29 April 2012, Kuala Lumpur – The Zurich Chess Challenge 2012 between Kramnik and Aronian finished in a equal draw 3-3 overall. Chessvibes.com reported that the sixth and final game between Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik ended in a draw, again after 43 moves, and so the match in Zurich ended in 3-3. Aronian avoided the infamous Berlin Ending with 4.d3, and like yesterday the game was very interesting, despite the peaceful outcome.
Later we'll have more; for now you can find the last game below, which was annotated today here at ChessVibes by GM Sergey Shipov.
Analysis of Game 6 By GM Shipov
Good time of the day to you, dear chess fans and connoisseurs. This is Grandmaster Sergey Shipov inviting you to coverage of the final game of the friendly match in Zurich. The score is level, the players are evenly matched, but the chances are 55:45. After all, Aronian has the white pieces in the last encounter. However, if he once again... I propose that all fans hungry to see a spectacle and a real battle sign my petition: "Levon! Please! Play anything you like but not the Berlin Endgame!" I really don't want, for the third time in a row (in Aronian's games with White), to have to explain why White's visual advantage is insufficient to demolish the Berlin Wall.
I don't want to watch as the clumsy movements of the black pieces, isolated and scattered along the edges of the board, easily neutralise the pressure from White's magnificent mobilised and centralised army. Have you spotted the contrast? Have you noticed what an interesting fight develops when Aronian plays Black? So if I had the chance to make the first move in this game I'd choose 1.a3! Well, to be serious, I hope that Levon will find the strength to play, let's say, 1.c4. That he'll find the opportunity to create a more interesting scenario on the board... The ability to play final, deciding games is a great art.
To succeed you need a strong will, a powerful champion's character and the ability to concentrate and give your all. I think this will be a very useful experience for the Armenian grandmaster, which will later come in handy in his fight for the title. Well, and such experience is something the veteran Russian has no need to work on. He's more than once conducted such deciding games successfully. All in all, it's going to be interesting...
You know what I could write here, but I won't write it. Let's hope for future deviations from the fateful path...
1... e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5
The Ruy Lopez.
3... Nf6 4. d3!!
Bravo, Levon! He found it within himself to go for a big, multi-piece battle without early exchanges.
Sometimes Black brings out his king's bishop to g7 here, but bringing it to c5 is also classical.
In such positions White often takes his time with castling. For example, the d2-knight might first head for g3 - while the f1-square's still empty.
5... d6 6. c3
The usual Ruy Lopez strategy. The white pawns turn into a flexible, elastic line which is capable of advancing both in the centre and on the queenside.
6... O-O 7. O-O
Aronian is playing straightforwardly. It seems the d2-knight has other intentions... For now there was a refutation to 7. Nf1 - 7... Ng4 And Levon considered 7. h3 too slow... Although that was actually how many chess authorities have played. For example, Svidler, Gashimov, Nisipeanu and others.
While Black's queen's knight is successfully switching to the kingside. Kramnik is making his moves easily and confidently. Such structures come naturally to him. He's a classic of the Berlin Variation in all its branches.
White is playing in the normal manner for the Ruy Lopez. He's preparing to bring his rook to e1 and then he'll start to advance in the centre or nevertheless switch his knight from d2 to g3. For now the play is unhurried and contact-free. White can't possibly pretend to have a significant advantage. At least for now.
It's clear that Black has excellent prospects of generating counterplay on the kingside. By the way, nothing's stopping him playing symmetrically as well: c7-c6, Rf8-e8 and if White plays passively, then d6-d5. The advanced position of the bishop on b5 gives Black an important tempo. And, by the way, it might soon turn out that it's actually Black who's White! In terms of the advantage of the first move. In terms of the speed at which an optimal piece setup is reached... It seems Aronian already has to go for 9.d4 in order to later retreat his bishop to d3 rather than a4. My first impression is that's one of only a few ways of confirming the colour of his pieces.
That same very simple play. Without any frills. Vladimir has started to think. It seems to me that putting the pawn on c6 is useful in any case. Besides, Black can also then seize space on the queenside with b7-b5 and a7-a5. He's got a wide and pleasant choice. I don't think Kramnik could even have dreamed of such a pleasant outcome from the opening. The clock situation is indicative: 1.51 - 1.42. Aronian has been playing extremely quickly and easily. Not getting into the nuances.
Of course retreating to c4, risking also being hit by the d6-d5 blow, didn't appeal.
My assumptions about symmetrical play have been vindicated. Now it's quite obvious that in this particular game Kramnik is already effectively playing White. He's clearly done better than his opponent in the Ruy Lopez reorganisation of pieces. And Levon has, at last, started to have a little think. It seems he's also noticed that something's wrong... Vladimir's move surprisingly turns out to be a novelty. In the encounter S. Lu - D. Neelotpal, Olongapo City 2010, there followed: 10... Bb6 11. d4 Re8 12. Bc2 Bc7 13. dxe5 dxe5 14. Nc4 Be6 15. Qe2 b516. Ne3 h6 17. Nf5 Bb6 18. Be3 Bxe3 19. Qxe3Qb6 20. Red1 Red8 with a roughly equal position. I also liked the continuation 10... b5 11. Bc2 , except that here you probably shouldn't get carried away with a7-a5, taking risks on the light squares. More solid would be 11... a6 Such a supply of space would guarantee that Black was fine.
It was high time. If White had delayed a little the centre would have turned black.
There wasn't, of course, any point in conceding the centre. The only thing I don't like is that the bishop blocks the b7-pawn, which could have been free... Now Aronian has to decide how to complete development. The knight needs to leave d2. He just has to be careful not to blunder the e4-pawn.
This move is a logical supplement to my words. After reinforcing the e3-point White is ready to advance the knight to c4. Black has a choice - to preemptively move the bishop to the burrow on c7, or to prevent the advance mentioned with Bc8-e6. However, it's not a crucial choice. A third or fourth continuation wouldn't be a big surprise.
As I was saying. A cultured prophylactic move. True, the manoeuvre Nd2-c4-e3-f5 will now grow in strength, but that's also not lethal. In general, the given position is extremely solid for both players and you shouldn't overestimate all the positional tricks.
But this is a move that was hard to expect. Levon has begun to seize space, and quietly, at a distance - in the style of a Go master. It's high time to recall that in his day the great Emanuel Lasker took a serious interest in that mysterious, Eastern game, taking many months out to learn it and improve. He hoped to prove that his game-playing talent and high intellectual level would allow him to achieve success in Go as well... But bitter disappointment awaited! After all that effort he met with average Japanese players and they started to make mincemeat out of him. So as chess players we shouldn't overestimate ourselves. We're very strong precisely in chess, while in Go and, for example, politics, there are other rules and you need somewhat different talents. Trust me, that lyrical digression is in no way connected to Aronian's particular move. Perhaps it is strong... Or rather, I've got no doubts about the Armenian grandmaster's strength as a matter of principle :) But his move probably isn't bad either. For example, if White manages to apply a clamp with b2-b4 and a4-a5 then Black will experience certain problems. Kramnik has sunk into analysis. It's unlikely he's capable of playing Go like those Japanese experts. On the other hand, he's got a wonderful grasp of chess and it's unlikely he'll allow his opponent to carry out his plan. Of course, Vladimir can recall and regret that he didn't play 10. ..b5. But there's nothing terrible for Black here either.
Preventing the enemy knight from getting to c4. Now after b2-b4 it'll already be possible to play a7-a5, which with the knight on c4 would have led to the exchange of the powerful dark-squared bishop. By the way, it surprisingly turns out that the position has ceased to be unknown. There were a couple of games where it was reached by other move orders. The game M. Kobalia - E. Alekseev, Dagomys 2010, saw: 13... Bc7 14. Nf1 (not the right direction, it seems!) 14... Nh715. Ng3 Ng5 (not a bad plan) 16. dxe5 Nxf3+ 17. Qxf3 Rxe5!? 18. Be3 Bb6 19. Rad1 Be6 20. Qe2h5 21. Bxb6 and the players suddenly agreed to a draw.
In the given situation the change in the route of the white knight is fully justified. It wasn't allowed to get to c4, but it can find another path to f5.
A bold step. Black is making a concession in the centre, of course with the hope of getting counterplay with his pieces. And this is a true novelty! Let's look at the predecessor game:14... Qc7 15. Ng3 Rad8 16. Be3 d5?! 17. Nxe5Nxe5 18. Bf4 Nfd7 19. a5! Bxa5 20. exd5 Bxd521. dxe5 Bb6 22. Qh5 and White developed a threatening attack, E. Alekseev - R. Zhumabaev, Moscow 2012.
I've stopped trying to guess the players' moves. Each transformation of the position comes as a revelation. I didn't manage to find serious drawbacks to the continuation 15. cxd4 For example, 15... Ba5 16. Bd2 Bxd2 17. Qxd2 a518. Ng3 and it looks like a position where White has the better prospects.
Now Black has the obvious positional threat of d6-d5, completely dismantling the centre.
A very optimistic advance. Levon is preparing to react to d6-d5 with e4-e5, but nevertheless, such a weakening of his rearguard looks very risky... On the other hand, that's Aronian's best style. He loves and is capable of playing on a knife-edge, spicing up the position. And the only ones capable of standing up to him in complications are the best of the best. Not counting computers. And the best justification for White's move in the game is the fact that there was no other way of preventing the d6-d5 blow.
But nevertheless! Vladimir picks up the gauntlet and enters into a duel. The ones I suggested not counting propose starting the battle with 16... c5with c5-c4+ to follow, but such an uncultured treatment of the pawn structure isn't in Kramnik's style. However, no-one's stopping me looking a bit deeper: 17. Nb5 Bxb5 18. axb5 c4+ 19. Kh1Qc7 20. Qf3 Qc5 - weird and wonderful play!
17. e5 Ne4
A pawn sacrifice for the magic of the two bishops. True, it's only the prospect of a sacrifice as taking the bait immediately is fraught with danger. In such a sharp situation you can't rush. Fortunately there's time to calculate variations: 1. 20 - 1.04. White has a few reasonable continuations. For example, 18.Be3 or 18. Kh2. The first thing to look at is 18.Bxe4 dxe4 and here not taking with the rook but the all-round-strengthening 19.Ng3! However, it's well known that no true "Spaniard" wants to give up the light-squared bishop for a knight...
But he was able. The move 18. Kh2 had a tactical basis: 18... Qh4 19. Bxe4 dxe4 20. Ng3!Nxf4? 21. Rxe4 Bxh3 (21... g5! 22. Nf3 ) 22. Nf3!and White wins, but of course Black has many other resources. The second line of the analytical work was: 18. Be3 , and Black doesn't have the right to explode the centre: 18... f6 (more solid is 18... Qh4 19. Qf3 f5 ) 19. e6! Bxd420. exd7 Bxe3+ 21. Rxe3 Re7 (21... Qxd7? 22. Rxe4! ) 22. Bxe4 dxe4 23. Qg4 Nf8 24. Ng3 and the white pressure can be felt.
18... dxe4 19. a5
An interesting deflection. Aronian doesn't want to take the sacrificed pawn, risking giving up the initiative, but to exchange it. It might have led to great difficulties to play 19. Rxe4?! c5 20. Nf3Bc6 21. Re1 and here I was literally drowing in the possible variations, but in actual fact you don't need to calculate anything in order to refute such a variation for White at the board. It's obvious that the c6-bishop is incredibly strong, and White's rearguard is weak. For a person it's enough to see the resource 21... Nh4 22. Qxd8Nxf3+ 23. gxf3 Bxd8 , with f7-f6 to follow, to recoil in fright and switch to other lines. But 19. Ng3 looked promising. For example, after 19... f520. a5! Bxd4+ (20... Bxa5 21. Ndxf5 ) 21. Qxd4Be6 22. Qf2 White would put his bishop on e3 and get a certain advantage due to the favourable structure on the queenside. Levon probably decided that wasn't enough... Or maybe he was concerned about the line 19. Ng3 c5!? , but it seems that was in vain. There might follow 20. Ndf5 c4+ 21. Kh2 (21. Be3?! Nxf4 ) 21... Bf2 22. Rf1 Bxf5 23. Nxf5 Qxd1 24. Rxd1 Rad8 25. Rf1!Bc5 26. Be3 The e4-pawn is still threatened and Black has an unpleasant structure.
Away with doubts! Such rudeness can't be left unpunished.
20. Ng3 Bb6
The e4-pawn is doomed, of course, and White has the advantage in the centre, but in return Black has two strong bishops and also a pawn superiority on the queenside, which could tell in an endgame. It seems the position is roughly equal - despite all the unpredictability and wealth of tactical ideas. The clocks show: 1.07 - 0.47. Aronian is having a long think... It seems he's seen something he'd missed before playing the a4-a5 prod. It happens. You entertain illusions, imagining a bright future, but when you get closer you begin to realise that the reality is grayer and duller than it had previously appeared.
A sensible inclusion. In case of 21. Nxe4 Qh422. Nd6 Black would switch to a sharp counterattack with 22... Nxf4! 23. Bxf4 Qxf4 24. Nxe8 Rxe8 - you wouldn't wish being such an exchange up on your worst enemy. The black bishops [elephants in Russian!] will soon be able to trample on White. In English the phrase "trample on White" should be switched to "burn White at the stake" :)
Rude, Vladimir. Rude! He's rushing to activate his dark-squared bishop by bringing it out to c6, but at the same time he's treating the dark-squared bishop inhumanely. The same idea could have been carried out with 21... Nh4 22. Nxe4 c5 23. Nf3 Bc6 - it seems Black has decent play here. But 21... Qh4 couldn't be recommended due to 22. Rxe4!
The knight is hanging about unpleasantly beside the open black king. If the white queen joins it... But perhaps Kramnik is planning to exchange on f5 and d1, distracting his opponent's forces from the e4-pawn? I must admit I've got my doubts about that escapade. The positional concessions would be very great. And in any case the e4-pawn will die - if not now, then later.
There it is. Probably, and even doubtlessly, He sees much more deeply than I do. Perhaps at some point Black will manage to rip the white centre apart with f7-f6 or to carry out a rook invasion on the d-file. We'll see...
After some doubts (what about first taking on d8?) Levon has taken the bishop. His queen is still striving to reach h5 or g4. We can expect another exchange.
23... Qxd1 24. Rxd1
The e4-pawn breathes a sigh of relief, but it can only dream of a peaceful life.
Now it looks obvious to return the rook to e1, but... strangely enough, my fears turned out to be justified. In that case you have to take the f7-f6 break into consideration. Aronian is making generous use of his time: 0.43 - 0.32.
Solidly played. It's never too late to develop... However, there's also a drawback to such development. Rd8-d3 will no longer be an attack on thin air, but on a bishop. I didn't manage to find a real advantage for White after 25. Re1 f626. exf6 gxf6 27. Ra4 ( or 27. Nxh6+ Kh7 28. Nf5Ne7! ) 27... h5 28. Raxe4 Rxe4 29. Rxe4 Kf7 and so on.
Exactly. Of course you can't exchange the rook on d3, so you have to endure it...
Now White is planning to develop the a1-rook along the unusual trajectory a1-a4-e4. Black should hurry. It's tough for the ailing bishop on b6 that's more akin to a pawn. For now it can't be helped. After 26.. .c4 White would take on b6 and e4. So all that's left is the undermining f7-f6.
No sooner said than done. Anyone can be Kramnik when there's no choice.
Strange, unclear, muddy variations like 27. Nd6Rb8 28. Nxe4 fxe5 29. f5 Ne7 30. f6 Nd5 are rejected by a sensible practical player if there's a more solid continuation.
Now you have to take on h6. You can't keep playing a pawn down...
Where should the king go? Not an easy question. After all, the white knight can retreat not only to f5, but also to g4. And from there, by the way, it's not far to f2.
Too cautious, it seems. It looked more reliable to play 28... Kg7! 29. Nf5+ (29. Ng4 f5! ) 29... Kf7with a slight edge for White. In that case it wasn't possible to surround the e4-pawn: 30. Ra4 (30. Ng3 Nh4! ) 30... Ne7! and if 31. Ng3there's 31... f5
Black has problems. And Vladimir's time situation also provokes concern: 0.30 - 0.19. There's no time for a serious think.
Preventing the white knight from getting to f5, but you have to deal with a pawn appearing on the square. I don't see a convenient retreat for the black knight... But, you know, it isn't all that clear there. In some lines White wins the e4-pawn but ends up being the side on the defensive. There's a suspicion that the computer's too optimistic about the current position.
An ugliness contest is underway. The b6-bishop has long since been bad, and now the a4-rook is becoming freakish. The computer continuation30. f5!? Bc7+ 31. Kg1 Bg3 32. Rf1 led to a dangerous black initiative: 32... Ne5! 33. Rxe4Nc4 and so on. However, it's possible that in deeper analysis that "and so on" will turn out to be a win for White. Another option for White to strengthen was the restrained 30. g3 and if 30... Kg7 it's good to play 31. c4 Rh5 (31... Rd3 32. Nf5+ ) 32. Ng4 f5 33. Nf2 - White's a little better here.
But the other child of nature can now return to f5 and again become a beauty. However, after 31.Nf5 there's the strong refutation 31...Ne7! What's left? You probably need to look at the sharp and undermining b2-b4. Straightaway.
Well, now all the previously freakish and passive pieces come into action. The only thing is, has Aronian blundered the exchange sacrifice on e3? On a deeper look that turns out to be very promising for Black. Will Kramnik go for something so sharp after a long and tough defence? For that you need a strong character. Which Volodya has, as he's proved more than once...
Well done! A fighter, a man. White would have an edge after 31... cxb4 32. Bxb6 axb6 33. Rxb4Nxf4 34. Rxb6 and so on. Just as he would after31... Nh4 32. Ng4!
32. Rxe3 cxb4
The one who used to be like a pawn returns to dominate the board. There isn't much time left on the clocks: 0.15 - 0.12. But there aren't many moves to the time control either.
Fighting fire with fire. Aronian instantly assessed the situation, realised that passive play would lead to an inglorious loss and launched into a counterattack. Great complications are beginning. After 33. Re1 a5 Black would get extremely dangerous passed pawns on the queenside.
It's well-known that it's much easier to make forwards moves than backwards ones in time trouble. The black pawn is rushing to queen and can only be stopped by the a4-rook. In a more peaceful situation Kramnik might have played33... Ne7! , for example, 34. Rxb4 (otherwise a7-a5 would follow) 34... Bc7 and... White has serious problems. The appearance of the bishop on f4 will be very unpleasant.
Played after real hesitation, though essentially there was nothing else.
34... e2 35. Ra1 Bf2
Black's a rook down but he's got a clear edge. The bishop is much stronger than the knight and the queenside pawns are very promising. And he's about to win back the rook. White can save himself only with study-like play, but it's almost impossible to solve studies with your flag about to drop... Times: 0.04 - 0.07.
A new surprise. I can show you my own study entry: 36. g4!? e1=Q 37. Rxf6+ Kg7 38. Rxe1Bxe1 39. g5! Re2+ (39... b3 40. Rf7+ Kg6 41. Rf6+ - perpetual check ) 40. Kg1 Bc3 41. Rf7+Kg6 42. Rxb7 and no win is visible for Black, as White has counterattacking possibilities. For example, 42... a5?! 43. Rb6+!
36... Ke7 37. Rg7+ Kd6
Why has Aronian driven his opponent's king into the centre?
So that his rook can fight with his opponent's passed pawns from behind.
38... e1=Q 39. Rxe1 Bxe1 40. Nf5+
Levon has stood up to the time trouble test well. He's maintained chances of salvation.
A difficult decision. White would survive after40... Kc6 41. Rxa7 b3 42. Nd4+ Kb6 43. Ra1Bc3 44. c5+! Kb7 45. Nxb3 Bxa1 46. Nxa1 - the knight returns from the corner and the supply of pawns is sufficient for a draw.
The saving resource! You can't take on c4 because of the fork on d6.
41... Kc6 42. Nd4+ Kc7 43. Rc5+!
It seems White, with limited forces, is able to organise a perpetual checking mechanism. Incredible, but true! Personally in the time trouble frenzy I was convinced that a winning resource could be found for Black. But I was wrong... Judging by the video Kramnik's also amazed. How could it be? After all, the win was so real... Of course, a deep and serious analysis might throw up such resources. One clear improvement is 33...Ne7!, as I already indicated. Perhaps there are others. But who in Vladimir's place, with his flag about to fall, would have been able to find them? And here the players AGREED A DRAW. The black king couldn't go far from the queenside: 43. Rc5+ Kd7 44. Rd5+ Ke7 45. Nc6+! Kf7 (45... Ke6 46. f5+ ) 46. Rb5 - White has neutralised the black passed pawns. Overall, Aronian has saved himself after living on a knife-edge above an abyss. Well done! So then, the final encounter proved a great success. In my view White had a small but stable advantage in the middle of the game. Kramnik defended stubbornly and waited for his chance - which came! Approaching time trouble far from trivial complications began. Levon lost concentration and allowed a very strong counterattack by his powerful opponent. There wasn't much separating Vladimir from a win. All in all, everyone survived and the match has ended 3-3. Thanks go to the grandmasters for brilliant play and great mastery. Thanks to the organisers and sponsors for doing a great deed. The world needs such chess matches. I hope, dear friends, that my work didn't turn out too badly either. Thank you for your attention. Until we meet again! 1/2-1/2
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