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Vladimir Kramnik vs Magnus Carlsen
World Championship Candidates (2013), London ENG, rd 9, Mar-25
Catalan Opening: Closed Variation (E06)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Mar-25-13  csmath: The long think after 25. ... Nd5 Kramnik got into tells me he either did not seriously consider the consequences of Nd5 (flipping the coin so to speak - I know the feeling when you get tired of analisys) or simply saw some other "mirage" that evaporated after 25. ... Nd5.

He basically allowed Magnus to reach defensible ending.

With Kramnik you do not get that luxury very often. Magnus in general has hard time playing Kramnik with black pieces, he knows that.

Mar-25-13  csmath: Alternative what Kramnik played in 25th move:

25. Qd4 (natural and good) ... c5 (looks something Magnus would play)

26. Qd2 ... Kg8 (wants to remove king from checks)

27. Kg2 ... Bc4 (again, this is Magnus style I think)

28. g4 (proposed in live commentary - decent positional move)

Now white needs to find plan to move a-pawn. There is no doubt he has serious advantage but black is not on ropes yet.

The fact is that vintage Kramnik could grind Kasparov with a pawn up as he did in London thus I am quite sure nobody wants to get this type of position against Kramnik.

Mar-25-13  Just Another Master: Amazing how MC can hold any ending a pawn down and win any even almost against super-GMS, has there ever been anyone like this? And dont give me Capa, he was overrated in the ending, his middlegame was so good he was already won, Rubenstein would be my closest match imho.
Premium Chessgames Member
  diceman: <Just Another Master: Amazing how MC can hold any ending a pawn down>

Any ending?

Id could set up many where I could beat him.

Mar-26-13  Just Another Master: You couldnt get that far before you resigned tho.... :) Unless your openings are top notch, then MC may have a job for you.
Mar-26-13  csmath: From chessbase:

<Kramnik got a nice advantage in a Catalan: “Actually it was my preparation for Kazan; I was about to play it against Radjabov in 2011 but finally for some reason I decided to play something else. Since that time I was keeping it and nobody played it. This 11.Qc2 and 12.Rd1 is kind of a new set-up; it’s quite dangerous I believe.” Carlsen: “I didn't know the details too much of this line. I more or less had to figure it out over the board. It’s not so easy to play and the way I played, he got a stable advantage so I probably did something wrong. I was just trying to find a good plan which I probably didn’t succeed in doing.”>

I guess it was a mistake for Magnus to assume that playing along lines of 3-year-old game would be a safe thing to do. It looked like Kramnik knows exactly what he was doing which this confirms.

It is a huge credit to Carlsen that he played courageous active defence and grabbed the first opportunity to "simplify" the game with 25 ... Nd5.

However, this whole line is poisinous.

Mar-26-13  Hesam7: Kramnik's big mistake was 25 Be5? instead something like 25 Qd4! c5 26 Qd2 Ra8 27 Kg2 Qa3 28 Rb1

click for larger view

would have kept his winning advantage.

Mar-26-13  Hesam7: <Eyal: The reason there's a sharp drop in the evaluation after 28.a3 is the rather amazing move <28...Bc6> (with the strong threat of Qxe2), after which White will find it difficult to even maintain equality (29.Kf1 Qb5!); but that's such a purely "opportunistic" tactical move, which seems to go completely against the natural course of the game, that I wouldn't seriouly expect any human player to make it.

So after 28...f6 the evaluation again goes up a little for White. But at any rate, 28.a3 makes sense in preserving the a-pawn; in the "recommended" computer lines Black can swap queens and play Bxa2, so that with 4 vs. 3 on the same wing the draw would be even clearer, regardless of whether the evaluation is 0.50 or 0.30.>

After 28...Bc6 29 Kf1 Qb5 30 f4

click for larger view

Black has to go for the perpetual check, because after 30...f6? 31 Rd6

click for larger view

the draw for Black is not clear cut anymore.

Mar-26-13  csmath: <would have kept his winning advantage.>

I don't think it was winning though but it was surely good enough to torture any opponent long into game. Magnus, given his active play was ready to fight. It is not so easy to beat him.

Mar-26-13  csmath: What is interesting is that Kramnik spent some time going into known variation (to him) which means his memory is not so great (?) but then disintegrated his advantage shortly after some original play.

What does that say?

Mar-26-13  Eyal: Position after 22.Ra4:

click for larger view

Here, <22...Ra8> - trying to hold on to the a-pawn - looks like a terribly passive move which I wouldn't expect Carlsen to play anyway; but as it turns out, there's even a very pretty direct tactical refutation of it, due to the spoiled coordination between the rooks: 23.Bxh6!! gxh6 24.Rh4 - and now: 24...h5 25.Qg5! with 26.Rxh5+ coming; 24...Ng8 25.Qe4+ picking up the rook on b7; or 24...Qf8 25.Ne4! Ng8 (if Black defends the knight with the queen White simply exchanges and wins again with Qe4+) 26.Ng5+ Kh8 27.Nxe6 fxe6 28.Rd7 and Black is helpless against the threats of 29.Qe5+ Nf6 30.Qg5! and 29.Qe4 Nf6 30.Qg6! Nxd7 31.Rxh6+ Qxh6 32.Qxh6+ Kg8 33.Qxe6+ & 34.Qxd7.

Mar-26-13  Eyal: <Hesam7: After 28...Bc6 29 Kf1 Qb5 30 f4 Black has to go for the perpetual check, because after 30...f6? 31 Rd6 the draw for Black is not clear cut anymore.>

Yeah, with accurate play by White, Black apparently shouldn't have more than a draw (by going for perpetual check I suppose you mean 30...Qc4); but still, the interesting thing is that after 28...Bc6 White is the one who suddenly has to be very accurate and resourceful, at least for a couple of moves, in order not to be worse or even lose (and in an actual game such a sharp turn of momentum might be psychologically shattering). Btw, 31.Rd6 in this line (attacking the bishop on c6 and threatening Rxf6) really seems like holding - as Kramnik got so fond of saying lately - "by a miracle"...

Premium Chessgames Member
  Ulhumbrus: Because after the moves 21 Rxc4 Rb2-b7? 22 Ra4 the combination 22...Ra8 23 Bxh6!! 23 gxh6 24 Rh4 Ng8 27 Qe4+ is so attractive one may be led to think that the move 21 Rxc4 is correct.

However the move Rxc4 displaces the rook and the capture Qxa7 displaces White's queen so that White makes a considerable concession in order to gain the pawn. In the end White's advantage may be insufficient to win the game.

This suggests that 21 Rxc4 is not the best. However can White play for more?

Suppose that instead of trying to regain the pawn White begins an attack upon the h6 pawn and the Nf6 by 21 g4.

The threat is then g5 and one way for Black to lose is 21...g5 22 f4 Qf8 23 f5 Bd7 24 Rd8

Mar-26-13  DcGentle: <<Hesam7>: Kramnik's big mistake was 25 Be5? instead something like 25 Qd4! c5 26 Qd2 Ra8 27 Kg2 Qa3 28 Rb1>

Hi there, I had this position on my analysis board as well, but I doubt that this is sufficient for a win in the long run, I have to agree with <csmath> here.

But I am <not content>, even if people at the press conference said that they and the engines had not found anything, here there is more. ;-)

I have found a won endgame for White already, so I only have to do away with another answer of Black, and then let's see.

<25. Qd4> seems to be a good start though, I first thought <25. Qe3> was better, but Black has a strong answer with <25... Qa5>.

<Eyal>, do you think White has a real chance?

Mar-26-13  Hesam7: <csmath: <would have kept his winning advantage.>

I don't think it was winning though but it was surely good enough to torture any opponent long into game. Magnus, given his active play was ready to fight. It is not so easy to beat him.>

A healthy pawn up in the middle game with a safe King sounds like a winning advantage to me.

Having missed wins against Aronian and Carlsen I don't see how Kramnik can hope to win the tournament. Carlsen himself has had two lost positions already. It sounds strange but it feels as if everyone is performing below their ability.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Big Pawn: Here's a link to the press conference

Mar-27-13  csmath: <A healthy pawn up in the middle game with a safe King sounds like a winning advantage to me. >

His king was not really safe. :-)
It was only safe as long as pieces were enageged in protecting e2. Moving that pawn to e4 would be risky proposal and yet to move a-pawn Kramnik would have to disengage from protecting e2.

I think given Carlsen record in dynamic chess Kramnik was up to big work before making that a win, if at all.

I recognize the advantage but the win against Magnus is not so easy as a pawn up. I've said again that Kramnik had opening advantage in his analysis up to at least move 15. Yet his advantage disintegrated 10 moves later.

Magnus has obviously playing OTB improvising and yet he played active and courageous. This is Magnus, it is not easy to beat him. At the current time Magnus is the strongest player in the world.

Mar-27-13  Hesam7: <csmath: Magnus has obviously playing OTB improvising and yet he played active and courageous.>

Yes, yes, very courageous you can see it in his opening for example ...

Mar-27-13  Eyal: <DcGentle> Don't know, I haven't tried a deep analysis of this position. In general, I'm pretty sure 25.Qd4 or Qe3 would have given White better winning chances; but I'm equally sure it would have been very difficult to pull it off in practice (especially due to the presence of BOOC, so that Black can constantly "threaten" to exchange the other pieces).
Mar-27-13  csmath: After 25. Qd4 this is ideal position to work on.

I think Magnus would not put queen on a3 blocking a-pawn since he never plays passive and I believe he would have played Bc4 at some point just as in variation I proposed.

If white does not play g4 then there is another avenue of attack on white king.

I see the whole position very interesting to continue, I am sure both Kramnik and Magnus considered it dangerous for black. These are two great players in positional chess but here there is another thing - any slight imprecision on white side and the attack on white king would be very dangerous since the white-colored bishop is gone and there are weak squares.

Now how would Kramnik plan the advance of a-pawn I have no idea but I am sure he would have found something.

Mar-27-13  DcGentle: <<Eyal>: <DcGentle> Don't know, I haven't tried a deep analysis of this position. ... Black can constantly "threaten" to exchange the other pieces).>

Yes, of course. The difficulty here is to avoid all exchanges that would hurt the chances in the endgame. *hmmm* Maybe it's doable in practice, but it's hard. Yesterday I thought I had found something convincing, but I overlooked a black answer.

Nevertheless I'll pursue the matter a bit longer. Perseverance in chess is most often rewarded. ;-)

Mar-27-13  JENTA: <22. Ra4> wins a pawn, but decentralizes white's queen.

But what about

22. Qc5 or 22. Rc5

keeping pressure on c-file?

Apr-05-13  DcGentle: Well <JENTA>, I looked at your proposals but could not find any convincing continuation there.

Instead I concentrated on the move, that was also mentioned by <csmath> and others, and even talked about in the press conference, namely 25. Qd4. I guess Kramnik would have had good chances here, but his task was to find <27. Bd6> and to avoid bad exchanges later. Because Black has some options, I'll show 3 lines:

[Event "World Championship Candidates"]
[Site "0:55:33-1:10:33"]
[Date "2013.03.25"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Kramnik"]
[Black "Carlsen"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[EventDate "2013.03.14"]
[ECO "E05"]
[Annotator "DcGentle"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 Be7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Ne5 Nc6 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. Nxc6 Qe8 10. Nxe7+ Qxe7 11. Qc2 e5 12. Rd1 Rb8 13. Nc3 h6 14. dxe5 Qxe5 15. Bf4 Qe7 16. Rd4 Be6 17. Rad1 Rb6 18. Qd2 Kh7 19. f3 Rfb8 20. Qe3 Rxb2 21. Rxc4 R2b7 22. Ra4 Re8 23. Rxa7 Rxa7 24. Qxa7 Qb4 25. Be5

(25. Qd4 {<This move and the next one were already discussed at the press conference.>} 25...c5 26. Qd3+ Kg8 27. Bd6 {<The key move. Pawn c6 cannot advance and White will have enough time to reach an advantageous endgame without permitting Black to exchange pieces in his favor.>} 27... Qa3 {<trying to block the a-pawn, this also occurs in other lines.>}

(27... Qb6 {<In this variant the a-pawn will be the main cause of White's win.>} 28. Qc2 Ra8

(28... Rd8 {<is not better:>} 29. Be7 Rxd1+ 30. Qxd1 Nd7 31. Qd2 Qa5 32. a4 Qb4 33. Kf2 Qa5 34. Qe3 Kh8 35. Ne4 Qxa4 36. Bxc5 Nxc5 37. Nxc5 Qc6 38. Nxe6 fxe6 39. Qe5 {<and White will win the ending due to his better pawn structure.>})

29. Kg2 Qb4 30. g4 Nd7 31. Rb1 Qa3 32. h3 Ra6 33. Bg3 Rb6 34. Rxb6 Nxb6 35. Qd2 Kh7 36. h4 Nd7 37. Qe3 Kh8 38. Kf2 Qb4 39. h5 Kg8 40. Bh2 Qa3 41. Bc7 Qa7 42. Bd6 Qa6 43. Qd3 Qa3 44. Qd2 Qb4 45. Bf4 Qa3 46. Nd5 Kh7 47. Be3 Qa8 48. Ne7 Qb8 49. Bf4 Qa7 50. Qd3+ Kh8 51. a3 Qa4 52. Be3 Qa5 53. a4 Qc7 54. Kg2 c4 55. Qd4 Nf6 56. Qc5 Qxc5 57. Bxc5 Nd5 58. Nxd5 Bxd5 59. a5 Bb7 60. Bb4 Kg8 61. Kf2 f6 62. Ke3 Kf7 63. Kd4 g6 64. Kc5 f5 65. Kb5 fxg4 66. fxg4 Be4 67. a6 Kf6 68. Bd2 gxh5 69. gxh5 c3 70. Bxh6 Ke6 71. Kc4 Bg2 72. a7 Ke7 73. Kxc3 Kf6 74. Bg7+ Kxg7 75. Kd4 {

click for larger view


(27... Bc4 {<Here White will win by a gaining a surplus piece.>} 28. Qc2 Be6 29. Rd2 Nd7 30. g4 Nb6 31. Ne4 Rc8 32. Bg3 Bd5 33. Nc3 Be6 34. Rd3 Qa5 35. Bf2 Ra8 36. Rd6 Rc8 37. Qd3 Bc4 38. Rd8+ Rxd8 39. Qxd8+ Kh7 40. Qd2 Kg8 41. Qe3 Nd7 42. a4 Nf8 43. Be1 Ne6 44. Qe5 Qa8 45. h4 Qd8 46. Kf1 Bb3 47. a5 Bc4 48. Qe4 Ba6 49. Nd5 Kf8 50. Qe5 Nd4 51. Nf4 Nxf3 52. Qxc5+ Kg8 53. Qc6 Nxe1 54. Qxa6 Nc2 55. Ng2 Na3 56. Qb6 Qd1+ 57. Kf2 Nc4 58. Qb8+ Kh7 59. a6 Qd4+ 60. Kg3 Qc3+ 61. Kh2 Ne5 62. Qb1+ g6 63. Qe4 Qc7 64. Kh3 Qc3+ 65. e3 Qa1 66. h5 Qxa6 67. Qxe5 {

click for larger view


28. g4 {<White will win this variant by enforcing favorable exchanges and the fact, that he can keep pawns on both wings long enough.>} 28...Qa5 29. Kf1 Qb6 30. Bg3 Qa5 31. Kg2 Qa3 32. Qd2 Qa5 33. Qc2 Qa3 34. Rd2 Ra8 35. h3 Nd7 36. Bf2 Qb4 37. Nd5 Qa4 38. Qb2 Qa3 39. Qb7 Qa7 40. Ne7+ Kh8 41. Qc6 Qa4 42. Qd6 Qa5 43. Be3 c4 44. Bd4 Ra6 45. Bc3 Rxd6 46. Bxa5 Rxd2 47. Bxd2 Nb6 48. e4 Na4 49. Nd5 c3 50. Be3 Kg8 51. Kf1 Bxd5 52. exd5 Kf8 53. Ke2 Ke7 54. Bd4 g6 55. Kd3 Kd6 56. Bxc3 Nb6 57. Ke4 Nxd5 58. Bg7 h5 59. a4 Ke6 60. a5 Nc7 61. Kd4 hxg4 62. fxg4 f6 63. h4 Kf7 64. Bh8 Na6 65. h5 gxh5 66. gxh5 Nc7 67. Kc5 Na6+ 68. Kb6 Nb4 69. a6 Nxa6 70. Kxa6 {

click for larger view


25... Nd5 26. Nxd5 Bxd5 27. Qxc7 Qc4 28. a3 f6 29. Qxc4 Bxc4 30. Bc3 Rxe2 31. Rd4 Bb5 32. Bb4 Re3 33. Kf2 Re2+ 34. Kg1 Re3 35. f4 Re2 36. Rd6 Rc2 37. g4 Bc6 38. Bd2 Bf3 39. h3 Ra2 40. Bb4 Rg2+ 41. Kf1 Rh2 1/2-1/2

You can copy & paste this into your favorite pgn-viewer / chess program.


Premium Chessgames Member
  DrGridlock: In retrospect of the match results (8.5-8.5 tie between Carlsen and Kramnik, with Carlsen advancing on tie-breaker), this 9th round game was a decisive moment in the tournament. Kramnik has an advantage, but not a win, with the White pieces and the game is drawn.

In an engine search, what evaluation score is sufficient for a win? There has not yet been any definitive answer to that question. In “Dynamic Chess Strategy” Suba gives this position, with white to move. Suba writes, “After you learn the solution the idea is clear: White avoids intermediate checks and creates a Zugzwang position! … By now we can be proud of our ‘human understanding’ of this ‘positional draw’, as all programs give an approximate -4 evaluation. Once having seen this, the reader will surely accept Tartakower’s adage: “A combination is a victory of spirit over matter.””

click for larger view

Analysis by Komodo32 3 32bit:

1...g1Q 2.Nxh4 Qa7 3.Nhf3 Qa5 4.Kd6 Qb5 5.Ke6 Qc5 6.Kf5 Qd5 7.Kf6 Qg8 8.Kf5 Qc8+ 9.Ke4 Qb7+ 10.Kd4 Qb4 11.Kd5 Qb3 12.Kc5 c3 13.dxc3 Qxc3+ 14.Kd5 Qc7 15.Ke6 Qb7 16.Kd6 Qa6+ 17.Kd5

Komodo finds a -2.25 evaluation, which is a significant advantage for Black, but there is no win!

In the Kramnik/Carlsen game, after 24 moves there is an advantage for White. The question is whether or not this advantage is sufficient for a win for White.

click for larger view

Analysis by Komodo32 3 32bit:

1. ± (0.81): 25.Qe3 c6 26.Kf2 Qa5 27.Qd4 Kg8 28.Rc1 Qa3 29.Rc2 Qa5 30.Bd6 Qh5 31.Kg1 Qa5 32.Bb4 Qa6 33.Bc5 Nd7 34.a4 Qa5 35.Bb4 Qa6 36.Bd6 Rc8 37.Rd2 c5 38.Qd3 Qa5 39.Rb2 c4

2. ± (0.81): 25.Qd4 c5 26.Qd2 Kg8 27.Kg2 Qa3 28.g4 Rc8 29.h3 Nd7 30.Ne4 Rc6 31.Kf2 Rb6 32.Qd3 Qa7 33.Nc3 Rb2 34.Rd2 Rb4 35.Bd6 Rd4 36.Qe3 Rxd2 37.Qxd2 Qa5 38.Qc1 Bxa2 39.Nxa2 Qxa2 40.Qe3 Qe6

3. ± (0.80): 25.Be5 Nd5 26.Nxd5 Bxd5 27.Qxc7 Bxa2 28.Qc2+ Kg8 29.Qxa2 Rxe5 30.Kf1 Qe7 31.Rd4 Kh7 32.Qd2 Qc5 33.Rd8 Qb6 34.h4 Rb5 35.Qd4 Qxd4 36.Rxd4 Kg6 37.Kf2 Rb2 38.Rd7 h5 39.Rc7 f6 40.Rc6 Kf5

The post-game press-conference gives some insights into how the players saw this game.

Kramnik, “I saw Nd5, which is the only move. But I was sure there must be some way to win. But Nd5 and Bxd5 and now OK it just seems to work by a millimeter, but it’s working. … So it’s a little bit frustrating, because I thought I was very close, but I don’t know how. It’s the same with Levon, it’s almost there but it just didn’t happen.”

Carlsen, “I thought it was dangerous, but the good thing for me is that I have to make all the moves, and in a way it’s easier.”

Interviewer, “Vladimir, you spent a lot of time after Nd5. Did you see this move?”

Kramnik, “I saw Nd5 because it was the only move. … But I didn’t see after Qb4 what else can I do other than Be5. There are so many lines I was trying to make it work somehow … but it’s just a matter of millimeters … I don’t know what computer shows, what does it say?”

Interviewer, “Computer cannot find solution …”

Kramnik, “OK, so what can I do?”

As an illustration of how close the tournament was, consider how close this game was. Carlsen hangs on “by millimeters,” in this game, and gains the crucial half-point which allows him to prevail over Kramnik in the tie-break. While some have argued that Carlsen played better "computer chess" during the tournament, this game shows how Carlsen's play was a "victory of spirit over matter."

Great chess, from a great tournament!

Jan-20-14  dayalsoap: <This again proves my theory that Carlsen on a consistent basis cannot win in a match either against Kramnik or Anand>

I thought you said it "proved your theory"?


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