the pawn was the soul of chess, and that creating pawn chains was a big part of this strategy .
Marin: ”Same confrontation of strategies: White keeps developing, while Black gains space with his pawns.”
Note that if 11… Qe7 then 12. c5! is strong, undermining the pawn chain with great effectiveness.
Also a modern idea , typically provocative, seen in a number of opening variations (1.c5 e5; 2.Nc3 Nc6; 3.Nf3 f5; 4.d4 e4; 5.Ng5!) White loses some time, ofcourse, but he hopes that the weaknesses he provokes in the meantime will be full compensation.
Black can not sleep comfortably while the dangerous White Knight stays on g5.
The Knight only seems offside: But white plans to play f3 , not only allowing the Knight a flight square, but chipping away at the Black pawn chain.
Marin:” If I counted well, Black has made 8 pawn moves so far! Although White has been moving a lot with his pieces, it is not clear yet whether this can be considered a clear advance in development. In fact, the knight may be worse placed on h3 than it was on f3 and the g2-bishop is temporarily out of play.”
Marin: ”Finally, White plays a pawn move, too, aiming to clear some space for his kingside minor pieces. The dynamic strength of the double pawns is revealed after 14…d5 15.cxd5 cxd5 16. c4 and Black cannot keep his outpost on e4. Black’s problem is that if he will have to play …exf3, after exf3 he will be left with a lot of weaknesses along the e-file and on the kingside. He may have to look for a non standard reaction to the problem (for instance, be ready to meet fxe4 with …f4) ”
Kramnik: “Pretty much forced, as after 14…exf3 15.exf3 I will open the position and Black’s pieces are still all on the back rank.”
Marin: ”Black probably intends to meet 15.cxd5 cxd5 16.c4 with the developing and counterattacking move 16…Nc6. This would win a tempo and, hopefully, provoke the weakening move e2-e3 (which is not very likely though). ”
More concretely, 14… ef 15. ef Nd7 (diagram,right)
Black tries to rush his development, but White can use the open lines first: 16. f4 g4 17. Nf2 Nf6 18. Re1 h5 19. Ba3 h4 20. Qb3! (diagram,below,right)It looks as though Black has gotten some play, but this is not the case! 20… hg 21. hg Nh5? 22. Bxd6!
Kramnik: “Hikaru started to think, and the more he thought, the more I liked my position.”
Marin: ”White prefers to maintain (and even increase) the pressure in the centre before making the c6-square available for the enemy knight. After …d5, Black has even less strategic reasons to give up the tension with …exf3, because an additional weakness on e5 has been created. Unless he combines …exf3 with the pawn grabbing …dxc4, but this would open the position in a moment when he is underdeveloped. 15…Rf7 looks like a generally useful move, defending b7 in order to enable …Be6.”
In principle, Black’s opening stratgey is doomed to fail because his pawn chain can not be held long enough to do what it is supposed to do. Pawn chains are effective when they create the space necessary (behind them) to regroup the pieces and attack on some side of the board (in this case, Black wants to attack on the King side). In general, a pawn chain can not be held indefinitely, but Black hopes to gain enough time to allow him to get his attack going.
The problem here, in this game, is two fold: a) Black has not got enough pieces developed in the first place and so time is not on his side, and b) the doubled c-pawns allow White to undermine the Black chain two times, and combined with fe4, the pawn chain is in constant threat of collapsing at any moment. Instead of regrouping and then attacking, Black soon finds himself torn between having to shore up his pawn chain or going for a speculative counterattack.
Philidor (1726-1795) ‘‘The pawn is the soul of chess.”
Marin: ”This also looks like a generally useful move, but maybe of lower priority, since it does not contribute to the developing policy.”
16. cd Chipping away at the Black pawn chain.
17. c4 Logical and natural.
Kramnik: “I don’t know where he went wrong; maybe his opening choice was wrong.”
Marin: ”With the rook on f7, this operation could have been met by 17…Rc7.”
It is important to mention here that White has a very strong alternative :17. fe!? . Should Black recapture with the f-pawn than c4 will gain in strength, since the Black e-pawn becomes an easy target. And if Black recaptures with the d-pawn, then White can build a very strong position e3 and c4 and Ba3. Black will always have to watch out for Whites g4!?, which will undermine the Black centre.
In my opinion, while 17.fe might seem more risky for White than the game continuation, it is quite possible that it is the best plan in the position.
Kramnik: “An interesting idea and the best chance in a problematic position.”
Marin: ”Nakamura seems to have found the non standard reaction to the tensioned situation. By sacrificing the pawn, he intends to prove that White has also created weaknesses in his own camp when playing f2-f3. At the same time, the activation of the g2-bishop will have to be delayed for a while. In fact, the sacrifice is not real, since 18.Bxe3 will lose (or rather sacrifice) the exchange to 18…f4 followed by …Bf5.”
Nakamura takes his chance and tries to change the direction that the game was going. There is some risk involved, ofcourse, but Black’s chances have to be found in complicationg the game as much as reasonably possible. Worse is the pedestrian 17… ef 18. Bxf3 Nc6 19. e3 and White completely dominates in the centre without Black being able to create counterplay.
18. Nd3!? Kramnik keeps his calm and does not lose his head.
Marin: ”Kramnik decides to ignore the pawn and bring his knight closer to the e5-square, but now Black can develop with gain of time with …Nc6. Later, he may consolidate the e3-pawn with …f4, when gxf4, …gxf4 would justify the move …Kh8 (by making …Rg8 possible). Kramnik probably intends to meet 18… Nc6 with 19.Ne5, threatening a fork with Ng6+ and aiming to take over the initiative in the centre after 19…Nxe5 20.dxe5. Still, with his bishop passive on g2, the definitive evaluation remains unclear (and, to some extent, out of the engines’ reach).”
18. Bxe3!? f4! is indeed a very messy continuation and, while White should still be somewhat better, it would allow Nakamura more counterplay than in the game continuation
Marin: ”At first sight, Nakamura has managed to get adequate counterplay. However, Kramnik is at his best when finding his way through positions without clear contours. His abstract ground for hoping for an objective advantage in this concrete position consists os his slight advance in development. Since 19.Ne5 leaves the g2-bishop desperately passive after 19…Nxe5 20.dxe5 f4!, White may have to capture the pawn with 19.Bxe3. Black could answer with 19…Qe8 followed by either …Nxd4 or …dxc4.”
The aggressive 19. Ne5!? (diagram, right)
is perfectly playable, and is indeed better for White, though it requires fancy footwork to prove it:: 19… Nxe5 20. de f4! (diagram,below right)
Black is counting on the fact that the White King Bishop is shut out of play and that he might later recover his pawn. Analysis does not seem to justify this view.
21. Rxd5 Qc7 22. Rbb5 Be6 (22… a6 23. Rbc5 Qb6 24. Qb2) 23. Ba3 Rfc8 (23… Rfe8 24. Bd6) 24. Rd4 (diagram, right)
24… Qc6 25. Rb1 White is on top, though Black is not completely dead: he can still kick. For this reason Kramnik prefers a less complicated line of play that gives him the advantage without any mess.
19. Bxe3 Only now does Kramnik take the pawn.
Kramnik: “The most precise move (now) is 19…Qe8 although in the post-mortem we found White is still clearly better after 20.Qc1! dxc4 21.Ne5 Nxe5 22.dxe5 Qxe5 23.f4! “ (diagram,below)
Continuing a bit, we see that after 23… gf 24. Bxf4 Qc3 25. Qxc3 Bxc3 26. Bxh6 Black is indeed in trouble. Quite simply, White’s advance in development is Black’s most serious problem.
It looks as though Black is making progress, but infact his basic problems remain unsolved.
20. Bxd4 Bxd4 21. Kh1
Marin: ”The dark squares from White’s camp are weakened (e3 in first line), but Black’s possibilities to control them with the bishop are restricted by the fact that his king’s position is wide open and the long diagonal may need a defence. Kramnik decides to keep his knight on its dominating position, rather than placing it under a pin just for the sake of attacking the bishop. His main threat now is f3-f4, immediately putting Black in a critical position. If we were to quantify the general developing balance, White only needs this tempo (f4) to get fully mobilized, while Black is three tempi away from such a situation (…Qe7, …Be6, …Rad8). Besides, the tension in the centre and the hanging situation of the bishop complicate matters.”
Black has the two bishops, but White controls the centre, which is about to explode. This is a theme seen quite often in Kramnik’s games. Here Black’s lack of development means that his pieces are uncoordinated, and the open position of the Black King is a serious cause for worry.
21… f4 What else?
Marin: ”In fact, quite logical. Nakamura’s main trump is the passivity of the g2-bishop and he tries to give it a more stable character. However, is this working really? Let us check: 22.Nxf4 gxf4 23.Rxd4 Bf5 wins an exchange for Black and, although White will have a couple of pawns for it, the situation would remain highly unclear. Rybka suggets 22.cxd5, but then 22…Be3 would consolidate Black’s position, leaving the g2-bishop pssive for a long time. Black would have good compensation for the sacrificed pawn.”
Here Marin makes a rare mistake in his analysis: infact, 22. cd! (diagram, right) is the best move here: if 22…Be3 (as Marin suggests) then 23.Ne5! Rf6 (what else? Ng6ch is threatened) and now 24. d6! is crushing. If Black instead plays 22…fg3, then 23.Qc4 is strong. Finally, 22… Qxd5 23. Nxf4! (a recurring tactic in this position)… gf 24. Rb4! Bf5 (24… fg 25. Rdxd4 Qh5 26. Rh4) 25. Qd2 Rfd8 26. Bf1! leaves White clearly on top.
22. Rb5!? Kramnik: “Very nice and precise!”
Marin: ”Aesthetically speaking, a very elegant move. For the time being, Kramnik ignores the two spots of tension (d5 and f4) and just increases his pressure. It is this kind of “abstract” moves I had referred to when speaking about Kramnik’s skills in unclear positions. One of Black’s candidates remains 22…Be3.”
Infact, Kramnik’s last move was an imprecision that allows Nakamura back into the game! Kramnik must have missed something when he rejected the strong 22.cd5. We will have to wait for his annotations of this game to find out what he had in mind.
The immediate 22…fg3! is the best chance.(Diagram, right) Black must open the White King position immediately. After 23. Rxd5 Qf6 White has to be careful not to play 24. hg?! Be6 (Diagram, below right) because Black is quite ok.After 25. Rd6 Rad8 26. c5
and the position is very unclear. White is a pawn up but Black’s pieces make a harmonious picture.
Instead, White should try 24.Nc5! Bxc5 25.Rxc5 gh 26. Rc7 Bf5 (diagram, right)
Black succeeds in defending against White’s threats against his King, and he will get some play despite being a pawn down. It is not easy for White, for example: 27. e4 Be6 28.Rxb7 Rf7!
Black has some compensation, probably enough to hold. The c-pawn will become an easy target, and the White King Bishop and King position are causes for worry. Black need not worry about the endings…RETURNING TO THE GAME:22… Qf6 ?!
On this move, and the next, Nakamura misses his big chance to get back into the game.
23. Rxd5 Black now blunders
23… Be6? Nakamura probably just did not see Kramniks next move…
Again, 23… fg! had to be played, with a playable game. See last note.
Kramnik: “A bad mistake after which I spend 20 minutes trying to understand his idea. I didn’t find it. He should have played 23…Bf5 24.Qb3 Be6 and he can still hope.”
24. Nxf4 ! A beautiful tactic!
This move effectively ends the game. If now 24…Bxd5 25.Ng6ch Kg8 26. NxR Bc6 27.Ne6 etc
24… gf 25. R5xd4
25… fg 26. hg
Kramnik: “I’m just two pawns up without any compensation’’
This is Kramnik’s last comment before the end of the game, and undoubtedly the rest of the game was simply mopping up. Nakamura simply could not find any compensation.
Marin: ”White has won two pawns and has a centralized position. Black’s counterplay along the g-file does not look too dangerous, especially that his king is also exposed.”
Marin: ”A strong move, underlining the fact that the black queen does not have sufficient stability on the long diagonal. Now 27… Qg7 can be met by 28. Qd2 creating the threat of trading queens with Qd4. Or 28… Qxg3 runs into 29. Rg4! After 27… Qe5 White would continue his “blackmailing” with 28. Qe4.”
27… Qg5 28. Rh4 Rg6 29. Qc3 Kh7 30. f4 !
Marin: ”Finally, White has opened his bishop and more or less forces the exchange of queens. The game will enter the technical phase soon.”
Nakamura probably continues playing for the spectators. Otherwise he would probably just throw in the towel. The ending is trivial for a player like Kramnik.
30… Qxg3 31. Qxg3 Rxg3 32. Bxb7 Rb8 33. Be4 Kg7 34. Kh2 Re3 35. Rg1 Kf7 36. Bg6 Ke7 37. Bd3 Rb2 38. Rg2 Rxa2 39. Rxh6 Bf7 40. Rh7 Kf6 41. c5
MARIN: ” White’s central pawns cannot be advanced, but they fulfill a function of different nature by ensuring White absolute stability and keeping the e3-rook more or less trapped (if the rook retreats, e4 is very strong, putting the enemy king in big danger) . Given this circumstance, Black does not seem to have sufficient resources to parry such a simple threat as c5-c6-etc. ”
41… Ra4 42. c6 Rxf4 43. c7 Re8 44. Rxf7! ch
Black loses atleast a piece. Nakamura finally resigns.
Kramnik: “Nakamura will have a legitimate chance to win the World Championship …. if all of us quit. No, no, seriously, he’s made a big improvement in the last year. Within a year he will be in the top ten and anyone in the top ten has a legitimate chance to become World Champion. But there are other youngsters around. Carlsen is not bad, and this Giri and So are very strong and will be over 2700 soon. I am very happy with this new strong generation of players. It will be a nice challenge for me. As for the tournament, I’m playing genius after genius now, so anything is possible.”
Kramnik and Nakamura in the postmortem. Only Black’s Bishop is in play.
Nakamura. Much of what I said about Shirov also applies to the American star: he plays every game to win and is certainly not afraid to lose. He very much wants to win this tournament, and his loss to Kramnik does not by any means put him out of the running.
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS