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Vladimir Kramnik vs Levon Aronian
"Levon in the Lurch" (game of the day May-07-2008)
Corus Group A (2008), Wijk aan Zee NED, rd 6, Jan-18
Semi-Slav Defense: Anti-Moscow Gambit (D44)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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May-07-08  DarthStapler: Excellent play by Kramnik
May-07-08  xrt999: < Eyal: Played on the day of Fischer's death, this game may be seen as Kramnik's tribute to Geller vs Fischer, 1970, where Fischer kept torturing Geller in a theoretically drawn (double) rook endgame, until Geller snapped on move 71...>

Im not sure I am following your reference to a game from 1970. Since Geller dispensed with Fischer in their previous two meetings, outplaying and defeating Fischer in miniatures of 23 and 25 moves respectively, in order to make your analogy more realistic, that must mean Aronian must have defeated Kramnik in their 2 prior meetings in 20-something moves?

also, since Geller has a lifetime winning record against Fischer, that must mean Aronian has a lifetime winning record against Kramnik?

Or maybe they are just 2 really long games played 40 years apart that have nothing to do with each other?

May-07-08  Eyal: <xrt999> I'm not sure I am following YOUR reference to Geller's "previous two meetings" with Fischer. Who said anything about comparing lifetime records? The analogy I was drawing was between this specific game and the specific Geller vs Fischer game from 1970, and I believe it was pretty clear: both featured a theoretically drawn rook endgame, and in both cases the attacking side still managed to win after a long and persistent struggle, taking advantage of a blunder by the defending side.

Of course I wasn't being completely serious when talking of a (conscious) "tribute" by Kramnik - the mention of the Fischer game was my tribute to him, actually.

May-07-08  xrt999: eyal, my point is that the Geller who "snapped" and that Fischer was "torturing" is the same Geller who played the previous 2 games.

I really didnt like your use of the words "torturing" and "snapped" in reference to Geller, and thought they were uncalled for.

I will leave my thesaurus on the shelf and let all 3 games speak for themselves.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: Here is the "impossible" endgame:R+RP+BP vs R. With best play, the result is 99% drawn. Here,with time and mental pressure on his side,Kramnik wore down his opponent,so that a blunder or two decided it.

In short,white's will and guts amounted to more than the two pawn advantage he had.

Boris Becker:"The fifth set in a match is more a battle of guts than it is of tennis". (paraphrased in word,but not in meaning)

May-07-08  Eyal: <xrt999> Oh, I see in your profile that Geller is your favorite player – that probably explains the hyper-sensitiveness to the terms I used. Well, I still think that those terms (in their chess-related sense) describe rather aptly what happened in that game; but, like everything else in my initial post, they still have nothing whatever to do with those two earlier games, where Geller indeed played brilliantly.
May-07-08  Pianoplayer: A very long game.
May-07-08  positionalgenius: My candidate for GOTY... a great game
May-07-08  mang00neg: Imo, not much guts required to play a position where the worst you can do is draw. To me guts is playing on when either result is possible and the difference between the two is razor thin.
May-07-08  percyblakeney: Aronian wouldn't have lost this ending if he had had more than a few seconds left, when he lost on time he had already blundered away the draw but ultimately it was bad time keeping that cost him here since there was no time increment. But that is hardly Kramnik's fault.
May-07-08  Samagonka: My fingers are hurting from the clicks!
May-07-08  component: Where can a notation of this game be found?
May-17-08  patzer2: Kramnik's positional sacrifice 25. Nc3! is a theoretical novelty, which, as <Acirce> stated on page 2 of the kibitzing here, "flipped the assessment" of this popular variation, based on the previous game Radjabov vs Anand, 2006, from "White has problems to Black has problems."

In answer to <component>'s question above, an analysis of this game can be found at Also, the official tournament bulletin report on this game can be found at

The tournament bulletin suggests two possible improvements for Black:

1. <Perhaps black needed to try 28...Rf6!? and not 28...Qf6?!>

2. <(Black) blundered with 103...Kf7? - 103...Ra5+ was the only move - and eventually lost on time. A tragic loss for Aronian after such a tough fight.>

GM Marin in his chessbase analysis (see link above) does not mention the 28...Rf6!? suggestion and indicates White could improve with <32. Qc4!!>. Marin further indicates that after 52...Ra8 < White has nothing better than transpose to a theoretically drawn rook ending, despite White's two extra-pawn> with 53. Raa8. Marin also concurs in the assessment that <103...Kf7?> was <The decisive mistake> since <with the rook on the a-file, Black has sufficient space available to harass the enemy king with 103...Ra5+! and if 104.Kc6 then 104...Ra7! when the elimination of pawns and the perpetual check cannot be avoided...>

May-17-08  Towershield: <Samagonka> You can always use the arrow buttons on your keyboard.
May-21-08  sleepkid: This is a draw, and it was somewhat unsporting of Kramnik to force a time pressure blunder, but Aronian should have known that his King should never have gone to f7 at that point. He also missed a few other lines which draw, which probably made Kramnik feel that Aronian did not have a firm grasp on the correct drawing technique for this ending.

Here it is played correctly:
Bondarevsky vs Keres, 1939

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <...and it was somewhat unsporting of Kramnik to force a time pressure blunder ...> Well, either the clock is a part of the game or it isn't...

But -- and this is a point for the discussions of the relative strenghts of past and present players -- my sense is that the endgames often used to played as good or better in the times of Botvinnik, Keres, Smyslov and such. Of course, adjournements had lots to do with it, but perhaps such observations could temper at least some of the proclamations of absolute superiority of today players, as compared to the older generations, that some young guns around here often espouse.

May-22-08  percyblakeney: It's maybe harsh on Aronian to use this endgame as an example when it comes to comparisons with Keres and so on, he did blitz out the correct moves for a very long time and only went wrong with a few seconds left on the clock.

With adjournments or a time control a little bit closer to those used once upon a time it is indeed less certain that Aronian would have gone wrong than in a time situation as the one he had here.

May-22-08  square dance: i dont see how modern players can be compared to past players regarding endgames. players today have to deal with 5th, 6th and sometimes 7th! hour fatigue which wasnt the case for previous generations. not to mention the whole analysis 'thing'. ;-)
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: All I aim to point out is that the older generations already knew a'lot about chess and that the best place to see that fact clearly is in their endgames.

<players today have to deal with 5th, 6th and sometimes 7th! hour fatigue which wasnt the case for previous generations> Back in Bondarevsky-Keres times, players would regularly play close to 5 hours and frequently analyse adjourned games over night. While seconds and team analyses were the thing at high-stake games, it was not so for rank and file players at domestic tournaments.

<It's maybe harsh on Aronian to use this endgame ...> My intent was not at all to be hash on Aronian. (My intent was to tip my hat to the Kereses of this world.)

May-22-08  dazone3: To anyone complaining about Aronian losing on time, or Kramnik's "unsporting" behavior:

Look at the postion after the 60th move, where 30 minutes were added to the clock. Aronian had 30 minutes to draw a theoretical endgame. That is -plenty- of time, and I guarentee Botvinnik, Smyslov, or even Kramnik himself would've held under a similar time constraint.

If you think more than 30 minutes is required for such an endgame, you would remove all element of sport from the game.

May-22-08  percyblakeney: Corus has always used the system with no time increments after move 60, but that hasn't stopped some players from being unhappy about it. Karpov was said to have been very angry afterwards when Radjabov came 13 seconds from winning in 2003, but it isn't always that easy to play out 50 moves in a drawn but inferior endgame:

Karpov vs Radjabov, 2003

May-22-08  percyblakeney: Here is an example of Kotov losing the same endgame as in Kramnik-Aronian, when he was ranked as a top 5 player by Chessmetrics, in the Soviet Championships:

Kotov vs Flohr, 1951

Another example where a young Smyslov plays several losing moves in the same endgame (read the kibitzing) but finally gets a draw anyway:

Smyslov vs Bondarevsky, 1941

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: Of course, the theory of these endgames were not settled for a long time:

<Of this particular endgame, Borislav Ivkov wrote: "While Smyslov was able to draw several times with the weaker side, Keres always won when he had the two pawn advantage. Who is to be trusted?">

Only tablebases settled with finality which positions are a win and which are a draw. It was Botvinnik however who gave a defensive recipe for holding the most common and important cases.

<Resignation Trap> has a great collection about this endgame: Game Collection: Oh, Those Effin' Aitch Pawns in Rook Endgames! It contains also this quote:

<In <FIDE Review> #3, 1961, Salomon Flohr wrote:

<From Mikhail Botvinnik one can learn that it is necessary to prepare seriously for each encounter. Here is a little example: Before the tourney for the world championship in 1948, I was acting as Botvinnik's second. Botvinnik included in his program the study of all rook endgames with f- and h-pawns. I was astonished: Why? That happens only once in a lifetime. <No, if I am not acquainted with such endings, I do not have the right to participate in the world championship>, said Botvinnik. I had to search for all examples of this endgame!> >

Btw, here, it is Aronian who comes up roses:
Carlsen vs Aronian, 2004

(As for Kotov, he was neither famous nor infamous for his endgame play.)

Oct-14-12  vinidivici: The endgame should be DRAW. Black's king on the good square and in the short side then blacks rook in the long side (with 3 or more squares to the hostile pawn) preparing to side checks.

Theres must be a mistake that black has done.

Oct-04-20  Bondsamir: Geller pretended he was struggling to make Fischer looks as upper dog.
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