The World Champions (Part Four)

Wed, 2013-03-13 21:43 -- IM Max Illingworth

The World Champions (Part Four)

In this blog post I’ll look at two games: firstly a win by Kasparov against Anand and secondly a win by Kramnik with the black pieces against Kasparov, both games being played in 1996. Both games are very exciting with a lot of tension in the middlegame.

(267) Kasparov,Garry (2785) - Anand,Viswanathan (2735) [B14]
It (cat.17) Amsterdam (Netherlands) (3), 1996

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 [The Panov-Botvinnik Attack will almost always lead to an IQP position.]

4...Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 [A fully playable move, of course, but if Black wants to play ...e6 then maybe]

[5...e6 is the more accurate move order, followed by quickly developing the kingside.]

6.Bg5 e6 [6...dxc4 is the main line, when 7.Nf3 h6 8.Bxf6 exf6 9.Bxc4 Bd6 , despite giving White a passed pawn, proves very comfortable for Black because he has a nice bishop pair and the IQP is more likely to be a weakness than a force to be reckoned with. ]

7.Nf3 Be7 8.c5 [Often Black will take on c4 to avoid this possibility, which intends Bb5 followed by Bxc6 and Ne5 to construct a bind on the central light squares, freezing Black's central pawns in the process. Of course there are two sides to the coin and if Black is able to break with ...e5 or put pressure on the d4–pawn, he may be the one holding the trumps.]

8...h6 [All this move does is force the bishop to a better diagonal, namely the h2–b8 diagonal where the bishop also helps keep the central structure fixed. Additionally the insertion of ...h6 might prove a slight weakening when Black castles kingside.]

[8...Ne4 immediately was more to the point, when 9.Bxe7 Nxe7 10.Bb5+ Bd7 11.Bxd7+ Qxd7 12.Ne5 Qc7 is only a little bit better for White, because of his space advantage. But the exchange of a few minor pieces reduces the importance of this edge.]

9.Bf4 Ne4 [Incidentally the knight is normally well placed on e4, since if White ever takes it, ...dxe4 will discover a serious attack on the d4–pawn.]

10.Bb5 Nxc3 11.bxc3 [White has allowed his pawns to be doubled because White gets a nice half-open b-file and also the d4–pawn is no longer backward. True, the c3–pawn could become weak later on but for the time being the c5–pawn offers direct cover, as well as being a general nuisance for Black.]

11...Bd7 12.0–0 0–0 [Now White wants to set up a battery on the b1–h7 diagonal with something like Bb1 and Qd3, but first he gets his rook out of the way so that it won't be trapped on a1 as a spectator.]

[fen]r2q1rk1/pp1bbpp1/2n1p2p/1BPp4/3P1B2/2P2N2/P4PPP/R2Q1RK1 w - - 0 13[/fen]

13.Rc1 [13.Bxc6 Bxc6 14.Ne5 Be8 looks active but there's no immediate way to exploit White's temporary activity and meanwhile ...b6 will break up White's queenside a bit.]

13...Re8 [WIth this move Black wants to prepare an ...e5 break with ...Bf6, but it feels a bit slow and maybe]

[13...b6 was moer to the point. Then the play could continue 14.c4 dxc4 15.Bxc4 bxc5 16.dxc5 Bxc5 17.Bb5 Qe7 18.Qc2 Ba3 19.Bxc6 Bxc1 20.Rxc1 Bxc6 21.Qxc6 and the two minor pieces are a bit better than the rook and pawn but White's advantage is not so large either. ]

14.Re1 Bf6 [14...b6 15.c4 would again be quite effective - there are some lines to calculate but the tactics all work in White's favour because his pieces are so much more active.]

15.Rb1 [This move might seem inconsistent given that White moved the rook to c1 two moves earlier. However the top players are able to change their plans to suit the situation and Kasparov has a pawn sacrifice in mind, which will give him a very strong initiative as compensation. ]

[15.Bd3 b6 16.cxb6 axb6 17.Bb1 intends Qd3 ideas but Black is very solid and if White doesn't get something brewing on the kingside Black might play ...b5–b4 and aim his pieces at White's weak queenside pawns.]

15...b6 16.Ba6 [The threat is Bb7 netting the exchange.]

16...Bc8 17.Bb5 Bd7 18.Ba6 Bc8 19.Bd3 bxc5 20.Ne5 [Now we see White's idea - he is going to play Qh5, Re3 and throw the kitchen sink at Black's king! Objectively Black can probably defend, but he is unquestionably under a lot of pressure and Anand buckles. ]

20...Bd7 [20...Bxe5 21.dxe5 f5 is given as Black's best defence by Kasparov, but I'd rather be White after 22.exf6 Qxf6 23.Bb5 Bd7 24.Qd2 because White will follow up with Bxc6 and Be5 when his opposite coloured bishop will be a lot stronger, preparing a Re3–g3 lift to pile up on the g7–pawn. Or White might play Bd6xc5 and regain his sacrificed pawn.]

21.Rb7 Bxe5 [The knight had to go, and]

[21...Nxe5 22.dxe5 Be7 23.Qg4 Kf8 24.Qh5 is winning for White, as Black can't stop the threat of Bxh6 crashing through on the kingside. Black can't move his e7–bishop as then the f7–pawn and king would be gone for this world.]

22.dxe5 Rb8 [Black tries to contain the initiative with exchanges, but unfortunately this gives White the time he needs to strike hard on the kingside.]

[22...f5 23.exf6 Qxf6 24.Bxh6 Qxh6 25.Rxd7 would be very good for White, because Black's king doesn't have much pawn cover and the rook on the seventh rank is a pest.; 22...c4 23.Bc2 Ne7 24.Qh5 Nf5 25.g4 also doesn't help; if the knight moves White might just take with Bxh6 and crash through on the kingside: 25...Ne7 26.Bxh6 gxh6 27.Qxh6 Ng6 28.Bxg6 fxg6 29.Qxg6+ Kh8 30.Re3 and checkmate is inevitable.]

23.Rxb8 Qxb8 24.Qg4 Kf8 25.Re3 [Remarkably there's not a lot Black can do here, since the e5–pawn stops the other pieces coming to the defence of the kingside. That's why Black tries to run away with his king, but then White might settle for taking all the kingside pawns and promoting one of his own.]
[fen]1q2rk2/p2b1pp1/2n1p2p/2ppP3/5BQ1/2PBR3/P4PPP/6K1 b - - 0 25[/fen]

25...Qd8 [25...Qb2 might be Black's best try, but after 26.h4 Qxc3 27.Rg3 Qe1+ 28.Kh2 Ke7 29.Qxg7 Kd8 30.Qxf7 Black is fighting a losing battle - White's attack is too strong. ; 25...g5 26.Qh5 gxf4 27.Qxh6+ Ke7 28.Qf6+ Kf8 29.Rh3 followed by Rh8 mate would be even more catastrophic.]

26.h4 [26.Rg3 g5 gives Black chances of hanging on. So White prevents this as Black is too tied up to do anything.]

26...Qa5 27.Rg3 Ke7 28.Qxg7 Kd8 29.Qxf7 Qxc3 30.Bb5 [The material is equal, but the relative safety of the two kings and activity of the forces decides.]

30...Qa5 31.Rg7 Ne7 32.Bxd7 Kxd7 33.Qf6 [White will play Bxh6, Bg5, exchange on e7 and win the pawn endgame.]

33...d4 34.Bxh6 c4 35.Bg5 Qc5 36.Rxe7+ [Black resigned as following]

36...Qxe7 37.Qxe7+ Rxe7 38.Bxe7 Kxe7 39.Kf1 [White is in time to stop Black's connected passed pawns, and then the 4–1 pawn roller on the kingside will guarantee promotion for one of the pawns. ]


Our second game is even more interesting, with Kramnik getting the better of Kasparov (not something that happened very often!) in a tactical melee (even rarer!).

(268) Kasparov,Garry (2775) - Kramnik,Vladimir (2775) [D48]
Dos Hermanas Dos Hermanas (6), 27.05.1996

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 [The Meran Variation is a great opening if you want sharp, complex positions where both sides fight fiercely for the initiative. No wonder so many of the world's best players have this line in their repertoire!]

6...dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 [White retreats the bishop to this square so he can more easily break with e4 and occupy the centre. Black in turn has surrendered the centre so he can counterattack more easily with ...c5 or possibly ...e5.]

8...Bb7 9.0–0 [9.e4 a6 10.e5 Nd5 11.Nxd5 cxd5 12.Bd2 would be very promising for White, but 9...b4 is better than 9...a6, giving Black time to counter-attack in the centre with ...c5 next. If Black isn't able to meet e4 with ...c5 or ...e5 he will just be squashed in the centre.]

9...a6 10.e4 c5 11.d5 c4 12.Bc2 [The position is very complicated - will White's central occupation blow Black off the board or will the centre prove to be weak? ]

12...Qc7 13.Nd4 [13.dxe6 fxe6 14.Ng5 Nc5 is an alternative with lots of theory - but rather than go through that let's get to the exciting part of the game!]

13...Nc5 14.b4 [The c4–pawn was taking up a bit of space so Kasparov opts to exchange it and open the position while Black's king lies open in the middle of the board.]

[14.Bg5 0–0–0 15.Bxf6 gxf6 would give Black good pressure agaisnt White's centre. True, Black's advanced his pawns in front of his king but as long as he keeps the initiative he doesn't have to fear a queenside attack by White.; 14.dxe6 fxe6 15.Be3 might be worth investigating if you want to play the Meran against the Semi-Slav at a higher level.]

14...cxb3 15.axb3 b4 [With this move Black succeeds in liquidating White's centre. That's why the Meran has proved such a reputed opening - it might look like Black is just playing on the queenside but he's always actively putting pressure on White's centre.]

16.Na4 Ncxe4 17.Bxe4 [White exchanges his bishop pair in the hope that Black's knight will be loose in the centre, but Kramnik responds well with a counter-sacrifice.]

[17.dxe6 Bd6 18.exf7+ Kxf7 is actually pretty safe for Black, since his king can't be targeted easily from f7 and given time he can always castle by hand with ...Rhf8 and ...Kg8. Meanwhile White has to be careful his a4–knight doesn't end up completely out of play.]

17...Nxe4 18.dxe6 Bd6 19.exf7+ Qxf7 [This is a really nice idea, giving up a piece but generating a very strong attack on White's king, as we'll see. ]

[fen]r3k2r/1b3qpp/p2b4/8/Np1Nn3/1P6/5PPP/R1BQ1RK1 w kq - 0 20[/fen]

[19...Kxf7 20.Qh5+ g6 21.Qh3 followed by f4 and f5 looks too risky, at least for my liking. ]

20.f3 [White has to play this way to meet a knight retreat with Re1. White needs to try and play on the fact Black's king is in the middle as Black's pieces are very active and his bishop pair are perfect for such a wide open position. ]

20...Qh5 21.g3 [White can't be too greedy here:]

[21.fxe4 Qxh2+ 22.Kf2 0–0+ followed by ...Qxg2 or ...Bxe4 will be a total disaster for White's king. He's completely outgunned by Black's fully mobilised pieces.]

21...0–0 [Objectively this move doesn't work, but it leads to complete chaos where even Kasparov can't find his way. ]

[21...Nxg3 22.hxg3 0–0 is a more accurate move order, when White is up a piece but he's under a big attack on the kingside and White's pieces are all over the shop. For space reasons I'll just show the main line: 23.Ra2 Bxg3 24.Rg2 Be5 25.Nc5 Rad8 26.Be3 Bc8 27.f4 Qxd1 28.Rxd1 Bxf4 29.Bxf4 Rxf4 30.Rgd2 and White has parried the attack, but the position is too simplified and with only one White pawn remaining, the correct result is a draw. ]

22.fxe4 Qh3 23.Nf3 [23.Qe2 is ruthlessly given as winning for White by the engine, but let's see why: 23...Bxg3 (23...Bxe4 24.Bf4 also defends.) 24.Nf5 Be5 25.Bb2 Bxb2 26.Nxb2 Qxb3 27.Nc4 and White has not only stopped Black's initiative but taken it himself. With such powerful knights the win should be a matter of time. ]

23...Bxg3 [After this tactical shot White can still draw, but he has to find the right move every move and it doesn't happen. ]

24.Nc5 [This looks very natural, not only defending against the threat of Bxe4 but attacking the bishop! But it just falls short due to some beautiful tactics on Black's part.]

[24.hxg3 Qxg3+ 25.Kh1 Bxe4 is clearly not playable, but; 24.Qe2 Rxf3 25.Rxf3 Bxh2+ 26.Qxh2 Qxf3 27.Qg2 , despite looking very scary for White with only the queen defending his king, proves good enough for a draw: 27...Qd1+ 28.Kh2 Qh5+ 29.Kg1 Rf8 30.Bb2 g6 31.Rf1 and White has managed to stop the mating threats, but White's king is so open that Black will draw with a perpetual check by the queen. ]

24...Rxf3 [This is the idea - now White can't play Qxf3 because of Qxh2 mate.]

25.Rxf3 [25.Ra2 was the best try, but after 25...Rxf1+ 26.Qxf1 Qxf1+ 27.Kxf1 Rc8 28.Be3 Bf4 29.Bxf4 Rxc5 Black still has good winning chances with his extra pawn, despite the opposite coloured bishops. ]

25...Qxh2+ 26.Kf1 Bc6 [Did White miss this quiet move, threatening ...Bb5 with checkmate on the horizon? Either way, it's completely hopeless for White who can't keep his king safe for much longer. If you look at White's queenside, all of the pieces are at home except for the knight on c5 which is dangling in midair more than contributing to the defence.]

[fen]r5k1/6pp/p1b5/2N5/1p2P3/1P3Rb1/7q/R1BQ1K2 w - - 0 27[/fen]

27.Bg5 Bb5+ 28.Nd3 Re8 [This quiet move intends ...Rxe4 and ...Qh1 and there's very little White can do about it.]

29.Ra2 Qh1+ [29...Bxd3+ 30.Rxd3 Qh1+ 31.Ke2 Qg2+ 32.Ke3 Rxe4# was actually a forced checkmate, but Kramnik's move still ensures Black of victory.]

30.Ke2 Rxe4+ 31.Kd2 Qg2+ 32.Kc1 Qxa2 [White is down three pawns and taking the bishop doesn't change much.]

33.Rxg3 Qa1+ 34.Kc2 Qc3+ 35.Kb1 Rd4 [White resigned as the threat of Bxd3 can't be prevented. A very tense and interesting game. ]


A few online spectators, when watching Kramnik play, claim that his style is dry and boring to watch. Show them this game and their opinion should be very different!

That concludes my series on the World Chess Champions. The status quo is that the winner of the Candidates Matches this month in London will play a match against reigning World Champion Viswanathan Anand in November this year for the world title. Carlsen is the obvious favourite to win the Candidates tournament, but all of the players are very strong and any one of them could take first place.

I’d appreciate any feedback on what I could write about in future blog posts or any ways I could make the blog even better. Thanks for taking the time to read this week’s post!