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Vladimir Kramnik vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
"Two Ladies" (game of the day Jan-22-2012)
15th Unive (Crown Group) (2011), Hoogeveen NED, rd 5, Oct-21
English Opening: Anglo-Indian Defense. King's Indian Formation (A15)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Oct-21-11  swissfed: impressive
Premium Chessgames Member
  beenthere240: I thought Krammnik would have to take the draw back around move 51, since a queen exchange was fatal, but he saw very deeply into the position and knew that black pawn would fall, after which the queen endgame was won for white. It looks to me that black's in zwugzang after move 55, since he only has pawn moves, which will soon run out. 55. ...f5 accepts the transition into the lost game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beenthere240: I wonder if it would have been worthwhile for black to advance his a pawn to a5 (eg on move 55)-- before playing ...f5 -- in order to set up the remote chance of an eventual stalemater threat.
Oct-21-11  rapidcitychess: That's... just crazy.

Queen endgames are the endgame that has no limit to the depth. A mortal who ventures into the cavern of queen endgames with an extra pawn, comes out with a mere draw. But every once in a while, you see long calculation and that extra pawn finally makes it to the end.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Stonehenge: I expected Kramnik to take the draw with 34.g6+ Kxg6 35.Rd6+ f6 36.Rxf6+ but I was wrong :)
Oct-21-11  jussu: <A mortal who ventures into the cavern of queen endgames with an extra pawn, comes out with a mere draw.>

They are actually really straightforward if you have somewhere to hide your king, which is unfortunately not usually the case. Playing a queen ending with open king at the pace of 30 seconds per move is inhuman, of course - only for grandmasters :)

Oct-21-11  Resignation Trap: THIS is a birthday present from Kramnik??
Oct-21-11  Beholder: <Resignation Trap: THIS is a birthday present from Kramnik??>


Oct-21-11  visayanbraindoctor: Kramnik has been sacrificing non-stop in this tournament. The exchange against Giri, a pawn against Polgar, another pawn against MVL in their first game, and now still another pawn against MVL just now.

This sac looked the most unusual. His other sacs had motifs that could be discerned pretty quickly but his 16. d5 just seemed totally unpredictable. I imagine that few players today would even dream of it. It looks like an Alekhine kind of sac - profound, intimidating, surprising, yet sound. MVL must have been incredulous when Kram moved his pawn forward. The fact that MVL fought back well is also highly impressive.

The sequence of moves that Kramnik found beginning at 22. Ne4 and ending in 34. Nd2 was almost unbelievable. Often he found the only move that saved him from a disastrous position as MVL miraculously conjured strong counter-play in the center. It was a very difficult and messy middle-game. For a while both of them were attacking each other.

Too bad time trouble spoiled Kramnik's advantage as he made the standard pre-time control errors. However, it was a blessing in disguise for fans who like to watch superbly fought end games. First, instead of an easy draw by perpetual check, he chose a line that allowed MVL a dangerous passed pawn on his third rank, counting on his Queen and Knight's ability to generate mating threats for counter-play. The initiative had to be maintained at all times or MVL would simply march his passed pawn. Kramnik conducted the ending with unrelenting pressure, always managing to avoid repetitions and drawish lines, always finding threats to keep the initiative. He finally won the dangerous passed pawn in simplifying to an open Queen ending, probably the most difficult ending to play for humans. Again he found all means to keep the initiative and wining chances. The tired MVL finally cracked in the long Queen ending.

This is not the Kramnik of 5 years ago.

This game is an unreal and fantastic epic.

Oct-21-11  swissfed: There's always beauty in Kramnik 's play. It's art !
Premium Chessgames Member
  kamalakanta: I am amazed at the depth and tenacity of Kramnik's games....kudos also to Vachier-Lagrave for co-producing a work of art!
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Where was this kind of play during the Candidates matches? Great chess. Tactically, this game was hard to follow, for an average player. A lot of checking and double checking.

It seemed Max had solved all the complications, until his weak pawns started to disappear. Tough to be on the losing side of this kind of game.

Oct-21-11  Hesam7: Kramnik got a winning position only to give it away with 35. gxh6?! and 36. Qg5?. Here are improvements:

<1> 35. Nf1!:

click for larger view

35. ... Qf3 (other moves are met by 36. Rd2) 36. Ne3 Qe2 (or else 37. Rd2) 37. Qf4 Qe1+ 38. Nf1 Qe4 (White was threatening mate in 1 with 39. Qf5#) 39. Qxe4 Bxe4 40. Nd2 Bc2 41. gxh6 Bxb2 42. Nxb3 Bxa3 43. Nd4 Bg6 44. Ra8 Bb2 (44. ... Bd3 45. Ra7 Bc4 46. Nf5 when White keeps the h6-pawn looks worse) 45. Nf3 Kxh6 46. Rxa6

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<2> 36. Qh3!

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36. ... Qe1+ (other moves are bad for example: 36. ... Bxa3?? 37. Qf5+ Kxh6 38. Rh8+ Kg7 39. Rh7+ Kf8 40. Qxf7#) 37. Qf1 (37. Nf1 Qe4=) 37. ... Qxf1 (otherwise White has 38. Qb1+!) 38. Kxf1 Bf6 39. Rd6 Bb5+ 40. Ke1 Be7 41. Rd4 b2 42. a4 Bc6 43. Ke2 Kxh6 44. Kd3 Kg5 45. Kc2 f5 46. Kb1 (46. Rc4!?) 46. ... a5

click for larger view

Objectively Black stands better than the 2nd diagram of <1> but I think Kramnik would have won this as well.

Oct-21-11  Mr. Bojangles: Since losing his title, one thing has been noticeable in Kramnik's chess ... white or black, win or lose, the guy comes to fight and play chess.

His chess is becoming more and more uncompromising by the game.

Oct-21-11  maelith: This is Kramnik at his best. Anyone who wants to improve should study his games.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: I am blown away by Kramnik right now. His play is more dashing than Anand's. Half-seriously I wish Anand would lose the throne and start playing risky chess again. But not to Gelfand. Make it Aronian or Carlsen.

On another topic, I posted a comment at this game:A Giri vs Kramnik, 2011, but haven't received any feedback. Here's the point: viewing this game would be much more exciting if I knew how long, for example, Kramnik thought before playing 16.d5. It makes a huge psychological difference! If he smashed it out in 30 seconds that's totally different than if he thought for a 1/2 hour on it.

I predict there will be a day when time stamp information is the norm in a pgn.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: Just ask David Bronstein.
Oct-21-11  Kaspablanca: Great game but do you think this game can make it to the Kramnik`s notable games?
Premium Chessgames Member
  ajk68: Can someone explain 26...Rd4...?
Oct-21-11  bronkenstein: <Can someone explain 26...Rd4...?> According to Houdini ( - Rough blunder , according to MVL most likely an attempt to take the initiative.
Oct-22-11  Mr. Bojangles: <visayanbraindoctor: Kramnik has been sacrificing non-stop in this tournament. The exchange against Giri, a pawn against Polgar, another pawn against MVL in their first game, and now still another pawn against MVL just now....>

VBD, excellent analysis and write up. U should be a writer.

Oct-22-11  strifeknot: Tenacious and deep play from both players.
Oct-22-11  visayanbraindoctor: Thank you <Mr. Bojangles>.
Oct-22-11  visayanbraindoctor: <bronkenstein: <Can someone explain 26...Rd4...?>>

click for larger view

This move challenges the white rook on the d-file and forces it to leave if it is not accepted. After it leaves, Black dominates the center and has the threat of Rxe4 followed by Nf6 hanging in White's hair. It has to be accepted for White to retain any winning chances.

Notice that the e5 square at this point is occupied and blocked by a black pawn and that the bishop on g7 is biting this pawn's concrete ass.

When Kramnik accepts the sacrifice 27. Bxd4 exd4

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suddenly the e5 square is vacated for MVL's Knight, and a1-h8 diagonal is half-opened for his b7 Bishop. Potential pressure on Kramnik's b2 pawn is on the air. Black's pawn on d4 is also in a more powerful square.

From a human point of view, MVL has made a brilliant positional sacrifice which should have worked if not for the idiosyncrasies of the position. Kramnik survives by exploiting these idiosyncrasies. For instance, at this point he has also been threatening h4 before MVL's sac, and he just proceeds with it. This game is a relatively rare case of both players simultaneously attacking each other, on the same side of the board.

In the ensuing play (28. h4 Ne5 29. hxg5 Bg4 30. Qh4 Qxe2 31. Rxd4 Nf3+ 32. Bxf3 Bxf3 33. Rd8+ Kh7 34. Nd2) MVL does occupy the e5 square for his Knight, to seriously threaten White's King via the white holes around it. Kramnik is now in darkened minefield, but he never treads off the golden bricks, until the usual pre time control time pressure causes him to make two consecutive errors that dissipate his growing advantage.

For instance, in this position

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with 3 Black pieces attacking his King, Kramnik chose the best move 31. Rxd4 eliminating Black's strong pawn in the center, the only way he could maintain winning chances, but before he could do this, he had to figure out everything that could happen after 31... Qe1+

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32. Kh2 Nf3+ 33. Bxf3 Bxf3 is forced.

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Black is threatening mate in one! Kramnik had to evaluate this position in his mind's eye and see very tough to find variations such as 34. Rd8+ Kh7 35. g6+ Kxg6 36. Rd6+ Kh7 37. Ng5+

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soon to be followed by Nxf3 exchanging Black's attacking Bishop, which barely saves his own King from mate. He is able to do this by exploiting his own attacking threats around the Black King in a series of checks in order to exchange off Black's attacking pieces.

Oct-22-11  visayanbraindoctor: Another crucial juncture is at 41. Qg8+ Kh6

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Time control has been reached. With time to think, Kramnik declind to take the easy perpetual, and instead went for 42. Rxc6 Qxc6. This exchange sac halts Black's attack, but leaves Black with a passed pawn on b3 just two steps away from Queening!

click for larger view

Kramnik took a big risk here, but he evaluated that the threats posed by his own attacking Queen and Knight tandem (a very effective duo) would be enough to compensate for this pawn. He ended up winning this pawn in the ensuing complications.

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