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Anand – Kramnik, Corus 2008

Corus Wijk aan Zee 2008 preview

The number 1 and the number 2 players on the January 2008 FIDE rating list, GM Vladimir Kramnik and GM Viswanathan Anand, will face each other at Corus 2008. It could not be a more exciting encounter since they share exactly the same ELO points on the top of the list. Besides, only in a few months they will meet for a semi final of the World Chess Championship 2008.

Before Corus 2008 Kramnik and Anand have played over 125 games. The stats very well reflect the similarity of ELO of the two players. Anand has won 19 times, Kramnik has won 15 times, and draw has been agreed in more than 90 games.

The last time Kramnik and Anand played classical games was during the World Chess Championship. It is rare that we say that a draw is exciting, but it was so in both games of Anand and Kramnik. Especially the first one, full of tactical blows and chess strategies. Anand played an instructive endgame to get the draw. Here is the game, as GM Dimitrov commented it live for Chessdom.

Kramnik at Corus Anand square

Kramnik and Anand at their previous participations at Corus

Kramnik – Anand live

Live commentary by GM Dimitrov (WCC 2007)

The most intriguing encounter today is expected to be Anand – Kramnik. The highest rated participant against the reigning champion, both on top of the provisional standing. Would they opt for a solid approach or for spectators’ joy head into an uncompromising battle? A draw may suit Kramnik’s tournament strategy but Anand is likely to try to make good use of having the white pieces.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.O-O Be7 8.c4 Nb4 9.Be2 O-O 10.Nc3 Bf5 11.a3 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Nc6 13.Re1 Re8 14.cxd5 Qxd5 15.Bf4 Rac8 16.Qa4 Bd7
It is no surprise that Kramnik chose his pet Petroff defence. Both opponents played very rapidly the first 15 moves and passed directly to the middlegame stage.

17.Qc2 Qf5
17.Qc2 seems to be a new move. 17.Rab1 was Shirov’s choice against Gelfand four years ago, but Vladimir is supposed to have well prepared this opening

18.Qxf5 Bxf5
White had to exchange the queens in order to fight for some advantage but the black position is very solid thakns to the flexibility of their pawn structure. Now White has to decide if to push the ‘d’ pawn as moves like 19.Nd2 Na5 do not promise a lot, while 19.Bb5 is met by 19…a6 as doubling the pawns at the cost of a light-squared bishop is likely to draw the game.

19.Bb5 Bd7
(19… a6 20.Bxc6 bxc6 21.Re5 (21.Ne5 Bd6) 21… Bd3 22.Rae1 Kf8) looks about equal.

20.d5 20…Ne5
starts a forced variation leading to further simplifications.

20… Ne5 21.Bxd7 Nxd7 22.Bxc7
Anand is virtually forced to take at ‘c7’ as otherwise he would get into inferior position.

22… Rxc7 23.d6 Rxc3
Now White get a passed pawn on ‘e7’ which is more a liability than a threat so he must play precisely.

Seems the correct move. After (24.Rxe7 Rxe7 25.dxe7 Nf6 26.Nd4 a6) Black has the uper hand.

24… f6
25.Rac1 seems to be a prudent decision as after 25…Rxc1 26.Rxc1 Rxe7 27.Rc7 Kf7 28.Rxb7 Nb6 29.Rb8 White saves the day after 29…g5 by 30.h4 . It seems that Vishi has to fight for equality.

Anand goes on pressing Kramnik to make forced moves but they aren’t bad at all. 25…Rc7 26.Nd4 Ne5 poses some problems.

25… Rc7
Of course not (25… Nc5 26.Nd4 Rxa3 27.Nf5 Rd3 28.Kf1)

26.Nd4 Ne5 27.f4
After 27…Nc6 Black is clearly better, the question being if Anand will find enough resources to draw.

27… Nc6 28.Nxc6 bxc6 29.Rd6 c5
Now Vishi has a tricky defensive idea – 30.Rd3 Kf7 31.Rc3 protects tactically the pawn: 31,,,Rexe7 32. Rec1.

This is too dangerous. Obviously losing the theoretical duel and facing a fast playing opponent provokes Anand to start making mistakes. Now he’ll be simply a pawn down.

30… c4 31.Rc6 Rexe7 32.Rxc4 Rxc4 33.Rxe7 Ra4
Basically this ending is still draw but now White has to play precisely to prove it.

34.Rb7 h6 35.f5 Rxa3
The ‘f5’ pawn could become a liability. Definitely deserved attention 35.h4.

36.Kf2 h5
The very reason I didn’t like 35.f5.

In this type of endings black pushes the pawn to ‘a3’, then marches to support it with the king. Opponent grabs some pawns , sacrifices his Rook to prevent promotion and saves the game for a temp or two. Now White pawn structure lost flexibility and after Kg8-h7-h6 Black has serious threats.

37… a5 38.Ra7 a4
Kramnik has a simple plan – forces White to move ‘h4’, than plays Ra1, pawn at ‘a3’, Kh6 and is ready for g7-g6.

39.h4 Ra2 40.Kf3 a3 41.Ke3 Ra1 42.Kf2
(42.Kd4 a2 43.Kc3 Rg1) was hopeless

42… Kf8 43.Kg2 a2 44.Kh2 Ke8 45.Kg2 Kd8 46.Kh2 Kc8 47.Kg2 Kb8 48.Ra3 Kb7 49.Ra4 Kb6 50.Ra8 Kc5 51.Ra7 Kd5
Preparing a zugzwang situation for White

52.Ra4 Ke5 53.Ra5 Ke4 54.Kh2 Kf3 55.Ra3 Kf2 56.Ra4 Kf1 57.Kh1 Ke1 58.Kg2 Kd1
(58… Rd1 59.Rxa2 Rd2 60.Rxd2 Kxd2 61.Kf3 Kd3 62.g4 hxg4 63.Kxg4 Ke4 64.Kh5 Kxf5) stallmate

59.Ra7 Rc1 60.Rxa2 Rc2 61.Rxc2
The above mentioned pawn ending

61… Kxc2 62.Kf3 Kd3 63.g4 hxg4 64.Kxg4 Ke4 65.Kh5 Kxf5
Draw. Interesting game in which Kramnik solved his opening problems with ease, Anand played several inaccurate moves and had to fight hard at the brink of defeat in an instructive Rook ending saving the game with a study stallmate.


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