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Nikita Vitiugov vs Vladimir Kramnik
Russian Championship Superfinal (2013), Nizhny Novgorod RUS, rd 7, Oct-12
English Opening: Symmetrical. Three Knights Variation (A34)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Oct-12-13  csmath: Original play by Kramnik as well, what started as peaceful Symmetrical English turned into rather aggressive Neo-Grunfeld game due to Kramnik's kingside attack.

Position after 10 moves is known in a different order of moves but without knight on a6. So technically

7. ...e6

is a new move. I am glad Kramnik plays this move as I always had dilema of playing this in similar positions.

10. ...b6!?

[Risky but proper decision. Kramnik probably decided to play aggressive game and correctly disregards the pin on d5. The alternative was caotious 11. ...Bd7 but here white would still play 12. Bg5. Kramnik rejects the idea of playing passive.]

11. ...f6

[The only sensible move. Queen has no good square as Qc7 would be practically a suicide due to pin on knight on d5.]

12. Nxd5! exd5
13. Nc3 Be6

[White is expoiting pin/fork on d5 but without particular gain.]

15. e4 Rad8

[Very nice positional play by both in particular by Kramnik.]

19. ...d4!?

[Kramnik is in no mood for defence!]

21. e3?!

[21. Nxc5! bxc5, 22. Qe4 Bxa2 (22. ...dxe2?!, 23. Qxe2 Bg4, 24. Qa6 and with better pawn structure white is better), 23. Qxd3 Qxd3, 24. exd3 Rxd3, 24. Be3 probably with a draw.]

22. ...Bxa2

[Natural but 22....f5, 23. Bc6 Qf7 seems more assertive given the intentions of black in the sequel.]

25. ...f4?!

[Very risky but consistent with previous play.]

27. Re1

[Too defensive.


27. Qa3 b5
28. Rb4 Qe2!
29. Qxa2 Bc3
30. Rxb5 Qxd2
31. Qxd2 Bxd2
32. Rd1 Be3!!

seems more testy but I believe here black has enough resources for a draw.]

33. Re4

[Vitiugov decides on active play. 33. Rf1 surely looks unattractively passive.

What follows is a tactical sequence correctly played by both that ends in a draw.]


Brilliantly played game by both players. This is exceptionally good chess.

Oct-12-13  Jim Bartle: Thanks for that, csmath. There's always the tendency to ignore draws, but this is great.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Plenty of fight in this draw, belying the soubriquet 'Drawnik' bestowed upon Black so long ago.
Oct-12-13  luzhin: 22...Bxa2 is an astonishing pawn-grab, the sort of move that Korchnoi played in his prime, but very few other players would dare. It takes another twenty-five moves for Kramnik to prove the Bishop is not trapped!
Oct-12-13  csmath: Yes but Kramnik clearly had in mind to play f5-f4 and thus indirectly protecting the bishop while forcing white to deal with passer on d3 as well as with kingside attack so that white had no time to capture that bishop.

By the way 25. ...a6 would have also protected the bishop with 26. Qa3 b5, 27. Qa3 Rc8, bishops and rooks are traded: 28. Qxa2 Rc2, 29. Qa5 Rxd2, 30. Rd4 Bxd4, 31. Qxd2.

It does look that here white is better due to open position of black king but it is definitely playable. Kramnik decided to be more aggressive.

I think this is definitely very aggressive "version" of Kramnik which is how he plays more often lately to our great pleasure. I am certainly very fond of his games in this "mode." This is one very, very active Neo-Grunfeld.

Oct-12-13  Blunderdome: Wow this was good.
Oct-12-13  Pulo y Gata: <luzhin> Same reaction. I'm interested about how long Kramnik took before he played that, it simply can't be played without calculation.

Goes well with coffee this game!

Oct-12-13  SoUnwiseTheKnight B4: <it simply can't be played without calculation.>

I'm guessing Kramnik didn't need to see past 30..Qb6 to know the bishop was safe. Even though it did not move again until move 47!

Oct-12-13  csmath: Actually these kinds of moves are generally played based on the feel and general principles. He would have definitely calculated to some degree but everything - not possible. Thus he likely decided on a feel and a spur of moment.

This move looks completely sane to every dynamic player and I think guys like Aronian, Topalov, MVL, Ding Liren etc would have no problem playing it. You just think how can bishop be captured and if you can not see that then play it!

I did not comment the final tactical sequence but that has been played with remarkable precision by both.

Oct-12-13  csmath: By the way you can see from the rest what follows that Kramnik was in "wild mode" therefore he was precisely in the mood to play wild and aggressive game.

I think tactical player has a brain working similar to computer engine. You just have a "formula" to assess the position meaning you value certain position of pieces, scope, harmony of placement of major and minor pieces, protection of king, and ability to use pawns as a battering ram. If this comes to you with positive "total" then you go for it.

You can see that in games of all dynamic/tactical players. Sometimes they lose horribly but the better "feel" they have the stronger they are. Perhaps Kramnik is in his heart a tactical player. :-)

Oct-13-13  lost in space: Excellent game - especially by Kramnik. Bxa2 was a <wow> move.
Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: Love the way Kramnik played on the various weaknesses in white's position to keep the Bishop alive and well on a2 .. and ofcourse he must've seen all this before taking the 'a' pawn .. nice.

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