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Vladimir Kramnik vs Peter Leko
Dortmund Sparkassen (2013), Dortmund GER, rd 5, Jul-30
English Opening: Symmetrical Variation. Two Knights Line (A37)  ·  1-0
ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jul-30-13  csmath: You know it is sad when you have such a nice and organized harmonious opening and your opponent uncorks something wild to survive. It might force you to respond in kind.

Korchnoi would not do that to respond in kind. Korchnoi would do that to respond in spite! Look at his score against Tal.

Yet the guys like Leko go exactly the opposite. They try to neatly re-order the things but sometimes it is just not possible.

Jul-30-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Sweet endgame play. Why doesn't black grab the Knight with 22...PxN?
Jul-30-13  notyetagm: <csmath: ... Korchnoi would not do that to respond in kind. Korchnoi would do that to respond in spite!>

KORCHNOI: " I have a beautiful position with Black. 22 ♘d2-e4!?!?! What the hell?? @#$% YOU YOU @#$%* PIECE OF @#$%!"

:-)

Jul-30-13  Everett: <Using Fischer's words Kramnik could say: "Yeah, I broke him">

Using Fischer's reality, Leko could say "Yeah, I broke myself."

Jul-30-13  dumbgai: Gotta love it when Leko plays like a turtle and loses. I still say that Game 14 ruined him, psychologically.
Jul-31-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: The depth of Kramnik's conception is shown if Black accepts the piece right away.

22...fxe4 23 Nxe4 Bxb2 24 Nxc5 Qd6 25 Qxb2 Nd5 26 Qd2 Rbc8 27 d4 Kh7 28 Rf1 Bg8 29 b4 Nd8 30 Ne4 Qe6 31 Rc5 Kg7 32 Rf2 -.34/24 (Houdini 1.5x64 on 3 core deep analysis for 5 hours)


click for larger view

Initially, Houdini rated Black's edge after 22 Nde4 as -.77, but the edge dwindles as the possibilities of White's pawn wedge make it lower the appraisal to only slight advantage for Black.

Objectively then, Leko's 22...Qa7 was not a cowardly move, but a recognition that 22 Nde4 was an exceptional idea which probably draws a losing position.

Jul-31-13  csmath: Tamar, I think you need to play some of that and you will see that black is indeed better but not in sequence you get.

For example

24. ... Nd5

is not Houdini 3x64 (I have a newer one :-)) choice after you get to that move but rather:

24. ... b4

which gives black whole pawn up
(-0.92).

By the way, I do not believe Leko would see all of that anyway.

Jul-31-13  csmath: I think it is fair assessment to say that Leko simply did not want to get into complex tactical play Kramnik proposed with that sacrifice and thus his advantage completely vanished. After that he got into queen exchange (again because of tendency to "simplify") and got himself into losing position.

Anyway you take it, I am of opinion that Leko simply lacks courage to play against Kramnik. Something that younger players (Nakamura, Karjakin, Carlsen, Caruana) do not.

I noted that Leko has not won a single (classical) game against Kramnik since 2004 match which it seems traumatized him. In other words, Leko has become one of those players Kramnik nowadays plays with utter confidence, what is usually pejoratively called "customers" for a lack of better word.

Jul-31-13  Hesam7: <tamar: Objectively then, Leko's 22...Qa7 was not a cowardly move, but a recognition that 22 Nde4 was an exceptional idea which probably draws a losing position.>

I have to disagree with you on that, after 22...fe4 23 Ne4 Bb2 24 Nc5 Qd6 25 Qb2 Black has 25...b4!


click for larger view

26 a4, otherwise b3 will join the list of Black's targets, 26...Nd5


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to see how bad White stands note that 27 Qd2? Na5 28 d4 Nc3 is losing. White's best try seems to be 27 Ne4 but after 27...Qd7 Black can easily strengthen his position (...Rbc8, ...Qe7 & ...Qh4) while White can do little more than watch.

The bottom line is that 22...Qa7? turned a position that was nearly won for Black (somewhere between and ) to something very nearly equal (not = but not even ). As for the cause I am not so sure, both players were low on time, maybe Leko could not figure out everything, maybe his psychological problems were to blame or maybe he just chickened out, we will never know for sure.

Jul-31-13  csmath: <As for the cause I am not so sure, both players were low on time, maybe Leko could not figure out everything, maybe his psychological problems were to blame or maybe he just chickened out, we will never know for sure.>

Hesam, I think it is all of the above. :-)

Jul-31-13  Hesam7: <csmath: The trouble is

33. ... Qa6?

and then going into pin with

36. ... Kf8?!
(36. ... Rc8 and black might try to defend the ending I think, it might not be possible)>

The big mistake was 33...Qa6? after which White is winning. 36...Kf8 does not change the evaluation since 36...Rc8 37 Rd5 Bd5 38 Bd5 is a technical win:


click for larger view

Although depending on where the Black King goes White has to employ a different plan. If it stays on the K-side, White trades the a3-pawn for the b5-pawn and pushes the b-pawn, if the King comes to the center the Knight and the Bishop will destroy the K-side and then White pushes the h-pawn. Here is an example of the latter which is mostly forced:

38...Kf8 39 Ne6 Ke7 40 Nd4 Kd6 41 Bf7 Kc5 42 Nf3 g5 43 fg5 hg5 44 Be6 Ra8 45 Ng5 Ra3 46 h4


click for larger view

Jul-31-13  Hesam7: <csmath: Anyway you take it, I am of opinion that Leko simply lacks courage to play against Kramnik. Something that younger players (Nakamura, Karjakin, Carlsen, Caruana) do not.>

Actually Kramnik does well against Carlsen, but the rest of that group are "calculators", in other words they are really good at concrete accurate analysis. I think the clash of styles can explain part of the score.

PS: Karjakin has been Kramnik's second on more than one occasion if I am not mistaken.

Jul-31-13  Hesam7: <csmath: I noted that Leko has not won a single (classical) game against Kramnik since 2004 match which it seems traumatized him. In other words, Leko has become one of those players Kramnik nowadays plays with utter confidence, what is usually pejoratively called "customers" for a lack of better word.>

If I had to guess I would say that this is the biggest factor, Leko has the same problem with Topalov after losing Leko vs Topalov, 2005 from a winning position.

Jul-31-13  csmath: <36...Kf8 does not change the evaluation since 36...Rc8 37 Rd5 Bd5 38 Bd5 is a technical win>

It did look like it. Anyway an active player would try to avoid the pin since it was also quite hopeless.

As far as I remember Leko had like 2 and a half minutes for the moves 35-40 so I am assuming he just could not think fast enough for all of that and got himself lost quickly.

This whole game is probably another traumatic loss for him and it probably won't bode well for the rest of tournament. But then again, that is the game of chess.

Jul-31-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: <csmath> <Hesam7> Houdini 1.5 did have 25...b4 as the frontrunner for a long time, but somehow 25...Nd5 supplanted it around 24 ply.

Could be just a glitch in my earlier version, or it did not recognize the strength of allowing White to himself push b4 when the stabilized pawn structure becomes very hard to attack.

Still I think a long analysis from 25...b4 would go a ways to prove whether Kramnik's whole idea was a desperate psychological ploy or whether he had drawing chances even there.

How does the position look around move 30 after the 25...b4 idea?

Is the assessment above +1 or the same
(about .96 when I feed in the Houdini 3 moves 25...b4 26 a4 Nd5 and let it think up to 26 ply) or lower?

Jul-31-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sokrates: Great reasonings, <csmath: The value of 22. Ne4 is psychological. It might not work against players like Korchnoi. But it does against Leko...> Interesting read!

This is sort of Lasker psychology: The strongest move isn't always the objectively best move, but the move that annoys your opponent the most. And Kramnik was right about drawmaster Leko's reluctance to stir up a harmonious position and risk getting into wild complications. This is probably the way to beat the otherwise hard to beat Leko.

Jul-31-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: <Sokrates> I think most of Lasker's "psychological" moves were simply those so complex that he himself could not see how to refute them. Or in those cases where he had to play something to alter a losing game.

Kramnik rarely plays speculatively, but here, in a nearly lost position, he had little choice. And the move works brilliantly in almost all variations.

I don't think he thought to himself-it will fail if Leko accepts and finds 25...b4, but I will play it anyway because he will chicken out.

It is likely he thought, if I don't disrupt Black's plans immediately, I will lose because of my weak b3 pawn.

Jul-31-13  Hesam7: <tamar: How does the position look around move 30 after the 25...b4 idea?

Is the assessment above +1 or the same
(about .96 when I feed in the Houdini 3 moves 25...b4 26 a4 Nd5 and let it think up to 26 ply) or lower?>

22...fe4 23 Ne4 Bb2 24 Nc5 Qd6 25 Qb2 b4 26 a4 Nd5 27 Ne4 (this seems forced) 27...Qd7


click for larger view

White has to defend the e3-pawn, but how?

<A> 28 Nc5?! Qe7 29 Na6 (maybe White can do better but improving the Black Queen's position without taking the a-pawn seems pointless to me) 29...Rbc8 30 Re1 Nc3 31 Nb4 Nb4 32 Rc3 Rc3 33 Qc3 Rc8 34 Qd2 Rc2 35 Qd1 h5 (an engine suggestion which is more accurate than 35...Bb3 36 Qg4 Bf7 37 Be4 Kg7 where Black should still win but with more difficulty)


click for larger view

White has four pawns for the Knight but Black pieces are dominating and White is in zugzwang (36 Qf3 Nd3; 36 Kh1 Bg4).

<B> 28 Re1 Rbc8


click for larger view

Here White has a wide array of moves: 29 Nc5, 29 Rc5 & 29 d4; even 29 Kh1 after which I can't find a forced win. But the position should be winning for Black, he has material superiority (N vs. PP) and weaknesses on b3, c3 and e3 to exploit.

Jul-31-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: thanks <Hesam7> it does appear that 25...b4 could turn the tide.

That you could find no discernible forced win however, is a reason to investigate further. The defensive strength of connected passed pawns is one area that computers still do not fully appreciate.

Perhaps it is time I splurged on an updated Houdini:)

Jul-31-13  csmath: The reality here is that Kramnik offered sacrifice. It is a two-bit decision, you either take it or not.

A confident player (Kramnik) would have offered sacrifice and it is a stunning move.

Since there is no winning combination for white after that sacrifice a confident player (Korchnoi or Fischer for example) would take it. Leko didn't and the advantage he had fizzled.

Whatever the reasons for this it will be ascribed to Leko's inability to play for a win against Kramnik. Beyond his already restrained chess he is now psychologically "owned" by Kramnik, in my view. Kramnik on the other hand obviously has no fears against Leko.

Jul-31-13  micartouse: Nice sacrifice. Not too concerned about the evaluation - that's for the grandmasters to worry about. From an amateur's perspective, it's a completely unexpected and unorthodox move to Vlad's credit.
Aug-02-13  Ulhumbrus: Leko may have decided to trust Kramnik. Lasker was asked once after having declined a piece sacrifice what would have happened if he had accepted it and said <I do not know. I was playing a strong master and if a strong master thinks for half an hour and then places a piece where I can take it, I think that it will not be healthy for me to take it and so I leave it alone.>
Aug-03-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: Just playing tru the game superficially .. Why could'nt white have played that knight sac a move earlier on move 21. Instead of 21.Qf2 ?
Aug-17-13  visayanbraindoctor: I believe that with 21. Qf2, which exerts more indirect control on the d4 and c5 squares, Kramnik was already preparing 22. Nde4. In some variations, control of these squares are important in the possible tactics hidden in the potential positions.

22. Nde4 is IMO at par with Marshall's brilliant Queen sac in terms of its unexpected nature. The most unexpected moves I have ever seen played in competitive play.

If Kramnik had not found this move, I believe he would have lost by strangulation. His opening strategy was shockingly anti-positional, seemingly consisting of shuffling his pieces uselessly around while watching Leko take over the center. The brilliant 22. Nde4 gave him a chance to fight back. Leko ducked with 22... Qa7, and Kramnik actually managed to win after a proficient display of his tactical prowess. An extraordinary and unforgettable game.

Aug-17-13  Ulhumbrus: <visayanbraindoctor: ...
Kramnik ...His opening strategy was shockingly anti-positional, seemingly consisting of shuffling his pieces uselessly around while watching Leko take over the center.>

In the position after 21 Qf2 White's rooks are ahead in development of Black's rooks. Kramnik's manoeuvres were probably purposeful, whether or not the justifications for the purposes were sufficient.

If Leko had foreseen Kramnik's sacrifice 22 Nde4 perhaps he would have pre-empted it by offering a piece himself by 21...Nd4. This attacks the b3 pawn a second time and on 22 exd4?? Bxd4 pins White's queen

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