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Vladimir Kramnik vs Veselin Topalov
Corus Group A (2003), Wijk aan Zee NED, rd 10, Jan-23
Benko Gambit: Accepted. Fully Accepted Variation (A58)  ·  1-0



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Given 18 times; par: 99 [what's this?]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Jan-11-04  patzer2: Kramnik accepts the Benko Gambit, and in the middle game gives back the extra pawn in the process of exchanging Queens for a difficult rook and pawn ending, which he wins impressively.
Jan-11-04  patzer2: For such an innocuous looking move, 10. Rb1 has a huge winning percentage (60% White wins & only 12.5% Black wins in 40 games).
Jan-11-04  Benjamin Lau: That's interesting, I guess 10.Rb1 is a good move for mobilizing the q side majority in the 5.bxa6 Benko.
Jan-12-04  patzer2: <Benjamin Lau> I think you are right that 10. Rb1 is mean to facilitate mobilizing the queenside to spring a passed pawn. However, to take full advantage of the move the player with the White pieces will also need strong endgame skills.
Oct-18-05  Daodejing: I guess at 19... Bb7 Kramnik knew that he had a won endgame and Topalow had to play 36 moves before he recognised that he is lost.

Kramnik is a very deep player.

Jun-14-06  Runemaster: Topalov can't afford to play this sort of opening asgainst Kramnik in their September match.

Top. never really had anything in this game and was just a pawn down for nothing. That allowed K to give the pawn back when and how he chose, leading to the sort of position Kramnik plays very well.

Jun-27-06  Rocafella: lol I really like the variation name, 'accpeted fully accepted variation' Just made me laugh!
Oct-16-06  Runemaster: I've just noticed that at the time of this game, Kramnik was rated 64 points higher than Topalov.

What was Kramnik doing playing someone rated 60 points lower than himself? He should have just laughed at the very idea.

Oct-16-06  Lt. Col. Majid: These were the days before Kramnik's illness when he used to beat Topalov like badly behaved step child.

Boy, he put some bad a$$ beating on Topa prior to 2004 lol.

Dec-16-06  Karpova: To say that Topalov was simply outplayed by Kramnik in this game is definitely not over-exaggerating.
Aug-08-07  Alexin22: Cool game !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Aug-08-07  KamikazeAttack: <Lt. Col. Majid: These were the days before Kramnik's illness when he used to beat Topalov like badly behaved step child. Boy, he put some bad a$$ beating on Topa prior to 2004 lol.>


Premium Chessgames Member
  Mateo: I am not sure that the Rook ending is a win for White if Black defends accurately. At least, it seems that Topalov could defend better. The turning point seems to be 53...Rc4? losing an important tempo (as he played Rc1 on the next move). Topalov should have played 53...Ra1. If 54.g6? Rg1 wins the 'g' pawn. So then what? Either 54.Ke4, either 54.Kg4 (what else?).

1) 54.Ke4 Re1+ 55.Kd4. I didn't analyse it further but I don't believe this variation provides winning prospects, because the King is separated from the pawns by the Black Rook.

2) 54.Kg4 Rg1+ 55.Kh5 Rf1, Black seems to hold. To progress, White has to sac a pawn. For instance, 56.Kh6 (56.Kg6 Rxf4 leads to the same kind of pattern) Rxf4 57.Rb8+ Ke7 58.g6 Rh4+ 59.Kg5 Rh1 60.g7 Rg1+ 61.Kh6 Rh1+ 62.Kg6 Rg1+ 63.Kh7 Rh1+ 64.Kg8 R on the 'h' file, it's a draw.

Jan-14-11  GilesFarnaby: After 40...f4 may someone tell me where´s the win because I haven´t been able to find it myself, nor with computer:

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Analysis by Houdini 1.5 w32:

41.Ra3 e6 42.Ra5 Kc7 43.Rxe5 Rxa6 44.Kxf4 Kd7 45.Rc5 Kd6 46.Rb5 Ra7 47.Rb6+ Ke7 48.f3 Rc7 49.Ra6 Rc5 50.Ra7+ Kf8 51.e5 Rb5 52.Rc7 Rb1 53.Rd7 Rb5 54.Rh7 Rb1 55.Rc7 Rb5 56.Rd7 Rb1 57.Rh7 Rb2 58.Rd7 Rb5 59.Rh7 (0.60) Depth: 29/53 00:00:45 85228kN

Jan-14-11  GilesFarnaby: <patzer2: For such an innocuous looking move, 10. Rb1 has a huge winning percentage (60% White wins & only 12.5% Black wins in 40 games).>

Yeah, 10.Rb1 is the move: apart from what´s been already pointed out it prevents any a1-h8 diagonal B tactics, and makes b3 possible if needed, because black won´t be able to exploit the hanging N, which would be retired conveniently if ...Ng4 (or something like that) and Bg7 will only hunt air in its (otherwise superb) diagonal.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: Jan Pinski in his book "The Benko Gambit" (2005, 2007, 2010) analyzes this game extensively. He is "deeply convinced" that after 34.Kg2 Black's best chance for a draw is 34...h5! where "The point is that now after a later g3-g4 (after White prepares it of course) Black will be able to reduce the material. It is the old story; every pawn exchange brings the defender closer to a draw."

Yet from the position after 34.Kg2

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Komodo 11 with 5-piece Syzygy tablebase support considers Black's best move to be 34...Kf7 as played by Topalov, evaluating it at [+0.73], d=38, indicating that White is slightly better. After Pinski's 34...h5, Komodo 11 evaluates the resulting position at [+1.50], d=43, indicating that White is definitely better.

Pinski also says that after 44.Rc5! "White wins because the black king is cut off from the kingside", and after 50.f4? that "According to Kramnik White wins after 50.Rg7! Ra4+ 51.Kf3 e5 52.Rf7 Ke6 53.Rf6+ Ke7 54.Kg3 Rb4 55.Kh3!! "The king makes room for the rook, and the g6-pawn is unstoppable."

Which is all fine and good, but after 49.Rxg6 Kd6 as played by Topalov the game is a theoretical draw per the Lomonsov tablebases. 50.f4 does nothing to change the result, so it can't be considered a mistake (my definition of a mistake is a move that unfavorably changes the likely outcome of the game, from a win to a draw or loss, or from a draw to a loss).

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And I say theoretical draw because the game is being played by two humans, and they won't always make the theoretical best moves.

In this position after 53.Rb7 the game is still a theoretical draw per the Lomonosov tablebases:

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So Pinski is correct in calling 53...Rc4? a mistake since after it White mates in 30 moves per the Lomonosov tablebases. The position is still a draw after either 53...Ra1 to get the rook behind the White pawns (as indicated by Pinski) or (per the Lomonosov tablebases) 53...Ra3+ to cut off the White king from supporting its pawns after, say, 54.Kf2, or after 54.Kg4 Ra4 preventing the White pawns from advancing since after 55.g6, 55...e5 liquidates one set of pawns and the draw is clear.

Pinski suggests that after 10.Rb1, 10...Nb6 as played in P. Varga vs. M. Pap, 2001 (which unfortunately is not in Opening Explorer) instead of 10...0-0 as played by Topalov is a more accurate move sequence although the statistics in Opening Explorer indicate otherwise. 10...Qa5 is another possibility leading to an even sharper game with the lowest drawing percentages.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<GilesFarnaby> After 40...f4 may someone tell me where's the win because I haven't been able to find it myself, nor with computer>

click for larger view

Maybe you didn't let Houdini analyze long enough. I also got an evaluation from Houdini 1.5 of [+0.59] at d=29 for its top 3 lines. But here's what I got as Houdini's top line at d=35:

Houdini 1.5: [+1.79], d=35: 41.Ra5 Kc7 42.Ke2 e6 43.Kd3 Kb6 44.Rxe5 Re7 45.Ke2 Kxa6 46.Kf3 Kb6 47.Kxf4 Kc6 48.Ra5 Kb6 49.Ra8 e5+ 50.Ke3 Rc7 51.Re8 Rc3+ 52.Kd2 Rc5 53.Re6+ Kc7 54.Rxg6 Kd7 55.Rb6 Rc7 56.Ke3 Rc3+ 57.Ke2 Rc1 58.Rb7+ Kc6 59.Re7 Kd6 60.Ra7 Ke6 61.g6 Rg1

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And restarting the analysis from this position at d=29 Houdini indicates that White mates in 39 moves after 62.g7 Kd6 63.f3 Rg2+ 64.Kf1 Rg5 65.Kf2 Kc6 66.f4 exf4 (here the Lomonosov tablebases indicate that White mates in 21 moves) 67.Kf3 Rg1 68.Kxf4 Rf1+ 69.Kg5 Rg1+ 70.Kf5 Rf1+ 71.Ke6 Rg1 72.e5 (instead 72.Kf7 Rf1+ 73.Kg8 followed by 74.Rg7, 75.Kf8 and the pawn queens) 72...Kb5 73.g8Q Rxg8

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And now White has many ways to win; 74.Kf7, 74.Rc7, 74.Kd6, etc.

FWIW, I don't consider a position to be winning, in this case for White, until an engine's evaluation is [+2.00] or higher. So in this case, while Houdini's evaluation is higher at a greater depth (and may still go higher), I wouldn't consider it as winning for White either.

But engines have improved a lot in the last 6 years; quicker to reach deeper search depths and more accurate evaluations. Here is what I got for Komodo 11's and Stockfish 8's top line:

Komodo 11: [+4.69], d=42: 41.Ra3 e6 42.Ra5 Kc7 43.Ke2 Kc8 44.Kd3 Rd7+ 45.Kc4 Rd4+ 46.Kc3 Kb8 47.a7+ Ka8 48.Rxe5 Rd6 49.Ra5 Rd1 50.Kc4 Rg1 51.Kd3 Rc1 52.Ke2 Rc3 53.Re5 Rc6 54.Kf3 Kxa7 55.Kxf4 Kb6 56.f3 Rd6 57.Ke3 Kc7 58.Ra5 Kb8 59.f4 Kc8 60.Ra7 e5 61.fxe5 Re6 62.Rf7 Re8 63.Rg7 Rh8 64.Rxg6 (and from this position White theoretically mates in 24 moves per the Lomonosov tablebases) 64...Rh3+ 65.Kf4 Kd7 66.e6+ Ke7 67.Rh6 Ra3 68.Rf6 Rc3 69.Rg6

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And, 3 pawns up, White should be able to win after 70.Kf5, 71.Rg7+, and the advance of the g-pawn.

Stockfish 8: [+6.49], d=43: 41.Ra1 Kc7 42.Ra5 e6 43.Ke2 Kb8 44.Kd1 Rd7+ 45.Ke1 Ra7 46.Ke2 f3+ 47.Kd3 Rd7+ 48.Ke3 Ra7 49.Rxe5 Rxa6 50.Rc5 Kb7 51.Kxf3 Ra8 52.Kf4 Kb6 53.Re5 Re8 54.Ke3 Kc6 55.f4 Kd6 56.Ra5 Rc8 57.Ra7 Rc3+ 58.Kf2 Rc4 59.Kf3 Rc3+ 60.Kg4 Rc1 61.Rg7 Rg1+ 62.Kf3 Rf1+ 63.Kg3 e5 64.Rxg6+ Ke7 65.fxe5 (and from this position White theoretically mates in 35 moves per the Lomonosov tablebases) 65...Rg1+ 66.Kf3 Kf8 67.Rf6+ Ke7 68.Kf4 Rf1+ 69.Kg4 Rg1+ 70.Kf5 Rf1+ 71.Kg6 Ra1 72.e6 Ra4 73.Kf5 Ra5+ 74.e5 Ra1 75.Rf7+ Ke8 76.g6 Rf1+ 77.Ke4 Re1+ 78.Kd3 Rg1 79.g7 Rg3+ 80.Ke4 Rg4+ 81.Kf3 Rg1 82.Rf8+ Ke7

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And clearly White wins after 83.g8=Q.

Long lines all and clearly the game would not likely go exactly this way, but the lines look convincing. And, FWIW, on my computer it took Houdini 1.5 01:39:09 to reach d=35 while it took Komodo 11 only 00:18:34 to reach d=42 and it took Stockfish 8 only 00:13:47 to reach d=43.

Jun-18-18  Omnipotent00001: 50. f3 is a draw.
Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: 15 a4 preventing ..Nb5 was a new idea in this line. Kramnik recommended 26..Rb5 as a tougher defense. 42..Kd6 43 Kd3..Kc7 44 Kc4..fxe 45 Kc5 would also have been powerful for White. Black was lost after 53..Rc4?; after the better defense 53..Ra1 Kramnik offered 54 Ke4..Re1+ 55 Kd4 as White's best practical chance.

Kramnik's analysis of the rook ending (in Informant 86) was both thorough and educational.

Sep-20-22  Saniyat24: My Rook is more badass than yours...!

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